The 2010 General Assembly session ended on June 11. This session was full of small victories, all of which combine to set the Coalition up for a successful 2011 session.
RICADV was thrilled to learn that there were no state budget cuts passed for any domestic violence programs in the Rhode Island FY2011 state budget. In these challenging economic times, this was wonderful news for our six member agencies. RICADV also rolled out an impressive legislative agenda which received broad-based support, including the first-time introduction of the Domestic Violence Child Safety Bill and the Senate passage of the Clarification Bill.
Child Safety Bill:
In conjunction with the release of RICADV and SOAR’s Safety for Children report (link to the report on the website), RICADV and SOAR introduced the Domestic Violence Child Safety Bill. This legislation seeks to protect the safety and well-being of victims and their children who continue to suffer violence and abuse during the Rhode Island child custody and visitation process.
The Domestic Violence Child Safety Bill follows the model of 24 other states, providing legal protections within Rhode Island’s child custody and visitation statute for situations where domestic violence is present. The bill states that domestic violence is not in the best interests of a child, and includes a rebuttable presumption against child custody if domestic violence is present. Also included in the legislation are legal remedies that judges may provide to a family to ensure child safety during visitation.
RICADV introduced this groundbreaking legislation early in the General Assembly session and it received a successful hearing in both the House and Senate Judiciary committees. There was a large turnout for both hearings, and House and Senate Judiciary members were able to hear the powerful audio testimony of a Rhode Island child who had gone through a painful custody process with her mother, who is a survivor of domestic violence. The testimony was very compelling and gave a unique perspective to all committee members.
Looking forward, this year the Domestic Violence Child Safety Bill received heavy support, and the work completed will set us up for a strong 2011 General Assembly session, where it will be RICADV’s top legislative priority.
To read more about the Domestic Violence Child Safety Bill:
In addition to the Domestic Violence Child Safety Bill, another RICADV legislative priority was the Clarification Bill, a bill which revises portions of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act.
This legislation would make domestic petty misdemeanors such as disorderly conduct qualify for the enhanced penalties within the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. In 2009, domestic disorderly conduct was the second most common domestic violence charge in Rhode Island with 1,831 charges. The Clarification Bill was heard successfully in both the House and the Senate Judiciary committees, and passed the full Senate on June 3rd by a vote of 32-0.
Looking forward, RICADV will build on the momentum of the Clarification Bill’s Senate passage where it will continue to be a legislative priority. In 2011, RICADV also plans to support further initiatives within the criminal justice system including the addition of cyberstalking and cyberharassment to the enumerated charges within the Domestic Violence Prevention Act and the inclusion of strangulation into Rhode Island’s felony assault statute.
To read more about the Clarification Bill: