In 2016, an impressive number of bills were passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly that will support victims of domestic violence and make our communities safer. This progress is a testimony to all of the calls, emails, time, and effort that advocates, survivors, and supporters dedicated to telling their stories and making sure the General Assembly knows how important ending domestic violence is to Rhode Islanders! Thank you for standing with us.
Legislative Progress in 2016:
Rhode Island Established the Domestic Violence Prevention Fund!
The General Assembly passed legislation in 2016 to establish a Domestic Violence Prevention Fund—Rhode Island's first dedicated state funding that will support strategies for stopping the cycle of domestic violence before it starts. The Prevention Fund was created through an additional $200,000 in the state budget (rather than the proposed increase to the state's marriage license fee).
We extend a huge, heartfelt THANK YOU to all of the advocates, survivors, children who witnessed domestic violence, ally organizations, and individual supporters who worked tirelessly to advance this legislation for four years!
Employment Protection for Complying with a Subpoena
S2423 Lynch Prata / H7005 Keable
This law makes it illegal for any employer to fire, threaten to fire, or otherwise punish their employee for complying with a subpoena. This law is a great protection for victims of domestic violence in criminal cases who are being forced by their employer to choose between testifying against their abuser or keeping their job.
New Domestic Violence Offense: Electronic Tracking of Motor Vehicles
S2596 Goodwin / H7002 Mattiello
This law makes it a misdemeanor to "knowingly install, conceal, or otherwise place or use an electronic tracking device in or on a motor vehicle without the consent of the operator and all occupants of the vehicle for the purpose of monitoring or following the operator, occupant or occupants of the vehicle." This offense was also added to the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the section of Rhode Island General Laws that defines domestic violence crimes, and can be charged as such if the offense is committed against an intimate partner or adult family member.
Increased Crime Victim Compensation
S2760 Gallo / H7533 Blazejewski
This legislation raises the maximum amount of financial compensation that victims of crime can receive for relocation expenses through the Rhode Island Crime Victim Compensation Program from $2,500 to $5,000.
Utility Protections on Restraining Orders
This law prohibits individuals served with domestic violence restraining orders from terminating or disrupting utility service without prior court approval.
Good News in the Budget...
In addition, the budget for the upcoming year contains positive steps forward for survivors of domestic violence, their families, and our communities, including an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (a very important support for financial stability for survivors) and the approval of a $50 million affordable housing bond to be placed on the November ballot.
STEPS FOR NEXT YEAR
Unfortunately, these important victim safety issues were not successfully addressed before the General Assembly recessed for the year:
Prohibiting Gun Possession by Convicted Domestic Violence Offenders
Legislation that would have closed the loopholes in state and federal law that currently leave many convicted domestic violence offenders in Rhode Island with the ability to legally purchase and own guns was proposed but never made it to a vote.
Dangerousness Screening for People Arrested for Domestic Violence
This important addition to how domestic violence cases are handled in our state would have given judges essential information on the history of violence and pattern of escalation in domestic violence cases. While the legislation was passed by the Senate, it did not receive a vote in the House before the session ended.
Unauthorized Dissemination of Indecent Material (aka "Revenge P*rn")
Bills that would have established this new criminal offense were passed by the General Assembly but have been vetoed by the Governor on the grounds that the legislation was unconstitutionally broad. The RICADV will be talking to the bill sponsors, Attorney General, and Governor's office in the coming months to urge swift passage of robust legislation to address this crime that is affecting a growing number of domestic violence victims in Rhode Island.