Jones sponsors First Lady’s bills

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) is one of two sponsors of Alabama First Lady Dianne Bentley’s proposed legislation aimed at strengthening domestic violence victim services and protection in Alabama.

Mrs. Bentley announced her plans in a press conference on Wednesday. Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.

Since 2011, domestic violence prevention has been a top priority for Mrs. Bentley. During her time as First Lady, Mrs. Bentley has visited all domestic violence centers across the state, spoken with victims and worked with the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ACADV) to help address the overwhelming need for victims and their children.

Her proposed legislation establishes a structure of accountability and standards in service provision for ACADV through the Alabama Department of Economic Development and Community Affairs (ADECA). Gov. Bentley has recommended $2 million in his General Fund budget for ACADV’s certified domestic violence shelters. State funding appropriated would be managed and disbursed by ADECA with the establishment of a Domestic Violence Trust Fund.

A Domestic Violence Capital Improvement Program would also be implemented through the legislation. This is a needs-based, competitive grant process used for shelter facility improvements and expansions. Shelters would be evaluated by ADECA, which would then distribute grants to facilities in the most need of repair The governor has recommended $3 million in his General Fund budget to launch this initiative.

The final part of the legislation will strengthen the provisions relating to domestic violence crime scenes, protection orders and court proceedings. Victims will be informed of their local domestic violence center’s contact information, its services and their legal rights in pursuing criminal or civil charges against the abuser. Police reports will be filed regardless of arrest and shared with local domestic violence centers. Judicial officers will have strengthened measures in court proceedings to better protect domestic violence victims and greater punishment alternatives for those who violate any protective order, conditional release or bail.