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(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Monday approved two measures sponsored by Assembly Democrats - Pamela Lampitt, Connie Wagner, Gabriela Mosquera, L. Grace Spencer, Gordon Johnson and Troy Singleton - to help bridge the gap in services for domestic violence victims created by Congress's failure to reauthorize the violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and urging Congress to take prompt action to reinstate the critical law.
The first bill (A-3715), sponsored by Lampitt and Wagner, would appropriate up to $1 million to the state Department of Law and Public Safety in Grants-in-Aid as a bridge to support VAWA grantees who may lose federal funding after June 1, 2013 so that they are able to continue providing services and education.
"Our community partners throughout the state provide invaluable services to the victims of domestic violence," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), Chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee that approved the legislation. "We cannot sit back and watch their doors shutter because Congressional Republicans cannot get their act together. This issue transcends partisan politics."
Specifically, the grant would be made available to VAWA grantees who will be forced to close their doors on March 1, 2013 when the federal funding under VAWA ceases. These grants would allow grantees to provide limited services until the United States Congress reauthorizes the VAWA grant funding.
In 2012, New Jersey and other entities received $5,756,494 million in VAWA grants from the U.S. Department of Justice, which were used for grants for sheltering, counseling, and police education to assist victims.
"Roughly three women die every day at the hands of their abusers. It has been almost 500 days since Congress let the Violence Against Women Act expire," said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). "To think of all of the women that may have been harmed by this callous dereliction of duty is troublesome, to say the least. Until Congress acts, we must step up and fill the gaps at the state level."
The second measure (AR-138), sponsored by Lampitt, Mosquera, Spencer, Johnson and Singleton, condemns the failure of the Majority Leadership in the United States House of Representatives to take action to pass the VAWA, which effectively expired on September 30, 2011, and respectfully urges prompt action to pass such legislation in the 113th Congress.
In April 2012, the U.S. Senate passed legislation, by a strong bipartisan vote of 68 to 31, to reauthorize VAWA in an expanded form that would have extended its protections to some 30 million additional people who were not covered under the original law - lesbian and transsexual women, undocumented immigrants, and Native American women living in tribal jurisdictions.
However, the House of Representatives let the 112th Congress end without reauthorizing the act.
"Despite the significant show of bipartisan support in the Senate for continued and expanded federal assistance for victims of domestic violence, the House Republican Leadership failed to take up and pass the bipartisan and inclusive legislation passed by the Senate," said Lampitt. "This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed promptly."
"The wide range of services funded by the VAWA even prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to call it 'one of the most effective pieces of legislation enacted to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking,'" said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "With over five million domestic violence incidents occurring every year, we simply can't afford to have these services lapse."
"The failure of the House Republican Leadership to allow this critical legislation to move forward is a failure of moral leadership and, quite frankly, shows a shameful indifference to the needs of all women who have been subjected to, or threatened by, domestic violence," said Spencer (D-Essex). "The recent economic downturn placed a further strain on domestic violence victims and survivors, making this legislation all the more needed."
"This failure by the House Majority Leadership is in blatant disregard to the will of the people, especially given the bipartisan, supermajority support for this legislation in the Senate," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Two million injuries and 1,300 deaths are caused each year as a result of domestic violence. How many people must be endangered before the House is prompted to act?"
"Even a late-stage intervention by the Vice President could not win support from the House Majority Leadership," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "It's time for everyone, lawmakers and voters alike, to come together and send a strong message that this legislation needs to be reauthorized immediately for the sake of domestic violence victims everywhere."
The measures were approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee and now await consideration by the full Senate.
NJ Assembly Majority Office
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