AUGUSTA, Maine — The first of several bills introduced in the past few months aimed at curbing domestic violence in the state passed in the senate on Thursday and will be on Gov. Paul LePage’s desk for his signature this week.
LD 1841, the governor’s bill that was sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, is an act to ensure funding for the Victims’ Compensation Fund.
“These domestic violence bills highlight what can be accomplished for the people of Maine when Republicans and Democrats — legislators and advocates alike — come together,” said Adrienne Bennett, press secretary to Gov. LePage. “The governor applauds the efforts of Representatives [Emily] Cain, [D-Orono], and Fredette for their leadership. All of the domestic violence-related bills this session are important for the safety and well-being of victims and the governor looks forward to signing each one.”
The bill prohibits a court from waiving the $25 assessment on a person convicted of murder or a Class A, B or C crime and $10 on a person convicted of a Class D or E crime. Those assessments are used for the Victims’ Compensation Fund.
“Tragedies stemming from domestic violence are becoming more prevalent in Maine,” said Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, in a statement. “[Thursday] we took a good step forward in making sure that the Victims’ Compensation Fund is preserved and available to the victims and family members of violent crime.”
In addition to LD 1841, other bills related to domestic violence have passed through the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in recent months.
The bills came largely in response to the murder of Amy Lake and her two children, Coty and Monica, by her estranged husband last year.
Lake and her two children were murdered by Steven Lake on June 13, 2011, in Dexter. Steven previously had been charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and domestic violence criminal threatening against his wife.
Mason, who is the chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said he is proud to have worked on so many bills regarding domestic violence.
“I think we did some good work this year,” Mason told the Bangor Daily News on Friday. “The members of the committee worked really, really hard to make sure this was something we were all really comfortable with and we could get behind to the best of our ability.”
LD 1704, which would have amended Maine’s bail code to protect domestic violence victims, sponsored by Fredette, was killed because another of the governor’s bills, LD 1867, was very similar, said Mason.
LD 1867, sponsored by Cain, calls for bail of a person charged with a crime involving domestic violence be set by a judge and not a bail commissioner. It also requires a judge to deny bail in certain circumstances.
“Bail is a very important fundamental right in our judicial system. We take it very seriously,” said Mason. “Domestic violence is a very serious thing and we have to make sure justice is handed out properly.”
LD 1760 requires notification to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking when defendants are released on bail.
“When someone is released out on bail when accused of domestic violence, sometimes they get bailed within hours [of the crime]. When they do get out, it’s usually not a good thing for that person to return home and to return in the situation they were,” said Mason. “We need to make sure the [victim] knew that person was out on bail.”
Of those bills, only LD 1841 has passed through the House and Senate.
“Everything’s been voted out of committee. Not everything has made it downstairs yet,” said Mason.