Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein today announced the Assembly's passage of a package of legislation aimed to strengthen protections for survivors of domestic violence and offer support for survivors seeking to reclaim their lives.
"This legislative package reflects the Assembly Majority's commitment to ensuring that domestic violence survivors are given every protection the state can offer and the support they need to regain their lives," said Speaker Heastie. "Our goal has been and will continue to be to reduce domestic violence and empower those seeking to escape and overcome it."
"Today's legislative package represents the Assembly's steadfast commitment to working with domestic violence prevention advocates across the state to find ways to better protect domestic violence survivors and their children," said Assemblymember Weinstein. "Our legislation focuses on strengthening our existing laws, preventing escalation of violence and on providing tools for survivors to secure their own safety and the safety of their children."
The package includes legislation that would provide such tools for rehabilitation, including a bill that would clarify what information both law enforcement and the courts are required to provide to victims of domestic violence including both verbal and written notice of their legal rights and available services (A.5921, Weinstein).
Other measures in the package would enable victims of domestic violence to secure their continued safety by permitting them to cancel cell phone contracts without penalty or request the provider to issue a new phone number (A.946, Rozic). Similarly, another bill would allow domestic violence victims to terminate television, telephone or satellite contracts without penalty (A.1056, Rozic).
Today's legislative package also includes measures aimed to protect domestic violence survivors against discrimination. One such measure would prohibit employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence and require them to make reasonable accommodations for medical assistance, counseling and other related services (A.1481-A, Weinstein).
The Assembly also passed legislation today to prevent domestic violence abusers from having access to weapons. Under the Domestic Violence Escalation Prevention Act, an individual that has been convicted of a domestic violence crime would be prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm (A.5025, O'Donnell). Another measure, applying the current federal law, would require an individual to surrender firearms upon a conviction of a domestic violence misdemeanor offense (A.980, Paulin).
Other legislation included in today's package would offer domestic violence survivors more protections and opportunities for justice. One bill (A.1390, Weinstein) would eliminate parties who fail to obey or enforce an order of protection from limited liability protections. Another measure would increase the statute of limitations for civil suits related to an injury caused by domestic violence from one year to two years (A.1516, Zebrowski). Furthermore, another bill would expand upon existing alternative sentencing provisions for domestic violence victims and allow judges discretion in sentencing victims whose abuse was a significant contributing factor to the offense (A.3110, Aubry). Under this bill, victims of domestic violence would not be met with harsh punitive sentences but instead with compassion and assistance.
Lastly, to ensure victims of domestic violence receive appropriate care, the legislative package includes a bill that would require hospitals to establish, disseminate and maintain policies to effectively train employees to identify and aid victims of domestic violence (A.4014, Lavine). This bill codifies current regulations to ensure hospitals are and continue to follow existing protocol. Under another measure, health insurers and health maintenance organizations would be required to provide victims of domestic violence with the option of providing alternative contact information so that they are able to access their claims and benefit information without fear that any correspondence may be intercepted by their abuser (A.4060, Cymbrowitz).