House Democratic Caucus unveils domestic violence bills

(l-r) Democratic Caucus Representatives Mike Stewart, Raumesh Akbari, Dwayne Thompson, G.A. Hardaway, Johnnie Turner, and Antonio Parkinson (not pictured) discussing the protection of women in Tennessee.

Representatives from the Tennessee House Minority Caucus unveiled their domestic violence package this week in response to the ongoing saga with President Trump’s White House staff secretary Rob Porter.

Porter resigned on February 7 amid accusations of domestic abuse at the hands of two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend. All indications are that the Trump Administration knew about Porter’s past and kept him on despite the credible accusations that prevented him from passing FBI scrutiny for a security clearance.

“We are here today because all of us have seen the national news and we’ve seen a White House that is unwilling to address domestic abuse and is willing to make excuses,” said Rep. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis. “It’s not something we can trivialize or politicize.

Akbari introduced a bill (HB 1861) that establishes employment protections for people who are victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault to attend court, meet with law enforcement, attend counseling, or find new housing.

“The bottom line is if you have someone who has been abused or have the potential to be abused, we are trying to do whatever to make sure they are protected.”

Other bills introduced included:
HB 0849, by Rep. G. A. Hardaway, that would direct funds from domestic assault fines to be used to pay for global positioning monitoring for indigent domestic abuse and stalking defendants.

HB 2404, by Rep. Dwayne Thompson, that would require sentencing judges to order abusers to complete a drug or alcohol treatment program.

HB 2632, by Representatives Johnnie Tuner and G. A. Hardaway Hardaway, which would require any law enforcement officer responding to alleged domestic abuse who finds a minor, may have been present during the alleged abuse to determine whether the child is a victim of abuse or neglect.

“The Democratic Caucus has always cared about protecting women,” said state Rep. Antonio Parkinson. Parkinson referenced Kimberly’s Law, which changed Tennessee law so that violent rapists must serve 100% of their sentence without credit for good behavior. “These legislations continue in that same trajectory,” he said.

Rep. Hardaway said that he and his colleagues are addressing this issue on a state level.

“We know there will be absolutely nothing coming out of the White House to aid those women and children who are in distress from domestic violence,” Hardaway said. “We felt that if we don’t do something, no one will.”

Time off for domestic violence fails in committee

Legislation by state Sen. Jeff Yarbro that would have given up to eight days leave for women who experience domestic violence failed for lack of a second in Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Tennessee is fourth in the nation for women killed by men,” Sen. Jeff Yarbro said. “We ought to do everything we can to ensure the safety of women who experience violence at home, and unfortu-nately women can be fired for missing work to seek orders of protection, going to court during work hours, and sometimes even for getting medical care.

“This is something we ought to talk about, and it’s sad that seven senators sat in silence instead.”

SB 1769 provides up to eight days leave to seek medical attention, counseling or legal assistance; seek serv-ices through a shelter or crisis center; or meet with an attorney or law enforcement. The bill also says that emplo-yees cannot be term-inated for experiencing domestic violence.

“The last thing we want is for women to avoid getting help because they fear for loss of income,” Yarbro said. “The state’s own experts say domestic violence results in over $57 million in lost wages and work hours. That should tell us we have a real problem here worthy of our attention.”

Under Senate rules, the bill can be considered again in committee. Companion legislation, sponsored by Rep. Raumesh Akbari, is still pending in the House.

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