Bill would increase funding for domestic violence programsBy DAVID SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader
June 16. 2015 8:57PM
CONCORD — House and Senate negotiators agreed on Tuesday to an increase of $5 in the cost of a marriage license and a $50 fine on offenders convicted under the state’s new domestic violence statute, known as Joshua’s Law.
The money will be used to fund domestic violence programs and shelters, which have seen significant cutbacks in recent years.
House members agreed to a Senate amendment to House Bill 681, which added the $50 fine in addition to any other penalties levied by the courts. The bill now heads back to both chambers for approval and anticipated signature by the governor.
Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said the $50 fee was added to ensure that individuals convicted of domestic violence would help fund the prevention and education programs, not only individuals planning to get married.
“In looking at this, I thought it was strange that people who are getting married and have never done anything wrong are now being asked to pay an additional amount on their marriage license,” she said. “Marriages are declining and you have domestic abuse in other kinds of relationships.”
The Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence supported the Senate amendment.
“The committee’s action today is a positive step toward keeping New Hampshire’s most vulnerable safe, and we hope that the full House and Senate will support their recommendation and pass this critical legislation,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of the organization.
Among those attending the hearing in a show of support for the measure was Becky Ranes of Amherst, whose son, Joshua Savyon, was killed by his father during a 2013 supervised visit at the Manchester YMCA.
“No one who is in need of help should be turned away,” she said. “Joshua’s Law will now be helping to make sure that funding is available for those in need.”
Joshua’s Law, passed last year, made domestic violence a specific crime that could be prosecuted independently of the state’s general assault statutes.
HB 681 was introduced by Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, to increase funding for the Domestic Violence Prevention Program. Currently, $38 of every $45 marriage license fee is appropriated to the program. The bill would raise that contribution to $43 per license, and would bring in a projected $45,000 a year to programs like emergency shelters whose funding was cut in 2011.
“Last year alone, more than 1,000 people were turned away from emergency services, so any effort to restore these cuts and to assist in domestic violence prevention is going to be helpful,” said Grady-Sexton.