'Amanda's Bill' to become 'Amanda's Law'

jcheves@herald-leader.comApril 15, 2010 

FRANKFORT — After weeks of negotiations, the General Assembly late Wednesday gave final approval to a compromise version of House Bill 1, intended to protect domestic violence victims, and sent it to Gov. Steve Beshear.

The Senate and House voted unanimously for a version of the measure, known as "Amanda's Bill," that would allow judges to order electronic monitoring in domestic-violence cases if certain violations of protective orders occur, such as assault, burglary or kidnapping.

The tracking devices would alert victims and police if alleged abusers get too close.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, sponsored the bill in response to the Sept. 11 shooting death of state worker Amanda Ross in Lexington. Former state Rep. Steve Nunn was charged with her murder and has pleaded not guilty. Ross sought court protection from Nunn before she was gunned down.

"This bill has been refined right up to the last minute to make sure we have the best possible tool for judges to use in these cases," Stumbo said Wednesday. "I'm proud we could help to make this a reality in honor of Amanda Ross and that we laid the groundwork for future progress in reducing domestic violence."

Part of Ross' legacy is the attention now being paid to domestic violence in Kentucky, said Ross family spokesman Dale Emmons. "We're happy," Emmons said. "Amanda's family and her friends think this is a good compromise."

Originally, the bill called for earlier and more widespread use of tracking devices. Police would have assessed the dangerousness of defendants in protective order requests and reported their findings to judges, who would decide on a case-by-case basis if tracking devices were needed. Violations of the protective order would not be necessary.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Jensen, R-London, said judges told him that they wanted more clarity on when to order tracking devices. As amended by a conference committee of Senate and House members, the bill lists a dozen offenses that could allow judges to order a tracking device.

Judges also can jail or otherwise punish someone who violates a domestic violence order, Jensen said.

Some domestic violence activists have criticized the changes, saying they weakened the bill by requiring abusers to violate protective orders before using tracking devices. Critics also called for extending domestic violence protections to dating partners; the final version did not. The final version did drop a requirement that alleged victims be warned about possible perjury charges if they lie on their protective order applications.

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