No Kentucky judge has used the month-old Amanda's Law, which allows them to require those who violate a domestic violence order to wear a tracking device that helps ensure abusers stay away from their victims.
To kick-start the process, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler and Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo on Thursday announced $875,000 in federal funding they hope will pay for a Lexington-based pilot project to show how well Amanda's Law can work.
The money — contained in a federal budget bill awaiting congressional approval later this year — would pay for monitoring devices and related administrative costs in a handful of to-be-selected rural and urban communities. Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson would run the program.
Judges sometimes hesitate to be the first to use a new law, said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.
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"It's a whole lot easier to get a judge in Pendleton County to agree to use this if you can say, 'Look how it's being used over in Bourbon County,'" Stumbo said. "As other counties see the capabilities to protect domestic violence victims ... I believe they'll stand in line to put these systems in."
Stumbo was the primary sponsor of Amanda's Law in last winter's General Assembly. It's named for Amanda Ross, who was shot to death outside her Lexington home in September. Former state Rep. Steve Nunn was charged with murder in the death of his former fiancée and has pleaded not guilty. Ross sought court protection from Nunn before she was slain.
Ross's mother, Diana Ross, attended Thursday's announcement and thanked Chandler and Stumbo for their work.
As of Thursday, no judge in Kentucky had ordered a monitoring device under Amanda's Law, which took effect July 15, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
Chandler, D-Versailles, said he also has arranged for $325,000 in federal funds for the non-profit Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program, which provides an emergency shelter and other services in 17 counties across Central Kentucky.
That money, which has been secured, Chandler said, will help victims of domestic violence get back on their feet, covering expenses from rent, utilities and moving costs to college tuition.
Chandler faces a heated re-election challenge this year from Republican Andy Barr, a Lexington attorney.