Bill creating civil protective orders for dating partners heads to Senate floor

03/03/2015 11:39 AM

FRANKFORT — Legislation creating a new class of protective orders for partners in dating relationships passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, clearing one of its last procedural hurdles en route to Gov. Steve Beshear’s desk.

The judiciary panel, which approved House Bill 8 by 7-0-1 vote, amended the bill to further differentiate between the civil protective orders established in the legislation and those sought in familial disputes. That means if the Senate approves HB 8, the House must OK the committee’s changes in a floor vote before sending the bill to Beshear, a supporter of the initiative.

Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat and sponsor of HB 8, sees nothing the bill’s path to becoming law after addressing concerns that have stymied similar measures in the past. The House approved the bill on a unanimous 98-0 vote Feb. 12.

“I think that does it,” Tilley told reporters after the meeting, noting he expects the House to support changes to the bill since the same protections are offered in both versions of HB 8. “I think we have the votes on the Senate floor. I’ve been told we do. I don’t see any roadblocks.”

Kentucky women face the highest likelihood in the U.S. of falling victim to rape or stalking, Tilley said during committee testimony. The bill would allow those in interpersonal relationships to seek civil protective orders in instances of violence, which would be heard in circuit or district courts but not family courts.

Marion Brown, executive director of the Hopkinsville-based Sanctuary Inc. for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, underscored the need for the legislation in recounting the story of a community college student whose boyfriend broke into her third-story bedroom and violently threatened her for not answering his phone call. He also stalked her, Brown said, waiting for her after classes and even hiding in her car.

The woman came to Sanctuary seeking help, but Brown said her immediate options were limited because she did not qualify for an emergency protective order. The couple weren’t married, had no child in common and did not live together.

“She left that day without any civil, legal protection because she could not answer yes to one of those questions,” Brown said.

That situation demonstrates a key division on the issue of interpersonal protective orders. Senate President Robert Stivers, as he has in the past, said criminal protections already exist for victims of violence or harassment.

A sticking point in the past has been the extension of domestic violence protections for those who aren’t in familial relationships as some, such as Stivers, dislike the idea of redefining what constitutes a family under current law governing protective orders.

The male in the incident detailed by Brown may have committed a felony and at least two misdemeanors, he said.

Still, Stivers noted that some victims may want another layer of protection without filing charges against their attacker.

“What I want to commend the two of you, the two chairmen (Tilley and Sen. Whitney Westerfield), is making sure, and this was another core belief that many of my constituents and many of the individuals in the Senate, that you delineated between that which is truly domestic and not an expansion of the family,” said Stivers, R-Manchester. “And I believe this does this.”

Not everyone fully embraced the measure, however.

Sen. Robin Webb, the lone “pass” vote, said she would like to review the committee substitute and may ultimately vote for the bill once it reaches the Senate floor, but she opposed HB 8 as drafted. The bill does little to address and reform an aggressor’s behavior, she said.

“We can sit up here and criminalize this or get all the emergency protective orders, and it may stop to that victim, but that perpetrator is the one that really needs some help and really needs to stop the cycle because if he or she can’t find another victim, they’re going to go create one,” said Webb, D-Grayson.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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