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Jun 16, 2015 6:05 PM

Landrigan: Big breakthrough for state's battle against domestic violence


CONCORD - There was a major step forward in New Hampshire’s battle against domestic violence Tuesday as key lawmakers endorse a plan which would give a murder victim a lasting legacy.

"Why aren’t we fining the people convicted of domestic abuse?" Londonderry Republican State Senator Sharon Carson said, making the case for a first-time ever fine that convicted abusers would pay to support domestic violence grants.

A House-Senate compromise would raise the marriage license fee $5 and creates the $50 fine all abusers would pay.

Together they would raise $60,000 a year.

"We faced some very drastic cuts back in 2011 that have yet to be restored,’’ Amanda Grady, policy director for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said.

Becky Ranes is the mother of the late Joshua Savyon whose father shot and killed him moving lawmakers to carve out the separate offense of domestic violence.

"I’m pleased to see Joshua’s legacy help victims keep themselves and their children safe from domestic violence,’’ she said in a letter to legislative leaders.

However not everyone was on board right away.

"It isn't as though I’m not going to vote for this,” Stratham Republican Rep. Patrick Abrami said adding that collection of the fine was ``going to be difficult."

The House Ways and Means Committee had recommended the House reject this fine.

Abrami told NH1 News that his comment was to get more information from senators about the fine and he was already prepared to support it.

Some said the fine may be too harsh for low-income offenders.

"We would argue victims and society have paid far greater amounts than $50,’’ Grady Sexton said.

Ultimately, Almy also went along with the compromise.

As a concession, the compromise lets a judge defer the fine or let the offender make a series payments if he or she can’t afford $50 outright.

"I think, in my view, it is likely constitutional and a good change,’’ State Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, said.

Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, said she, too, had opposed the fine initially coming from the Senate because it did not give the judge any discretion and could leave some offenders in "debtors’ prison."

The compromise now heads to the full House and Senate for an up-or-down vote on it next week.


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