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Apr 26, 2016 3:19 PM

Steinhauser: Ayotte says fighting sexual assaults on campus 'transcends all party lines'

NH1 News Political Director

Senator Kelly Ayotte says when it comes to sexual assaults on college campuses, “the status quo is unacceptable.”

New Hampshire’s Republican senator made her comments Tuesday as she joined a bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators to push for passage of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which is known as CASA.

“This is certainly not a partisan issue. It transcends all party lines,” Ayotte said at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. “We know unfortunately that this happens on every single campus. But yet these crimes have been investigated too often inconsistently. We need to make sure that that doesn’t continue to happen.”

She added that the show of force of assembled lawmakers from both parties sends a signal that there’s “a strong bipartisan consensus that we need to get this bill passed. That we need to have safe campuses so our students can go to school and focus on their education and becoming the best person that they can be.”

The measure, which Ayotte co-write, would provide uniformity when it comes to the ways colleges and universities report and deal with sexual assault on campus, and would hold all schools equally accountable.

Ayotte said “this bill really focuses on making sure that these crimes are properly investigated, that victims… are fully supported with a confidential adviser. In the criminal justice system we have individuals who are called victim advocates. And they can advise victims on what their rights are and what steps they can take.”

Ayotte and the other senators at the news conference urged the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to “immediately” take up the bill. Some 35 senators, including New Hampshire’s senior senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, have signed onto the legislation.

Under current federal law, colleges can be faced with a penalty of losing all federal funding for failing to adhere to sexual assault reporting requirements under Title IX.

In an interview with NH1 News, Ayotte said the those “penalties are quite draconian, where you could take away all of the financial aid from a college or university. And so in reality they aren’t good penalties because you’d be penalizing the students. So what our bill does is really put teeth in a more sensible way in it. Fines bases on the size of the institution. And be more likely to be imposed instead of holding financial aid in jeopardy.”

Ayotte gave details of the measure last Friday as she lead a round table discussion on the issue at Southern New Hampshire University. Ayotte spoke one-on-one with NH1 News following the round table event.

Watch: Ayotte details bill on campus sexual assaults

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