Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson is joining the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition in asking lawmakers for more investment to keep victim service providers in business.
Henderson has been a vocal proponent of domestic violence legislation this year, after her cousin Amanda "Mandy" Mayne was killed by her ex-husband in August. At a press conference Tuesday morning, Henderson said Gov. Spencer Cox's administration has requested $50 million for victim service providers, and urged the Utah Legislature to fund the request.
Help for people in abusive relationships is available in Utah and nationwide
- YWCA’s Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600
- Utah statewide Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-897-LINK (5465) and udvc.org
- 24-hour Salt Lake victim advocate hotline: 801-580-7969
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
"Utah spends a lot of money on criminals," she said. "It's time we spend more money on survivors and survivor services. This is something that law enforcement I know supports. They can't do it alone. ... When they connect people on the scene to services, there has to be someone on the other end of that phone."
Henderson was joined by several lawmakers and advocates who also spoke to the urgent need for more resources.
Among them was Brandon Merrill, founder and executive director of Utah Homicide Survivors. Merrill said his budget has been cut over the last two years, and he projects further cuts in the future.
"That is something that many organizations like myself will not survive," he said. "We will lose vital services without these appropriations and additional support from our state and local governments."
Merrill argued that state funds are more than charity, they're an investment. He said that homicides, alone, cost the state over $20 million dollars in the last year.
"Can you imagine what the cost of domestic violence, overall, as a state was, if just the homicides were $20 million?" he asked.
Domestic violence legislation
Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, spoke of the various pieces of legislation to address domestic violence during this legislative session. Wilcox is the floor sponsor for SB117, proposed by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, which would require police to conduct lethality assessments whenever they respond to reports of domestic violence.
Henderson spoke in support of the bill in front of a Senate committee last month. The bill received approval from the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday, and will head to the full House for final approval. Henderson's aunt and uncle — Kent and Shauna Mayne — spoke in favor of the bill, and said a lethality assessment may have saved Mandy's life.
Wilcox — who is the chairman of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee — told reporters earlier in the day that lawmakers sometimes pass bills knowing they will need to be altered in future sessions.
"This isn't one of those things we're wondering about," he said. "This is one of those we have the data, we know it works when it's implemented and followed properly."
The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition is supporting several other bills having to do with victim services and survivor safety:
- HB314, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, would help survivors access lease termination protections, including alleviating cost barriers and helping expunge previous eviction records so they have easier access to housing. HB314 was assigned to the House Business and Labor Committee, but has yet to have a public hearing.
- HB43, sponsored by Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, is a companion bill to SB117, and would create a task force to assess and create a plan for addressing gaps, access and coordination issues when it comes to domestic violence. HB43 passed the House and a Senate committee unanimously. Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, is the Senate sponsor.
- HB244, sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, would create the Utah Crime Victim Services Coordination Commission to address victim needs and help coordinate between state and local agencies. HB244 passed the house with only one "nay" vote, and was introduced in the Senate, where Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, is the floor sponsor.
- Ivory and Rep. Dan Johnson, R-Logan, have requested a $50 million appropriation — with $20 million ongoing and $30 million in one-time funds — to invest in victim services to ensure they are available throughout the state. The request will be presented to the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday.