Screen shot 2013-01-03 at 11.23.47 AMSenator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) last night with additional bipartisan co-sponsors including California’s Diane Feinstein. The legislation, Senate Bill 47, is almost identical to the bill that passed the Senate last year, including the same strong provisions to address sexual assault.
A number of minor changes were included in the bill (S.47):
· The bill does not include the U-Visa increase that created procedural difficulties last year. It is hoped that this issue will be included in comprehensive immigration reform legislation later this year.
· Last year’s bill, however, also included a modest increase in the number of U visas (created by Congress in VAWA 2000) available to immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and certain other violent crimes who assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. Increasing the number of U visas helps both victims and law enforcement.  Unfortunately, that provision led to a technical objection from House Republican leaders. In the interest of obtaining the swift reauthorization of VAWA, the Senate introduced the new VAWA bill without that provision in order to avoid any initial technical obstacles.  However, this new VAWA bill does recommit Congress to important immigration provisions so that all victims are protected. Senator Leahy will be working hard to include the U visa increase in the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that will soon be considered by Congress. The members of the National Task Force likewise commit to support that effort.
· The bill also includes the bipartisan version of the SAFER Act that passed the Senate last year and addresses the backlog of sexual assault evidence.
· The bill excludes some amendments added by the Judiciary committee after introduction last year that did not relate directly to VAWA.
· In addition to many important improvements throughout the bill that received bipartisan support last year, this bill also contains enhanced protections for tribal, LGBT and immigrant victims, which were identified as critical priorities by advocates across the country and also received bipartisan support last year.
The House Democrats will also introduce the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act in the next day or two.
At this time, CALCASA is speaking with potential co-sponsors for the Senate version of VAWA and working to inform legislators and respond to their concerns about the changes in this most recent iteration of VAWA. As this bill moves forward, we will be asking members to take specific action steps to voice their support for VAWA and at that time, CALCASA will provide specific talking points, representatives to contact, and letters to sign on to. In the mean time, we will keep you updated as we learn more.
CALCASA appreciates this important progress on the first day of the 113th Congress and will continue to update members and ask for your support of VAWA.
For a recent press conference on VAWA:
Full text of S. 47, The Violence Against Women Act 2013: