FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 29, 2003
AUSTIN -- Important legislation that would help fund badly needed services for family violence prevention was revived in the legislature's final hours Wednesday.
Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa amended HB 2292, a sweeping social service reorganization bill, with the legislation two hours before the Senate's final deadline for bills.
"This legislation was too important to let fall by the wayside," Sen. Hinojosa said. "Funding to help prevent family violence is incredibly important for my district and for the rest of the state."
The amendment revived HB 813 filed by State Rep. Roberto Gutierrez, D-McAllen, Rep. Glenn Lewis, D-Fort Worth, and Rep. Inocente "Chente" Quintanilla, D-Tornillo. The bill had died in Calendars in the House.
Rep. Gutierrez said the legislation's revival was good news for local governments who need the funds to fight family violence.
"There is a concern regarding the availability of resources to family violence organizations. Texas is losing over $3.6 million in Victims of Crime Acts (VOCA) federal funding in the next year," Rep. Gutierrez said. "The amendment would give counties the opportunity to increase the filing fee for divorces which could generate thousands of dollars for family violence prevention programs."
The legislation allows a county commissioners court to adopt a family violence fee of up to $15. The fee would be applied to marriage dissolutions.
If the legislation were passed, it could generate approximately $40,000 a year for Hidalgo County and approximately $44,000 for Nueces County.
Solia Garcia, executive director of Hidalgo County's Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), said the money could be used to help build the Rio Grande Valley's first family violence prevention and counseling center.
"Last year Hidalgo County rated 3rd in the state when it came to violence against children," Garcia said. "We need a center where different services can come together to deal with family violence. There are shelters for animals and women but none for children."
House Bill 2292 will now go to conference committee where House and Senate members will have to agree on a version of the bill. Sen. Hinojosa said the appointment of Rep. Gutierrez to the House conference committee is good news for the amendment's survival.
The Senate has yet to assign a conference committee for the bill.