Congress fails to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

The 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act remains law. No provisions will sunset. When Congress first wrote the bill 20 years ago, it required a check up every few years.

But the Congress that just wound down failed to agree on another round of the legislation. The Democratic controlled Senate passed a version extending protections to gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and immigrants. That didn’t sell in the Republican dominated House.

So if Congress decides to revisit the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, both chambers must agree just who deserves legal protection.

David Muhlhausen, research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, called the overall bill a federal overreach. He said he does not want any version to grow beyond its current authority.

“In general, it is bad for the federal government to be involved in what is inherently state and local crime, whether it’s domestic violence or not,” he said Wednesday.

Muhlhausen said he isn’t sure Congress will pick up the measure anytime soon.

Shaina Goodman is. She’s the public policy coordinator for the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

She said a reauthorization could lock in long term funding levels.

“Programs that are operating under unauthorized funding levels are at risk of being underfunded, or defunded, or having their funding scheme tweaked that would be harmful to service providers and victims,” she said.

Peggy Brown made the same argument. She’s the executive director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

“We have all kinds of things in play that we’re planning to do in 2013 and 2014,” she said in a phone interview from Anchorage. “And now everybody is skittish about planning these things because VAWA wasn’t reauthorized.”

She rattled off programs to deal with domestic trafficking in the state, training for prosecutors, aid for health care providers.

“People are a little hesitant to put a lot of energy in there until we find out if there’s funding,” Brown said.

Brown said 90% of her budget comes from VAWA funding. She’d like to diversify, but said it’s hard.

Any help Alaska might offer remains vulnerable too, Brown said, because VAWA incentivizes states to act by tying federal funding to state action.

“In our state where the numbers are at critical mass, and we’re just getting to the point where we’re actually being effective and perhaps getting people up to speed, benefiting victims of all ages, then this happens.”

Congress could debate the reauthorization anytime. But both chambers are out this week. And when the Senate returns to Washington later this month, yet another fiscal debate will take center stage.

Recent headlines

  • Mental Health Trust leaders resign while organization undergoes special audit

    In the past month, the top three leaders at the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority have submitted letters of resignation. The shake up comes at a time when the organization, which manages funds for mental health and substance abuse programming across the state, is undergoing a special legislative audit over concerns about financial mismanagement.
  • Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan after the Department of the Interior's surprise announcement of the cancellation of off-shore drilling leases at the 2015 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO)

    Alaska senators fault Trump’s tack on racist rally

    Alaska’s U.S. senators have issued a second round of statements following the rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia. This time their criticisms are aimed at President Donald Trump.
  • On Nov. 13, 2012, a narrow corridor in the southern hemisphere experienced a total solar eclipse.  The corridor lay mostly over the ocean but also cut across the northern tip of Australia where both professional and amateur astronomers gathered to watch. (Photos courtesy of Romeo Durscher/NASA)

    Solar eclipse has stargazers excited all over the U.S.

    States across the lower 48 will get to see a full solar eclipse Monday, August 21, as the moon slides directly in front of the sun for roughly two minutes. People from all over the world are flocking to towns that will fall under the path of the moon’s shadow.
  • Kris Hill-McLaughlin and 26 other recent high school graduates participated this summer in Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program's Bridge program on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. In ANSEP students are encouraged to enter science, technology, engineering and math careers. (Photo by Kayla Desroches/KMXT)

    STEM program guides Kodiak student from middle school to college

    A science, technology, engineering, and math program geared towards Alaska Native students has guided one Kodiak local through both middle school and high school. And now, he’s off to college.
X