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Lawmaker touts condientiality for domestic violence victims

March 10, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS - Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Washington/Frederick, has attempted for four years to win legislation to establish an address confidentiality program for victims of domestic violence.

Last year, the Senate approved such a measure, but it died in the House. This year, the Senate has approved another bill, and Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, agreed to sponsor a companion bill in the House. Mooney hoped Shank's bill would help get House approval for a program.

Shank told the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that such programs have been successful in other states, and that the state could implement it without spending more money.

The bill allows state and local agencies to respond to requests for public records without divulging a victim's address. Process service, first-class mail, and certified and registered mail would be accepted at a substitute address.

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Domestic violence "is about control," Shank said. "When a victim tries to regain control, violence escalates."

The program would "put a brick wall in front of a stalker who would try to track down a victim," he said.

Secretary of State Mary D. Kane, whose office would administer the program, said it's "something we would be willing to do with existing resources. It's an easy way for the state of Maryland to give victims of domestic violence another option."

The bill also gives victims an option for registering to vote without divulging their addresses.

"We shouldn't allow people like this to be disenfranchised because of fear," Kane said. "I'm asking you today to give these victims of domestic violence another option."

Washington County resident Dee Mayberry, who said she'd worked with domestic violence victims for much of her career, also supported the bill. "I am here to appeal for a second choice - an open door for a woman to make a quiet exit."

The bill was opposed by a perhaps unlikely source.

Cynthia Golomb of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence told the committee that while her organization agreed with the concept, the bill's provisions were cumbersome for victims and needed more money to be successful.

"A simpler approach is in order, or if it's going to be complicated, give us the money to do it right," she said.

Shank suggested that she work with the bill's sponsors to amend it if necessary, but Golomb said her organization had sought to help, but had been rebuffed.

Questioned further by Del. Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, Golomb said the program was not one of the network's legislative priorities this year.

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