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Committee weighs Baker's bill to fund support for domestic violence victims

Law would allow Californians to make donations to programs via state tax returns

Proposed legislation from Pleasanton's Assemblywoman, Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), to create a new funding stream for domestic violence victim support programs remains before the State Senate after passing the Assembly unanimously late last month.

Assembly Bill 1399 would establish a "California Domestic Violence Fund" that would be funded through donations made by California residents on their tax returns to support nonprofit organizations that provide services to domestic violence victims and their children -- programs Baker said have been woefully underfunded in recent years.

"Throughout California there is an increasing need for domestic violence programs, yet decreasing resources are preventing these programs from meeting the needs of thousands of children and families," Baker said in a statement after her Assembly colleagues approved the bill Jan. 27.

"By giving Californians the opportunity to contribute to programs helping domestic violence victims, AB 1399 efficiently increases the available resources and ensures more families receive the support and services they need," she added.

The bill has been referred to the State Senate Governance and Finance Committee for consideration.

AB 1399 allows people to voluntarily contribute money -- minimum of $1 -- in excess of their tax liability by writing in the donation amount next to the California Domestic Violence Fund. A box would be added to the tax forms, once another voluntary contribution designation is removed or space made available.

Funds raised would then be made available through grants to registered 501(c)(3) nonprofits that are considered active grant recipients under the Comprehensive Statewide Domestic Violence Program within the state's Office of Emergency Services (OES).

Funds could not be used toward administrative costs for grant recipients or the OES.

Domestic violence victim support programs desperately need the new resources after facing funding shortfalls in recent years, Baker said.

"On just a single day in 2014, 1,216 requests for services from domestic violence victims went unmet, leaving thousands of individuals, children and families without a safe place to stay or access to vital counseling and resources," according to Baker.

For those unmet needs, 49% of programs reported that victims returned to their abuser, 37% reported that victims turned to homelessness and 16% reported families ended up living in their car, the first-term assemblywoman said.

"With the unanimous bipartisan support of AB 1399 in the Assembly, domestic violence programs are one step closer to receiving much-needed additional funding and resources without incurring an unsustainable financial obligation for the state's own finances," she added.

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