AUGUSTA — Speaking from experience as a childhood victim of domestic violence, Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday unveiled his package of bills to attack a social scourge that’s connected to half of the homicides in Maine.

“Domestic violence is not Republican. It’s not Democrat. It’s not independent. It’s a social problem that we need to address today,” LePage said during a State House news conference, with more than two dozen lawmakers from both parties, state officials and advocates standing behind him.

“We hear stories in the news and then we go out to our busy lives, but we ignore the problem still exists. We’ve heard many stories, and it’s because of my past that I’m particularly passionate about this problem,” said LePage, whose father was a violent alcoholic who abused his family and at one point broke LePage’s nose. His father is now deceased.

“I knew domestic violence when I was a child, and I still know this abusive behavior is hurting many Mainers today,” the governor said.

One bill in the governor’s package would require that bail be set by a judge, not a bail commissioner, in domestic-violence cases involving allegations of aggravated assault, sexual assault, violation of a protective order or strangulation. LePage said the bill provides a “cooling off period” in hopes of preventing another attack.

Another bill would prohibit judges from waiving $25 fees that are levied on offenders; the fees would go to the state’s victims’ compensation program. Money from the fund goes to victims to pay for financial losses from violence committed against them and their families.

“We believe there has to be a price paid and that you realize that you just can’t go around beating up people, and if you don’t have the money, you’re going to have to find it,” said LePage.

LePage also signed an executive order to create a task force to develop technological tools aimed at providing further support to domestic-violence victims. For example, the task force might look into tools to track the movements of domestic violence offenders after their release on bail or probation.

The Republican governor said he’s proud to support Democratic House leader Emily Cain’s bill, which calls for more risk assessments to help authorities reach more informed decisions in setting bail and sentences in domestic violence cases.

Cain, who supports the governor’s legislation, said that while Maine is one of the safest states, “far too many of our citizens … do live in fear, not of a random break in or attack, but rather in fear of those who are closest too them — often under the same roof.”

Cain, of Orono, said yearly statistics show that at least half of the murders in Maine are directly related to domestic violence.

The state attorney general’s office says at least 30,000 adults may be victims of domestic violence in Maine annually. Last year, 10 of the 23 homicides in Maine involved domestic violence.

Julia Colpitts, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, also spoke in favor of LePage’s legislation.

“We do not need to feel hopeless,” said Colpitts. “While there’s no perfect cure or one thing that will end domestic violence, there are important incremental improvements that change outcomes substantially for the better and literally save lives.”


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