Legislation

How a Bill Becomes a Law

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  1. A bill is introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate
  2. The bill is assigned a number, labeled with the sponsor’s/sponsors’, and sent to the Government Printing Office
  3. The bill is referred to the appropriate committees. Bills can be sent to more than one committee. The committee chair then assigns the bill to a subcommittee. If a committee refuses to consider a bill, it is effectively dead. The subcommittee reports back to the main committee. The main committee can amend the bill.
  4. The committee reports the bill back to the House/Senate with comments, including whether the committee supports or opposes the bill.
  5. The bill is placed on the calendar.
  6. Legislators have the opportunity to debate the bill. Legislators can add amendments. In the House, a limited amount of time is allotted to debate. In the Senate, debate is unlimited. This can sometimes lead to a filibuster; Senators will continue talking and debating until a) the bill is dropped, because the Senators plan to keep talking until the end of the legislative session or b) cloture is invoked. 60 Senators must vote in favor of ending debate in order to invoke cloture.
  7. The House/Senate votes on the bill.
  8. The chamber that passed the bill sends it to the other chamber for consideration.
  9. If the other chamber defeats the bill, it is dead. If both the House and Senate pass the same bill, it goes to the president for his/her signature. If the other chamber passes an amended bill, the bill goes to a conference committee to create a compromise bill, called a conference report. Each chamber then has to approve the conference report.
  10. The president either signs the bill or vetoes it. If the president does not sign the bill within ten days, it de-facto becomes law. If the president vetoes it, it does not become law unless the congress overrides the veto; ⅔ of legislators in each chamber must vote to override the veto to block the bill from becoming law.

For more information about how the government works, visit http://votesmart.org/education/government#.VD1byuetHRw

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Key National Legislation Affecting Victims and Survivors of Violence

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

In 1994, Congress passed Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, better known as the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA. VAWA was passed not only to stem the tide of ever-increasing violence against women but also to encourage societal change. VAWA created new programs to help law enforcement fight violence against women, provided grant money for the same purpose, strengthened penalties, and prohibited criminal activities that had not been previously recognized legally. It has been reauthorized three times. Its reauthorizations expanded VAWA to combat sex-trafficking, gave some tribal courts jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators who committed violence against women on tribal lands, authorized money to address the rape-kit processing backlog, established a nondiscrimination requirement for programs receiving VAWA grant money, and created a ‘rape shield’ law. Since the implementation of VAWA, intimate partner violence against women declined 72%!1

For a quick fact sheet, visit: www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/.../vawa_factsheet.pdf

For a more extensive description, visit: fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42499.pdf

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA)

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) is the primary source of federal funding for domestic violence direct service providers. It was created by Congress as part of the Child Abuse Amendments of 1984 and is reauthorized every five years. The Family and Youth Services Bureau (part of the Administration for Children and Families) oversees FVPSA and administers grants to states/territories, tribes, state domestic violence coalitions, and resource centers. 70% of the funding goes to states/territories; the states/territories then allocate the money they receive to service providers, including shelters and non-residential programs. FVPSA-funded programs provide direct services to over 1.3 million victims annually, respond to 2.7 million crisis calls, and educate almost 5 million adults and youth.2

For a short summary of FVPSA, go to https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/fysb/fvpsa_summary_20131105.pdf

For a longer analysis, go to https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=751765

The FVPSA website can be found at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/fysb/programs/family-violence-prevention-services

The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)

In 1984, Congress passed, and President Reagan signed into law, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). VOCA established the Crime Victims Fund to assist and compensate victims/survivors of crime. The fund is comprised of federal criminal fines, forfeited bonds, forfeiture of profits from criminal activity, additional special assessments and donations by private parties. The Office for Victims of Crime oversees the fund and distributes the money in the form of formula grants to states and territories. The states then use this money to a) fund victim services including domestic violence shelters other domestic violence direct service providers and b) to compensate victims for crime-related losses including medical and counseling costs and lost wages.

For more information about VOCA, go to http://www.ovc.gov/pubs/crimevictimsfundfs/index.html