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Domestic violence bill passes NC Senate, heads to House

A unanimous N.C. Senate voted Tuesday to enhance protections for domestic violence victims by allowing them to testify against defendants remotely.

Sen. Lisa Barnes

Senate Bill 51, named Kayla’s Act in memory of a Lumberton homicide victim, won passage on a 49-0 vote. Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson, introduced the bill with Sens. Dave Craven, R-Randolph, and Lisa Barnes, R-Nash, as primary cosponsors.

“This piece of legislation is a prime example of the legislature taking action after a local tragedy and ensuring that domestic violence victims are guaranteed the protections they deserve as they seek legal action,” Barnes said in a news release. “I look forward to seeing Kayla’s Act pass the House chamber, honoring the memory of the bill’s namesake and the many victims that came before.”

Kayla Hammonds was stabbed outside a grocery store last November. The man charged in the killing is her ex-boyfriend, and Hammonds’ family members say previous charges against him were dismissed because Hammonds was afraid to appear in court in order to testify against him.

Kayla’s Act won bipartisan support, with Sen. Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg, a 2024 lieutenant governor candidate and the daughter of four-term Gov. Jim Hunt, signing on as a cosponsor along with fellow Democratic Sens. Sydney Batch, Jay Chaudhuri, Paul Lowe, Natasha Marcus, Gladys Robinson, Joyce Waddell and Mike Woodard.

A summary provided by Barnes’ legislative office says SB 51 would take three steps to protect domestic violence victims:

• Victims would be allowed to testify remotely in order to avoid being in close proximity to defendants.

• Required documentation of domestic violence proceedings would preserve witness testimony for potential future needs.

• Resources would be devoted to assisting victims as they seek further protection from their alleged assailants. 

Kayla’s Act was referred to the House rules committee on Thursday. Under standard General Assembly procedure, bills must receive favorable reports from at least two committees before they qualify for a floor vote.