- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Two of Maryland’s leading Democratic candidates for governor on Friday pushed for taking action this legislative session to reduce domestic violence in the state.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown testified on a package of legislation. Attorney General Doug Gansler is backing a bill to give judges discretion to add five years to a sentence for someone who commits domestic violence in front of a child.

“Studies show that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to fail in school, succumb to drug and alcohol abuse and even repeat the same behavior later in life,” Gansler, who first supported the proposal in 2006 while he was Montgomery County’s state’s attorney, said.

Brown is backing a similar measure. The lieutenant governor also supports a bill to add second-degree assault to a list of crimes for which a person can obtain a final protective order.

Brown also is pushing for another measure to make it easier to obtain a final protective order by reducing the standard of evidence needed to get one. The bill would change the required evidence from “clear and convincing” to “a preponderance of the evidence.” Maryland is the only state in the nation that uses the higher standard of proof for final protective orders.

“I would respectfully ask that we join the ranks of 49 other states and the District of Columbia who have found a way to reduce the standard and making it easier and more likely for victims to get a protective order,” Brown testified in the House Judiciary Committee.

Dorothy Lennig, director of the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic at the House of Ruth Maryland, praised the package of legislation. She said the bill to increase penalties for domestic violence committed in front of a child would send a badly needed message to offenders. She said studies have shown girls who witness abuse or more likely to be abused themselves, and boys who see it are more inclined to become abusers themselves.

“If we’re ever going to end this, we have to communicate to our citizens that domestic violence is bad, but it makes it even worse when you commit it in front of a child,” Lennig told the committee.

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