- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Progress is being made in South Carolina’s fight against domestic violence, but more time is needed to study the problem and come up with ways to combat it, Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday.

At a Statehouse news conference, Haley told reporters she has signed three new executive orders pertaining to the issue, which was a major topic during last year’s legislative session. One would give the South Carolina Domestic Violence Task Force more time to continue finding ways to fight the problem.

Nationwide, South Carolina consistently ranks among the worst states per capita in women killed by men. A year ago, Haley created the task force to come up with systemic, cultural changes to combat the problem.

In August, the panel issued dozens of recommendations, including training more 911 operators, improving documentation of the crime scene and increasing the number of shelters statewide.

Another order would direct Cabinet agencies to change human resources policies to provide more guidance on how to handle employees who may be affected by abuse, such as providing them with leave and available resources.

The third order requires Cabinet agencies that regularly screen people for benefits and other assistance to look for domestic violence signs.

In the session that ended last summer, legislators passed a law that increased penalties for domestic violence convictions and gave prosecutors more options for punishment.

On Thursday, flanked by prosecutors from across the state and other members of the task force, Haley said the panel is “going too good to stop” and needs more time past the Dec. 31, 2015, deadline originally set up in her order that created it.

Haley also said that her executive budget for the coming year would allocate funding to help combat the problem, including about $19 million to fund new prosecutors to handle domestic violence cases, many of which are now prosecuted by law enforcement officers, who are often going up against privately funded attorneys on the defense side.

“I was mortified when I learned that it was law enforcement who were prosecuting these cases,” Haley said.

Several professional licensing boards in the state have committed to include domestic violence training in their continuing education courses, Haley said.


Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read more of her work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard .

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