The Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita’s doors on Newhall Avenue will close, after the failure of emergency legislation early Saturday morning in Sacramento
The center’s shelter, which is located in the area, will remain open, but office and program services will have to be conducted out of borrowed space until financing is secured.
“The shelter will remain open so that we can fulfill what we do for the County,” said Gail Ortiz, who serves on the center’s board of directors. “But we have to close the center until we find donated space. We’ve already laid off staff; we’re down to our Executive Director, and our Clinical Director and Outreach Coordinator are part-time.
“This action is unconscionable,” she continued. “We’ve already had four deaths this year from domestic violence and the money we need is literally a pin drop.”
After long and drawn out budget negotiations over the summer, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cut funding for domestic violence programs in an attempt to solve a $26 billion deficit faced by the state. The local center’s budget was cut by $207,222, which resulted in staff reductions and program cutbacks.
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth partnered with Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco to author the emergency measure, which would have transferred $16.3 million from the Victim’s Compensation Fund to the Department of Public Health Domestic Violence Program. The bill passed the Assembly with a vote of 66 to 1, but during a long pre-recess session that started Friday night and stretched into Saturday morning, Yee’s name was removed and the bill failed by three votes.
“Every day we wait to resolve this, more shelters will close,” Smyth said, noting that six shelters have already shuttered because of the budget shortfall.
Senators George Runner and Tony Strickland both abstained from the vote.
Runner said that his abstention wasn’t because he doesn’t support funding domestic violence.
“Up until last week, the money was going to come out of the Victims’ Compensation Fund, which was opposed by both victims’ groups and the District Attorney’s office. They found another fund, (Alternative Fuel Licensing Fund) but it was under different terms. They would be borrowing the money for two years and the money was not related to the core issue.”
He said the probability of the state being sued for authorizing the unrelated use factored into his abstention, but said that the bill was also one of 20 “27 vote” (requiring 2/3 majority) bills that Republican Senators were not voting on because of unfulfilled promises from Democratic members of the Senate.
Runner also expressed hope that the issue will come back when the Legislature returns in October and will be resolved using General Fund monies.