Kilah's Law goes to General Assembly
Kilah’s Law will be introduced on the floor of the state house later in the week.
Rep. Craig Horn, R-68, had initially planned to introduce it won Wednesday, the legislature’s first day of session, but anticipates a delay while a few adjustments are made to the bill.
Horn is the primary sponsor of the proposed legislation.
“The bill is ready-to-go, but before I actually file it, I wanted to get a last-time-through review by those people who will actually have to implement the bill,” Horn said.
He circulated the bill to the Conference of District Attorneys and the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association.
While asking for data dealing with child abuse conviction, Horn found out that those convictions are coded as domestic violence.
“I didn’t know that we did not keep records on child abuse,” Horn said. “I thought that a child abuse conviction was in the database. So I asked for specific data and I got lots of explanations, but no data.”
Horn is now including a piece in the bill that will code child abuse convictions as child abuse, not domestic violence.
“That’s a pretty broad code,” Horn said.
Horn found out about the coding on Friday. The bill was re-drafted Monday morning. It is being shown to the Conference of District Attorneys and the NC Sheriff’s Association again.
“Those are the people I have to worry about, because they have to deal with it,” Horn explained.
The bill is currently being reviewed by a fiscal research group, who will estimate the cost of implementation.
Horn does not believe the addendum will add significant cost.
“It’s not a big deal to just add a suffix to domestic violence,” he said.
Once the fiscal research group tells Horn the cost estimate, he will show it to the co-sponsors of the bill, to make sure they are still on board.
If it is done by Wednesday, Horn will file it Wednesday, he said.
“But I doubt it,” he added.
Horn hopes that by doing all of his “homework” he will be able to ensure swift passage of the bill.
“I want this to be a one-and-done,” Horn said. “We’re going to do it once, it’s going to go through and it’s going to be signed by the Governor.”
Jeff Gerber has been traveling the state promoting the proposed legislation for the past eight months. His Justice for All Coalition also supported Jessica’s Law, which enforces harsher penalties for child rapists, and the Unborn Victims of Violence Bill, which charges two counts of murder if a pregnant woman is killed.
Kilah’s Law will raise the punishment for anyone who causes permanent, debilitating, physical injury to a child from a Class C felony to a Class B felony. A Class B felony is punishable with a 25 year to lifetime sentence.
“The public response is astronomical,” Gerber said. “The public not only supports Kilah’s Law, the public demands Kilah’s Law.”
The other two bills the Justice for All Coalition supported took years to pass. However, Gerber anticipates a speedy passage for Kilah’s Law.
“I believe the bill will reach the governor’s desk in record pace,” Gerber said.
The bill has public and bi-partisan support, he added.
The bill is named for Kilah Davenport, who was severely injured on May 16, 2012 while staying with a family member in Indian Trail. The attack was allegedly committed by her stepfather.
Though the prognosis was that Davenport would not survive, today she can say three words and is eating baby food, Gerber said.
The Davenport family has traveled the state with Gerber and have often met families who have also been through the abuse of a child.
“It’s truly become an epidemic throughout the state,” Gerber said.
The Davenport family has also started a non-profit organization to help families who have had their experience.
“If this bill can save the life of one child, it’s well worth it,” Gerber said.