The recent story on HB 2625 overlooked several important facts and did not provide the proper context for this important piece of legislation (“Victims’ rights bill aims to boost nonprofit’s revenues” 4/7/2014).
Contrary to the article’s opening characterization, the bill is not designed to benefit a single organization. Instead the draft language allows legal clinics and other victim service providers to qualify for funding by partnering with pro bono attorneys who have experience representing victims in court. Nor is the legislation using “public money to benefit private enterprise” — the funds come from an assessment levied on criminal defendants, not taxpayers, and can only be disbursed to non-profit organizations.
The article further asserts one of these service providers, the Arizona Crime Victims Legal Assistance Project, a joint grant proposal between Arizona Voice for Crime Victims and ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law, was forced to close due to declining revenues. Not true. The services provided under that program continue to this day.
I support this legislation because it will help victims exercise the rights to which they are entitled under our Constitution and receive needed services. That most members of our Legislature also support it is not an indication of sinister machinations. It’s a sign of how far our state has come in recognizing and living up to the ideal of treating crime victims with fairness, dignity and respect.
Finally, no one in Arizona or national politics has advocated as long or as passionately for the rights of crime victims as Steve Twist. It is simply unfair to ascribe self-serving motives to his support for this legislation. As we commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week this week, now is not the time to question the sincerity of those who have done so much for crime victims, or the intent of legislation that seeks to do more.
— Bill Montgomery is Maricopa County Attorney.