Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

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Issue: Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a source of funds to assist state courts address domestic violence cases.


State court leaders support reauthorizations of the Act and increased court access to grant funding. (CCJ Resolution 12-M-2 and COSCA Resolution 12-B-2)


VAWA was last reauthorized in 2005 (Public Law 109-162) and that authorization expired 9/30/11.  In the 2001 reauthorization, a 5% set-aside in the state STOP grants was established for state courts.  Some state courts, however, have had difficulty in accessing the funds for the purposes for which the courts want to use the funds.  The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is supportive of state court autonomy, but has not required state agencies to release the funds to the courts.


Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced VAWA reauthorization legislation (S 1925) on 11/30/11.  The legislation reduces authorization levels of the grants.  As Congress has not fully funded the grant, the impact of the reductions is unknown.  The legislation consolidates the grant program for training judges/court personnel and the grant program to promote safe supervised visitation and includes an amendment to the 5% court set-aside in the STOP formula grant to states.  In response to state court concerns regarding the difficulty some state courts have had accessing the 5% set-aside, the STOP grant language "for courts" would be changed to "to courts."    

On 4/26/12, the Senate passed S. 1925 by a vote of 68-31.   Prior to the vote, Republican Senators tried to advance Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R-TX) alternative legislation, S. 2338, which would have excluded controversial provisions of S. 1925 related to (1) broadening tribal authority to enforce restraining orders, (2) relaxing limits on temporary U visas for immigrant women who have been victims of domestic violence, and (3) banning discrimination by grantees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  The Senate rejected the substitute bill by a vote of 37-62.  Senator Hutchison’s bill did include the court set-aside amendment.  

Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) introduced H.R. 4271, Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL) introduced H.R. 4982, and Representative Sandy Adams (R-FL) introduced H.R. 4970.  H.R. 4271 and H.R. 4982 included the court set-aside amendment, while H.R. 4970 did not.  

On 5/8/12, the House Judiciary Committee reported the amended H.R. 4970 favorably by a vote of 17-15 after an eight hour mark-up session.  The vote was along party lines, except that Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) voted against the bill.  On 5/16/12, the House approved H.R. 4970 by a close vote of 222 to 215. 

The 112th Congress was not able to reach an agreement on the reauthorization legislation in spite of efforts in the lame duck session.     

On 2/12/13, the Senate approved Senator Leahy’s Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 ( S. 47 ), by a vote of 78-22.  This time around, the legislation did not include an immigration provision, as that issue will be dealt with in expected immigration reform legislation.    

On 2/28/13, the House passed the Senate version of the legislation by a vote of 286-138 after efforts to pass a GOP substitute failed.  The final version included the court set-aside amendment to the STOP grant, which will increase court access to the set-aside funds.  The change to the STOP grant is effective for FY 2014 funds.

President Obama signed the legislation on 3/7/13 making it Public Law No: 113-4.