San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott spoke about efforts to prosecute domestic violence abusers.
San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott opposes Assembly Bill 1028. Photo by Chris Stone

On average, 13 women in the  San Diego region are murdered every year because of domestic violence. That’s according to SANDAG crime statistics from 2021. 

On Friday, legislation that its supporters claim will save more lives from domestic violence faces its toughest test to date before the California Senate Appropriations Committee, joining 489 other bills that will sink, swim or wait a year.

The legislation — Assembly Bill 1028 — would eliminate the requirement that medical staff notify the police, instead leaving the decision to the victim. The bill has created a deep divide between activists and law enforcement, with both sides citing extensive support from across the state.

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott both oppose the bill.

“This ill-conceived bill reverses critical, long-standing protections that currently exist for victims of serious crimes including domestic violence,” said Stephan.

The nonprofit Futures without Violence  supports the legislation carried by Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, a Democrat from Inglewood. The organization argues that “it would help reduce domestic violence, provide training requirements for health professionals, help identify and treat survivors, and provide accountability for the person” causing harm.

The bill has already been passed by the the state Assembly, and at a hearing last week, both sides made their case before the Senate Appropriations Committee. On Friday the committee will decide whether the bill can move forward to a vote by the full Senate.

McKinnor said current law creates fear among domestic violence victims. Under her bill, a health care professional would “refer them personally with a warm handoff to a domestic violence center, someone that can help them plan, get the services they need, when they intend to leave their domestic violence situation.”

Casey Gwinn, a former San Diego City Attorney who strongly opposes the bill, said removing police from domestic violence reporting may be well intentioned but is bad law.

“If AB 1028 passes, more women will die in domestic violence homicides in California,” he said. “Ending all reporting of serious injury, high-risk domestic violence cases is the most irresponsible legislative proposal I have seen in 35 years in California.”

At the hearing last week, Laura Brignone of CalSAFE spoke on behalf of the state’s forensic nurses who, document patient injuries from domestic violence cases in 48 hospitals across the state.

Her organization believes the bill would increase health costs, add pressure on social service programs and increase the number of murders by partners.

Brignone pointed out that “when Kentucky passed a similar law homicides went up by 73 %.”

She added that 50% of mass shootings have a domestic violence component, such as the recent incident in Orange County where a retired police sergeant opened fire in a bar, targeting his estranged wife.

McKinnon’s office countered Wednesday, saying “AB 1028 is a survivor-focused bill that empowers survivors so they get help and remain safe. We have welcomed public feedback on this legislation throughout the process and believe that the bill as written will best support and protect survivors of domestic violence across California.”

Gwinn said that McKinnon’s office was unwilling to discuss a compromise. He said his organization, Alliance for Hope International, will propose new legislation next year.