It’s going to be hard to find a lawmaker willing to vote against a bill to allow judges to require electronic monitors for some accused of domestic violence.

The bill is named in honor of Amanda Ross, the 29-year-old state employee who died in September of multiple gun shot wounds outside her Lexington townhouse. Former House member and former gubernatorial candidate Steve Nunn has been charged with her death. He has pleaded not guilty. Ross had sought and received a domestic violence protection order against Nunn several months before her death.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, made the bill his top priority and fast-tracked the legislation through committee last week. He spoke from the floor Tuesday, urging passage of a measure he said could have prevented Ross’ death as her mother, Diana Ross, sat in front of lawmakers.

The bill passed the House — where Nunn served for 16 years, even sponsoring legislation to protect victims of domestic abuse — 97-0. During his remarks on the floor, Stumbo acknowledged he knew Ross, her family and many members of the legislature knew Nunn. Only two lawmakers had questions about the bill and none voted against it.

“Unfortunately, the person charged is a former member of this body,” said Stumbo, adding the events surrounding Ross’ gruesome death are tragic for her family and friends but also for those of Nunn. “This is not about his guilt or innocence, this about protection,” Stumbo went on.

Stumbo said the technology which might have prevented Ross’ death “was right there under our noses all the time.”

He said on the day of Ross’ funeral, Fayette Commonwealth Attorney Ray Larson called him, asking him to take a look at the global positioning satellite system already in use in Fayette County for pre-trial release of those charged with some crimes — though not used for domestic violence orders. And he learned the devices are already in use in some other Kentucky counties, including his native Floyd County.

It’s also in use for domestic violence cases in 15 states, where Stumbo said, “not one homicide has occurred — it’s 100 percent effective.” He said it will give potential victims “what I call a fighting chance.”

In about 10 to 15 percent of cases, Stumbo said, perpetrators demonstrate behavior which indicates they are likely to ignore a court order to stay away from the person seeking protection and to become violent. Judges would use a checklist of indicators to determine if violence is likely and order those alleged perpetrators to wear the devices. The victim could also wear a device to warn the wearer when the other party came within a proscribed distance.

Authorities can monitor the whereabouts of the wearer at any time and are alerted if the person enters areas he or she is forbidden to go — such as the victim’s residential area or workplace. The cost is between $7 and $10 a day.

Counties have expressed concern about the start-up costs, and Stumbo has responded by amending the bill to allow local jurisdictions to utilize the devices for pre-trial release saving them the daily costs of jailing those awaiting trial. Stumbo said Tuesday others have expressed concern about requiring those who have not been convicted of a crime to wear the devices.

“It’s not a finding of guilt. It’s a restraint of conduct and it’s as old as our law itself.”

Following the unanimous vote, House members stood and applauded as Stumbo’s wife, Mary Karen Stumbo, embraced Diana Ross, followed by Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark and Greg Stumbo. Ross left the chamber without answering reporters’ questions.

The bill now goes to the Senate but Stumbo said he expects no difficulty in passing it there.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. He may be contacted by email at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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