Governor signs executive order to consolidate victim’s services under Attorney General
Columbia, SC – South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has announced plans to consolidate all of our state’s victim’s services into one office under the SC Attorney General Alan Wilson in 2017. Wilson, a Lexington County native, has been a champion of victim’s rights and services since he took office.
Haley was flanked by victim’s rights advocates, including Mrs. Laura Hudson of Lexington County, when she made the announcement of her plans Thursday. She told the assembled crowd that she would sign an executive order Thursday to begin the transition and consolidation process immediately.
State lawmakers would need to pass a bill during the next legislative session to finalize the consolidation process. Lexington County Senator Katrina Shealy said after the press conference that she felt there would be no problem getting that bill through both houses of state government.
Currently, programs and agencies that assist victims are spread out across the Midlands. These separate offices provide victim compensation, grant writing assistance, training for law enforcement agencies, research that is used to combat domestic violence and other crimes, like rape. They also provide funds to support victims and their families as well as providing several other key functions.
Each of these programs is currently under, and administrated by, separate agencies like the SC Department of Public Safety or the State Office of Victim’s Assistance or SOVA. Haley said that bringing them together only makes sense and would streamline the process of providing for the needs of citizens affected by crime.
In consolidating these offices and functions under the Attorney General, Haley will give victims of crimes a louder voice than they currently have. Statewide elected officials have more clout with the legislature because they work for the voters of SC and not a singular “boss” that may have some other agenda.
Haley said that this move is another step in our state’s efforts to reduce the alarming rate of intimate partner deaths each year. SC has historically ranked very high in the instances of domestic violence that often lead to someone who claims to love their life partner killing the other in a violent rage.
Attorney General Wilson said Thursday that victim’s services at agencies like SOVA and the Crime Victim Ombudsman office would not change in their fundamental task. They would simply be in one office where they could support each other. He said that this would provide a one stop shop so that victims would get less of a run around and more of the much-needed services.
Prior to the press conference, Wilson said that this move is revenue neutral. Each of these offices already have their staffs and budgets in place. “It may take some time to work out the details such as real-estate, IT, and human resources functions, but for the most part, these people are already in place.”
Senator Shealy said after the press conference that there was already bipartisan support in the legislature for the consolidation effort. Besides Senator Shealy, Rep. Kirkman Finlay, Rep. Beth Bernstein, Rep.
James Smith, and several other members of the general assembly were in attendance. The all agreed that it won’t be hard to find sponsors and get the bill passed during the 2017 session.
If the passage of this legislation succeeds, it would be the most significant reform since the Victim's Bill of rights was passed that amended the state’s constitution in 1998.