NEWS VIDEO: Heidi Heitkamp Touts AG Record Cracking Down On Domestic Abuse; Berg Says He Doesn’t Know Whether He Will Support Renewing Milestone Law
Rick Berg is once again putting partisan Washington politics before what’s best for North Dakota, telling a North Dakota TV station that he does not currently support the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – landmark legislation that fights domestic abuse across the country. The legislation is set to expire and must be re-approved by Congress. While Berg refused to support the important bill, Heidi Heitkamp began a statewide tour touting her record as North Dakota’s Attorney General working with local law enforcement and prosecutors to increase domestic abuse convictions, and pledging to support the Violence Against Women Act.
“This is just the type of Washington gamesmanship we’ve come to expect from Rick Berg, and it’s hurting North Dakota,” said Nathan Click, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Just as Heidi Heitkamp warns that the Violence Against Women Act is in danger of being killed by partisan games in Congress, Rick Berg demonstrates exactly the kind of partisan games she is talking about by refusing to support the landmark bill’s reauthorization because of politics. Instead of taking a stand against domestic violence, Congressman Berg is playing Washington political games with laws that fight domestic abuse in order to advance his own partisan politics and score political points.”
While Berg refuses to push the House of Representatives to take up the Violence Against Women Act on partisan grounds, Heidi Heitkamp is hosting a series of roundtable discussions on domestic violence and the importance of Congress reauthorizing the landmark legislation.
“I want to do everything that I can to make sure that the Violence Against Women Act is reauthorized. One thing that I’ve learned in public life is that you can never take anything for granted,” Heidi told a group of citizens and law enforcement officials at a roundtable at a violence intervention center yesterday.
No sooner had Heitkamp issued this warning, then Rick Berg’s office announced he does not currently support the legislation.
KVLY reports, “Berg’s office today told us today he won’t take a position on the bill until all the provisions are in place.”
This is part of a long history of Berg refusing to allow protections for victims of domestic abuse. As a state legislator, Berg voted to allow health insurance companies to use domestic violence as a pre-existing condition. Berg’s vote allowed insurance companies to use domestic violence as a reason to deny health insurance.
Since its passage in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has been very successful in improving enforcement efforts against domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault, providing housing protection for victims, and improving educational programs to prevent crime. According to experts, reporting of domestic violence has increased by 51% since the laws passage.
KVLY: Berg Won’t Take A Position On Bill: On March 21, 2012, KVLY reported that Berg’s office said he won’t take a position on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act “until all the provisions are in place.” [KVLY, 3/21/12]
Berg Voted Against Preventing Insurance Companies from Using Domestic Violence as a Pre-Existing Condition. In 1999, Berg voted against HB1371, a bill to prevent insurance companies from using domestic violence as a pre-existing condition. [HB1371, failed 45-48, 1/29/99]
- North Dakota One of Eight States Allowing Domestic Violence as Pre-Existing Condition. According to McClatchy Newspapers, “Eight states and the District of Columbia don't have laws that specifically bar insurance companies from using domestic violence as a pre-existing condition to deny health coverage, according to a study from the National Women's Law Center. The states are Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming. The study by the nonpartisan, nonprofit center focused on individual coverage, not group coverage.” [McClatchy Newspapers, 10/4/09]
- House Republicans Turned Down a Bill to Prevent Insurers from Denying Coverage to Domestic Abuse Victims. According to the AP, “Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm says he'll seek changes in North Dakota's insurance laws to stop companies from using domestic violence as a reason to deny health insurance coverage. Hamm says he was recently told of a report by the National Women's Law Center. It says North Dakota is one of nine states that allow insurance companies to turn down health coverage for women who have been beaten because they have a pre-existing condition. Hamm says the Insurance Department hasn't had complaints about the practice. But he says the law should be changed to make sure it doesn't happen. In 1995, North Dakota House Republicans turned down a bill to prevent insurers from denying coverage because a customer was a domestic violence victim. Rutland Rep. Pam Gulleson sponsored the bill then, and she says she was surprised at the reaction. Fargo Rep. Rick Berg was chairman of the committee that heard the bill then. He says its supporters didn't have any examples of battered women being denied coverage.” [AP, 9/24/09]