ANNAPOLIS -- A Senate committee has unanimously approved an administration bill that would broaden the state laws on domestic violence, but only after making key changes.
In the bill approved yesterday, Sen. Walter M. Baker, the committee chairman, made two major adjustments: halving the length of civil protection orders from a year to six months and defining "cohabitants" as people who had lived together at least 90 days.
Judges use civil protection orders to separate parties in a domestic dispute. Under current law, an abuser could be forced to move out of a shared home, but only for 30 days and with no provision for support.
The proposed law would allow abuse victims to seek civil protection orders against their assailants for up to six months. The bill's supporters wanted at least a year, the standard in most states.
David S. Ianucci, the governor's chief legislative officer, said he was happy with the compromise. "This is major progress for Maryland, which was the worst in the nation," he said.
A district judge also would have the authority to calculate temporary support for the abused partner and any children in the household, relief not available under current law.
The proposed law would extend this protection to more people. Currently, a woman may seek a protection order only if she is married and living with her abuser, or single and living with the father of her child.
At the bill's hearing, Mr. Baker worried that the new law would make it possible for a man to pick up a woman in a bar, beat her, then lose his home to her. The Cecil County Democrat subsequently amended the bill to define "cohabitants" as people who had lived together for 90 days.