Gov. Chris Christie rejected a bill Tuesday that would have established a pilot program in Ocean County to electronically monitor domestic violence offenders for the protection of their victims.
Known as Lisa's Law, bill A-3806, which received unanimous Assembly and Senate approval, would have tracked the movements of both offenders and victims to safeguard the victim's safety. The bill would have also established a cell phone notification system for victims in cases when offenders are close.
The bill, named for Letizia "Lisa" Zindell, originated after the 30-year-old Toms River woman was strangled to death in 2009 by her ex-fiance Frank Frisco, who had been released from jail a day earlier. Frisco, who hanged himself the same day, had violated the conditions of his retraining order numerous times prior.
“This is about protecting women," said Assemblyman Ron Dancer, one of the bill's primary sponsors. “We should be a national leader in protecting women who are victims of domestic violence.”
Dancer, a Republican who represents portions of Ocean, Monmouth, Mercer and Burlington counties, and Democratic Assemblyman Troy Singleton are primary sponsors of the bipartisan bill and have pressed for its passage since 2009.
“I’m angry that the governor has once again placed his own priorities over those of the best interests of New Jersey citizens," said Singleton, who represents Burlington County. "I have no concept as to why this bill was vetoed.”
Christie said in a statement that an Attorney General's report found the technology involved to monitor offenders to be "significantly limited" and that "the program could give victims a false sense of security."
The governor said he is committed to helping victims of domestic violence break the cycle, and has signed legislation that further penalizes aggravated assaults of domestic violence victims.
"I ... applaud the sponsors' attention to both the need to protect victims of domestic violence and the possibilities for using new technologies to create safer communities; however, this avenue is not yet reliable enough to journey down," Christie said in a statement.
Dancer and Singleton questioned Christie's assertion. Dancer said representatives of two technology companies – 3M and Safire Technologies – both presented devices to the assemblymen that could have been used in the program. The bill, had it been approved, would have set aside $2.5 million to fund the program in Ocean County.
“We had the equipment in our hands," said Dancer. "We had demonstrations."
"The technology exists," said Singleton. “We use it now with those who are on permanent parole supervision.”
But an Attorney General's report to the governor concluded otherwise.
"When a nearly identical bill reached my desk in 2014, I had concerns about whether the technology and resources necessary to provide the required monitoring, warning and around-the-clock supervision of domestic violence offenders and their victims were available," Christie said in his statement.
The governor said other measures, like increasing penalties for offenders and expedited firearms applications to empower victims, would also reduce domestic violence.
Dancer has not given up hope of getting the measure passed. He said he will support an effort to have Lisa's Law inserted into the Legislature's budget later this year.
“If we can use today’s technology to minimize the risk and save a life, this should be law today," he said. "And the technology is there today.”