On November 29, 2015, Monica Deming was shot and murdered in her Odessa home by her ex-boyfriend, Brandon Leyva, who then killed himself. In the aftermath of the homicide, news organizations learned Leyva had previously been accused of domestic violence in by his ex-wife, in incidents dating back as far as 2003, with two protective orders having been issued against Leyva in 2003 and again in 2012.
Without easy access to what is already public information, Deming was completely unaware of Leyva’s violent past. In the aftermath of Deming’s death, her father, Jon Nielson, sought out State Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R – Odessa), and urged him to pass a law to protect other women from experiencing this tragedy, through the creation of a public, online registry of orders of protection arising out of domestic violence incidents.
Rep. Landgraf first filed Monica’s Law, in 2017, during the 85th Regular Session. The bill passed through the Criminal and Jurisprudence committee unanimously, but did not advance to a floor vote in the House, and never received a committee hearing in the Senate.
Rep. Landgraf re-filed Monica’s Law (HB 629) in the 86th Regular Session. Its companion bill, SB 325, passed unanimously through the Senate on April 9, 2019 and passed by a 137-6 vote in the House on April 29, 2019.
Rep. Landgraf told CBS7, “Monica’s Law cannot go back and save Monica’s life, or take away her family’s grief, but it can help prevent others from entering into tragically abusive relationships that can lead to physical violence, and worse, death, and it gives law enforcement officers an additional tool to understand threats posed by those with a history of domestic violence.”
Only six House legislators voted against the bill – Matt Krause (R – Fort Worth), Matt Schaefer (R – Tyler), Valoree Swanson (R – Spring), Tony Tinderholt (R – Arlington), Terry Wilson (R – Marble Falls), and Bill Zedler (R – Arlington). Swanson subsequently issued a Statement of Vote, where she claimed she had intended to vote yes.
None of these legislators spoke in opposition to the legislation on the floor, so their motivations remain unclear, but these legislators have a history of voting against strengthening protections for women in Texas, especially when it comes to domestic violence.
- Matt Krause voted against a grant program to fund domestic violence high risk teams – HB 3327.
- Matt Schaefer opposed a study of the Dallas Men Against Abuse programs and other activities in the Dallas community addressing family violence – HB 77.
- Valoree Swanson voted against requiring domestic violence offenders to register on a public database after three convictions – HB 525.
- Tony Tinderholt voted against the establishment of a task force to promote uniformity in the collection and reporting of information relating to family violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking – HB 2455. He also had a restraining order filed against him after his first divorce.
- Rep. Wilson opposed providing grants to encourage counties to utilize GPS monitoring in cases involving family violence as a tool to deter future violence – HB 3655.
- Bill Zedler also voted against requiring domestic violence offenders to register on a public database after three convictions – HB 525.
Currently, the bill is before Governor Greg Abbott. If he does not veto the bill within 10 days, the bill will become law without his signature. If enacted, Monica’s Law will go into effect on September 1, 2019.