Albany

Lawmakers Approve Child Victims Act

State lawmakers approved a bill Monday that would make it easier for the victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek legal recourse and file lawsuits — a key bill that has languished in Albany for more than a decade.

And despite the long path the bill took to approval, the measure was approved in lopsided numbers in both chambers of the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

In the Senate, lawmakers approved the bill unanimously, 63-0. In the Assembly, the bill won passage 130-3. It now goes to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

The bill includes a statute of limitations for felony cases at the age of 28 and 55 for civil cases. It also includes a one-year look back window for filing legal claims. And the bill will include public institutions as well as private entities — satisfying concerns raised by the Catholic Church and other religious institutions.

The measure has been part of a steady stream of long-sought bills that stalled under Republican control in the Senate, which flipped to a Democratic majority in November.

“No longer could critics say we were trying to target the church or yeshivas or private schools,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman. “This bill applies to everyone in every venue.”

The lawmakers who crafted the legislation credited the survivors and abuse victims who had long advocated for the bill.

“I think the survivors and the advocates who have been relentless were so brave to tell their stories of abuse,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

But the bill was also the product of a delicate balancing act for supporters and lawmakers who also had to navigate the concerns of the insurance industry.

“There were many institutions who were concerned about what this could mean and it’s just really about telling peoples’ stories, educating the public and really understanding how, unfortunately, pervasive this has been,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Cuomo, who included a version of the bill in his $175 billion budget, has signaled he will sign the bill.

“Yes, there’s going to be court cases and a look back, but to me that’s all a means to an end,” Cuomo said Monday morning at a press conference with abuse survivors and advocates. “The end was do justice. Acknowledge this.””

CVA Shows Old-Fashioned Advocacy Still Works

The success of the Child Victims Act, set to pass today in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, is an example of how old-fashioned advocacy still works, even in a place like the New York State Capitol.

Advocates met one-on-one with state lawmakers to press them to support the bill. They contacted newspaper editorial boards to enlist support. They endorsed candidates who were sympathetic to the legislation, extracting promises from them to get the bill approved.

The bill was a perennial one-house measure that would never have gained much attention without a relentless pavement-pounding effort from supporters of the legislation and a cascade of newspaper headlines, including The Daily News. The New York City tabloid hammered lawmakers to get a vote on the bill, accusing legislative leaders of protecting sexual predators.

Behind the scenes, Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal worked out the details with advocates to neutralize concerns raised by the Catholic church as well as public institutions, which will be included in the bill.

It’s a textbook, showcase illustration of advocacy to media attention to campaign issue to bill language and agreement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference on Monday morning specifically signaled out the advocacy of The Daily News as a factor in getting the legislation to the floor today.

“I want to thank The Daily News, which I think has done the public an extraordinary service the way they covered this and the way they stayed on it,” he said.

And he specifically pointed to the advocates at the table who met with him this morning.

“Do justice. Acknowledge this. Acknowledge the harm,” Cuomo said. “It has taken a number of years to get here, but we got here because of you and your tenacity.”

Albany can feel like a remote place and, perhaps, not connected to the reality a lot of New Yorkers face everyday. But every now and then a critical mass can be built up.

Lawmakers To Attend Opioid Forum

From the Morning Memo:

Current and former elected officials next month will attend a panel discussion in Suffolk County on how to combat opioid abuse and addiction.

The Feb. 6 forum, to be held at Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church, is sponsored by The Rockefeller Institute and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

“I am pleased that our opioid forum is generating more interest among policy makers across the state,” Bellone said. “The opioid epidemic does not recognize or respect artificial political boundaries, which is why we need a comprehensive effort to combat this crisis on Long Island.”

The event is set to include Former Rep. Tim Bishop, Sen. Peter Harckham, Sen. Kevin Thomas, Assemblyman John Mikulin, County Legislators Sarah Anker, Bridget Fleming and Steven Flotteron as well as several town supervisors and mayors.

“At this forum, you’ll hear from law enforcement, mental health experts, parents, school officials and young people, who will share their accounts of how the opioid and substance abuse crisis impacts their lives and communities,” Harckham said.

“As Chair of the New York State Senate Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Committee, I know the devastation the opioid crisis is wreaking on families and communities. This forum will help participants formulate how to begin taking concrete steps to abate this crisis.”

Lovett To Depart Daily News

From the Morning Memo:

Veteran reporter and Daily News bureau chief Ken Lovett is leaving the newspaper next month, he told Capital Tonight.

His last day at the Tribune Publishing-owned paper is Feb. 15.

To say this is a big loss of institutional knowledge for the Legislative Correspondents Association is an understatement: Lovett has covered the Capitol for a quarter century, including 10-1/2 years at The Daily News as well as eight at The New York Post, a career that spans five governors.

“Coming up in the field, I always wanted to work for a New York City paper,” Lovett said, whose career has also included time at The Watertown Daily Times, Ottaway and the Bergen Record. “I got to work for two.”

A happy warrior and a fierce competitor, Lovett is a well-sourced scoop machine. In the last several years alone, Lovett has broken news on behind-the-scenes machinations in Albany and the intersection of money, politics and policy. His Monday column became a must-read for political junkies and Albany insiders alike.

And during that time, he’s worked at a News bureau in Albany that’s included Capital Tonight’s own Liz Benjamin, Bill Hammond now of The Empire Center and Glenn Blain, now at the state Department of Transportation.

He could not say what the new job is just yet, but it won’t be in journalism.

“I’m very lucky I got to do what I did,” he said. “Now I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”

Child Victims Act To Be Voted On Monday

State lawmakers are expected to take up a bill on Monday that is meant to make it easier for the victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits.

“For years, survivors of child sexual abuse have looked to Albany to fix New York’s broken statute of limitations. While the New York State Assembly has passed the Child Victims Act for years, victim’s pleas have gone unanswered because of the Republican State Senate,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal in a joint statement.

“It’s a new day. We’re pleased to announce that finally, adult survivors of child sexual abuse will have the opportunity to seek redress against their abusers and institutions – both public and private – that harbored them.”

The bill did not gain a vote in the state Senate while it was under Republican control. It is expected to easily pass when lawmakers meet in Albany next week on either Monday or Tuesday.

Advocates for the legislation have called for a one-year look back for expired civil claims that can be revived by survivors. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $175 billion budget proposal has a provision that is largely in line with the bill to be before lawmakers on Monday.

Cuomo is likely to sign the legislation.

“For too long, society has failed these survivors of abuse and their traumas at the hands of authority figures have only been compounded by a justice system that denied their day in court. In New York this ends now,” Cuomo said. “Passing the Child Victim’s Act is a key part of my 100-day Agenda and I’m proud to say the time is now to pass this critical legislation to end this heinous injustice once and for all and give these victims their day in court.”

The Catholic Diocese has expressed concerns about the bill in its current form, saying it should be expanded to include public institutions. In a Daily News op/ed Cardinal Timothy Dolan said a potential model for helping victims is the Catholic Church’s compensation program, saying the measure should build of it.

Business Groups Fete Permanent Tax Cap Passing Senate

From the Morning Memo:

The passage of a bill in the state Senate on Wednesday that permanently extended the state’s cap on property tax increases drew bipartisan praise, as well as backing from the business community and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Having the bill’s passage on record could be a boon for Democrats elected last year to moderate swing districts, especially on suburban Long Island.

Kevin Law of the Long Island Association specifically named-dropped Sen. Jim Gaughran, who was elected to a Republican-held district.

“The property tax cap is working and we commend Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins and our Long Island delegation, especially Senator Jim Gaughran, for getting this bill approved,” Law said.

It’s not yet clear if Assembly Democrats will take up the legislation. Speaker Carl Heastie at an unrelated news conference on Wednesday acknowledged the sky-high property taxes in New York, but also noted the conference was sympathetic to the concerns of local governments.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, urged for the full passage of the permanent cap in a statement.

“This year, while the federal government raises taxes on New Yorkers with its devastating cap on state and local tax deductibility, I once again called on the Legislature to make our local property tax cap permanent to continue our progress easing the burden on New Yorkers,” he said. “I applaud the Senate for heeding my call and supporting this critical tax relief legislation for middleclass families. The property tax cap should be made permanent once and for all by the end of the budget process.”

The bill caps property taxes at 2 percent increases or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

Lawmakers To Consider DREAM Act, But Will It Be Enough For Advocates?

From the Morning Memo:

The Legislature later today will consider a bill that would extend state tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, but immigration advocates will be pushing for more.

The New York Immigration Coalition, along with affiliated groups later today will call for additional protections for immigrants in New York, with driver’s licenses for undocumented residents a key priority.

The group called the pending passage of the Dream Act a victory, but not enough. The bill is being named in honor of the late Sen. Jose Peralta, a lead sponsor of the legislation who died late last year.

The group also wants more funding committed to outreach for the Census as well as a bolstering of legal services.

“New York State must do more to protect and empower immigrant New Yorkers in the wake of unprecedented attacks on immigrants by the Trump administration, by expanding access to driver’s licenses, committing $40 million to Census outreach and education, and increasing funding for legal services statewide,” said Steven Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Immigrant New Yorkers deserve nothing less than a bold legislative agenda in 2019 to foster their growth and safety.”

Some of the newly elected Democrats in the state Senate agree.

“Although this bill is a good step, my office will not rest until we see to it that undocumented residents are granted full rights under the NY State Constitution,” said Sen. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat. “That includes amongst others the right to have a driver’s license, to be protected from being profiled in State institutions, voting rights, and for the right to apply to professional licenses.”

The Democratic Party has shifted on the issue in the decade since the proposal of extending driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants was first made by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to disastrous political consequences.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has changed her view on the issue, as has U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, now a president candidate.

Still, county clerks who run local Motor Vehicle offices are once again expected to oppose the effort.

NYCOM Wants Mandate Relief With Permanent Tax Cap

The group that represents mayors in Albany called for additional relief from mandated state spending if lawmakers pass a bill that would make the state’s cap on property tax increases permanent.

The New York Conference of Mayors is especially alarmed as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $175 billion spending proposal includes a cut to aid to municipalities funding to local governments that do not heavily rely on the funding.

“Municipal leaders across New York have worked diligently to stay under the tax cap, even during the five straight years when the tax cap was well below 2%. Unfortunately they had to do it with virtually no assistance from the state, as municipal aid remained frozen and mandate relief never materialized,” said NYCOM Executive Director Peter Baynes.

“Mayors want to do even more to provide relief from New York’s regressive property tax, yet the Governor has proposed the elimination of AIM funding for more than 1,300 communities in every county in this state. Now, as the State Legislature considers whether to make the tax cap permanent, it is imperative that prior to such action, every state legislator publicly reject the AIM elimination proposal and in its place increase municipal aid for the first time in a decade and enact legislation prohibiting any future unfunded state mandates.”

The Democratic-led Senate is expected to vote on the permanent tax cap legislation this week.

ABC Seeks Regulatory Changes

The Empire State Chapter of the Associated Builders & Contractors on Monday called for regulatory changes to the Scaffold Law as well as issued concerns over a plan to expand prevailing wage measures in its 2019 session agenda.

“Our 2019 Legislative Agenda outlines critical issues that need to be addressed in the new session. ABC has been at the forefront of advocating for fair and open competition in the construction market, and we will continue to do so, unapologetically,” said Empire Chapter President, Brian Sampson. “Merit shop contractors are under unrelenting attack from corrupt, union-owned politicians who are passing policies that are negatively impacting our members and taxpayers across New York State.”

Business groups this year have braced for a potentially difficult legislative session given the Democratic takeover of the state Senate. But lawmakers there have also pushed for a permanent property tax cap and plan to pass the bill this week.

The Associated Builders & Contractors though remain specifically concerned about the construction industry..

“New York State has not created a business environment for merit shop construction firms to thrive. In the 2019 session, ABC will advocate for policies that support small business owners, the American worker, and the overall construction sector. If these policies and reforms are implemented, New York State will create a more competitive environment for merit shop contractors to expand their operations and spur job creation,” Sampson said.

Advocates Want Early Voting Funding Earmarked In Budget

Supporters of early voting on Monday urged state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide funding for the provision in the final budget agreement.

The Democratic-led Legislature this month approved a bill that would create a system of early voting and Cuomo included the measure in his $175 billion budget proposal as well.

“As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, it’s great to see Governor Cuomo propose a strong voting rights agenda as part of his budget, but counties also need direct funding to execute priorities like early voting,” said Hazel Dukes, President New York NAACP and Rev. Dr Robert M Waterman, Pastor of Antioch Baptist of Brooklyn and President of African American Clergy and Elected Officials. “We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to make accessible, efficient elections more than just a dream for all New Yorkers.”

County governments have also called for the bill to be funded with a direct line item in the budget.

“Early voting is the right public policy for the state of New York and it is good for government to have more citizen engagement in the voting process. However, to avoid another unfunded mandate on local government and to successfully implement voting reforms, it would be helpful for the state to provide appropriate resources to counties, who administer the election system. NYSAC urges our state leaders to fully fund these important voting reforms in the 2019-20 State Budget,” said the New York State Association of Counties in a statement.

Cuomo’s office has said that savings from consolidating the state and federal primaries, as well as collecting sales on out-of-state Internet retail purchases would help pay for the measure.