A mailer sent to constituents, paid for by the New York state Senate, says state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) is “standing up for child sex abuse victims.”
The mailer touts a bill Phillips co-sponsored that she and other Republican senators claim will help victims. It comes after months of Phillips tiptoeing around her views on the Child Victims Act and years of the Senate GOP blocking the bill from coming to a vote.
Phillips’ proposed bill involves creating a state compensation fund, using $300 million in asset forfeiture money from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, that would be available to all victims of child sexual abuse who are barred from suing by the statute of limitations.
Victims would go through a hearing and review process and a claims administrator would make a decision on compensation.
Unlike the Child Victims Act, Phillips’ bill does not expand the criminal statute of limitations.
The Child Victims Act would expand the criminal statute of limitations to victims who are 28 years old and the civil statute of limitations to victims up to 50 years old.
It also includes a one-year look back window to try old cases.
Advocate groups were split on whether the GOP-proposed bill was sufficient.
Marci Hamilton, founding member of New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators, had called the bill a “truly terrible idea.”
Gary Greenberg, the founder of Fighting For Children PAC aka ProtectNYKids, was in favor of the bill when it was first introduced. Greenberg claimed it was a step in the right direction.
However, by the end of the session when neither bill was brought to a vote, Greenberg endorsed Phillips’ opponent, North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck).
“I am not happy the Republican leadership did not bring state Sen. Young’s Child Victims Fund or the Child Victims Act to the floor for a vote during the legislative session,” Greenberg said in his endorsement statement. “This is the 12th year in a row the Republican majority has failed to vote on
the Senate floor for statute of limitation reform in child sexual abuse laws.”
Greenberg had endorsed Kaplan’s primary challenger, Brad Schwartz, who dropped out of the race in June.
The mailer touting Phillips’ time in office falls under what NYPIRG Executive Director Blair Horner calls the “incumbency protection act of Albany.”
Technically, the state Senate is allowed to send out mailers on behalf of incumbent candidates up to 30 days before an election, Horner said. However, Horner said it creates an unfair playing field for the challenger.
“It’s effectively abusing the power of incumbency in an unfair way to advantage the incumbents,” Horner said.
Horner said the 30-day rule should be stronger; as soon as a candidate announces he or she is running for re-election, mailers should not be sent out on taxpayer dollars, he said.
“It’s just not fair, the challenger can’t do that,” Horner said. “If you’re going to have public financing of elections, they should have that for the challenger also.”
There is currently a 31-31 split between the parties in the state Senate. The Republicans had a one-person majority, with Democrat state Sen. Simcha Felder caucusing with the GOP, until state Sen. Tom Croci left for naval duty.
A victory by Kaplan could be pivotal in helping the Democrats win the majority, and call bills like the Child Victims Act to a vote.