Senate sends mailer saying Phillips is ‘standing up for child sex abuse victims’

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State Sen. Elaine Phillips (Photo courtesy of the office of state Sen. Elaine Phillips)

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.

Neither bill was called to a vote by the end of the legislative session.

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 back of the mailer.

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.

1 COMMENT

  1. The bill Senator Young proposes is an insult to survivors of childhood sexual abuse and to the intelligence of all New Yorkers. It is a Trojan Horse, poison pill and red herring all rolled into one. Its purpose is not to give survivors access to justice but instead to shift the conversation away from the Republican-controlled Senate’s denial of that justice by stonewalling any legitimate Child Victims Act for the past dozen years.

    For starters, Senator Young’s bill treats survivors differently from all other crime victims by inserting an additional, extra-judicial hurdle for the victims of child sexual abuse to overcome. New York State’s court system is good enough for every other crime, why do survivors of this one need a different process, one operating outside the regular judicial system?

    The Young bill could have come right out of Cardinal Dolan’s playbook. Like the Church’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, rather than attempting to bring sexual predators to justice, it focuses instead on establishing a fund, and one with a cap, to pay claims for victims of abuse. Such a fund could be helpful as an add-on provision if there were no other source of compensation for a survivor, i.e., absent a negligent institution with liability insurance but on its own merely buys their silence.

    This approach does nothing to get or keep sexual predators away from children. Nor does it incentivize institutions to protect children instead of putting them in harm’s way by reassigning known abusers to new unsuspecting populations. Institutions that failed to keep children safe from sexual predators should be responsible for the costs of restitution and compensation. They have been paying insurance premiums for decades to protect themselves against possible negligence claims.

    Does Senator Young think that these institutions, along with their insurance companies, should be given a free pass at the expense of survivors, when they have been spending millions of dollars lobbying Albany senators against the CVA bill for years? Her legislation does not allow claims against institutions that kept secret what they knew while continuing to put children in harm’s way, moving predators around and giving them fresh hunting grounds.

    To top it off, the funds that Senator Young wants to use for that compensation are already being used to help crime victims, which means she will have to steal from one subset of victims to help another subgroup. These are not the ones who should be paying the price for these crimes.

    Along with everything above, Senator Young’s bill does nothing to expand the civil statute of limitations going forward, which should be central to any SOL reform the Senate considers.

    At its core, it’s no more than an exercise in Republican “CYA” using smoke and mirrors.

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