Kaplan advocates for Child Victims Act as legislative session ends

State Sen. Elaine Phillips, left, North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (Photos courtesy of the offices of Elaine Phillips and Anna Kaplan)

The legislative session in Albany has come to a close, and the state Senate once again did not bring the Child Victims Act to a vote.

The fate of the bill, which would expand the civil and criminal statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, could fall in the hands of North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) as she seeks election to the 7th Senate District in November.

The seat is currently held by freshman state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill), who defeated Democrat Adam Haber by 51 percent to 49 percent in 2016, despite a Democratic plurality among registered voters in the district.

In the first of a series of short notes called “Missed Opportunities Watch,” Kaplan said she’ll spotlight laws that could have been passed if the Senate Republicans had allowed them to come to a vote.

The first bill up on Kaplan’s series: the Child Victims Act.

“How is it that we’ve arrived at the end of yet another legislative session where the Republican Senate Majority has refused to bring the Child Victims Act to the floor?” Kaplan said in her note. “Let me be clear: There is no reason not to hold perpetrators of these heinous crimes accountable.”

In a statement, Phillips, said she believes “we can, and should, come together on legislation that compensates every victim of child sexual abuse while also strengthening our laws to make sure that sexual predators and child abusers are found and held accountable for their actions.”

“I will continue to work across the aisle along with my Senate and Assembly colleagues to find a workable solution that ensures justice for all,” Phillips said.

The bill passed the Assembly this year for the sixth time; the state Senate has never called the bill to a vote.

It was also included in the budget by the Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but blocked by the GOP-controlled state Senate.

Phillips co-sponsored a different piece of legislation, the Child Victims Fund, that she said aims to help child victims of sexual abuse.

That bill also was not called to a vote in this year’s legislative session.

Phillips’ bill involved creating a state compensation fund that would be available to all time-barred victims of child sexual abuse.

Some advocates, like Marci Hamilton, founding member of New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators, said it was a terrible bill.

The fund would be overseen by the New York State comptroller and be  composed of $300 million in asset forfeiture funds from the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

“This is a truly terrible idea, but what’s shocking about it is that it’s using available state funds in order to make sure that … all the institutions responsible don’t have to pay for what they did,” Hamilton said in a previous interview.

Other advocates, like Gary Greenberg, founder of ProtectNYKids, said the GOP-proposed legislation was a step in the right direction.

However, Greenberg said he’s not happy the Republican leadership did not bring the Child Victims Fund or the Child Victims Act to a floor vote.

Greenberg had previously endorsed Brad Schwartz, who withdrew from a primary against Kaplan on Wednesday. Greenberg announced his endorsement of Kaplan.

“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 said in a statement. “Anna Kaplan is the kind of leader we need in the New York State Senate. Anna will make reforming SOL laws in child abuse cases her top priority and bring justice to all victims.”

Kaplan said the Senate’s decision not to vote on the bill is “immoral and a tragic example of the common-sense legislation that dies in the Senate year in and year out.”

If Kaplan defeats Phillips in November, it could help the Democrats take the majority in the Senate, and allow her party to be in control of what legislation comes to a vote.

The GOP had a slim 32-31 majority, with Democrat Simcha Felder of Brooklyn caucusing with the GOP, but the absence of Tom Croci, who announced he was going on military leave in May, left the chamber at a 31-31 stalemate for the end of the session.

Croci announced he will not be seeking re-election in the fall, along with three other Republicans, the Albany Times Union reported.

Reach reporter Rebecca Klar by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 204, or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaklar_.

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