Gov. Cuomo leaves Child Victims Act off end-of-session letter for legislature

By Kenneth Lovett (NY Daily News)
June 13, 2016

ALBANY - With three days left in the state legislative session and their chances fading, advocates for a bill to make it easier for child sexual assault victims to seek justice are hoping for a miracle.

And they'll need it.

Gov. Cuomo sent a letter to the Legislature Monday outlining six end-of-session issues he believes can be achieved - and the Child Victims Act was not among them. Allowing restaurants to sell booze on Sundays before noon, made the list as did improving safety at rail crossings, and ethics and campaign finance reform.

"It's not in the letter, so obviously he's not pushing for it," Gary Greenberg, an upstate investor and a child sex abuse victim, said. "If he was, it would be in the letter. By not including it, the message to the Legislature is they don't have to pass it."

State lawmakers, meanwhile, have reached a tentative deal to allow bars and restaurants to begin selling liquor at 10 a.m. Sunday morning, sources told the Daily News.

The deal also allows bars and restaurants to apply for a permit that would grant them permission to sell booze beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday for special occasions, sources added. Lawmakers are expected to formally announce the deal Tuesday.

Making it even more disappointing is the fact Cuomo met with sex abuse survivors for two hours recently and had told the Daily News he wanted to get something done on the issue before the legislative session ends Thursday.

"The whole place is dysfunctional," Greenberg said. "Alcohol on Sundays is more important than helping child abuse victims. ... It's unbelievable those priorities he mentioned are more important than protecting kids and providing hope to people who have been through hell. But that's his choice."

Kathryn Robb, an advocate and sex abuse survivor, called it "terribly disappointing" that the Child Victims Act was omitted from the Cuomo letter, "especially since I understand the governor to be a man of reason and compassion, and committed to justice."

"Victims and children desperately need the Governor's great leadership," Robb added.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi insisted the issue is still under discussion with legislative leaders.

"These victims deserve justice and we still very much want this issue addressed this session," Azzopardi said. "Although consensus has not been reached with the Legislature, we are continuing to fight for one."

The Assembly as early as Tuesday is expected to pass a bill that would extend the time child sex abuse victims can bring cases by five years, open a six-month window to revive old cases, and treat public and private entities equally when it comes to child sex abuse cases.

But some survivors trashed the plan for not going far enough, leaving legislative insiders to say it is the final nail in the coffin since the GOP-controlled Senate won't go further.

But another advocate, Marci Hamilton, is urging the Assembly to move forward with its legislation and asked lawmakers not to hold advocate frustration against them.

"I sincerely hope that the Assembly will consider and pass its current bill," Hamilton said. "The perfect is the enemy of the good. Moreover, in this arena it is difficult for survivors to handle the ups and downs of the legislative process, so they should not be punished for angst at any stage."

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens), who has long sponsored the Child Victims Act, sent an email to supporters Monday urging they contact the Senate Republicans to apply last-minute pressure.

"You must act right now, today, if we are to have (statute of limitation) reform for kids in Albany in 2016," Markey wrote. "The Assembly is ready to enact a revised ... reform bill this week, but the state Senate is still not on board. Your voice can help convince the Republican leaders in the state Senate to act."

The Senate Republicans have yet to decide whether to take action on any bill on the issue before leaving Albany this week, a spokesman said.

"We're still hoping the leaders do the right thing and give an opportunity for the victims to have justice and the children of New York to be safe," Robb said.