With Democrats controlling all levels of state government, the legislature finally passed a bill that has been sitting on the Albany shelf for well over a decade.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the Child Victims Act, which lengthens the time a child abuse victim can seek justice.
“I am incredibly proud that New York State will finally allow justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said, in a release.
The bill was first introduced in 2006 by then Assemblywoman Marge Markey. Although it would overwhelmingly pass the Assembly year after year, it could never get the needed majority in the senate.
The new bill, which passed Monday by both houses, is the result of extensive negotiations over fears of institutions fighting decades-old abuse claims.
If signed into law, the act will extend the statute of limitations to file criminal charges beginning when a victim turns 23, instead of 18. The statute of limitations for filing civil action now expires at the age of 55.
Those victims who won’t benefit because this bill came too late will have a one-year window to open legal action beginning six months after the bill becomes law.
Under the bill, public and private institutions are treated equally.
“The New York State Assembly has carried the fight for justice and societal progress for many years,” Dinowitz said, “and it is tremendously exciting to see our longstanding efforts finally come to fruition.”
One long-simmering bill that did become law last week was the Reproductive Health Act, which virtually codifies the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision protecting abortion in the state.
The act made finally made it over the hump thanks to the Democratic majority that now runs the senate, including state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who championed the bill on the campaign trail last year.
“For the last two years, we have been facing major threats to women’s right, including but not limited to reproductive choice,” Biaggi said, in a release. “And we have responded.”
The new law modernizes the state’s 50-year-old statutes regarding abortion, ensuring that it’s treated as health care, and not a criminal act.
Other bills as part of the package include the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act that requires health insurance companies to include coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptive options, as well as contraceptive counseling and services, for women and men without co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles.
Also making it through the senate was the so-called Boss Bill, that would ensure employees and their dependents are able to make reproductive health care decisions without being fired or penalized in some way by their employer.
“These bills are a big part of why I ran for office, and why I was elected,” Biaggi said. “The fight for women’s rights will continue, and I will do my part to ensure that New York is actually a leader.”
The state senate is set to take up a bill already approved by the Assembly that would eliminate the mandatory use of state assessments to determine a school teacher or principal’s evaluation.
Under the bill, according to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, school districts and teachers would be allowed to negotiate an effective and fair evaluation system.
“We recognize that every student and every school district is unique,” Heastie said, according to a release. “Standardized tests do not reflect student diversity, and they may not be a reliable measure of a teacher’s success.”
The bill also would also permanently prohibit schools from includes English language art grades or math state assessment scores from being included in permanent records for students in grades 3 through 8.