For the second year in a row, Assembly members from both parties overwhelmingly approved a bill that would give victims of child sexual abuse more time to seek criminal charges or bring lawsuits, and that Senate Republicans have blocked because of a provision the Catholic Church opposes.

The Child Victims Act sailed through the Assembly in a 130-10 vote on Tuesday, with all five Democrats and Republicans representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties in support. James Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat who was one of many co-sponsors of the bill, said in a statement afterward, “Childhood victims are often too afraid or traumatized to come forward until they’re adults, and by then the statute of limitations has run out. We must change the law so that more survivors can seek justice and move forward with their lives.”

New York currently bars people who were sexually abused as children from seeking charges against their abusers or suing after they turn 23, an cutoff that victims and their advocates say is far too restrictive. The proposal that the Assembly passed last year and this week would give victims until age 25 for misdemeanors and 28 for felonies in criminal cases, and allow them to bring lawsuits until age 50. Supporters have sought those reforms in Albany for a dozen years.

The main point of contention is a provision that would give past abuse victims a year to bring lawsuits, since the extended statutes of limitation wouldn’t apply to them. Advocates say that one-year “lookback” is needed to allow those victims to seek justice and expose predators who may still have access to children. But the Catholic Church and Senate Republicans contend the provision would expose the church and other institutions to lawsuits over decades-old allegations with little surviving evidence.

Advocates have waged a fierce campaign to enact the Child Victims Act this legislative session and have targeted certain Republican senators, holding a rally outside John Bonacic’s Middletown office in January. The Senate has until the session ends on June 20 to decide whether to take up the legislation.

Chris McKenna

Cahill praises "Colonel" Larkin for his service and respect

Among the Democrats with warm words for Republican Sen. Bill Larkin after his retirement announcement on Thurday was Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston, who said in a statement that Larkin’s “decades of service have helped our communities in innumerable ways.”

“Though we frequently found ourselves on opposite sides of various issues, working with ‘The Colonel’ has been an honor and a privilege,” Cahill said. “Appearing with him locally at various events has consistently been a pleasure. A colorful figure who is never at a loss for a story that usually involved others present, Senator Bill Larkin is renowned for the importance he places on personal relationships and the respect he has always shown other elected officials, even those from the opposite party, even those several decades his junior.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, lauded Larkin on Thursday for his long career in public service and the high regard in which he was held by his fellow senators.

“Colonel Larkin would do anything for anyone; no questions asked and no debt ever to be repaid,” Flanagan said in a statement. “He is a humble man who drove important state resources to his Hudson Valley district not because he wanted the credit, but because he wanted to help. To this day, Senator Larkin would give you the shirt off his back or sit quietly and talk to a new colleague about what it means to be a public servant. Thousands and thousands of people are better off for having known him.”

Chris McKenna

Cuomo and Faso trade shots on GOP food stamp proposal

In what is at least their fourth caustic battle by press release in the last year, Rep. John Faso and Gov. Andrew Cuomo went at it this week over a push by Faso and fellow House Republicans to expand work requirements for food stamp recipients and shift funding for food aid to job training programs.

Cuomo, a Democrat who previously traded harsh words with the freshman congressman over Medicaid, the Republican tax revision and more, unloaded on Monday in response to an Albany Times Union article about Faso’s support for stricter work rules for people receiving monthly subsidies to buy groceries through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. He accused Faso of “resorting to the same divisive rhetoric we hear all too often in Washington today.”

“Faso’s assault on families in need and his despicable and cheap characterizations may please his party leadership, but they are against everything New York stands for,” Cuomo said, condemning the “draconian work requirements” inserted in the Republicans’ farm bill. He argued that SNAP fraud is rare and that most able-bodied adults already work, and touted New York’s increased SNAP enrollment.

“In New York, we are committed to lifting communities out of poverty and we reject the negative stigma that people like Faso attach to families struggling to get ahead,” Cuomo said.

Faso swung back with an immediate dig about Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent.

“Cynthia Nixon has caused Andrew Cuomo to become unhinged,” Faso wrote. “His criticism of enhanced work requirements for the SNAP program – while at the same time increasing the ability of a food stamp household to own a safe car and maintain a small savings account – show that this Governor prefers divisive rhetoric over governing.”

He acknowledged that fraud is a “small part of the SNAP program” but still amounts to $600 million and is worth rooting out. He then criticized what he said was the loose application of work rules under current law. “Our reforms will provide resources to states to get eligible people into employment and training programs,” he said. “A job is much better than dependency on government. Cuomo doesn’t get it, but taxpayers routinely see government programs abused by those taking advantage of the system, while they struggle to make ends meet.”

Chris McKenna 

Senate passes seven drug-related bills

The state Senate passed seven bills to crack down on drug offenses on Monday, including two that would make it easier to prosecute heroin dealers and another making it an additional crime to sell drugs within 1,000 feet of a treatment clinic.

All of the bills passed overwhelmingly (two were approved unanimously) and had cleared the Senate at least once in previous years, but have not been taken up by the Assembly. Two proposals, including the drug-free zone around treatment centers, have been approved five times since 2011. One bill related to heroin sales would enable authorities to charge anyone found with at least 50 packages or $300 worth of heroin with possession with intent to sell.

In a statement announcing the latest round of drug bills on Monday, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said “it is past time that the Governor and Assembly recognize the critical role enforcement plays in preventing drugs from entering our communities and stop delaying new laws that would strengthen penalties for serious drug dealers.”

Chris McKenna