The state Legislature has two seasons. In the first, the budget season, lots of decisions about spending and policy are negotiated in secret with little individual accountability.
In the second season, the Senate and Assembly act in parallel, passing bills and daring the other to go along. We are now in that second season and one very important piece of legislation has emerged from the usual standoff between the two bodies and managed to become law.
That is the bill signed this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to close a glaring loophole in state law and allow law enforcement personnel to remove firearms and not just handguns from domestic abusers.
The bill passed the Assembly on a vote of 94 to 34, with opposition from only one member of the local delegation, Karl Brabeneck, R-Deerpark, who is considering a run for the Senate this fall to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope.
If he moves to the Senate, he won’t be able to vote on that bill again because despite opposition from Bonacic and Sens. Bill Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson, who also is retiring, and James Seward, R-Milford, it passed by a vote of 40 to 19.
The Assembly vote was not a surprise. What was surprising was the consensus in the conservative Senate — minus the senators who represent our area — for the need to keep guns out of the hands of these criminals.
Having bowed to the demands of the National Rifle Association and failed to protect one group of victims, those senators and their colleagues now have another chance to protect a different group unless they bow to some other groups, notably the Catholic Church and the insurance industry.
The Child Victims Act failed to make it into the budget and now has been passed on its own by the Assembly, a vote all the more interesting because it passed overwhelmingly, 130 to 10, with even Brabenec voting in favor.
Senators do not have to go on record on these victims and in the past they have simply ignored their plight for the most part, echoing the sentiments of the church and insurance lobby that allowing more time to go to court for people who were subject to sexual abuse as children would be, as Bonacic likes to put it, “an evidentiary nightmare. " Of course New York already has serious crimes with no statute of limitation and no nightmares evident. Even some laws about collecting debts allow more leeway than young victims of sexual abuse now receive.
Asssemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury, whose name often comes up in connection with a possible campaign for a Senate seat, was eloquent in his support for the bill and the next step:
“I urge the Senate to listen to the will of the people and stand up for survivors. There’s no excuse for allowing vile perpetrators to live without repercussions while their victims continue to bear the pain and trauma.”
So now it is up to our local senators, especially those serving out their terms, to decide what their legacy on this important issue will be.