Advocates push Phillips on Child Victims Act ahead of budget vote

Advocates push Phillips on Child Victims Act ahead of budget vote
Marci Hamilton addresses the media during a protest in front of state Sen. Elaine Phillips office in Mineola regarding the Child Victims Act (Photo by Luke Torrance).

With the deadline approaching to pass the state budget — and with it, the Child Victims Act — advocates for the bill assembled Friday outside the Mineola office of state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill).

“It is time for her to tell us, is she for the Child Victim’s Act, or is she for the predators?” said Marci Hamilton, a founding member of New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators and CEO and academic director of Child USA.

The bill would expand the criminal statute of limitations to victims who are 28 years old and the civil statute of limitations to victims up to 50 years old.

Phillips was not in the office at the time of the protest, and the group instead spoke to staffers and her spokesman.

Asked about the bill later, Phillips said she was willing to extend the statute of limitations.

“There is no question in my mind that the statute of limitations must be changed,” she said. “23 is too young. It takes people years to be able to face what they went through. And New York state deserves to give them the time.”

But, she added, she wanted time to assemble experts and really look at the law, which the budget deadline of April 1 would not allow the Senate to do.

“It’s not something we want to do haphazardly when we change the law,” she said. “A wise woman said to me: ‘Delay does not mean defeat.’ We are not defeated on this issue. We just need the opportunity to do our job in Albany and make sure it’s right.”

The bill has passed the state Assembly five times, but this year marked the first time the act had been included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget proposal.

All that is preventing the bill’s passage is a vote in the state Senate. Several Republicans, including Phillips, have been reluctant to support the bill as part of the budget.

The bill also faces opposition from state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport). The group who protested in front of Phillips’ office also protested in front of Flanagan’s home in East Northport. Though he did not answer the door, the protesters said they received support from his neighbors and people passing by.

The bill is opposed by the Boy Scouts of America, the Orthodox Jewish community, and the Catholic Church, particularly for a provision that would allow a one-year window for cases that have expired.

But the protesters said that even if the act fails to be passed in this year’s budget, they will continue to fight for it until it is passed.

“If they don’t get it into the budget, we are not giving up,” Hamilton said.

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