Dem challengers knock GOP senators for opposing Child Victims Act

Three Democratic Senate candidates voiced solidarity this week with the groups fighting for passage of the Child Victims Act in Albany and denounced Republican senators John Bonacic and George Amedore for opposing a bill that survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates have long sought.

Rosendale Councilwoman Jen Metzger, who is one of two Democrats hoping to challenge Bonacic in the fall, and Kingston business owner Pat Strong, who plans to take on Amedore, issued a joint statement in support of the campaign to pressure the Senate’s ruling Republicans into surrendering opposition to the legislation.

“It’s deeply disappointing that Sen. Amedore stands in opposition to this bill,” Strong said in their joint press release. “Are our Senate representatives standing up for children or are they protecting predators?”

Metzger said: “Sen. Bonacic has consistently opposed the Child Victims Act. He apparently believes abused children must remain silent their entire lives.”

The bill would extend the statutes of limitations for criminal and civil cases for child sex abuse, which can’t be brought in New York after the victim turns 23 under current law. Senate Republicans and the New York State Catholic Conference object to a provision giving all past victims of abuse one year to sue. They argue that one-year “lookback” for past claims would force institutions like the Catholic Church to defend themselves against allegations that date back decades and for which little evidence may exist.

Supporters, led by the groups New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators and Fighting for Children PAC, counter that the one-year window is needed to expose past abusers who are still in contact with children, and to allow victims now older than 22 to seek justice for the crimes committed against them.

Pramilla Malick, an Orange County activist and Democrat who’s also running for Bonacic’s 42nd Senate District seat, joined Child Victims Act activists at a press conference at a Little League field in the Town of Wallkill on Thursday to protest Bonacic’s opposition. She said afterward in a press release that the law is needed “to not only make sure there are consequences to these criminal acts but to prevent more children from being preyed upon.”

Both the Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo had included the Child Victims Act in their budget proposals this year, and advocates ramped up their campaign in hopes of getting the bill enacted this week as part of the budget. The legislation appears to have been dropped from the budget negotiations, deferring debate on that issue to the second half of the legislative session that ends June 20.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NY19 candidate plans gun violence forum in Kingston

Pat Ryan, one of seven Democrats vying to challenge Republican Rep. John Faso for New York’s 19th Congressional District seat, has organized a panel discussion and open forum on preventing gun violence, to be held on Tuesday at the Kingston Library.

Ryan, a Kingston native and Iraq war veteran now living in Gardiner, called the topic “deeply personal” to him as a combat veteran and teacher’s son. “Rep. Faso says that he cares about preventing gun violence, yet we haven’t heard of any plans from him to hold a town hall,” Ryan said in a press release. “So I’ve organized this event for our district and sent him a letter inviting him to attend.”

The forum is scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday in the community room at the library, at 55 Franklin St. The five panelists for the event are: Arielle Chiger, a second-grade teacher for New Paltz School District; Eli Duncan-Gilmour, a New Paltz High School senior; Juan Figueroa, a retired state trooper and Marine and Democratic candidate for Ulster County sheriff;  Mike Lillis, a physics teacher and union president for Lakeland School District in Westchester County; and Rennie Scott Childress, a SUNY New Paltz history professor and Kingston alderman.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Senate revives bill punishing dealers for fatal overdoses

The Senate again passed a bill sponsored by Sen. George Amedore last week that would enable prosecutors to charge drug suppliers with homicide if the opioids they sold cause a fatal overdose.

The Senate voted 44-17 on Wednesday for the proposal, which is known as Laree’s Law – named for an Albany-area teen who died from a heroin overdose – and already had been approved by the Senate four times in the last five years. The bill has an Assembly sponsor but has never been taken up in that chamber. Amedore, a Rotterdam Republican who represents part of Ulster County, took over sponsorship of the bill from its original sponsor after he joined the Senate in 2015.

By toughening the penalties against dealers whose drugs have fatal consequences, the bill aims to hold those sellers more accountable, make illegal opioids more scarce, and help prosecutors go after the original sources of those drugs. The bill memo reads: “Currently, a person who provides an illicit drug that results in the death of a user can typically only be charged with criminal sale of a controlled-substance, allowing those involved in the illicit drug trade to escape prosecution for the deaths caused by their actions.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Senate passes bill targeting “sanctuary cities”

The state Senate this week narrowly passed a bill co-sponsored by Orange County’s Bill Larkin that would prohibit local laws and policies that stop police and sheriff’s departments from holding undocumented immigrants for federal authorities.

Larkin is one of 10 Republicans co-sponsoring the legislation, an Albany spinoff of Republican efforts in Washington to deny federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities” like New York City and most other major cities in the U.S., as well as smaller places such as Albany. The state bill, introduced by Tom Croci of Long Island, would have New York keep a list of counties and municipalities that refuse federal detention orders and withhold their state funding.

“However well intentioned, it is clear that a non-cooperation policy puts lives at risk and should be abandoned,” Croci said in a press release. “We should not be providing a sanctuary to those persons who have come here illegally and get arrested by then giving them the chance to avoid deportation.”

The Senate voted 32-29 along party lines – Republicans in support, Democrats in opposition – to approve the bill on Wednesday. Republican Assembly members, including Karl Brabenec of Deerpark, are sponsoring the proposal in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, where it’s unlikely to advance.

Other sponsors include Sen. James Seward, an Otsego County Republican who represents part of Ulster, and Assemblyman Brian Miller, an Oneida County Republican whose districts stretches into parts of Ulster, Orange and Sullivan counties.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Advocates press Senate GOP on Child Victims Act

Actress Julianne Moore tweeted the names “Larkin” and “Bonacic” and the senators’ office phone numbers in Orange County this week, as advocates stepped up pressure on Senate Republicans to stop blocking legislation that would help people who were sexually abused as children seek justice later in life.

“Call these NY Senators & Tell them pass Child Victims Act,” Moore urged her 876,000 Twitter followers on Wednesday, listing Twitter handles and phone numbers for eight senators. Her targets included longtime senators John Bonacic and Bill Larkin, who together represent all of Orange and Sullivan counties and part of Ulster, as well as George Amedore of Rotterdam, whose district includes part of Ulster and who has a Kingston office.

Abuse survivors and their supporters have been trying for more than a dozen years to get New York to extend its statutes of limitations for victims to seek criminal charges or bring lawsuits against their abusers. Under current law, they are out of luck once they turn 23 – far too young, advocates say, for traumatized victims to come forward. A bill that the state Assembly passed in a 139-7 vote last year would extend those deadlines to age 28 for criminal cases and 50 for civil cases.

The obstacle to passage of the Child Victims Act has been the Senate’s ruling Republican conference, which objects to a provision giving victims who were abused at any time one year after the law is enacted to sue the perpetrators and any culpable institutions. Republicans have taken the view of the Catholic Church – echoed this week by New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan during a visit to Albany – that a “one-year window” would invite a deluge of lawsuits over allegations that date back decades.

Supporters of the Child Victims Act intensified their campaign this year, hoping the national reckoning over sexual abuse and harassment had given their cause momentum. They have rallied outside senators’ offices, including Bonacic’s in Middletown in January. Gov. Andrew Cuomo put the Child Victims Act in his budget proposal that month, making it possible the issue will come to a head in final budget wrangling next week.

Bonacic explained his opposition to the one-year window in a statement after the rally outside his office.

“We believe that would create an evidentiary nightmare for the integrity of the judicial system, allowing someone to seek restitution 30, 40, 50 years later,” he wrote then. “As people age, their memories slip, their senses slip, and that is why we have statutes of limitations.”

The response infuriated Kathryn Robb, an attorney and victim advocate who participated in the Middletown rally. “As a survivor of child sexual abuse, trust me, my memory has not faded,”  Robb said in an email to the Times Herald-Record. She then raised a counter-argument that advocates repeated in a press release this week: that Senate Republicans have supported three other bills that enable plaintiffs to bring previously time-barred court claims, including one for medical malpractice suits.

“The hypocrisy on the one-year window provision tells you everything you need to know about the moral character of the State Senate leadership and its members,” Stephen Jimenez, an abuse survivor and co-founder of the group New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators, charged in the press release.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Metzger launches campaign for Bonacic’s Senate seat (updated)

Rosendale Councilwoman Jen Metzger declared her candidacy for New York’s 42 Senate District on Wednesday, rolling out endorsements from Democratic leaders and elected officials in what is now a two-way Democratic competition to take on Republican Sen. John Bonacic.

Metzger, who had signaled her interest a month earlier by opening a campaign account and announcing that she was exploring a Senate run, affirmed her campaign plans on Wednesday, and has lined up endorsements and words of praise from the Democratic leaders of Ulster and Sullivan counties and a litany of Democratic officials, including Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and assemblymen Kevin Cahill and James Skoufis.

“I’m done waiting for our state legislators to do their jobs,” Metzger said in an interview, listing several longstanding pieces of legislation that Senate Republicans have blocked. She said her priorities in Albany would include reforming the state’s “broken” school-funding system, accelerating the shift to renewable energy from fossil fuels, making health care more affordable, and enacting stalled anti-corruption bills.

Pramilla Malick, the environmental activist from Minisink who has led opposition to the Competitive Power Ventures plant in Wawayanda and ran against Bonacic two years ago, announced this month that she plans to run again for the 42nd Senate District. She and Metzger would compete in a Sept. 13 Democratic primary if both of them stay in the race.

Metzger, a 53-year-old mother of three, has lived in Rosendale for 17 years and was elected to a second term on the Town Board in November. She is the director of Citizens for Local Power, a nonprofit that she helped form five years ago and that advocates for renewable energy and acts as a utility watchdog. Her group is currently fighting to reduce Central Hudson’s electricity rates.

Among those to endorse her is Zephyr Teachout, the Democrat who challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a primary in 2014 and ran for New York’s 19th Congressional District seat in 2016. “Jen is a fearless, committed, funny, smart, and compassionate community leader,” Teachout said in Metzger’s press release. “I’ve known her for years, and she gets impossible things done with the kind of public spirit we need more of. She knows her own values, but also knows how to listen to people she disagrees with.”

The 42nd District, which includes parts of Orange, Ulster and Delaware counties and all of Sullivan, has a Democratic enrollment edge, and about half of its Democratic voters are in Orange.

Bonacic, a 75-year-old Mount Hope Republican, has been a senator for almost 20 years. He had $720,000 in his campaign account in January and has given no indication he will retire, but hasn’t officially announced his re-election plans.

UPDATE: Malick issued a statement on Wednesday about her Senate campaign and endorsements.

“While our people powered campaign has been gearing up, with the Percoco trial and toxic assault by CPV my priority has been addressing the immediate needs of our communities,” she wrote.  “I did recently propose to Jen Metzger that we run endorsement free campaigns to offer voters an election based solely on our ideas and record, rather than political gamesmanship. With the infiltration of big monied interests in every sector of society this would have cultivated a more transparent and novel democratic paradigm. Unfortunately she declined; though the offer still stands.” She said she does have endorsements from groups such as Protect NY Kids and public figures such as Josh Fox, Dennis Kucinich and James Cromwell, and expects to win “the one that matters most on Sept. 13″ - the “endorsement of the people.”

She provided this endorsement from Fox, the environmental activist who created the 2010 documentary “Gasland” about natural-gas fracking and the harmful effects of its contamination of drinking water: “Pramilla Malick is a genuine fighter for the people and the planet. She cares deeply about public health, the environment and justice. She’s been at the forefront of the fight to protect our communities from fracking and fracked gas power plants. She knows that we need to move quickly if we are to slow down climate change. She would be a tireless advocate for the people and shake up Albany.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cuomo leads GOP rivals by 2-to-1 in Siena poll

Siena College’s early take on potential matchups in New York’s 2018 gubernatorial race shows Gov. Andrew Cuomo leading both potential Republican challengers by 2-to-1 ratios.

In poll results released Monday, the two-term Democrat led Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro by 57 percent to 29 percent among 776 New York voters surveyed by phone last week. Cuomo’s lead over state Sen. John DeFranciso of Onondaga County was a similar 57 percent to 28 percent. DeFranciso was favored by 4 points over Molinaro in a hypothetical Republican primary, but both were largely unknown to voters: 49 percent didn’t know them or had no opinion.

Cuomo also had nothing to fear – at this early stage – from a Democratic challenge by former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon, who announced her candidacy for governor on Monday. The Siena poll showed Cuomo leading Nixon by 66 percent to 19 percent.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cuomo and Faso trade harsh words over tax proposals

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Rep. John Faso waged their latest verbal fisticuffs this week, sparring over the Republican federal tax overhaul and Cuomo’s efforts to circumvent its new cap on state and local tax deductions.

Faso, a Kinderhook Republican whose district includes Ulster and Sullivan counties, must have infuriated the Democratic governor by asking the IRS to weigh in on the validity of one idea Cuomo has pitched: converting state taxes into fully deductible charitable donations. Cuomo, responding to the IRS letter Faso sent and made public in late February, uncorked a long “open letter” to Faso and fellow Republican House members from New York on Thursday, voicing his dismay that they “seem to consistently be working against the interest of the very New Yorkers you represent.”

He repeated his case that the $10,000 deduction cap punishes taxpayers in New York and 11 other states – New York most of all – and was “an economic missile launched at the heart of the State of New York.” He then touted the 2 percent limits on state-spending and property-tax increases on his watch, and claimed the new deduction limit would undermine New York’s economic gains. Next he went after Faso for his defense that he voted against the tax bill, suggesting that Faso and his Republican colleagues could have teamed up to block the deduction cap.

“New Yorkers will not accept your impotence as a defense,” Cuomo said. “You are all part the New York Republican delegation and can act together. We all know that in a legislative body, certain members are ‘let off’ the vote so they can claim impunity. That tactic fools no one and does not excuse the damage done to New York. You are responsible for the actions of your conference.”

Faso’s brittle response landed in reporters’ in boxes less than four hours later.

He first defended his request for an IRS opinion and chided Cuomo not doing the same.  “Can you seriously believe that New Yorkers should be encouraged to donate to such a foundation without knowing whether the IRS will accept such contributions as a charitable donation? Should the legislature be asked to enact such a law without knowing if these donations will pass muster with the IRS?”

Faso then lamented Cuomo’s “hyper-partisan attacks,” which he said had displaced constructive debate and were unfitting for a governor. He ended with a knife twist in which he unfavorably compared Cuomo with his father, Mario.

“While Mario Cuomo certainly was a vigorous political combatant, he always conducted himself in a way which was compatible with his office,” Faso wrote. “Although I had many disagreements with him, Mario Cuomo was at his core, a man of principle and honor. You, on the other hand, sir, are no such man.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kingston business owner will challenge Amedore

Kingston business owner and Democrat Pat Strong will kick off her campaign on Friday for the state Senate seat held by George Amedore, the Rotterdam Republican who has represented the 46th District since 2015.

Strong registered as a candidate on Monday and planned to hold a kickoff rally on Friday evening at Keegan Ales in Kingston. “As a business owner and parent, I’m concerned about the direction our nation is heading in,” she said in a press release a day earlier. “We need to make our schools and public spaces safer; counter the unfairness of the federal tax cuts, make health care a human right, push for more green jobs, support manufacturing, small businesses and family farms, and tackle the structural funding problems of our public schools.”

Strong said her business provides technical assistance and energy education to government agencies, engineering firms and other clients, and is now helping local governments convert to LED street lights. She used to work as district director for Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a Kingston Democrat who lent words of praise for Strong for her press release.

The 46th District has a Democratic enrollment edge and consists of part of Ulster County and all or parts of four other counties to the north. Amedore won the seat in 2014 by defeating an incumbent Democrat by a comfortable margin, and crushed his opponent two years later in his first re-election bid.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coombe switches endorsement to Molinaro in governor’s race

Sullivan County Republican Chairman Dick Coombe swung his support on Friday to Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in what is shaping up to be a two-man contest for the Republican nomination for governor, with Molinaro pushing ahead before he has even openly entered the race.

Coombe, a former state assemblyman, had enthusiastically endorsed Sen. John DeFrancisco less than two weeks earlier, calling him “a strong voice for upstate New York” in a campaign press release. But Molinaro, who previously had declined to run, reemerged as a potential candidate since then and won a straw poll at a partial gathering of Republican county chairmen and state committee members in Albany. By Thursday, 16 chairmen had endorsed Molinaro, giving him almost twice as many weighted votes at a future party convention as DeFrancisco had at that time, the Auburn Citizen reported on Friday.

Coombe was counted in DeFrancisco’s camp in that analysis. But he told the Times Herald-Record on Friday that he had emailed his counterpart in Dutchess earlier that day to indicate he will endorse Molinaro.

“He’s young, he charismatic, and he’s an experienced public servant,” Coombe said, noting the national attention Molinaro has earned for his efforts to help people with disabilities. He later added: “Now he’s a bright new star at a time when Cuomo’s hurting.”

DeFrancisco’s campaign previously had announced the endorsements of 17 county chairmen, plus a slew of his fellow Republican senators, including all four representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan: John Bonacic, Bill Larkin, James Seward and George Amedore.

Still undeclared in the endorsement competition are Orange County Chairwoman Courtney Canfield Greene – who couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday – and Ulster Chairman Roger Rascoe.

Rascoe offered words of praise for Molinaro on Friday but stopped short of endorsing him over DeFrancisco. “I am excited about Marcus Molinaro, and if Senator DeFrancisco asks for a comment I would say good things about him as well,” he said. He argued Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a dismal record and said, “I’m looking forward to seeing someone – anyone – beating Cuomo this year.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
  • Blog Authors

    Chris McKenna

    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full

    Leonard Sparks

    Leonard Sparks covers the City of Newburgh as a reporter for the Times Herald-Record newspaper. Read Full
  • Categories

  • Archives