NEW BALTIMORE — A local advocate for a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual crimes committed against children is launching a statewide effort to campaign for candidates who support the legislation in the upcoming elections, including the race for the 46th Senate District after the Senate again failed to bring the bill up for a vote.
Gary Greenberg, of New Baltimore, promised to take political action if the Child Victims Act, which would, among other things, eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting child sexual abuse and assault, did not pass this year.
Greenberg founded the Fighting for Children Political Action Committee that he plans to use to financially support candidates in upcoming state elections who support the Child Victims Act and sweep out any officials who stood in the way of the bill’s passage this year.
“It is very disappointing the Senate leadership blocked a Republican-sponsored bill,” Greenberg said. “There is no reason the bill did not reach the floor for a vote other than that the leaders do not want to reform the laws that are the worst for sexual abuse victims in the country.”
Hopes were high heading into the final days of the legislative session, which ended June 20, that the Senate would pass a version of the Child Victims Act for the first time.
A version of the Child Victims Act sponsored by state Sen. Catherine Young, R-57, was gathering momentum in the last weeks of the session as it moved to the Rules Committee, the last committee before reaching the floor for a vote, with support from multiple Republican senators. Republicans control the Senate with support from a breakaway group of Democrats called the Independent Democratic Conference.
Ultimately, Young’s bill died in the Republican-controlled Rules Committee at the end of session.
“This year I tried to work with Republicans and the result was the same as the last four years — nothing happened,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg plans to change the pattern by attempting to overhaul the power structure of the state Senate, he said, by supporting candidates sympathetic to the legislation in key races in November using his political action committee.
He is focusing on the Senate races, ignoring the Democratic-led Assembly and the gubernatorial race, saying if both houses pass a version of the bill, he is sure no governor would refuse to sign it into law.
“I told [Senate President John Flanagan, R-2] and his staff if they did not support the Child Victims Act, I would find senators who will,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg announced the first two candidates his PAC will support in the November election: Anna Kaplan, a Democratic North Hempstead councilwoman, who is running against Republican incumbent Sen. Elaine Phillips for the 7th Senate District seat, and Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-99, who is running for the 39th Senate District seat, which is being vacated by Republican Sen. William Larkin Jr.
Greenberg will also throw his influence into the race for the 46th Senate District, where Republican incumbent Sen. George Amedore Jr. may have to defend his seat against Democratic opponent Pat Strong.
“I met with Amedore and he said the bill would pass and it did not,” Greenberg said. “I plan on meeting with his opponent. I am going to make an endorsement in that race.”
Amedore responded by saying that he was disappointed that the bill never made it to the floor for a vote.
“I’m disappointed the bill did not get to the floor for a vote, but I will continue to work, as I always have, to ensure all victims get the justice they deserve,” Amedore said.
Strong supports the Child Victims Act, and will vote for it if elected to office, she said.
“This is one of many things the GOP-led Senate did not get done this year,” Strong said. “What’s worse is that victims have been seeking this for 10 years now.”
Young’s bill, which Greenberg called a compromise, would eliminate the statute of limitations as well as create a public fund to pay victims reconciliation money, on the chance that those responsible for the abuse are considered worthless, or have no ties to an organization, and civil lawyers refuse to take on the cases. Greenberg argued in the past that more than 80 percent of cases fall into this category.
The reconciliation fund would be financed by state asset-forfeiture funds and funds secured by payments associated with state-sanctioned prosecution agreements held on deposit with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Strong does not support Young’s bill, she said, adding that the reconciliation fund is not an appropriate use of asset-forfeiture funds.
“The compromise bill is not a solution,” Strong said. “I am for a solution that is negotiated by the affected parties and meets the actual needs of victims.”
The Assembly passed a version of Child Victims Act for the second consecutive year May 2.
The Assembly bill would have counted down the statute of limitations in criminal cases beginning when the survivor turns 23 years old. The bill would also extend the statute of limitations in civil cases to when the survivor turns 50 years old with a one-year look-back window.
Strong refused to take a stance on eliminating the statute of limitations or counting it down after age 23, as of Tuesday.
Aaron Gladd, deputy director of policy for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and a candidate for the 43rd Senate District, will support the Child Victims Act, he said. Gladd could be the Democratic candidate running for a seat held by Republican Sen. Kathy Marchione who is not running.
“[Not passing the Child Victims Act] is another example of the Senate not working,” Gladd said. “No one is talking about the issue, let alone voting on it. When people send representatives to Albany they expect them to work.”
Greenberg is raising money, but has enough to be a significant factor in the races he has targeted, he said.
Greenberg is a survivor of child sexual assault. He was attacked in 1967 when he was seven years old. He said the laws in New York to help survivors such as himself have not changed much.
“A child has as much of a chance of being abused in New York as I did,” Greenberg said. “That is how outdated New York’s laws are. For the senate to refuse to take a vote on any bill to help victims means they are just not interested.”