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Assembly expected to pass anti-human trafficking bill

ALBANY -- The state Assembly is slated to pass an anti-human trafficking bill Monday, a key legislator said -- signaling the break of a logjam that entangled a number of bills in a so-called "women's equality agenda."

The Democrat-led chamber advanced the anti-trafficking bill in committee on Wednesday. That sets up a vote for next week, said the bill's sponsor, Assemb. Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale).

"The plan is to have it on the floor Monday," Paulin said Thursday, "and we're going to pass it."

The bill, among other things, increases penalties for human trafficking and creates the new crimes of "aggravated labor trafficking" and "aggravated patronizing a minor for prostitution."

Beyond that single bill, the action indicates the Assembly will break up the 10-point "women's equality agenda" that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, has backed since 2013 and used as an issue in the 2014 fall elections.

Nine of the 10 bills enjoy widespread support, including Paulin's. But the 10th focused on codifying federal abortion rights under state law, which the Republican-controlled Senate opposed.

Cuomo, the Assembly and advocates had called for passing all 10 proposals as part of one bill, a take-it-or-leave it approach that challenged the State Senate and provided election-year fodder for Democrats. Cuomo even established a minor party, the Women's Equality Party, to draw votes and conducted a bus tour to tout the issue. Cuomo made a late pitch to separate the bills after it was clear the Senate wouldn't vote on the abortion proposal.

With elections now over and a new Assembly speaker in place, Democrats are dropping the take-it-or-leave-it tactic.

"We are working to move many of the bills that have a large consensus of support in the conference, including many bills that were not included in the governor's 10-point plan," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), who replaced Assemb. Sheldon Silver as speaker in February.

In January, the Senate sought to gain a tactical advantage by approving all but the abortion bill. It approved the human-trafficking bill unanimously. Neither Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) nor Cuomo immediately commented.

Paulin said the anti-human trafficking measure will help crack down on prostitution, sex and labor traffickers and sex tourism operators.

"This will give law enforcement the tools it needs to hold pimps and other horrendous perpetrators accountable for exploiting young women and young men," Paulin said.

Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) said: "A lot of people were pleasantly surprised" to hear that Heastie will break up the package into separate bills.

"This is good news that they're allowing a vote on the human trafficking bill," Murray said. "Hopefully, they'll do the right thing with the other bills, too."


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