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Albany's fast start: Child Victims Act, gun laws next up

The bills include allowing victims of long-ago child sex abuse to sue their abusers and restricting gun ownership for those deemed dangerous to themselves or others. 

The Assembly on the opening day of the

The Assembly on the opening day of the legislative session at the state Capitol in Albany on Jan. 9. Photo Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

 ALBANY — Continuing their rapid pace, state legislators say they will approve next week a far-ranging package of gun-control measures and a bill to allow victims of long-ago child sex abuse to sue their abusers.

 The Senate and the Assembly plan to vote Monday on the “Child Victims Act,” which would suspend the normal statute of limitations for bringing sex-abuse claims to permit individuals up to 55 years old to file civil claims and allow a one-year “look back” period for victims older than 55 to file lawsuits.

 On Tuesday, lawmakers plan to focus on gun control. The measures include banning so-called bump stocks and restricting gun ownership rights of  those deemed a danger to themselves or others (known as the “red flag” bill), state officials said. Other bills that could be part of the package include strengthening “safe storage” laws and prohibiting the arming of schoolteachers.

 The flurry of activity follows the Democrats’ takeover of the Senate, which had been controlled by Republicans for all but a few years over the last five decades.

 Controlling both legislative houses now, Democrats have hit the ground running in the first month of the 2019 session, approving sweeping bills to change laws on abortion, voting, campaign financing, college tuition aid and teacher evaluations. They’ve also scheduled hearings on sexual harassment in the workplace.

 In almost every instance, Democrats are acting on bills that had been adopted by the Assembly but were stalled by the GOP-controlled Senate. 

 Legislators said they have more than enough votes to approve the Child Victims Act on Monday. Advocates have been pushing lawmakers on the issue for more than a decade.

  “We’re pleased to announce that, finally, adult survivors of child sexual abuse will have the opportunity to seek redress against their abusers and institutions — both public and private — that harbored them,” Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) said in a joint statement Thursday. “A vote on the Child Victims Act will be held in both the New York State Senate and Assembly on Monday, January 28, 2019. Survivors have waited long enough. No longer.”

 The bill will make clear that private and public entities may face lawsuits, officials said. The New York State Catholic Conference, a lobbying arm for Catholic bishops, had said any proposal shouldn’t exempt schools and other public entities from facing the same scrutiny as the church. The Boy Scouts, some Orthodox Jewish groups, insurance companies and others also opposed the bill over the years. 

  Later Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a statement saying he’ll sign the bill legislators approve Monday. 
  “I’m proud to say the time is now to pass this critical legislation to end this heinous injustice once and for all and give these victims their day in court,” the governor said.

 Legislative officials also said they are finalizing a package of gun-control bills that could be adopted Tuesday.

 Those include a “red flag” bill that would permit school officials and family members to seek a court order blocking from owning or possessing firearms  any person deemed an “extreme” risk to themselves or others.

  The Democrat-led Assembly approved the bill easily ast year and Cuomo supports it as well.

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