Left out of the NY budget: early voting, Child Victims Act
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Several high-profile proposals didn’t make the cut for New York state’s new budget, but supporters aren’t giving up.
The proposals include measures to authorize advance voting, extend the statute of limitations on child molestation and set aside more money for school security in the wake of school shootings.
Supporters will try again to pass the measures before lawmakers adjourn for the year in June. Prospects for the Democrats may improve later this month after two special Senate elections that could tilt control of the chamber to Democrats.
Here’s a look at measures left out when lawmakers completed the $168.3 billion budget Saturday:
EARLY VOTING: New York is now in the minority of states that don’t allow voters to cast ballots early. Good government groups have long pushed for the change, noting New York’s historically low voter turnout rates and saying that a more flexible voting system might help. Republicans in the Senate question the benefit, however, and also expressed concerns about making local governments pay to expand voting.
Advocates say voters are looking for ways to make it easier to participate in their government.
“The Legislature’s ongoing refusal to respond to the will of the voters is itself a crisis of democracy,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York.
CHILD VICTIMS ACT: The Democrat-Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are pushing to extend the statute of limitations for child molestation and create a one-year window for victims to sue their alleged abusers even if the statute of limitations has already expired. The Roman Catholic Church leads the opposition to the litigation window. The Republican leaders of the Senate have long blocked the measure from getting a vote and did so again this year when Cuomo attempted to insert it in the state budget.
Supporters are now pinning their hopes on the April 24 special Senate elections in Westchester County and the Bronx, saying that Democratic control of the state Senate might finally allow the bill to proceed to a vote.
SCHOOL SECURITY: Republicans in the Senate offered up proposals to increase funding for armed school security officers but they were blocked by Democrats who said gun control was a better way to address the threat of school shootings.
“Our children are sitting ducks in our schools — all because progressive Democrats cannot stomach the reality that police, law enforcement, and security actually protect us,” said Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda.
BAIL REFORM: Cuomo and lawmakers introduced different versions of proposals to eliminate cash bail in misdemeanors and non-violent cases to ensure criminal defendants aren’t imprisoned simply because they are poor. In the end Republicans objected to including the measure in the budget but said they’d be open to considering it later in the session.
ETHICS REFORM: Despite the conviction of Joe Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, lawmakers again opted not to pass new ethics rules. The Legislature also once again ignored proposals to close the so-called LLC loophole, which allows wealthy individuals and companies to funnel almost unlimited amounts of money into state politics without disclosing their identity. Good-government groups are urging lawmakers to take action still this year, but similar calls in the past went unheeded.