Legislation making it easier for abuse victims to pursue criminal charges or lawsuits has emerged as a campaign issue in the race for the state Senate.
State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) voted against the Child Victims Act in 2016.
The lawmaker contended at the time the bill would damage organizations like the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany or the Boy Scouts.
Now her Democratic opponent, Emily Martz, says a Democratic-led state Senate will prioritize passage of the bill should Democrats take control following next month’s elections.
Martz joined fellow candidates Aaron Gladd and Michelle Ostrelich last week at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls alongside sexual abuse victims to highlight the legislation.
Current laws “fail to adequately provide a path to justice for victims of child sexual assault,” Martz said, and are among the “worst in the nation.”
The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed the bill earlier this year for the sixth time along wide margins, but it remains stalled in the Senate.
At present, child victims have 90 days from the time of an incident to file notices of claim against government agencies.
Little said she harbored concerns over the so-called “look back” provision that allows a one-year window for victims of alleged abuse to file civil complaints regardless of when the incident occurred.
“Is it just #MeToo or what is it?” Little told The Sun. “How would it work?”
Martz accused Little of “deferring to the perpetrators and those who protect them.”
Little, who is seeking a ninth term, declined to comment on that accusation. But she said she supports legislation proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would repeal the statute of limitations.
And under the law, private and public institutions would be treated equally.
The legislation would extend the age from which victims can seek civil penalties from 18 to 50.
The bill would increase the statute of limitations for victims to report criminal charges of childhood sexual assault from age 23 to 28.
Little said she was shaken by the USA Gymnastics scandal that resulted in a former coach being sent to prison for sexually abusing hundreds of victims.
“I’d like to see 90 percent of the award go to the victim and make sure they got it all,” she said.
She has also met with local survivors and their families.
“There’s some of them that really need some support and help,” Little said.
Martz said Little’s about-face isn’t good enough.
“We need a state senator who stands up for victims at all times, not just when seeking re-election against a strong opponent,” Martz said in a statement.
Little said her dedication to constituent service is underpinning her re-election effort.
“I am running a very positive campaign based on what I have done and what the issues are and the many, many bills that I have been able to pass,” Little told attendees at the Essex County Republican Dinner in Port Kent last Friday. “In my personal life, professional life and political life, I have never taken anything for granted, and I’m not taking this election for granted.”
Voters head to the polls on Nov. 6.
BY PETE DEMOLA OCTOBER 1, 2018 2:30 PM