State lawmakers approved a bill Monday that would make it easier for the victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek legal recourse and file lawsuits — a key bill that has languished in Albany for more than a decade.
And despite the long path the bill took to approval, the measure was approved in lopsided numbers in both chambers of the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
In the Senate, lawmakers approved the bill unanimously, 63-0. In the Assembly, the bill won passage 130-3. It now goes to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature.
The bill includes a statute of limitations for felony cases at the age of 28 and 55 for civil cases. It also includes a one-year look back window for filing legal claims. And the bill will include public institutions as well as private entities — satisfying concerns raised by the Catholic Church and other religious institutions.
The measure has been part of a steady stream of long-sought bills that stalled under Republican control in the Senate, which flipped to a Democratic majority in November.
“No longer could critics say we were trying to target the church or yeshivas or private schools,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman. “This bill applies to everyone in every venue.”
The lawmakers who crafted the legislation credited the survivors and abuse victims who had long advocated for the bill.
“I think the survivors and the advocates who have been relentless were so brave to tell their stories of abuse,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.
But the bill was also the product of a delicate balancing act for supporters and lawmakers who also had to navigate the concerns of the insurance industry.
“There were many institutions who were concerned about what this could mean and it’s just really about telling peoples’ stories, educating the public and really understanding how, unfortunately, pervasive this has been,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Cuomo, who included a version of the bill in his $175 billion budget, has signaled he will sign the bill.
“Yes, there’s going to be court cases and a look back, but to me that’s all a means to an end,” Cuomo said Monday morning at a press conference with abuse survivors and advocates. “The end was: do justice, acknowledge this.”