Of the 145 State Assembly members who cast votes Monday in Albany when the Child Victims Act was considered, only three voted no.
One represents a Western New York district.
Republican Assemblyman Andrew Goodell of Jamestown said he voted against the act because the legislation will render school districts and municipalities defenseless against sex abuse lawsuits and force taxpayers to bear the costs of big verdicts against the localities.
“It comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers in your school or in your municipality, if they can even raise the taxes over the tax cap to cover it,” Goodell said. “And if they don’t, where does it come from? There’s no magic money tree out there. It comes out of the operating budget, which means all the current students will be underfunded and the municipality will be underfunded and it will create financial chaos.”
Goodell made his remarks Monday afternoon on the floor of the Assembly prior to the vote, which was 142-3 in favor of the bill. It passed the Senate unanimously.
The News left two messages with Goodell at his Albany office but did not receive a return phone call.
The Child Victims Act, expected to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, will extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting child molesters and provide sex abuse victims a one-year window to sue private and public institutions, including churches and schools, over abuse that may have occurred decades ago.
Advocates pushed the look-back window as a way for victims to get a measure of justice that had eluded them because they were shut out from the courts by the state’s restrictive statute of limitations in abuse cases.
The bill stalled for years in the Republican-led Senate, where it failed to get out of committee for a full Senate vote. The Catholic Church and other religious organizations, the Boy Scouts and insurance companies were among the groups that lobbied hardest against the bill.
When Democrats won a majority in the Senate this past fall, they quickly organized a vote on the measure. Not a single Republican senator voted against it.
The bill had passed the Assembly by wide margins several times in previous years, and Goodell consistently opposed it. Last year, the vote was 130-10. The vote margin in the Assembly grew even greater this year, with only Goodell, fellow Republican Michael J. Fitzpatrick of Smithtown and Democrat Simcha Eichenstein of Brooklyn voting against the Child Victims Act.
Fitzpatrick said on the floor that he refused to vote for “legislation that is going to bankrupt my diocese or any other diocese and threaten Catholic health care, Catholic Charities or Catholic education."
Fitzpatrick said the Legislature is likely to amend the bill next year to exclude public institutions “because there’s going to be a hue and cry from those public institutions that they can’t afford this.”