Power & Politics: State lawmakers push to close sex crime loopholes; latest initiatives from the Westchester Legislature

This weekend's Power & Politics covered two topics; two bills led by a pair of Westchester state lawmakers closing sex crime loopholes and the latest initiatives from the Westchester County Legislature.

Jonathan Gordon

Jun 2, 2024, 4:59 PM

Updated 13 days ago


With less than a week before the end of its annual session, the New York State Legislature is hammering away at several last-minute bills. One of the top priorities is closing what lawmakers say are two loopholes in prosecuting sex crimes.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin's bill would allow evidence from a prior sex crime to be used when a defendant is accused of a subsequent sexual offense. The bill gained steam in Albany in the wake of Harvey Weinstein's overturned conviction.
The bill easily passed the state Senate but concerns among assemblymembers seem to have stopped the bill.
Paulin said she's working to see if there's anything to be done by next week to get it through the assembly to and to the governor's desk.
"I'm not going to give up on this [because] it's just too important to women," Paulin said.
A second bill has a more optimistic future of getting done next week. State Sen. Nathalia Fernandez, who represents parts of lower Westchester and northeast Bronx, has a bill that would prevent someone accused of sexual assault from using the victim's voluntary intoxication as a legal defense.
A person who decides to drink alcohol or use another substance and then is sexually assaulted does not have the same legal protections as someone who is involuntarily intoxicated under current state law.
Fernandez said everyone deserves equal protection.
"We're trying to right the wrongs you know, fix what's not been working and to really bring justice to victims and survivors," she said.
The last day of the regular session is Thursday, June 6.
At its last meeting in May, the Westchester Board of Legislators approved funding for several measures that touch all corners of the county.
Lawmakers allocated funding for youth initiatives in Yonkers and Mount Vernon, school safety in North Salem and various sewer and clean water infrastructure projects.
"These aren't projects and programs that happen magically or by themselves. This is funding that exists a lot of times...but it has to be administered and you need to make sure it's reaching the communities that it impacts," Westchester Legislature Chair Vedat Gashi said.
Westchester Legislature Chair Vedat Gashi said the board is working on several other initiatives for the year's second half, including AI and housing.
The next regular legislative meeting is Monday, June 3.

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