In a late-session victory for advocates of victims of sexual abuse, the Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, through a spokesperson, said his chamber plans to approve the Adult Survivors Act. Similar to the Child Victims Act passed in 2019, it would create a lookback window for adult victims of sexual abuse to bring civil cases against their alleged abusers. The state Senate approved the bill last month with unanimous bipartisan support for a second year in a row. Yet despite its roughly 80 cosponsors in the Assembly, it seemed like the bill would once again stall in that chamber before the abrupt announcement.
Advocates and lawmakers who have pushed for the bill for years immediately began celebrating the news. “With this bill, NY can be a national leader for survivors rights,” survivor and advocate Marissa Hoechstetter said on Twitter. “We’re leading a movement to help make survivors – those who want to pursue civil action – whole.” Countless officials, from Assembly co-sponsors to the Manhattan district attorney expressed similar sentiments when they heard the news. “I’m actually in tears. I’m still a little bit shook,” Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou said on Twitter. “When we take the vote….I will let it really hit me. Green button. Can’t wait.”
Heastie’s spokesperson told NY1 that “it appears there is enough support” for the Assembly to approve the Adult Survivors Act before the end of scheduled session for the year. Although the wording does not read as a full-throated guarantee, the number of cosponsors – from both sides of the aisle, certainly would indicate the bill has more than enough votes that it could pass without issue. But even last year, the legislation faced no organized opposition and no clear indication that the Assembly would not approve it had it come to the floor after the state Senate passed it without a single negative vote.
At the end of the legislative session last year, Heastie had told members of the Assembly that he had some reservations about the bill based on some concerns raised to him by survivors. However, at the time, only one victims rights advocate expressed opposition to the bill, demanding first that the Legislature approve a fund for those seeking civil damages under the Child Victims Act to afford attorneys. That hasn’t changed since last year despite Heastie’s new willingness to take up the bill.
With the Adult Survivors Act still sitting in the Assembly Judiciary Committee and just a handful of scheduled session days remaining, it originally appeared as though the legislation would once again stall in that chamber. According to Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, the bill’s sponsor, educating the whole 150-member chamber on the bill took time. “This has been a work in progress,” Rosenthal told City & State. “And it all sort of peaked at the right moment.” Asked about the level of support last year, Rosenthal wouldn’t offer an assessment of whether the bill had enough votes to pass since it never made it to the floor. “I’m confident that once it hits the floor, there won’t be very many ‘no’ votes, but it takes time to get there,” Rosenthal said.
With the Adult Survivors Act expected to get approved by the Assembly within the next two weeks, a spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul confirmed that she will sign the bill once it hits her desk.