Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown) today joined his fellow Assembly minority colleagues during an Albany press conference to again demand action from the Assembly leadership on important legislation that has been languishing in committees since the bills were introduced.
This year’s legislative session ends June 23, said Fitzpatrick, though four important legislative issues have yet to be addressed: civil confinement, strengthening Megan’s Law, reform of New York’s vicarious liability statute, and legislation to stop methamphetamine production.
"The protection of our children and communities from sexual predators is a must before the end of the legislative session next week," noted Fitzpatrick. "Many local and county governments across New York have decided they cannot wait for the state Legislature to take action on civil confinement and strengthening Megan’s Law, so they are enacting legislation that addresses the release of sex offenders into the community. The Assembly leadership fails to grasp the seriousness of the issue or the high rate of recidivism of sex offenders. I am not willing to take that risk, and I’m imploring the Assembly leadership to not miss this opportunity."
Civil confinement would give judges the authority to order dangerous sexual predators held in secure mental health facilities after the completion of their prison terms if the offenders are deemed to pose continuing threats to society. Final decisions would be made only after lengthy review processes culminating in unanimous jury verdicts.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled civil confinement laws are constitutional. In 2002, the court clarified the criteria states must meet to commit sexual predators, stating they must prove that offenders have "serious difficulty" controlling their violent behavior.
Proposals to strengthen Megan’s Law would restrict sex offenders’ access to schools, monitoring of sex offenders’ movements through Global Positioning System satellites, provide more information about sexual predators to communities and require lifetime registration of offenders on the state Sex Offender Registry.
As for the vicarious liability statute, Fitzpatrick said, "Consumers across New York have fewer options or pay higher fees when attempting to lease cars because auto leasing companies will no longer do business in New York. We need to restore this option to our consumers."
Fitzpatrick deemed the vicarious liability law an "antiquated law that costs New York consumers millions of dollars each year and is making it increasingly difficult to lease an automobile in the state." Under the law, car accident victims can sue the financial companies that provide auto leases though the companies are not responsible for accidents.
New York is the only state with a law holding auto leasing companies responsible for damage caused by drivers, or lessees, as a result of accidents. New York consumers have paid more than $132 million in sales taxes and higher lease acquisition fees since automakers and banks discontinued leasing in the state. The leasing of new cars in New York has decreased by 36 percent.
Meanwhile, a comprehensive legislative package designed to address the growing methamphetamine (meth) production problem has been promoted by the Assembly minority during the current session, with no action taken by the majority. Meth production and abuse have increased dramatically in New York over the past five years, with three labs seized in 1999 and 73 raided by authorities in 2003.
The legislation would make it a crime to possess the components used in the production of meth; increase the penalties for theft of liquid fertilizer used in meth production; make it more difficult for meth "cooks" to obtain the drug’s ingredients; protect children living in or near meth labs; and create new regulations for remediation of hazardous meth production sites.