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Capitol Watch: Assembly OKs crime victims assistance bills

FILE- This Jan. 15, 2019 file photo shows the New York state Capitol in Albany, N.Y.
FILE- This Jan. 15, 2019 file photo shows the New York state Capitol in Albany, N.Y. AP Photo

In New York state government news, the Democrat-controlled Assembly has passed a package of legislation to provide services and support to crime victims, while environmentalists want to amend the state constitution to guarantee a right to clean air and water.

Here's a look at stories making news:

CRIME VICTIMS ASSISTANCE: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, announced earlier this week that his chamber had approved six measures, including one to ensure state compensation and counseling for families of domestic partners who are victims of homicide.

"This legislation allows a domestic partner to have the same rights as a spouse to seek support when their partner is a victim of homicide," said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the Assembly legislation.

Another measure would direct fines imposed under certain antitrust laws to be used to help fund the state's Office of Victim Services.

Four of the six Assembly measures have been introduced in the Senate, also controlled by Democrats.

The Assembly's Republican minority was upset that three of its proposals didn't make it into the package. Those measures would have created a violent felony offender registry, extended orders of protection in extreme cases and added a harsher penalty for intentionally committing an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child.

GREEN AMENDMENT: The measure would make New York the 44th state to include an expression of environmental values in its constitution.

Environmental Advocates of New York and dozens of other groups are calling on the Legislature to support a "Green Amendment" that adds the line: "Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment."

The measure has passed in the Assembly the past two years but didn't come up for a vote when Republicans controlled the Senate, something that changed when Democrats made major gains in in last November's elections.

For the state constitution to be amended, the proposed amendment must be passed by the full Legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions before it can be put up for a statewide voter referendum.

"Our state's constitution has protections to worship, assemble and even play bingo," said one of the sponsors, Sen. David Carlucci, D-Rockland. "It's time environmental protections be there too."

WINTER RECOVERY FUNDS: As public works crews start repairing roads from the winter's damage, there's $65 million less in the recently approved state budget to fund the projects.

"Every time you hit a pothole you can blame the Democrats who put together this budget," said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Republicans.

Sen. Timothy Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat who's chairman of his chamber's transportation committee, said in mid-March that the extreme winter recovery funding would be in the budget, but it didn't make it into the $175.5 billion spending plan passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature on April 1.

Kennedy's office said the capital funding portion of the final budget was "bare bones" and the $65 million will be included in a supplemental capital bill to be negotiated by lawmakers. Cuomo's budget office confirmed this, while pointing out the administration announced last month that an additional $128 million was being disbursed to help local government repave roads damaged by harsh winter conditions.

In the meantime, repair crews have enough funding to do their jobs and more than enough busted-up roads to keep them busy this spring, one local official said.

"You don't have to drive very far to see roads that need to be repaved and upgraded," said Dennis Davis, commissioner of public works for Oneida County and president of the New York State County Highways Superintendents Association. "We're encouraged by the Legislature's intention to revisit the capital plans and put funding back in."

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