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Politics shouldn’t get in the way of Brittany’s Law

Brittany’s Law has been down a long and challenging road. It’s 2016 and more than six years after being conceptualized – it remains in limbo here in New York. On Tuesday, the Domestic Violence Protection Act passed the New York State Senate once again. It marked the sixth time that Brittany’s Law would be passed by that legislative body.However, the Assembly – controlled by Democrats – has been significantly less proactive on getting Brittany’s Law on the Assembly floor for a vote. In fact, it has yet to exit committee – a problem that continues to plague this bill, as well as many others. Brittany’s Law has roots in the City of Geneva. Helen Buchel and Brittany Passalacqua were murdered by a man who had already been convicted of a violent offense. He assaulted his infant daughter – throwing her against a wall – causing permanent brain damage.The lawmakers who have fought vigorously for this piece of legislation at the local level include Senator Michael Nozzolio (R-Fayette) and Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua). However, no advocate has fought for Brittany’s Law on the civilian side like Dale Driscoll. When her daughter and granddaughter were murdered in November of 2009, she almost immediately began working to prevent future acts of domestic violence from happening to others.It was largely about preventing others from experiencing what she went through losing the two family members who were among the closest to her.On Wednesday, Senator Nozzolio told FingerLakes1.com that, “By putting new measures in place to track individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence crimes, people will be better informed and therefore safer. Brittany’s Law will undoubtedly save lives and as Chairman of the Senate Codes Committee, I remain committed to enacting tougher sentencing laws for violent criminals, reinforcing laws to protect women and children from domestic violence, and strengthening the rights of crime victims to prevent future tragedies from occurring.”He continued, “All we need now for the domestic violence offender registry to become a reality is for the State Assembly to adopt Brittany’s Law. I would like to thank Democrat Assemblyman Marcos Crespo for sponsoring Brittany’s Law in the Assembly. This is a truly bi-partisan effort and I call on the New York State Assembly to follow the Senate’s lead and pass Brittany’s Law.”Assemblyman Kolb inquired about the Assembly’s Majority’s reluctance to move the bill forward. He released a statement after the passage in the Senate, which read in part, “The Senate took action today to pass Brittany’s Law, which will save lives, prevent crime and make our neighborhoods safer. The question is once again – what is the Assembly Majority waiting for?”Kolb went on pointing out the irony that legislators from New York City blocking this bill, runs in stiff contrast to the laws that are already on the books downstate. The statement continued, “New York City has a registry of individuals who have abused animals. But New York City Democrats have refused to establish a registry of violent offenders who have abused women and children. The Assembly Majority’s continued inaction insults every victim of domestic abuse.”Dale Driscoll told FingerLakes1.com on Wednesday that, “There are too many cracks in the current system and too many people are being failed, whether it’s because they are under staffed or what ever the reason.” She says that was her initial motivation to go see Senator Nozzolio, to push for legislation that could save lives. However, Driscoll’s fight for Brittany’s Law has faced new opposition from the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which released a memo this winter – condemning Brittany’s Law. The coalition argued that Brittany’s Law would put a greater burden on victims and their families – rather than help those individuals.It is a line of logic that runs in complete opposition to the traditional arguments against Brittany’s Law, which frequently involves opponents defending those who have served their time.Driscoll said that, “The NYSCADV’s claims that more information would put people at risk, stating the victim’s name would be known or released. It is absurd and a desperate reach on the coalition’s part to stop this bill.” She closed out her remarks by pointing out that education is really crucial. In her eyes, Brittany’s Law would provide a crucial link of information, which could be shared among the community to make it stronger, while simultaneously protecting families.Stay tuned to FingerLakes1.com for more on this story as legislative session comes to an end in New York State.FLX Politics is a weekly feature by Josh Durso, which takes a critical look at policy in the Finger Lakes. He is the Lead News Editor at FingerLakes1.com and can be reached at josh@fingerlakes1.com.

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