By CHRIS EBERHART
Republicans have had a tough time finding candidates to oppose several of Westchester’s more prominent Democratic state representatives.
As of press time, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Scarsdale remains unopposed. While Paulin, 58, waits to hear if she will be contested in this year’s election, she’s been passionately pushing her human trafficking bill and fighting for the Women’s Equality Agenda, a 10-point plan, which is now a nine-point plan, proposed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the 2013 State of the State address, which seeks to end discrimination and inequality based on gender.
One of the bills originally included in the Women’s Equality Agenda—a bill that “protects victims of domestic violence from being charged with and prosecuted for violating their own orders of protection”—was enacted into law in 2013.
Because her human trafficking bill has been lumped into the Women’s Equality Agenda as one of the remaining nine points, Paulin has been thrust into the center of the debate in favor of the Women’s Equality Agenda.
Paulin’s human trafficking bill—Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act—originally introduced in 2012 as a standalone bill and later included in Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Agenda, would create harsher penalties for human trafficking by changing the crime from a nonviolent felony to a violent felony, which raises the minimum sentence from one to three years to four to nine and the maximum sentence from eight to 25 years to 12 to 25 years, respectively.
Other provisions of the bill revolve around protecting the victims of human trafficking from being prosecuted as prostitutes, which is a typical occurrence, according to Paulin, and the bill makes it easier for prosecutors to make a case against traffickers.
In June 2013 and January 2014, The Women’s Equality Agenda passed in the state Assembly. But the Republican-majority Senate refused to pass the agenda as a whole last June because of the abortion-strengthening bill, instead opting to pass nine of the 10 agenda points—including the human trafficking bill—as separate bills.
The abortion bill would allow a woman to have an abortion after the first 24 weeks of the pregnancy if her health is at risk; allow licensed healthcare practitioners, not just physicians, to perform abortions while protecting those who perform the abortion from criminal prosecution; and make the decision from the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade a New York law, which would align New York State abortion law with federal law.
However, the Democrat-led Assembly refused to break up the agenda last year, essentially saying the entire agenda gets passed or nothing gets passed.
Paulin said the order of protection bill—like many of the bills in the agenda, pre-existed the package put together by the governor—“slipped through” the Assembly without the house realizing it was part of the Women’s Equality Agenda, which was why it was separated from the other nine agenda points and enacted into law.
Paulin has pushed to break up the rest of the agenda into nine separate bills to be voted on and enacted into law individually.
She said politics shouldn’t come before victims of human trafficking.
“The men and women who have been commercially sexually exploited—many of whom are children—are subjected to repeated rape, torture and violence,” Paulin said. “The human trafficking bill will provide them with the tools they need to rejoin society and recapture as normal a life as possible.”
But the impasse remains, and the Assembly has until June 19, the end of this year’s legislative session, to pass the bill or the agenda.
As of press time, the Senate passed eight of the nine points of the Women’s Equality Agenda—including Paulin’s human trafficking bill. The abortion bill is the ninth point, and state Sen. George Latimer, a Rye Democrat, said there’s not enough support for it in the Senate to bring it to a vote.
If the agenda or Paulin’s bill doesn’t pass in the Assembly, Paulin said, either could be passed during a special session—if called—or be included in the 2015 state budget. She said, if it doesn’t pass by the turn of the new year, she will reintroduce the bill again in 2015.
As the second legislative session of Paulin’s two-year term is coming to a close, she described her latest term as the state Assemblywoman for District 88, which includes Eastchester, Tuckahoe, Bronxville, Scarsdale, Pelham, parts of New Rochelle and parts of White Plains, as “productive.”
“I have continued to be successful in passing legislation that will help my district and the state. For both 2012 and 2013, I ranked in the top 3 percent of the Assembly for the number of bills that have passed both houses,” Paulin said.
Currently, Paulin is carrying 150 bills, of which one has been signed into law, eight have passed both the Assembly and the Senate and 14 have passed the Assembly, and said she expects several more bills to pass before the end of the legislative session.
Paulin was first voted into the Assembly in 2000 to replace the retiring Audrey G. Hochberg, a Democrat; she beat out Max DiFabio, an Eastchester Republican, in the 2000 election. Paulin has been in the Assembly ever since, which spans 14 years and seven terms.