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State Senators Should Tread Very Carefully With New Legislation

New York’s state senators must tread very carefully when it comes to A.292B, which would allow the imposition of civil penalties and remedies in suits brought for vindication of civil rights or human rights.

The legislation passed the Assembly 106-36. Phil Steck, D-Schenectady, said the legislation would place the state on the same footing as the federal government under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and give an enforcement mechanism to the state’s constitutional provisions of equal rights to women.

“If you live in some small town in Upstate New York and your rights are violated, you’re not going to come down to the city or even Albany to see if the New York Civil Liberties Union will take your case,” Steck said on the Assembly floor. “You need support from your local attorney looking out for you. That’s what this bill does.”

One can understand Steck’s logic, but legislators would do well to remember there are many kinds of civil rights cases, and we have a feeling New York state could find itself on the receiving end of dozens of lawsuits that Steck wasn’t anticipating.

We’re thinking of churchgoers who had their churches closed only to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s closure orders overturned by federal court or business owners who have had their businesses shuttered with no financial compensation, which one could argue violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Takings Clause, which applies to the states through the 14th Amendment and states that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.

A.292B could be good for individuals. It could give members of the state’s protected classes a way to recover financial damages in court. Yet, A.292B could be horrible for state government, particularly Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

As we said, senators should tread carefully with this bill.

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