- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Unless one side budges, legislative proposals to combat human trafficking and help victims of domestic violence are likely to languish this year because of a standoff between members of the New York state Assembly and Senate.

The measures are part of a 10-point women’s equality bill in the Assembly that also includes a contentious abortion-related provision that would match state law with the rights spelled out in the Roe v. Wade decision.

Many members of the Senate object to the abortion provision, but Assembly leaders have so far refused to split up the bill to allow separate votes on the other nine measures because they want the entire package to pass as a whole.

The dispute prevented such measures as the human trafficking bill from becoming law last year and unless something changes soon, the same outcome is likely this year. Lawmakers plan to adjourn their session next week.

The nine non-abortion-related provisions enjoy broad support in both the Assembly and Senate. The human trafficking proposal would strengthen penalties for forcing someone into sexual servitude and help victims defend themselves if charged with prostitution. Other pieces of the bill would combat wage discrimination, require that employers offer reasonable accommodations to pregnant women in the workplace, and help victims of domestic violence.

The Senate unanimously passed the human trafficking and pregnancy rights measures on Thursday, just as it did last year. Several Republican senators blasted Assembly leaders for what they said was an “all or nothing” approach and said good proposals to help women were being held hostage by the abortion provision.

“God knows how many young women have been hurt because of this political nonsense about all 10 or nothing,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican. “Every bill should stand on its own. If it’s a meritorious bill it should pass in both houses.”

So far there’s been no indication that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, will agree to split up the package and allow separate votes on the provisions.

“We support the full Women’s Equality Agenda, as do the vast majority of New Yorkers,” Silver spokesman Michael Whyland said Friday.

Some Assembly members who support all 10 provisions are calling on Silver to break up the bills. Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, said she’s frustrated that the trafficking bill has been hung up. She fears the standoff will outlive the session.

“We’re going to do everything we can to avoid that,” she said.

But Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and several other Senate Democrats insist Silver is right to hold firm.

“We’re not going to divide the advocacy here; we’re not going to divide the women in this state,” said Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Brooklyn.

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