Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pataki and lawmakers hope to agree on civil commitment bill

AP Story Newsday

Wouldn't Pataki just love to have this bill passed in time for his presidential run.....I wonder how much of the house he is willing to give away to get it done..........andy

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. George Pataki and lawmakers say they could reach agreement on a bill that would allow the state to keep potentially violent sex offenders locked up in psychiatric facilities after they complete their prison sentences. The Republican called a special session of the Legislature to get a "civil commitment" bill passed by the end of the year after New York's highest court ruled last month that the state _ acting under an order from Pataki _ wrongly confined convicted sex offenders in psychiatric facilities after their prison sentences ended. Pataki ordered the convicts confined because he was frustrated by the Legislature's failure to enact a law preventing them from returning to communities where they could repeat their crimes. Both houses of the Legislature this year passed different versions of bills allowing for civil commitment, but the two sides were unable to reach a compromise. Still, Pataki and lawmakers in the Republican-led Senate and Democrat-led Assembly who took part in negotiations on the issue in the past legislative session said an agreement that would allow confining convicted sex offenders in psychiatric facilities was possible by Wednesday's session. "We have had ongoing three-way discussions on civil commitment and we've made some progress, but I think it's fair to say we're not there on an agreed-upon bill," Pataki said last week. "But I'm hopeful we can get it passed." Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a Democrat and chairman of the chamber's Codes Committee said negotiations were proceeding "slowly but surely." "I'm cautiously optimistic there will be an agreement (this) week," he said. "We're trying to negotiate a bill acceptable to both sides, not just take their position. But we are willing to compromise. We'll give up something and take something return." The state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said civil commitment laws are a "simplistic remedy to a very complex problem." The group says such laws typically address the dangers posed by less than 2 percent of all registered sex offenders and contends it will cost $250,000 a year for every civil commitment inmate. The New York State Psychiatric Association said the legislature should instead use indeterminate sentences to keep the worst sexual predators behind bars instead of straining the mental health system. Eyeing a run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Pataki is also looking for an expansion of charter schools in New York and legislative approval of a plan to close nine hospitals across the state, among other things. For lawmakers, next week may be their last chance to get a pay raise before January 2009. If a pay raise is approved before the end of the year, it could take effect Jan. 1. If that fails, it could not take effect before Jan. 1, 2009. Lawmakers, whose base pay is $79,500 a year, last got a raise on Jan. 1, 1999. Most also receive extra pay for committee work or holding leadership positions. Aides to both Bruno and Silver said last week that pay raises were not under discussion with Pataki. Silver has said he felt lawmakers deserved a pay raise. The Senate is also expected to act on numerous appointments Pataki has forwarded to them to fill open positions in various authorities and commissions. Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer has taken issue with Pataki making appointments in his final weeks because many of the appointees will serve well into Spitzer's administration. Pataki said the appointees will serve New York, not the new governor.

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