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Politics and Government

Cuomo signs anti-college sexual assault law

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and House Minority Leader Nancy Peolosi at the signing of the anti-college sexual assault law in New York City.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill to crack down on sexual assaults on college campuses, saying he hopes other states will adopt similar protections.  

The agreement on the anti-college sexual assault measure was a bright spot in the close of a legislative session that saw lawmakers punt on a number of other key issues.  

Before he signed the law, Cuomo said up until now, students, college administrators and society in general have been in denial about the widespread nature of the problem.

“Because we didn’t acknowledge it,” Cuomo said, to applause. “We were ashamed of it.”

The law defines what’s known as “affirmative consent," requiring both parties to verbally agree before they  engage in sexual intercourse. It also spells out for the first time, a student’s bill of rights, with information about how they can report alleged abuse and what steps the authorities including their school and police agencies, will take to support them.

It also requires more anti-sexual assault training, and requires private colleges to more accurately report any instances of sexual violence and the outcome of those cases. The state’s public universities have already adopted the new rules.

In addition, $10 million will be provided to rape crisis centers and for the New York State Police to set up a sexual assault victims unit.

The governor had some harsh words for school administrators.

“I’m not going to allow the schools to cover it up anymore,” Cuomo said. “To protect their reputation, they allow young women to be victimized. Those days are over.”

Cuomo was joined by several Democrats in the Assembly, as well as the Republican leader of the state Senate, John Flanagan, who praised the governor for working in a bi partisan manner, calling him an “admirable adversary."

“He knows how to get things done,” Flanagan said. “He knows how to put deals together.”

Cuomo’s closeness to the Senate GOP has irked more left leaning Democrats, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio has been feuding with Cuomo, and recently publicly called him out, saying  Cuomo  was  enacting political revenge for perceived slights and had thwarted New York City’s agenda in the legislature.

The governor, speaking to reporters afterward, did not add to the dispute.

“He chose to publicly vent his frustration,” Cuomo said. “We all have our own styles.”

Former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato, now a lobbyist, has offered to host a "pasta summit," to bring together the two other Italian American politicians. Cuomo says while he likes pasta, he doesn’t know about a pasta summit.

Cuomo was joined at the bill signing by a political figure popular with left leaning Democrats, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, who declared the new anti-sexual assault legislation a “tipping point” for the nation, pointed out that her state of California actually enacted the first anti-sexual assault legislation, that’s become known as the "yes means yes" provision.

“But the New York law does us one better,”  Pelosi said.

The group representing private colleges, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities said in a statement that the schools “remain committed to ensuring the safety of all students," and are already adhering to federal Title IX rules regarding anti -sexual assaults efforts. The group’s Laura Anglin says the new state law is the result of a “collaborative effort."