Vol. 20,  No. 15 July 26 - August 22, 2007



The ‘Law’ in Lawmaker

Three men in a room. Dysfunctional. Corrupt.

Yes, these words can and have been used to describe our state government in Albany.

And yes, there is more than a little truth in it.

But that’s why we feel doubly obligated to draw your attention to a welcome example of a state legislator doing some magnificent legislating.

Three years ago, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz learned from advocates about a horrific problem — the trafficking of people, mostly women and children originally from other countries who are subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation through force or coercion.

There is a federal law that governs such crimes, but unbelievably there was no state law. Both are necessary, because the federal government mostly only prosecutes the most serious crimes. Once Dinowitz learned this, he and his staff did their homework and reached out to advocates who work with trafficking victims.

The bill languished in the Assembly for more than two years. Those who work on getting legislation passed in Albany say that the Codes Committee staff who advise Assembly to put the finishing legal touches on legislation have more power than those elected to the legislature. They can bottle up bills at will, especially by not giving the proper amount of attention to complex legislation like the trafficking bill. And despite the unspeakable nature of these crimes, pro-prosecution legislation, regardless of the nature of it, is often not favored by the Democratic-controlled Assembly. But the law-and-order Republican State Senate was mum on the issue, too, as was the former Republican governor.

But Dinowitz, a liberal Democrat who does not represent an area known to have a trafficking problem, quietly persevered. The legislation got new life when Governor Spitzer took office and assigned the issue to his top staff.

In June, Dinowitz attended the signing ceremony for the legislation, which includes a number of provisions including: the creation of a new class B felony, imposing a mandatory prison sentence of up to 25 years for those who profit from prostitution by engaging in sex trafficking; the addition of a new class D felony for labor trafficking with a penalty of up to seven years in prison; putting convicted sex traffickers on the sex offender registry; and ensuring that sex trafficking victims are eligible for services from the Crime Victims Board.

Staffers with a women’s rights group called Equality Now say that Dinowitz became a leader on this issue before his colleagues had even heard of it.
Dinowitz, who represents Riverdale and part of Norwood, is rightly proud of his accomplishment.

“This is without question the most important legislation I’ve ever passed,” he told us, referring to the problem as 21st century slavery. “If I do nothing else in the Assembly, this will make it all worthwhile.”

Nice work, assemblyman — and keep it up.

We’ll Be Right Back

With this issue, the Norwood News takes a brief hiatus. We skip an issue. Our next publication date is Aug. 23, which will include the first of two back-to-school special sections.

But you can get daily news updates in the meantime on our West Bronx Blog at

Soon after we publish our next edition on the 23rd, we expect to unveil a brand new Web site with many new features, including the ability to easily print articles and e-mail them to friends. There will be a comment section at the end of each article and you will be able to download a pdf file of the entire paper. The site will be fully searchable.

It’s one of many ways we hope to serve you better in the coming months as we get closer to marking our 20th anniversary in 2008.

Have a great summer, everyone!

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