Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick Assemblyman
Summer Update
Important Legislation From the 2005 Legislative Session

School Accountability

The state Legislature during its 2005 legislative session gave final approval to bills that would improve school district finance accountability and protect the investments of hard-working property taxpayers by ensuring tax money is spent on the education of their children. The bills have been sent to Gov. George Pataki for his consideration and signing into law.

The legislation contains a five-point plan that would:

  1. Enhance the effectiveness of external audits required of all school districts each year

  2. Require formation of an audit committee in every school district so audit findings and other accountability issues receive adequate oversight

  3. Require a competitive request for proposal (RFP) process be carried out when selecting auditors as part of new service contracts or at least every five years

  4. Create an internal audit function within each school district’s financial management team

  5. Require six hours of financial oversight training for all newly elected school board members.

Another bill would require every school district, BOCES and charter school in the state to be audited by the state comptroller’s office over the next five years. After all districts are audited, the comptroller would establish a policy for auditing schools throughout the state on a regular, rotating basis.

The bill also requires the comptroller to prepare reports for the governor and Legislature that analyze district audits. To cover the additional costs related to the audits, the bill appropriates $2.9 million in the current state budget for the comptroller’s office. The in-depth audits are designed to expose fiscal irregularities that could indicate taxpayer dollars are being misspent.

‘Hit, Run and Hide’ Law a Major Step to Safer Roads, Justice for Victims

Assembly passage of “hit, run and hide” legislation would increase penalties for drivers who leave the scenes of fatal and personal injury accidents. The state Senate earlier passed the legislation and Gov. George Pataki said he’ll sign it into law.

Agreement on this legislation came on the heels of passage of “VaSean’s Law,” which makes it easier for district attorneys to prosecute drunk drivers who cause serious injuries or deaths, eliminates loopholes in current law and provides sentences that more appropriately fit the crimes.

Under the new law, the charge for leaving the scene of a fatal accident would increase from a Class E felony to a Class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison. The charge for leaving the scene of a personal injury accident would become a Class A misdemeanor rather than the current Class B misdemeanor.

The Assembly unanimously passed VaSean’s Law on May 2. It significantly strengthens state laws that punish drunk drivers who kill or seriously injure people. VaSean’s Law is named in memory of 11-year-old VaSean Alleyne, who was killed in a Queens accident last year by an alleged drunk driver.

VaSean’s Law strengthens provisions of the current law to make it easier for district attorneys to prosecute drunk and drug-impaired drivers for vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter when the motorists cause serious physical injuries or deaths.

The law removes the element of criminal negligence currently required to prosecute crimes of vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter. The measure calls for drunk drivers who kill or seriously injure other individuals to be convicted of vehicular manslaughter or vehicular assault. It also creates a statutory presumption that drunk drivers who kill or injure other people are guilty of a felony.

Passage of Sexual Assault Legislation

Assembly passage of legislation targeting sex offenders during the 2005 legislative session was a good start in combating their heinous crimes. But more can – and should – be done to further protect New York’s women and children. Among the measures passed were two bills that originated in the minority conference: adding the amount of time a sex offender evades registration to the required registration time period, and closing the loophole allowing sex offenders who do not return the required annual address verification forms to escape punishment if they can prove they have not moved.

Over the last two years, S.A.V.E. - N.Y., the Assembly Minority Task Force on Sex Crimes Against Children and Women, has conducted hearings throughout the state and gathered testimony from law enforcement officials, crime victims and advocates. The resulting “zero tolerance” package was developed based on that testimony.

Earlier this month, Assembly minority members launched a statewide petition drive to convince majority members to act on civil confinement legislation and other measures to further protect New York’s children and women from dangerous sexual predators. Civil confinement would allow the courts to order the worst sex offenders held in secure mental health facilities beyond their prison release dates if, upon evaluation, there is significant reason to believe they may strike again.

Assembly minority members also propose the following measures to strengthen Megan’s Law:

  • Prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or school grounds

  • Require the most dangerous sex offenders to wear electronic devices linked to Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to monitor their movements

  • Expand the information available about sex offenders on the Division of Criminal Justice Services’ Web site to include information on all registered offenders

  • Require law enforcement to release information on Level 2 and 3 sex offenders – those at the highest risk of committing additional crimes – to vulnerable populations in the community

  • Require lifetime registration for all sex offenders on the state Sex Offender Registry.

Fitzpatrick meets with Irish ambassador

The Honorable Eugene Hutchinson, ambassador and counsel general of Ireland to the United States, left, met with the assemblyman and his intern, Annette Coughlan, of Kinsale, County Cork, in southern Ireland.

The ambassador, nearing the end of his assignment in the United States, was in Albany to discuss the current relationship between the two nations.

Annette worked in Assemblyman Fitzpatrick’s Albany office for the legislative session. She’s in her third year of studies at University College Cork, working toward a bachelor’s degree in government and public policy. The opportunity to intern with the state Legislature allowed her to compare the Irish national government to New York’s form of state government, which is one of several topics of her annual thesis.

Annette also volunteers with the Royal Navy Lifeboat Institution, a search-and-rescue service that works in cooperation with the Royal Navy Coast Guard.


I have introduced bipartisan and Senate-supported legislation that would prohibit the use of cloning technology to initiate development of human beings at the embryonic stage of life and to prohibit human cloning for therapeutic or reproductive purposes.

The distinction between therapeutic and reproductive cloning is a false scientific distinction because both begin with the creation of a human being at the embryonic stage of life. The difference is that one is destined for implantation in a womb and the other for destructive farming of its stem cells. Regardless of its ultimate destiny, all human embryos are human beings. It is illogical and simply wrong to ban attempts at one form of cloning while allowing the other.

The Massachusetts-based biotechnology firm Advanced Cell Technology in 2001 announced it had cloned human embryos. The company did not intend to implant cloned embryos for the purpose of creating life. According to a statement from company officials, they sought only to create a new source of stem cells for research. Other scientists and groups have announced they will try to produce children through human cloning.

This development has captured the public’s interest. Successful attempts at animal cloning have pushed the scientific envelope, and the next progression may be the attempted cloning of a human. We are approaching a slippery slope and once science has started down this path, we may not be able to reverse or stop it. That’s why I have proposed legislation that would prohibit human cloning for scientific research and reproductive purposes.

“Given the grave moral uncertainty at this time, erring on the side of caution seems prudent,” urges Amy Campbell, JD, a senior instructor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Rochester, and bioethicist. “This legislation strikes the right balance between preserving human dignity and promoting science. And through it, we recognize that which is all too often forgotten in these discussions: that science – as applied to society – is not value-free, and that the means and not simply the ends of science matter.”


Scientists maintain there are three types of cloning technologies: recombinant DNA technology or DNA cloning; reproductive cloning; and therapeutic cloning. DNA cloning is the transfer of a DNA fragment from one organism to a self-replicating genetic element, and has been around since the 1970s. Reproductive cloning generates an animal that has the same nuclear DNA as another currently or previously existing animal. Therapeutic, or embryo, cloning is the production of human embryos for research. The goal of this process is not to create cloned humans, but to harvest stem cells that are used to study human development and treat diseases.

This legislation in no way inhibits legitimate scientific research that could lead to diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and disorders, nor would it alter the legal status of gene therapy, cloning of plants and animals, cloning of human organs for transplantation, or adult stem cell research.

Ward Melville and Kings Park
High School Students Honored

Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown), left, and state Sen. John J. Flanagan congratulate Kristen Colasonno, center, winner of the Teen Dating Violence and Healthy Relationships Media Contest, as Miss New York Teen 2005 Natascha Bessez looks on. Stony Brook resident Colasonno is a Ward Melville High School senior.


The contest, which promotes awareness of the seriousness of teen dating violence, was conducted by the Governor’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) and New York First Lady Libby Pataki. There were more than 180 entries from high schools around the state.

Colasonno displays her first-place poster, featuring a girl’s face leaning sadly against a mirror, with her reflection showing a black eye and bruises. An edgy font provides the headline, “All the makeup in the world can’t change what he does,” along with the sobering statistic that “1 in 5 teenagers is affected by teen dating violence.”

Students in class “talked about teen dating violence and about how to convey the idea of abuse,” said Colasonno. “I thought that when you look in a mirror, you see everything. A mirror shows who you really are – you can’t hide the abuse, physical or mental.” While she doesn’t see much physical violence in her school, Colasonno notes she sees lots of controlling behaviors, such as boyfriends telling their girlfriends how to look and act.

The poster promotes the state’s toll-free Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 942-6906. A smaller version of the poster is being printed for distribution to high schools throughout the state. Copies will be available soon through the OPDV Web site at For more information, call Suzanne Cecala at (518) 457-5744.

A group of SADD Club students at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County took home the top prize in the contest’s music video category for a three-minute film, “Why Do I Have to Lie?” The students are Lauren Birkenhead, Kim Haggerty, Ms. Kerrin Fitzpatrick, Amy Richards, Mr. Chris LoGalbo, Steven Smith, Timothy Rugile and Lisa Cullington. The song was written and performed by former Kings Park High School student Steven Mecca.

Contact Assemblyman Fitzpatrick
50 Route 111, Suite 202
Smithtown, NY 11787
(631) 724-2929
Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick