Assemblymember O'Donnell to decide fate of domestic violence reform bill known as Brittany's Law

Assemblymember  Daniel O'Donnell , center, at a 2010 town hall meeting organized by U.S. Representative  Charles Rangel .  Source :  Official Photograph  CC BY 2.0  / U.S. Representative Charles Rangel/Flickr

Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell, center, at a 2010 town hall meeting organized by U.S. Representative Charles Rangel.  Source :  Official Photograph CC BY 2.0/U.S. Representative Charles Rangel/Flickr


For now, the welfare of New York women and possibly their children rest on the decisions of one man, Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell (D-Upper West Side).

Before the state legislative session ends on June 17, Assemblymember O'Donnell will decide if he will allow the Assembly Corrections Committee to vote on a bill known as Brittany's Law.

If enacted, Brittany's Law will mandate the creation of a registry for violent felony offenders as a mechanism for the public to search if they suspect a person may pose a threat for violence.  The proposed law was created with the specific intent to decrease and prevent instances of domestic violence.

Achieving protections for women against domestic violence was a critical issue raised in the second wave of the women's rights movement.  

With less than three weeks remaining in this year's legislative session, advocates for domestic violence law reform are worried that Assemblymember O'Donnell will betray women by not voting Bittany's Law out of committee, a requirement needed before the bill could be scheduled for a vote by the full Assembly.

"I'm asking the Assembly to put pressure on him," said Dale Driscoll, the leading advocate championing passage of Brittany's Law, referring to Assemblymember O'Donnell.

Assemblymember O'Donnell was unable to be interviewed for this article.  

A request was made in writing by Progress Queens to Assemblymember O'Donnell's office, asking whether Assemblymember O'Donnell planned to call for a vote on the bill in time for the Corrections Committee to approve the bill before the end of the legislative session.  However, his office was unable to provide a statement in lieu of an interview in answer to this request.

Brittany's Law was named for Ms. Driscoll's granddaughter, Brittany Passalacqua, who, along with her mother, Helen Buchel, were the victims of a 2009 double-homicide committed by John Brown.  Mr. Brown was on the verge of completing his parole when the young Miss Passalacqua and Ms. Buchel were murdered.  He had, at that time then, served two recent, prior terms in prison, a first for having violently shaken his infant child in 2003 and a second for having violated the terms of his parole following his early release from his first term in prison.

Ms. Driscoll has said that she saw Brittany's Law as a way to prevent more cases of domestic violence.  Brittany's Law could help victims of domestic violence to look up information about their attackers, so that victims of domestic violence could know more about their boyfriends or husbands, Ms. Driscoll said, adding that Brittany's Law could also help parents and friends of victims by giving loved ones the ability to look up information about whom their relatives and friends were dating, in case any behaviors raised questions about possible histories of violence. 

According to information obtained by Progress Queens, there are Assemblymembers on the Corrections Committee, who support Brittany's Law, but these Assemblymembers are waiting for Assemblymember O'Donnell to publicly indicate that Brittany's Law should be passed.

In the state legislature, many legislative reforms are unable to be passed by either the Assembly or the State Senate due to backroom deal-making of committee or house leadership, an undermining of the democratic process that has been resoundingly criticized by good government groups.

"Before other women are hurt or lose their lives, it's time to get this done," Ms. Driscoll said.