The legislative session began in earnest Tuesday after the MLK holiday with an Assembly press conference on the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA). The League was well represented at the press event and then we went on to three committees, health, codes and insurance. The debate in health committee was predictable with the Republican minority voting against the RHA apparently concerned with person hood and penal law. We then moved on to codes where the vote was the same, minority in the negative. On to insurance committee, but same result. Finally the debate began about 5 pm. After about one and one half hours of debate which harkened back to the 1980's, the vote was 98 to 46. All Republicans except Assemblyman Clifford Crouch of Binghamton voted against. The CCCA had the same result although not as long a debate. The CCCA was put forward by the Attorney General, it is necessary because if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed women will no longer be able to get contraception paid for by insurance. Unfortunately these votes don't bode well for these issues in the State Senate. The Senate is currently controlled by Republicans who have no interest in seeing these bills put into law. The hope has been that because of the renewed threat to Roe v Wade and the ACA, New York would at last codify Roe here in New York and that contraception would remain guaranteed. We have work to do in the Senate.
On the same day Governor Cuomo released his budget proposal. He originally wanted to brief the Senate first at a lunch meeting and the Assembly later in the evening at a dinner in the Governor’s Mansion. He had extended to the press the opportunity to view his plans in the afternoon but told them they would have to wait until 7:30 pm to release the details. The press refused to wait and ultimately no one was told anything until his formal address at 7:30 pm. It was a rather awkward presentation with Cuomo presenting his plan in front of just Capitol press and staff – no members of the legislature or the public attended.
Although the day had a rocky start Cuomo and his staff were able to post his proposed budget online for the public right after he concluded his presentation. The full proposed budget, an archive of the presentation, and his budget briefing book are all available on the Department of Budget website https://www.budget.ny.gov/
The legislature has released their Joint Legislative Budget Hearing schedule and the League plans to testify and submit testimony for at least 4 of the proposed Committees. These Committees include Local Government, Taxes, Education, and Health – it’s shaping up to be a busy January.