Friday, February 26, 2016

After a long, nearly two week break, session has finally resumed! The League kept busy over the recess planning for our upcoming regional workshops and preparing the 2016 Voter Guide. The first workshop will take place in New York City on March 5th. If you’re interested in attending any of the sessions it’s not too late to register, click this link to register for our workshops in NYC, Round Lake, Syracuse, and Buffalo. We hope to have the new Voter Guides published and printed sometime next month; just in time for the Presidential Primary.

Our first day back at the Capitol on Wednesday started with a press conference in the LCA Room. Barbara Bartoletti joined Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Senator John Bonacic, Senator Jose Serrano, and Blair Horner of NYPIRG at a press conference unveiling Assemblywoman Galef’s new ethics reforms package.  The package includes bills that would help increase transparency for both members and lobbyists. We were very excited to join the Assemblywoman who also happens to be a former local League President!

After the presser we sat in on senate session and watched one of the bill’s senate versions pass. The bill (which the League does not currently have a position on) would limit the tenure of temporary president of the senate, speaker of the assembly, majority and minority leaders and committee chairs.
On Thursday we kept busy pulling members off the floor to lobby them on election reforms and the education tax credit. Later we caught the first half of the New York State Economic and Revenue Consensus Forecasting Conference. Next week we have a very busy schedule with two press conferences, a legislative briefing, and nearly a dozen meetings with legislators. This month is shaping up to be a busy one!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Monday got off to a quick start with a League priority bill. The single June primary bill appeared before the Election’s Committee which was to be called off the floor, in the Speakers Conference Room, during session. We attended that Committee meeting where the bill passed with the minority in the negative and the bill moving immediately into Rules Committee.  A note of clarification- bills that are considered to not be addressed by the other house are often taken up and pushed off the calendar early in the session. Unfortunately, the single primary bill is one of those bills where it is assumed that the Senate will not take up this legislation, therefore the Assembly wanted to take it up and be done with it. Even with League’s vigorous attempts at lobbying this legislation four years ago it is clear that the Senate will not address this bill in an election year. On Tuesday the bill passed the Assembly and was delivered to the Senate where interestingly it was refer to the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. Only the Senate could refer a voting bill to a committee on veteran’s affairs.  

Tuesday was another busy day for the League. Marian Bott, our issue specialist on Education Finance, testified before the Joint Budget Hearing on Taxation. This is the second testimony from Marian during this budget cycle. Her full testimony can be found here. As budget testimony continues, Barbara Thomas, our issue specialist on Women’s Issues, participated in the Paid Family Leave lobby day. Paid Family Leave legislation passed the Assembly but will have an uphill climb for passage in the Senate. Between Barbara, Marian, Jennifer and myself, the League was very visible in the legislature that day.

Earlier on Tuesday the League also attended the Assembly Education Committee where Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia again talked about her education priorities for this year.
We started our Wednesday with a fabulous breakfast and budget briefing by the Fiscal Policy Institute. FPI presents their analysis of the Governor’s budget every year and they never fail to impress us with their in-depth analyses.  After the briefing, the League was able to submit testimony to the Workforce Development budget hearing on minimum wage and paid family leave. You can read the full testimony here.

Thursday Barbara finished the budget testimony week with our testimony before Public Protection, expressing the League’s concerns and recommendations on the State Board of Elections and the budgetary ramifications of the coming election year. In total the League has testified or submitted testimony for 5 budget hearings.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What a fun week for the League! Last Friday we celebrated the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade with our Women’s Issues Specialist, Barbara Thomas. Barbara threw a fun party to raise money for Planned Parenthood and celebrate the landmark ruling that changed the lives of women nationwide.

On Monday we met with our ally, Family Planning Advocates, for their annual lobby day. They had a terrific turnout for the event even with the snowstorm that hit NYC over the weekend. The Well was adorned with pink banners and many legislators joined the festivities wearing FPA signature pink scarves and ties. The headliner for the event was none other than Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. She spoke briefly about the importance of organizations like Planned Parenthood and the service they provide to the state. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli also spoke to the group about his push to maintain adequate services for women throughout the state. The most interesting speech came from Assemblywoman Richardson who shared that as a sexually active 16 year old woman she turned to Planned Parenthood when she had questions and needed answers. Her comments made more than a few male Assemblymembers blush but drew cheers from the audience of young women proudly wearing their pink scarves.

After the rally the group members were off to lobby their legislators on the bill that had passed through Ways and Means last week pertaining to insurance coverage for contraceptives. The bill passed in the Assembly with no debate and is on its way to the Senate. The Senate sponsor, Senator John Bonacic, also spoke at the rally telling the audience that although he personally is against abortion, his wife and daughter are pro-choice and he wouldn't oppose any woman's right to choose.
Monday was also the Joint Budget Hearing on Health. Although the League did not submit testimony this year we did sit in for many of the speakers.
On Tuesday we attended several Committee meetings including Assembly Election and Health, and Senate Health. This is the first Assembly Election Committee to be held this session; three bills were voted on and passed. These bills related to streamlining election night procedures, allowing 16 and 17 year olds to serve as poll workers, and adjusting poll book laws so that they can be typed lists rather than penciled in books.

Wednesday was a busy day for the League. Our Education and Finance Specialist, Marian Bott, presented testimony at the Joint Budget Hearing on Elementary and Secondary Education. The hearing lasted a grueling 10 hours but many members stuck it out until the last groups had a chance to testify. Our testimony will be posted to our website later this week.

While we waited for our turn to testify we stopped in at Assemblywoman Woerner’s office to discuss the Paid Family Leave bill. This bill will be brought to the floor on Tuesday which coincidentally is the Paid Family Leave lobby day. Next week we will join the coalition to lobby and present testimony at the Joint Budget Hearings on Taxes and Public Protection.