Friday, January 27, 2017

Women's March and Healthcare Concerns

This week National politics were at the forefront of our minds. Saturday January 21st the League participated in the Women’s March on Washington. Leagues from all over the country made their way to DC to show their concern for the current state of affairs in Washington.  Our local Leagues participated in sister marches all over the state. They marched in NYC, Albany, Glens Falls, Seneca Falls, Sag Harbor, Hudson, Ithaca, Utica, Rochester, and Syracuse. Some members even made the long journey to our Nation’s Capital. Many members have shared their personal experiences with us; all were very moved by the passion and energy of the marchers. They marched alongside their daughters and in some cases their granddaughters! Some members were disheartened to see the issues they had fought for over three decades ago brought back to the surface. Others were proud to see so many women and men engaged in such an important movement. We are thankful for everyone who chose to participate in the march and we hope that we can keep this momentum going as we move forward in 2017.

As the legislative session continues we turn our attention away from reproductive health and towards general health care. On Monday we met with Assemblyman Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. Assemblyman Gottfried has always been an ally of the League and we have had the pleasure of working with his office on many important healthcare issues. The Assemblyman and his staff briefed us on the current state of healthcare in New York State and helped us understand the risk our state faces should the ACA be repealed by Congress. We will be testifying on Health during the upcoming budget negotiations and plan to highlight these concerns.

We kept our focus on healthcare on Tuesday and sent memos of support for two important healthcare bills – read our memos here and here. Both bills were advanced to the Assembly Codes committee.
In addition to our legislative work this week we presented two public forums on the upcoming Constitutional Convention question. On Election Day of this year all New York State voters will be faced with the question of whether or not to hold a Constitutional Convention. The League is currently working to educate our members and the public on this important issue. For more information visit our website. This week we presented in Albany and Saratoga. We will continue our presentations until the question is put out to the voters on Election Day. To request a public forum in your area contact our State League office at

We end this blog on a somewhat sour note. This week our new President called for a National investigation into the 2016 election. It is his belief that this election involved massive voter fraud – particularly in New York and California. There is absolutely no credible evidence to support this claim and we do not believe an investigation is warranted. Our National League has issued the following statement which we fully agree with:

“President Trump is calling for a major investigation into voter fraud - in an election that he won! We know that wide-spread voter fraud is a myth perpetuated to push election laws that restrict voting.  We cannot allow false claims to drive policies that will limit participation in our election process. There is no need for an investigation into a non-existent problem. The issue has been studied and put to rest.”

Friday, January 20, 2017

Contraceptive Coverage and Reproductive Health Bills Pass Assembly

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
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.

Friday, January 13, 2017

State of the State Wrap Up

Week two of session was a busy week for the League. We kicked off the attending the State Board of Election’s Commissioner meeting. The meeting was not nearly as exciting as the December and November meetings which involved heated debates between chief enforcement council, Risa Sugarman, and Commissioner Doug Kellner over the whether or not non-filers should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, we did learn that the enforcement unit is moving forward with a plan for get non-filers into compliance as soon as possible by issuing warnings in the form of letters and emails. Commissioners Kellner and Kosinski did not seem impressed.  

After the meeting adjourned we headed over to the Elections Commissioners Association’s (ECA) Winter Conference. Every year the League and some of our good government allies attend the winter conference in Albany to lobby county election commissioners on our voting priorities. This year we handed out materials supporting opt-out automatic voter registration and opposing voter ID requirements.  We were able to sit in on their Legislative Committee meeting and hear their debate over their new proposed legislative priorities. The committee proposed 7 new priorities included pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds, extended term lengths for Election Commissioners, new post mark rules for absentee ballots and voter registration forms, a proposal for automatic voter registration, and a new requirement for all New York voters to present a government issued ID on Election Day. The committee debated the proposals and ultimately only voted to adopt a single new proposal that would allow the county Board of Election offices to issue same day absentee ballots to people who are hospitalized within 24 hours of Election Day. This proposal will be added to their 2016 proposals which can be found here.

On Tuesday we returned to the conference and handed out more materials listing our legislative priorities related to election law for 2017. You can read our Joint Statement here. We sat in on several panels and spoke with commissioners from around the state about our priorities.   

On Wednesday the League was able to attend Governor Cuomo’s Albany State of the State address. We had members attend his addresses in New York City, Buffalo, and Westchester as well. We were pleased to see he included ethics reforms in his Albany address but a bit disappointed that they were the same old reforms he’s been pushing since before 2016.

Next week we will anticipate the release of his 2017 budget and the calendar of proposed Joint Budget Hearings.  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

And we’re back!

The 2017 legislative session is officially underway and what a better way to start the new session than with two totally opposing opening remarks from our legislative leaders. While Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie highlighted the bipartisan nature of his house and the Assembly’s willingness to work with the Senate; Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan swore to keep his house independent. How will this shake out in the upcoming session? Only time will tell.

Heastie highlighted education, health care, and reproductive choice as his top priorities for this session.  Flanagan made several remarks about Upstate jobs and the moderate successes of Start Up NY and the Regional Development Council. Much of his speech appeared to be digs at the Governor. The Assembly finished their session rather quickly while the Senate lingered until 3:00pm debating the lack of democrats on the Senate Ethics Committee and a new rule change that would ban Senators from using their phones to take photos or videos while in the Senate Chamber. The general public has already been barred from using cell phones while in the galleries but now the rule applies to Senators and the press alike.

The day ended with countless receptions held throughout the Capital. We spoke to many members and found that legislators regardless of party expressed anger over Governor's meddling in the Wage Commission which had been set up to be outside of the political haggling. That feeling seemed to shadow the first day of session as well as the feeling that the Governor had disrespected the legislature's rightful position by moving the State of the State outside of the Capitol. There was also among many members, a veiled threat of budget negotiations being impaired by this level of animosity between the executive and legislative chambers.

Next week we will begin business as usual and hopefully get a chance to attend Governor Cuomo’s State of the State road tour. Here are the dates and locations:

  • Monday, 11 a.m.: One World Trade Center in Manhattan
  • Monday, 3 p.m.: University at Buffalo Center for the Arts
  • Tuesday, 10:30 a.m.: SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center
  • Tuesday, 1 p.m.: Farmingdale State College on Long Island
  • Wednesday, 10 a.m.: University at Albany Performing Arts Center
  • Wednesday, 1 p.m.: Carrier Theater in Syracuse

Here’s hoping this session brings some actual ethics reforms!