Jennifer Wilson, Jennifer@lwvny.org
We made it to the finish line! Unfortunately, there were no trophies at the end of this race. The legislature went home with a pile of unfinished business related to mayoral control and taxes. Not much was accomplished this year. Not just for the League but also for other organizations.
Here’s what did get done: Raise the Age, including e-cigarettes in the Clean In-Door Air Act, and regulations for Paid Family Leave.
Here’s what didn’t: voting reforms, procurement reforms, Reproductive Health Act, Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act, and Single Payer Health Care.
We are disappointed but also hopeful. This year we made great strides toward achieving our goals. We had significant progress on early voting and the reproductive health care legislation, and we were able to build new coalition partnerships with other organizations. We are already looking ahead to next session and strategizing how to make even more progress. But first, let’s reflect on what happened this year.
This session we pushed hard on early voting, and for the first time ever the bill moved from the Senate Elections Committee to the Senate Rules Committee. The League was instrumental in making this happen. Our members lobbied their Senators for weeks leading up to its vote in the Senate Elections Committee. On the day the bill was taken up, nearly 20 of our members filled the committee meeting room to watch the Senators vote. Originally the bill was referred to the Senate Local Government Committee, but after a week of our members urging the committee’s chair to move the bill, it was sent to Rules. Although we were disappointed that the bill was never taken up in the Rules Committee, this was still a major win.
In May, the Assembly passed early voting in their house for the second year in a row. They also passed electronic poll books, no-excuse absentee voting, the Voter Friendly Ballot Act, and consolidation of primary elections. In total, they passed 11 voting reforms that would make voting easier and more accessible. We were very happy to have so many reforms pass in their house this year and expect to see even more reforms to pass in the Assembly next session.
In November, eight individuals, including state employees, were indicted related to a bid-rigging scandal that involved $800 million in state contracts. The League partnered with several good government groups, economic think tanks, and the Comptroller’s office to put together a list of clean contracting reforms that would prevent future bid rigging scandals from occurring. The reforms included creating a publically available database of deals to track how state funds are spent, implementing safeguards to ensure individuals applying for state contracts cannot bribe decision makers with dark money through campaign donations, and restoring the Comptroller’s oversight authority of state contracts. Although we lobbied both houses right up until the final days of session, the bill did not pass.
At the beginning of session we joined Planned Parenthood for their annual lobby day. The event had more than 1,000 attendees who were all ready to fight to pass the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) and the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act (CCCA). The CCCA would mandate that insurers cover all forms of birth control, not just those they choose to cover. It would also allow 12 months of birth control to be dispensed at one time. The law would ensure all women and men have adequate contraception that must be paid for by their insurer. The RHA would codify Roe v. Wade in New York so that if federal laws were to change, New York women would still be guaranteed their right to choose.
The two bills passed in the Assembly early in the session. We worked with Planned Parenthood and NYCLU on moving these bills in the Senate for the remainder of the six months. We met with members of the Senate throughout the session, nearly every day, urging them to bring these bills to the floor for a vote. Unfortunately, the two bills were never taken up and women’s reproductive health remains in the balance.
Next year will come fast – and we’ll be ready to fight again!