May has been a busy month for the League. We have been ramping up our advocacy efforts and our hard work is finally paying off! This month the Assembly passed several of our priority bills: Single Payer, early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, single June primary, and legislation to include e-cigarettes under the Clean Indoor Air Act. We have been working hard on these issues and it’s nice to see the Assembly responding to our efforts.
In the beginning of May, early voting was included on a Senate Elections Committee agenda. We organized a group of our members to attend the committee meeting and show that New Yorkers are serious about seeing this legislation passed this session. The sponsor of this legislation had petitioned to have this bill heard by the committee. Several other bills had all been petitioned to be heard in the committee including the Voter Empowerment Act. The committee voted down the other bills but did not vote down early voting. Instead the committee referred the bill to the Senate Local Government Committee.
Senate Local Government Committee is chaired by Senator Kathleen Marchione. We were very worried that Senator Marchione would kill this bill as she was the only Senator in the Election Committee to oppose the legislation. Our members made countless phone calls to the members of the Local Government Committee urging them to move the bill to the floor to be voted on by all Senators. Senator Marchione opted to move the bill to the Rules Committee and did not allow members of her committee to vote on the legislation. Although this was not what we had hoped for, we were very happy that the Senator did not kill the bill in her committee.
It will be difficult to convince the Rules Committee to take up this bill before session ends, but all hope is not lost. Now that the Assembly has passed this legislation we are calling on our members to contact their Senators and urge them to support early voting! We have sent out several action alerts and created shareable advocacy documents that can be accessed here. We have a long road ahead of us but we are not alone in this fight. Stay tuned for information about a joint rally and lobbying effort that will take place in early June. More information will be released in the coming weeks.
In addition to these voting reforms, we have been pushing the Assembly to pass state contracting reforms that would give the Comptroller back his oversight authority in the awarding of state contracts. This push is a result of the recent federal and state incitements related to a major bid rigging scandal costing tax payers nearly $800 million. The investigation of this scandal is on-going but it appears that a lack of oversight and transparency allowed this contract rigging scheme to unfold. We have been working with several of our good government allies to lobby the Assembly to pass legislation that would prevent future bid-rigging scandals from taking place. The bill we are supporting will increase transparency and reporting of contract agreements. The bill has already passed in the Senate with bi-partisan support. We are urging members of the Assembly to co-sponsor this legislation and vote in favor of its passage. You can read more about the legislation and our efforts here.
Health care has been at the forefront of our minds recently. This month we were all appalled when Congress voted to gut the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a health care policy that would put millions at risk of losing their health insurance. Health care is a basic human right and we want to make sure that all New Yorkers have equal access to affordable health insurance. The League has long been a supporter of single payer health care in New York State. A single payer health system would take health insurance out of the private sector and allow the state to use its own resources to provide health insurance. This system would significantly reduce administrative costs and would ensure that all citizens have equal access to quality health care. This month, the Assembly passed the New York Health Act which would implement a single payer health care system in New York. This is not the first time the bill has passed in the Assembly but each year the bill stalls in the Senate. Currently the Senate version of this legislation has 30 sponsors including members of the Independent Democratic Conference. We have created an advocacy toolkit that is available here which highlights which members we should be targeting in the Health Committee where the bill has stalled. The toolkit includes a contacts for Senators, a phone script, key talking points, and sample tweets.
The League has also been involved in working with our coalition partners to pass a bill that would prohibit employers from asking a potential employee’s previous salary. This legislation is crucial in helping to close the wage gap. Earlier this month we participated in a press conference highlighting the importance of the bill and urging the legislature to pass the legislation before session ends. We are asking our members to reach out to the Assembly and Senate to urge them to pass this legislation. You can find more information on the bill and its impact here.
May has certainly been a busy month but our work is far from complete. With only 4 weeks left of session we are getting close to the end. As we enter June we will need to do everything we can to see these issues move forward. Thank you to all of the members who have contacted their legislators to advocate for these bills!