Here’s what’s happened in Albany last week and what you can expect next week.
STATE OF THE STATE
The Governor’s State of the State address traditionally lays out his agenda for the year. It was delayed to allow time to pay respects to Mario Cuomo, a respected, progressive former Governor who died on January 1, 2015. Governor Andrew Cuomo combined his budget address with the State of the State last Wednesday, January 21st. You can watch it here: https://www.governor.ny.gov/.
From our point of view, some issues are back on the table, and some new ones emerged. Please feel free to go to our Interfaith Impact of NYS Facebook group if you would like to comment on these or other issues. Here’s the tip of the iceburg from the State of the State message:
- Public K-12 education is still underfunded. The $1.1 billion proposed increase is half of what the Board of Regents and 83 state legislators have identified as what is needed.
- The Governor has proposed increasing the number of charter schools by 100 statewide. This benefits investors who receive large tax credits, but the jury is still out on whether they actually improve educational outcomes. So far, most of the studies we’ve seen show they do not.
- He’s reviving his plan for $100 million in tax credits to corporations and individuals that invest in either public or private schools—such as after-school programs or Catholic school scholarships. This isn’t a full-fledged voucher program, but it’s a start. From its beginning, Interfaith Impact has been opposed to tax-payer funding of parochial schools, because we see it as a violation of the principle of the separation of church and state.
- Economic Justice: Gov. Cuomo proposed raising the State minimum wage to $10.50 per hour across the state and $11.50 per hour in New York City by the end of 2016. The state’s current minimum wage is $8.75, after the state legislature in 2013 passed a graduated increase to $9 by the end of 2015. IINYS worked hard to get that passed, and we will work equally hard for a living wage.
- While we are glad the Governor recognizes the need for an increase, we have joined the Labor-Religion Coalition, Hunger Action Network of New York State and other organizations in calling for a minimum of $15.00 per hour indexed to inflation and elimination of sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.
- We believe no one who works full time should be paid below-poverty wages.
- Hunger: the high rate of food insecure households in many of our cities can be traced in part to the unlivable minimum wage. The Governor gave an additional $4.5 million to food pantries and announced a ten-point “Anti-Poverty Opportunity Agenda,” which you can find here: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/2015-opportunity-agenda-restoring-economic-opportunity-5.
- Transgender Rights: After years of work by Empire State Pride Agenda and other advocacy organizations, including IINYS, the Governor finally called for transgender protections in his State of the State address. This item (along with many others) did not make it to the live broadcast speech, but it is included in the Governor’s “Opportunity Agenda”— the 550-page printed, unedited version of the State of the State. You can find it on page 290, under item 154: Protect Gender Identity. To see the complete document, go to https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2015_Opportunity_Agenda_Book.pdf.
- Criminal Justice Reform: IINYS has long advocated for criminal justice reforms, but we have no position as yet on the seven part agenda announced in the Governor’s State of the State. We are developing a paper on criminal justice and racism, and as usual, we are soliciting member input through email (email@example.com), our Facebook group and our blog (iinys.nationbuilder.com/blog).
- The Governor’s seven-point criminal justice reform proposal includes a statewide reconciliation commission on police/community relations, an independent monitor in certain police brutality cases in which a grand jury issues no indictment, and provides race and ethnic data on police actions statewide.
- Solitary Confinement: we continue to work with the Coalition for Alternatives to Isolation Confinement and advocate for the HALT Solitary Confinement bill. For more information on this, see our coalition partner’s website, http://nycaic.org/.
- Reproductive Justice: Gov. Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to the Women’s Equality Act, which IINYS strongly supports. The Act will achieve pay equity, stop sexual harassment in all workplaces, remove barriers to remedying discrimination, end Family Status Discrimination, stop housing discrimination for victims of domestic violence, stop source-of-income discrimination, protect victims of domestic violence by strengthening order-of-protection laws, strengthen human trafficking laws, stop pregnancy discrimination once and for all, and protect a woman’s freedom of choice.
There is a lot more in the Gov. Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda. For a summary, see: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/2015-opportunity-agenda.
For more about the demonstrations during the State of the State, see our blog, iinys.nationbuilder.com/blog
We have been working with an ad-hoc coalition led by the NYS Labor-Religion Colation to hold Moral Monday meetings in the State Capitol through March.
We started on January 5th with a gathering and press conference outside the Senate lobby. On Monday, January 12, we joined the Alliance for Quality Education and Rev. William Barber, who spearheaded the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, for a rousing rally in support of education funding.
We will hold the next Moral Monday meeting in the War Room rotunda (the Governor’s Waiting Room) at noon on Monday, January 26th. You are invited to join us. If you happen to be advocating with Family Planning Advocates, consider stopping by.
Legislative calendar: see http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/calendar/.
Continuing: Moral Monday rally at the NY State Capitol every Monday at noon through the end of March.
Monday, January 26, 2015
- Family Planning Advocates Day of Action starting at 10:00 a.m. in the Well of the Legislative Office Building.
- Moral Monday, noon in the War Room on the second floor of the Capitol building outside the Governor’s office.
Sunday, March 15: “Show Me the Money: Escalating Inequality Hurts” – legislative briefing in Rochester
Wednesday, April 1: State Budget Due
Monday, May 4: Interfaith Impact Advocacy Day in Albany. Go to the IINYS Legislative Advocacy Day Facebook page for updates.
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Interfaith Impact of NYS: Working for the Common Good through Progressive Religious Advocacy
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