Position Statement – 2022
Governor Hochul’s Budget Proposal
New York State Fiscal Year 2022-2023
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) is dedicated to advocating for the protection of women’s and children’s rights and advancing the status of women in the legal profession and society. Our nearly 3,500 members include attorneys, judges, and law students working in all substantive areas of law at the local, state, federal, and international levels. With 20 chapters throughout New York State, WBASNY speaks as one voice to advocate for equal access to justice and gender equality. WBASNY is a non-governmental organization in association with the UN Department of Public Information and holds Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council, thus allowing WBASNY to substantially participate in work to support and advocate for the rights of women and children worldwide.
WBASNY appreciates the Governor’s continued objective to address the numerous challenges women and children face in our society. WBASNY members and leadership have reviewed various sections of the Executive Budget Proposal for State Fiscal Year 2022-2023 that we believe would have a significant impact on women and children. Our positions and discussion on these sections are addressed below.
EDUCATION, LABOR AND FAMILY ASSISTANCE
ARTICLE VII LEGISLATION
Part L – Expand Income Eligibility for Child Care Subsidies – STRONGLY SUPPORT
Many single mothers and low-income families struggle to afford child care and legislation providing broader access to child care subsidies would render it more affordable and benefit many women and children. WBASNY strongly supports Part L, which would expand access to child care subsidies by raising the maximum income for eligibility from 200 percent to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), statewide, phased in over three years. The bill would improve access to child care, making it more affordable for low-income families and easing financial burdens on families and in particular, working mothers.
Part M – Continue the Current Financing Structure for Residential Placements of Children with Special Needs Outside New York City – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part M, which would enact into law provisions to extend and make permanent the current structure of financing Committee on Special Education (CSE) residential placements outside of New York City. WBASNY supports this legislation because it would lend permanency to vital programs currently in place for children with special needs.
Part N – Extend the Current Structure of Child Welfare Financing – STRONGLY SUPPORT
Since the enactment of the Child Welfare Financing Reform in 2002, the number of children in foster care has declined from 32,000 to 15,000 in 2020. WBASNY strongly supports Part N, which would enact provisions to extend the current structure of financing of child welfare services. The system provides reimbursement to localities for child protective and preventive services, after care, independent living and adoption administration, all of which provide a greater chance of keeping families intact. WBASNY supports this bill because these services are successful and benefit some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens and they must continue to be funded.
Part P – Homeless Youth Healthcare Consent – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part P, which would authorize homeless youth (many of whom are LGBTQ+ or being trafficked or both) to consent to their own medical, dental, health and hospital services. Currently, a minor, including a minor who is homeless, needs the consent of a legal guardian to obtain most health care services. Homeless youth often do not have a parent or legal guardian to consent to health care services and are forced to go without necessary treatment, are unable to obtain prescriptions and ultimately rely on emergency care after untreated health conditions become more severe. Providing homeless youth with the ability to consent to health care services will allow them to make informed decisions regarding their wellbeing and reduce the reliance on emergency care.
Part U – Make Changes to Public Assistance to Address Poverty – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part U, which would help address poverty by making changes to the Public Assistance program so that low-income applicants and recipients would receive benefits sooner and be allowed to earn and save more while still receiving cash assistance. Currently, many applicants lose their public assistance benefits as soon as they start to work because, although their income is insufficient to provide the basics like food, rent, transportation and daycare costs, it is too high to retain benefits. WBASNY supports this proposal because it would allow recipients to remain eligible for benefits for a longer period of time as their income increases and alleviate the “benefits cliff,” encouraging recipients to work and maintain employment to better meet their ongoing needs.
Part V – Ban Non-Compete and No-Poach Agreements – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part V, which would ban certain non-compete and no-poach agreements and provide for civil remedies for violations of such prohibitions. Non-compete agreements between employers and employees may impede economic mobility by eliminating competition and reducing workers’ upward and outward job mobility. In addition, workers may be prevented from getting a job with a competitor under formal or informal no-poach agreements between two employers. This is especially pernicious with respect to entry-level or minimum wage positions. Claiming “proprietary information” or the disclosure of “trade secrets” associated with retail checkout procedures or sandwich-making to justify a non-compete agreement effectively locks an employee in to her current position and locks her out of using her experience with a new employer. The proposal would prevent non-compete agreements for any employee or prospective employee earning less than the median wage in New York State. WBASNY supports mobility in the work force and a worker’s ability to improve their economic or career position through promotion and lateral moves. This proposal will allow such workplace and career mobility and, accordingly, WBASNY supports this proposal.
Part X – Prohibit Discrimination Against Domestic Violence Victims in All Jurisdictional Areas – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY believes all New Yorkers should be able to attend school and obtain housing, employment, and credit without the fear of discrimination or harassment. WBASNY strongly supports Part X, which would expand protections for victims of domestic violence, as defined by Social Service Law § 459-a. Currently, the Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination against domestic violence victims in employment. This bill would add “status as a victim of domestic violence” as a protected class in the remaining jurisdictional areas including public accommodations, private and publicly assisted housing, education and credit.
Part Y – Make Explicit that Discrimination on the Basis of Citizenship and Immigration Status is Unlawful – STRONGLY SUPPORT
All New Yorkers must be able to attend school and obtain housing, employment, and credit without the fear of discrimination or harassment. WBASNY strongly supports Part Y, which would make explicit that discrimination on the basis of citizenship and immigration status is unlawful. This bill would clarify to employers, housing providers, places of public accommodation and others that discrimination because of immigration status or citizenship is unlawful. WBASNY supports Part Y because protection from discrimination for persons who are not citizens of the United States, in the areas of employment, housing, and education, among others, is long overdue, particularly in New York State, where immigrants have historically represented a significant part of the population.
Part BB – Improve Access to Housing for People with Conviction Records – STRONGLY SUPPORT
A history of criminal justice involvement too often results in lasting stigma for New Yorkers who have committed an offense and served their time. WBASNY strongly supports Part BB, which would modify the New York Human Rights Law to prohibit housing providers from automatically rejecting individuals with one or more prior criminal convictions. A prior criminal conviction often jeopardizes their ability to find permanent housing, a critical factor in reducing recidivism. Under this bill, housing providers will only be permitted to consider convictions resulting from offenses that involved a threat to the health or safety of persons or property. WBASNY believes this change in the law will increase access to housing for individuals with prior convictions.
Part FF – Reform the Use of Credit Checks in Tenant Screening for Housing – STRONGLY SUPPORT
Currently, there is no statewide law limiting the manner in which housing providers treat low credit scores or negative credit history in assessing applications for rental housing. WBASNY strongly supports Part FF, which would modify the Real Property Law to prohibit landlords from automatically refusing to rent or lease a property to an applicant due solely to the applicant’s credit score or credit history. The bill would require housing providers to consider whether an applicant is able to show that they have paid their rent on time, that they receive rental subsidies, that the applicant’s negative credit history or poor credit score is solely the result of outstanding student loans or medical debt, or that it is a direct result of domestic, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. WBASNY believes this bill will assist those whose credit rating has been impacted by actions other than their own and ease the burden of finding safe, affordable housing.
Part GG – Codify Language Access Policy – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part GG, which would codify the state language access policy, which requires state agencies that interact with the public to provide interpretation and translation services for vital documents in the ten most spoken non-English languages in New York based on the United States Census Data.
HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE
ARTICLE VII LEGISLATION
Part N – Promote Health Equity and Continuity of Coverage for Vulnerable Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part N, which would make statutory changes to eliminate the Medicaid resource test and raise the income level of the Federal Poverty Level for Vulnerable Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities. This bill would remove resources from consideration for Medicaid eligibility and increase the income limit of the Federal Poverty Level for seniors and the individuals with disabilities. WBASNY supports this legislation as it will have a significant impact on a vulnerable population.
Part R – Protect Reproductive Access for All – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part R, which would codify individual and group private insurance coverage for abortion services which would not be subject to co-payment, coinsurance or annual deductibles. This bill would require every individual accident and health insurance policy that provides medical, major-medical, or similar comprehensive-type coverage in New York to provide coverage for abortions. WBASNY supports this legislation because it will provide more comprehensive health care coverage for women.
Part S – Maternal Health Reforms – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part S, which would expand maternal health services to achieve health equity and improve birth outcomes. Section one of this bill would amend Social Services Law to include prenatal and postpartum care as “standard coverage” to be reimbursed when determined to be necessary by various healthcare practitioners. Sections two through five would extend post-partum coverage eligibility to one year following the last day of pregnancy. WBASNY supports this legislation because it will help ensure adequate health care for both women and children.
Part T – Third Trimester Syphilis Screenings – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part T, which would support reproductive equity and work toward eliminating congenital syphilis by requiring third trimester screening for syphilis. This bill would amend Public Health Law to require syphilis testing of pregnant patients by a physician or other authorized practitioner in the third trimester consistent with any guidance and regulations issued by the Department of Health. WBASNY supports this legislation because it will provide better health care protections for both women and children.
Part U – Child Health Plus Reforms – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part U, which would make statutory changes to improve access to children’s mental and behavioral health services by aligning Child Health Plus (CHP) benefits with Medicaid benefits and transitioning the Child Health Plus rate setting authority from the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to the Department of Health (DOH) to align with Medicaid Managed Care rate setting practices. WBASNY supports efforts to make childcare more accessible to all children.
Part Y – Marriage Certificates – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part Y, which would amend Domestic Relations Law to allow for changes in name or gender to make it easier for New Yorkers to accurately express their gender identity. This bill would allow name and gender changes on marriage certificates upon receipt of proper proof and would make other changes to the law related to record keeping fees and authority for the Attorney General to compel local government compliance with the law. WBASNY supports this legislation because ensuring equality for the LGBTQ+ community is one of our core principles.
PUBLIC PROTECTION AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT
ARTICLE VII LEGISLATION
PART B – Gender-Affirming Treatment of Incarcerated Individuals – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part B, which would allow incarcerated individuals whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth, have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, who identify as transgender, gender nonconforming, or nonbinary, or who are intersex to be placed in appropriate state and local and correctional facilities in a manner aligned with their gender identities. This legislation is necessary to protect the health and safety of transgender people under incarceration and to prevent gender-based violence in New York’s correctional facilities.
Part C – Expand Educational Release and Furlough Eligibility – SUPPORT
WBASNY supports Part C, which would expand the eligibility for educational release and furloughs for incarcerated persons. This bill ensures that, upon release, persons previously under incarceration are able to move forward and lessens the chance for recidivism.
Part D – Eliminate DOCCS Parole Supervision Fees – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part D, which would repeal the requirement for parolees to pay the $30 per month supervision fee. No person should be found to have violated their parole simply because she lacks financial means.
Part E – Facilitate Access to ID Cards and Other Vital Records to Enhance Opportunities for Released Individuals – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part E, which would authorize the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to obtain a certified birth certificate or transcript of birth on behalf of an incarcerated individual for the purpose of providing State identification upon release. This bill removes a financial and logistical barrier to many activities and institutions that are essential to post-release financial stability.
Part F – Establishes Employment for Parole Board Members is Full-Time – SUPPORT
WBASNY supports Part F, which would establish that Parole Board members are now full-time positions, which would prohibit outside employment to further increase the board’s capacity. This bill will ensure that those coming before the Parole Board will be given full and fair consideration.
Part N –Ten-Day Voter Registration Deadline – SUPPORT
WBASNY supports Part N, which would amend election law by changing the deadline for voter registration from 25 days before an election to 10 days before an election. This would be consistent with the State’s Constitutional registration of 10 days before an election. WBASNY supports this bill as it will ensure that all eligible New Yorkers may access the ballot box, as is their absolute and fundamental constitutional right.
Part O – Require Polling Sites on College Campuses – SUPPORT
WBASNY supports Part O, which would require local boards of elections to establish one or more poll sites on college campuses whenever a contiguous property of a college or university contains 300 or more registrants who are registered to vote at an address on that contiguous property. The polling location must be on or nearby such campus or property and must be recommended by the college or university and agreed to with the local board of elections. WBASNY supports this bill as it ensures that college students, many who are living away from their families and permanent homes for the first time, have necessary access to the ballot box.
Part V – Market Based Interest Rate on Court Judgments – OPPOSE
WBASNY repeats its opposition to Part V, the Governor’s budget proposal that provides a market-based interest rate on court judgments and accrued claims, and replaces the provision of the CPLR that provides for nine percent per annum interest on judgments for damages (except where otherwise provided by statute). This provision would have a devastating effect on the less-monied spouse in a matrimonial action, which unfortunately will harm women and children more often than men.
Part AA – Clean Slate Act – SUPPORT
For the 2.3 million New Yorkers with a conviction, a criminal record can limit access to opportunities such as employment and housing. WBASNY supports Part AA, which would seal certain felony records after seven years, and misdemeanor records after three years of completing a sentence. This legislation is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty and reducing recidivism in the State of New York by encouraging housing security and economic success post-release.
Part BB – Private Sector Employment for Incarcerated Individuals – SUPPORT
WBASNY supports Part BB, which would amend the state constitution to allow public-private partnerships that would enable hybrid work release programs with correctional facilities. This voluntary program will provide important work experience essential to breaking the cycle of poverty and reducing post-release recidivism in the State of New York by encouraging economic success after release.
TRANSPORTATION, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION
ARTICLE VII LEGISLATION
PART Q – Non-Driver ID Card for Incarcerated Persons – SUPPORT
WBASNY supports Part Q, which would permit the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles to waive the fee for issuance of a non-driver identification (NDID) card if the applicant is incarcerated in an institution under the jurisdiction of a state department or agency. State identification is an important pre-requisite to accessing many institutions and programs to which all New Yorkers are entitled.
PART R – Provide Gender “X” Options at all Public Facing State Agencies – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY strongly supports Part R, which would require all State agencies to update all applicable forms and data systems to include a gender “x” option so that all New Yorkers have the option to use either male, female or gender “x” as an identifier on forms that collect gender or sex data. This bill ensures that all New Yorkers are treated with dignity.
PART CC – Small Business Seed Funding Grant Program – SUPPORT
WBASNY supports Part CC, which would create the small business seed funding grant program to support early stage, newly formed micro and small businesses in New York State and help such small businesses succeed in a recovering New York State economy. WBASNY fully supports the Governor’s efforts to rebuild small businesses following the extreme hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
PART II – Authorize Social Equity Fund for Cannabis Dispensaries – SUPPORT
WBASNY supports Part II, which would authorize a private debt or equity fund to be created for use in providing financial assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged individuals in relation to establishment of retail cannabis dispensaries. The bill would provide qualified entrepreneurs with access to capital for purposes of establishing retail dispensaries. A newly created equity fund would allow access to financing in an emerging young market and provide opportunities for economic development in disadvantaged communities across the state. New York’s soon-to-be full-fledged, retail cannabis industry is widely anticipated to be one of the most lucrative markets in the country. WBASNY fully supports statewide efforts to spread the financial benefits of this new market to socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and communities.
PART UU – Providing Public Schools Access to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund – SUPPORT
WBASNY supports Part UU, which would allow the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) to offer school districts financing through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and harmonize the definition of “municipality” between the CWSRF and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). School districts are currently unable to access critical wastewater infrastructure funds because they are not currently included in the definition of municipality. This amendment would allow school districts to have access to the CWSRF for low-cost financial assistance and potential grant funding to address wastewater and stormwater infrastructure needs.
LEGISLATURE’S ONE HOUSE REVENUE BILLS
In addition to the Governor’s Budget Proposals, WBASNY takes the following position on the Legislature’s One House Revenue Proposals as follows:
Part LL – Increases Reimbursement Rates for Legal Representation Under the 18-B Assigned Counsel Program – STRONGLY SUPPORT
WBASNY has long supported an increase in rates for legal representation under the assigned counsel program. These rates have not been increased for eighteen years. The current reimbursement rates of $60.00 per hour for misdemeanor representation, $75.00 per hour for felony representation and $75.00 per hour for appellate representation are so low as to discourage experienced legal counsel from participating in the program, leading to a shortage of assigned counsel entirely and a more inexperienced pool of assigned counsel attorneys to choose from. The availability of assigned counsel is essential to meaningful access to justice for poor and minority litigants, many of whom are women and people of color.
Both the Senate and Assembly bills provide an assigned counsel rate increase from $60.00 per hour to $120.00 per hour for misdemeanor representation and from $75.00 to $150.00 per hour for all other cases, including appellate representation. It would also remove the cap on the amount that may be paid. The bills further add that all expenses for providing services shall be funded by the state. Finally, the Senate bill includes an annual cost of living increase for the rates to be calculated as the current rate of inflation as determined by the consumer price index, as computed by the federal bureau of labor statistics.
WBASNY strongly supports these bills and urges the Governor to include a revenue measure in her budget that would incorporate these long-overdue increases.