March 22, 2019
Position Statement -2019
Governor Cuomo’s Budget Proposal to March 22, 2019
NY State Fiscal Year 2019-20 Executive Budget Proposal
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) appreciates the Governor’s objective to address the numerous challenges women face in our society. As an organization comprising 4,400 attorneys and judges from across the state in private practice, government, academia and the courts dedicated to the advancement of women in law and society, we share that objective. WBASNY members and leadership have reviewed various sections of the Executive Budget Proposal for State Fiscal Year 2019-20 that we believe would impact women and children. Our positions and discussion on these sections are addressed below:
Education, Labor and Family Assistance Article VII Legislation
Part D – Enacts the Senator Jose R. Peralta New York State DREAM Act
WBASNY applauds the Legislature for the passage of stand-alone legislation earlier this year. WBASNY recognizes the moral imperative for this legislation, as well as its long-term fiscal benefits. New York invests time and money in the K-12 education of all of its residents, but we curtail that investment if we deprive undocumented students, who tend to come from low-income or economically disadvantaged homes, of the financial means to successfully complete a higher education. Individuals with college degrees have a greater earning capacity than those who are less educated. Moreover, increasing the affordability of college decreases drop-out rates. New York’s tax revenues will increase over time as more students obtain higher degrees. These long-term benefits inure to all New Yorkers.
Part J – Remove Certain Requirements for Domestic Violence Victims Seeking Shelter in a Domestic Violence Shelter
WBASNY supports the elimination of the State requirement that domestic violence victims seeking shelter in a domestic violence shelter apply for Public Assistance and that providers charge victims with sufficient resources a fee for services. This legislation is necessary to bring State law into compliance with Federal requirements for funding.
Part Q – Ensure Equal Pay
WBASNY supports prohibiting employers from asking job candidates about their wage history as an effective and practical way to reduce wage discrimination both within the legal profession and generally, because it forces employers to value the job rather than entrenching prior discrimination the worker might have experienced in prior positions. Salary history is often used as a tool for setting wages, and interviewers are often authorized to offer a certain percentage above the candidate’s current salary. Such a prohibition does not stop a well-qualified candidate from getting a higher rate of pay: Employers can take such qualifications into account when making an offer, and the candidate can make a counteroffer if the offer is perceived as below what the candidate is worth
Part R – Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (“GENDA”)
WBASNY supports GENDA and applauds the Legislature for passing and the Governor for signing into law stand-alone legislation earlier this year. The state has the responsibility to act to ensure that every individual within this state is afforded an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life. The failure to provide such equal opportunity, whether because of discrimination, prejudice, intolerance or inadequate education, training, housing or health care not only threatens the rights and proper privileges of inhabitants of this state, but also menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state and threatens the peace, order, health, safety and general welfare of the state and its inhabitants. This new law will codify and ensure that the public understands that discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression is prohibited.
Part S – Extend New York Human Rights Law to Cover All Students
WBASNY supports the amendment of the definition of “educational institution” to include both public and private schools, to clarify that all students are afforded protection against discrimination.
Part T – Prohibit Source of Income Discrimination
WBASNY supports amending the Human Rights Law to add “lawful source of income” as a protected class and to prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income. WBASNY agrees that this legislation is needed to give all New Yorkers, including single mothers, the disabled and veterans, a fair opportunity to obtain safe and suitable housing.
Part X – Ensure Breastfeeding is Protected in the Workplace
WBASNY supports the clarification that lactation is a pregnancy-related condition entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. The legislation also provides that employers can be held liable if they fail to provide such accommodations.
Part Y – Prohibit Conversion Therapy for Minors
WBASNY supports prohibiting conversion therapy for minors and applauds the Legislature for passing and the Governor for signing into law stand-alone legislation earlier this year. The American Psychological Association has linked gay conversion therapy to depression, social withdrawal, substance abuse, intimate-relationship issues, high-risk sexual behaviors, loss of faith and suicide. The risks are particularly acute for youth. Every major medical and mental health association in the country has warned that these practices are ineffective, and most have condemned them as harmful.
Health and Mental Hygiene Article VII Legislation
Part M – Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act
WBASNY applauds the Legislature for passage of stand-alone legislation earlier this year. This legislation would codify in state law access to contraception. It is widely accepted that birth control is highly effective at reducing unintended pregnancy, which may have negative health consequences for both women and children. The ability to plan and space pregnancies through the use of birth control keeps New York women healthy and in a position to make decisions for their future.
Part S – Enact the Reproductive Health Act
WBASNY applauds the Legislature for the passage of stand-alone legislation earlier this year. WBASNY continues to be a strong supporter of a woman’s fundamental right to choose and make her own reproductive decisions. The State of New York recognized the importance of protecting this right by enacting its abortion laws in 1970, and the United States Supreme Court solidified this protection when it decided Roe v Wade three years later.
Public Protection and General Government Article VII Legislation
Part D – Provide Market-Based Interest Rate on Court Judgments
WBASNY strongly opposes 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 P – Child Victims Act
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) supports the passage of the Child Victims Act (“CVA”), which was passed by both the Assembly and Senate on January 27, 2019, and applauds the Governor’s inclusion of this important legislation in the 2019-2020 Executive Budget Proposal. The CVA will provide victims broader access to justice, both criminally and civilly, for childhood sexually related offenses. It also extends the statute of limitations on felony prosecutions ten (10) years past the individual’s reaching the age of 18 (until the individual reaches the age of 28); on misdemeanor offenses, seven (7) years past the individual’s reaching the age of 18 (until the individual reaches the age of 25); and for civil lawsuits for sexually related offences until the victim attains the age of 55 years old. The CVA includes a one-year look-back to revive expired civil claims.
Sexual abuse of children can have both short- and long-term devastating effects on the mental health and well-being of the victim. It is well known that victims of childhood sexual abuse are less likely to report their abusers, for fear of retribution, and sometimes because they trust and believe their abusers are worthy of protection. Given the current short length of the statute of limitations, many victims were denied justice. The CVA rights this wrong for victims by extending the time by which victims can file criminal and civil actions, thus ensuring their voices will be heard.
Part R – Amend Rape Shield Law
WBASNY supports amending the criminal procedure law in relation to the admissibility of a victim’s sexual conduct in a sex offense. WBASNY believes that this legislation is needed to close a gap in the law that currently allows victims’ own sexual histories to be used against them when seeking justice against their abusers.
Part U – Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act
WBASNY applauds the Legislature for the recent passage of stand-alone legislation that would expand sentencing and re-sentencing options for judges in cases where a defendant was a domestic violence victim at the time of the offense.
Part QQ – Establish Child-Parent Security Act
WBASNY supports permitting enforceable surrogacy contracts, provided that the carrier is not the genetic mother of the child and provided that there is full compliance with all of the safeguards incorporated in the Act. The Act is a comprehensive bill that addresses the legal status of children conceived through sperm, egg and embryo donation. The Act also focuses on the intent to parent, as opposed to a biological connection, and allows for non-intimate partners to be recognized as the parents, so long as the intent to conceive a child together can be demonstrated.