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Policy Matters June 2016: Partly Sunny


The 2016 Legislative Session has come to a close – a few days later than expected.  When things get down to the nitty-gritty, and session goes beyond its scheduled end, and staffers are trying to negotiate bills that will have a direct impact on New Yorkers’ lives at 3 in the morning, the entire process can get clouded.  As advocates, we are always there, doing our best to keep everyone on track, making the law work for all New Yorkers.

To start, here’s a quick rundown of our major wins and losses, in the form of our end of session press release.

LGBT Rights
Know. Your. Rights.  Simply stated, but often simply not realized.  Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s clarifying regulation, New York State’s Human Rights Law now explicitely provides discrimination protections for transgender and gender-nonconforming people.  This is enormously important, considering the much higher rates of discrimination, harassment and violence experienced by these communities.  To spread the word, we are proud to provide this plain language guide to navigating the the HRL.  Please share with all your networks.


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Domestic Violence
For years we’ve been working with NYSCADV and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and domestic violence shelters across the state to get a bill passed that would exempt crime and domestic violence victims from the harsh reality of having to choose between calling for help and their housing.  Once again, the bill passed the Assembly, but died in the Senate.  That means that right now people in our communities are being evicted, forced into homelessness, because local nuisance ordinances are punishing victims rather than criminals.

New twist: New York State passed an anti-discrimination law meant to keep domestic violence survivors from being refused housing or evicted from their homes.  But landlords are stuck- if they are forced by local nuisance ordinances to evict a domestic violence victim because they called for help, the landlord is breaking the state&rsquo ;s anti-discrimination law.  Senior Attorney Amy Schwartz recently recorded a training on the interplay of nuisance ordinances and the state’s law.

In the very last moments of the legislative session, the Assembly and Senate passed two pieces of legislation, which the Governor signed into law earlier this week.  The new laws will improve the foreclosure process and address “zombie” properties.  These are huge victories for New Yorkers.  Senior Attorney Kirsten Keefe wrote a legal analysis on one of the laws, calling it the Zombie Property and Foreclosure Protection Act of 2016.

Towards end of session, we joined with other advocates in
opposing a bill that would have allowed check cashers to become lenders.  After strong opposition to the bill as it was originally written, it was amended to limit lending only to small businesses and commercial loans.  Everyone knows that small businesses are the life blood of our communities, so advocates once again put the pressure on to ensure that these businesses were also protected against inexperienced and potentially problematic lending.  In the end, the bill died in committee.

Wage Justice
For the first time the SWEAT bill – Securing Wages Earned Against Theft – passed the Assembly!  We’re looking forward to next session and the bill passing both houses.


SWEAT- Green Cafe


Child Care
The Office for Children & Family Services has proposed new regulations related to child care market rates.  They’re taking public comments until July 30.  Senior Attorney Susan Antos put together a summary of the proposed changes and suggestions for what topics to comment on.

The Crime Victims Legal Network Project needs your help with its Needs Assessment Survey.  The Survey is for both service providers and crime victims.  Please share!

We had to say goodbye to Senior Paralegal Cathy Roberts.

The Supreme Court was deadlocked in United States v. Texas, a case that would have allowed DAPA and DACA+ to go into effect.

Marlene Cortes and Fiona Wolfe talked about helping limited English homeowners avoid foreclosure in Rochester.

Maria DeGennaro talked about fair banking, language access and foreclosure prevention on Long Island.

Bryan Hetherington talked to Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle about the Rochester City School Districts special education programs.

That’s it for now! 

The Policy Team at Empire Justice Center

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