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Policy Matters January 2014


Hoping our first issue of 2014 finds you well and warm!  Here at Empire Justice we are very busy now that the state legislature is back in session and the Governor has released his budget.  Here are some of the things we will be working on over the next few months, as well as a few highlights of our policy work in the past month or so.

But first, I’m excited to tell you that we have an opening on our team!  We are hiring for a Health Law & Policy position in our Albany office.  Please share our job announcement with anyone you think would be a good fit!

State Budget and 2014 Legislative Agenda

  • The Governor released his executive budget last week.
  • We are working to prepare testimony for the Health, Public Protection and Human Services budget hearings that are being held by the Legislature – all will take place next week, so check the policy page of our website if you’d like to see our detailed recommendations.
  • Overall our budget priority issues fared well in the Governor’s budget – all programs are funded at least at last year’s level.  We are particularly pleased to see that the Governor included a basic health program in the executive budget that will be available to people earning between 133% and 200% of poverty.  Our health policy team worked closely with the state and our colleagues to support its inclusion and will continue to advocate for its inclusion in the enacted budget.  And we were excited to see the Governor embrace the Disability Advocacy Program funding increase provided by the legislature last year!
  • We were also surprised, but excited, to see the Governor propose a change to the Human Rights Law that will ensure that public schools are covered by the law.  This will make it easier for schools to address discrimination and bullying – clearly a very good thing.  We are working with colleagues to make it known that we support this important change in the law as well.

Going forward, our team will continue to work individually and in our many coalition partnerships to advance all of our policy priorities and will keep you posted through our web site, Facebook and alerts between issues of Policy Matters!

Here are several more things we’ve been up to that we thought you might be interested in:

Public Assistance.  In December, we released our report, “Don’t Lien on Me,” analyzing New York’s law that allows Social Services Districts to require homeowners to give a mortgage lien on their homes in exchange for public assistance.  We received good media coverage including a live extended interview with reporter Liz Benjamin on Capitol Tonight.

Domestic Violence.  We are so pleased that Governor Cuomo signed two critically important domestic violence bills that we worked closely with sponsors Assemblymember Helene Weinstein and Senator Joe Robach to get enacted.  The first is related to ensuring that victims are not prosecuted for violating their own orders of protection and the second seeks to protect victims from financial abuse.

Child Care.  We’ve been working closely with both the Assembly and the Senate Independent Democratic Conference to help them develop their platforms on child care for the 2014 legislative session and are excited to be partners in the new Believe in Children Campaign that supports funding increases for child care as well as UPK and Afterschool Programs.

Immigration.  We recently talked with the Associated Press about the U.S. reaching its cap on special visas for crime victims and how important it is for Congress to act to raise the cap.

In Consumer Finance, we are:

Poverty.  Our chief counsel, Bryan Hetherington, participated in the development and roll-out of the Rochester Area Community Foundation and ACT Rochester’s recent report on poverty in the Rochester area.  This important report shows Rochester as the 5th poorest city in the country. Our participation in this endeavor will continue so we can be part of the solution as well.

Please reach out to us if you are interested in being involved in any of our initiatives!  Until next time!

Kristin and the Empire Justice Policy Team