2019-01-23 / Political Page

I On Politics

ELECTION REFORM CENTERPIECE OF LEGISLATIVE SESSION OPENER:

NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach): Praising it as “long overdue action on sensible, effective, and necessary voting reforms,” Senator Addabbo joined with his Senate colleagues on the first day of the 2019 legislative session in approving a legislative package designed to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in their own government, improve access to the ballot box, and provide greater transparency in elections. “As a former chair of the Senate Elections Committee, I know that expanding and protecting voter rights is critical to making the process easier and more accessible for larger numbers of New York residents,” said Addabbo. “Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy, and it is imperative we enact measures to allow and encourage more voters to cast their ballots, while protecting the integrity of the voting process. While sensible safeguards are obviously key to ensuring the credibility of the electoral process, we must also remove unnecessarily burdensome obstacles that deter potential voters from having a voice in their own government.”

Among the reforms approved by the State Senate, which are co-sponsored by Addabbo, are initiatives to enable 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote (S.1100); establish a system of early voting (S.1102); and consolidate the state and federal primary elections into one day (S.1103).

In addition, bills were passed (S.1099 and S.1049) to make it easier for voters who move within the state to transfer their voter registrations to their new addresses, and to amend the State Constitution to allow voting by mail and reform existing absentee ballot rules. Addabbo also voted to support a proposed constitutional amendment to allow residents to register to vote on the same day as an election. The two proposed constitutional amendments must be approved again in 2020 by the Senate and Assembly, and will then be placed on the ballot for statewide voter consideration during next year’s November general election.

“In addition, and at long last, New York is taking action to close the so-called ‘LLC loophole’ which has permitted limited liability companies to skirt existing corporate campaign contribution limits, and withhold information about the specific individuals behind the political donations,” said Addabbo. “This legislation (S.1101) is a great victory that will provide needed legal clarity and transparency in the electoral process – a step that will benefit every single resident who believes in improving the integrity and fairness of our campaign system.”

While the State Assembly has repeatedly approved many of these reforms in recent years, they have continued – until now – to languish without action in the New York State Senate, which has until the most recent election been under Republican control.

“Finally, the State Assembly, State Senate and governor are able to work together and move forward to enact these proposals into law and make sure that more New Yorkers are encouraged to participate in the voting process,” said Addabbo. “I look forward to continued progress on a variety of important issues throughout the 2019 legislative session.”

NYS Assembly Member Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) announced that he helped pass a series of bills in the NYS Assembly to make voting easier for more New Yorkers and help prevent wealthy special interests from having undue influence in political campaigns. The Assembly has passed election reform legislation year after year, leading the fight to expand voting opportunities and increase transparency. Now, with new leadership in the NYS Senate, there’s renewed hope that they will become law, he said.

“Voting is not only the right of every American, but also a hallmark of our values and our democracy. Yet, for far too many New Yorkers, voting is a difficult, exasperating experience,” said Miller. “It’s time to reform some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country in an effort to ensure every voice is heard. With our new partners in the state Senate, we are poised to make good on our promise to New Yorkers and break down barriers to voting.”

Making voting easier and more accessible: To give New Yorkers ample opportunity to vote, the Assembly passed legislation that would establish early voting in New York State, which would take place during a nine-day period before any general, primary, run-off primary or special election (A.780). During the early voting period, polling locations would be required to be open for eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends and holidays, and to offer evening hours on at least two days.

“Balancing work and family obligations is hard enough as it is – finding time to make it out to the polls on a specific portion of one day can be difficult or impossible,” said Miller. “An important part of getting more folks involved in our democracy is making it convenient for them to participate, and this is a big step in the right direction.”

To increase access to mail-in ballots at home, the legislative package includes a bill that would amend the New York State Constitution to allow any citizen to receive an absentee ballot upon request – no questions asked (A.778). Under current law, residents can only receive absentee ballots if they expect to be absent from the county on the day of the election, or if they have an illness or physical disability. The amendment must be passed by both the Assembly and Senate in consecutive legislative terms before it goes before voters as a ballot referendum.

Modernizing voter registration: Further, the Assembly passed legislation to allow for same-day voter registration, a practice already adopted by 17 other states and Washington, DC [1] The bill would amend the state constitution by removing the requirement that New Yorkers register to vote at least 10 days before an election (A.777).

Combining the state and federal primaries: Once again, the Assembly passed legislation to consolidate the state’s election calendar by combining the state and federal primary election dates to the fourth Tuesday in June (A.779). This would save taxpayers an estimated $25 million, reduce the burden on county boards of elections and keep New York State compliant with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. Further, holding both primaries on the same date would make it easier for New Yorkers to vote, increasing voter turnout, concluded Assembly Member Miller. Currently, New York is the only state that holds its federal and state primaries on different days.[2]

Closing the LLC loophole: Under current election law as interpreted by the State Board of Elections, individuals and corporations can make unlimited contributions to the same candidate, political party or campaign committee by creating multiple limited liability companies (LLCs). Each LLC is treated as an individual donor, even if multiple LLCs are owned by the same person or entity, which makes it harder to determine the real contributor and allows them to evade campaign contribution limits.

The Assembly’s measure would extend the $5,000 aggregate contribution limit, already applicable to corporations, to include LLCs, and require LLCs to disclose the names of individuals with membership interests, attributing LLC contributions to them in proportion to such membership interest (A.776). By closing the LLC loophole, we can increase transparency, help level the playing field, and prevent nearly unlimited campaign contributions, noted Miller. “For far too long, pay-to-play politics and special interests have drowned out the voices of everyday New Yorkers. Let’s close the LLC loophole once and for all and make sure everyone plays by the same rules.”

[1] ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/same-day-registration.aspx

[2] nytimes.com/2018/12/19/nyregion/early-voting-reform-laws-ny.html

Assembly Member Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) helped pass the suite of bills that will allow New Yorkers to vote in elections more easily and minimize the outside influence of deep-pocketed special interests, he said. For many years, DenDekker has joined his colleagues in the Assembly in fighting for increased voter access and against corporate donors’ influence and has co-sponsored these pieces of legislation. With new partners in the State Senate joining the Assembly in passing these landmark bills, New Yorkers can finally enjoy these election reforms.

DenDekker explained that pre-registering 16- and 17-year-olds was for them to vote when they turn 18, in addition to the other changes already enumerated.

“Current election laws are so onerous for New Yorkers that many of them are actually blocked from voting,” said Assembly Member DenDekker. “We need to reform these election laws, which are among the worst in the country, so that we can ensure that every New Yorker has the opportunity to cast a ballot, and have a fair say in our elections without having his or her voice crowded out by corporate interests.”

NYS Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) announced that she helped to pass the series of bills to make voting easier, and more transparent, for all New Yorkers and help prevent wealthy special interest groups from having undue influence in political campaigns. The Assembly passed election reform legislation on January 14 during the second week of the 2019 Legislative Session, leading the fight to expand voting opportunities and increase transparency. The reforms passed the NYS Senate on January 14 as well.

“Voting is not only a fundamental right of every American, but also a hallmark of our values and our democracy. Still, for far too many New Yorkers, voting is a difficult, frustrating experience,” said Assembly Member Pheffer Amato. “It’s time to reform some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country in an effort to ensure every New Yorker is heard. With our new partners in the state Senate, we are poised to make good on our promise to New Yorkers and break down barriers to voting.”

SCHUMER COSPONSORS PLAN TO PROTECT FURLOUGHED FEDERAL WORKERS: On the 30th day of the government shutdown, US Senator Charles Schumer pushed a new plan to protect 800,000 federal workers, thousands across New York, and their families, from potentially losing their homes, facing apartment eviction or falling behind on bills that could then go into collection and ruin their credit. One-third of the federal workforce in the city and Long Island have been affected, in agencies that have nothing to do with the reason for the shutdown, Schumer said. He detailed the new legislation, the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act, as he made the continuing case to open the government.

The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act, introduced by US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and cosponsored by Senator Schumer and now 24 other senators, will protect federal workers, including thousands of New Yorkers impacted by the shutdown from further financial hardship. The bill, modeled after the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), addresses the real threat of federal workers and contractors losing their homes, falling behind on student loans and other bills, having their car repossessed, or losing their health insurance because they have been furloughed during a shutdown or required to work without pay. The legislation will prohibit landlords and creditors from taking action against federal workers or contractors who are hurt by the government shutdown and unable to pay rent or repay loans. The bill would also empower federal workers to sue creditors or landlords that violate this protection.

“Across New York City and Long Island thousands of people and their families continue to suffer through a needless government shutdown that has absolutely nothing to do with the federal agencies they so diligently serve. Their bills are piling up and their worry for how they will pay their rents, mortgages, car payments, student loans, as well as other bills just keeps growing with each passing day,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why, amidst another push to open the government, I am fighting with my colleagues for necessary financial protections for impacted federal workers during this shutdown and for workers of any future shutdown, because no federal public servant should have their financial well-being held hostage by a president unwilling to simply open the government in the middle of a debate.”

Schumer strongly urged bipartisan support of the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act to protect the 800,000 federal workers and contractors that are either furloughed or working without pay, from experiencing negative credit events during this and any future shutdown.

According to The New York Times, almost two-thirds of federal workers likely have less than two weeks of expenses set aside to live, based on research of the 2013 government shutdown.

PHEFFER AMATO VOTES TO HELP FURLOUGHED FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) voted with her colleagues in the State Assembly on January 15 to allow local governments to extend the property tax payment deadline for affected federal employees. Bill A. 881 seeks to extend the property tax payment deadline for affected federal employees, with no penalties or interest, until 90 days after the shutdown ends.

“As the federal government shutdown drags into its fourth week, it’s important to recognize that approximately 14,000 federal employees in New York State work for departments affected by the shutdown. For anyone living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to care for their families, this loss of income and uncertainty is devastating. The shutdown also affects our local economy because these workers aren’t able to spend money at the small businesses that make South Queens run,” said Pheffer Amato.

“The Assembly majority can’t reopen the federal government, but we can help the people affected by the shutdown. New York’s federal employees work hard for us and they need to start receiving their paychecks again. Until then, we’ll be there for them,” Pheffer Amato concluded.

COURT RULES AGAINST ADDING CITIZENSHIP QUESTION TO CENSUS:

Congress Member Grace Meng (D-NY) hailed the court decision to block the Trump administration’s plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 decennial census: “As a member of Congress who has led the charge against the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, I applaud this ruling by US District Judge Jesse Furman,” said Congress Member Meng. “It is the right decision and will help ensure a more accurate census count.”

Last year, Meng publicly called for a citizenship question to not be added to the census and she and Congress Member José Serrano (D-NY) introduced a provision in May that sought to restrict funding for the inclusion of the question (meng.house.gov/sites/meng.house.gov/files/amend ment.pdf). Both Meng and Serrano are members of the House Appropriations Committee, the panel that funds the US Census Bureau. Meng also personally urged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to not add the citizenship question to the census, and called for an investigation because she believes he lied to her about its origins.

“The Trump administration’s plan to sabotage the 2020 Census by adding a last-minute citizenship question has been deeply troubling,” Meng added. “Since last year, I have continuously warned that asking respondents if they are citizens would likely decrease response rates and as a result produce an inaccurate and incomplete count that would have (resulted in) a decade’s worth of consequences. It would impact the distribution of federal resources and the number of Congressional districts that each state receives. This was a politically motivated question against immigrant communities that we now know was pushed by former White House strategist Steve Bannon. It deserves to never see the light of day.”

“Although the Supreme Court will likely have the final say on this issue, we will continue to oppose any attempt to reinstate the citizenship question,” said Meng. “We don’t need a citizenship question; we need an accurate census count!”

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released the following statement: “When the Trump administration shamefully tried to add a question about citizenship to the US Census, New York stood up and said ‘no way, no how’ to that blatant attack on immigrants. The reckless, discriminatory question was an attack on our values of tolerance and acceptance and would have undermined the accuracy and the legitimacy of census data, which determines representation in Congress and the distribution of billions of dollars in federal aid.

“New York is proud to welcome immigrants with open arms because we know that our diversity is our greatest strength. This decision is a triumphant victory for New York in our crusade against federal assaults on immigrants. With the Statue of Liberty raising her torch in our harbor, we will never stop fighting for New Yorkers.”

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz stated the following: “The legal battle is likely far from over, and Queens will continue to speak out against the proposed census citizenship question for as long as there is active litigation. But today’s court ruling is a tremendous victory in the fight against a reckless policy targeting our thriving immigrant communities in Queens and across the country. Including a citizenship question would undermine the goal of the census: a complete count of all persons living in the United States. Here in Queens, a borough of nearly 2.4 million people of all races, ethnicities and faiths, an undercount would lead to fewer federal dollars for countless vital programs and initiatives.

“Judge Jesse Furman’s ruling is consistent with the borough’s belief that everyone living in Queens deserves to be accurately and fairly counted,” Borough President Katz continued. “We are hopeful that any potential court decision in the future will cement this belief.”

In January 2018, Borough President Katz began her exhaustive effort to avoid an undercount by announcing her plan to convene a Queens Complete Count Committee – a group of trusted community leaders and activists tasked with learning about key 2020 Census issues and strategizing to ensure everyone in Queens is counted accurately.

In August 2018, Borough President Katz submitted a comment in the Federal Register blasting the proposed citizenship question, saying it could lead to potentially damaging consequences in Queens, and that “including a citizenship question would undermine the primary goal of the Census: a complete and accurate count of all persons living in the United States.”

Katz hosted a comprehensive Census Town Hall in November 2018 – featuring presentations from Deputy Mayor J. Phil Thompson, Department of City Planning Population Division Director Dr. Joseph Salvo, Census Bureau New York Regional Director Jeff T. Behler and others – to keep the public informed as the 2020 Census nears.

The decennial census determines the borough’s representation in the US House of Representatives, as well as how much federal funding Queens receives for schools, infrastructure, health services, and more.

MALONEY PLANS BILL TO BLOCK FUTURE CITIZENSHIP QUESTIONS: Congress Member Carolyn. B. Maloney (D-NY), co-chair of the House Census Caucus and author of the Census IDEA Act, hosted a meeting for members of Congress and census advocates on January 16 to discuss the impact following a federal judge’s ruling ordering the Trump administration to remove a citizenship question from the 2020 Census, as well as the next steps Congress can take to protect the ruling. The Congress member led an amicus brief of 126 current and former members of Congress in support of the lawsuit against the citizenship question.

Joining Rep. Maloney at the briefing were: Representatives Jose Serrano (NY-15), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-4), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13); representatives from the New York State attorney general’s office; Vanita Gupta, president & CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Arturo Vargas, CEO, NALEO Educational Fund; Angela Manso, director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, NALEO Educational Fund; David Gans, director of Human Rights, Civil Rights & Citizenship Program, Constitutional Accountability Center; and Praveen Fernandes, vice president for public engagement, Constitutional Accountability Center.

“Yesterday’s court decision blocking the citizenship question was a critical victory, but it is not the end of this fight,” said Rep. Maloney. “We know the Trump administration will not easily abandon its political assault on the census. That is why today we announced a new Congressional effort to urge the administration not to appeal this decision and to pass legislation I intend to introduce to prevent this question from ever getting on the 2020 Census. We need to lift this cloud of the citizenship question and go full steam ahead on the 2020 Census if we’re going to have any chance of making sure the next census is successful.”

“The 2020 Census is one of the most urgent civil rights issues facing the country, and right now, Congress has the opportunity and responsibility to help ensure the count is fair and accurate for all communities. The court’s decision to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census confirms that widespread concern about the administration’s motives was not misplaced,” said Vanita Gupta.

“Given the importance of Census 2020 in distributing billions of dollars in federal funding and the allocation of political power to communities across the country for the next 10 years, we cannot afford to have millions of Latinos and other Americans missed in the nation’s decennial count,” stated Arturo Vargas.

“Judge Furman’s ruling holding the citizenship question unlawful and removing it from the 2020 Census is a huge victory for democracy and the rule of law,” said David Gans. “It ensures the integrity of the constitutionally mandated count of all persons and prevents partisan manipulation of the census, which is the cornerstone of our democracy. Judge Furman’s careful and meticulous ruling confirms what was clear from the start: the citizenship question was about undercutting the integrity of the census, not protecting voting rights.”

MARKEY, MALONEY REINTRO BILL TO FUND GUN VIOLENCE RESEARCH: Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) reintroduced on January 17 their legislation to fund research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on firearm safety and gun violence prevention. Last year, doctors and public health officials across the country came out in support of such research and affirmed the need to address gun violence as the health crisis that it is.

“In the face of national public health crises, the federal government marshals its resources to protect Americans, and gun violence should not be an exception,” said Senator Markey. “For too long and for no real reason, our best minds at the CDC have been denied the resources they need to research, understand, and formulate strategies to prevent the root causes of gun violence. The Gun Violence Prevention Research Act would fully fund this critical research agenda and treat gun violence like the public health crisis that it is. No one should fear non-partisan, scientific research, not Democrats, not Republicans, and not the NRA.”

Representative Maloney said, “Just as we would study any other epidemic that takes 100 lives a day, nearly 40,000 in 2018, we need to study firearm safety and gun violence prevention. This legislation can save lives by finally giving our nation’s top public health researchers the funding they need to develop new ways to prevent gun violence.”

For over twenty years, an appropriations rider known as the Dickey Amendment has limited our understanding of this epidemic by hindering research into gun violence. The Dickey Amendment prevents the CDC from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” but it has been misconstrued as a ban on gun violence prevention research. Last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testified that the Dickey Amendment does not prevent the CDC from conducting research into gun violence prevention, and report language accompanying the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus appropriations legislation similarly made this clarification. Before his death, the author of the original rider, former Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), came out in support of funding gun violence prevention research at the CDC, and stated that the rider should not stand in the way of researching the epidemic of gun violence.

PASSAGE OF LGBTQ ‘CONVERSION THERAPY’ BAN:

NYS Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris and the Democratic Senate Majority passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and a ban on conversion therapy. These are the first LGBTQ-rights bills to pass the legislature since marriage equality was enacted in 2011.

“Eight years ago I was honored to cast my vote in favor of marriage equality, but have been disappointed we have not considered any legislation since then to combat discrimination against the LGBTQ community,” said Senator Gianaris. “By passing GENDA and banning conversion therapy, the new Senate majority is making the protection of all New Yorkers a priority.”

GENDA provides protections for trans New Yorkers and prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression. The ban on conversion therapy prohibits therapists from attempting to “cure” homosexuality in minors.

NYC Council LGBT Caucus Chair Daniel Dromm: “As a long-time LGBTQ activist, I am overjoyed by the state legislature’s passage of GENDA. Every single day, transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals must grapple with the fact that their very existence may lead to discrimination and violence. GENDA, sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, will bring much-needed job, housing and other protections to these vulnerable New Yorkers when enacted. Locally, my colleagues in the NYC Council and I have done much to advocate for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Because of our advocacy, NYC boasts one of the strongest laws protecting these communities. Now all counties across the state will offer these protections as well. It is a great day to be a New Yorker.”

“I commend the State Legislature for passing legislation outlawing compensated gay conversion therapy for minors,” said Dromm. “For too long, LGBTQ youth in New York have been subject to the psychological torture known as ‘conversion therapy,’ pseudo-scientific treatments that aim to change one’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. Mental health experts have long denounced this practice as quackery, with many in the field outlining the serious long-term mental health risks that it poses. As a leader of the successful effort to ban this horrific practice in NYC, I am pleased that similar protections will now be extended to children living outside the city. I applaud the legislation’s prime sponsors, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, for their commitment to this effort and thank Governor Cuomo for vowing to sign the bill into law.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo: “So-called LGBTQ conversion therapy is a fraudulent practice that has done untold harm to too many young people. New York has been at the forefront of protecting LGBTQ rights for decades and when Senate Republicans refused to ban conversion therapy, we took executive action to stop insurance companies from covering it. With today’s passage (January 15) of this important bill (the conversion therapy ban), New York is sending a clear message that no one should be tortured for being who they are, and we will stand for nothing short of absolute acceptance and full equality. I applaud the legislature for taking this decisive action to ban conversion therapy and protect LGBTQ youth.

“At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to roll back the hard-won rights of transgender Americans, New York State is once again stepping up for full equality and equal protections under the law. We were the first state in the nation to issue regulations prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, and continue to fight this federal administration’s despicable attacks on trans people. This is an issue of basic fairness, and today marks an historic day for those in the LGBTQ community who fought tirelessly for the passage of this bill (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA). I applaud the legislature for acting quickly to pass this critical component of our Justice Agenda.”

KATZ ON CUOMO’S PLAN TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has issued the following statement on Governor Cuomo’s plan to legalize marijuana in his State of the State address on January 16: “Governor Cuomo’s proposal to legalize adult use of marijuana in New York is an important step forward, especially the plan to review and seal prior marijuana convictions. However, I strongly encourage the governor to take this plan further by expunging past low-level marijuana convictions, which will ensure that New Yorkers can truly move forward and right the unfair racial disparity of our criminal justice system. Too many young people, overwhelmingly people of color, have their futures unfairly limited by these past arrests and expungement is the only fair thing to do.”

CUOMO’S PROPOSAL MAKES ASSAULTING THE PRESS A FELONY: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on January 16 that a proposal to increase criminal penalties for assaulting the press is included in the 2019 Executive Budget. In order to provide additional protections for journalists in light of recent acts of violence against members of the media, the governor is advancing legislation that would increase the penalties of assault against a journalist while performing their journalistic job duties to a felony level offense.

“Reporters have a tough enough job as it is and it is unacceptable and unconscionable that they increasingly have to endure the threat of physical harm just for doing their jobs,” Governor Cuomo said. “While the current federal administration is fostering an environment that normalizes and even encourages attacks on the press, New York is taking a stand. It is my hope that other states join us in enacting these protections into law once and for all.”

This legislation will increase the penalty for assaulting a journalist from a misdemeanor to a class D felony. Similar elevated protections exist for other professions, including nurses, utility workers, MTA employees, emergency medical service technicians, and process servers.

Members of the media should feel safe performing the duties of their jobs, Cuomo said. His legislation will reaffirm that New York State has zero tolerance for any violent attacks against journalists and will hold those who violate the law fully accountable.

Cuomo explained that “The freedom of the press is a constitutionally guaranteed right and a pillar of our democracy. However, the Trump administration has launched an attack on the press, labeling journalism it does not like as “fake news” to advance the administration’s own agenda and inspire hatred of the media among the public. Unfortunately, the rhetoric and public discourse has dissolved into violence and attempted attacks on journalists, news outlets, and members of the press. In 2017, a Congressional candidate violently assaulted a reporter for asking unwanted questions – an act that was later celebrated by President Trump. Last October, a Florida man was accused of mailing 14 bombs addressed to prominent political figures and news agencies, two of which were addressed care of a national news network at their New York studio. In August 2018, a California man was arrested after calling the Boston Globe approximately a dozen times threatening to shoot reporters.”

The press is considered the “fourth estate” of our government, the other three being the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

MENG’S BILL PROTECTS WOMEN AND GIRLS IN REFUGEE CAMPS: Congress Member Grace Meng (D-NY), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, on January 17 introduced the Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act, a bill that would make restrooms in refugee camps safer for women and girls.

Refugee camps around the world often fail to provide safe and secure infrastructure that allows women and girls to use the restroom safely and with dignity. In particular, there is limited access to sanitation facilities and those that exist are often mixedsex, public, and without locks or well-lit paths. Of the 42 million people who have had to flee their homes due to war, 80 percent are women and children, and at least 10 million are estimated to be girls, according to a report by the Women’s Refugee Commission.

In addition, Amnesty International reports that women are at a greater risk of experiencing sexual assault and violence if they do not have separate bathrooms. Many women and girls so fear using the bathroom at night that they develop urinary tract infections, are forced to relieve themselves in their tents, or are unable to change their clothes for weeks.

Under Meng’s legislation, recipients of US refugee and migration aid would be required to provide safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with a special emphasis on women and girls, and vulnerable populations.

The measure, which Meng originally introduced at the end of the last session of Congress, is cosponsored by 23 of her Congressional colleagues. These include Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the panel with jurisdiction over the bill.

KATZ RAISES OVER $1M FOR HER DA CAMPAIGN: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has raised $1,037,224.04 for her campaign to be the next Queen’s District Attorney. Her campaign also reports raising $206,311 since January 9, the day DA Brown announced he would not be running for reelection.

“I am very proud of our fundraising efforts and it is clear our pledge to bring important and much-needed criminal justice reform to Queens is resonating with the community. The people of Queens are eager to see an end to cash bail, a commitment to discovery reform, an end to marijuana prosecutions, and an emphasis on rehabilitation and prevention along with prosecution. I am ready to be the partner in justice Queens needs to make our borough safe and our criminal justice system fair for all of us.”

KIM RAISES NEARLY $800K FOR PUBLIC ADVOCATE CAMPAIGN: In just 30 days, Assembly Member Ron Kim has raised nearly $800,000 with matching funds in his campaign for New York City Public Advocate. With nearly 700 individual donors, Ron Kim has exceeded his fundraising goal and is on track to raise well over $1 million before February.

In addition to his fundraising totals, Kim submitted thousands of petition signatures from registered voters across the city to secure his position on the February 26 ballot. Dozens of elected officials, activists and community leaders have endorsed his candidacy for New York City Public Advocate.

“My campaign has seen tremendous support from grassroots activists, community leaders and voters; all of whom believe that it’s time to finally ‘Put People over Corporations.’ New Yorkers are tired of watching politicians give away billions of their tax dollars to the world’s most powerful companies while the subways crumble before their eyes, affordable housing becomes increasingly scarce, and climate change continues unabated. My campaign is about shifting priorities, ending these corporate giveaways and reinvesting resources into the actual needs of people and communities. No other candidate in this race is focusing on the harmful influence of corporate handouts on the people of New York City, and that’s why my campaign for Public Advocate continues to grow,” said Assembly Member Ron Kim, candidate for New York City Public Advocate.

Ron Kim is serving his fourth term as the New York State Assembly member from the 40th district. Raised in Queens to immigrant parents, Kim is the first and only Korean American ever elected to the New York State Legislature.

As a State Assembly member, Ron is New York’s leading advocate against taxpayer subsidies to corporations and the only elected official speaking out about the need to relieve New Yorkers from the crushing burden of debt. He often cites his own experience watching his parents’ challenges as mom-and-pop storeowners as an inspiration for his career in public service and for his people-focused policy agenda.

Kim is a vocal proponent of eliminating all student debt and paying for it by discontinuing taxpayer subsidies to large corporations like Amazon. In October 2018, he organized more than 20 labor groups, nonprofits and community leaders to call for a onetime cancellation of student debt and outlined the economic rationale and financial mechanisms for how it could be executed. He was also the first elected official to speak out against giving taxpayer subsidies to Amazon to lure them to New York City. On November 9, 2018 he published an op-ed in the New York Times which pointed out the inequities of subsidizing one of the world’s wealthiest companies and warned of the consequences of locating a massive corporation like Amazon in New York.

For more information on Ron’s campaign for Public Advocate and his plan to put People Over Corporations, visit www.RonKim.nyc.

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

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