Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

End-of-Session Round-Up

At the end of the legislative session each year, the New York State Catholic Conference – which represents the bishops of the state in working with government to shape laws and policies that pursue social justice, respect for life and the common good -- issues an end-of-session round-up that provides the status of the major pieces of legislation the Conference tracked over the last six months. Here are some highlights:
Physician-Assisted Suicide 
S2445-A (Hoylman-Sigal)/A995-A (Paulin)
The Conference credits Catholics, together with its partners in the disabilities community, patients-rights advocates, and other religious faiths, with once again preventing enactment of the physician-assisted suicide bill in the 2023 session, “despite an unprecedented push by sponsors and advocates.” This was the Conference’s top legislative priority. 
Abortion Pill on SUNY/CUNY Campuses
A1395-C (Epstein)/S1213-B (Cleare)
This legislation, which the Conference opposed, requires all public university campuses to make the abortion pill available to students, either directly on campus or through contracts with local providers. The bill passed both houses of the legislature in April and was signed into law by Governor Hochul.
Hospice and Palliative Care Access and Quality
S4858 (Hinchey)/A5587 (Wallace)
This bill, which the Conference supported, would establish the Office of Hospice and Palliative Care Access and Quality to increase access to such care for patients at the end of life. New York ranks last in the nation in access to hospice care. The bill passed both houses last year but was vetoed by the Governor, who explained in a veto message that since the bill had fiscal impact to the state, it should be done in the budget process. The bill again passed both houses of the legislature and awaits Executive action.
Equality Amendment
S108-A (Krueger)/A1283 (Seawright)
This legislation would amend the state Constitution to ban unjust discrimination against persons based on a broad variety of classes and characteristics. Fortunately, revised language rightly places religion on the same level of the expanded list of classes. Unfortunately, it also includes “reproductive healthcare and autonomy” and “pregnancy outcomes” in this list, which effectively makes abortion a constitutional right in the state. The amendment has now passed two separately elected legislatures and now advances to a referendum, which will be on the ballot in 2024.
Clean Slate Act
S7551-A (Myrie)/A1029-C (Cruz)
While supportive in concept of this legislation, which would seal misdemeanor and most felony convictions (except Class A felonies and sex crimes) after a certain timeframe, the Conference has long expressed strong concerns with the legislation because, as originally drafted, it would not have permitted background checks conducted for Catholic schools and other church ministries to utilize sealed conviction records for positions that involve working with children or vulnerable adults. In the three-way agreement negotiated with Governor Hochul and the two houses of the legislature, the bill was amended to permit such records to be utilized in background checks for our schools. The bill passed both houses and awaits Executive action.
Mandated Services Aid
Our Catholic schools are now receiving their Mandated Services reimbursement payments in two rounds, the first being 90 percent of their payment, then a second round of another 7.5 percent, for a total of 97.5 percent.  Fortunately, we were successful in having the legislature reject the Governor’s proposal to limit the state’s liability for such payments to the “amount appropriated” within the state budget. This means the 2.5 percent deficiency will be paid to our schools in next year’s state budget, if not before.
The entire session Round-Up is available here

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