PRESS RELEASE – Aid-in-Dying Bill Approved by Assembly Health Committee

Contact:                                                For Immediate Release
Mischa Sogut, (518) 455-4941                5/23/16

Statement by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried

  “Today, the New York State Assembly Health Committee for the first time approved aid-in-dying legislation. A. 10059 (Paulin)/S. 7579 (Savino) would authorize terminally ill adult patients who have mental capacity to make health care decisions to request medication for self-administration for the purpose of ending his or her own life.

“This bill is about patient autonomy and dignity.  Thanks to the work of advocates, health care practitioners, and my colleagues Assembly Members Amy Paulin and Linda Rosenthal and Senator Diane Savino, we have a bill that meets all the moral and legal standards we look to in reviewing legislation in the Health Committee. I am a co-sponsor of the bill.

“For well over a century, New York law has recognized that an adult patient who has capacity to make health care decisions has the right to refuse medical treatment. So for over a century, a patient who wants to cease life-sustaining treatment and receive pain management and palliative care – or no care – has had that right.

“Every New Yorker should have the fundamental right to choose or reject life-sustaining treatment, or medication that will enable them to end his or her pain and suffering.

“We must assure patients that they will have control over their end-of-life decisions, including access to appropriate pain management and palliative care. This critical patient autonomy should extend to the right to choose medically-assisted aid-in-dying.”


Times Herald-Record: It’s about protecting human rights

Times Herald-Record, editorial, May 17

In what has been perhaps the most bizarre presidential campaign in this nation’s history, a bizarre diversionary issue has cropped up to grab the public’s attention.

Last week, the president of the United States found it necessary to issue a directive stating that public schools — all public schools — must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. This White House acknowledgement of basic rights for transgender people was made necessary by the denial of such rights by the state of North Carolina.

That state’s Republican-controlled legislature has passed a bill that requires bathroom usage based on the sex stated on a person’s birth certificate. North Carolina’s Republican governor signed it and has defended it. Fear and ignorance, which have played a prominent role in the Republican presidential campaign, are also at the heart of this legislation.

Politico NY: Licensed marijuana growers to lobby for expanded patient eligibility

By Josefa Velasquez, Politico NY, May 18

ALBANY — The five companies awarded licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana in New York have joined forces to lobby lawmakers for changes to the state’s Compassionate Care Act.

“We’re going around giving an update to the program [and] sharing some of our impressions and talking about ways that we think the program can be improved,” said Ari Hoffnung, chief executive officer of Vireo Health, one of the five companies that have formed the Medical Cannabis Industry Association.

The four others are PharmaCann, Etain, Columbia Care and Bloomfield Industries.

Albany Times-Union: Assembly Passes GENDA Bill

By Rick Karlin, May 9

This has come up repeatedly during the past few years, but once again the Democratic-controlled Assembly  by a 81-46-vote margin has passed a gender non-discrimination bill.

The bill, however, has gone nowhere in the Republican-led Senate, a fact that some of the Assembly Republicans alluded to in the debate.

During the debate,  Manhattan Democrat Richard Gottfried parried with Republicans who expressed fears that such a measure would give free rein to men who, claiming to be transgender, might work their way into women’s locker rooms or other spots where they could launch a sexual assault. Gottfried and others, though, said there’s been relatively little evidence of that and he noted that a man could simply dress as a woman in order to gain access to locker or rest rooms.

As it has in the past, the debate went off on some tangents. Schoharie Valley GOP Assemblyman Pete Lopez, for instance, pushed for a clear distinction between transvestites, or men who dress as women and vice versa, and transgendered people who have switched from the gender they were born with or assigned to at birth.

Associated Press: NY Assembly Votes to Outlaw Transgender Discrimination

May 10, 2016 (via San Francisco Chronicle)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The state Assembly has voted again to outlaw discrimination against transgender people amid the national debate about proposals in North Carolina and other states to restrict bathroom access.

The bill, voted on on Monday, would add gender identity and expression to the state’s civil rights statutes, making it illegal to discriminate against a transgender person when it comes to jobs, loans, schools and public accommodations.

An executive order issued by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year took the same step, but supporters of the Assembly bill say it’s necessary to put the policy into statute so Cuomo’s order can’t be reversed by a future governor.

“Transgender rights are human rights,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the bill. “… While North Carolina and other states try to roll back progress by attacking transgender rights, New York should stand up for common sense, fairness, and justice.”

It’s the ninth time the Assembly has passed the measure, which faces significant opposition in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

The state already prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, disability and gender. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already include gender identity in their discrimination laws.


Contact:                                              For Immediate Release
Mischa Sogut, (518) 455-4941                              May 9, 2016

Protecting Transgender Rights:
“GENDA” Passes Assembly

Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act has Broad Support 
The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (“GENDA,” A4558B/S61B), which protects transgender people under the State Human Rights Law, was approved by the Assembly today for the ninth time. The bill now goes to the State Senate.
        “Transgender rights are human rights,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, sponsor of GENDA. “It’s an embarrassment to New Yorkers that 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity, while GENDA can’t even get a vote in our State Senate.  While North Carolina and other states try to roll back progress by attacking transgender rights, New York should stand up for common sense, fairness, and justice.”
        Transgender people – whose gender identity, appearance, behavior or expression differs from their genetic sex at birth – face discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and other areas of life, and they are particularly vulnerable to hate crimes.
New York State courts, other state courts, federal courts, and numerous federal agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have held that sex discrimination, under various anti-discrimination laws, includes discrimination based on gender identity or expression. In 2015, the State Division of Human Rights adopted this interpretation of New York’s Human Rights Law. “However, a future governor could reverse that interpretation,” said Assembly Member Gottfried. “It is important that the transgender community be protected by statute.”
Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and the counties of Albany, Suffolk, Tompkins and Westchester have already enacted local GENDA laws.  Numerous private employers have also adopted policies protecting transgender employees from discrimination, including American Express, Eastman Kodak, and I.B.M.
        GENDA is supported by Housing Works, New York State United Teachers, dozens of LGBT organizations across New York, a broad range of religious and faith communities, the New York City Bar Association, and numerous labor unions including the NYS AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, AFSCME District Council 37, United Auto Workers Region 9A Metro NYC CAP Council, NYS United Teachers, CSEA, Screen Actors Guild, and Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.
        The Assembly bill has 67 sponsors including members representing urban, suburban, upstate, and rural New York.  State Senator Daniel Squadron sponsors the bill in the Senate.

Video: Families say medical marijuana a ‘life-changer’ but problems remain

WGRZ Buffalo, May 5.
Video here.

SNYDER, N.Y. — Four months into New York State’s medical marijuana program, you’ll find praise tempered by concern. Promise is countered with worry.

“There’s hope where there was none before,” said Linda Ryszka, whose children Taylor and Caden both suffer from seizure disorders. “There’s still more to do.”

2 On Your Side talked with Linda, her husband Dan, Lisa Valle and Christina Kelly. All four are parents of children who are medical marijuana patients.

Pro Publica: NY Lawmakers Discuss Tougher Oversight for Nurses

by Rosalind Adams, Jessica Huseman and Daniela Porat, 4/26

New York legislators say they are discussing how to tighten regulation of nurses after a recent ProPublica investigation found dangerous gaps in the state’s oversight of the profession.

Deborah Glick, who chairs the Committee on Higher Education in the state assembly, said she has asked the education department to determine what powers it needs to better oversee the profession. Nurses are regulated by the Office of the Professions, which is part of the state’s education department.

 “We’ve been having conversations about background checks and fingerprinting,” she said, adding that the changes, along with other potential solutions, would require a legislative fix, though she did not specify what might be proposed.

Albany Times-Union: With program running, advocates look for medical marijuana expansion

By Matthew Hamilton, 4/12

Medical marijuana advocates are again striking up their calls to expand the state’s program as some lawmakers say the program needs more gestation time after officially going live in January

The advocates and lawmakers pushing expansion have pointed to a lackluster first three months for the program, with 526 physicians registered through the state to participate and 2,675 patients certified to use the drug by their doctors. At the same time, dispensaries run by the five companies licensed to sell the drug have opened gradually rather than at once in January.

WBFO Radio: Medical marijuana supporters call for fix to New York law

By Karen DeWitt, 4/13 – Audio clip at link

Proponents of New York’s new medical marijuana law say so far, it’s barely functioning, and they say major revisions are necessary to allow more than just a tiny number of patients to benefit.

Kate Hintz and her daughter Morgan, at a press conference to ask for a fix for New York’s new medical marijuana law.  (Credit Karen DeWitt)

New York’s limited medical marijuana began in January, but advocates and patients say it has not worked out as well as they hoped. They say strict limits on diseases that are eligible for treatment, no insurance coverage, and near complete lack of doctors who have undergone the required training and will prescribe the medicine has left them frustrated.