Category Albany & legislative action

Gothamist: Can NY Make The Leap To Universal, Government-Run Healthcare?

By Caroline Lewis, August 22

Since it was first introduced in 1992, a bill that would provide New Yorkers with universal health care has passed the state Assembly five times, including the last four years in a row, but it has always died in the Republican-controlled State Senate. Now, the New York Health Act—which aims to replace all existing forms of health insurance with one state-run, tax-funded health plan for everyone—is just one sponsor short of a majority in the Senate. With elections coming up for state lawmakers, the Senate could be poised to flip, giving the bill a chance of making it as far as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

Some 59 percent of Americans now support a Medicare for all model under which everyone would qualify for a government health plan, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Cuomo’s Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon, candidates vying for state Senate seats, and some members of the New York City Council—including Speaker Corey Johnson—are framing support for single-payer as both a moral imperative and a progressive badge of honor.

The New York Health Act has reached the level of political viability for people on both sides of the ideological divide to start taking it seriously enough to get into the details of what it would entail.

Politico NY: Gottfried closing in on half-century in Albany

By Bill Mahoney, July 3

ALBANY — There are certain things New Yorkers can count on. They know that rush-hour subway service will be maddeningly slow. They realize that the Mets will lose key players to the disabled list. And they assume that Assemblyman Dick Gottfried will run for reelection every two years.

But while the subways and the Mets are capable of upsetting expectations, in theory anyway, Gottfried has no intention of doing so. He has stood for election in his Hell’s Kitchen- and Chelsea-area district 24 times beginning in 1970. And he’s doing it again this year.

Assuming he wins — that outcome isn’t really in doubt — and finishes his term, he’ll enter the record books as one of only two legislators in New York history to serve for half a century. (The late John Marchi, who represented Staten Island in the state Senate from Jan. 1, 1957, to Dec. 31, 2006, is the other.)

Technically, Gottfried will become the longest-serving New York legislator ever, assuming he wins in November. He’ll have been in office for 18,262 days compared to Marchi’s 18,261, thanks to the way leap years have fallen during his tenure.

All those decades of service have made Gottfried something of an institution in Albany at the age of 71. And with seniority comes power — as chairman of the Assembly Health Committee for years, he has been present at the creation of significant health care initiatives through several gubernatorial administrations.

Press wrap-up: RAND study confirms NY Health expands coverage, net savings

A new report by the RAND Corporation finds that the New York Health Act single-payer bill would cover all New Yorkers while generating a net savings.  More information can be found here; the full report here; and a summary here.

The report has generated widespread press coverage including:

PRESS RELEASE: RAND study confirms NY Health expands coverage, net savings

RAND CORPORATION STUDY CONFIRMS: NEW YORK HEALTH ACT “COULD EXPAND COVERAGE WHILE REDUCING TOTAL HEALTH SPENDING”

Think tank concludes: New York Health would cover all New Yorkers with net health care savings

Bill sponsors Senator Rivera and Assembly Member Gottfried will continue to push for the passage during the next legislative session

            State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried, sponsors of the New York Health Act in the New York State Legislature, welcomed the findings of a study of the bill by the highly-regarded, independent, non-profit RAND Corporation. The study confirms that New York Health would reduce total health care costs, while increasing spending on actual care rather than administration and insurance company profit; provide full health coverage to every New Yorker; save substantial money for almost all New Yorkers; and generate a net increase in employment due to increases in disposable income.

NY Times: It Wasn’t a Crime to Carry Marijuana. Until the Police Found a Loophole.

By Benjamin Mueller,  August 2

It was the 1970s, and marijuana raids and mass arrests had been sweeping college campuses and suburban concert venues in New York. The crackdown outraged parents. There was talk of ruined reputations and “Gestapo” police tactics.

State legislators in 1977 devised what they took to be a simple fix: a bill that made carrying small supplies of marijuana a ticket-worthy violation, not a crime. To win enough votes from Republicans, the authors carved out an exception that said it was still a crime to carry marijuana “open to public view.”

The bill’s backers thought the addition was harmless enough, given that people did not usually take out their stash in front of the police anyway. The era of mass arrests for carrying around marijuana seemed to be over.

City & State: Gottfried’s Janus Workaround Reopens Labor Debate

By Max Parrott, July 10

When information leaked to the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank, that Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, a Democrat from Manhattan, was planning to sponsor legislation that would reverse the effects of the Supreme Court’s recent Janus decision limiting the power of public sector unions, it swiftly attacked the bill as unconstitutional.

The Janus ruling on June 27 held that public sector unions cannot force employees covered by collective bargaining agreements to pay membership dues. Five days later, Gottfried circulated a memo to members of the Assembly summarizing his proposal, which would allow unions to collect reimbursement for the costs of collective bargaining from the state rather than from employees who opt out through agency fees.

Absent an intervention like Gottfried’s, the Janus decision will start draining funds from unions. Last week, it was reported that the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, announced it will cut its budget by $28 million.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision, which was split along the usual conservative-liberal dividing line, ruled that the government cannot compel employees to support collective bargaining because to do so infringes on the free speech rights of anti-union workers.

NY Post: Dem lawmaker has “workaround” to SCOTUS unions decision

By Nolan Hicks, July 4

New York’s most senior Democratic lawmaker is proposing an end-run around a US Supreme Court ruling that could cost the state’s powerful public-employee unions more than $100 million a year.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), a longtime labor ally, plans to introduce legislation that would allow unions to include collective-bargaining costs in their contracts with government agencies to replace the mandatory fees banned under last month’s Janus v. ­AFSCME ruling.

“I would call it a workaround,” said Gottfried, who has served for 50 years in Albany. “I don’t think there’s a lot of logic to the Janus decision to start with, but New York state — in our Constitution and law — has long recognized that public employees have the right to collectively bargain.”

WCBS Newsradio (audio) – NY Assemblyman Gottfried has plan to circumvent SCOTUS union dues ruling

(Audio in link) – July 5, 2018

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued last week will make it more difficult for unions to collect dues from people who do not want to pay.

Now, a New York state lawmaker has a plan to circumvent the decision.

“I think this is about fundamental fairness,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan).

The Villager – Gottfried and O’Donnell: Combat Opioids with Pot

By Sydney Pereira,  July 26

Manhattan assemblymembers hope medical marijuana can help curb the state’s opioid crisis. Two recent bills aim to increase access to medical pot to reduce the abuse of the potentially deadly painkillers.

One bill, from Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, has passed both the state Senate and Assembly; it would add substance use disorder to the list of conditions legally treatable by medical marijuana, plus would allow the use of medical pot in place of opioids for pain management. Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell’s legislation would add opioid use disorder as a condition treatable by medical marijuana. O’Donnell’s bill passed the Assembly in early June.

Young Turks: Single-Payer Health Care Advances in New York