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Expanded marijuana decriminalization takes effect

Dear friend,

New York’s new marijuana decriminalization law takes effect today.

I sponsored the 1977 law that first decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, making possession of fewer than 25 grams (about 7/8 oz.) only a violation punishable by a fine, legally not a “crime.”

At the time, negotiations with the Republican State Senate required us to keep the “decriminalization” quantity below an ounce and keep possession in “public view” a misdemeanor. For over 20 years, that wasn’t a big problem. But increased use of “stop and frisk” meant that year after year, tens of thousands young people – almost all people of color – were ordered to “empty their pockets” and get arrested for a misdemeanor and stigmatized with a criminal record for the rest of their lives. This recent New York Times story tells the story very well.

With the new Democratic majority in the State Senate, the new law restores what we had to bargain away back in 1977, especially eliminating the “public view” provision. It also helps undo the human damage done by those criminal records. Criminal records for conduct that wouldn’t be a crime under the new law will be “expunged:” legally and physically erased.

The new law, which I co-sponsored, includes:
-Elimination of the “public view” misdemeanor provision.
-The “decriminalized” quantity level is now 1 oz., not 25 grams.
-The penalty is lowered from $100 to $50.
-Changes possession of up to 2 oz., from being a misdemeanor to a violation, with a penalty of up to $200.
-Automatic record expungement for past possession arrests and convictions for amounts and offenses that are now “decriminalized” under this law.

It is not yet clear how the courts and law enforcement will make the “automatic” expungement work. Sealing of records should be automatic. Actually erasing the record will require some action by the defendant, because some defendants will need proof for federal immigration purposes what the case was about and that it has been cleared.

This is a great step forward for social justice. But we still need to pas the bill to legalize, regulate and tax adult use of marijuana, sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes of Buffalo, which I co-sponsor. Peoples-Stokes was the lead sponsor of the new law.

If you have questions about the new law, please feel free to contact my office. Legal services programs like the Legal Aid Society in New York City are preparing to provide information and assistance.

Very truly yours,
Richard N. Gottfried
Assembly Member

Press release: With Trump “gag rule” in effect, Governor must release funding

CONTACT:  Mischa Sogut, 518-455-4941, sogutm@nyassembly.gov

For immediate release, August 23, 2019

Statement by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried

Richard N. Gottfried

“The Trump administration’s “gag rule” about abortion and reproductive health services is in effect, barring family planning providers using federal funds (known as “Title X” funds) from offering patients information about birth control, abortion or even referring them to other health care programs that provide abortion.   I and my colleagues worked with the Governor to authorize $16 million in the budget to protect family planning providers in the event this occurred. Trump’s war on women is not new – we all saw this coming. But now, with press reports of providers facing layoffs, the money has still not gone out.  

I wrote the Health Department and Division of Budget on July 2 and again on July 25. My colleagues in the Legislature and I are hearing from providers worried about making payroll. We need answers, and more importantly we need the Executive to get the money out the door.   New York is a pro-choice state and the Governor needs to step up and keep this commitment. Now.”


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Buffalo News – Lessons from 1977 resonate in 2019 marijuana debate

ALBANY – From his longtime residence on the eastern side of Lake Ontario, H. Douglas Barclay has encountered much in his decades as state and national Republican power broker, friend of the Bush family, former ambassador to El Salvador and founder of an influential law firm with offices scattered across New York and elsewhere.

Yet the 87-year-old former state senator still recalls vividly the summer day in 1977 when he helped drive through the GOP-led Senate what would be New York’s first stab at partially decriminalizing marijuana
laws.

City and State: The 2019 Manhattan Power 100; 6 – 35

July 14, 2019

14. Richard Gottfried, Assemblyman

This legislative titan is the longest-serving member of the Assembly. Richard Gottfried’s commitment to commuting from midtown Manhattan to Albany for more than 40 years has paid off as much of the state has finally caught up to his progressive positions on legalizing marijuana, providing single-payer health care and reforming the juvenile justice system. As chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, Gottfried wields tremendous power over one of New York’s biggest industries.

NY County Politics: Gottfried, Rivera Pen Letter Calling on DOH to save CDPA

A new policy being implemented by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) could end up neutering the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance (CDPA) program – and New York lawmakers are begging them to reconsider.

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (D-Chelsea, Midtown) and State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D- Kingsbridge Heights) have written a letter to the DOH to try and dissuade them from making the change.

NY County Politics: Gottfried Takes Part in Pride Month’s Climactic Finale

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried hardly said a word as he and his friends and colleagues proceeded down the street during New York City’s Annual Pride March. Instead, he had Jeffrey LeFrancois, a fellow activist and longtime friend of his, take on the role of his hype man. LeFrancois strode from one end of the street to the other with a microphone in hand to spread the word about Gottfried’s accomplishments.

“He introduced the first marriage equality bill back in 2003!” LeFrancois announced to the crowd. “He’s been leading the way on LGBT rights in New York State for decades – because LGBT rights are human rights!”

PRESS RELEASE: Protecting Family Planning Services

CONTACT:
Mischa Sogut, 518-455-4941 or 202-365-5475; sogutm@nyassembly.gov

July 3, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

With Trump’s ‘Gag Rule’ on Reproductive Health,
It’s Time for New York to Step Up

Cuomo Administration Should Release Funds to Replace
Federal “Title X” Money

Gottfried: Health Care Providers & Programs Shouldn’t Have to Choose between Keeping Government Funding or Restricting Info to Patients about Health Care            

New York State set aside $16 million in its budget in March for health care providers who might lose federal funding because of the Trump administration’s “gag rule” about abortion and reproductive health services. Now that the gag rule has taken effect, New York State Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried is calling on the Cuomo Administration to release that money immediately and make it available to health care providers.

The gag rule issued in March by the Trump administration bars family planning providers using federal funds (known as Title X funds) from offering patients information about birth control, abortion or even simply referring them to other health care programs that provide abortion. Although three federal district courts issued temporary injunctions staying the gag rule on the grounds that it could endanger health care for millions of patients around the country, a federal appeals court ruling lifted injunctions and the gag rule is now in effect. “To continue to provide proper professional health care,” said Gottfried, “health care providers have to lose their Title X funding.”

In anticipation of the gag rule, Assembly Member Gottfried and other legislators worked with Governor Cuomo’s administration to included money in the 2019 NYS budget legislation authorizing $16 million in State funds to support family planning providers in the event of lost federal Title X funding.

“Family planning providers understand that patient health comes first,” said Assembly Member Gottfried. “New York prepared for the threat from the Trump administration and must keep its commitment and release the funding necessary to fill the Title X gap.”

Title X funding was established in 1970 to provide affordable birth control and reproductive health care to low-income people who otherwise could not afford the health care.

Following is Assembly Member Gottfried’s letter to State Budget Director Robert Mujica and State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

————————————————————————–

July 2, 2019

Robert Mujica, Director
New York State Division of the Budget
State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12210  

Howard Zucker, MD, JD, Commissioner
New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12237  

Re: Title X contingency funding  

Dear Mr. Mujica and Dr. Zucker:              

In anticipation of federal actions that would eviscerate the Title X Family Planning Program, the Legislature and the Governor included language in the 2019 budget legislation that authorizes the State to make up for the lost federal funding if it became necessary.              

Together, we believe that patient health must come first. With the new federal rule in effect, Title X provider may not even discuss with patients the full range of reproductive health care options, including abortion. Proper professional care cannot be delivered if health care providers comply with the new Title X restrictions. New York must now keep its commitment and use the funds budgeted to fill the Title X gap.              

Under the budget language, $16 million “may be available upon a determination by the budget director, in consultation with the commissioner of health to provide financial assistance to health care providers in circumstances where the use of Federal monies is prohibited based on the core mission of those providers.”              

I urge you to make that determination immediately and provide that financial assistance.  

The New York City Health+Hospitals Corporation has announced that it will refuse the federal dollars in order to keep providing patients with the same standard of care. It is likely that other providers who rely on Title X funding will similarly turn down the federal dollars because of the harmful restrictions it now imposes.  

The Aid to Localities appropriation bill (Chapter 53 of 2019, page 711, emphasis added) states:  

“For services and expenses, including grants, related to emergency assistance distributions as designated by the commissioner of health. Notwithstanding section 112 or 163 of the state finance law or any other contrary provision of law, such distributions shall be limited to providers or programs where, as determined by the commissioner of health, emergency assistance is vital to protect the life or safety of patients, to ensure the retention of facility caregivers or other staff, or in instances where health facility operations are jeopardized, or where the public health is jeopardized or other emergency situations exist, and up to $16,000,000 may be available upon a determination by the budget director, in consultation with the commissioner of health to provide financial assistance to health care providers in circumstances where the use of Federal monies is prohibited based on the core mission of those providers (29874) ………………………………. 18,900,000″              

I urge you to make this determination immediately and provide the financial assistance to prevent irreparable disruption in the health care of the thousands of New Yorkers who rely on comprehensive services from Title X providers.  

Very truly yours,

Richard N. Gottfried
Chair, Committee on Health  

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CBS News: N.Y. Lawmakers Move To Outlaw Floating Billboards

After a bitter battle on the waterways, New York state lawmakers have voted to officially outlaw floating billboards.

A bill passed in the state legislature prohibits companies from operating boats with digital billboards or other billboards that use flashing, intermittent or moving lights.

The Economist: The push to decriminalise sex work in New York

In New York, as in most of America, selling sex is illegal and stories abound of the costs of criminalisation. Sex workers circle in and out of the criminal justice system for years. Their criminal records often prevent them from accessing housing and other kinds of work. Paying bail bonds puts many already impoverished sex workers into debt.

On June 10th, New York introduced the first state-wide package of bills to decriminalise sex work. It would remove criminal penalties related to the buying and selling of sex and regulate workers’ place of
business to make them safer. It would also allow sex workers to apply for criminal records connected to sex work to be expunged.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Those ‘eyesore’ ad barges could soon be banned

The State Senate passed a bill on Thursday seeking a statewide ban on the massive floating billboards — “ugly” and “obnoxious” billboards, according to residents — that appeared along New York City’s waterways earlier this year…