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Press release: GENDA takes effect today!

GENDA Law Defending Transgender Rights Takes Effect Today!  

Today is an historic day: the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act takes effect in New York State. For far too long, transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in New York had waited for their rights to be recognized, with discrimination and bigotry standing in the way of opportunities they should never have been denied.  

That ended earlier this year with the passage and signing of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a bill which I introduced in the Assembly eighteen times before it finally passed both houses of the Legislature in January, and took effect today. In past years, the Assembly had passed the bill 11 times, but the Senate’s Republican Majority refused to let the bill have a floor vote. In 2019, the new Democratic Majority joined the Assembly in protecting the rights of New Yorkers regardless of gender identity or expression.  

GENDA protects the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers and makes gender identity or expression one of the state’s protected classes.  No one should ever be denied basic needs like housing and health care or employment opportunities because of another’s narrow-mindedness.  Today, the provisions of GENDA that make it a hate crime to harm a person based on their gender identity or expression go into effect, providing more protection from discrimination.  

Earlier this year, the Assembly and the Senate also passed a law that bars the ‘gay and trans panic’ defense, which had allowed a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity to be used as an affirmative defense to reduce a murder charge.  This “blame the LGBT victim” legal stratagem helped bias-driven killers try to evade responsibility for their own actions, instead of calling the murders they committed what they are – hate crimes.

The fight against bigotry against members of the LGBT community is far from over, but New York won’t stand idly by while people are discriminated against for being themselves.  GENDA is a victory for all transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers.


I received a pen from Governor Cuomo after he signed GENDA into law at Manhattan’s LGBT Community Center on January 25, 2019. (Also pictured are NYS Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul and NYS Senator Brad Hoylman, the Senate sponsor of GENDA.)

PRESS RELEASE: Patients, Providers, Labor, and Others to Testify at Legislative Hearing in Rochester on Universal Single-Payer Health Care

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

October 2, 2019

The NY Senate and Assembly Health Committees will hold a public hearing and press conference in Rochester on October 10 on the New York Health Act.

Millions of New Yorkers with insurance go without needed health care or face serious financial obstacles, debt and bankruptcy to get it.

The New York Health Act, A.5248/S.3577, would establish universal, comprehensive single-payer health coverage, including long-term care, for all New Yorkers. The program would be publicly funded, including existing federal support for Medicaid and Medicare. New Yorkers would no longer have to pay premiums, deductibles, co-pays, out-of-network charges, or have limited provider networks.

The Rochester hearing is the second in a series of statewide hearings, with other hearings to be scheduled in New York City and the Hudson Valley. The hearings will provide an opportunity for comments and suggestions from stakeholders around the state on the New York Health Act. Video and a transcript of the first hearing, held in Albany on May 28, can be found here.

More information, including a form if you wish to be invited to testify, can be found here.

What:
Public hearing and press conference on the New York Health Act, A.5248/S.3577

Who:
New York State Assembly and Senate Health Committees; witnesses including patient advocates; health care provider organizations; labor representatives; small business; and other health care experts and advocates

Where:
Press Conference: Bausch and Lomb Parlor
Hearing: Memorial Art Gallery Ballroom

University of Rochester
500 University Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607

(The Parlor and Ballroom are across the hall from each other)

When:
Press Conference: Thursday, October 10, 9:30 AM
Hearing:Thursday, October 10, 10:00 AM

The hearing will also be webcast live at: https://nyassembly.gov/av/

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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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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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Press release: Gottfried bill expanding protections for trafficking survivors passes Assembly

A landmark 2010 New York law lets victims of human trafficking get prostitution-related criminal convictions erased if the convictions directly resulted from the trafficking. On June 13, the Assembly passed a bill, A. 6983A, to broaden the law to apply to other convictions. The bill is sponsored by Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried and Senator Jessica Ramos. Gottfried was the author of the 2010 law. Over twenty-five states have since followed with similar laws.

Press Release: Assembly Passes Gottfried Bill to Help Seniors Coordinate Prescriptions

Today the Assembly passed A. 2785, a bill I sponsored that would allow pharmacists to synchronize the dispensing of prescriptions for Medicaid patients so that patients can pick up multiple refills at the same time.

Press release: Decrim NY, legislators introduce first statewide bill to decriminalize and decarcerate sex trades in nation’s history

Today, Decrim NY and legislators unveiled Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, a package bill to decriminalize and decarcerate the sex trades in New York. It is the first statewide bill of its kind in the nation’s history. Decrim NY (see member list here), is a coalition of 30+ organizations working across LGBTQ, racial justice, har reduction, and immigrant rights spaces. It launched in February with heavy publicity. Since launching, the coalition has also brought 100+ sex workers, trafficking survivors, and advocates to Albany for a lobby day in May.

Protecting New York State’s Water Supply

Yesterday in Albany I joined with environmental and health advocates and other legislators to urge the immediate passage of legislation I’m sponsoring in the Assembly to protect New York’s drinking water. My bill, (A.7839), would require testing drinking water all across New York State for a list of harmful chemicals, and establish a deadline for the New York Department of Health (DOH) to conduct such testing.

Press Release: Bill Requiring Plant-Based Food Options in Hospitals Passes Legislature

ALBANY, NY – Senator Brad Hoylman (D/WF-Manhattan) and Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried’s bill to require plant-based food options in hospitals passed through both houses of the State legislature yesterday.