2022 End-of-Session Round-Up

Thank you for your support of the NYS Catholic Action Network. The 2022 Legislative Session in Albany has adjourned. We appreciate your action on several bills throughout the session. Below are some updates on legislation of interest to the New York State Catholic Conference.

Respect Life/Moral Values

Physician-Assisted Suicide: Once again this issue did not get a vote in the Health Committee of either house, because in each case proponents were still one or two votes short, thanks to your advocacy. Our memo of opposition is here.

Hospice Care: A package of two bills to increase access to palliative care and hospice care, and create a public service awareness campaign, passed both houses. The Catholic Conference worked with the Senate sponsor on this legislation. Our memo of support is here.

“Equality Amendment”: This proposed constitutional amendment would have added additional protections for abortion rights in the state constitution. The amendment, which would have to pass two separately elected legislatures and go to a popular referendum, also did not include “creed and religion” among the new listing of protected classes, which led to its downfall. There was concern that religious discrimination would be held to a lesser standard of scrutiny under this new amendment than protection for other classes. The Catholic Conference worked together with our Jewish colleagues at Agudath Israel to defeat this proposal. Our memo of opposition is here.

“Abortion Sanctuary”: The legislature passed a series of abortion-related measures as a response to the possible reversal of Roe v. Wade. The bills were all focused on “protecting” women who come from out of state or doctors who perform abortions on out-of-state women from liability. Our memo of opposition is here.

Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers: The legislature passed a bill long opposed by the Conference that authorizes a “study” of pro-life pregnancy centers with the purpose of harassing them and a finding that the centers do not provide the “full range of services” for pregnant women. Unfortunately this bill got caught up with the above abortion bills in the Senate, which helped its passage. We have called on Governor Hochul to veto this bill, as it has nothing to do with her stated goal of “safeguarding access” to abortion and only serves to limit alternatives and harass good people providing crucial services to women. Our memo of opposition is here.

Gun Control: In the wake of the two most recent mass shootings, Governor Hochul called for a package of new measures, including a licensure requirement and raising of the age for purchasing or possessing semi-automatic weapons, adjustments to the state’s existing “red flag” law, and other measures. We supported the entire package, which passed both houses and was signed into law. Our memo of support is here.

Human Composting: Sadly, both houses took up and passed this bill late in session to authorize the process of composting of human remains, which converts the human body to soil in an accelerated fashion, where it may then be scattered, buried or used as fertilizer. The Conference has opposed this bill since its introduction a couple of years ago, and our opposition was mentioned during the floor debate in the Assembly. Our memo of opposition is here.

Protecting Children/Criminal Justice

Clean Slate Act: This bill would automatically seal most criminal convictions, misdemeanors and felonies, after a period of time. The Conference has expressed strong concerns that the legislation would impact our ability to do effective background checks on employees and volunteers in our programs who work with children. Only organizations required to do fingerprint-based background checks would get access to the sealed criminal histories, which does not include our schools and parishes. Our memo of concern is here. The bill passed in the Senate but did not come up for a vote in the Assembly. 

Catholic Schools

Health, Safety & Security: We tripled funding, from $15 million to $45 million, to support health and safety projects, including a new authorization to cover critical repair and maintenance and other capital needs of religious and independent school facilities such as air purification systems, roof repair and remediating any hazardous conditions.

STEM:  $58 million, a nearly 40 percent increase, is included to reimburse schools for a portion of the salaries of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math teachers.

Mandated Services Aid (MSA) and Comprehensive Attendance Policy (CAP): A total of $195,028,000, an increase of $1.9 million, is provided to fully reimburse schools for mandated administrative costs for the 2021-22 school year.

Immunization: We were able to restore $1 million, not included in Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget proposal, to reimburse our schools located in New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester for expenses in complying with the state’s childhood immunization program. 

Federal COVID Relief: We secured language in the budget to guarantee that all federal funding under the Emergency Assistance for Nonpublic Schools (EANS) programs will remain available to reimburse religious and independent schools for on-going COVID-related expenses. 

Substantial Equivalency:  We were successful in getting the Regents to revise their proposed regulation enforcing the state’s “substantial equivalency” standards on religious and independent schools. The proposed regulation now recognizes multiple and long-standing pathways through which the overwhelming majority of religious and independent schools (including ALL Catholic schools) will be determined “substantially equivalent” automatically by the State Education Department (SED). This means our schools will NOT be reviewed by local public school authorities (LSAs), which is a major victory for our schools and families. The NYS Council of Catholic School Superintendent’s comments on the proposed regulation praise the Regents and SED for permitting our schools to continue to demonstrate our success as we have done for many years. The comments go on, however, to reiterate our opposition to SED assigning LSAs with the responsibility to review the few remaining schools which do not fall under any of the multiple pathways. The Regents intend to adopt the regulations in order to be effective during the coming school year.