2023 End-of-Session Round-Up
The 2023 legislative session has come to an end in Albany. Below are some of the major pieces of legislation we tracked over the last six months. Thank you for supporting the work of the New York State Catholic Conference through the Catholic Action Network.
Thanks in part to your advocacy, as well as the work of our partners in the disabilities community, patients-rights advocates, and other religious faiths, we once again held off enactment of the physician-assisted suicide bill in the 2023 session, despite an unprecedented push by sponsors and advocates. Defeating this legislation was our top legislative priority. More than 11,000 messages were sent to lawmakers by Catholic Action Network members opposing this legislation.
Abortion Pill on SUNY/CUNY Campuses
This legislation requires all public university campuses to make the abortion pill available to students, either directly on campus or through contracts with local providers. The bill passed both houses of the legislature in April and was signed into law by Governor Hochul.
Hospice and Palliative Care Access and Quality
This bill would establish the Office of Hospice and Palliative Care Access and Quality to increase access to such care for patients at the end of life. New York ranks last in the nation in access to hospice care. The Conference supports this legislation. The bill passed both houses last year but was vetoed by the Governor, who explained in a veto message that since the bill had fiscal impact to the state, it should be done in the budget process. The bill again passed both houses of the legislature, and awaits Executive Action.
This legislation would amend the state Constitution to ban unjust discrimination against persons based on a broad variety of classes and characteristics. Fortunately, revised language rightly places religion on the same level of the expanded list of classes. Unfortunately, it also includes “reproductive healthcare and autonomy” and “pregnancy outcomes” in this list, which effectively makes abortion a constitutional right in the state. The amendment has now passed two separately elected legislatures and now advances to a referendum, which will be on the ballot in 2024.
Clean Slate Act
S7551-A (Myrie)/A1029-C (Cruz)
While supportive in concept of this legislation, which would seal misdemeanor and most felony convictions (except Class A felonies and sex crimes) after a certain timeframe, the Conference has long expressed strong concerns with the legislation because, as originally drafted, it would not have permitted background checks conducted for Catholic schools and other church ministries to utilize sealed conviction records for positions that involve working with children or vulnerable adults. In the three-way agreement negotiated with Governor Hochul and the two houses of the legislature, the bill was amended to permit such records to be utilized in background checks for our schools. The bill passed both houses and awaits Executive action.
Mandated Services Aid
Our Catholic schools are now receiving their Mandated Services reimbursement payments in two rounds, the first being 90 percent of their payment, then a second round of another 7.5 percent, for a total of 97.5 percent. Fortunately, we were successful in having the legislature reject the Governor’s proposal to limit the state’s liability for such payments to the “amount appropriated” within the state budget. This means the 2.5 percent deficiency will be paid to our schools in next year’s state budget, if not before.
Dignity for All Students Act (DASA)
S3180 (Hoylman-Sigal)/A1829 (Jean-Pierre)
The NYS Senate advanced to the Senate floor, but did not pass, legislation to impose the provisions of DASA on religious and independent schools. The Council of Catholic School Superintendents opposes the legislation. Beyond requiring schools to establish policies prohibiting bullying (to which we do not object) DASA could be interpreted to deem Catholic school policies related to students identifying as transgender (related to such things as bathroom and locker room use, sports teams and dress codes) as discriminatory. Further, the measure establishes an onerous data collection and reporting requirement on instances of bullying and harassment.
Health Equity Impact Assessments
This bill would require that Health Equity Impact Assessments consider the availability and provision of reproductive health services and maternal health care, before the Department of Health can approve any proposed construction, establishment, mergers, acquisitions, closures, or reductions in hospital/health-related services. This bill passed both houses of the legislature and awaits Executive action.