Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act Testimony

Testimony on the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act at a regional Joint Hearing of the NYS Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Senate Standing Committee on Labor

Presented by Shannon Kelly, Chief Operating Officer, Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster

Seelig Theatre at SUNY Sullivan, 112 College Road, Loch Sheldrake, NY

May 2, 2019

Shannon Kelly

Good evening, and thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important legislative issue facing our state. My name is Shannon Kelly. I am the Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster. As one of the human services agencies of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, our organization is committed to building a compassionate and just society. Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster serves the homeless, the hungry, those with emotional or physical disabilities, as well as immigrants, the marginalized and the vulnerable of this tri-county region. Last year, we served more than 42,000 individuals and families, regardless of race, religion, or ability to pay.

I speak today on behalf of our regional agency, as well as for Catholic Charities agencies across New York State, and in solidarity with the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the Catholic Bishops of New York State. Catholic Charities and the Catholic Conference have been advocating for passage of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act for more than two decades. At the same time, the Church has been working on the ground to meet the spiritual and material needs of farmworkers and their families – through Catholic Charities, Catholic parishes, and individual clergy, religious and lay people.

It is through this lens that I deliver my remarks today. Let me begin by making one thing clear: Support for basic rights for farmworkers is not anti-farmer. At least it need not be. Our organization serves farm families and farmworkers alike. We are in this community and are well aware of the unique nature of farming and the challenges facing farmers, from uncontrollable weather factors, to the pressures of modern economies, to injuries, the high cost of maintenance, distribution of a perishable product and competition from foreign markets. We need our family farms, for our local economy and for our very subsistence.


2019-2020 Education Budget Testimony

Testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference regarding the 2019 – 2020 Elementary and Secondary Education Budget
Presented by James D. Cultrara, Director for Education 
Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany, N.Y.

February 6, 2019


 A promising future for our children, families, communities and our economy depends on whether our schools are providing a quality education to the state’s children. The state’s Catholic schools continue their tradition, going back for more than 200 years, of providing an outstanding education to thousands of our state’s children, many of whom are not Catholic. Especially in our inner cities, Catholic schools continue to help bring children out of poverty. Parents, however, are finding it increasingly difficult to shoulder the dual burden of taxes to support public schools while paying tuition to support the education of their own children. The decline in enrollment and the resulting closing of Catholic schools over the decades is no surprise. Little attention, however, has been paid to the added cost to taxpayers.

While the Catholic Bishops are continuously forced to make the extraordinarily difficult decisions to close Catholic schools, it must be noted that no Catholic school has closed due to academic failure. This is something that cannot be said about either traditional public or charter schools. Nor have our schools been closed due to lack of desire on the part of parents to enroll their children. The loss of Catholic schools in New York State comes down entirely to the rising costs and the inability of parents to pay the increasing tuition needed to meet those costs. This has been a tragedy for the state, for the parents of those children who are enrolled and those who wish they could be, and for the children themselves.

More than 75 Catholic schools across the state were forced to close in the past seven years and more will be closing this June.  More than 300 have closed in the last 20 years. Most of the displaced students then enroll in the already over-burdened public school system at a far greater cost to taxpayers. The shift of enrollment from private to public schools over the last 20 years has increased the cost to taxpayers by more than $2 billion – each and every year! Unless something meaningful is done to support the education of children in religious and independent schools, this trend will continue to exacerbate the burden on taxpayers. But even more importantly, more and more children will be denied the opportunity to escape poverty and have a brighter future that the remarkable success of Catholic schools offers. More

2019-2020 Human Services Budget Testimony

Testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference regarding the 2019 – 2020 Human Services Budget
Submitted by: Michael A. Lawler, Director of Catholic Charities, NYS Catholic Conference
Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany, N.Y.

January 24, 2019

Senator Krueger, Assembly Member Weinstein, distinguished members of the Senate and Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen.

My name is Michael A. Lawler and I am Director of Catholic Charities for the New York State Catholic Conference. I am representing the New York State Council of Catholic Charities Directors, the policy board for Catholic Charities and its programs operating in all 62 counties of this state. I am also on the Advisory Board of the Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York campaign. We are a group of over 400 human services agencies from every region of the state that has come together to work on human service workforce and infrastructure needs.

Our top priority over the past three years has been the human services workforce. The human services sector, broadly defined, is in crisis. Recruitment and retention is a serious problem across the board. More

Testimony Regarding Gestational Surrogacy

Photo by Joey Thompson on Unsplash

Following is testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference submitted in writing to a hearing of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary and Assembly Committee on Health regarding Gestational Surrogacy , 250 Broadway, New York, N.Y.

May 24, 2018

Chairman Dinowitz, Chairman Gottfried, and Honorable Members of the Assembly Judiciary and Health Committees, thank you for the opportunity to present testimony on the topic of compensated gestational carrier surrogacy contracts.

Currently, legislation (A.6959-A) is pending which would legalize commercial “gestational surrogacy,” or “collaborative reproduction,” which involves a monetary contractual arrangement whereby a woman who is genetically unrelated to the child, will bear that child for someone else, with the intent of relinquishing the child at birth. Human embryos are created in a laboratory through in vitro fertilization (IVF), using egg and sperm that may or may not be from the intended parents, then transferred to the uterus of the surrogate mother.

At the present time, New York Domestic Relations Law declares such surrogacy contracts to be contrary to public policy, void, and unenforceable. Baby brokers who assist in arranging such contracts are liable for up to a civil penalty of $10,000 and forfeiture of the fee received in brokering the contract; a second violation constitutes a felony. Importantly, this policy was signed into law in 1992 by then-Governor Mario M. Cuomo, at the unanimous recommendation of the NYS Task Force on Life and the Law, with bipartisan legislative support. The New York State Catholic Conference advocated for this policy in collaboration with the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women and other diverse voices.

In December of 2017 a deeply divided NYS Task Force on Life and the Law released a new report on surrogacy entitled “Revisiting Surrogate Parenting: Analysis and Recommendations for Public Policy on Gestational Surrogacy.” Fifteen of the members signed a majority report recommending a repeal of New York’s ban on commercial gestational surrogacy and a complex web of regulations governing the practice. Seven members signed a minority report recommending that New York’s ban be maintained. We concur with the minority and their well-documented report, attach it with this testimony, and urge that you read it in full. We summarize here the primary harms of surrogacy as detailed in that minority report. More

Testimony on Physician-Assisted Suicide Legislation

Testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference regarding the “Medical Aid in Dying Act” (A.2383-A / S.3151-A). Submitted by Edward T. Mechmann, Esq., Assembly Hearing Room, 19th Floor, 250 Broadway, New York, N.Y.

May 3, 2018

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Assembly, good afternoon. My name is Edward Mechmann, I am the Director of Public Policy of the Archdiocese of New York. I am grateful for the opportunity to testify on behalf of the Archdiocese and the New York State Catholic Conference, which is the public policy arm of the eight Catholic dioceses in New York State. I was the author of an amicus brief on behalf of the Catholic Conference in the Myers v. Schneiderman litigation. More