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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 will add additional protections for abortion rights in the state constitution. The amendment’s passage is the first in a three-step process; it will need to pass again by a separately elected legislature before going to a popular referendum. While the original version of the bill did not, this version maintains the same level of scrutiny for “creed or religion” as the other protected classes. 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.

2019 End-of-Session Round-Up

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany watches the Assembly debate on the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act from the chamber’s gallery June 19, 2019.
(Franchesca Caputo/The Evangelist)

The New York State Legislature wrapped up the 2019 session in the early morning hours of June 21. The session was among the most active in memory, as the new Democratic majority in the state Senate, joined with the Democratic Assembly majority and the Democratic Governor to take on many issues that had previously been staunchly opposed by Republicans. Below is a synopsis of major issues tracked by the Catholic Conference and their outcome.


Breaking up the Women’s Equality Act

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Today some of the most ardent defenders of Governor Cuomo’s 10-point “Women’s Equality Act” (WEA) called for the passage of one of the individual planks of that Act as a stand-alone bill. This is pretty significant, considering that less than a year ago these same women were demanding “ten or none!”

The particular bill in question is a human trafficking victim protection act. Democratic pro-choice Assembly members Amy Paulin, Aileen Gunther, Barbara Clark and Gabriela Rosa passionately condemned sex trafficking and said all efforts must be made to end the horrific scourge. That includes separating it out from the omnibus 10-point WEA and “ending the politics,” they said.

Wow. We’ve been saying that for more than a year now. The Senate passed each of the nine individual women’s bills (including the sex trafficking measure) last June, but did not pass the unnecessary and dangerous abortion expansion. And all nine died in the Assembly chamber, primarily due to the staunch opposition of the Democratic female members. Even Governor Cuomo was willing to break up his own bill last year.

Let’s pray that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hears the pleas of these lawmakers and allows at least this one bill to stand on its own. It definitely has enough bi-partisan support to pass, and by increasing penalties and giving more tools to prosecutors, it really could have a huge impact on the lives of so many young, vulnerable girls who are sold like slaves and exploited in unspeakable ways.

The only dissension comes from the pro-abortion lobby group NARAL, which says the bills should remain linked. Lawmakers should ignore their shrill and obstructionist voice.

Public Witness for Life

by Kathleen M. GallagherIMG_1365

Thanks to all the pro-life New Yorkers who showed up at the Capitol last evening to protest abortion expansion in New York State. Hundreds and hundreds of them packed West Capitol Park and lined the streets with signs asking our government officials, “Can’t we love them both?”  The event was planned by the coalition New Yorkers for Life and drew in individuals and groups from all across the state united in opposition to the governor’s plan to expand late-term abortion.

Some press coverage of the event can be found here and here.

I was particularly moved by the diversity of the crowd: young and old, black, white and Hispanic, Democrat and Republican, male and female, Evangelical, Catholic and Jewish, from upstate and down, people from all walks of life. Everyone there was an integral part of that melting pot, blending together as one harmonious whole with a common goal: stopping abortion expansion and offering pregnant women life-affirming options.

I went home with the knowledge that I was part of something big and meaningful and blessed. Thanks to all who came and witnessed, for your sacrifice, commitment and prayers.

Statement in Response to Gov. Cuomo’s Counsel

Yesterday, Mylan Denerstein, counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, issued yet another essay defending the governor’s abortion expansion bill and accusing the opposition of being “outrageous and disingenuous.” In fact, the Catholic Bishops and other opponents have been very clear and honest in expressing opposition. And, yet again, she makes statements defending the substance of a bill that they have declined to make public.

While much of the essay repeats her previous assertions, she does add one new line of argument, insisting that the governor’s plan to allow non-physicians to perform abortions would not change existing law. She states, “New York State law and regulations currently allow non-physician medical professionals (e.g. physician assistants) to perform the procedure in certain circumstances. Again, there is no change to that whatsoever.”

In fact, New York State law specifically says that only a “duly licensed physician” may perform an abortion. The bill known as the Reproductive Health Act (S.438) specifically repeals that language and replaces it with “licensed health care practitioner,” a category much broader than physician. Further, there are no regulations of which we are aware that would or could override that very clear language in the state’s Penal Law.

Is Ms. Denerstein being intentionally misleading or is she actually aware of physician assistants performing surgical induced abortions despite the clear prohibition in the Penal Law?

We invite her to clarify her remarks, and we respectfully ask her to reveal where these abortions by physician assistants are being performed in New York State and explain to health care consumers exactly how this could possibly be legal under existing state law.

It is becoming clear that the governor will eventually release a bill that contains changes to bills previously introduced. It is also clear, given the intentionally confusing language of Ms. Denerstein’s statements, that the ultimate bill will be intended to be as misleading as her statements have been. We will not be caught off guard and we do not believe the members of the Legislature, which has not accepted the previous versions of this bill, will be either.

The Catholic Conference represents New York State’s Bishops in matters of public policy.

Statement regarding mandated reporting of sexual abuse by clergy

Contrary to recent published reports, the New York State Catholic Conference has never opposed bills adding clergy to the list of mandated reporters for child sexual abuse. Since the bills were originally introduced in the New York State Legislature in 2002, we have consistently and publicly supported the concept. At the request of the sponsors of competing bills in the two houses, we have never taken a position on one bill over the other. According to The New York Times, March 26, 2002:

“At this time, we don’t anticipate commenting on the specifics of any mandatory reporting legislation,” said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference. “In our conversations with the sponsors of both houses, we’ve urged them to act in the best interest of our children, the state’s children.” More