Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Sunny Bjerk , December 05, 2012
Guest blog post by Carmelita Cruz, Director for New York State Advocacy & Organizing for Housing Works
As 2012 draws to a close, we come closer to the start of 2013’s legislative session. Recently there has been a lot of speculation as to what the 2013 session will mean for New York since the political composition of the Senate seems murky at best. After weeks of counting votes and the initial call that Democrats would regain the majority—and control—of the Senate, it turns out that the New York Senate will have something called a “Coalition Government,” where Republicans and five Senate Democrats from the Independent Democratic Conference will “jointly rule the Senate.” According to a report by WNYC, “Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein will each share the job of Temporary President of the Senate, with the job changing between them every two weeks. They will have equal control over which bills reach the floor, and decisions on the state budget.”
What remains to be seen is what this so-called “Coalition Government” and Republic majority will mean for GENDA (the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act). GENDA would add gender identity or expression to the existing NYS Human Rights Law thereby granting civil rights protections to transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorker’s.
In recent months, activity around and supporting this important legislation has increased significantly. In October, GENDA sponsors Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, both of New York City, hosted a hearing centered on the legislation. Testimony was provided and collected from various stakeholders across the State, and a resource page was created to house the written testimony and footage of the hearing for people to view and reference.
On November 13, the Schenectady City Council passed a resolution in support of GENDA, sponsored by Councilperson Leeza Perazzo. On November 19th, Syracuse became the ninth jurisdiction in New York State to pass a local version of GENDA, protecting transgender and gender non-conforming residents from discrimination within the City of Syracuse. Other cities and counties that have passed similar nondiscrimination protections are: Rochester, New York City, Buffalo, Ithaca, Albany, and Suffolk, Tompkins, and Westchester counties.
Historically, in New York, progressive legislation has still passed even under a Republican—and more conservative—controlled Senate, so a Republican leadership majority doesn’t automatically rule out a vote on GENDA in 2013. Nevertheless, a Democratic controlled Senate may be more friendly to a bill that has always had few Republican supporters in the Senate. In fact, for the past five years, the bill has been voted on and passed in the Democratic controlled Assembly. In 2009, the bill came to a vote in the Judiciary Committee of the Democratic controlled Senate, but failed to pass out of that committee by one vote.
Regardless, which party does or does not control the Senate should not define which pieces of legislation come to a vote and which become held up in committee. Legislation should be debated on the merits and not rely on a Republican versus Democratic bill sponsor. The sooner the members of our Senate learn to play together, the sooner they truly serve the needs of people living in New York.
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