“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God,
my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn
of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2).
New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation is pleased to report that the 2015 state legislative session in Albany is over. This year’s session was, from a Christian perspective, a successful one. As a Christian organization in a state that has become increasingly liberal and secularized, our work—as well as the work of our lobbying affiliate, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms—is often an uphill battle. NYFRF is grateful that no major left-wing social-issue legislation became law this year, and that progress was made on important issues like adoption and human trafficking.
Despite some minor setbacks, the 2015 legislative session featured many more wins than losses. Three bills–the Bathroom Bill (S.61-A – Squadron/A.4558-A – Gottfried), which would make “gender identity or expression” a protected category under the state’s Human Rights Law; the Boss Bill (S.2709-A – Krueger/A.1142-A – Jaffee), which would make it unlawful for nonprofit groups to uphold pro-life conduct policies for employees; and the Counselor Coercion Bill (S.121 – Hoylman/A.4958 – Glick), which would prevent mental health professionals from assisting minor clients with sexual orientation change efforts–each passed the Assembly, but failed to advance to the Senate floor. Furthermore, the Child-Parent Security Act (S.2765 – Hoylman/A.4319 – Paulin), which would legalize paid surrogacy in New York; the Healthy Teens Act (S.700 – Rivera/A.1616 – Gottfried), which would provide a taxpayer funding stream to help Planned Parenthood and similar groups conduct sex education in schools; a bill (S.1372 – Bonacic/A.1826 – Gunther) that would make it more difficult for churches and nonprofits to maintain real property tax exemptions; and three physician-assisted suicide bills did not even reach the Assembly floor to be voted upon. The Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s leading LGBT lobbying group, described the results of the 2015 legislative session as “deplorably unproductive,” “abominable,” and “shameful.” The discontent of the Left is a clear sign that the session was a success.
One especially significant legislative victory in 2015 relates to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act (WEA). NYFRF supporters may recall that this legislative package—first introduced in 2013—combined sensible pro-woman measures with an abhorrent abortion expansion bill. The result was gridlock; the State Senate passed the non-abortion-related bills and staunchly refused to pass abortion expansion, while the left-wing State Assembly passed the entire package of legislation and refused to pass any part of it unless abortion expansion was included. However, following the departure of Asm. Sheldon Silver as Assembly Speaker earlier this year, Assembly leadership—recognizing that abortion expansion was a non-starter in the Senate—relented and began passing the WEA bills on an individual basis. Each of the non-abortion-related WEA bills has now passed both the Senate and the Assembly, and the Senate has continued to stand firm against abortion expansion. The WEA bills that have passed both houses include common-sense bills like S.2 – Valesky/A.5360 – Galef (expanding workplace protections for sexual harassment), S.6 – Young/A.6262 – Joyner (creating a pilot program for electronic filing of petitions for temporary orders of protection), and S.8 – Hannon/A.4272 – Gunther (requiring reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant employees). Also, with the strong support of NYCF, the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA) (S.7 – Lanza/A.506 – Paulin) passed both the Senate and the Assembly. This important legislation would strengthen penalties for traffickers and for those who pay minors for sexual activity, while providing more assistance for trafficking victims and helping them to be treated as victims, not criminals. As of this writing, each of the non-abortion-related WEA bills awaits action by the Governor.
NYFRF is also thankful that the Adoption Tax Deduction Bill (S.2026 – Hassell-Thompson/A.6575 – Crespo) passed both houses of the Legislature again this year. The Adoption Tax Deduction Bill would offer New York families a state income tax deduction for fees and expenses incurred in connection with the adoption of a child from the foster care system. This bill passed the Assembly and the Senate with bipartisan majorities in 2014. Sadly, however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed it in December 2014, contending that the bill should have been considered within the context of the New York State Budget. Not to be deterred, the Senate and the Assembly passed the bill again this year. NYFRF thanks Assembly sponsor Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx) for his ongoing support for this legislation, and hopes that this year will be the year that Gov. Cuomo will sign the Adoption Tax Deduction Bill into law.
This year’s legislative session was overshadowed by the arrest and prosecution of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), and other elected officials on corruption charges. These developments led to an unusual scenario in which both houses of the Legislature underwent leadership changes in mid-session; Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) took over as the new Senate Majority Leader, while Asm. Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) assumed the role of Assembly Speaker. Neither Sen. Skelos nor Asm. Silver has yet been tried, and both have retained their legislative seats. While government corruption remains a major problem in Albany, NYFRF believes that God used these unfortunate situations for good; the legal issues and ensuing political drama distracted legislators and helped prevent bad legislation from being passed.
As we look ahead to 2016, NYFRF calls on the New York State Senate to continue to stand firm in opposing morally objectionable legislation. In the past, when Senate Republican leadership has addressed controversial issues by caving in to the Left to avoid political retribution, their efforts have yielded bad public policy, an angry conservative base, and painful consequences at the ballot box. It is hoped that Senate leadership will continue on the path that they took this year. NYFRF also calls upon Christian New Yorkers to remain vigilant and outspoken in support of Christian principles. When Christian believers are engaged and involved in matters of public policy, the Lord can work through us to accomplish great things.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage;
be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God
is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).