New York has a long and proud legacy of leading the way to advance women's rights. From the birth of the women's rights movement at Seneca Falls to the recent passage of the most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy in the nation, New York continues to champion women's rights and break down barriers to equality.
In 2018, we will build on our progress by continuing to advance equality for women and protect our rights against federal attempts to stall and undermine us. The Council on Women and Girls will release a full set of policy recommendations to create opportunity for women to succeed in every area: work, health, safety, education and family life.
- Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: The Governor will launch a multi-pronged agenda that targets sexual harassment in the workplace. The comprehensive reforms to protect women's rights include legislation to prevent public dollars from being used to settle sexual harassment claims against individuals, void forced arbitration policies in employee contracts, and mandate that any companies that do business with the state disclose the number of sexual harassment adjudications and nondisclosure agreements they have executed.
- Remove Firearms from Domestic Abusers: New York law prohibits the possession of firearms for individuals convicted of felony or "serious" offenses. However, this excludes certain misdemeanor offenses involving domestic violence, such as assault and battery crimes or strangulation. To ensure that all domestic violence offenders are held to the same standard, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to include all domestic violence misdemeanors on the list of prohibited offenses.
- End Sextortion and Revenge Porn: To end this disturbing form of sexual exploitation, Governor Cuomo proposes a two-pronged approach that will criminalize disclosing or threatening to disclose sexually compromising images or videos with the intent to cause material harm to the victim's mental or emotional health or to compel the victim to undertake some sexual act; and criminalize compelling a person to expose him or herself or engage in sexual conduct by threatening to harm the victim's health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships. This new legislation will create the following crimes, which will also require registration as a sex offender:
- Unlawful Publication of Sexual Images: With intent to cause material harm to mental or emotional health, a person (1) disseminates images of intimate sexual nature; or (2) compels another to engage in conduct by threatening to disseminate images of an intimate sexual nature. This will be a class A misdemeanor; punishable by up to one year in jail or three years of probation.
- Sexual Extortion in the 3rd Degree: A person compels or induces another person to expose his or her sexual or intimate parts or engage in sexual conduct by instilling a fear in him or her that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor will perform an act intended to harm the person, or another person, with respect to his or her health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships. This will be a class E Felony; punishable by up to four years in prison.
- Sexual Extortion in the 2nd Degree: Same as above but the victim is under 17-years-old. This will be a class D Felony; punishable by up to seven years in prison.
- Sexual Extortion in the 1st Degree: Same as above but the victim is under 15-years-old. This will be a class C Felony; punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
- Codify Roe v. Wade into State Law: For years, Governor Cuomo has pushed to codify the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings into state law to secure a woman's access to reproductive health options. This year, the Governor will again call for the passage of legislation to ensure the rights of women to make personal health care decisions to protect their health in addition to their life, and to ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. The Governor will also continue to champion a constitutional amendment to codify these protections into the state constitution.
- Pass the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act: Contraception has been a critical tool for women to gain economic and social independence. The use and availability of contraception also reduces the rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion. As the federal government rolls back access to reproductive health care, New York will not be part of an attempt to undermine the independence of women. In 2017, Governor Cuomo fought to uphold the reproductive health protections of the Affordable Care Act, no matter what happened at the federal level, by enacting regulations that ensured access to cost-free contraception and medically necessary abortion. In 2018, the Governor will advance a program bill to enshrine access to contraception including emergency contraception into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
- Call on the New York State Common Retirement Fund to Invest in Companies with Women and Minority Leadership: New York State's Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises Program has seen dramatic increases in participation due to the Governor's goal of 30 percent MWBE State contract utilization—the highest goal of any state in the nation. However, despite this progress, women and minorities remain severely underrepresented in business ownership, in management roles and on corporate boards. To further address these imbalances, in 2018, Governor Cuomo will call for the New York Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with adequate female and minority representation in their management and on their boards of directors. The Governor will work with Comptroller DiNapoli to put in place processes and standards to systematically invest in companies that invest in women and minority leadership.
- Reauthorize MWBE Program Legislation and Expand the MWBE Program to All State-Funded Contracts: Since taking office in 2011, Governor Cuomo has transformed the State's MWBE program. In order to continue building on this promise, Governor Cuomo will propose legislation during the 2018 session that will reauthorize the law and expand the MWBE Program requirements to more contracts entirely funded by the state. The legislation will require MWBE goals on state funds used for contracting purposes on the local level. This will leverage the largest pool of state funding in history to combat systemic discrimination and create new opportunities for MWBE participation.
Governor Cuomo has advanced significant criminal justice reforms throughout his time in office, improving every stage of the justice system from arrest to community reentry. Three major reforms were passed this past year, including Raising the Age of criminal responsibility, extending the landmark Hurrell-Harring settlement's indigent criminal defense reforms to the entire state, and requiring law enforcement to video-record interrogations for serious offenses, as well as allowing properly-conducted witness identification into evidence at trial. In 2018, New York will build on this bold progress by restoring basic fairness to our state's criminal justice system.
- Reshape Bail and Pretrial Detention: When New York's laws governing bail were enacted back in the 1970s they were among the most progressive in the nation. Unfortunately, the status quo is no longer acceptable. Governor Cuomo is proposing legislation that will eliminate monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. Instead, people will be released either on their own recognizance or with non-monetary conditions imposed by the court, such as reporting to a pretrial services agency. For people charged with a violent felony offense, both monetary and non-monetary bail will be permitted, but only after a judge conducts an individualized review of the nature of the case and the defendant's personal and financial circumstances. If monetary bail is set, the court must give the defendant a choice between cash or bail industry bonds and an alternative form of bail such as an unsecured or partially secured bond. Additionally, in limited cases such as domestic violence offenses, cases involving serious violence, or when a defendant commits a new crime while out on pretrial release, a judge could order, after due process, a defendant to be held in jail pretrial without bail if they find the defendant poses a significant flight risk or if there is a current threat to a reasonably identifiable person's physical safety.
- Expand the Discovery Process: Under Governor Cuomo's proposal, prosecutors and the defense will have to share information in a multi-stage time frame before a trial takes place. This will include disclosure of evidence and information favorable to the defense; intended exhibits; expert opinion evidence; witnesses' criminal history information; and search warrant information will be made available to defendants in a timely and consistent manner. Doing so ensures attorneys have the tools necessary to adequately represent their clients. Additionally, along with an accelerated disclosure of witness information, this plan will provide numerous special procedures to ensure the safety of those witnesses and the integrity of the judicial process.
- Improve Access to a Speedy Trial: At the Governor's direction, new legislation being advanced will guarantee that criminal cases proceed to trial without undue delay and that people are not held in jail for unreasonable periods of time. The legislation will reduce unnecessary delays and adjournments in court proceedings, requiring that people held in custody - not just their attorneys - consent to a speedy trial waiver that must be approved by a judge. These waivers include a deadline so that the defendant, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges understand when the trial is scheduled and will only be granted after the defendant has made an appearance before a judge. Courts will also conduct periodic reviews of cases where defendants are held in detention, to assess the prosecutor's statement of readiness, reconsider bail status if appropriate, and schedule a pre-trial conference. A motion to dismiss must also now be made at least 20 days before the trial begins and it must include sworn factual allegations specifying the time periods that are being charged against the prosecution.
- Transform Civil Asset Forfeiture: New legislation will ban all asset seizures, unless an arrest is made. In cases where people are acquitted or the case is otherwise dismissed, they would get their money and valuables returned. Additionally, the State Division of Criminal Justice Services will expand reporting requirements to include additional information, such as demographic and geographic data, to better understand how civil asset forfeiture is used in New York State. Once a more comprehensive data set is created, New York will then evaluate the asset forfeiture system and make the appropriate changes to fix the identified issues.
- Improve the Re-Entry Process: The Governor is proposing to remove outdated statutory bans on occupational licensing for professions outside of law enforcement and instead, applicants will be assessed on an individual basis. The mandatory suspension of driver's licenses following a drug conviction will also be removed to allow people to travel to work and attend drug treatment, as long as the crimes did not involve driving. Additionally, the Governor will safely widen release opportunities for people who have shown rehabilitation by expanding the type and variety of programs provided in state prisons to make those individuals eligible for merit release and limited credit time allowances. Under the proposal, the Parole Board will examine cases under a new "geriatric parole" provision in which the Board can balance any public safety risk posed by these individuals with their need for age-appropriate treatment in the community. The reforms will also speed returning citizens' reintegration to society by reducing their financial burdens after release, including removing the current parole supervision fee and having local child support enforcement offices review child support orders for people incarcerated over six months. Finally, the Governor has ordered a comprehensive review of parole revocation guidelines and practices to determine appropriate alternatives to incarceration for those who violate technical parole conditions but pose no risk to public safety.
- Reduce New York's Use of Solitary Confinement: In 2016, Governor Cuomo began implementing a historic agreement reached between the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to reduce the frequency and duration of solitary confinement and to improve conditions within state prisons. This year, the State intends to continue this massive overhaul by having the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision close over 1,200 solitary housing unit beds throughout New York State's prisons.
- Protect the Rights and Safety of New Yorkers in Local Jails: To address deficiencies in all local jails, the Governor proposes an immediate enforcement strategy from the State Commission of Correction. The Commission—which is statutorily authorized to oversee all correctional facilities—will undertake a comprehensive review of facilities throughout New York that have repeatedly and egregiously failed to meet well-established standards of safety, security, and service. This review will include an analysis of reportable incidents, deaths in custody, and physical facility conditions. Upon the Commission's determination, local jails with persistent, pervasive problems will be required to create and adhere to a corrective action plan to either improve their facilities—or close them in an expedited manner—to ensure the safety for both staff and incarcerated individuals.
- Support the Child Victims Act: The Governor seeks to eliminate statutes of limitation for all sexually-related criminal cases when committed against a person who is less than 18 years of age. Further, the Governor seeks to extend the statute of limitations for civil claims from three years from a victim's 18th birthday to 50 years from the date of the offense. This would give many victims the opportunity to have their day in court. For any victim who is still unable to bring a lawsuit, the Governor would open a one-year window in which these victims are able to commence their claims. Finally, the Governor will eliminate the need to file a notice of claim with a public entity before being able to bring a lawsuit against that entity.
The Governor is committed to implementing innovative solutions to address the multi-faceted problem of homelessness, including expanding access to affordable housing across the state. In 2016, the Governor launched a landmark $20 billion, five-year plan to combat homelessness and advance the construction of affordable housing in New York State, which included $10 billion to end the homelessness crisis and support housing programs, rental subsidies and other shelter costs in New York City and across the state. The state's new comprehensive plan to attack homelessness will build on the progress achieved to date.
- Increase Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness: To strengthen shelter services for homeless individuals living with mental illness in existing homeless shelters, Governor Cuomo will direct the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to work together to ensure that Assertive Community Treatment teams are connected to existing shelters, so that individuals with mental illness can access needed treatment. In addition, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services will make on-site peer-delivered substance abuse treatment services available in 14 existing shelters across the state. These on-site services will assist approximately 200 homeless individuals with substance use disorder by providing services in shelters that are located in areas that have seen the biggest increases in substance use.
- Require Outreach and a Comprehensive Homeless Services Plan from Each Local Social Services District: Homelessness is on the rise and street homelessness is the most difficult problem to solve. Governor Cuomo will require that local governments have an effective outreach program to address street homelessness as a condition of receiving state funding for homelessness services. He is also directing that the MTA, the Port Authority, Centro, Capital District Transportation Authority, the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority and the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority do the same. The Governor will direct the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to require social services districts to engage in planning activities related to street outreach, homelessness prevention activities, rapid rehousing, and ongoing housing stability for the formerly homeless. The State will also require social service districts to engage with the State's ongoing efforts, set reasonable goals that are data-driven and uniquely tailored to the needs of its communities, and to report regularly on progress made. The State will provide technical assistance throughout the planning process by releasing guidance related to best practices and policies that can facilitate success.
New York State and this nation were founded on the premise that we are all created equal. While this promise may be threatened by acts of hate and intolerance, we must remember that we are stronger than that - we are one New York and we are all immigrants. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we will continue our legacy of protecting the rights and freedoms of all New Yorkers so that they have the opportunity to succeed and contribute to our state's cultural and economic strength.
- Continue the First-In-the-Nation Liberty Defense Project to Provide Critical Legal Representation to Immigrants: Last year, Governor Cuomo successfully launched the Liberty Defense Project, a first-in-the nation, state-led, public-private legal defense fund to ensure that all immigrants, regardless of status, have access to high quality legal counsel. In partnership with leading nonprofit legal service providers, the project has significantly expanded the availability of immigration attorneys statewide. As misguided immigration policy at the federal level continues to threaten New York's immigrant families, Governor Cuomo will work to ensure that the Liberty Defense Project continue to sustain and grow the network of legal service providers providing these critical service in defense of our immigrant communities.
- Pass the DREAM Act: Since 2002, undocumented students qualify for in-state tuition at SUNY and CUNY if they graduated from a New York high school or received a GED in the state. Yet, each year, many talented students who graduate from New York high schools remain unable to fulfill their potential simply because they cannot afford the tuition and lack access to tuition assistance to help pay for school. We can do better. Governor Cuomo will press for the passage of the DREAM Act to finally open the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers. The DREAM Act will give undocumented students access to the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as state-administered scholarships. An investment in young immigrants' futures is an investment in New York's future.
New York has a long and proud tradition of fighting for union workers' rights. At a time of stagnant wages, evaporating pensions, and swelling household debt, unions offer a pathway to the middle class and create economic growth that reaches all Americans.
- Examine Eliminating the Minimum Wage Tip Credit to Strengthen Economic Justice in New York State: Governor Cuomo is directing the Commissioner of Labor to schedule public hearings to evaluate the possibility of ending minimum wage tip credits in New York State. The Department of Labor will hold public hearings to solicit input from workers, businesses and others to ensure New York continues to protect economic justice for all New Yorkers.
- Stand with Labor Unions Facing Uncertainty from the Supreme Court: Public-sector labor unions are under attack on the national level, facing legal challenges to their very core. The United States Supreme Court will soon hear Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees which seeks to effectively end public labor unions. The Court will determine whether fee arrangements like those permissible under the Taylor Law violate the First Amendment. As the nation waits for a decision in the Janus case, Governor Cuomo stands beside public labor unions in their fight for survival and will do everything in his power to preserve workers' rights and protect the right to organize and collectively bargain.
Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York has championed programs to make New York State the most veteran-friendly state in the nation. The New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs continues to strengthen its ties with the approximately 775,000 Veterans living in New York State.
- Prevent Financial Exploitation of Veterans and Their Families: Veterans who fight to protect our state and nation should never have to continue fighting enemies when they return home. Far too often, deceitful businesses target veterans who are elderly and/or disabled, promising to help veterans and their family members obtain federal benefits in exchange for an often-substantial fee. Governor Cuomo proposes to enact the nation's strongest legislation against pension poaching to eliminate this predatory conduct. This law will implement new disclosure requirements for businesses that advertise their fee-based services of filing claims and appeals for VA benefits, and will enable the prosecution of businesses that violate these standards.
- Properly Designate New York State's Veterans Service Agency: The New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs is commonly mistaken for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. To avoid this confusion, the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs will now become the New York State Division of Veterans' Services. This new name accurately defines the core mission of this agency—serving veterans and their families the rest of the way—and clearly distinguishes the Division from the federal VA, avoiding any unnecessary mistakes and confusion moving forward.
- Expand Programs for Veterans Behind Bars: Through the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the Governor implemented three Veterans Residential Therapeutic Programs at Medium Security Correctional Facilities that identify each veteran's individual needs and provide them with corresponding services. Under this new proposal, the Governor will provide resources to expand the programs available and offer the programs in Maximum Security Facilities for the first time.
- Deliver Access to Justice for Veterans through Law School Partnerships: Building on the success of New York's Justice for Heroes grants, Governor Cuomo will expand the program to offer participating schools the chance to renew their grants for the next two years. By providing law schools with a total of up to $150,000, each participating school will be able to improve the sustainability of its new legal services initiatives, ensuring that free legal services for veterans and their families will be provided by faculty and students at these schools for many years to come.