Hunger Action 2009 Legislative Update
- The State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on June 22nd, though it may go a few days longer.Below is an update of various pieces of legislation that Hunger Action is working on.As always, contact is needed with your individual State Senators and Assemblymembers (especially those in the Majority) and Speaker Silver and Senate Majority leader Smith. Switchboard for the Assembly is 518 455-4100; For Senate 518 455-2800. Mailing addresses: State Assembly, LOB, Albany NY 12248; State Senate, LOB, Albany NY 12247. Governor: 518 474-8390, State Capitol, Albany NY 12224. Legislators in their local offices only on Friday.You can check on the state of individual bills through www.assembly.state.ny.us or www.senate.state.ny.usReminder: Hunger Action Network is having a NYC open house / fundraiser / celebration of raising the welfare grant on Wed. June 10th at 6 PM. Call 212 741-8192 for more info.At the federal level, Hunger Action is working with groups like FRAC (www.frac.org) on the reauthorization of child nutrition programs. Please contact your Congresspeople to support. A more uphill struggle with respect to universal health care. The Democrats are pushing limited initiatives such as insurance mandates and "a public option" that will leave many without health care coverage and will do little if anything to control the massive costs for health care, already 16% of the national economy. Hunger Action working with www.singlepayernewyork.org to promote single payer. Short term want to thank / push Sen. Schumer on his commitment to get the Congressional Budget Office to include single payer in any financial analysis of universal health care.
HANNYS State Legislative Agenda for 2009 – as of June 4, 2009
1. Healthy Schools Act. S4418 / A 7804
What the bill does: It establishes a process for updating the nutritional standards for meals in schools and increases the restrictions on junk food at the school. Also establishes stronger wellness policies for schools districts..
Status. This bill in considerably weaker than when it was introduce two years ago. Still opposed by NYS School Boards Association. Has weakened several key provisions such as junk food and has dropped others such as school breakfast expansion and increased state meal reimbursement.. Apparently Sen. Oppenheimer plans to introduce her own version. Everyone says they want to do it but then they spend their time opposing it or weakening it.
2. State Single Payer Health Care. A2356 / S2370
What the bill does: establishes a state single payer universal health care system.
Status. While nominally a lot of support and sponsors, the Senate only has a slight majority of Democrats supporting it (they say they need every Democrat on board( and no one seems willing to champion it. In the Assembly, Gottfried has a more limited proposal (NY Health Plus) to expand the Family Health Plus program into a universal health care. Seems unlikely Assembly will do anything. The legislature did fund a universal health care study 2 years ago to look at single payer and other approaches. Only chance for single payer seems to be if Paterson decides to recommend it the long delayed report but most key health care players in the administration support a Massachusetts style incremental expansion and insurance mandate.
3. Sustainable wage jobs A 4096A/ S 2098A
What the bill does: requires local districts to focus more on identifying job openings that pay a living wage and then gearing training towards that
Status. Bill has moved out of Social Services in both houses. Was passed two years but vetoed by Spitzer due to opposition from NYC, who felt that it undercut the Jobs First approach. OTDA and local districts remain opposed. Has a good chance.
4. Don’t charge rent to shelter residents or others in temporary housing. S 5605 / A8353A
What the Bill Does. NYC recently began to implement a 1995 Pataki regulation which requires shelter residents with income – including Social Security, SSSI, unemployment, child support in addition to wages – to contribute to the cost of shelter. The regulation requires local districts to eject homeless children and adult if they do not comply with this and other requirements of shelter. The rule was not implemented for many years in the City due to legal challenges. The majority of NYC shelter ejection cases have involved individuals living with mental illness and other disabilities. The proposed bill would end the practice of charging residents for rent and would restrict eviction of residents to acts which pose an imminent threat to themselves or other residents.
Status. Has passed both Social Services Committees, goes to Finance / Ways and Means.
5. Access to education for welfare participants. A 1827
What bill does: This bill implements certain changes made by the Bush administration. Allows for baccalaureate and advanced degree programs to count towards the work participation rate and further provides for certain educational and training activity (homework expected or required by the educational institution) to count towards the satisfaction of the participant's work activity requirement
Status: This bill in its present form has been opposed by OTDA for mandating that homework counts (they would like to leave it to local district discretion) and because it strengthens the right of participants to obtain education. The devil is in the details. Intense negotiations around the bill. Good chance some version will pass.
6. Same day issuance of expedited food stamps – A1826 / S746
What the bill does. This bill would require local districts to provide expedited food stamps by next day rather than 5 days after application
Status. Not moving. Still in Social Services. Most advocates aren’t interested, so legislative support isn’t there and some food stamp advocates have concerns over technical issues as it relates to online or faxed applications for food stamps. NYC claims it now does it same day. HANNYS is main proponent.
7. Increase the State Earned Income Disregard for welfare participants - A1296
What the bill does. The Earned Income Disregard allows welfare participants to disregard part of the earnings in calculating their income; otherwise, every dollar of income results in a one dollar reduction of benefits. Governor Pataki raised the EID as a work incentive, promising participants they could earn their way to the poverty line before they lost all benefits. But because the poverty level increases annually to reflect increases in the cost of living but the eligibility determination level (based on the grant level) did not, participants lose benefits while still way short of poverty. The bill increases the
earned income disregard to sixty-seven percent and repeals the one hundred eighty-five percent standard of need for public assistance applicants.
Status. The bill has a fiscal impact, so hard to do post-budget in the present budget deficit. Reported for As. Social services to Ways and Means. No Senate sponsor.
8. Create a NYS Food Policy Council – A7528
What the Bill Does: The bill creates a NYS Food Policy Council by statue rather than the existing Executive Order. The previous Food Policy Council, also created by EO, went out of existence when Governor Cuomo departed and the new Governor did not re-issue the EO. The law would also create an Advisory Council to the FPC and provide more specific direction to the work of the Council.
Status. The bill is not moving in Assembly, presently in Government Operations. While Sen. Aubertine, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has expressed interest, he has not introduced it yet.
9. Energy Retrofit One Million Homes and Create 30,000 new jobs
What the Bill Does. The bill would create green jobs by providing funds to energy retrofit (e.g., weatherize) one million homes in NYS over five years. The funds would be raised through use utility bills to recoup the savings from those who participate in the program.
Status. The proposal was not included in the state budget and the Governor failed to introduce a program bill. The State Assembly is now expected to introduce legislation. Speaker Silver raised the issue at a recent leaders meeting. However, they seem to be hesitant about a large on-bill financing program. "Something" will probably happen but could be small.
10. Industrial Development Agency Reform- S1241 / A3659
What the bill does. The bill sets performance standards for the subsidies provided by local IDAs to businesses seeking to create jobs. In addition to tougher reporting standards, companies would have to pay back a proportionate share of their subsidies if they failed to meet their job creation or retention agreements. The bill would also require projects funded by IDAs to provide prevailing wages, which has become the most controversial part of the proposal.
Status. The bill is subject to intense lobbying, with IDAs and recipients arguing that prevailing wage would drastically drive up costs. Still in government operations.
11. Expansion of the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage. S. 1839 , A. 7743
What the bill does. Expands the income limits for individuals to qualify for the state's Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program from $35,000 to $50,000 for individuals and from $50,000 to $75,000 for couples and makes prescription drugs more affordable for New Yorkers over the age of 65.
Status. Passed the Senate. Currently in the Assembly Aging Committee.
12. Farm worker Bill of Rights A1867 /S 2247
What the bill does. Enacts the farmworkers fair labor practices act: grants collective bargaining rights to farm laborers; requires employers of farm laborers to allow at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week; provides for an 8 hour work day for farm laborers; requires overtime rate at one and one-half times normal rate; makes provisions of unemployment insurance law applicable to farm laborers; defines "work agreement" and mandates use thereof; provides sanitary code shall apply to all farm and food processing labor camps intended to house migrant workers, regardless of the number of occupants; provides for eligibility of farm laborers for workers' compensation benefits; requires employers of farm laborers to provide such farm laborers with claim forms for workers' compensation claims under certain conditions; requires reporting of injuries to
employers of farmworkers.
Status: The bill has reached the floor of the Assembly and will pass as it has done many times before. The Senate is the challenge. Significant opposition from the Farm Bureau as well as Sen Aubertine, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Appears to have the votes to pass (some Republican support) if Sen. Smith allows it to the floor. The bill was reported recently from the Labor Committee and is now in Codes. The Governor has indicated he would sign it, though Farm Bureau has significant influence with him.
13. State Food Stamp Waiver S 2369/ A 4169
What the bill does: This bill requires the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (ODTA) to apply to the federal department of agriculture for any federal food stamp program waivers that would make food stamps available to persons who would become eligible for food stamp benefits only under such waivers. NYC and a few other districts have failed to take advantage of waives to rules such as the restrictions on able bodied adults receiving food stamps.
Status. Has moved to Ways and Means in the Assembly. Has been on the floor of the Senate since April. Opposition from OTDA and NYC seems to be gaining momentum.
14. Prior Approval of Health Insurance Rate Hikes, Higher Medical Loss Ratios (A3122 – Bradley), Gov. Program Bill S 2369/ A 4169
What the bills do. Hunger Action is more support of A3122 than the Governor’s bill. The bills attempt to re-establish prior approval by the insurance department of rate hikes by the health insurance companies if the hike is more than 5%. The Bradley bill is stronger because it provides for public hearings. Both bills seek to increase the medical loss ratio to 85%; this is the percentage of premiums that most be devoted to paying for health care services. Advocates prefer at least a 90% medical loss ratio.
Status. Under negotiation. Assembly Hearing on June 8th.
15. The Bigger Better Bottle Bill
What the bill does. Expands the existing bottle bill to include water bottles and reclaims 80% of the unclaimed deposits for the general state budget, as much as $150 million a year. Also increases the handling fee from 2 cents to 3.5 cents for supermarkets and redemption center.
Status. The bill was included in the state budget, stripping out energy / athletic drinks. The bottlers have intensified their lobbying since passage. A federal judge recently stayed implementation of the bill until April lst, 2010 apparently on the grounds that requiring nique universal product code for water bottles sold in NY violates interstate commerce clause; provision was added to help prevent fraud (i.e., water bottles from other states being redeemed in automated machines). Unclear whether this will be resolved through litigation or legislation. A classic display of the power of special interests.