New York

2019-2020 Education Budget Testimony

Published on February 6th, 2019

Testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference regarding the 2019 – 2020 Elementary and Secondary Education Budget
Presented by James D. Cultrara, Director for Education 
Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany, N.Y.

February 6, 2019

Introduction

 A promising future for our children, families, communities and our economy depends on whether our schools are providing a quality education to the state’s children. The state’s Catholic schools continue their tradition, going back for more than 200 years, of providing an outstanding education to thousands of our state’s children, many of whom are not Catholic. Especially in our inner cities, Catholic schools continue to help bring children out of poverty. Parents, however, are finding it increasingly difficult to shoulder the dual burden of taxes to support public schools while paying tuition to support the education of their own children. The decline in enrollment and the resulting closing of Catholic schools over the decades is no surprise. Little attention, however, has been paid to the added cost to taxpayers.

While the Catholic Bishops are continuously forced to make the extraordinarily difficult decisions to close Catholic schools, it must be noted that no Catholic school has closed due to academic failure. This is something that cannot be said about either traditional public or charter schools. Nor have our schools been closed due to lack of desire on the part of parents to enroll their children. The loss of Catholic schools in New York State comes down entirely to the rising costs and the inability of parents to pay the increasing tuition needed to meet those costs. This has been a tragedy for the state, for the parents of those children who are enrolled and those who wish they could be, and for the children themselves.

More than 75 Catholic schools across the state were forced to close in the past seven years and more will be closing this June.  More than 300 have closed in the last 20 years. Most of the displaced students then enroll in the already over-burdened public school system at a far greater cost to taxpayers. The shift of enrollment from private to public schools over the last 20 years has increased the cost to taxpayers by more than $2 billion – each and every year! Unless something meaningful is done to support the education of children in religious and independent schools, this trend will continue to exacerbate the burden on taxpayers. But even more importantly, more and more children will be denied the opportunity to escape poverty and have a brighter future that the remarkable success of Catholic schools offers.

Like many good public schools, Catholic schools have been instrumental in moving hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, many from immigrant populations and communities of color. It is well known that our Catholic schools serve many non-Catholic families; our reach and service goes well beyond the Catholic community. Our ability to serve poor families and the broader community with a quality education depends on the ability of low-income and minority families to access scholarships. These families are desperate for successful schools, knowing that a quality education for their children is the means to a prosperous future.

But if our schools are to continue being a part of addressing New York’s inequality of resources and opportunities, we must work together to meet the fiscal challenges that threaten their very existence. The good news is that you have the opportunity to do something about it, without hurting any other children or any other schools. All it takes is the political will to act.

Substantial Equivalency Reviews and Determinations: The substantial equivalency guidelines issued by SED, based in part by the amendment to section 3204 of the education law enacted as part of last year’s state budget, require many religious and independent schools in New York State to be reviewed by local public school district staff and a determination, by a vote of the public school board, on whether the private school can operate. In the case of religious schools, sending local school authorities to scrutinize private religious schools would create excessive governmental entanglement in and an infringement of the exercise of religion. The very process of sending local school boards to inspect and evaluate religious schools raises these entanglement concerns, regardless of the outcome of such scrutiny.  We maintain that in no case should a local public school board have authority over whether a private school can operate. While we are accountable primarily to the parents who choose our schools for their children’s formal education, any government authority over our schools rests with the NYS Board of Regents.

Because the religious and independent school community is so diverse, we believe there ought to be multiple options in measuring the success of these schools without jeopardizing their independence and unique missions.  Indeed, multiple options are essential to preserve religious schools’ free exercise and equal protection rights protected by the United States and New York constitutions, as well as federal Department of Education rules concerning equal treatment.

The NYS Council of Catholic School Superintendents cannot and will not accept a review and vote on their operations by a local competitor who can, in effect, invalidate a Regents-issued absolute charter, registration and SED-approved certificate of incorporation.  We seek an amendment to Article 65 of the education law to create various options for determining substantial equivalency with the final authority being vested exclusively with the State Education Department and Board of Regents.  We further urge restoration of the $2 million appropriation to support the State Office of Religious and Independent Schools’ efforts to oversee substantial equivalency provisions.

Funding for Critical Capital Needs: Numerous religious and independent schools face critical facility needs which if unmet threaten their ability to maintain a safe and productive space for students, staff and the broader community. Their needs include major roof repair/replacement, structural repairs/renovations, and boiler repair/replacement, etc. Unlike their public school counterparts, most of these schools are unable to finance these projects without financial assistance. We urge a $200 million appropriation within the 2019-20 State Budget for critical capital projects at religious and independent schools.

Funding for Energy Efficiency Projects:  Advances in energy technologies not only reduce energy usage, thereby helping all utility rate-payers, they also improve the spaces in which we live, work, and learn. While these projects are expensive to initiate, the savings realized in some projects can easily pay for the initial expense in a relatively short period of time. Many of our schools however, unlike their public school counterparts, lack the money to initiate such projects. We urge adoption of a combined energy efficiency grant and loan program of $75 million to provide seed money to initiate energy efficiency projects. Those school communities utilizing the loan portion of the fund would repay their initial grants with the savings they achieve in energy efficiency, thereby allowing the fund to continue to benefit others.

State Office of Religious and Independent Schools (SORIS): The State Office of Religious and Independent Schools within SED has reversed the work backlog and the delay in disbursing program funds benefitting students and teachers in these schools. Additional funds are needed however to support a sufficient number of staff who can more fully oversee and enforce the state and federal programs related to religious and independent schools as well as to carry-out  the “substantial equivalency” reviews for schools across the state. We therefore urge restoration of the original $2 million funding level for SORIS.

Mandated Services Aid / Immunization: The Executive Budget excludes the $7 million needed to reimburse schools in Buffalo, Rochester and New York City for their expenses in complying with the state’s immunization program – first included in the 2017-18 state budget.  These fund must be restored and sufficient funds provided to fully reimburse schools for all current and prior-year mandated costs.  In addition, the law that was approved twice by the legislature and eventually signed into law by Governor Cuomo to reinstate the 40-year old “instructional time” standard for reimbursement has yet to be implemented.  The resulting delay in reimbursement payments will no doubt adversely affect the ability of many schools to meet their payroll, vendor and other critical financial obligations.

Helping Tuition-paying Families: Lawmakers in 30 states have enacted various forms of tuition assistance programs enabling poor and working-class families to choose the educational setting best suited for their children. These programs have helped multiple generations achieve the kind of educational equality and economic opportunity on which New York State prides itself.  And although demand for our schools remains strong, working and middle class families too often cannot afford even the modest tuition that we must charge – and there are long waiting lists for the limited number of scholarships that can be offered. Yet, New York continues to be one of the states denying its own residents these opportunities.

The federal expansion of 529 plans now allow funds to be used for K-12 tuition. 529 plans were enacted in 1996 to help families pay for college by ensuring that the earnings on the funds in the accounts are not subject to federal income tax. Many states, including New York, enhanced the tax benefit, going above and beyond the federal government by changing their state tax laws to allow contributions to 529 accounts to be deductible on state income taxes. However, New York will likely need to change its tax law again to ensure that withdrawals for K-12 tuition are not subject to New York State income tax. If parents are going to take advantage of the federal law and use funds from a 529 account for K-12 tuition, New York State, in effect, will likely penalize taxpayers by requiring them to not only pay back the tax on the amount that was deducted when computing their state income taxes, but they will likely also have to pay state income tax on any earnings. This could more than offset any federal tax advantage they accrued and result in even greater costs to families.

We urge you to ensure that families are not penalized when taking advantage of the expanded federal 529 Plans and that they can obtain the full tax benefits of 529 accounts for K-12 tuition that are and have been available to families for college tuition for 20 years. In addition, as lawmakers in 30 other state have done, we urge you to enact a meaningful tuition assistance program to generate additional scholarships for the children of low- and working-class families to attend a school best suited for them.

Health, Safety, Security:  We are grateful to you and Governor Cuomo for providing $15 million in health, safety and security funds and the flexibility to support an array of activities addressing these needs. However, many critical projects cannot be financed by the limited funds available to each school. We estimate that at least $30 million is needed to meet current funding demands.

STEM:  While the Governor recommends a $5 million increase from $15 million to $20 million to support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education in our schools, , reimbursement claims in the first year came in at $91 million. We also estimate that the actual STEM expenses of schools are in the hundreds of millions as STEM education expands around the world.  While we are grateful to the Governor for the recommended increase, we urge additional funds necessary to keep pace with the rapidly growing STEM program costs.

Transportation Services / Funding: Next to their ability to afford tuition, the second most common challenge faced by parents in enrolling their children in religious or independent schools is their ability to have their children transported to school. When parents are denied their choice of a religious or an independent school because transportation services are not available or are unreasonable or are unreliable, the burden on taxpayers increases as more of these children are forced to enroll in public schools. Moreover, disparate school district calendars result in fragmented transportation services. This problem is exacerbated as districts utilize the additional flexibility granted to them in meeting their minimum instructional time requirements. We urge the following: (1) restore 90 percent state reimbursement of school district costs of transporting religious and independent school students; (2) require transportation to be provided by schools with disparate schedules and calendars – and not denied to religious and independent schools when public schools are closed or when they make mid-year calendar changes;

(3) require small city school districts to transport children up to the maximum mileage limit rather than city limits; (4) increase the maximum distance school districts are required to transport children to school from 15 to 25 miles; and (5) appropriate $25 million in transportation services grants directly to religious and independent school organizations which can then purchase needed transportation services from school districts and other providers where transportation gaps exist.

Smart School Bond FundsThe $25 million appropriation intended to address the inequities in the private school share of the Smart Schools Bond Act funds is not sufficient to ensure that each of our schools across the state is receiving an equitable share of the classroom technology to which they are entitled. We urge: 1) the Smart School Review Board to not approve any district plan that does not correctly calculate the private school share; 2) that funding be used to supplement plans already approved wherein the private school share was incorrectly calculated; and 3) that additional funds be appropriated to ensure that all private schools receive the technology to which they are entitled under the Act.

Nursing ServicesAn increasing number of children have acute and chronic health problems that require the daily attention and care of professional school nurses. Yet the shortage of school nurses leaves school employees in the untenable position of having to respond to health emergencies and manage chronic health problems. School administrators and teachers are not health professionals and simply should not be forced to manage and respond to their students’ asthma, diabetes, food allergies and other health conditions. For parents, as well as for the school staff to whom children have been entrusted, there is nothing more important that the health and safety of their children. It is simply unconscionable to put the lives and well-being of children at risk. We urge you to include sufficient funding to ensure that a full-time nurse is available for every public, independent and religious school.

Academic Intervention Services:  Currently only $922,000 is appropriated annually to independent and religious schools to implement the Academic Intervention Services (AIS) regulations promulgated by the Board of Regents, far below the $20 million that is needed. Without adequate funding now, these at-risk children may easily fall behind even more, requiring more expensive academic interventions later. AIS funding should be increased so that, like public schools, our schools are able to provide these services to our children who are most in need.

Teacher Training and Mentoring: The mandated continuing education for certified teachers and school leaders is essential to maintaining high quality academic programs, to meet the growing needs of students, and to keep pace with developments in standards, assessments, technology, and other programs. We urge you to include $10 million for teacher and leader professional development in religious and independent schools.

Professional Development; Article VII language:  The SED and the Commissioner’s Advisory Council for Nonpublic Schools have developed and are implementing a plan to expend approximately $2 million in federal Title IIa and IVa funds, on an annual basis, to support the professional development of our school principals and teachers as well as supporting vital . One part of the plan calls for graduate level courses to be offered through the state’s institutions of higher education. To that end, SED has established a Memorandum of Understanding  (MOU) with the City University of New York and will seek to do so with the State University of New York – both “sister agencies” of SED. We respectfully urge the inclusion of Article VII language in this year’s budget to permit SED to establish a comparable MOU with the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities so that course offerings at New York’s independent colleges are likewise available to nonpublic school principals and teachers.

Learning Technology Grants: The Governor proposes $3.3 million for Learning Technology grants. The limited funding for this valuable program, however, serves only 50 school districts along with their independent and religious school partners. We strongly urge you to increase the appropriation to a level sufficient to enable more needy schools to benefit from this program.

Early Childhood /Pre-Kindergarten Funding: The State Education Department and advocates continue to seek expanded programing and funding for early childhood/Pre-K and the consolidation of the same. While we applaud this effort in general, we urge that any programmatic and funding modifications continue to require and support the inclusion of community-based providers, including religious and independent schools. Doing otherwise would disenfranchise countless families, erode meaningful diversity in the program and result in substantially higher costs.

In Summary:  In order to ensure that all children, regardless of where they attend school, are provided the opportunity to become competitive, responsible and healthy adults in the 21st century, it is vital that sufficient resources and services be provided on an equitable basis for all children.  Education is a common and shared responsibility of each and every one of us– not an obligation of only the “public” schools. We believe lawmakers are responsible for supporting all families they represent regardless of whether their children are educated in traditional public schools, charters, religious and independents, home school, or virtual classrooms.

While we are grateful for the multiple programs and funding streams provided by lawmakers to the benefit of students in religious and independent schools, the fact remains that our schools operate on a dramatically uneven playing field.  Despite the fact that 13 percent of children in New York State attend a religious and independent schools, less than 1 percent of state education spending is devoted to these children. The bulk of the cost of educating these children is shouldered by their families already overburdened with taxes to support the public education system.  Continued and expanded state support of the students in religious and independent schools will benefit virtually every community across the state and will help make New York the truly progressive state it continues to aspire to be.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/02/2019-2020-education-budget-testimony/

Farmworkers slider

Published on February 5th, 2019

Memorandum of Support

Re: S.2837 Ramos / A.2750 Nolan
In relation to the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act would address a number of the exemptions in New York’s labor, public health and workers compensation laws that currently prevent farmworkers from accessing rights and privileges available to other workers. The New York State Catholic Conference supports this bill and strongly urges its long-overdue enactment by the legislature.

“For years, the Catholic Church has advocated for equal rights and fair treatment for farmworkers,” Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, has said. “It is a human rights issue.”

Farmworkers are excluded from many of the laws that establish worker protections, including overtime pay, employer contributions to the unemployment and workers’ compensation funds, and public health protections including sanitation and housing standards. In addition to ending these exclusions, this bill would grant them collective bargaining rights and would require that farmworkers be given a 24-hour day of rest in every calendar week which, whenever possible, would coincide with the laborer’s traditional day for religious worship.

In December 1999, legislation was enacted eliminating farmworkers’ exemption from the minimum wage laws. However, in the 20 years since, we have made no additional progress in achieving worker equality for these individuals on whom we depend for the food that we eat.

There is no legitimate reason for treating farmworkers inequitably. They are not seeking special treatment; they simply ask that they no longer be excluded from the same rights and protections enjoyed by the rest of society.

By recognizing the rights of farmworkers and the unique contributions of agriculture, New York can develop policies which bring economic fairness, safety, and dignity to the production of agricultural goods from which we all benefit.

Memorandum de Apoyo

Re:  S.2837 Ramos / A.2750 Nolan
Con relación a la Ley de Prácticas Laborales Justas para los Trabajadores Agrícolas

La Ley de Prácticas Laborales Justas para los Trabajadores Agrícolas abordaría algunas de las exenciones en las leyes laborales, de salud pública y de compensación laboral de Nueva York, que actualmente impiden que los trabajadores agrícolas accedan a los derechos y privilegios disponibles para otros trabajadores. La Conferencia Católica del Estado de Nueva York apoya aeste proyecto de ley e insta encarecidamente a la legislatura, a promulgarlo desde hace mucho tiempo.

“Durante años, la Iglesia Católica ha abogado por la igualdad de derechos y el trato justo para los trabajadores agrícolas”, dijo Timothy Cardinal Dolan, arzobispo de Nueva York. “Es un asunto de derechos humanos”.

Los trabajadores agrícolas están excluidos de muchas de las leyes que establecen protecciones para los trabajadores, incluyendo el pago de horas extra, las contribuciones del empleador al desempleo y los fondos de compensación para trabajadores, y las protecciones de salud pública, incluyendo los estándares de salubridad y vivienda. Además de poner fin a estas exclusiones, este proyecto de ley les otorgaría derechos de negociación colectiva y exigiría que los trabajadores agrícolas tengan un día de descanso de 24 horas en cada semana calendario que coincidiría con el día tradicional para el culto religioso, siempre que sea posible.

En diciembre de 1999, se promulgó una ley que elimina la exención de los trabajadores agrícolas de las leyes de salario mínimo. Sin embargo, en los 20 años posteriores, no hemos logrado ningún progreso adicional en el logro de la igualdad laboral para estas personas de quienes dependemos para los alimentos que comemos.

No hay una razón legítima para tratar a los trabajadores agrícolas de manera desigual. No buscan un trato especial; simplemente piden que ya no sean excluidos de los mismos derechos y protecciones que goza el resto de la sociedad.

Reconociendo los derechos de los trabajadores agrícolas y las aportaciones únicas de la agricultura, Nueva York puede desarrollar políticas que brinden equidad económica, seguridad y dignidad a la producción de productos agrícolas de los cuales todos nos beneficiamos.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/02/farmworkers-fair-labor-practices-act/

Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

Published on February 5th, 2019

Memorandum of Support

Re: S.2837 Ramos / A.2750 Nolan
In relation to the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act would address a number of the exemptions in New York’s labor, public health and workers compensation laws that currently prevent farmworkers from accessing rights and privileges available to other workers. The New York State Catholic Conference supports this bill and strongly urges its long-overdue enactment by the legislature.

“For years, the Catholic Church has advocated for equal rights and fair treatment for farmworkers,” Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, has said. “It is a human rights issue.”

Farmworkers are excluded from many of the laws that establish worker protections, including overtime pay, employer contributions to the unemployment and workers’ compensation funds, and public health protections including sanitation and housing standards. In addition to ending these exclusions, this bill would grant them collective bargaining rights and would require that farmworkers be given a 24-hour day of rest in every calendar week which, whenever possible, would coincide with the laborer’s traditional day for religious worship.

In December 1999, legislation was enacted eliminating farmworkers’ exemption from the minimum wage laws. However, in the 20 years since, we have made no additional progress in achieving worker equality for these individuals on whom we depend for the food that we eat.

There is no legitimate reason for treating farmworkers inequitably. They are not seeking special treatment; they simply ask that they no longer be excluded from the same rights and protections enjoyed by the rest of society.

By recognizing the rights of farmworkers and the unique contributions of agriculture, New York can develop policies which bring economic fairness, safety, and dignity to the production of agricultural goods from which we all benefit.

Memorandum de Apoyo

Re:  S.2837 Ramos / A.2750 Nolan
Con relación a la Ley de Prácticas Laborales Justas para los Trabajadores Agrícolas

La Ley de Prácticas Laborales Justas para los Trabajadores Agrícolas abordaría algunas de las exenciones en las leyes laborales, de salud pública y de compensación laboral de Nueva York, que actualmente impiden que los trabajadores agrícolas accedan a los derechos y privilegios disponibles para otros trabajadores. La Conferencia Católica del Estado de Nueva York apoya aeste proyecto de ley e insta encarecidamente a la legislatura, a promulgarlo desde hace mucho tiempo.

“Durante años, la Iglesia Católica ha abogado por la igualdad de derechos y el trato justo para los trabajadores agrícolas”, dijo Timothy Cardinal Dolan, arzobispo de Nueva York. “Es un asunto de derechos humanos”.

Los trabajadores agrícolas están excluidos de muchas de las leyes que establecen protecciones para los trabajadores, incluyendo el pago de horas extra, las contribuciones del empleador al desempleo y los fondos de compensación para trabajadores, y las protecciones de salud pública, incluyendo los estándares de salubridad y vivienda. Además de poner fin a estas exclusiones, este proyecto de ley les otorgaría derechos de negociación colectiva y exigiría que los trabajadores agrícolas tengan un día de descanso de 24 horas en cada semana calendario que coincidiría con el día tradicional para el culto religioso, siempre que sea posible.

En diciembre de 1999, se promulgó una ley que elimina la exención de los trabajadores agrícolas de las leyes de salario mínimo. Sin embargo, en los 20 años posteriores, no hemos logrado ningún progreso adicional en el logro de la igualdad laboral para estas personas de quienes dependemos para los alimentos que comemos.

No hay una razón legítima para tratar a los trabajadores agrícolas de manera desigual. No buscan un trato especial; simplemente piden que ya no sean excluidos de los mismos derechos y protecciones que goza el resto de la sociedad.

Reconociendo los derechos de los trabajadores agrícolas y las aportaciones únicas de la agricultura, Nueva York puede desarrollar políticas que brinden equidad económica, seguridad y dignidad a la producción de productos agrícolas de los cuales todos nos beneficiamos.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/02/farmworkers-fair-labor-practices-act/

2019-2020 Human Services Budget Testimony

Published on February 5th, 2019

Testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference regarding the 2019 – 2020 Human Services Budget
Submitted by: Michael A. Lawler, Director of Catholic Charities, NYS Catholic Conference
Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany, N.Y.

January 24, 2019

Senator Krueger, Assembly Member Weinstein, distinguished members of the Senate and Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen.

My name is Michael A. Lawler and I am Director of Catholic Charities for the New York State Catholic Conference. I am representing the New York State Council of Catholic Charities Directors, the policy board for Catholic Charities and its programs operating in all 62 counties of this state. I am also on the Advisory Board of the Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York campaign. We are a group of over 400 human services agencies from every region of the state that has come together to work on human service workforce and infrastructure needs.

Our top priority over the past three years has been the human services workforce. The human services sector, broadly defined, is in crisis. Recruitment and retention is a serious problem across the board.

We believe that there are two ways to begin to address this crisis:  fund a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for all human services; and reimburse the entire human services sector for the costs associated with the $15 minimum wage. Unfortunately, the Governor has turned his back on the human services sector in this budget proposal.

A decade ago, a human services COLA was put into law. Upon its immediate passage, it was deferred. This pattern has continued year in and year out. To date, the human services sector has lost nearly $700 million in state funding. This budget proposal, which he calls his “Justice Agenda” continues this trend and withholds $140 million from the human services sector. Again, the Governor is balancing his budget on the backs of the human services sector. Withholding over $800 million from the human services sector is far from Justice!

We all remember the “Fight for $15” campaign. My organization endorsed the Governor’s proposal. The Governor saw this effort as a way to improve wages for many households struggling to make ends meet. Many of these struggling families are our workforce. Eighty percent of the human services workforce are women and approximately 45 percent are people of color.

Beginning in April 2016, when the law was passed, many in the human services sector, mainly health and mental hygiene agencies, were being compensated for the incremental cost of increasing the minimum wage. For whatever reason, agencies providing human services that are not under contract with health and mental hygiene agencies are being left out in the cold.

In FY 2019, the Governor finally recognized us and put $15 million in the enacted budget to reimburse us for minimum wage costs. I want to thank you, the State Legislature, for approving this line item.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Governor in his Justice Agenda briefing book repeatedly touts the $15 minimum wage and goes out of his way to say that $1.3 billion is in his budget to pay for minimum wage costs for health and mental hygiene workers. The Governor also repeatedly touts his Women’s Agenda, yet he has turned his back on 80 percent of our workforce.

We, in the human services sector, are completely baffled as to why the Governor would not prioritize our workforce in this budget.

I know that each and every one of you reading this testimony believes in the nonprofit sector and the great work we do in your communities. We also know that you support us in our quest to get the COLA and minimum wage reimbursed.

We are asking the Governor to add $150 million to the budget during the 30-day amendment process. I would ask you to add your voices to ours and ask the same thing. After all, $150 million out of $175 billion is a very small amount of funding (0.000857)

Governor Cuomo:  please address this injustice in your Justice Agenda.

Thank you for your service to this state and thank you for supporting the Human Services sector.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/02/2019-2020-human-services-budget-testimony/

HALT slider

Published on January 30th, 2019

Memorandum of Support

RE: A.2500 Aubry / S.1623 Sepulveda
HALT Solitary Confinement Act

The HALT Solitary Confinement Act would limit the time an inmate can spend in segregated confinement, end the segregated confinement of vulnerable people, restrict the criteria that can result in such confinement, improve conditions of confinement, and create more humane and effective alternatives to such confinement. The New York State Catholic Conference strongly supports this legislation.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has denounced solitary confinement that exceeds 15 days. Additionally, there are far too many people in isolation, disproportionately people of color. On any given day, there are nearly 3,000 people in isolated confinement in New York State prisons, locked in concrete 6-by-10-foot cells for 23 hours a day.

In 2000, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced its opposition to the increasing use of isolation units, and in 2014, Pope Francis stated, one form of torture is … confinement in high security prisons …the lack of sensory stimuli, the total impossibility of communication and the lack of contact with other human beings induce mental and physical suffering such as paranoia, anxiety, depression, weight loss, and significantly increase the suicidal tendency.

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany wrote in an April 9, 2016, op/ed in the Times Union: “Social science has affirmed that solitary confinement works against the purpose of rehabilitation and restorative justice. It also works against the purpose of improving public safety, both inside our prisons and jails and in our communities. For all Americans committed to building a safer, healthier society, we cannot ignore the mental illness, debilitating trauma and recidivism that are the hallmarks of placing inmates in solitary confinement.”

We have supported the February 2015 settlement between the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), in which the state agreed to immediately begin to remove pregnant and mentally disabled prisoners from segregation. Unfortunately, there continues to be a significant use of solitary confinement in the state’s prison system and, as Bishop Scharfenberger wrote, “Still, more must be done to end the use of solitary confinement here in the Empire State.” 

We applaud the sponsors, Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry and Senator Luis Sepulveda, for their persistence in passing this needed reform and we urge its quick passage by the legislature.

 

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/halt-solitary-confinement-act/

HALT Solitary Confinement Act

Published on January 30th, 2019

Memorandum of Support

RE: A.2500 Aubry / S.1623 Sepulveda
HALT Solitary Confinement Act

The HALT Solitary Confinement Act would limit the time an inmate can spend in segregated confinement, end the segregated confinement of vulnerable people, restrict the criteria that can result in such confinement, improve conditions of confinement, and create more humane and effective alternatives to such confinement. The New York State Catholic Conference strongly supports this legislation.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has denounced solitary confinement that exceeds 15 days. Additionally, there are far too many people in isolation, disproportionately people of color. On any given day, there are nearly 3,000 people in isolated confinement in New York State prisons, locked in concrete 6-by-10-foot cells for 23 hours a day.

In 2000, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced its opposition to the increasing use of isolation units, and in 2014, Pope Francis stated, one form of torture is … confinement in high security prisons …the lack of sensory stimuli, the total impossibility of communication and the lack of contact with other human beings induce mental and physical suffering such as paranoia, anxiety, depression, weight loss, and significantly increase the suicidal tendency.

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany wrote in an April 9, 2016, op/ed in the Times Union: “Social science has affirmed that solitary confinement works against the purpose of rehabilitation and restorative justice. It also works against the purpose of improving public safety, both inside our prisons and jails and in our communities. For all Americans committed to building a safer, healthier society, we cannot ignore the mental illness, debilitating trauma and recidivism that are the hallmarks of placing inmates in solitary confinement.”

We have supported the February 2015 settlement between the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), in which the state agreed to immediately begin to remove pregnant and mentally disabled prisoners from segregation. Unfortunately, there continues to be a significant use of solitary confinement in the state’s prison system and, as Bishop Scharfenberger wrote, “Still, more must be done to end the use of solitary confinement here in the Empire State.” 

We applaud the sponsors, Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry and Senator Luis Sepulveda, for their persistence in passing this needed reform and we urge its quick passage by the legislature.

 

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/halt-solitary-confinement-act/

Legislative Votes on Abortion Expansion

Published on January 29th, 2019

On January 22, 2019, the solemn anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, both the State Senate and the Assembly voted on and passed the radical “Reproductive Health Act,” numbered S.240. The Governor immediately signed and celebrated the new law. This law goes well beyond Roe in its permissiveness and aggressive promotion of abortion. For a full analysis, go HERE.

To see how every legislator vote go HERE. A “NO” vote is a pro-life vote. A “Yes” vote is a vote for abortion expansion. The Assembly vote is listed first; the Senate vote is second.

Finally, go HERE to send a message to your elected officials about their vote. Our advocacy tool will automatically send your Senator and Assembly Member the correct message based on their vote.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/legislative-votes-on-abortion-expansion/

CVA passage slider

Published on January 28th, 2019

We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation. The legislation now recognizes that child sexual abuse is an evil not just limited to one institution, but a tragic societal ill that must be addressed in every place where it exists.

Sadly, we in the Church know all too well the devastating toll of abuse on survivors, their families, and the extended community. Every Catholic diocese in New York has taken important steps to support survivors of child sexual abuse, including the implementation of reconciliation and compensation programs. We are proud that these pioneering programs have not only helped well more than a thousand survivors of clergy abuse in New York, but have also become a model for how to help survivors in other states and in other institutions.

Now, we hope that this same type of survivor-centered approach, that puts the emphasis on healing, is available to all survivors, regardless of when the abuse occurred, or who their abuser was—whether it was a priest, a coach, a teacher, a doctor, or, as is all too common, a family member. We have long called for strengthening the Child Victims Act and will continue to advocate for the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations, compensations programs for those who prefer it to litigation, and mandatory safe environment training for anyone who works with children, as we have implemented in the eight dioceses throughout New York State.

We thank the brave survivors who have told their stories of abuse in every sector of society. Their witness has moved us all. We renew our commitment to combatting the monstrous crime of childhood sexual abuse and helping all survivors find recourse and reconciliation as they heal.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop of Albany

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Bishop of Brooklyn

Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
Bishop of Buffalo

Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley
Bishop of Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester

Most Rev. John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville Centre

Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse

And the Auxiliary and Retired Bishops of New York State

 

Oramos para que la aprobación de la Ley de Víctimas Infantiles ofrezca cierto grado de sanación a todos los sobrevivientes, ofreciéndoles un camino de apoyo y reconciliación. La legislación ahora reconoce que el abuso sexual infantil es un mal que no solo se limita a una institución, sino también una trágica enfermedad social que se debe abordar en todos los lugares donde exista.

Lamentablemente, nosotros en la Iglesia conocemos muy de cerca el devastador estrago de los abusos contra los sobrevivientes, sus familias y la comunidad extendida. Cada diócesis católica en Nueva York ha tomado medidas importantes para apoyar a los sobrevivientes del abuso sexual infantil, incluyendo la implementación de programas de reconciliación y compensación. Estamos orgullosos de que estos programas pioneros no solo hayan ayudado a más de mil sobrevivientes de abuso por parte del clero en Nueva York, sino que también se hayan convertido en un modelo de cómo ayudar a los sobrevivientes en otros estados y en otras instituciones.

 Ahora, esperamos que este mismo tipo de acercamiento centrado en el sobreviviente, que enfatiza la sanación, esté disponible para todos los sobrevivientes, independientemente de cuándo ocurrió el abuso o quién fue el abusador, ya se trate de un sacerdote, un entrenador, un maestro, un médico o, como es muy común, un familiar. Hace mucho tiempo que pedimos que se fortalezca la Ley de Víctimas Infantiles y continuaremos abogando por la eliminación del estatuto de limitaciones penales, la implementación de programas de compensación para aquellos que los prefieren en vez del litigio legal y la capacitación obligatoria en entornos seguros para cualquier persona que trabaje con niños, como hemos implementado en las ocho diócesis en todo el Estado de Nueva York.

Agradecemos a los valientes sobrevivientes que han contado sus historias de abuso en todos los sectores de la sociedad. Su testimonio nos ha conmovido a todos. Renovamos nuestro compromiso de combatir el crimen monstruoso del abuso sexual infantil y de ayudar a todos los sobrevivientes a obtener apoyo y reconciliación en su proceso de sanación.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Arzobispo de New York

Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Obispo de Albany

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Obispo de Brooklyn

Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
Obispo de Buffalo

Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley
Obispo de Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano
Obispo de Rochester

Most Rev. John O. Barres
Obispo de Rockville Centre

Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Obispo de Syracuse

Y los obispos auxiliares y retirados del Estado de Nueva York

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/nys-bishops-statement-on-passage-of-child-victims-act/

NYS Bishops Statement on Passage of Child Victims Act

Published on January 28th, 2019

We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation. The legislation now recognizes that child sexual abuse is an evil not just limited to one institution, but a tragic societal ill that must be addressed in every place where it exists.

Sadly, we in the Church know all too well the devastating toll of abuse on survivors, their families, and the extended community. Every Catholic diocese in New York has taken important steps to support survivors of child sexual abuse, including the implementation of reconciliation and compensation programs. We are proud that these pioneering programs have not only helped well more than a thousand survivors of clergy abuse in New York, but have also become a model for how to help survivors in other states and in other institutions.

Now, we hope that this same type of survivor-centered approach, that puts the emphasis on healing, is available to all survivors, regardless of when the abuse occurred, or who their abuser was—whether it was a priest, a coach, a teacher, a doctor, or, as is all too common, a family member. We have long called for strengthening the Child Victims Act and will continue to advocate for the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations, compensations programs for those who prefer it to litigation, and mandatory safe environment training for anyone who works with children, as we have implemented in the eight dioceses throughout New York State.

We thank the brave survivors who have told their stories of abuse in every sector of society. Their witness has moved us all. We renew our commitment to combatting the monstrous crime of childhood sexual abuse and helping all survivors find recourse and reconciliation as they heal.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop of Albany

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Bishop of Brooklyn

Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
Bishop of Buffalo

Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley
Bishop of Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester

Most Rev. John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville Centre

Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse

And the Auxiliary and Retired Bishops of New York State

 

Oramos para que la aprobación de la Ley de Víctimas Infantiles ofrezca cierto grado de sanación a todos los sobrevivientes, ofreciéndoles un camino de apoyo y reconciliación. La legislación ahora reconoce que el abuso sexual infantil es un mal que no solo se limita a una institución, sino también una trágica enfermedad social que se debe abordar en todos los lugares donde exista.

Lamentablemente, nosotros en la Iglesia conocemos muy de cerca el devastador estrago de los abusos contra los sobrevivientes, sus familias y la comunidad extendida. Cada diócesis católica en Nueva York ha tomado medidas importantes para apoyar a los sobrevivientes del abuso sexual infantil, incluyendo la implementación de programas de reconciliación y compensación. Estamos orgullosos de que estos programas pioneros no solo hayan ayudado a más de mil sobrevivientes de abuso por parte del clero en Nueva York, sino que también se hayan convertido en un modelo de cómo ayudar a los sobrevivientes en otros estados y en otras instituciones.

 Ahora, esperamos que este mismo tipo de acercamiento centrado en el sobreviviente, que enfatiza la sanación, esté disponible para todos los sobrevivientes, independientemente de cuándo ocurrió el abuso o quién fue el abusador, ya se trate de un sacerdote, un entrenador, un maestro, un médico o, como es muy común, un familiar. Hace mucho tiempo que pedimos que se fortalezca la Ley de Víctimas Infantiles y continuaremos abogando por la eliminación del estatuto de limitaciones penales, la implementación de programas de compensación para aquellos que los prefieren en vez del litigio legal y la capacitación obligatoria en entornos seguros para cualquier persona que trabaje con niños, como hemos implementado en las ocho diócesis en todo el Estado de Nueva York.

Agradecemos a los valientes sobrevivientes que han contado sus historias de abuso en todos los sectores de la sociedad. Su testimonio nos ha conmovido a todos. Renovamos nuestro compromiso de combatir el crimen monstruoso del abuso sexual infantil y de ayudar a todos los sobrevivientes a obtener apoyo y reconciliación en su proceso de sanación.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Arzobispo de New York

Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Obispo de Albany

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Obispo de Brooklyn

Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
Obispo de Buffalo

Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley
Obispo de Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano
Obispo de Rochester

Most Rev. John O. Barres
Obispo de Rockville Centre

Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Obispo de Syracuse

Y los obispos auxiliares y retirados del Estado de Nueva York

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/nys-bishops-statement-on-passage-of-child-victims-act/

Statement on Passage of Jose Peralta NYS DREAM Act

Published on January 23rd, 2019

Today’s passage of the Jose Peralta DREAM Act is a strong example of legislation that nurtures real progress, based on respect of human life and the dignity of each person, compassion, service, community and opportunity for everyone.  This legislation will open doors to education that will transform lives and help individuals, families and communities thrive. As we honor and pay tribute to the memory of Senator Jose Peralta, we also pay tribute to the long history of Latino legislators y activists of all backgrounds, who worked tirelessly for many years, so that this day could become a reality.

La aprobación hoy de la Ley José Peralta para Los Soñadores en el Estado de Nueva York, es un sólido ejemplo de legislación que fomenta el progreso real, basada en el respeto a la vida humana y la dignidad de cada persona, la compasión, el servicio, la comunidad y las oportunidades para todos. Esta legislación abrirá puertas a la educación que transformará vidas y ayudará a personas, familias y comunidades a prosperar. Al honrar y rendir homenaje a la memoria del senador José Peralta, también rendimos homenaje a la larga historia de legisladores hispanos y activistas de todos los orígenes, que trabajaron incansablemente durante muchos años para que este día se convierta en una realidad.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/statement-on-passage-of-jose-peralta-nys-dream-act/

Statement on passage and signing of abortion expansion legislation

Published on January 22nd, 2019

Following is a statement of the New York State Catholic Conference on the passage and signing of the Reproductive Health Act:

Today, New York State has added a sad chapter to this already solemn date of January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. With the legislature’s passage, and Governor Cuomo’s signing of the Reproductive Health Act, our beloved state has become a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies.

Many of the state Senators and Assembly Members who voted for this abortion expansion are mothers themselves, who felt their child toss, turn and kick in their womb, and delighted in the progress of their pregnancy. Many others, as well as our governor, are fathers, who held their partner’s hand as they viewed the ultrasound videos, watched their child squirm and rejoiced at the first sound of a heartbeat. Many of these same officials were themselves born into less-than-perfect conditions – poverty, health problems, disabilities, broken families. All overcame these issues to rise to leadership in our state, because their parents chose life for them.

We thank all of our partners in the 12-year-long fight to stop this horrendous policy, and all pro-life New Yorkers who made their voices heard in an effort to stop it. Let us all pray for the conversion of heart for those who celebrate this tragic moment in the history of our state. And we pray in a special way for the lives that will be lost, and for the women of our state who are made less safe under this law.

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

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/statement-on-passage-and-signing-of-abortion-expansion-legislation/

RHA passage slider

Published on January 22nd, 2019

Following is a statement of the New York State Catholic Conference on the passage and signing of the Reproductive Health Act:

Today, New York State has added a sad chapter to this already solemn date of January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. With the legislature’s passage, and Governor Cuomo’s signing of the Reproductive Health Act, our beloved state has become a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies.

Many of the state Senators and Assembly Members who voted for this abortion expansion are mothers themselves, who felt their child toss, turn and kick in their womb, and delighted in the progress of their pregnancy. Many others, as well as our governor, are fathers, who held their partner’s hand as they viewed the ultrasound videos, watched their child squirm and rejoiced at the first sound of a heartbeat. Many of these same officials were themselves born into less-than-perfect conditions – poverty, health problems, disabilities, broken families. All overcame these issues to rise to leadership in our state, because their parents chose life for them.

We thank all of our partners in the 12-year-long fight to stop this horrendous policy, and all pro-life New Yorkers who made their voices heard in an effort to stop it. Let us all pray for the conversion of heart for those who celebrate this tragic moment in the history of our state. And we pray in a special way for the lives that will be lost, and for the women of our state who are made less safe under this law.

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

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/statement-on-passage-and-signing-of-abortion-expansion-legislation/

State Aid to Planned Parenthood

Published on January 18th, 2019

Memorandum of Opposition

Re: S.470 Rivera / A.1080 Glick
In relation to additional state aid for Planned Parenthood clinics

This bill seeks to make Planned Parenthood clinics in New York State eligible to receive funding from the Hospital Bad Debt and Charity Care Pool, which was established in 1983 to underwrite a portion of hospital losses associated with uncompensated care to the indigent and uninsured. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation and urges that it be defeated.

Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are appropriated each year in our state budget for “family planning services,” the vast majority of which will be appropriated to Planned Parenthood clinics. Additional state taxpayer funds flow to these clinics for “adolescent pregnancy prevention programs,” “health and sexuality-related programs,” sexually transmitted disease testing, and more. In addition to these line items, Planned Parenthood clinics enjoy expanded Medicaid eligibility for their clients, and newly-adopted Department of Financial Services’ regulations mandate cost-free insurance coverage for both contraceptives and abortions. We respectfully suggest that additional moneys to this provider are not warranted.

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the United States, with 323,999 reported abortions performed at clinics around the country in 2015. Planned Parenthood’s share of the abortion market has expanded steadily; in 2005 it performed one in five of all abortions, but now it performs one in three. In 2010, Planned Parenthood announced that by 2013 every affiliate must have one or more clinics that perform abortions on-site.

In addition to abortion, Planned Parenthood also provides birth control services and STD testing. But Planned Parenthood is not a primary health care provider: by their own admission, Planned Parenthood clinics do not provide breast cancer screenings, and the vast majority of clinics do not provide prenatal care for pregnant women. In fact, Planned Parenthood provides almost 17 times more abortions than birth-related services for its pregnant clients.

Nationally in 2015, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) served 2.5 million clients (women and men) and performed 323,999 abortions, meaning that nearly 13% of everyone entering a Planned Parenthood clinic received an abortion. The PPFA annual report indicates they provided only 17,419 “prenatal services” and only 2,024 referrals for adoptions. This means that 94% of its services for pregnant women are abortions, outnumbering other options almost 17 to 1.

Because Planned Parenthood is not a primary health care provider, and because Planned Parenthood clinics already receive millions of state taxpayer dollars, they should not be eligible for additional state aid set aside for hospital-based health care for the indigent. We urge you to oppose this legislation.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/state-aid-to-planned-parenthood/

Statement from the Catholic Bishops of NYS on Abortion Expansion

Published on January 17th, 2019

Printable PDF

Words are insufficient to describe the profound sadness we feel at the contemplated passage of New York State’s new proposed abortion policy. We mourn the unborn infants who will lose their lives, and the many mothers and fathers who will suffer remorse and heartbreak as a result.

The so-called “Reproductive Health Act” will expand our state’s already radically permissive law, by empowering more health practitioners to provide abortion and removing all state restrictions on late-term procedures. With an abortion rate that is already double the national average, New York law is moving in the wrong direction.

We renew our pledge to offer the resources and services of our charitable agencies and health services to any woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, to support her in bearing her infant, raising her family or placing her child for adoption. There are life-affirming choices available, and we aim to make them more widely known and accessible.

Our Governor and legislative leaders hail this new abortion law as progress. This is not progress. Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death. Would that not make us truly the most enlightened and progressive state in the nation?

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop of Albany

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Bishop of Brooklyn

Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
Bishop of Buffalo

Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley
Bishop of Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester

Most Rev. John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville Centre

Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse

And the Auxiliary and Retired Bishops of New York State

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/statement-from-the-catholic-bishops-of-nys-on-abortion-expansion/

Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct

Published on January 15th, 2019

Memorandum of Support

Re: A.781 Perry / S.1190 Bailey
In relation to the State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct

The above-referenced legislation has been introduced to amend the judiciary law, by making chapter amendments to Chapter 202 of the Laws of 2018, enacting the Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct.

This legislation makes a number of changes to the newly-created Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct, including: clarifying that the Commission, like similar state commissions, exists in the Executive Department; realigns the 11 member Commission by increasing the governor’s appointees from two to four; and decreasing the appointments by the legislative majorities by one member; clarifies who approves the appointment of the commission’s administration; modifies the commission’s subpoena powers so as not to interrupt active investigations or prosecutions; stipulates any admonishment or censure of a prosecutor will be done by the Appellate Division and not the Court of Appeals; and changes the effective date from May 1, 2019, to April 1, 2019.

The Catholic Conference supports these legislative amendments and strongly supports the reconstituted Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct.

The Catholic Conference has long advocated for reforms of the criminal justice system that protect the rights of the accused and the interest of those who have been victimized. This legislation is consistent with those efforts. It is in no one’s interest for individuals to be wrongly convicted or for guilty parties to not be held accountable as a result of inappropriate conduct on the part of prosecutors. Prosecutors have a duty to pursue justice and establishing standards in support of that goal benefits the legal system and society as a whole.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/commission-on-prosecutorial-conduct/

GENDA

Published on January 14th, 2019

Memorandum of Opposition

A.747 Gottfried / S.1047 Hoylman
In relation to the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act

The New York State Catholic Conference recognizes the good intentions of the sponsors of this legislation to address unjust discrimination against individuals who are transgender or exhibit gender dysphoria. Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, and we understand and appreciate the need for protections for all of New York’s citizens, each one having the same innate dignity as any other.

We are concerned, however, that there are legitimate religious principles which religious organizations may assert that may be compromised, and this legislation does not contain adequate religious liberty protections. Religious entities that, as a religious principle, recognize sexual identity and gender as a matter of biological fact, might be compelled to violate religious teachings by this proposed law. This is a concern regarding employment and benefits, and also in the operation of religious schools.

One specific concern is the addition of language amending the Education Law, stating that students in “religious or denominational educational institutions…shall have the equal opportunity to attend” such schools regardless of “gender identity or expression.” This language may be violative of the rights of religious schools (Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) that maintain on religious grounds that sex and gender are biologically assigned.

For this reason, we must oppose this legislation absent an amendment that would address the serious religious liberty concerns of religious schools.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/genda/

In Relation to Reproductive Health Care Decisions

Published on January 14th, 2019

Memorandum of Opposition

Re:  A.584 Jaffee / S.660 Metzger
In relation to reproductive health care decisions

The above-referenced legislation aims to outlaw employment discrimination based on an employee or dependent’s reproductive health decision making.  For the reasons outlined below, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes this bill.

First, we would note that the term “reproductive health decision making” is not defined within the legislation. It is simply referred to as “…including but not limited to, the decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service…”As such, the term is ambiguous, unlimited, and potentially very expansive, and could include not only contraception and abortion, but also in vitro fertilization, human cloning, sex reassignment surgery, surrogacy and other procedures which are directly contrary to the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church.

To require Catholic Church employers to hire or retain staff who have undergone such procedures or who openly express support for them would substantially impair our ability to hire to mission and enforce our faith-based codes of conduct. In this regard, the legislation is in direct conflict with current protections in New York law (e.g., Executive Law Section 296[11]) which permit religious employers to take employment-related actions based on the religious principles upon which they are established or maintained.

In a similar way, because of its breadth, the legislation will have a direct impact on health insurance coverage by religious organizations. Our current law provides some limited and inadequate protections, but there are considerable areas of ambiguity. There is also ongoing litigation challenging New York State regulations mandating abortion insurance coverage (see Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany et al vs. NYS Department of Financial Services, NYS Supreme Court, Index No. 7536-17.) As a result, Catholic and other religious employers are not sufficiently shielded from being required to cover morally objectionable items in health insurance plans.

We also believe this legislation poses a serious threat to the right to free speech and free exercise of religion. It is a fundamental part of our faith and religious mission to present Catholic beliefs about human life and sexuality, both in our institutions and to the general public.

In the past, our Conference has supported legislation which targets clearly-defined discriminatory behavior, for example, disparate treatment in the workplace based on pregnancy. But because we consider the professional conduct of Catholic agency and institutional staff, as well as our internal policies, to be expressions of our religious mission, we must oppose A.584/S.660 as currently drafted.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/in-relation-to-reproductive-health-care-decisions/

NYS DREAM Act

Published on January 11th, 2019

Memorandum of Support

A.782 De La Rosa / S.1250 Sepulveda
In relation to enacting the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act

The above-referenced legislation would enact the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, and establish the DREAM Act Fund Commission. This would provide opportunities for immigrant students who meet certain criteria to be eligible for financial aid to assist them attend institutions of higher education.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, and strongly urges enactment of this legislation.

The bill is an attempt to allow young people who have demonstrated a commitment to education and who are of good moral character to access financial aid opportunities without regard to immigration status, and would create a mechanism to raise money for college scholarships for the children of immigrants. Other states have passed similar legislation and New York State, with its history of welcoming immigrants, should be at the forefront of these efforts to support immigrant populations who have contributed so much to the vitality of our state. The chance to earn a higher education degree will allow these immigrant students to realize their potential and make a greater contribution to our economy.

Currently immigrants receive elementary and secondary education without regard to their immigration status. Many of these children have lived in this country from a very early age and know no other country as home. However, once they have their high school diplomas in hand, they are often blocked from continuing their education for financial reasons. The Commission established by this bill would raise funds to provide scholarships to deserving students who would be required to have taken steps to regularize their immigration status. These students would also be eligible for other awards and scholarships that would advance their educational opportunities. Parents and family members of students would also be eligible to participate in the NYS College Savings Program with an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

The Catholic Conference has long advocated for a comprehensive immigration reform package at the federal level that includes an earned legalization program, secure borders that reduce risk to individuals and change in the immigration system that promotes family unity. In the interim there are steps that can be taken at the state level to improve the current situation. This legislation is one such effort.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the New York State Catholic Conference have voiced support for the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Likewise, we support this legislation that we believe will afford deserving young immigrants an opportunity to pursue post-secondary education.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/nys-dream-act/

Contraception Insurance Coverage Expansion

Published on January 11th, 2019

Memorandum of Opposition

A.585 Cahill / S.659 Salazar
In Relation to Expanding Contraception Insurance Coverage

The above-referenced legislation would expand current law to require increased insurance coverage for contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and voluntary sterilization. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this measure.

In 2002, New York State lawmakers passed the “Women’s Health and Wellness Act” which requires insurance plans with prescription coverage to cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices, and provides insufficient protections for religious employers.

The legislation now before you would go further by mandating cost-free contraceptives, requiring that a 12-month supply of contraceptives be covered at one time, and including emergency contraception (EC), the so-called “morning-after pill,” within this coverage. We believe that enabling such large amounts of prescription medication, particularly in such high doses as emergency contraception, to get into the hands of young people is irresponsible and dangerous public policy.

This bill would further expand access to emergency contraception by allowing midwives to prescribe EC, allowing pharmacists and nurses to dispense EC without a patient-specific prescription, and broadening the state DOH education and outreach program on EC. Such policy would provide girls as young as 11 or 12 years old easy access to these powerful drugs without parental knowledge or physician oversight. As a matter of state law, many products sold by pharmacies, for example tobacco and non-prescription allergy medicine, are restricted to consumers 18 years of age and older.

Medical experts and the FDA agree that emergency contraception can work in various ways. It can act to inhibit or delay ovulation, and thus prevent conception. But it can also act to prevent an already-fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall, destroying a developing human embryo. This is early abortion, and it is morally abhorrent to many New Yorkers.

We further oppose this bill because it fails to provide religious liberty protections for employers who may have objections to financing insurance coverage of drugs they find morally objectionable. The legislation keeps in place the inadequate 4-part legal definition of “religious employer” which fails to protect charitable organizations, hospitals and schools sponsored by religious organizations, as well as private employers with religious objections. These entities would be forced by this bill to pay for insurance coverage they find to be objectionable.

For these reasons, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation and urges a negative vote.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/contraception-insurance-coverage-expansion/

Abortion Expansion Act (Reproductive Health Act)

Published on January 7th, 2019

Memorandum of Opposition

Re: S.240 Krueger, Stewart-Cousins / A.21 Glick, Heastie
In relation to abortion expansion

This legislation was recently introduced and is being fast-tracked for legislative votes. Despite how it is framed by proponents, this bill is not a simple update of New York’s laws. It is an extreme expansion of current state abortion policy. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this bill, and urges you to vote in the negative.

It’s a late-term abortion expansion.

The primary objective of this legislation is to expand late-term abortion.  Current state law says abortions are legal in New York through 24 weeks of pregnancy (Article 125 Penal Law), but outlawed after that unless they are necessary to save a woman’s life.  This bill would repeal the Penal Law references to abortion and insert a “health” exception into the newly-written Public Health Law. Such a “health” exception has been broadly interpreted by the courts (Doe vs. Bolton 410 US 179, 1973) to include age, economic, social and emotional factors. As a result, this bill will allow abortion for any of these reasons at any time during a pregnancy, including into the ninth month.

Thankfully, New York’s induced abortion numbers have been steadily decreasing, from 118,381 reported in 2008 to 86,627 reported in 2015, according to the most recent vital statistics compiled by the NYS Department of Health. But New York still has the highest abortion rate of any state in the country, with double the national average, and almost 2,000 of these abortions are at 20 weeks gestation or greater.

We believe New York policy should move in the opposite direction of this legislation and aim to decrease the incidence of late-term abortion.

It empowers non-doctors to perform abortions.

Current New York State statutes and regulations are clear in requiring that only licensed physicians may perform abortions in New York. No federal law has ever given permission to non-doctors to perform abortions. This legislation is very specific in reversing these protections, by stating that any health care practitioner authorized under Title Eight of the Education Law may perform an abortion. Practitioners certified under Title Eight include nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives, as well as other non-physicians. This bill would allow the Education Department to authorize any of these non-doctors to do both chemical and surgical abortions.

We believe that empowering lesser-trained and less-experienced non-physicians to perform abortions is hazardous for women and infants.

It eliminates protections for pregnant women and their unborn children.

Moving abortion from the Penal Law to the Public Health Law is a major policy shift that removes accountability for those who would harm unborn children outside the context of medical termination of pregnancy. The crime of “abortion” is the only place in New York law that allows for additional criminal charges for violent attacks against pregnant women that are intended to — and result in — harm to the unborn children.

This legislation would remove current Penal Law protections for pregnant women in cases of coerced or unwanted abortion (Penal Law Sections 125.05, 125.40 and 125.45). Repealing these laws – and proposing no penalties whatsoever for violation of the proposed new law — does a grave disservice to pregnant women, the very-much-wanted children they carry, and any possibility of justice for them when crimes are committed against them.

Such attacks occur with some frequency in cases of domestic violence. Just last month a Gansevoort, New York, man was arrested after aggressively pushing his fists into the belly of a 26-week pregnant woman and attempting to cause her miscarriage. In addition to the misdemeanor of reckless endangerment, he was rightly charged with abortion in the second degree, a felony. That charge would be removed from our statutes under this bill.

It could compel participation in abortion.

Section 2 of this bill [proposed new Public Health Law Section 2599-aa (2)] would ordain abortion as a “fundamental right,” and declare that that state may not “discriminate, deny or interfere with” this right. The right to abortion could thus supersede even the right of conscience. We are concerned that doctors and other health providers may be compelled to perform abortions or risk losing their license to practice. Likewise, we are troubled that medical facilities, even religious ones, could be forced to allow abortions on site or risk fines, penalties, loss of funding/operational certificates or other punishment.

It jeopardizes live-born children.

Currently, NYS Public Health Law Section 4164 gives full legal protection to any child who might (mistakenly) be born alive as the result of an abortion. It also requires a second doctor to be available during a late-term abortion to help give medical care to any such child. Shockingly, this legislation repeals these protections. The right to abortion should never extend so far as to justify the denial of fundamental civil rights and protections to born, living, breathing human children.

Conclusion

As outlined above, we believe this legislation would only increase the tragedy of abortion in our state. We strongly urge you to oppose this legislation when it comes before you for a vote.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/abortion-expansion-act/

The Child Victims Act

Published on January 6th, 2019

Legislative Memorandum

Over the last couple of years, many Americans have learned of the shocking scale and horrific nature of sexual abuse that tragically permeates society—from Olympic-level athletic programs at public institutions; to abuse by family members; the reprehensible rape and sexual abuse of children in our public schools; and, ashamedly, by clergy within the Catholic Church.

In many instances, the very individuals and institutions that should have protected victims and stood up to do the right thing, failed to act, or even worse, covered up wrongdoing. In the Catholic Church, this has created a moral and spiritual crisis, and resulted in a loss of confidence in leadership among the faithful, and prompted federal and state investigations of dioceses here and elsewhere.

Our Bishops and other clergy have met with many survivors who have been brave enough to step out of the shadows to share their stories of betrayal and pain. Those meetings have made clear how these crimes have shattered children’s lives and haunted victims for decades. The Church owes it to survivors to be a part of the solution to this epidemic of evil, and to play a role in the healing of those who have suffered.

We believe this begins by working constructively with lawmakers to pass an amended Child Victims Act (CVA). Historically, we have opposed this legislation, but are committed to strengthening and supporting this legislation—ensuring all victim-survivors are treated equally and are afforded the same protections and recourse under the law.

In New York State, every Catholic diocese has established a voluntary compensation program to offer victim-survivors of abuse from any time in the past an important avenue for compensation, reconciliation, and healing. It is centered on the Church acknowledging the abuse, providing survivors a simple and efficient process for financial compensation if they choose, and promoting reconciliation between those whose innocence was shattered and the Church that failed them.

These programs are completely voluntary and no victim-survivor is required to participate. Known in most dioceses as the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, they have been set up independent of the Church and are administered in most dioceses by Kenneth Feinberg, who ran the September 11th Victims Fund. Other dioceses have used distinguished former jurists like retired Court of Appeals Judge Howard Levine in the Diocese of Albany. Prominent New Yorkers like Raymond Kelly, the former New York City police commissioner, Gail Prudenti, dean of the Maurice A. Deane of Law at Hofstra University, and others in the field of mental health, law enforcement and the law have served as independent overseers of these programs. The administrators alone determine the amount of compensation in each individual case, and no confidentiality requirements bind survivors; they are free to name their abuser, discuss the process, and reveal the amount of the compensation offered.

These programs have been positively received by victim-survivors, many of whom have been relieved to avoid the lengthy and uncertain litigation process, satisfied in the level of financial compensation, and emotionally freed by after feeling listened to and believed.

However, we agree that more must be done to help victim-survivors.

The sponsors of the Child Victims Act are right to pursue legislation and have made a strong argument for a one-year retroactive re-opening of the civil statute of limitations (a “window” bill); however, the bill in its current form lacks critical protections for victim-survivors and we believe it should be strengthened in the following ways:

  • Eliminate the Criminal Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse — We believe predators should be punished criminally regardless of when abuse occurred. The New York State Legislature already has eliminated the criminal statute of limitations for the most serious cases of sexual abuse, such as rape, but it should be expanded to all abuse, particularly in the case of child victims.
  • Statewide Expedited Victim Compensation Program — We believe it is important to give all victim-survivors—regardless of where they were abused—the ability to pursue an expedited state-administered compensation program (like the current program outlined above) that is overseen by an independent commission or administrator that would allow any victim of sexual abuse to forgo the time-consuming and emotionally traumatic litigation process in favor of a confidential process that favors victim-survivors.
  • Close the “Public School Loophole” — Currently, technical language called “notice of claim protections” denies victim-survivors abused at public instructions, like public schools and universities, access and recourse through the courts for newly re-opened child sexual abuse claims. We believe this is wrong, and the CVA should include language to close this loophole.

We believe these amendments would strengthen the Child Victims Act to better serve victim-survivors and provide a model for other states. We would support the legislature passing, and Governor Cuomo signing, this amended legislation this session.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2019/01/the-child-victims-act/

Stop Abortion Expansion

The Catholic Action Network (CAN), an arm of the New York State Catholic Conference, gives us all a larger voice in the halls of government. Through our email and social media alerts, CAN reaches tens of thousands of Catholics like you to provide educational updates on the important issues being debated and to provide you with the tools to simplify the process of contacting your elected officials.




Article source: https://www.votervoice.net/NYSCATHOLIC/campaigns/58520/respond

Governor, legislators praised on abuse reporting legislation

Published on December 10th, 2018

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that requires non-public school administrators to report suspected cases of child abuse to law enforcement. The New York State Catholic Conference, which supported the bill, praised the governor and lawmakers for the new legislation. It followed a series of high-profile scandals involving cover-ups at exclusive independent private schools in various parts of the state.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma) and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City), passed unanimously in both houses of the state legislature in the 2018 legislative session, and was delivered to the governor on Nov. 26. It expands an existing law requiring public school superintendents to report abuse. Cuomo signed the bill Dec. 7.

“This legislation is a no-brainer and a critical tool in protecting children. We are grateful to the sponsors and the governor that reporting of such abuse will now be mandated by law,” said Dennis Poust, director of communications for the Catholic Conference, which represents the New York State Bishops in public policy matters. 

Poust noted that while Catholic schools, like all Church entities, already report all child abuse cases to law enforcement, the scandals in secular private schools across the state in recent years “have demonstrated why there never should have been such an exemption in law in the first place.”

Catholic schools, which are covered by the new law, already are required by the U.S. Bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement. The legislation was supported by the NYS Council of Catholic School Superintendents.

In addition to adding non-public school administrators, the new law also extends the reporting mandate to New York City public schools, which previously had been exempted from the law, as well as charter schools, special schools for children with disabilities (called 853 Programs), and others.

It also requires teachers, administrators and school bus drivers in non-public schools to complete two hours of coursework or training regarding the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment.

“The Bishops of New York State hope that the tragic abuse crisis in the Church’s recent past can serve as a cautionary tale for all organizations that deal with children, including public and private schools,” Poust said. “And we further hope that the reforms we’ve implemented since 2002 can likewise serve as a model for best practices in how to protect children from abuse. We think this newly signed law is a step in that direction.”

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/12/governor-legislators-praised-on-abuse-reporting-legislation/

Gov. Cuomo signs bill restoring long-used reimbursement formula for nonpublic schools

Published on November 16th, 2018

After vetoing similar legislation last year, Governor Cuomo has signed a bill that restores a standard for calculating state reimbursement of administrative mandates placed on Catholic and other religious and independent schools. The “instructional time” standard of 5 hours per day for K-6 and 5.5 hours per day for 7-12 had been used for nearly four decades in calculating reimbursements. However, in recent years the state had begun requiring many schools to factor in non-instructional hours as well, thereby reducing reimbursements.

By restoring the instructional time standard, the legislation, which passed unanimously in both the state Senate and Assembly, will save Catholic schools from facing at least a 4 percent reduction in reimbursement in coming years.

“We are grateful to Gov. Cuomo and the entire legislature for their action in averting devastating cuts in reimbursements to our schools,” said James Cultrara, director for education of the New York State Catholic Conference.

Article source: https://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/11/gov-cuomo-signs-bill-restoring-long-used-reimbursement-formula-for-nonpublic-schools/

Faithful Citizenship slider

Catholics
Care. Catholics Vote.

“We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes
we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good
Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so
that the leader can govern.”

– Pope Francis, 9/16/13

The
Catholic bishops of the United States are pleased to offer once again to the
Catholic faithful Forming Consciences for Faithful
Citizenship
(en Español), our teaching document on the political responsibility
of Catholics. This statement represents our guidance for Catholics in the
exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. We urge
our pastors, lay and religious faithful, and all people of good will to use
this statement to help form their consciences; to teach those entrusted to
their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape
political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching. The
statement lifts up our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and American
citizens with rights and duties as participants in the civil order.

Read Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to
Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States
(en Español), which provides a framework for Catholics in the United States.

Article source: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/#new_tab