Progressive lawmakers push ‘Justice Agenda’ in Albany for 2022 session
Democrats in the state Legislature joined progressive advocates on Thursday to unveil what they’re calling the “Justice Agenda,” a collection of bills they’d like to see approved by lawmakers before they leave Albany for the year in June.
The legislative package would cover a broad range of issues facing New Yorkers, from health care to housing.
Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, a Democrat from Manhattan who chairs the Health Committee, said he’d like to see his colleagues seriously consider the New York Health Act, a bill that would create a single-payer health care system in New York.
Gottfried has been pushing the bill for several years now, and plans to retire from the Legislature at the end of this year following decades in office.
“Our health coverage is beset with deductibles, copays, restricted provider networks, and skyrocketing premiums going up higher than wages or inflation,” Gottfried said. “You have inadequate health coverage if you have it. I have inadequate health coverage.”
Democrats are also pushing a series of criminal justice measures this year, some of which are leftover items that failed to pass last year.
Two bills — called Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole — have gained the most attention.
Elder Parole would allow individuals above the age of 55 who’ve served at least 15 years in prison to be considered for parole, with no guarantee of release. Fair and Timely Parole would make it harder for the State Board of Parole to deny someone parole.
The package also includes legislation geared toward the environment, like a bill called the Clean Futures Act.
For the environment, Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens, is calling for the passage of the Clean Futures Act, which would prohibit new construction of fossil fuel power plants.
“It is time that New York State bans the construction of fossil fuel plants, whether in part or whole. I don’t want to hear it. We’re done. We need clean energy,” Ramos said.
Housing is expected to be a top issue in this year’s legislative session as well, with some Democrats pushing for the approval of what’s called Good Cause Eviction.
That bill would prevent landlords from evicting tenants without a clear reason, limit the amount rent could increase each year, and require renewal leases to be offered to tenants in most cases.
Sen. Julia Salazar, a Democrat from Brooklyn, said the expiration of the state’s eviction moratorium last week could add momentum for the measure.
“The vast majority of tenants across the state do not live in rent-regulated housing,” Salazar said. “Evictions are not regulated where they live, so it’s really critical that we do this, especially during a public health crisis.”
Democrats control both the State Senate and the Assembly, so they’ll have to negotiate among themselves to reach a deal on those bills. The legislative session is scheduled to end in June.