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NY Legislative Session Fizzles to a Close

It was an anti-climactic ending for this session in the New York State legislature; the Assembly passed an omnibus Women’s Equality Act (which, among other items, would have protected women’s access to reproductive health care services) but the Senate decided to take up the agenda as individual bills. New Yorkers were highly anticipating debate on fair elections reform based partly on a successful New York City model of public financing for campaigns, but that too was left on the cutting room floor.

So, which bills garnered a vote? What high profile issues got precious debate time? What did the legislature not take up or refuse to consider? Here is Reform Jewish Voice of New York State’s legislative session roundup: Read more…

New Yorkers: Call Now to Support Women’s Equality

New Yorkers, the time is now to lift up your voices together and call your state Senator and tell them that you support the New York Women’s Equality Act. Along with others across the state, tell the state Senate that you demand strengthened policies to support women as equal members of society as consistent with our American and Jewish values.

Dial 1-888-897-0174 or text “WEA” or “womensequality” to 877-877 to hear key points and automatically connect to your state Senator.

Today, women in New York face challenges that can prevent them from being contributing fully to society. Women are victims of wage discrimination in the workplace, face restricted access to reproductive health care services, endure family status and pregnancy discrimination and are more likely to be victims of human trafficking.

Call your state Senator and urge them to support the Women’s Equality Act that includes provisions to: Read more…

Let the Games Begin: Immigration Debate Hits the Senate Floor

After months of negotiations and a heated mark-up by the Judiciary Committee, S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, is finally headed to the floor of the Senate for debate. Yesterday, the Senate voted 84-15 to proceed with consideration of what could be the most comprehensive reform of our immigration system in a generation. Today begins a long three weeks for the Senate, as they start to debate, amend and vote their way through the over-1,000 page bill. So what’s included in this mammoth piece of legislation? Here are some of the key items the RAC is focusing on:

Reuniting Families

This bill includes provisions that prioritize family reunification and contains new merit-based legal channels for loved ones to enter the United States. We are supportive of the elimination of the decades-long backlogs in family visas over the next 8 years as established by the bill. However, we believe that family reunification must be inclusive of all family members and we are thankful that Senator Leahy (D-VT) introduced an amendment to the bill to extend spousal visas for LGBT couples.

Read more…

Sweeping Women’s Equality Agenda Introduced in NY

Governor Cuomo unveiled his Women’s Equality Agenda (officially titled the “Women’s Equality Act”) yesterday and urged the legislature to take up the proposal, which includes the 10 elements he identified as vital policy concerns for women during his State of the State this past January. One of the 10 was the contentious provision intended to change state law to allow abortions after 24 weeks to protect a women’s health.

This element of the legislation is the most controversial of the entire proposal–but the legislation is merely intended to align state law with federal law, which allows women to seek an abortion later in the pregnancy if her health or life is in danger. Currently, state law allows abortions after 24 weeks only if the woman’s life is at risk.

Other provisions of the bill include new efforts to guarantee that women are paid the same as men in the workplace, increased penalties for those convicted of human trafficking, and strengthened order-of-protection laws for victims of domestic violence. The legislation is all but assured to pass the Democratic-controlled Assembly but it faces a tough fight in the Senate, where power of the chamber is controlled by the Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference.

Our religious voice is of vital importance as the legislature begins to consider one of the most inclusive proposals in recent memory intended to strengthen and protect women’s health and equality. The Reform Jewish Movement believes in women as capable, moral decision makers who are responsible for their own health and well being in the workplace and in society. Contact your state legislators today to urge them to stand up for the women of New York State by vocally supporting the Women’s Equality Agenda.

Read more about the Women’s Equality Agenda here.

An Empowering Day in Albany

Earlier this month, RJV hosted its annual Advocacy Day in Albany and with our voices raised as one, we spoke on behalf of New York State’s vibrant Reform Jewish community urging state legislators to support the Women’s Equality Agenda and implement fair election reform.  Our actions were noted by legislators, staff and the local press:

Just one day after RJV was meeting with legislators about the need for fair election reform, the state Assembly passed a public financing bill by a wide margin (88-50). The measure would implement a 6-to-1 public fund matching program similar to the one in New York City. The bill now proceeds to the Senate. If you are a New York resident, you can see how your member of the Assembly voted here and take a moment to send an email to your Senator urging them to support public funding of elections now!

All New Yorkers can also continue to take action on the Women’s Equality Agenda and encourage legislators to support the 10-point plan, especially the provisions intended to safeguard women’s reproductive health decisions and ensure pay equality.

Take a look at some of our pictures from the day and check out our new website here to learn more about RJV’s work on the Women’s Equality Agenda and fair elections.

Guest Speakers for NY Advocacy Day Announced

Stand up for Reform Jewish values and discover the intersection of public policy, New York State politics and the Reform Jewish Movement at Reform Jewish Voice of New York State’s annual Advocacy Day!

On Monday, May 6th, join us in Albany to hear from our guest speakers, state Senators Neil Breslin and Andrea Stewart-Cousins and meet with your state legislators about campaign finance reform and the Women’s Equality Agenda, with a particular focus on reproductive health and pay equality.

For all the latest information about Advocacy Day, head over to our Advocacy Day 2013 website and encourage your friends, family and fellow congregants to attend as well! Download a flyer here and spread the word at synagogue; make an announcement at Friday night services, include information in your weekly emails and temple bulletin and reach out to those you think might be interested.

We will prepare you with all the tools you need to become an effective advocate—from prep calls and memos on the issues to lobbying tips, we have everything you need to become an advocate for the Reform Jewish Movement in New York State.

So join us on Monday, May 6th at the State Capitol in Albany to take part in our Movement’s storied tradition of advocacy that stretches from Moses “lobbying” God to students at the RAC’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminar lobbying their elected officials on gun violence prevention measures, reproductive rights and the environment, among others. Register for Advocacy Day here!


Calling All New Yorkers!

This year, we are heading to Albany on Monday, May 6th and we hope you will meet us there! Advocacy Day is a unique opportunity to discover the convergence of public policy, New York State politics and the Reform Jewish Movement. In the coming weeks, we will be announcing the issues we will focus on this year. In the past, we have spoken out on protecting reproductive rights, raising the minimum wage, marriage equality and campaign finance reform.

We will prepare you with the tools to turn yourself into an effective advocate—from prep calls and memos on the issues to lobbying tips, we have everything you need to become an advocate for the Reform Jewish movement in New York State.

So join us on Monday, May 6th at the State Capitol in Albany to take part in our Movement’s storied tradition of advocacy. Register for Advocacy Day here!

NY Governor’s Budget Hits and Misses

Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address focused on a myriad of issues, many of which show up again in his budget proposal. There is a 4.4% increase in education spending, $1 billion over five years for affordable housing projects, $21 billion in state funds for disaster relief, recovery and mitigation and a provision to raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75 effective July 1, 2013.

The minimum wage provision is the center of many conversations in Albany. Should this provision remain intact when the state legislature passes the budget, it would mean a $1.50 increase per hour for nearly one million minimum wage workers in the Empire State. This item could gain some Republican support, but Democrats are not pleased that it does not include a provision to index the minimum wage for inflation. Read more…