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June 21, 2019

ALBANY- The New York State Legislature capped off one of the most progressive legislative sessions in recent New York history with a host of reforms that will advance the rights of all New Yorkers.

The New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement from Executive Director Donna Lieberman: 

“New Yorkers turned out in record numbers last fall to elect a state government that would stand up to the Trump administration and deliver a fairer and more just New York. And the state legislature -- with new leadership in the Senate -- did what they were elected to do: they passed bills that had long been denied even a hearing, making this the most productive legislative session in recent history. 

“In anticipation of a political sea change in Albany, the NYCU published its first civil liberties agenda in years. It highlighted our top priorities on everything from voting and reproductive rights to drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. We didn’t dare hope that nearly every one of our priorities would be enacted, at least in significant measure, into law. But indeed, they were.

“Within the first month of session, lawmakers protected the right to abortion and ensured better access to contraception, enacted reforms that made voting simpler, strengthened anti-discrimination protections for transgender New Yorkers and public-school students, and improved bail, speedy trial, and evidence-sharing practices in criminal cases. The list goes on.

“In the waning days of this session, Albany delivered several other important reforms. They passed the Farmworkers Labor Protection Act that ensures farm workers will enjoy basic workplace protections and the Green Light bill that makes undocumented New Yorkers eligible to get drivers licenses.

“Many other meaningful pieces of legislation that will improve the lives of millions of New Yorkers crossed the finish line this week as well. These accomplishments show that New York is pressing forward even as the Trump administration and its enablers try to take our country backward. This historic legislative session sets an example for the rest of the country, and as certain states restrict rights, New York is offering a safe haven.

“Despite so many gains, there is still much work to do to remedy policies that should have been changed years ago. We will continue to press for:

“The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which would legalize marijuana and begin to repair enormous harms wrought by the war on drugs, visited disproportionately on Black and brown New Yorkers. While a last-ditch effort to reduce criminal penalties and allow some limited clearing of criminal records managed to pass both chambers, it falls far short of the remedies needed in devastated communities throughout our state.

“The Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which will limit the longstanding overreliance on discipline and punishment in our schools that has trapped too many students in the criminal legal system.

“A Biometrics Ban that will prohibit facial surveillance technology in schools and send a clear signal that our schools should offer our children support, not suspicion.

“The Stat Act which will increase transparency within police departments across the state by mandating departments disclose data about uses of force and police shootings, and the repeal of 50-a to lift the shroud of secrecy that many police departments operate under. A Bail Data bill that will require counties to report on their practices, which will allow the public to assess the impact of earlier reforms made to the criminal legal system. The Halt Act which will end all forms of prolonged isolation in prisons and jails by placing a 15-day cap on how long a person can be held in solitary confinement.

Automatic voter registration, which will improve our arcane voting system, increase voter participation, and allow New Yorkers to register to vote when they interact with government agencies.

“The struggle for equality and against injustice is never wholly won. The NYCLU reminded our supporters repeatedly throughout this session that our fight is far from finished. With our partners and allies, we will continue to work with and push lawmakers to deliver on the promise of a progressive New York, even as we celebrate the progress made.” 

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