S2 EP-5: What’s Stopping Progress in NY?

August 10, 2023

 


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In 2019, New York state lawmakers passed a raft of progressive legislation that strengthened reproductive and voting rights, made our criminal legal system fairer and much more. Since then there have been additional victories for civil rights and civil liberties, but the momentum for positive change has slowed significantly. In some instances, wins have actually been rolled back. What are the roadblocks causing this lack of progress? How can we get back to the 2019-levels of change? And what wins and losses did we see in this year’s state legislative session?


Guests:

Lee Rowland
Executive Director, National Coalition Against Censorship

Naila Awan
NYCLU Co-Director of Policy

Katharine Bodde
NYCLU Co-Director of Policy


Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Simon: Welcome to Rights This Way, a podcast from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of New York State. I'm Simon McCormack, Senior Staff Writer at the NYCLU and your host for this podcast, which is focused on the civil rights and liberties issues that impact New Yorkers most.

 In 2019, New York State lawmakers passed a raft of progressive legislation that strengthened reproductive and voting rights, made our criminal legal system fairer, and much more.

Since then, there have been additional victories for civil rights and civil liberties, but the momentum for positive change has slowed significantly. In some instances, wins have actually been rolled back. What are the roadblocks causing this lack of progress? How can we get back to the 2019 levels of change and what wins and losses did we see in this year's state legislative session?

We'll get into all of this in just a minute, but first I'd like to ask you to please download, rate, and subscribe to Rights This Way. It will help more people find this podcast.

And now I'm joined by three guests. Lee Rowland was, until very recently, the NYCLU's Policy Director. Lee has just stepped down from her role at the NYCLU to take a position as the Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. And our two other guests, Naila Awan and Katharine Bodde, are now the NYCLU's two Co-directors of Policy Lee, Naila, Katharine, welcome to Rights This Way.

[00:01:39] Lee: Thanks Simon.

[00:01:40] Katharine: Thanks so much.

[00:01:41] Naila: Thank you.

[00:01:43] Simon: Of course. So, Lee I wanna start with you. Can you just give us a quick synopsis of how you think the end of the legislative session played out?

[00:01:55] Lee: Oof. Yeah. Well, I think in one word I might say underwhelming, frankly. This was Governor Kathy Hochul's first legislative term after being elected governor. I think a lot of us, you know, in the advocacy world, were really waiting for her to kind of show her true colors when it came to how she was gonna deal with the legislature, what her policy priorities were, and I'm not sure what we got really showed a lot of enthusiasm and kind of working shared values.

 In fact, I think it's fair to say that despite the fact that Hochul just won her first election as governor and despite the fact that the two chambers of our state legislature have super majorities, and that's a term for meaning they could overrule a governor's veto if they wanted to.

Right? They have two thirds the votes. They're really at loggerheads in a lot of major ways. They came into the session with some real tension. You know, folks may remember at kind of the fall of last year, there was real fight between the governor and the legislature over her choice for a justice for our high court.

And the legislature said no and Hochul was forced to nominate a different person who then was accepted this year. Governor Hochul also approached the state budget in a pretty black and white way before budget negotiations began. She said, hey, I'm not voting for a budget unless it rolls back bail reforms.

So, coming off the heels of a session that was set up with a real disagreement about her high court pick.

She then enters the budget cycle saying not a proactive thing that we have to get done together. Not tackle the housing crisis or protect, you know, immigrant families. Instead, it was, we gotta roll something back that you guys, the state legislative Dems just did a couple years ago. That was her flagship line in the sand.

Right? And that unsurprisingly led to this pretty hostile and drawn-out budget fight that lasted way past our budget deadline. It was supposed to be April 1st. They blew right through that. They blew through May 1st. And then they passed the budget in very beginning of May, which only left a month until the end of our legislative session.

Those, those dates are set at the beginning of the year. The legislature only meets a certain amount of time. And so, what would normally be a couple months of the legislature really kicking out policy priorities and kind of going back and forth with the governor, that shrunk to less than a month where everyone had a bit of a bitter taste in their mouths.

And instead of reaching a deal, the heads of the two legislative bodies put out a letter at the end of the budget process and said, hey, this governor only cares about supply side that is like helping developers and getting new development. We'd like to keep people in their homes with some really important changes, like making sure people have a right to counsel and can't be evicted without a good cause from their landlord. But the governors not interested and that was a public letter, right, to the media and to the public.

So, rather than work together, compromise, find priorities, and kind of meet the moment, it really seems like this is an executive branch and a legislative branch that are really intentioned about their key priorities and without that alignment, we're just not seeing big pieces of legislation come out.

You know, we saw rollbacks, we saw compromise, we saw little stuff. But frankly, I think for those of us who sit at the NYCLU, who were in the civil rights community, nothing that really met the moment we're in. Including, by the way, as Katharine will say more about on reproductive justice, gender justice, like things that are under major immediate crisis threat from our US Supreme Court.

So, it’s just not a group of people that seems to be functioning at the highest level that they could be, given that they've got super majorities, right? They're in a blue state. Their policy should be wildly popular with voters. They're just not seeing a lot of alignment between the governor and the legislators, and so I think underwhelming is how I'd put it at the end of the session.

[00:06:01] Simon: That is really a great synopsis, Lee. Thank you. You brought up the term super majority and the fact that that means that you could override the governor at least theoretically the legislature could override a governor's veto. I certainly do not have the grasp on New York politics that you do, but I have always been puzzled that that seems to never happen.

[00:06:27] Lee: Simon, this is not about a grasp of politics. You could have never heard of politics. We could have it in your tight fist. We're all universally confused about the kind of lack of awareness that the Dems have a super majority here and, and actually I'll do you one weirder, which is that to the extent that anybody hasn't override here, it's Governor Hochul.

And what that means is, I'm, I'm gonna explain this. Folks may have heard of the concept of like a line-item veto, right? But the question is when the legislature sends a bill, right? When they pass a bill, they send it to the governor and the governor can sign it or veto it, right? That's kind of what we all understand.

In New York, there's a third way. And that third way is called the chapter amendment process. And it is in effect, it functions exactly like a line-item veto, right? Which is the legislature passes a bill. We'll talk about several of them, but let's just pick one. They passed a bill to create a study commission to study reparations.

And they did this after the budget towards the end of the session. And they're looking at the ways in which slavery has impacted New York and continues to impact people, you know, with racist systems. That costs some money ‘cause they're setting up a new test force, right? But it's fundamentally a policy priority to look at how racism impacts people in New York. That bill, now that both houses, both chambers of the legislature passed, it goes to the governor and the governor gets to decide what to do with it. And this third way in New York allows the governor not to just sign it, or not to just veto it, but to look at that bill and to say to the legislature, oh, I like this, but I hate this third section of the bill.

I'm gonna sign this bill, but I'm only gonna sign it on the condition that you all come back first week of January next year when you're back in session and you pass a legislative bill that eliminates that third section. And we don't call it a line-item veto, but you bet your butt it functions exactly the same way and a hundred percent of the time the legislature comes back in January and they pass that bill to remove section three or whatever.

So, the governor has a lot of power in New York because when she gets that legislation that's been signed, she can say, ooh, I need you to tweak this. And in Governor Hochul's case, it's often been, I need you to weaken this. I need you to make it less progressive. That's been kind of the story of her chapter amendment responses overall. And the reason I kinda set up the tension right at the beginning between the governor and the legislature is we're now in chapter amendment season, and what that means is we have all these bills, even if we think some of them are underwhelming, even if they could have gone bigger, right?

We have all these bills sitting there. And the legislature's now deciding when to send each of them to the governor's office. Every once in a while some go immediately. She's already signed a few bills things that were timely. For example, she wanted to have a signing ceremony on pride with relation to an LGBT justice bill.

So, those things can happen quickly. Others actually can take weeks or months while advocates kind of work behind the scenes to inform the governor, queue them up, make sure that the governor's staff and folk understand the bill, right? And ideally, she'll sign it or they might mount an opposition campaign with the governor saying, veto this, or ask for these changes during the chapter amendment process.

This is really where the rubber meets the road in terms of Hochul and the legislature deciding the final language, right? Of the laws and rules that govern all our lives as New Yorkers. And they're just starting to send those bills to her now. And many of the big bills that Naila and Katharine will talk about, a lot of them are kind of still sitting in that pipeline, particularly in the criminal justice area.

And I think it's hearsay in the areas that we think of as pretty progressive. So, now this tense relationship that started with the high court fight, with the budget standoff, with the failure to do housing. We have a chance to see the proof in the pudding, are they gonna actually flex that muscle and say, you know what, governor, we have major majority or near unanimous support for this bill, you veto it, we're gonna use our super majority and we're gonna override you.

And we had not seen a peep of that yet. And I think, you know, they're probably, frankly, national political watchers who are asking this question. I think from our point of view, we kind of think it's down to party politics. Right? They're worried that it shows dysfunction, disarray. And I think for those of us who are in the state and doing advocacy, particularly in the more progressive side, we see a legislature that's pretty lefty, right? And getting more progressive and a governor who's far less so. So, without that interplay between them, without the use of the super majority, really the legislature is coming down.

Two, in our view, kind of lowest common denominator in terms of like CJ policy. Like she's a much more cautious and centrist governor, right? Their policies are basically being normalized to the kind of Hochul level of politics. That's what we saw with bail reform, their failure on doing housing law.

And I think that's just really astounding when they have a super majority and they're allowing their power to be funneled that way towards a more centrist outcome of the session. So, we have a lot more work to do next session. I think folks now are advocating with the governor's office, but that's the dynamic is, is we have a governor that's to the right of our legislature and so far we have a legislature that hasn't flexed the muscle to reminder they have that super majority, and now we have all these bills in the mix that are gonna bring up that question again and again over the course of the summer and the fall.

[00:11:59] Simon: Yes, I think that is a great table setting. Thank you, Lee. For just understanding where we are and how we got here. And now I kind of wanna move into the substance of the legislation. Some of which that passed, some of which that didn't.

And I want to turn to you Naila first, because a large part of the legislative session was dominated by discussions about bail reform. We actually have two podcasts on bail reform. Our most recent one is the first episode of this season. But bail reform once again saw further rollbacks in this year's budget.

But at the end of the session, there was at least something to celebrate in terms of criminal legal system reforms. Naila can you talk about some of those achievements.

[00:12:47] Naila: Sure. And so, the end of the session did see the passage of a few criminal legal system reforms. Two bills, both of which passed only one chamber of the legislature last year were passed in the final moments of the 2023 legislative session. The first of those measures was the Clean Slate Act, and what that does is it provides automatic record sealing for people three years post-incarceration if they were convicted of a misdemeanor and eight years post-incarceration, if they were convicted of a felony.

Notably, that relief is only available to people who do not have other pending criminal charges or who are not under community supervision for the crime that's eligible for record sealing. And in addition, there were exceptions put into place with this piece of legislation specifically for people with Class A felonies not being eligible and for sex crimes.

And I will say that some of those decisions were done in anticipation of the chapter amendment process that Lee was directly describing.

[00:13:56] Simon: Just really quickly, sorry, Naila. Can you talk about what Class A felonies, what that sort of means?

[00:14:02] Naila: Sure. Class A felonies are a category of felonies under New York State law, and they include things like murder, kidnapping, terrorism. They are, they're considered like a high level of felony crime.

And I was just going to say that like with respect to the Clean Slate Act, because in New York a person's conviction history can prevent them from accessing basic necessities such as housing and employment. The Clean Slate Act is really just a very sensible measure that'll allow many New Yorkers who've been released from incarceration and successfully reentered society to be set up for long-term success, to be able to better provide for themselves and their families, and to better be able to contribute to their communities.

In addition to Clean Slate, the other bill that looked like it might get passed last year, but also like stalled out before passing both houses was the Challenging Wrongful Convictions Act. And what that bill does it just reflects the all too real reality that, in the last several decades, hundreds of New Yorkers have been exonerated.

And according to data from the National Registry of Exonerations, over 7% of those people had pled guilty. So, currently New York law only allows people who pled guilty to challenge their conviction. If new DNA related evidence is uncovered, the challenging Wrongful Convictions Act changes that and allows a conviction to be challenged where there's credible new non-DNA evidence of a wrongful conviction.

And that could be something like an expert backtracking their testimony and it establishes a right to counsel for those with wrongful conviction claims. Currently, New York's one of just five states that does not provide the right to a counsel for indigent people in post-conviction cases. So, this really just kind of like modernizes New York's law and brings it kind of to where it should be.

Each of these bills mark what should be steps forward for New York's criminal legal system. However, it's also worth noting that these bills are still waiting gubernatorial signature. They could be subjected to veto, and they could be, again, subjected to the chapter amendment process. So, we don't actually know what the final outcome of some these pieces of legislation are and I'd just add additionally, with much of the legislative session being subsumed with fights against bail rollbacks, there was continuous reference to the legislature experiencing what's known as criminal justice fatigue and many meaningful reforms were essentially left sitting in the hopper.

[00:16:33] Simon: And Naila I want to definitely touch on that in one second. I just wanna quickly highlight something you said, which was 7% of convictions. Can you like describe what that 7% means? Is that thousands of people.

[00:16:48] Naila: So, there's a national registry of exonerations that kind of lists out like exonerations that they've tracked in different states that had had 300 sum individuals listed in New York as having been exonerated since the late 1980s, I believe 1989. 7% of those, so that's about 20 sum of those individuals, which is still a significant proportion, had pled guilty and then were later exonerated, which just shows that people are often coerced into plea agreements because of the way that the criminal legal system is set up. Meaning that like reforms, like the Challenging Wrongful Convictions Act are very important.

[00:17:28] Simon: Right. Totally. Okay. Thank you for, that clarification. So, yes, let's talk about the criminal justice fatigue that you just mentioned and how it may have impacted some of the things that were left on the table and, and what those pieces of legislation are.

[00:17:44] Naila: Sure. So, when we're talking about criminal justice fatigue, what essentially that means is, because the legislature spent a large proportion of this year's session having to fight bail reform rollbacks for the third year in a row, which really lengthened the budget process and compressed the rest of the session.

There was a lot of talk among staffs and advocates about the legislature experiencing a sense of like quote, like criminal justice fatigue. And what that essentially means is that folks were expressing that the legislature felt that they devoted enough time to the criminal legal system and criminal legal system reform and were likely to significantly limit the number of additional reforms they considered, and that's really is how the session played out, right? While Clean Slate and Challenging Wrongful Convictions passed many other bills that I truly believe should have been easy calls or that there was support for, failed to make their way through both chambers. So, this played out with bills directly impacting how people are treated when they come into contact with the criminal legal system such as the Juvenile Interrogations bill. That legislation recognizes that young people are more likely to tell officers what they want to hear regardless of whether or not what they're saying is the truth, and therefore requires a person under the age of 18 to be able to speak with an attorney before any police questioning takes place. There was also the No Slavery in New York Act. A bill that passed the Senate, but stalled out in the assembly and would've essentially taken a first step towards ending a system of forced slavery In New York where people in New York prisons are required to work for what I would say are pennies on the dollar, sometimes in unsafe conditions or face serious consequences if they refuse to do so.

This so-called criminal justice fatigue also seemingly impacted the willingness to move other legislation that address things like collateral consequences of incarceration, such as the Jury of Our Peers Act, which impacts fundamental rights of civic participation by ending New York's practice of permanently disqualifying people from jury service based on a past felony conviction.

And despite the fact that that bill made its way all the way through all of the assembly committees that it needed to in plenty of time and was placed on a list of bills to be voted on, it just languished there for days and was never brought up for a vote. And we saw that happen with multiple pieces of legislation this last session.

[00:20:08] Simon: Okay. Well, that is disappointing to hear. But it certainly tracks with what you had said. I mean criminal justice fatigue is exactly what I would imagine them attributing that to, but yes, that, that is something for next year.

Naila, I now wanna move us to voting reform. I think that some listeners might be surprised that New York laws aren't as strong as they might think. When it comes to encouraging and, making it simple for people to vote. In New York, a state that, that is not, you know, you hear about states like Texas or, or Mississippi or what have you, but here in, in the, the progressive champion, uh, New York, that they're not actually as, as strong as you might think. So, we've definitely made progress on that front over the last few years. But can you give us a sense of where things stand now and highlight a couple of pieces of legislation that we're happy to see pass and that we're hoping to pass next year.

[00:21:07] Naila: Absolutely. And I, I wanna start by highlighting one point that you made, Simon, which was the fact that like until recently we really were woefully, woefully behind other states. And until 2019, New York really lagged behind I would say the majority of US states. And since that time, it's just done things to establish early voting, reduce the length of time a person has to register before an election, establish pre-registration, and establish automatic voter registration. So, we have seen like movement, and we continue to see some movement this session. But I would say New York still lags behind many states in a number of ways, including by not having same day registration through the entirety of its early voting time or on election day. Not having no excuse absentee voting. That's something that was on the ballot a couple years ago that didn't pass. Meaning that, in our state, individuals have to qualify to cast an absentee ballot only if certain conditions are met. And by having closed primaries as well as numerous other practices.

But at the end of this year's session, we saw a couple of really important reforms I think be passed. One, New York amended its absentee voting law to expand what reasons can be proffered to secure an absentee ballot. The law that passed permanently extends the ability of people to request an absentee ballot because there is a risk of contracting or spreading a disease.

That's a measure that was put in place during the onslaught of the Covid 19 pandemic and which, if signed into law, would ensure that those with medical vulnerabilities or those caring with individuals with such vulnerabilities are able to safely participate in the democratic process. In addition, the state passed a law that moves certain local elections that take place in odd years outside of New York City to even years.

 And that's just a commonsense measure that will reduce burdens on election officials, increase turnout for local elections, and really help create a more inclusive democracy in New York State. Next year, I'd say we're probably just hoping to see the recent momentum in the state to protect and promote the right to vote and to strengthen our democracy as a whole continue and that includes passing bills like the Jury of Our Peers Act, which I mentioned earlier.

[00:23:26] Simon: Okay. Well, so not such a, a dreary picture on, on the voting rights funds, it seems.

[00:23:30] Naila: Not at all.

[00:23:31] Simon: Okay. And now Katharine, I want to turn to you. Last year, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, New York lawmakers responded, to their credit, by passing the Equal Rights Amendment, which among other things would protect the right to abortion in the state constitution.

We have done a couple of podcasts on the ERA, including with you Katharine and Lee. And we will link to those in the show notes. So, people who are looking for a much more in-depth discussion of this amendment should definitely go there. But the short version for now is that the, the legislature passed it and it will now be up to the voters to approve or reject it when it appears on ballots in 2024. I would love for you to please talk about some of the other weaknesses that need to be strengthened in New York with regard to ensuring New Yorkers have the right to receive and to access abortion.

[00:24:29] Katharine: Thanks Simon. I think what I'm gonna do is pick up on some of the themes that Lee and Naila so beautifully laid out. Namely, the underwhelm and that there is really just so much more for New York to do to become a real leader on pregnancy and, and birth justice issues, including reproductive rights and, and access to reproductive healthcare.

You know, Simon, as you, as you noted, it has been 13 months since the Supreme Court eliminated federal constitutional protections for abortion and laws banning or severely restricting abortion access have gone into effect in 20 states and, and courts are, are currently blocking such laws in, in another six states.

And what that means is that, roughly 25 million women of reproductive age now live in states where abortion is severely restricted or banned. And that number is only going to increase as new bans are passed and go into effect. So, I do not think that it is hyperbole when I say that this is nothing short of a human rights crisis happening right here in the United States.

And this will take a lifetime to undo the legal harm that the Supreme Court put into play last year. And so, New York must be strong and diligent in its response. We must step up to the plate here to make sure that our laws and policies eliminate barriers to care, that we are creating structural protections for abortion access, and that we are communicating that abortion access is part and parcel of a person's equality, dignity, and, and certainly of their health. And to do this, we need to eliminate antiquated barriers to care that still exist in our state law, as well as make real investments in the healthcare infrastructure that provides abortion access in New York. And so, we among our sister organizations will continue to be prioritizing passage of a bill called the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program. And what this bill does is to create a funding mechanism through the State Department of Health to provide grants to abortion providers, as well as organizations that fund abortion. And those are really the organizations that make the right to care a reality for people in New York State.

[00:27:11] Simon: Thank you for that, Katharine. And I, I guess I'm just trying to make sure I have it right. That there's a through line between the organizations like abortion funds are gonna need additional funding to deal with the, you know, any sort of influx that we see from, from out of state and also just to make sure that for New Yorkers and, and anyone else across the country who needs abortion care, that they can actually get it, right?

And that just having that access in law does not necessarily make it that in practice. Is that right?

[00:27:42] Katharine: Simon, that's absolutely right. I think that, you know, after the Supreme Court decision we saw how people across the country were unable to access abortion. Even the, the meager access that they had within some of their states. And that has meant that many people have had to travel for care, have had to set up childcare, have had to take days off work, have had to figure out how to afford traveling to get the care that they need. And that means that the infrastructure that is currently set up to support people in traveling, in accessing care cause certainly your insurance is not going to apply, if you are traveling out of state to get the care that you need. That infrastructure is particularly strained.

So, we do need real state investment in ensuring that people can access care right here in New York regardless of where they come from.

[00:28:42] Simon: Got it. Okay. Thank, thank you very much for that. And relatedly to that, what are some of the other achievements in this area of, of expanded access. Any other legislation that you, you wanna touch on here, that were passed this year?

[00:28:59] Katharine: Yeah. You know, Simon, as, as you are very familiar, our pregnancy and birth justice docket is broad and deep. So, while there is certainly much to do, as we were just talking about, to eliminate structural discrimination in the provision of healthcare. As well as other systems, state systems, such as our child welfare system, also known as the Family Regulation System.

We did take several steps forward this session. And I wanna name four of those in particular. First, in the budget this year the protracted budget cycle that, that Lee so eloquently described, the legislature did raise Medicaid reimbursement rates for medication abortion.

And those are exactly the type of critical, perhaps unsexy, structural changes that are just so important for ensuring access to care. The second bill that I wanna mention is a bill called the Preserving Family Bonds Act. Which seeks to mitigate the trauma of permanent family separation by allowing family court judges to order contact between a child and their birth parents or, or siblings after parental rights have been terminated, if it is so appropriate to do so.

This is a, a great example of a bill where post passage advocacy is really going to be critical and post passage advocacy that's specifically directed toward the governor, right? This bill passed in two previous sessions, both in 2019 and 2021, and has been vetoed both times by the governor. And this time we need to make sure that we are doing significant post passage advocacy to make sure that the governor understands what the bill does and that we don't continue that pattern.

The third piece that I wanna mention is that we passed shield protections for abortion and gender affirming care providers. And what these shield protections do is really ensure that if other states try to use their laws to criminalize or punish New York care providers who are offering abortion and gender affirming care, that our state, that New York will not be complicit.

And we will do everything we can in our power to protect those providers. And then the last one that I just wanna mention briefly is a bill that would permit the Department of Health to conduct public education campaigns around the existence of people with intersex traits and the risks associated with non-emergent interventions performed on infants and children with intersex traits. And for those of you who are unfamiliar, intersex refers to variations in sex characteristics that differ from traditional assumptions about male and female bodies.

So, those are four modest but important steps forward for the work that we have in front of us.

[00:32:09] Simon: Excellent. And certainly we, as, as I've said, we've talked about the ERA before. I know we will talk about it again beyond today. What should people know about it before they head to the polls next year?

And again, folks, if you continue to listen to Rights This Way, I'm certain you'll hear about it before then, but just, just in case you miss our future episodes on this, Katharine, what, what should people know?

[00:32:34] Katharine: Well, I would definitely recommend that people stay tuned in. This year, we also saw a second passage of an Equal Rights Amendment in New York. And for those of you who are unfamiliar, and if that is somehow the case, it won't be that way for very long, given that we are about to embark on a very intensive ballot measure campaign as the final step to incorporate the Equal Rights Amendment into our state constitution.

This amendment takes our constitution's equality protections out of the early 20th century and adds to existing protections against race and religious discrimination to ensure that our state government can't discriminate against a person based on their ethnicity, disability, age, sex, and that includes pregnant people, our LGBT community members, and as well as based on a person's reproductive autonomy and access to reproductive healthcare.

And what this means, broadly speaking, is that the document that not only communicates our fundamental vision for our communities, but also makes clear that our strongest and most durable protections now represent and advance the rights of people who have long been the target of discrimination because of who they are, who they love, and decisions that they make about their bodies and their lives. And importantly, and I really wanna underscore this for those of you who are following along with our reproductive rights docket. It also situates protections for abortion within a holistic pregnancy and birth justice frame.

And that is just critical to the healing and collective force of the feminist movement that is really needed to meet this moment in history. Stay tuned. There is certainly much more to come on that.

[00:34:41] Simon: And Katharine, I just wanna quickly touch on what, when you say birth justice, what does that mean?

[00:34:47] Katharine: Oh, that's a great question Simon. Um, birth justice is a movement that really recognizes the particular inequalities related to the history of racial discrimination in this country. And what it seeks to do is to empower people in communities, through the pregnancy and birthing process. And certainly, what we need to be doing as a state is aligning our policies and laws and practice with that movement.

[00:35:22] Simon: Got it. Okay. Thank you. That's that's very helpful to understand. Before, and this is for everyone as we wrap up here, my, my last question is, how can we turn the spigot of progress back on, or at least like increase the flow, if you will, if it's now sort of trickling, how do we make it, you know, sort of into a flood?

And how do we get back the momentum we had in 2019?

[00:35:47] Lee: Whew. It's tough to answer that, you know, at the end of a session that we're all, right, still, still kind of recovering from and trying to be whelmed by. I think a lot of the themes came up when we all spoke today. And I think the first thing is that we have to advocate differently with this governor. She's not integrated in Albany the way a Governor Cuomo was, for example.

She often doesn't comment on legislation at all until it passes. She's not just a cipher to us, she's a bit of a cipher to the legislators and staff as well. So, I think one thing for us as advocates is, we need a really full throated approach to Kathy Hochul and specifically to kind of force her to weigh in, I think, on granular issues of legislative policy.

 Otherwise, we're in this weird no man's land with the chapter amendment process, we don't know what she's gonna do. Right? She needs to be more integrated with Albany. And I think we, the people and advocates really have to find that. So, I think the main takeaway is thinking of Kathy Hochul as kind of an independent actor that we have to advocate to and not assume that she's kind of being looped in and integrated into the legislative process, 'cause that's just not the pattern we've seen.

So, and I think now, she has to own the position she's taken, right? She has to own that she held up the budget on a revocation of a Democratic priority and bail reform. She has to own that she didn't lead the legislature to any solutions to her housing or eviction crisis, right? She owns these. She didn't inherit this job.

She won it fair and square through an election and now she showed her true colors. And those colors are clearly and transparently more conservative. And less progressive than the legislature as a whole. So, I think we need to talk about that. Voters need to be aware of it. And we need to advocate with her the same way that we advocate with our state legislative bodies.

And I think that's where we're stuck is, is the gap between her politics and that that the State has as a whole.

[00:37:48] Katharine: You know, Lee, that's right on. And I think what I would also emphasize here is how in 2019 we saw major changes because the hands of power changed in Albany. And that was because people were really paying attention across the state people were really making their voices heard, and that was largely after a presidential election that I think left a lot of people shocked and dismayed.

And so, people started to plug in and understand the importance of state politics and how state politics can interfere with our ability to make sure that New York is the leader that we want.

[00:38:31] Naila: Yeah, I mean, I think I just emphasize everything that like Lee and Katharine said, and I guess the one other thing I'd add is, because of how long the budget process went this year, what basically happened was like you had all of these progressive reforms that were competing to try to make it through in this like less than month period of time.

And I think that the tendency to wait until after the budget is passed to try to get progressive reforms passed really harmed the movement this year and like, so maybe we need to start thinking about how we can start pushing for things earlier in the session and before we enter into budget negotiations because if we continue to see these lengthened like negotiations taking place, it will just continue to sign your ability to really pass the number of reforms that New Yorkers deserve.

[00:39:29] Simon: And with that, Lee, Naila, Katharine, thank you all so much for being on Rights This Way.

[00:39:36] Lee: Simon, thank you and, a special thanks for letting me come on at the very end of my tenure here and to share it with the amazing new directors of the policy team. Thank you so much.

[00:39:47] Katharine: Thanks Simon.

[00:39:55]  Naila: Thanks Simon.