The Daily Gazette
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Local women's equality advocates still want entire package

Local advocates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Women's Equality Act are still holding out hope for the passage of all 10 points in the package.

It currently appears that none of the proposals will become law due to a portion of the package that deals with reproductive rights, which pro-life members of the Senate oppose. The state Assembly is on track this afternoon to pass the entire package as one bill, while the Senate has broken the plan up into 10 different bills, although Senate Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, says the standalone reproductive rights bill won't come to the floor for a vote.

Rowie Taylor , executive director of the YWCA of NorthEastern NY, who was part of a group that assembled in April at Proctors to support the governor, said the decision by Skelos is against the will of most New Yorkers. She cited a recent Siena College poll that said a majority in the state approve of the reproductive rights portion of the package.

"[The reproductive rights bill] deserves to come up for a vote," Taylor said.

So far neither the Assembly, state Senate or governor have indicated any willingness to compromise, and neither was Congregation Gates of Heaven Rabbi Matt Cutler, who was at the Proctors support rally in April. "I would love to see it as a full package," he said. "I'm siding with the Assembly strategy rather than the senate strategy"

Cutler argued that the coalition in support of the package were still advocating for the entire package.
Regarding the possibility of compromising to ensure part of the agenda is approved, he reiterated, "It really should be addressed as a full package"

The package has come a long way since it was first discussed by the governor during his state of the state address, but Cutler said close won't cut it at the end of the day. "You have to look at the clock, because the legislative session is going to end .. and when it does you go back to square one."

Assembly members Phil Steck, D-Colonie, and Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, were both support of the agenda and stood with the Assembly Majority's decision to pass the entire package in one bill.

Speaking during today's Assembly debate on the bill, Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, lamented the fact they weren't voting on individual bills. Lopez argued that a failure to introduce standalone bills and introduce an all encompassing bill that dealt with reproductive rights meant the Assembly was missing a chance to get something done for women's equality. Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, called on the governor to get the Assembly majority to introduce the package as standalone bills.

State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, said she supported nine points in the plan, including eliminating wage discrimination, stopping sexual harassment in the workplace, strengthening laws against human trafficking and ending pregnancy discrimination. "All of these are goals and principles that I endorse and fully support as part of a woman’s agenda that will empower women, provide a fair playing field and a more equitable workplace," she said. "I will be voting for these measures."

Marchione added that she will oppose the reproductive rights bill, noting that her opposition has been clear since the proposal was rolled out in January.

She said if the standalone reproductive rights bill gets a floor vote in the Senate, then
her repeal of the SAFE Act should come get a vote. "If the issue of abortion can receive a vote, then the issue of protecting the Second Amendment rights of every New Yorker also should have an opportunity to be voted on," she said.

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