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Editorial: Now is the time to speak up about state issues

Editorial: Now is the time to speak up about state issues

Contact your state lawmakers before time runs out
Editorial: Now is the time to speak up about state issues
The state Capitol Building in Albany.
Photographer: Peter R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

If you’ve got an important issue you want members of the New York state Legislature to address, you’ve got until a week from Wednesday to get their attention, or you’ll have to wait six months for them to act.

The annual June legislative frenzy, similar to Regents week for high school kids, is when lawmakers get their last chance to get their grades up with their constituents by demonstrating their ability to pass or defeat legislation.

Lawmakers are in session for seven of the next 10 days, with the last day June 19 being when they’ll likely pass a lot of bills, probably in the middle of the night.

They’ve accomplished a fair amount for this body of government in the past five months, but they’ve got a long agenda of uncompleted items. If you want to push them to act, you’re running out of time.

Among the major pieces of legislation still unresolved is legalization of recreational marijuana. They’ve made significant progress on addressing many of the issues related to legalizing the drug. But as we explained in an editorial on Wednesday, they haven’t adequately addressed the issues particular to business and on law enforcement, each of which must deal with how to evaluate whether someone is so under the influence of the drug that they can’t perform their jobs, in the case of businesses, or can’t operate a motor vehicle, in the case of police. We don’t think they can fully address those issues in the remaining 10 days, so we recommended they work on it over the summer and come back with a complete plan in January.

Still, if you’re an advocate of legalizing recreational marijuana and you feel they’ve addressed your concerns, there’s still time to pass the legislation. Lawmakers have been known to go right down to the wire with complex and seemingly unresolvable differences to pass legislation like this. Here’s the bill number for the latest version: A1617A/S152A. Whether you support it or oppose it, now’s the chance to make your voices heard.

Another major piece of legislation still pending involves the latest measles outbreak, which has so far resulted in around 600 confirmed cases in New  York and more than 1,000 across the country. The legislation under consideration in the New York Legislature would remove the non-medical exemption claimed by those who don’t want tho vaccinate their children based on religious reasons. We’ve advocated in favor of removing the exemption, since no major religion specifically prohibits members from being vaccinated and in fact many actually encourage it for the greater good. Still, if you believe you should be able to decline vaccinating your child based on your religious beliefs, or if you feel the threat to the public outweighs the religious beliefs of anti-vaxxers, then make your voice heard. They could actually move on this legislation. The bill number is A2371/S2994.

Another issue that’s got a lot of people up in arms is legislation to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. In an editorial in April, we argued against passage of the bill, saying that its relaxed standards for documentation would promote fraud and undermine law enforcement. But supporters feel that granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants would make the roads safer by discouraging those involved in motor vehicle crashes from leaving the scene, and would help undocumented workers and their families get to school and work without worrying about being arrested or deported. However you feel, this week is your chance to jump in and let your local state lawmaker know how you feel. That bill number is A3675/S1747.

Other than the major news-makers, there are dozens of issues still on the table for lawmakers to address this session, including expanding protections for women and the LGBTQ community in the workplace and elsewhere, aid-in-dying legislation to allow medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults with less than six months to live and who have passed stringent psychological examinations, allowing gambling via mobile devices and home computers on certain sports and levels of sport, and creating independent and effective ethics regulations and oversight to discourage corruption in government.

While lawmakers rushed right out of the gate to approve reforms to boost New Yorkers’ anemic voter turnout, such as allowing early voting, consolidating primaries and pushing along other initiatives that require voter approval, they haven’t yet passed one of the most potentially effective methods for getting voters to the polls through automatic voter registration whenever someone interacts with the DMV or other state agency. That’s still potentially on the table this spring.

These are just some of the issues that lawmakers are dealing with as the 2019 legislative session winds down.

And it’s winding down quickly.

If you want to have a say in what happens this spring, contact your state lawmakers before time runs out.

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