Elections matter. If there’s any doubt about why, take a look at what’s happening right now in New York State. In the 2018 election, Democrats took control of the New York State Senate for the first time in a decade. This long sought-after victory means that New Yorkers can now boast of having unified government—with a Democratic governor, Senate, and Assembly.
Taking full advantage of their overwhelming mandate, New York State Democrats are barreling ahead with legislative priorities on hot-button issues like reproductive rights and gun control. Stalled for years by the Republican majority in the Senate, these are previously drafted progressive reforms that were ready to go once Democrats took back the Senate. Even Governor Andrew Cuomo appears to be unpacking his more progressive instincts.
We’re just at the beginning of New York’s new political adventure but already the Democratic majority has demonstrated that they can get their act together and pass major pieces of legislation that are sure to make progressives giddy, while making New York State a healthier, safer, and more just place to live for everyone. On the red side of the aisle, I imagine that conservative pols and their constituencies must be seething. If anything can be said with certainty in the world of politics, it’s that New York’s Democrats and progressives should savor the moment and make the most out of the next two years because the backlash is surely waiting in the wings.
After passing easily through the state’s Senate and Assembly, on January 22nd, marking the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, Governor Cuomo signed into law The Reproductive Health Act (RHA). RHA protects New Yorkers’ right to choose no matter what happens on the federal level as legal challenges to Roe v. Wade make their way to the new conservative majority now sitting on the Supreme Court.
The Reproductive Health Act, which takes effect immediately, updates and codifies New York State law with federal case law and puts New York’s reproductive laws (not updated since 1970) in accordance with the original decision in Roe v. Wade (1973). The bill maintains the legality of abortion within twenty-four weeks of a pregnancy or at “any time when necessary to protect a woman’s life or health.” Breaking with past precedent and breaking new ground, the bill expands access to abortion by authorizing healthcare professionals besides physicians—like nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants—to legally perform the procedure.
An astounding six gun-control bills passed in the state’s Senate and Assembly since the swearing in of the new Democratic majorities. Praising New York State’s legislators, Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization founded and led by parents and family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, called the legislation “monumental gun violence prevention measures.” Those measures include:
- Extreme-Risk Protection Orders. Allows law enforcement, family and household members, and school officials to seek a court order that requires an individual to relinquish firearms in their possession if they are deemed likely to harm themselves or others.
- Effective Background Check Act. Extends national in-state background checks to up to thirty days.
- Bump Stock Ban. Prohibits possession of devices that accelerate the rate of fire of a firearm.
- Preventing School Districts from Allowing Teachers to be Armed. Prevents schools from authorizing anyone other than a security officer, school resource officer, or law enforcement to carry a firearm on school property.
- Gun Buy-Backs. Authorizes state police to write regulations for gun buy-back programs so that all buy-back programs are consistent across the state.
- Out of State Mental Health Records. Allows New York State permitting authorities to review out-of-state mental-health records for out-of-state applicants for gun permits.