Advocates Demand that Legislature Takes Action on Marijuana, Housing, Criminal Justice & Education

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 29, 2019) — Advocates, tenants, parents, and elected officials joined together Wednesday to call on the State Legislature to work together to pass several important bills, rather than resorting to an end-of-session “Big Ugly” bill that would allow Governor Cuomo to leverage individual issues against each other.

Advocates demanded action on bills including:

  • Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S.1527/A.1617) to responsibly regulate marijuana to better serve public health, community well-being, and equity
  • Good Cause Eviction Protection (S.2892/A.5030) and Statewide Emergency Tenant Protection Act (S5040/A7046) to strengthen tenant protections to prevent displacement
  • HALT Solitary Confinement Act (S.1623/A.2500) that would end the torture of solitary confinement and create humane, effective alternatives
  • Elder Parole (S.2144/A.4319) to make people aged 55 or older who have served 15 years or more in prison eligible for parole consideration, regardless of crime or sentence, and end the crisis of death by incarceration.
  • Safe & Supportive Schools Act (S.0767/A.1981) which would reform school discipline policies that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline
  • Legislation to eliminate the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT)

Advocates from VOCAL-NY, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance, Citizen Action of New York, members of the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign and the Alliance for Quality Education came together in Albany addressing these issues.

“New Yorkers demanded a new day in Albany last fall at the ballot box. Now it’s time for the Assembly and Senate to prove they are willing to stand up for our communities, and work to end injustices in education, housing, criminal justice system and drug policy that have for too long impacted Black and Brown communities. We urge the New York State Legislature to focus on passing these essential bills now, so that they don’t fall victim to the old Albany tactic of eleventh-hour politics,” said Jasmine Gripper, legislative director, Alliance for Quality Education.

“Now is the time to put people before politics and pass bills that strengthen tenant rights, legalize marijuana, end prolonged solitary confinement, advance parole justice and reform school discipline practices. We finally have Black leadership who understands the impact of these issues on communities of color, and we expect our leaders to work together to deliver real solutions. A last-minute omnibus bill threatens to undermine progress and pit important issues against one another. These critical reforms must be passed as stand-alone bills,” said Rosemary Rivera, Executive Director, Citizen Action of New York.

“A majority of the Senate and Assembly are cosponsors of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, S1623/A2500, and others are committed to vote for the bill. Thousands of people are suffering, many spending months, years, and decades in solitary. There is no time to lose. New York’s leaders must bring HALT to a vote and pass it now,” said Victor Pate, Statewide Organizer, #HALTsolitary Campaign.

“The Release Aging People in Prison Campaign stands with advocates, community leaders and everyday New Yorkers from across the state who believe in fairness and justice. Passing elder parole to ensure that elders who have already spent decades in prison have an opportunity to rejoin their communities, halting solitary confinement to end torture in New York, having real housing affordability, school equity, and ending our state’s drug war would benefit all New Yorkers. We need our elected officials to do the right thing and pass these initiatives before June 19,” said Jose Saldana, Director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign.

“From Buffalo to Brooklyn, New York is in the midst of an overwhelming housing crisis. All tenants in New York State need the same protections so we can stop displacement and put an end to homelessness. We need to pass universal rent control, and we cannot allow the governor to pit working New Yorkers against each other. The legislature must pass our bills on their own to prevent the governor from watering down tenant protections and using other important legislation simply as leverage,” said Elzora Cleveland, member of New York Communities for Change.