Legislative Update

Volume C, No. 2February, 2000

Judy West


Unless the City Council renews New York City’s rent control law before March 31, these tenant protections will no longer exist. Council Speaker Peter Vallone has introduced legislation to extend rent regulations without any weakening amendments, but tenants cannot afford to let up the pressure on him and other council leaders. Send letters, phone calls, faxes and any other means of communication to all council members – particularly Peter Vallone, Archie Spigner, Herbert Berman and Victor Robles. If, after you read the article by Tom Waters on this page, you need more information, please contact Judy West at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.


After making its way through the landmines of the legislative process, a bill that would have amended the Unemployment Insurance Reform bill of 1998 was enacted by both the State Assembly and Senate late last year. It was shepherded by Jordan Derwin of the Screen Actors’ Guild, who was active in Unions for the Performing Arts until his death on Jan. 6. The bill would have protected “cyclical” workers (a category which includes the majority of entertainment industry workers) by lowering the “high quarter” dollars required by the 1998 bill, and giving them the option of calculating their benefits by dividing total earnings by the number of weeks of employment.

Unfortunately, Gov. Pataki quickly vetoed this, and four other labor-sponsored bills. The vetoes indicate “a lack of true understanding of the issues important to the working men and women of this state,” charged Denis Hughes, President of the NYS AFL-CIO.


The Health Care Reform Act (HCRA) 2000 has passed both houses of the State legislature and been signed into law by Gov. Pataki. An important component is Family Health Plus, which will provide health care coverage to between 300,000 and 500,000 people over a three-year period. It will cover the parents of children who are eligible and are covered by Child Health Plus, and single adults at the same economic level. Resource tests will not be required. The program will be funded by taxes on tobacco and new Medicare funding. Unfortunately, only $40 million – about one-third of the funding originally requested for the program – has been appropriated, raising the danger that the Governor may create a deficit through tax cuts and eventually use funds required for HCRA to pay for it.


New York State farmworkers made a historic advance in December, when legislation was enacted ensuring them the same minimum wage guaranteed to other workers in the state, and tying it permanently to federal mandates. The new Farm Worker Equity and Wage Reform Act – part of a larger package the State AFL-CIO has been campaigning for vigorously – will take effect on April 1.


When people who are eligible to vote don’t use their franchise, they are opening the door for demagogues to do whatever they please. Presidential primaries will take place in New York State on March 7, and primaries for other offices on Sept. 12. Election Day is Nov. 7. The deadline for mailing your registration form so that you can vote the March primary is Feb. 6.

If you are not yet registered, act quickly; contact the 802 office to request a registration form. You need not register again if you have moved within the state since the last election. At your polling place, you will be asked to sign an affidavit confirming your new address. But, whatever you do, be sure to vote!