RENEWAL OF RENT REGULATIONS
On March 12 the City Council voted by 45 to 3 to renew rent laws in New York City, and Mayor Bloomberg signed the legislation. But due to the way rent laws work in New York, this only protects the 60,000 city tenants who live under rent control, the most stringent and least common of the rent laws. The state – not the city – must now renew its own rent laws in order to protect the 2.3 million tenants who live under the more common form of rent stabilization. Those laws expire on June 15. To encourage Albany, the Council passed a resolution calling on the State Senate to pass A2716 which would strengthen rent and eviction protections. The Council also passed a resolution calling on both state houses to repeal the Urstadt law which limits the city’s powers over rent regulation legislation.
On May 13 activists held the “Tenant Day of Action” in Albany where thousands of tenants and their supporters demanded that the state renew, strengthen and expand the rent laws.
The mayor has cut the budget of the Department of Cultural Affairs down to $94.6 million. The Cultural Institutions Group (CIG), a coalition of 34 city-owned facilities, will have budgets cut between 22 and 35 percent.
The New York State Cultural Affairs Department continues to experience a 15 percent decrease in funding, leaving program dollars at $37.4 million.
The City Council responded to the mayor’s preliminary budget plan by recommending full restoration of cuts to cultural funding, a $10 million emergency fund for repairs, reduction in funding for energy (in all agencies) and the integration of new school curriculums.
FEDERAL CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAW STRUCK DOWN
A panel made up of three federal judges struck down most of a ban on the use of large corporate and labor union political contributions by political parties. The panel also ruled unconstitutional new restrictions on election-time political ads by special interest groups and others. The judges barred the federal government from enforcing the restrictions and all other parts of the law it struck down, but the panel’s decision must now be reviewed by the Supreme Court, mostly likely in fall.
The new campaign finance law had prohibited national political party committees from raising contributions known as “soft money” from corporations, unions and others. Dozens of groups joined efforts to overturn parts of the law, including the AFL-CIO, the Republican National Committee, the Democratic and Republican parties of California, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Libertarian National Committee, the National Right to Life Committee and the National Association of Broadcasters.
RISING UNEMPLOYMENT RATE
According to the Labor Department, the month of April saw a 6 percent national unemployment rate compared to 5.8 percent in March. Manufacturing saw the largest decrease losing 95,000 jobs, while government agencies added 32,000 workers. The number of temporary employees dropped by 14,000 to 2.8 million. Temporary employment has decreased 20 percent in the last three years.
Labor unions have used this recent report to advocate for a six-month continuation of the Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC) program that expired on May 31. The program allowed workers who had exhausted their state unemployment benefits to access federal benefits. Senator Kennedy and Representatives Rangel and Cardin have introduced legislation to extend TEUC to provide assistance to the over one million workers who have already exhausted federal benefits but have still not found work.