Legislative Update

Volume CV, No. 10October, 2005

Heather Beaudoin


In response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Senator Hillary Clinton has introduced legislation to restore FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to Cabinet-level, independent status. Clinton argued that when FEMA was moved to the Department of Homeland Security, it created a bureaucracy that slowed down response time.

Senator Clinton also called for an independent Katrina Commission to provide a comprehensive evaluation of what could have been and should have been done to avoid the extraordinary damage, loss of life and inadequate relief problems that have contributed to the suffering of so many thousands of Americans.


The 13-member New York City Council education commission charged with creating a plan to spend billions in state funds from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit issued its first report. The report contains recommendations that include a shift in priorities that would make city public school teachers a primary focus.

The education commission identified ten recommendations with a total estimated cost of $2.227 billion. The recommendations are:

  • Identify low-performing high-need schools in the city’s school system and make their improvement a barometer of the effectiveness of the system’s reform efforts.
  • Provide all teachers with salary incentives of 3 percent in order to bring local salaries in equity with the regional market.
  • Shift the rationale for teacher compensation from solely years of experience to knowledge and skills.
  • Create a career ladder with three rungs: novice, career, and master.
  • Assign one master teach for every 500 students in a school.
  • Create a comprehensive assessment system to screen teacher candidates and evaluate their classroom performance.
  • Instill in every school a new teacher support package that connects on-the-job learning to meaningful performance assessment.
  • Tie professional development directly to instruction and classroom practice.
  • Cap class sizes in grades K-12.
  • Create an Independent Institute for Research and Accountability.

“I’m issuing a call to this mayor to join me in putting high quality teachers at the front of every classroom. We must have a strategy, a well thought out plan of action that ensures we move our schools in the right direction,” Speaker Gifford Miller said.


The NYC Voter Assistance Commission is launching for the first time ever the Video Voter Guide, a new public resource designed to provide voters with a nonpartisan interactive approach to learn about candidates for city office. This Web site is designed to track the Video Voter Guide and provide access to voters and others to view the pre-recorded candidate statements, as well as accompanying transcribed and translated versions of their statements. Translations are provided in Spanish, Chinese and Korean.

The Video Voter Guide will air on channel 74, which reaches approximately 1.7 million cable households in the five boroughs. Additionally, the Campaign Finance Board’s on-line printed Voter Guide will link to the Video Voter Guide, which will also be available for viewing at

Candidates who are on the ballot will be asked to prepare statements that convey their platforms. The city’s Coordinator of Voter Assistance will soon initiate the rule-making process that will allow public input on the rules governing the program.

The Video Voter Guide will be broadcast prior to the primary and general elections. Current plans provide for the candidates for one borough to be featured each weeknight, in the week before each election. During the morning and daytime hours leading up to the election, statements by all candidates will be played on a continuous loop. All programming will be determined by lottery, and candidates will appear alphabetically and in order of the office they seek.