NYS LEGISLATIVE PASSES BUDGET
On May 4 the New York State Legislature passed a $77.5 billion budget for 2000-2001, 5.6 percent higher than last year’s budget. Highlights include:
- Income limits for coverage under the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program will rise, to $50,000 for couples and $35,000 for individuals. This is expected to increase participation in the program from 115,000 people to 215,000 within the next three years. In addition, fees and co-pays will drop 20 percent.
- The deduction for married couples who file joint tax returns will rise to $14,600 from $13,000, further offsetting the “marriage penalty.”
- Aid to students at community and private colleges will increase. The Tuition Assistance Program maximum grant rises to $5,000 from $4,125, while family income eligibility climbs to $80,000 from $50,500. It’s estimated that this will bring an additional 30,000 students into the program. There will also be a $10,000 tax deduction for college tuition
RENT GUIDELINES BOARD MOVES RENTS HIGHER
On May 8 the New York City Guidelines Board gave preliminary approval for raising rents on one-year leases by 4 percent and on two-year leases by 6 percent. A 15 percent “poor tax” will be added to increases on apartments that rent for less than $500. A final vote is to be taken June 22.
With rents skyrocketing, tenant organizations brought hundreds of tenants to Albany late in May to lobby for the repeal of the Urstadt Law, which gives ultimate control of the city’s rent laws to state legislators rather than the City Council. Its repeal would end the vacancy decontrol system that is putting rents in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn and Queens out of the reach of working people.
MOTHERS CAMPAIGN FOR GUN CONTROL
Mother’s Day marches in Washington, D.C., and across the country brought hundreds of thousands of mothers and other gun control advocates into the streets, declaring “Enough is enough!” The turnout reflected huge support at America’s grass roots for curbs on the sale of deadly weapons, and the possibility of transforming the politics of gun control.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has introduced several bills in Congress:
- HR-2916, the Handgun Licensing Act, would require states to establish handgun licensing, and require individuals to obtain a state license to purchase handguns. Federal law already prohibits certain individuals from owning handguns, but enforcement provisions are inadequate.
- A companion bill, HR-2917, would require state-based handgun registration, which would create a system to track when weapons are bought and sold. States would face deep cuts in their federal crime funding if they failed to implement such a program.
- Nadler has also introduced HR-1809, to prohibit the importation of dangerous firearms that have been modified to avoid the ban on semiautomatic assault weapons.
A package of gun safety bills has been introduced in the New York State Senate by Martin Connor, Richard Dollinger and Eric Schneiderman. It contains 13 separate bills, each addressing a specific area of regulation and control – such as the design of the weapon, a manufacturer’s code of conduct, a ban on assault weapons and restrictions on who may possess guns. Elected officials worked with gun safety advocates in drafting the legislation, which is aimed at making life safer for New Yorkers, and at protecting children from loaded firearms.