Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed an Executive Order — the ‘New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative’ — requiring local police agencies, including the NYPD, to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their community based on community input. Each police agency’s reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including, but not limited to use of force.
During the same event, attended by Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell; NAACP President Hazel Dukes; Reverend Al Sharpton , New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Cuomo also signed the ‘Say Their Name’ Reform Agenda package following the killing of George Floyd and an ongoing pattern of police brutality against minority communities across the nation. These landmark policing reforms will help reduce inequality in policing and reimagine the state’s criminal justice system. The reforms include:
Allowing for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers by repealing 50-a of the civil rights law;
Banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers;
Prohibiting false race-based 911 reports; and
Designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the civilian deaths.
“The murder of George Floyd was just the tipping point of the systemic injustice and discrimination that has been going on in our nation for decades, if not centuries,” Governor Cuomo said.”These are issues that the country has been talking about for a long time, and these nation-leading reforms will make long overdue changes to our policing and criminal justice systems while helping to restore community confidence in law enforcement.
Under Cuomo’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative executive order, police forces throughout the state, in cities, towns and counties- some 500 of them – must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021 to be eligible for future state funding and certify that they have:
Engaged stakeholders in a public and open process on policing strategies and tools;
Presented a plan, by chief executive and head of the local police force, to the public for comment;
After consideration of any comments, presented such plan to the local legislative body (council or legislature as appropriate) which has approved such plan (by either local law or resolution); and
If such local government does not certify the plan, the police force may not be eligible to receive future state funding.
“The protests taking place throughout the nation and in communities across New York in response to the murder of George Floyd illustrate the loss of community confidence in our local police agencies — a reality that has been fueled by our country’s history of police-involved deaths of black and brown people,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our law enforcement officers are essential to ensuring public safety — they literally put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us. This emergency regulation will help rebuild that confidence and restore trust between police and the communities they serve by requiring localities to develop a new plan for policing in the community based on fact-finding and meaningful community input.”
Immediately following the death of George Floyd, Governor Cuomo laid out a series of reform policy items – called the “Say Their Name” agenda – including allowing for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers by reforming 50-a of the civil rights law; banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers; prohibiting false race-based 911 reports and making them a crime; and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement.
This builds on prior executive actions the Governor has taken including appointing the Attorney General as a special prosecutor in matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement.
“The horrific murder of George Floyd, the most recent in a long list of innocent people like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and so many more, has led to a rightful outpouring of grief and anger,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, who recalled when her own son, at 18 years old, was taken into custody and left with a broken nose. “Black New Yorkers, like all residents of this state, deserve to know that their rights, and lives, are valued and protected by our justice system. The legislation that will be signed today will help stop bad actors and send a clear message that brutality, racism, and unjustified killings will not be tolerated.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said,”The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and so many others shake us to the core. This week, my colleagues and I in the Assembly Majority answered the call of New Yorkers by passing historic reforms to our law enforcement system. These reforms have been championed by our members for years, and I want to thank my colleagues for their tireless commitment to seeing them through to the finish line. I would also like to thank the families of the victims and the passionate advocates who never tired in this fight for justice. They have courageously channeled their grief into a positive force for change and inspired us to deliver meaningful reforms here in New York.”
Cuomo stressed that actions need to be taken at the federal level to create national standards that root out systemic racism in criminal justice and law enforcement, but that New York State, as the “progressive capital” of the nation, would serve as a model for other states and ultimately the federal government.
“Criminal justice reform should be done on a national level,” he said. “And the House has been very aggressive on reform, the Congress, and I applaud them for it. But New York State is the progressive capital. We never sit back and say just what the nation should do, we show the nation what it should do. We lead by example and we lead by getting it done. We are a state of action and that’s us at our best…”
“There is no quick fix to this,” Cuomo said. “There is no, ’”Well, stop tear gas. Well, change the uniforms.’ That’s not what this is about, my friends. And it would be a mistake if we went down that path. This is systemic reform of police departments. This is sitting down and taking a look at exactly what they do and have been doing and looking at it through a new lens of reform and reinvention, because this has been 40, 50 years in the making. Providing police with military equipment, increasing the number of police, it goes back to the ’90s in the crime bills. Looking at the population explosion in our prisons, this was a long time in coming, and this is not about a press release that’s going to solve it. The way we really solve this is we say to every police agency in this state, I believe it should happen in the nation, sit down at the table with the local community, address these issues, get to the root of these issues, get a plan, pass that plan by your local government, and if you don’t, you’re not going to get any additional state funds, period. We’re not going to fund police agencies in this state that do not look at what has been happening, come to terms with it and reform themselves. We’re not going to be as a state government subsidizing improper police tactics, we’re not doing it. And this is how we’re going to do it.”
Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins spoke personally: “But every parent, every mother who looks like me understood that scary notion with our kids, with our husbands, with our brothers. I got that call when my son, my youngest son was only 18 years old and he was quote unquote on the wrong side of the town, he was stopped, he was frisked. The next thing I know after we’re out of the police station, we’re in the emergency room because he has a fractured nose. Thank god I was able to bring him home. I ache for Gwen, Valerie. I understood that.”
She noted that her brother, Bobby, a Marine vet, a Vietnam War vet, served as a transit police officer for six years, before he left “because he was convinced that the department, that the system was designed so that every young black man would have a record. He knew. He was a good cop, he worked with good cops, but he couldn’t change that. And you knew the system couldn’t change itself.
“And so here we are. We know this isn’t a cure, as the governor said. We know that this is the beginning, but it’s a move to bring justice to a system that has long been unjust. And, again, I thank you for being a partner for making sure that we take to heart this moment that has taken too long to come to. And I thank all of the people in the streets and the leadership of the families to make this happen. So, thank you, Governor.”
Assembly Speaker Heastie reflected, “There are still many other issues of systemic injustice and systemic racism that people of color have to deal with. It’s education and health disparities and these are all things that we have to continue as Government to be a part of. Government is supposed to be problem solvers. When society can’t fix things that’s what government is supposed to come in and chart that costs so this is just a very it’s an emotional day.”
Many reflected on the long list of victims over the past 40-50 years, and sporadic flare-ups of outrage but nothing concrete to change the system. What was different now?
Cuomo opined, “But I think it wasn’t just about Mr. Floyd’s death. I think it was the cumulative impact and I think all the names on that list did not die in vain. I think it took that repeated articulation to get the country to this point. Reverend Sharpton— on every one of those situations— was out there making this point all over the country. All over the country. And finally, finally, the country heard! But the reason we’re here today, make no mistake, is because Rev. Sharpton and good people across the country, were out there making the point every time over and over and over again.
“So, Eric Garner did not die in vain. Shawn Bell did not die in vain. It took— it took a number of lives, unfortunately. it took a number of injustices, unfortunately. But each one was a part in getting to today and it was Rev. Sharpton standing up and making sure the people of this nation heard every time, every injustice happened. And that— that Reverend— is a special ability, a special contribution, and it happened year after year after year and we all respect your effort. We thank you for what you’ve done. We thank you for your voice, which the nation has heard. This state has heard. And not only did we hear you— we’re going to make a difference and this state is going to make a difference and I believe it’s going to be a difference that will resonate across the nation. Because what we’re doing here, making every police agency come to the table with the community— that should be done in every police agency in this country. Together we’ll make it happen. Reverend Sharpton.”
Sharpton replied, ”let us be very clear. There is no governor in this country that has said what he said this morning. He and I are debating sometimes, but he has, in many ways, done things that even I did not expect. To say that every mayor must come up with a plan along these areas or they will withhold state money, is a model for where we ought to be dealing with 21st century civil rights in this country. Make no mistake: this is a new level that all other 49 governors ought to look at, because to say, “I want to see mayors deal with this” and “I want to see city councils deal with this,” is one thing. But to say, “we’re going to hold funds— means that he means it.”
He noted that 20 years ago, when Sharpton organized a March on Washington, Cuomo, then Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, was the only member of Clinton’s cabinet to attend.
“Andrew Cuomo has raised the bar, and I hope every governor in this country will be asked today whether or not they’re going to do what he just did. Somebody has to raise the bar. Then we can say to the Floyd family and others that you really have seen a new day, and we’ve turned a new way in this country. And I think that he has done that and Andrew Cuomo knows that when I don’t think he did whatever, I will tell him. He has gone beyond even my expectations. So enjoy these few minutes. But I think this is a great day.”
Here are more details of the legislation Cuomo signed:
Repealing 50-a (S.8496/A.10611)
Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law creates a special right of privacy for the personnel records of police officers, correction officers, and firefighters and paramedics employed by the State or political subdivisions. The current law prevents access to both records of the disciplinary proceedings themselves and the recommendations or outcomes of those proceedings, leading to records of complaints or findings of law enforcement misconduct that did not result in criminal charges against an officer almost entirely inaccessible to the public.
Repealing 50-a will allow for the disclosure of law enforcement disciplinary records, increasing transparency and helping the public regain trust that law enforcement officers and agencies may be held accountable for misconduct.
Banning Chokeholds (S.6670-B/A.6144)
In 1993, the New York City Police Department completely banned its officers from using chokeholds, but the ban has not prevented police officers from using this method to restrain individuals whom they are trying to arrest and the continued use of chokeholds has resulted in too many deaths. This new law creates criminal penalties when a police officer or peace officer uses a chokehold or similar restraint and causes serious physical injury or death.
Senator Brian Benjamin said, “Criminalizing the use of the chokehold by police or peace officers punishable up to 15 years in prison is an important step that will bringing sorely needed police accountability reform to New York State. It is time that we make it abundantly clear that no one is above the law. This is the first law that I am aware of that establishes an enhanced offense specifically on police officers and that is primarily because those who we hire to protect and serve must be held to a higher standard. I would like to thank the Senate and Assembly for passing the ‘Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act,’ and Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation that will help to save the lives of unarmed black men and women who encounter the police and hopefully begin the process of establishing trust and reducing tensions with law enforcement and communities of color.”
Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley said, “George Floyd and Eric Garner yelled out the same words as they were brutally killed by police officers. We need real change to protect black Americans, and part of that is ensuring there are consequences for misconduct on the part of police officers. This legislation is one of many steps in that direction. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law and hope to continue working with his administration to make our state a fairer and more equal place to call home.”
Prohibiting Race-Based 911 Calls (S.8492/A.1531)
Recent years have shown a number of frivolous and false calls to 911 based on the callers’ personal discomfort with other people and not for any particular threat. This new law makes it a civil rights violation to call 911 to report a non-emergency incident involving a member of a protected class without reason to suspect a crime or an imminent threat.
Senator Kevin Parker said, “Social media is rampant with videos of people weaponizing the 911 emergency system against African-Americans hoping to see them falsely arrested or worse. This legislation is by no means a solution to the systemic injustices and prejudices that fuel these types of calls to the police. However, this law gives victims of this despicable behavior the beginnings of some recourse. I am glad that it was passed, together with other important police reform bills, and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing it into law.”
Appointing Attorney General as Independent Prosecutor for Police Involved Deaths (S.2574-C/A.1601)
This new law establishes an Office of Special Investigation within the Office of the Attorney General to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute cases where the death of a person follows an encounter with a law enforcement officer. The law also requires the new Office of Special Investigation to produce a report explaining the reasons for its decision regardless of whether it chooses to pursue charges. This will help improve public confidence in the criminal justice system by removing a potential conflict of interest in these types of investigations. This law builds on the Governor’s Executive Order No. 147 from 2015 which established the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor in instances of police-involved deaths.
Assembly Member Nick Perry said, “Over twenty years since police unloaded 41 shots killing Amadou Diallo, nearly six years after the merciless choking of Eric Garner, it took the videos of the heartrending death of George Floyd to finally help us break through the blue wall of silence and resistance to the public cry for criminal justice reform and changes in the prosecution of cases involving death at the hands of the police, who are supposed to protect us. We know that this new law will not end our quest for an assurance for fairness in the process for prosecuting crimes by bad police officers, but it is a big step in the right direction. Millions of New Yorkers and I are delighted that the Governor has signed this bill into law.”
The vigorous contest of
Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent
policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her
plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system
without infringing on public safety. This is from the Warren2020 campaign:
Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform our criminal justice system. Elizabeth believes we need to reimagine how we talk and think about public safety, spending our budgets not on putting people in prison but on community services that lift people up. It is a false choice to suggest a trade off between safety and mass incarceration – we can decarcerate and make our communities safer.
Her plan details how she will reform all aspects of our system:
what we choose to criminalize, how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with
communities and the accused, how long we keep people behind bars and how we
treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.
“We will reduce incarceration and improve justice in our country
by changing what we choose to criminalize, reforming police behavior and
improving police-community relations, and reining in a system that preferences
prosecution over justice. When people are incarcerated, we will provide
opportunities for treatment, education and rehabilitation, and we’ll continue
those supports for returning citizens as they reenter our communities. Most
importantly, we’ll rethink the way we approach public safety — emphasizing
preventative approaches over law enforcement and incarceration. That’s the way
we’ll create real law and order and real justice in our country.”
The United States makes up 5% of the world’s
population, but nearly 20% of the world’s
prison population. We have the highest rate of
incarceration in the world, with over 2 million people in
prison and jail.
Our system is the result of the dozens of
choices we’ve made — choices that together stack the deck against the poor and
the disadvantaged. Simply put, we have criminalized too many things. We send
too many people to jail. We keep them there for too long. We do little to
rehabilitate them. We spend billions, propping
up an entire industry that
profits from mass incarceration. And we do all of this despite little evidence that
our harshly punitive system makes our communities safer — and knowing that a
majority of people currently in prison will eventually return to our
communities and our neighborhoods.
To make matters worse, the evidence is clear
that there are structural race problems in this system. Latinx adults are three times more
likely to be incarcerated than whites. For the exact same crimes, Black
Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested, charged, wrongfully
convicted, and given harsher sentences. One in ten Black
children has an incarcerated parent.
Four words are etched above the Supreme Court:
Equal Justice Under Law. That’s supposed to be the promise of our justice
system. But today in America, there’s one system for the rich and powerful, and
another one for everybody else. It’s not equal justice when a kid with
an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail, while a bank executive who launders
money for a drug cartel can get a bonus. It’s long past time for us to reform
Real reform requires examining every step of
this system: From what we choose to criminalize, to how law enforcement and
prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, to how long we keep people
behind bars, how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them
when they return.
We cannot achieve this by nibbling around the
edges — we need to tackle the problem at its roots. That means implementing a
set of bold, structural changes at all levels of government.
And it starts by reimagining how we talk and
think about public safety. For example:
Public safety should mean providing every
opportunity for all our kids to get a good education and stay in school.
It should mean safe, affordable housing that
keeps families together and off the streets.
It should mean violence intervention programs
that divert young people from criminal activity, before the police become
It should mean policies that recognize the
humanity of trans people and other LGBTQ+ Americans and keep them safe from
It should mean accessible mental health
services and treatment for addiction.
It is a false choice to suggest a tradeoff
between safety and mass incarceration. By spending our budgets not on
imprisonment but on community services that lift people up, we’ll
decarcerate and make our communities safer. Here’s my plan.
Rethink Our Approach to
It’s not enough merely to reform our
sentencing guidelines or improve police-community relations. We need to rethink
our approach to public safety, transitioning away from a punitive system and
investing in evidence-based approaches that address the underlyingdrivers of violence
and crime — tackling it at its roots, before it ever has a chance to grow.
Break the school-to-prison pipeline. Schools increasingly rely
on police officers to carry out discipline while neglecting services that are
critical to the well being of students. At least fourteen million students
attend schools with a police officer but without a single counselor, social
worker, psychologist, or nurse. It’s no surprise that tens of thousands of
students are arrested annually, many for minor infractions. Zero tolerance
policies start early — on average 250 preschoolers are
suspended or expelled every day — and, even in the youngest years, students of
color bear the brunt. In
later grades, Black and Brown students are disproportionately arrested
in schools, while students with disabilities face an increased risk of
Every child should have the opportunity to
receive the support they need to thrive inside and outside of the classroom.
Adverse childhood experiences such as poverty, violence at home, homelessness,
family separation, or an incarcerated caretaker are proven to negatively impact child
development. I will equip schools with resources to meet their students’ needs
by providing access to health care to support the physical, mental, and social
development of children, improve their overall school readiness and
providing early intervention services.
We should decriminalize truancy and instead increase the number of school
mental health personnel and provide schools with resources to train teachers
and administrators in positive behavioral interventions, trauma-informed
alternative discipline practices, and implicit bias to
limit suspensions, expulsions, and minor-infraction arrests. We should require
that any police department receiving federal funds provide mandatory training
in the scientific and psychological roots of discrimination, youth development,
and de-escalation tactics to officers assigned to school campuses. I’ll
rescind Trump’s executive order that
allows school districts to participate in the 1033 program, giving them access
to military-grade weapons. And I’ll fully fund the Office of Civil Rights of
the Department of Education so that it can investigate school districts with
dramatic disparities in school disciplinary actions.
Reduce homelessness and housing insecurity. Children that experience
homelessness are more likely to drop out of school and more likely to become
involved with the criminal system. But as housing and rental costs skyrocket
and federal housing assistance doesn’t keep pace, housing insecurity is
growing, particularly for families of color. A Warren administration will
commit federal funding to the goal of ending homelessness in our country.
My housing plan will
help, by investing $500 billion over 10 years to build, preserve, and rehab
affordable housing, creating 3.2 million new housing units and bringing down
rental costs by 10%. It would also help families, especially families of color,
buy homes and start to build wealth. Substantially improving housing
affordability isn’t just good for the economy and for working families — it
will also reduce homelessness and crime.
Invest in evidence-based interruption programs. To improve safety in our
communities, we also need to invest in programs that prevent violence and
divert criminal behavior. Models in cities like Boston, Oakland and Chicago demonstrate that
we can successfully reduce homicide and gun violence rates through creating
cross-community partnerships and focused deterrence on
the small percentage of people most likely to commit violence. These programs
are cost-effective and
have multiplier effects:
transforming community climate, improving health outcomes, and boosting local
economies. My administration will invest in piloting similar programs at scale.
Decriminalize Mental Health Crises. The solution for someone
experiencing a mental health crisis should not be a badge and a gun, but police
officers have become America’s de facto first mental health providers.
Historically, 7–10% of police encounters involve a person affected by mental
illness, and people with untreated severe mental illness are sixteen times more
likely to be killed during a police encounter. People with mental illnesses are
not incarcerated at higher rates because they are prone to violence. To
the contrary, most are arrested for non-violent offenses,
many because they lack access to necessary services. But incarcerating people
with mental illness is more expensive as
providing appropriate community-based treatment — instead of shuttling people
into a system not built to meet their needs, we should invest in preventing
people from reaching those crisis points in the first place. Medicare for All
will provide continuous access to critical mental health care services, decreasing
the likelihood that the police will be called as a matter of last resort. I’ll
also increase funding for “co-responder” initiatives that connect law
enforcement to mental health care providers and experts. And my administration
will pilot evidence-based
crisis response efforts to provide needed services to individuals struggling
with mental illness.
Invest in diversion programs for substance abuse disorder. People who struggle with
addiction should not be incarcerated because of their disease. Mass
incarceration has not reduced addiction
rates or overdose deaths, because substance abuse disorder is a public health
problem — and it’s long past time to treat it that way. We know that diversion
programs are both more humane and a better investment than incarceration — for
every dollar we invest in
treatment programs, we can save $12 in future crime and health care costs. I’ll
support evidence-based safe injection sites and needle exchanges, and expand
the availability of buprenorphine to prevent overdoses. And my CARE Act would
invest $100 billion over ten years to increase access to high quality treatment
and support services. It would provide the regions most affected by the opioid
crisis with the resources they need, and would allow state, local and tribal
governments to use CARE Act funds to provide incarcerated individuals, and
individuals in pre-trial detention, with substance use disorder treatment.
Change What We Choose to
We face a crisis of overcriminalization. It has filled our prisons and devastated entire neighborhoods.
Addressing the crisis starts by rethinking what we choose to criminalize. It is
easy for legislators, fearful of being labeled soft on crime, to rubber stamp
every new criminal and sentencing proposal, no matter how punitive. It’s
equally easy for them to look the other way when the wealthy and well-connected
abuse the rest of us. But from the Senate on down, elected lawmakers have an
obligation to do better than that. Here’s where we can start.
Repeal the 1994 crime bill.The 1994 crime bill exacerbated incarceration rates in
this country, punishing people more severely for even minor infractions, and
limiting discretion in charging and sentencing in our judicial system. That
punitive “tough on crime” approach was wrong, it was a mistake, and it needs to
be repealed. There are some sections of law, like those relating to domestic
violence, that should be retained — but the bulk of the law must go.
Address the legacy of the War on Drugs. For four decades, we’ve
subscribed to a “War on Drugs” theory of crime, which has criminalized addiction,
ripped apart families — and largely failed to curb drug use. This failure has
been particularly harmful for
communities of color, and we need a new approach. It starts with decriminalizing marijuana and
erasing past convictions, and then eliminating the remaining disparity between
crack and powder cocaine sentencing. And rather than incarcerating individuals
with substance abuse disorders, we should expand options that divert them into
programs that provide real treatment.
Stop criminalizing homelessness. Housing provides safety
and stability, but too many experience
homelessness. To make matters worse, many cities have criminalized homelessness
by banning behavior
associated with it, like sleeping in public or living in vehicles. These laws
draw people into the justice system instead of giving them access to the
services they need. They disproportionately impact communities of color, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities,
all of whom experience higher rates of homelessness. Rather than treating the
homeless like criminals, we should get them with the resources they need to get
back on their feet.
Stop criminalizing poverty. A simple misdemeanor like
a speeding ticket shouldn’t be enough to send someone to spiraling into poverty
or worse — but often the fines and fees levied
by our legal system bury low-income people who are unable to pay under
court-related debt, with no way out. We abolished debtors prisons nearly two
hundred years ago, but we’re still criminalizing poverty in
this country — low-income individuals are more likely to find
themselves entangled in the system and less likely to
find their way out. There is no justification for imposing unreasonably high
punitive burdens on those who are least able to bear them. As president, I will
End cash bail. Around 60% of the nearly
750,000 people in jail have not been convicted of a crime — and too often,
those jails are overcrowded and inhumane. Our justice
system forces its citizens to choose either to submit to the charges brought
against them or be penalized for wanting to fight those charges. We should
allow people to return to their jobs and families while they wait for trial,
reserving preventive detention only for those cases that pose a true flight or
Restrict fines and fees
levied before adjudication. In many
jurisdictions individuals are charged cost-prohibitive pre-trial fees, sending
them into debt even if they are ultimately acquitted of a
crime. In cases of pre-trial civil forfeiture, an individual often cannot
recover property seized prior to conviction. I’ll reverse the Trump
administration’s policy expanding
pre-trial civil forfeiture at the federal level, and restrict the use of civil
Cap the assessment of
fines and fees. Jailing someone who can’t
afford to pay thousands of dollars in fines on an hourly minimum wage salary is
not only cruel — it’s ineffective. Criminal debt collection should be capped at
a percentage of income for low-income individuals. States should also eliminate
the profit incentive that drives excessive fees and fines by capping the
percentage of municipal revenues derived from the justice system, and diverting
seized assets into a general fund.
Eliminate fees for
necessary services. Private companies and
contractors can charge incarcerated people for essential services, like phone
calls, bank transfers, and health care. Private companies also profit from
charging individuals for their own incarceration and supervision, including
through fees for re-entry, supervision, and probation. As I detailed in my plan
to end private prisons, I will end this practice and ensure that private
companies don’t get rich from exploiting vulnerable people.
Accountability for the wealthy and the well-connected. Equal justice also means
an end to the impunity enjoyed by those with money and power. Instead of
criminalizing poverty and expanding mass incarceration, I’ve proposed a
new criminal negligence standard for
executives of corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue when
their company is found guilty of a crime or their negligence causes severe harm
to American families. Instead of locking up people for nonviolent marijuana
crimes, I’ve proposed putting pharmaceutical executives on the hook to report
suspicious orders for controlled substances that damage the lives of millions.
And I’ve proposed new certification requirements for
executives at giant financial institutions so that we can hold them criminally
accountable if the banks they oversee commit fraud.
Reform How the Law Is
While reform begins with deciding what
constitutes a crime, the authority to enforce the law includes tremendous
discretion. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges make countless
decisions every day that shape the reality of how our criminal justice system
functions for the millions of Americans it comes into contact with. We must
critically examine each aspect of the enforcement process to ensure that it is
both just and consistent with public safety.
Law Enforcement Reform. The vast majority of police officers sign up so they can protect
their communities. They are part of a profession that works tirelessly and
takes risks every day to keep us safe. But we also know that many people of
color, including Native Americans, disproportionately experience trauma at the
hands of law enforcement, sometimes with life-altering consequences. On
average, three people are
shot and killed by the police every day, a disproportionate number of them
young and Black. Others are arrested and
entered into a system that unduly penalizes even minor infractions.
Everyone is less safe when
trust erodes between the police and the communities they serve. Yet we’ve
continued to allow policing practices that are both ineffective and
discriminatory. It’s time to fundamentally change how police work is done in
America: funding what works; replacing failed policies with effective,
evidence-based practices that do not violate individual rights; and reframing
our approach to public safety to prioritize prevention over punishment. Here’s
how we do it.
Improve access to
treatment and early intervention. For
the third straight year, the number of suicides among law
enforcement in 2018 outnumbered the line-of-duty deaths. Law enforcement
officers experience higher rates of
addiction, post-traumatic stress, and other trauma related disorders. I’ll
invest in mental and emotional health support to help our officers do their
job, including by expanding promising pilots like peer intervention and early warning programs.
Improve data collection
and reporting. For nearly a century, we
have measured crime in this country. It’s time we measure justice — and act
when we don’t measure up. Today there is no comprehensive government database
on fatal police shootings, ethics issues, misconduct complaints, or use of
force incidents. My Justice Department will establish a rigorous and systematic
process to collect this data, provide relevant data collection training to
local law enforcement, and make data publicly available wherever possible.
We’ll use that data to prioritize federal oversight and to hold police
accountable for the portion of the bad policing outcomes for which they are
responsible. And we’ll work with interested departments to use their own data
to improve their legitimacy in the communities they serve and inform more just
and effective policing.
oversight capacity. The Obama Justice
Department used its authority to investigate police departments with a pattern or practice of
unconstitutional policing — but resource constraints limited the number of
interventions carried out. Meanwhile, the Trump administration hasn’t
initiated any investigations
at all. I’ll reverse the Sessions guidance limiting the use of consent decree
investigations, and triple funding for the Office of Civil Rights to allow for
increased investigations of departments with the highest rates of police
violence and whenever there is a death in custody. In this way, we can further
incentivize police departments with persistent issues to adopt best practices.
Empower State Attorneys
General. Even an expanded DOJ will
not be able to provide oversight for many thousands of law enforcement agencies
in this country. And accountability for unconstitutional policing shouldn’t
simply shut down under a hostile President like Trump. To build a more durable
system, I’ll incentivize states to empower their attorneys general to
conduct their own oversight of police behavior nationwide.
Demand increased civilian
oversight. Community engagement can
fill the gap and provide oversight where the federal government, even with
increased capacity, cannot. Approximately 150 communities have
civilian oversight boards, but that covers only a small percentage of law
enforcement agencies in America. To expand local oversight and democratic
engagement in policing, I will implement a competitive grant program that
provides funding to communities that establish an independent civilian
oversight mechanism for their police departments, such as a civilian oversight
board or Office of Civilian Complaints. These boards should have a role in
officer discipline and provide input on hiring police executives as well as
hiring and promoting within the departments they oversee.
Establish a federal
standard for the use of force. When
cities employ more restrictive policies for police use of force, they improve
both community trust and officersafety. I will direct my
administration to develop and apply evidence-based standards for the use of
force for federal law enforcement, incorporating proven approaches and
strategies like de-escalation, verbal
warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives. At the federal
level, I’ll prohibit permissive pursuit policies that often result in collateral damage, like
high-speed chases and shooting at moving vehicles. And I’ll work with local law
enforcement agencies to ensure that training and technology deployed at the
federal level can be implemented at all levels of government, helping to limit
the use of force while maintaining safety for officers and the communities they
are sworn to protect.
Increase federal funding
for law enforcement training. Improved
training can reduce the number
of police-involved shootings and improve perceptions
of police legitimacy. But if If we want police practices to change, then the
way we train our officers must change — both when they are hired and throughout
their careers. My administration will provide incentives for cities and states
that hire a diverse police force and provide tools and resources to ensure that
best practices on law enforcement training are available across America,
providing local police with what they need to meet federal training
requirements, including training on implicit bias and the scientific and
psychological roots of discrimination, cultural competency, and engaging
individuals with cognitive or other disabilities. And we should support evidence-based continuing
education for officers throughout their careers.
immunity to hold police officers accountable. When an officer abuses the law, that’s bad for law enforcement,
bad for victims, and bad for communities. Without access to justice and
accountability for those abuses, we cannot make constitutional due process
protections real. But today, police officers who violate someone’s
constitutional rights are typically shielded from civil rights lawsuits by
qualified immunity — a legal rule invented by the courts that blocks lawsuits against
government officials for misconduct unless a court has previously decided that
the same conduct in the same context was unconstitutional. Qualified immunity
has shielded egregious police misconduct from accountability and drawn
criticism from across the politicalspectrum. Last month,
for example, a federal appeals court in Atlanta granted qualified immunity to a
police officer who, while aiming at a family’s dog, shot a 10-year-old boy while
the child was lying on the ground 18 inches away from the officer. Just two
weeks ago, another federal court used qualified immunity to dismiss a lawsuit
against a school police officer who handcuffed a sobbing seven-year-old
boy for refusing to go to the principal’s office. This makes no
sense. I support limiting qualified immunity for law enforcement officials who
are found to have violated the Constitution, and allowing victims to sue police
departments directly for negligently hiring officers despite prior misconduct.
discriminatory policing. Policies
like stop-and-frisk and “broken windows” policing have trampled the
constitutional rights of countless Americans — particularly those from Black
and Brown communities — without any measurableimpact on violent
crime. I’ll end stop-and-frisk by directing the Justice Department to withhold
federal funding from law enforcement agencies that continue to employ it and
other similar practices, and I’ll work with Congress to pass legislation to
prohibit profiling at all levels of law enforcement.
Separate law enforcement
from immigration enforcement. The
data are clear. When local law enforcement is mixed with immigration
enforcement, immigrants are less likely to
report crimes, and public safety suffers. It’s time to
stop directing law enforcement officers to do things that undermine their
ability to keep communities safe. My immigration plan will
address this by ending the 287(g) and “Secure Communities” programs, putting in
guidelines to protect sensitive locations like hospitals and schools, and
expanding protections for immigrant survivors of violent crimes that come
forward and work with law enforcement.
Demilitarize local law
enforcement. Officer safety is
critically important. But we don’t build trust between police and communities
when we arm local law enforcement as if they are going to war. Militarizing our
police contributes to mutual fear and distrust, and there is evidence to
suggest it can actually make officers themselves less safe. As President,
I will eliminate the transfer of military-grade weapons and lethal equipment to
local police via the 1033 program, prohibit local law enforcement from buying
military equipment with federal funding, and create a buy-back program for
equipment already in use in our communities.
Expand the responsible
use of body cameras and protect citizen privacy. Body cameras don’t solve every problem, but used consistently
and appropriately they can decrease the use of force and misconduct complaints.
The federal government should expand funding for body cameras — especially for
smaller jurisdictions that struggle to afford them — in exchange for
departments implementing accountability policies that
ensure consistent and responsible camera use. I’ll also establish a task force
on digital privacy in public safety to establish guardrails and appropriate
privacy protections for this and other surveillance technology, including the
use of facial recognition technology and algorithms that exacerbate underlying
bias. And I’ll make it clear that individuals have every right to record an interaction with
violence. We’ve learned the hard
way in Massachusetts that the job of our police is made exponentially harder by
the weapons flooding our streets. Common sense gun reform and meaningful
safeguards will improve safety for law enforcement and the communities they
serve. In 2017, almost 40,000 people died from guns in the United States. I
have a plan with the goal
of reducing that number by 80%, including by expanding background checks,
establishing a federal licensing system, and holding the gun industry
accountable for the violence promoted by their products.
Prosecutorial and Judicial Reform. Our current criminal
system is complex and places enormous power in the hands of the state. The
government controls what leads to pursue, what charges are levied, whether a
plea is offered, and how long someone spends behind bars. It has massive
resources at its disposal, and enjoys few obligations to share information and
limited oversight of its actions. All of this makes it challenging to ensure
that the accused can go to trial, can get a fair trial, and can receive a just
and reasonable sentence if convicted. To make matters worse, race permeates
every aspect of the system — people of color are twice as likely to
be charged with crimes that carry a mandatory minimum sentence. Reform requires
a transparent system that emphasizes justice, that gives people a fighting
chance — and truly treats everyone equally, regardless of color. Here’s how we
defenders and expand access to counsel. The
Sixth Amendment provides every American accused of a crime with the right to an
attorney — but too many defendants cannot afford one, and too often, public
defenders are under-resourced, overworked, and overwhelmed. If we expect fair
adversarial trials, we need to balance resources on both sides of each case in
every jurisdiction. I’ll fund federal public defenders and expand targeted
grant funding for public defenders at the state level, to ensure that they have
the tools to effectively defend their clients. I’ll also reopen and expand
DOJ’s Office for Access to Justice, which worked with state and local
governments to expand access to counsel. We should ensure that our public
defenders are paid a fair salary for their work, and that their caseloads allow
for the comprehensive defense of their clients. Finally, I’ll provide funding
for language and cultural competency training, including on gender identity and
treatment of individuals with disabilities, so that public defenders are best
able to serve their clients.
Rein in prosecutorial
abuses. Prosecutors are enormously powerful and
often not subject to
scrutiny or accountability. I will support a set of reforms that would rein in
the most egregious prosecutorial abuses and make the system fairer, including
reducing the use of coercive plea bargaining by
DOJ prosecutors at the federal level, establishing open-file discovery, and
putting in place responsible standards for evidence gathering. I’ll establish a
Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct to make additional recommendations for best
practices and monitor adoption of those recommendations. And I’ll create an
independent prosecutorial integrity unit to hold accountable prosecutors who
abuse their power.
Expand access to justice
for people wrongfully imprisoned. Defendants
who are wrongfully imprisoned have the right to challenge their detention in
court through a procedure known as habeas corpus. The Framers believed this
right was so important to achieving justice that they guaranteed it
specifically in the Constitution. It’s particularly important for minority
defendants — Black Americans, for example, make up only 13% of the population
but a plurality of wrongful convictions. In
1996, at the height of harsh federal policies that drove mass incarceration,
Congress made it absurdly difficult for
wrongfully imprisoned individuals to bring these cases in federal court. Since
then, conservative Supreme Court Justices have built on those restrictions —
making it nearly impossible for
defendants to receive habeas relief even when they have actual proof of
innocence. We should repeal these overly restrictive habeas rules, make it
harder for courts to dismiss these claims on procedural technicalities, and
make it easier to apply new rules that emerge from these cases to people who
were wrongfully imprisoned before those rules came into effect.
Protect the rights of
survivors. Crime victims have the
right to safety and justice, the right to be consulted and informed about the
status of their case, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We
should provide support for those who have experienced trauma, including medical
care and safe housing. This is particularly true for those who have experienced
sexual assault or violence at the hands of an intimate partner. I’ll also fight
to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and provide full funding to
eliminate the rape kit backlog across the country.
Appointing a diverse
judicial bench. The justice system should
reflect the country it serves. Judicial appointments are primarily white and male, and
large numbers tend to have a prosecutorial background.
Diversity of experience matters. That’s why I have pushed for increasing the
professional diversity of our federal judiciary to insulate the courts
from corporate capture, and
why I support gender and racial diversity for judicial nominees. I’ll appoint a
diverse slate of judges, including those who have a background defending civil
liberties or as public defenders.
Take into account the
views of those most impacted by the system.As
President, I will establish an advisory board comprised of survivors of
violence, along with formerly incarcerated individuals. I’ll consult with this
advisory board and listen to the needs of those who have first-hand experience
with the system as we find fair and just solutions to the challenges we face.
The federal prison population has grown 650% since
1980, and costs have ballooned by 685%. This explosion has
been driven in large part by rules requiring mandatory minimum sentences and
other excessively long sentencing practices. These harsh sentencing practices
are not only immoral, there’s little evidence that they are effective. As president
I will fight change them.
Reduce mandatory minimums. The 1994 crime bill’s
mandatory minimums and “truth-in-sentencing” provisions that require offenders
to serve the vast majority of their sentences have not proven effective.
Congress should reduce or eliminate these provisions, giving judges more flexibility in
sentencing decisions, with the goal of reducing incarceration to mid-1990s
levels. My administration will also reverse the Sessions memo that
requires federal prosecutors to seek the most severe possible penalties, and
allow federal prosecutors discretion to raise the charge standards for
misdemeanors and seek shorter sentences for felony convictions.
Raise the age for criminal liability. We know that cognition
and decision-making skills continue to develop beyond the teenage years.
For that reason, many states have
raised the age of adult criminal liability to at least 17, or granted
additional discretion to prosecutors when charging offenders between the ages
of 16 and 18. The federal government should do the same — raising the age of
adult criminal liability to 18, eliminating life-without-parole sentences for
minors, and diverting young adult offenders into rehabilitative programs
End the death penalty. Studies show that capital punishment is often applied in a
manner biased against people of color and those with a mental illness.
I oppose the death penalty. A Warren administration would reverse Attorney
General Barr’s decision to move
forward with federal executions, and Congress should abolish the death penalty.
Use the pardon and clemency powers broadly to right systemic
injustices. The president has significant powers to grant clemency and
pardons, and historically presidents have used that power broadly. But
today’s hierarchical process
at DOJ results in relatively few and conservative clemency recommendations.
I’ll remove the clemency process from DOJ, instead empowering a clemency board
to make recommendations directly to the White House. I’ll direct the board to
identify broad classes of potentially-deserving individuals for review,
including those who would have benefited from retroactivity under the First
Step Act, individuals who are jailed under outdated or discriminatory drug
laws, or those serving mandatory minimums that should be abolished.
Improving conditions in prison. Today prisons are
often understaffed and overcrowded,
making them dangerous for both inmates and corrections officers. Even as we
fight to reduce incarceration levels, we should support improved staffing
levels and better training for corrections officers, and humane conditions for
those behind bars. As president, I will:
Ensure that incarceration meets basic human
rights standards. From inadequate health care to dangerous overcrowding,
today our prison system is not meeting the government’s basic responsibility to
keep the people in its care safe. I’ll embrace a set of standards for the
Bureau of Prisons to fix this. That includes accommodating religious practices,
providing reasonable accommodations for prisoners with disabilities, and
limiting restrictive housing in
accordance with evidence-based best practices. We should ensure that trans
people are assigned to facilities that align with their gender identity and
provide the unique medical and psychiatric care they need, including access to
hormone treatments and help with adjusting to their care. And we should
eliminate solitary confinement, which provides little carcerative benefit and
has been demonstrated to harm prisoners’ mental and physical health,
in favor of safe alternatives.
populations. Vulnerable individuals
like pregnant women, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities,
and LGBTQ+ individuals often require special protections while behind bars.
I’ll implement a rigorous auditing program to ensure that prisons are adhering
to legal requirements to
protect LGBTQ+ individuals and others from sexual violence and assault while
incarcerated, and prosecute prison staff who engage in misconduct. I’ll ensure
that juveniles are not housed in adult facilities. I’ll also eliminate the use
of solitary confinement for protective purposes. Instead, I’ll direct the
Bureau of Prisons to establish a set of standards and reforms to protect the
most vulnerable in our prison system in a way that does not involve confining a
person for more than 20 hours a day.
Invest in programs that
facilitate rehabilitation. The
evidence is clear: providing education and opportunity behind bars reduces recidivism when
people leave prison. But when prison populations went up and budgets went down,
rehabilitation services were often the first cuts. In a world where the vast
majority of prisoners will eventually leave prison, this makes no sense. I’ll
double grant funding for these services in our prisons, expanding programs
focused on things like vocational training, anger management, and parenting
Expand mental health and
addiction treatment. 14% of prisoners
meet the threshold for serious psychological distress, and many more struggle
with addiction — but too often, they receive prison time rather than treatment.
And instead of increasing access to treatment in prison, the Bureau of Prisons has reduced it.
Providing mental health treatment during incarceration reduces recidivism. We
must take a comprehensive approach to incarcerated people who face mental
health and addiction challenges, including requiring an adequate number of
counselors and addiction specialists, individualized treatment, and increased
access to medication-assisted treatment.
prisons. I have called to eliminate private prisonsthat
make millions off the backs of incarcerated people. We should also end
all-foreign or “criminal alien requirement” facilities, which are reported to
have higher negative outcomes.
The period after release from prison can be
challenging for returning citizens. During this critical period, they are more
likely to be unemployed, more likely
to be rearrested, more likely
to overdose, and more
likely to die. Recidivism rates
remain high, in part because our prisons have not fulfilled their
rehabilitative function, and in part because lack of opportunity after release
drives individuals to re-offend. On top of all of this, more than 60,000
inmates in our prisons are there because of technical violations
of their parole — for offenses as minor as a speeding ticket. We need
evidence-based programs and interventions to break the cycle of incarceration
and set formerly incarcerated individuals up for success when they return to
their families and their communities. This is particularly true for youth and
minors, who are especially vulnerable when returning to an unstable
environment. Here are some of the steps I will take.
Pressure states to eliminate collateral sanctions. Millions of Americans are
currently on parole or probation. We know that reducing the barriers to full
reintegration in society reduces recidivism, but the system is rife with
collateral consequences that hamper reentry for formerly incarcerated people
who have served their time — from restrictions on occupational licensing to housing to
the disenfranchisement of
over 3 million returning citizens. We should remove those barriers and allow
those who have served their time to find work and fully rejoin their
Reduce needlessly restrictive parole requirements. Technical parole and
probation violations make up a large number of all state prison admissions,
sometimes for infractions as minor as a paperwork error. While many rules are
made at the state level, the federal government should seek to remove those
barriers wherever possible, reduce parole requirements for low-level offenders,
and remove the threat of jail time for minor parole violations.
Reduce discrimination during reentry. I’ll reverse the guidance that
exempts privately run re-entry programs that contract with the Bureau of
Prisons from anti-discrimination laws, restoring protections for individuals
with disabilities and those that encounter discrimination on the basis of their
sexual orientation or gender identity.
Establish a federal expungement option. Many states provide
a certificate of recovery for
nonviolent offenders who have served their time and maintained a clean record
for a certain number of years. This should be replicated at the federal level.
Ensuring Reform at the
State and Local Level
The federal government oversees just 12% of the
incarcerated population and only a small percentage of law enforcement and the
overall criminal legal system. To achieve real criminal justice reform on a
national scale, we must move the decisions of states and local governments as
My administration will work with state and
local governments and incentivize adoption of new federal standards through the
grantmaking process. Federal grants make up nearly one third of
state budgets, and states and local authorities spend about 6% of their budget on
law enforcement functions. My administration would reprioritize state and local
grant making toward a restorative approach to justice, and expand grant funding
through categorical grants that require funds to be used for criminal justice
reform and project grants that require funding to be allocated to specific
When necessary, my plan would also use federal enforcement authority. My
administration would expand on the
Obama-era practice of using Department of Justice consent decrees and other
judicial settlements to enforce federal standards and remedy constitutional
violations at the state and local level. My plan would also leverage the
federal government’s Spending Clause authority and ability to impose civil
rights mandates using cross-cutting requirements to ensure that state and local
governments comply with federal criminal justice reform standards.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders released his plan to reform the entire criminal justice system. This is from the Sanders campaign:
Blueprint aims to reform every aspect of America’s dysfunctional criminal justice system, ridding it of institutional racism and corporate profiteering
COLUMBIA, SC – Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running to be the Democratic candidate for president, released a comprehensive plan to reform the entire American criminal justice system in a speech he delivered August 18 in the Greenview neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina. The plan is designed to root out the institutional racism and corporate profiteering that is plaguing the existing system.
“If we stand together, we can eliminate private
prisons and detention centers. No more profiteering from locking people
up. If we stand together we can end the disastrous “war on drugs.” If we stand
together we can end cash bail. No more keeping people in jail because
they’re too poor. If we stand together we can enact real police department
reform and prosecute police brutality. If we stand together, there is nothing,
nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish.”
Sanders has fought mass incarceration during his decades in Congress, and
for president in 2016 on a pledge to end for-profit prisons —
a pledge that other Democrats have subsequently decided to support 4 years
later. Sanders’ new plan reiterates his original call to ban for-profit
prisons, and builds on his leadership on criminal justice with new proposals
for a top-to-bottom reform of America’s law enforcement, judicial and
incarceration systems. They include:
greed in our criminal justice system, top to bottom
Ending for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to
bottom, including banning cash bail and banning civil asset forfeiture, which
allows police departments to seize property from people who have not been
accused or convicted of a crime.
Ensure the criminal justice system is not the “best justice
money can buy” by vastly increasing funding for public defenders and creating a
federal formula to ensure populations have a minimum number of public defenders
to meet their needs, and working with states to set a minimum starting salary
for public defenders.
Mass Incarceration and Excessive Sentencing and Inhumane Incarceration and
Transform the Way We Police Communities
Reversing mass incarceration and setting a
goal of cutting the incarcerated population in half.
Transforming the way we police our
communities, creating an unarmed civilian corp of first responders to handle
mental health emergencies, homelessness, and other low-level issues that should
not require contact with the police and criminal justice system.
Creating national standards for use of police
force that emphasize de-escalation rather than violence, and holding police
misconduct to strict federal standards, including limiting qualified immunity
for police officers, creating a federal deadly use of force database, and a
registry of disreputable officers.
Ending the War on Drugs, including legalizing
marijuana and expunging past convictions for marijuana-related offenses and finally
ending the sentencing disparities for crack cocaine and powder cocaine
Abolishing the death penalty and solitary
Enacting a Prisoner Bill of Rights for
incarcerated individuals, including living wages, access to families, access to
educational and vocational training, and the right to vote.
Criminalization of Communities, End Cycles of Violence and Provide Support to
Survivors of Crime
Reversing the criminalization of disability, addiction, and homelessness.
Treat children in the criminal justice system
as children. This means raising the age to charge children in adult court to
18, ending long mandatory minimum sentences and life without parole sentences
for youth, decriminalizing truancy, and investing in youth diversion programs
and alternatives to the court and prison system.
End cycles of violence and interrupt them
before they begin. This means focusing law enforcement resources on solving
homicides and other serious crimes, funding Cure Violence programs and similar
proven violence interruption models, and ending the national rape kit
Support the victims and survivors of crimes by
providing sustained resources to survivors and their families, including mental
health care, trauma recovery services, relocation services, and assistance with
New York State Governor
Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice
Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all.
In stark contrast to the
federal government’s dysfunction and the self-destructive tactic of using the shutdown
to extort a political prop, the Governor is laying out a blueprint to move
forward, while shielding New Yorkers from Washington’s devastating federal
attacks. It is aimed at strengthening the middle class, safeguards the
environment, improves the health of communities and invests in building an infrastructure
for the 21st century. For the ninth consecutive year, the Budget is balanced
and holds spending growth below two percent.
“In December, in the face of the nation’s biggest social crisis, and with the federal government seeking to undo generations of progress, Governor Cuomo laid out his legislative agenda to enable the Legislature to commence action on these top priorities immediately upon convening.” In this State of the State Address, the Governor called on the Legislature to swiftly and immediately act on these priorities in the first 100 days of session.
“In the face of unprecedented challenges on a national level and a federal government at a complete standstill, New York will deliver on the most productive agenda in our history and build on our record of accomplishments,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a true Justice Agenda that ensures our neediest schools receive an equitable share of funds, advances historic criminal justice reform, safeguards our health care, protects the rights of women in our state from the federal government, and leads the nation in fight against climate change and contaminants in our environment and our water. While extreme conservatives in Washington govern by division and fuel dysfunction, New York State will raise the beacon of progress and take action to make a real difference in people’s lives.”
Here is a summary of the initiatives (it is long, but New Yorkers should see the detail of the agenda):
The FY 2020 Executive Budget is $175.2 billion on an All Funds basis.
State Operating Funds is $102.0 billion, growth of 1.9%
Health and Education spending grows at 3.6%, Executive Agencies at 0.8%.
Continue the Phase-In of Middle Class Tax Cuts: The Budget supports
the phase-in of the middle class tax cuts. Under these reforms, rates will
continue to drop to 5.5 percent and 6 percent when the cuts are fully phased in
– an up to 20 percent cut in income tax rates for the middle class – and
produce a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by
2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the State’s lowest middle-class
tax rates in more than 70 years.
Extend the Millionaire’s Tax: To protect the progress that has been
made in enhancing progressivity and ensuring tax fairness for New York’s
middle-class, Governor Cuomo is proposing a five-year extension of the current
tax rate on millionaires. This will preserve an estimated $4.4 billion annually
otherwise unavailable to make vital investments in education and infrastructure
to secure New York’s future economic prosperity.
Make Permanent the Property Tax Cap: Governor Cuomo made a
first-ever property tax cap a hallmark of his first campaign for Governor and a
priority of his administration’s first year. Since the implementation of the
tax cap in 2012, growth has averaged approximately 2 percent and the tax cap
has produced approximately $25 billion in taxpayers’ savings. The Governor
proposes that New York preserve and make permanent the property tax cap, as he
has advocated in the past.
Close the Carried Interest Loophole: Because of an egregious
loophole in federal law, some of the wealthiest people in the country,
including hedge fund managers and private equity investors, are paying lower
tax rates on their income than many middle class families. This “carried
interest” loophole results in a substantial cost to middle-class New
Yorkers, with the State losing about $100 million every year. To ensure that
the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share, Governor Cuomo will take
a landmark step to close the carried interest loophole under New York State law
and effectively eliminate the benefits of this loophole under the federal tax
Fight for the Full Deductibility of State and Local Taxes: Governor
Cuomo fought the federal tax bill every step of the way while it was under
consideration in Congress. After its passage, New York joined together with
three other states to sue the federal government over this illegal and targeted
assault. The Governor will continue to fight against this law and the threat
that it poses to New York State, and he urges the new Democratic House of
Representations stand together and demand that the SALT deduction is fully
Continue Lawsuit Against Federal Government Challenging Unconstitutional Tax
Law That Targets New York: Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara
D. Underwood filed a lawsuit to protect New York and its taxpayers from
Washington’s drastic curtailment of the SALT deduction. The lawsuit argues that
the new SALT cap was enacted to target New York and similarly situated states,
that it interferes with states’ rights to make their own fiscal decisions, and
that it will disproportionately harm taxpayers in these states. The Governor
and Attorney General Letitia James will continue in their fight to overturn the
law’s unprecedented and unconstitutional limitations on SALT deductibility.
Building 21st Century Infrastructure
Invest an Additional $150 Billion in the Nation’s Largest Infrastructure
Program: Governor Cuomo has made an unprecedented commitment to invest
$150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years. Beginning in
FY 2020, these capital projects will rebuild transportation and mass transit
systems, drive economic and community development, create new environmental and
park facilities, and support our sustainable energy future.
Reduce Traffic Congestion in NYC and Fund the MTA: This year, the
Governor will implement congestion pricing to establish a reliable funding
stream to transform the transit system and reduce congestion in Manhattan. By
charging fees for vehicles to move within the most congested area of New York
City and then reinvesting those funds into transit improvements, this plan will
combat gridlock and deliver to New York City’s residents and visitors the
world-class transit system they deserve.
Establish Accountability for the MTA: The MTA is a bureaucracy that
lacks any accountability. The board of 17 members gives no single person a
clear majority of nominees and there are 32 unions representing MTA employees
that exert significant political power over the elected officials who appoint
the board members. To overhaul this bureaucracy and fix the system, the
Governor will work with the Legislature to establish clear authority over the
MTA, while continuing to solve the need for dedicated funding and splitting
capital funding shortfalls between New York City and New York State. Only with
clearly designated authority and adequate funding can the MTA can be overhauled
into the efficient and effective transit system that New Yorkers deserve.
Expand Design-Build and Enact Other Efficiencies to Expedite Construction
Projects: Governor Cuomo’s $100 billion infrastructure program is arguably
the nation’s largest and boldest. Key to the program’s success is the
Governor’s decision to deploy the design-build method on complex projects, saving
taxpayers time and money by making a single contractor responsible for both a
project’s design and its actual construction. To ensure efficiency across State
projects, the Executive Budget includes legislation authorizing the use of
state-of-the-art methods such as construction manager at-risk and construction
manager-build, while expanding design-build to additional agencies.
Continuing New York’s Bottom-Up Economic Development Strategy
Invest $750 million for Round Nine of the Regional Economic Development
Councils: In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Economic
Development Councils (REDCs) to develop long-term regional strategic economic
development plans. Since then, the REDCs have awarded $6.1 billion to more than
7,300 projects. This strategy has resulted in 230,000 new or retained jobs in
New York. The Executive Budget includes core capital and tax-credit funding
that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for a ninth
round of REDC awards totaling $750 million.
Invest in Communities Across the State Through the Fourth Downtown
Revitalization Initiative: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is
transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next
generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise families.
Participating communities are nominated by the State’s ten REDCs based on the
downtown’s potential for transformation. Through three rounds of awards, each
winning community was awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic
investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the
community’s vision for revitalization. The Executive Budget provides $100
million for the Downtown Revitalization Program Round IV.
Ensuring A Quality Education for All
Require Districts to Distribute State Aid in a More Equitable Manner to
Their Neediest Schools: Although the state distributes 70 percent of
its funding to the neediest districts, the districts do not always distribute
funding to their schools in an equitable manner. In fact, some school districts
have schools with significantly higher needs receiving less than the average
school in the district. Governor Cuomo proposes to require that these school
districts devote a portion of their 2019-20 school aid to increase the
per-pupil allocation in those high-need schools. This increase in allocation
will help ensure that funding intended to help improve educational outcomes for
the neediest students reaches those students.
$1 Billion Education Aid Increase: State support for school
districts will have increased by $8.1 billion (42 percent) since FY 2012. Over
70 percent of this year’s increase goes to high-need school districts.
Foundation Aid is increased by $338 million.
Expand Universal Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget includes an
additional $15 million investment in pre-kindergarten to expand high-quality
half-day and full-day prekindergarten instruction for three- and four-year-old
children in high-need school districts.
Recruit 250 New Teachers in Shortage Areas through the We Teach NY
Program: With the goals of diversifying and strengthening the teacher
workforce pipeline, Governor Cuomo proposes to invest $3 million in the We
Teach NY program, which will strategically recruit 250 new teachers to fill
identified needed positions in New York classrooms in 2024.
Expand Master Teacher to High Poverty Schools to Increase Access to Advanced
Courses: In 2013, Governor Cuomo launched the New York State Master
Teacher Program to strengthen our nation’s STEM education, giving selected
educators an annual $15,000 stipend for four years, professional development
opportunities and a platform to foster a supportive environment for the next
generation of STEM teachers. In order to recruit and retain outstanding
educators in the highest poverty schools, the Executive Budget will provide
$1.5 million to support 100 new Master Teachers who teach in high-poverty
schools with high rates of teacher turnover or high rates of relatively
Protect Student Loan Borrowers: There are approximately 2.8 million
student loan borrowers in New York that have tens of billions of dollars in
outstanding student loan debt, which is serviced by about 30 student loan
servicers. The Governor will advance sweeping protections for student loan
borrowers by requiring that companies servicing student loans held by New
Yorkers obtain a state license and meet standards consistent with the laws and
regulations governing other significant lending products such as mortgages;
banning upfront fees; requiring fair contracts and clear and conspicuous
disclosures to borrowers; and providing penalties for failing to comply with
Creating Economic Opportunity for Every New Yorker
Launch the $175 Million Workforce Initiative: Governor Cuomo will launch a new Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments that will support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of growing industries — with a particular focus on emerging fields with growing demand for jobs like clean energy, health technology, and computer science. These funds will also support efforts to improve the economic security of women, youth, and other populations that face significant barriers to career advancement.
Expand Employer-Driven Training Opportunities by Enhancing the Employee Training Incentive Program: Governor Cuomo proposes to expand the Employee Training Incentive Program to provide more training options to more industries by enabling employers with dedicated training shops to draw on in-house expertise in delivering approved training, and by extending ETIP tax credits to internship opportunities in additional high-tech industries.
Protect Workers from Union-Busting Activity by Codifying EO 183 into Law and Expanding its Protections to Local Governments: New York State has a long and distinguished history of standing by union workers. This year, Governor Cuomo will continue to advance his support for unions by introducing legislation that not only codifies EO 183 into law, but expands its protections to local governments to ensure that more union workers are protected.
Increase Criminal Penalties for Wage Theft: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to increase criminal penalties for employers who knowingly or intentionally commit wage theft violations to more closely align with other forms of theft.
Ensuring Access to Affordable Housing
Enact Historic Legislation to Strengthen Rent Regulation: This year, the Governor proposes aggressive rent regulation reforms, including ending vacancy decontrol, repealing preferential rent, and limiting building and apartment improvement charges. These changes will preserve the rent regulated housing stock, strengthen tenants’ rights to affordable housing, and ensure New Yorkers safe, quality affordable housing.
Limit Security Deposits to Reduce Housing Barriers: Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to limit security deposits to a maximum of one month’s rent across New York State, making New York’s security deposit limits among the strongest in the nation This law will serve to ensure that burdensome security deposits will no longer serve as a barrier to entry for anyone trying to find a new place to live.
Help Families Build Credit and Holistically Evaluate Credit Scores: In New York State, most landlords conduct background credit checks on potential tenants, which often leads to rejecting applicants with low credit scores or an insufficient credit history. To ensure all New Yorkers have a fair shot of accessing affordable, quality housing, Governor Cuomo will issue regulations prohibiting state-funded housing operators from automatically turning away applicants with poor credit or histories of bankruptcy. Instead, the State will require that all potential tenants and homeowners be holistically evaluated to determine the circumstances behind their credit history and their ability to pay rent on a forward-looking basis.
Enact Source of Income
Protections to Support Fair Housing for All: In certain parts of New York State, landlords
can reject applicants based on their lawful source of income,
disproportionately impacting households that rely on non-wage income or income
assistance and those who use vouchers to obtain housing for their families. The
Governor will work with the legislature to amend the New York State Human
Rights Law to prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income statewide
to ensure that such lawful income is not a blanket barrier to housing, reducing
financial instability for New York’s most economically vulnerable individuals.
Support ESPRI Communities and Establish ESPRI Representation on REDC
Workforce Development Committees: In 2016, Governor Cuomo
created the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI) to combat poverty
and reduce inequality. ESPRI is an important component of the Governor’s
anti-poverty agenda, and this year Governor Cuomo proposes to build on the
success of these State and local partnerships to address poverty, supporting
more community-based efforts through continued funding of ESPRI. Governor Cuomo
will also continue to support efforts by the REDCs and the economic development
community to broaden and deepen their commitments to local anti-poverty efforts
and he will ensure an ESPRI representative is included on each region’s
Workforce Development Committee and involved in the review process for the
Governor’s new Workforce Development Initiative.
Reduce Hunger and Food Insecurity: Building on historic investments
to combat food insecurity, Governor Cuomo will establish a goal to reduce
household food insecurity in New York State by 10 percent by 2024. In order to
achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo is directing the following actions: create a
food and anti-hunger policy coordinator; simplify access to SNAP for older and
disabled adults; enhanced resources and referrals in clinical settings;
participate in SNAP online purchasing pilot; and expand food access in Central
Supporting the Rural and Agricultural Economy
Continue the Revitalization of the Great New York State Fairgrounds: The
State Fair drives $100 million a year in economic activity in Central New York
and thousands of jobs. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has
invested more than $120 million dollars in two phases over the last three years
to remake the New York State Fairgrounds. To continue the transformation of the
State Fairgrounds, the State will make additional renovations and upgrades to
enhance user experience. The Governor’s commitment continues to make the
fairgrounds a year-round destination.
Fund Key Programs to Support New York’s Farmers: The agricultural
industry is full of variability and uncertainty. As a reflection of the
Governor’s resolve to support New York’s farmers, this year’s Executive Budget
will continue funding the specialized technical assistance, industry promotion,
and research investments statewide to reduce farms’ exposure to economic and
Advancing Criminal Justice for All
Bail and Pretrial Detention Reform: Governor Cuomo is advancing
legislation that will end cash bail once and for all, significantly reduce the
number of people held in jail pretrial, and ensure due process for anyone
awaiting trial behind bars. This series of reforms will include a mandate that
police issue appearance tickets instead of making arrests in low-level cases,
eliminate money as a means of determining freedom, and institute a new
procedure whereby a district attorney can move for a hearing to determine
whether eligible defendants may be held in jail pretrial, for which the judge
must find reasonable cause to believe the individual is a danger to themselves
Improve Transparency in the Discovery Process: As only one of ten states
where prosecutors can withhold basic evidence until the day a trial begins,
Governor Cuomo’s plan will bring New York’s discovery process into the 21st
century by requiring both prosecutors and defendants to share all information
in their possession well in advance of trial. Defendants will also be
allowed the opportunity to review whatever evidence is in the prosecution’s
possession prior to pleading guilty to a crime.
Ensure the Right to a Speedy Trial: Governor Cuomo will introduce
legislation that ensures criminal cases no longer drag on without
accountability. With this proposal, Governor Cuomo will guarantee that all
necessary discovery procedures are completed quickly, and that no New Yorker is
unduly held in custody as they await their day in court.
Abolish the Death Penalty: Although the New York Court of Appeals ruled
the death penalty unconstitutional in 2004, capital punishment was never fully
repealed in statute. To address this disparity, Governor Cuomo will
introduce legislation to permanently strike capital punishment from the law to
guarantee that this draconian punishment is never again practiced in the State
of New York.
Transform the Use of Solitary Confinement in State Prisons: New
York has dramatically reformed and reduced the use of solitary confinement for
people who engage in misconduct within state prisons. The Governor is directing
DOCCS to accelerate the momentum of solitary confinement reform by limiting the
length of time spent in separation, building dedicated housing units for
rehabilitation and integration following a disciplinary sanction, and expanding
therapeutic programming to reinforce positive and social behavior.
Establish Compassionate Release: The Governor will establish a
process of compassionate release for incarcerated individuals over the age of
55 who have incapacitating medical conditions exacerbated by their age.
Enact a Comprehensive Re-entry Package to Improve Outcomes for Formerly
Incarcerated Individuals: Governor Cuomo will enact a four-point plan
to ease the burdens placed on individuals who have paid their debt to society
and provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed.
Legalizing Adult Use Cannabis
In January 2018, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to launch a
multi-agency study to review the potential impact of regulated cannabis in New
York. The study, issued last July, concluded that the positive impact of a
regulated cannabis program in New York State outweighs the potential negative
aspects. Building on extensive outreach and research, Governor Cuomo is
proposing the establishment of a regulated cannabis program for adults 21 and
over in the FY 2020 budget that protects public health, provides consumer
protection, ensures public safety, addresses social justice concerns, and
invests tax revenue. Specifically, the program will:
Reduce impacts of criminalization affecting communities
Automatically seal certain cannabis-related criminal
Implement quality control and consumer protections to
safeguard public health.
Counties and large cities can opt out.
Restrict access to anyone under 21.
Generate approximately $300 million in tax revenue and
Advancing Reproductive Justice and Women’s Equality
Pass the Reproductive Health Act and Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act and Enshrine Roe v. Wade into the New York State Constitution: Governor Cuomo will work with the legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act within the first 30 days of the 2019 Legislative Session, codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade into State law. This law will ensure the right of people to make personal health care decisions to protect their health, in addition to their life, and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. Upon passage of the RHA, the Governor will advance a concurrent resolution to enshrine the principles of Roe v Wade into the New York State Constitution. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to codify affordable access to contraception, including emergency contraception, into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
Improve Access to In-Vitro Fertilization and Fertility Preservation Coverage: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to expand access to coverage for IVF, as well as medically-necessary fertility preservation services. This legislation will specifically mandate that large group insurance providers cover IVF and will also require large, small, and individual group insurance providers to cover egg-freezing services for women with certain health conditions, including those undergoing cancer treatment.
Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Racial Disparities: Based on recommendations from the Maternal Mortality Taskforce established by Governor Cuomo in 2018, the Governor will advance a series of policies to reduce maternal mortality and racial disparities in New York State, including creating an education and training program to reduce implicit racial bias in health care institutions statewide, expand Community Health Worker programs, enacting legislation to create a statewide Maternal Mortality Review Board, creating a data warehouse to provide near real-time information on maternal mortality and morbidity and to inform targeted quality initiatives, and convening an Expert Workgroup on Postpartum Care to develop recommendations targeting the critical time immediately after birth.
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment: Governor Cuomo will push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class to Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution. With this change, Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution will read: No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this State or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, sex, creed or religion, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation or institution, or by the State or any agency or subdivision of the state.
Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act: Governor Cuomo will advance the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which will build on Jenna’s Law to include more meaningful sentence reductions and encompass crimes committed not only against, but also at the behest of, abusers. The Act will also permit a small population of currently incarcerated survivors to apply for re-sentencing and earlier release due to their prior victimization.
Eliminate the Statute of Limitations for Rape: While New York removed the statute of limitations for Rape in the First Degree, a five-year statute of limitations remains for Rape in the Second Degree and Rape in the Third Degree. Therefore, in 2019 Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to remove the statute of limitations for Rape in the Second Degree and Third Degree.
Increase Protections Against Harassment in the Workplace: Building on the nation’s most comprehensive sexual harassment package signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2018, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to lower the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment, protect employees’ rights to pursue complaints, and ensure workers know their rights, by requiring all employers to conspicuously post a sexual harassment educational poster in their workplace.
Modernize New York’s Pay Equity Law: Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively to close the gender pay gap in New York. This year, Governor Cuomo will build upon that effort by championing the passage of a salary history ban. In addition, the Governor will advance legislation to expand the definition of “equal pay for equal work” to require equal pay on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, and other protected characteristics, and expand the requirement that equal pay be provided for all substantially similar work, adding flexibility in recognition of the complexity of the issue.
If You Can See It, You Can Be It 2019—Girls in Government: Governor Cuomo will create an opportunity for girls to learn about the impact they can have through politics through the new Girls in Government initiative, a non-partisan program to encourage girls in grades 8 through 12 to get involved in government and public policy. The program will introduce girls to the machinery of advocacy and public policy and teach young girls about public affairs and issues that matter to them personally and in their community. They will witness first-hand the inner workings of state government and meet with elected officials and senior staff.
Creating a Safer New York
Establish Extreme Risk Protection Orders to Save Lives: Governor Cuomo will continue to champion the Red Flag Bill, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill, which would prevent individuals determined by a court to have the potential to cause themselves or others serious harm from purchasing, possessing, or attempting to purchase or possess any type of firearm, including handguns, rifles, or shotguns. This legislation builds on New York’s strongest-in-the-nation gun laws, and, if passed, would make New York the first state to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention.
Extend the Background Check Waiting Period: Governor Cuomo continues to support legislation to establish a 10-day waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Ban Bump Stocks: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to close existing statutory loopholes to prohibit ownership or sale of a bump stock. As evidenced by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, bump stocks can be equipped to semi-automatic weapons to simulate machine gun fire with deadly consequences. Bump stocks serve no legitimate purposes for hunters or sportsmen and only cause unpredictable and accelerated gun fire, and there is no reason to allow for their continued sale in New York State.
Pass the Child Victims Act: Having advanced the Child Victims Act, Governor Cuomo is fighting to enact the bill and provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice. This legislation will increase the length of time during which a child sex abuser may be held criminally accountable, allow abuse victims to commence a civil lawsuit at any time until they reach age 50, and ensure that each and every survivor has an opportunity to seek justice by creating a one-year window for victims whose claims have previously been time-barred to bring suit.
Safety Reforms for Large Passenger Vehicles: The horrific tragedies involving modified stretched
limousines in Schoharie County in 2018 and Suffolk County in 2015 filled every
New Yorker with a deep sense of empathy and sorrow for the victims and their
loved ones. Governor Cuomo proposes a number of statutory reforms to both
protect passengers and hold those accountable who seek to flout the law, including
an outright ban on the registration of remanufactured limousines, prohibiting
their operation in New York State.
Authorize Speed Cameras: In order to reinstate the bill signed into law
by Governor Cuomo in 2013 authorizing the City of New York to develop a system
to advance school zone highway safety utilizing camera technology to record and
enforce speeding violations, the Governor will put forward a proposal to
reinstate and expand the speed camera program in New York City.
Enacting the Democracy Agenda
Allow Universal Absentee Voting: Governor Cuomo will push to amend the
constitution to make absentee ballots available to any eligible voter, no
matter their reason for wanting one.
Enact Statewide Early Voting: This proposal would combine early voting
with electronic poll books, making make it easier for poll workers to keep
track of voting records and verify voter identity and registration
Permit Same-Day Registration: Governor Cuomo is proposing amending the
constitution to eliminate this outdated but formidable barrier to the ballot
Automatic Registration: Today New Yorkers are given the opportunity
to register to vote when interacting with State agencies and they must
affirmatively ask to be registered. The budget will include a proposal to
reverse that process and register eligible New Yorkers to vote unless they
affirmatively ask not to be registered. Automatic voter registration will not
only boost voter registration and turnout in this state, it will also strengthen
our democratic process.
Make It Easier to Register to Vote: In order to ensure voter
registration is as simple as possible, the Governor is proposing that all
automatic voter registration opportunities be available online, and that New
Yorkers are able to apply to register to vote on the State Board of Elections
website if they choose to do so.
Make Election Day a Holiday: An inability to take off of work
should never be a barrier to voting. For this reason, Governor Cuomo will
advance legislation to ensure that every worker in New York State receives, as
of right, paid time off to vote on Election Day.
Eliminate Restrictions on Voting Before Noon in Upstate Primaries:
Governor Cuomo will fix unequal ballot access across the state by ensuring that
voting hours are extended for primary elections upstate to match those voting
hours across the rest of the state.
Fight to Ensure that All New Yorkers Are Counted in the 2020 Census: In
2019, Governor Cuomo will launch a comprehensive campaign to protect the
integrity of the 2020 Census and to ensure that every New Yorker is counted.
Enacting Ethics Reform
Adopt Campaign Finance Reform: Governor Cuomo will advance a
comprehensive package of campaign finance reform legislation to combat the
unprecedented influence of big money in politics and empower the voices of all
Public Financing of Elections: There is no incentive in today’s campaign finance
system for candidates to focus on ordinary donors. Large donors provide
large donations which drown out the voices of ordinary people. Public
campaign financing is the remedy to this problem. By enacting a 6:1 public
financing matching ratio for small donations, candidates will be
incentivized to focus on small donors.
Lowering Campaign Contribution Limits: Governor Cuomo is proposing lowering contribution
limits for all candidates. By implementing these reforms, and creating a
strong public financing system, New York will dramatically reduce the
influence of money in politics and return to a government by the people
and for the people.
Ban Corporate Contributions and Fully Close the LLC
Loophole: Ever since the Citizens United
decision in 2010, corporate money has overtaken our elections system. It
is time for New York State to finally say enough is enough. Governor Cuomo
will fix this problem once and for all by banning all corporate and LLC
contributions. It is time to restore the power to the people, and take it
out of the hands of dark money and special interest donors.
Strengthen Disclosure Laws that Expose Dark Money inPolitics : In June 2016, Governor
Cuomo advanced ethics reform legislation to address the impact of Citizens
United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). The Governor
cautioned about the increase of dark money in politics and promised to
“strengthen disclosure requirements and mandate that groups report
the identity of anyone exerting control over them.” In August 2016,
the Governor signed into law New York Executive Law § 172, which requires
disclosures of political relationships and behaviors widely recognized to
be influential but which operate in the shadows. Now, with the lessons of
the 2018 election in hand, the Governor proposes strengthening this law in
a variety of ways to assure all New Yorkers have critical information
about who is actually speaking to them. Further, the Governor is seeking
to streamline the reporting process for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)
organizations, including by providing a mechanism for organizations to
apply for a statutory exemption before the start of a reporting period.
Disclosures by Local Elected Officials: This proposal will require these local elected officials to
submit basic financial disclosure information to JCOPE, just like their state
counterparts, so that the people of New York State can have the information
they need about the people they choose to represent them at all levels of
Build a Dynamic, User-Friendly Database of Economic Development Projects: In
an effort to increase transparency and modernize the information available on
State economic development efforts, the Governor is directing Empire State
Development (ESD) to build and host a searchable online database that will give
the public more current and relevant information on projects that receive ESD
assistance. When deployed, the new database will provide the public with more
recent information on projects and combine the data from many static,
program-specific reports into one dynamic, user-friendly website.
Ensuring Immigrant Rights
Pass the Jose Peralta DREAM Act: Governor Cuomo will pass the Senator
Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act to finally open the doors of higher education to
thousands of New Yorkers. The Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act will give
undocumented New York students, who are deserving of the same advantages given
to their citizen peers, access to the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as
state administered scholarships.
Codify Executive Order Prohibiting State Agencies from Inquiring About
Immigration Status: In 2017, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 170,
prohibiting State agencies and officers from inquiring about or disclosing an
individual’s immigration status unless required by law or necessary to
determine eligibility for a benefit or service. Building upon further
amendments to the Executive Order, Governor Cuomo proposes codifying the
protection of the amended EO 170 into law.
Protecting LGBTQ Rights
Pass the Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Act:Governor
Cuomo supports the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act
(GENDA), solidifying protections against discrimination, harassment, and hate
crimes against people on the basis of gender identity.
Banning Conversion Therapy: Governor Cuomo supports legislation to
expand the definition of professional misconduct for professions licensed under
the education law to include engaging in, advertising for, or allowing someone
under one’s direction or oversight to engage in conversion therapy with a
patient under the age of eighteen years.
Ban the “Gay Panic” Defense: Governor Cuomo will again
push to close the loophole in New York State by passing legislation to ban gay
and trans panic defenses.
Make Surrogacy Legal in New York State: New York State law
presently bans the practice of gestational surrogacy, and creates destabilizing
uncertainty about who the legal parents are when a child is conceived via other
reproductive technology like artificial insemination or egg donation. The
Governor is proposing legislation to lift the ban on surrogacy contracts to
permit gestational carrier agreements.
Serving Our Veterans
Support for Transgender Troops: New York will stand with all
veterans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This year, all
New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs staff will receive LGBTQ cultural
competency training to help understand how to best serve LGBTQ veterans. DVA
will also work with LGBTQ-focused organizations to make sure that each and
every LGBTQ veteran receives individualized assistance in a safe and supportive
environment, including by helping LGBTQ veterans upgrade their service
discharges so that these brave veterans will be able to access healthcare,
education, financial compensation, and other benefits they have earned.
JUSTICE FOR ALL NEW YORKERS
Protecting Quality, Affordable Health Care
Codify Health Care Protections and Coverage Guarantees for New
Yorkers: In light of the continued federal attacks on the ACA,
Governor Cuomo believes it is essential that New York codify key ACA
provisions, including the state’s health insurance marketplace, as well as
enhanced State regulatory protections into State law. This is critical to
stabilizing the health insurance market and inoculating New York from any
further federal attacks on the health care system.
Take Action to Achieve Universal Access to Health Care: Governor
Cuomo is establishing a Commission on universal health care to be supported by
Department of Health and Department of Financial Services, and comprised of
health policy and insurance experts to develop options for achieving universal
access to high-quality, affordable health care in New York. This review process
will consider all options for expanding access to care, including strengthening
New York’s commercial insurance market, expanding programs to include
populations that are currently ineligible or cannot afford coverage, as well as
innovative reimbursement models to improve efficiency and generate savings to
support expanded coverage.
Fighting to End the Opioid Epidemic
Protect New Yorkers from Predatory Practices: Governor Cuomo will
advance legislation to 1) require that out-of-state facilities be licensed in
their home state and accredited by a nationally recognized organization, and 2)
prevent predatory out-of-state providers from targeting justice involved
individuals by working with courts to immediately connect individuals to
in-state treatment programs and by advancing legislation to protect in-state
court ordered treatment. He will also direct OASAS to implement regulations
that require out-of-state marketers comply with OASAS requirements when
marketing in New York State. With these actions, New York will implement the
strongest practices in the nation to protect its residents, forcing predatory
treatment programs to look elsewhere to fill their facility quotas.
Expand Access to Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is an important
advance in Medication Assisted Treatment, which, like methadone and injectable
naltrexone, is used in combination with counseling as appropriate to help
people reach and sustain recovery from Opioid Use Disorder. To expand use of
buprenorphine, Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Health to require
all hospitals statewide to develop protocols for their Emergency Departments to
address Opioid Use Disorder based on the standard of care for treatment or
referral for treatment.
Expand Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Criminal Justice Settings: To
expand access to treatment in prisons and jails, Governor Cuomo has directed
OASAS to distribute over $4 million to support addiction treatment services in
over 50 facilities. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will expand access to
Medication Assisted Treatment by providing $1.2 million to support the
establishment of up to three new MAT programs in State prisons.
Increase Access to Naloxone: Governor Cuomo will direct DOH to
advance legislation that expands Good Samaritan laws to apply to workers in
restaurants, bars, and other retail establishments. In addition, Governor Cuomo
will increase access to naloxone at SUNY and CUNY by ensuring that naloxone is
provided as part of every dorm first aid kit, or available for the Resident
Assistant on duty every night in every SUNY and CUNY dorm.
Launch a Comprehensive Substance Use Prevention Blueprint for Schools: At
Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York State will launch a statewide
collaborative to streamline all prevention resources and develop best
practices, standards, and metrics for substance use prevention into a focused
“Prevention Blueprint” that will assist schools to follow a
comprehensive, evidence-based and data-driven approach to prevention. OASAS
shall work in collaboration with the State Education Department, Department of
Health and the Office of Mental Health to develop the Prevention Blueprint for
use in the 2020-21 school year.
Creating Healthy Communities
Protect New Yorkers from Unknown Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: Governor
Cuomo will introduce new legislation authorizing the Department of
Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health and the Department of
State to develop regulations establishing an on-package labeling requirement
for designated products, indicating the presence of potentially hazardous
chemicals, developing a list of the more than 1,000 carcinogens and other
chemicals that will trigger labeling, and identifying the types of consumer
products that will be subject to the new regime. DEC and DOH will be further
empowered to require manufacturers to disclose the chemical contents of
consumer products in sold or distributed in New York State and explore possible
additional measures to protect consumers.
Control Health Threats from Tobacco: Governor Cuomo is proposing
comprehensive legislation to combat the rising use of tobacco products. This
Raising the Minimum Sales Age for Tobacco and
Electronic Cigarette Products from 18 to 21: Most underage youth obtain tobacco and vapor
products from friends who are over 18 and can legally purchase products.
Raising the minimum age will remove sources of tobacco from high schools.
Ending the Sale of Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette
Products in Pharmacies: Health
care related entities should not be in the business of selling tobacco,
the leading cause of preventable death in New York State. Ending the sale
of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies will reduce the
availability, visibility, and social acceptability of tobacco use,
especially to youth.
Clarify the Department of Health’s Authority to Ban the
Sale of Certain Flavored E-Cigarette Liquids: Flavored combustible cigarettes, except menthol, were
banned by the FDA in 2009 to reduce youth smoking as they were frequently
used as a starter product. Most e-cigarette users said their first
e-cigarette was flavored. Flavors, such as sweet tart, toffee, and bubble
gum, make e-cigarettes more attractive and make e-cigarettes more attractive
to youth. Legislation is being introduced to provide the Department of
Health the authority to ban the sale of flavored liquids that target youth
use of e-cigarettes.
Restricting Available Discounts Provided by Tobacco and
Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Retailers: New York has the highest cigarette tax in the
nation, but manufacturers and retailers have developed tactics to reduce
prices, such as “buy one, get one free” discounts. These tactics
directly target price-sensitive consumers, including youth. Restricting
discounts on tobacco and vapor products will strengthen the impact of New
York’s tax on tobacco and disincentivize tobacco use.
Introduce a Tax on E-Cigarettes: Tobacco use is reduced or prevented when the price of
tobacco products is high. Youth are particularly sensitive to price
increases on tobacco products. New York State has one of the highest taxes
on combustible cigarettes and one of the lowest youth smoking rates in the
country. The same rationale is expected to apply to taxation and youth use
of electronic cigarettes and e-liquids.
Require E-Cigarettes to Be Sold Only Through Licensed
Retailers: Currently the sale of
e-cigarettes is almost entirely unregulated. Restricting the sale to
licensed retailers will allow the current enforcement infrastructure to
ensure that minors do not purchase tobacco products.
Invest in Community-Based Supports for Aging New Yorkers: Governor Cuomo proposes investing $15 million in community-based supports for aging New Yorkers. This needed targeted investment in NYSOFA’s programs and services will help serve more older adults and will help them maintain their autonomy, support family and friends in their caregiving roles, and delay future Medicaid costs. Working with the Department of Health, NYSOFA will develop specific metrics to evaluate the success of this investment.
Create the Family First Transition Fund: The state will leverage the investment of private foundation funding to create a Family First Transition fund that will provide resources to local departments of social services and foster care agencies to have the resources needed to prepare for the implementation of the Family First federal legislation. This investment will allow New York State to adequately prepare for the implementation of Family First and will position New York to continue to prioritize the needs of its most vulnerable children and families and ensure the local departments of social services are fully equipped to meet those needs while maintaining compliance with important federal benchmarks.
Continuing New York’s Environmental Leadership
Launching the Green New Deal: Amidst the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment and in order to continue New York’s progress in the fight against climate change, Governor Cuomo is announcing New York’s Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy. At the Governor’s direction, New York will move boldly to achieve this goal with specific near-term actions and long-term strategies to spur unparalleled innovation and transform the state’s electric, transportation, and building infrastructure while prioritizing the needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. This landmark initiative will further drive the growth of New York’s clean energy economy, create tens of thousands of high-quality 21st century jobs, provide all New Yorkers with cleaner air and water by reducing harmful emissions, and set an example of climate leadership for the rest of the nation and world to follow.
Establish $10 Billion Green Future Fund: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance a $10 billion Green Future Fund to support clean water infrastructure, renewable energy and clean transportation, and open space and resiliency. This fund includes $5 billion in total for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure—building upon the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and effectively doubling the state’s investment in clean water over the next five years.
Continue Historic $300 Million Environmental Protection Fund: Governor Cuomo proposes maintaining the State’s historic $300 million EPF. This investment will prioritize programs to protect New York’s water bodies, promote stewardship projects in parks and on other state lands, revitalize municipal waterfronts, and build community resilience to climate change—all while creating jobs and stimulating local economies.
Expanding the Bottle Bill to Include Most Nonalcoholic Drinks: In order to reduce litter and provide relief to overburdened municipal recycling entities who are struggling amidst changes to the global recycling markets, Governor Cuomo will expand the Bottle Bill to make most non-alcoholic beverage containers eligible for 5 cent redemption, including those for sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages and ready-to-drink teas and coffee.
Prohibiting the Use of Plastic Bags: To address the environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags, Governor Cuomo proposes a statewide plastic bag prohibition with certain exceptions.
“Equal Justice Under Law,” is what is inscribed above the entrance to the Supreme Court.
No One is Above the Law. Justice Without Fear or Favor.
Alas, these clichés can be thrown onto the ash heap of myths that are really only fantasy, along with American Dream, American Exceptionalism and the biggest lie of all: one person, one vote.
What we see all around is the ability for the wealthy, the powerful and the connected to evade justice. One way is by simply affording a battery of top lawyers which poor people, dependent upon funds-strapped public defenders, cannot, so are pressured to accept plea deals even if they are innocent and then branded for the rest of their lives, while wealthy people can have their arrest record expunged, or excuse their crime as the result of “Affluenza,” as Texas teenager Ethan Couch, did despite driving drunk without a license and killing four and injuring nine people. On the other hand, when 16-year old Cyntoia Brown, killed the pimp who kept her as a sex slave and had been beating her, she was tried as an adult and sentenced to life without parole.
If Paul Manafort, accused of 11 counts including money laundering millions of dollars, were a poor black teenager, he would be in jail for weeks, even months, instead of comfortably ensconced in one of his multi-million dollar homes (and that’s only because of the strong argument that he has the money, means and foreign ties to make him a flight risk – otherwise he would be out and about).
How different from Kalief Browder, a Bronx teenager held at Rikers Island for three years without ever being convicted including 400 days in solitary confinement, was so damaged the 22-year old committed suicide when he was finally released. Or the thousands of people held in jail because they can’t afford bail, losing their job, home, family.
Ivanka Trump and Don Jr. get waved aside for defrauding buyers in their Soho coop after their lawyer makes a hefty contribution to DA Cy Vance’s election campaign, but Eric Garner gets put in a choke hold, thrown to the ground, and suffocated to death for selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street. That’s called a “quality of life” crime and it apparently is a capital offense. So is an innocuous traffic violation: Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, was arrested during a traffic stop and found hanging in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas, three days later.
Imagine a defendant claiming “I didn’t remember, but after reading the newspaper accounts, it jogged my memory,” as an excuse for lying to federal officials and Congress. And this is the Attorney General, who has taken such a strong stand for Law & Order, along with his boss, Donald Trump, who has no problem at all breaking laws, dismissing laws, ignoring or overturning Constitutional protections. Actually Jeff Sessions, as a prosecutor and Senator, didn’t harbor any sympathy for anyone who “can’t recall” – prosecuting a rookie police officer whose memory failed, and, of course, Hillary Clinton, but he’s used that phrase dozens and dozens of times in his own hearings, and even outright lies (I never met with any Russians during the course of the campaign; didn’t know of anyone in the campaign who did) – perjury, lying to Congress – will likely go without consequences.
Instead, the nation’s highest law enforcement officer has stopped prosecuting hate crimes, police brutality, systemic discrimination in sentencing and prosecution, and voter suppression, and authorizes Gestapo-like tactics to round up undocumented immigrants without due process and the relaunch the “war on drugs” as a pretext for heavy-handed policing. Meanwhile, Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy Devoes is no longer taking steps against sexual assault on college campuses.
Nowadays, the wealth in the justice system is also related to threatening lawsuits to anyone who dares bring a complaint, such as sexual assault (Trump, Roy Moore), or literally buying up the Fourth Estate so that the press is no longer free and no longer the watchdog against abuses of power (Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts buys chain of local papers to shut them down). Latest: Koch Brothers’ investment arm providing $650 million toward $2.8 billion acquisition of Time Inc. Won’t have effect on editorial? Well, the big donors to PBS used its weight to prevent the documentary, “Citizen Koch” from being televised.
The Rule of Law is now routinely trampled by Trump: attacking a judge’s impartiality because of his Hispanic heritage; challenging the ruling of the 9th Circuit against his unconstitutional Travel Ban, pardoning Sheriff Arpaio (sending a message to other conspirators) and supporting Roy Moore for the US Senate, who not only has had credible accusations of committing felony pedophilia and sexual assault, but twice was removed for defying Supreme Court rulings, otherwise known as the “Rule of Law.”
Here are just some of the many ways the justice system and Rule of Law is being overturned:
Obstruction of justice: Trump has not only dismissed the federal prosecutors like Preet Bharara who were investigating Trump’s dubious financial dealings including money laundering for Russian oligarchs, but is now personally interviewing candidates in the regions where Trump has business investments. This follows his dismissal of James Comey as FBI director for failing to give his oath of loyalty and ending the investigation into Michael Flynn and Russian meddling into the 2016 election.
Politicizing justice: The pressure from Trump to get Sessions’ DoJ to launch a special counsel investigation into Hillary Clinton and the Uranium One deal and (yet again) her emails (ironic considering Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Steve Bannon were all found to use private emails once they got into the White House), is a Banana-Republic move against a political opponent.
As Sally Yates (who exposed Michael Flynn and was fired as Acting Attorney General by Trump for refusing to enforce his unconstitutional Travel Ban), the Justice Department isn’t there to “go after his enemies and protect his friends”
For the first time since Nixon era, the Department of Justice has sought to block a merger of a telecom company (then it was ITT, today it is ATT), for personal reasons. AT&T is seeking to acquire Time Warner – which on face of it, especially for a consolidation-happy, bigness is bestest administration that has no problem with monopolies and oligopolies, even to the point of overturning regulations to allow Sinclair to massively control local TV stations. But Trump has made clear he hates CNN, and has made it a condition of allowing the sale for Time Warner to divest of CNN. The DoJ is doing Trump’s bidding.
Stacking courts with political hacks: Trump has a flurry of judicial nominees who are political and ideological hacks, enabled by the way Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has abused his power in the first instance to withhold the confirmation process for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and now, by overturning the long-standing tradition of a Senator using a “blue slip” to blackball a judicial nominee – something that Republicans used incessantly to block Obama’s ability to make appointments, leaving a staggering number of vacancies. Yet four of Trump’s nominees – an unprecedented number – have been designated as “Unqualified” by the American Bar Association. Among them Brett Talley, with just three years practicing law, has never tried a case, and who was rated unanimously “not qualified” for a federal judgeship by the American Bar Association — their lowest rating; who withheld from his Senate questionnaire that his wife is the chief of staff for the White House counsel, who has pledged support for the NRA, mocked gun control, retweeted Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory that Sandy Hook was a hoax, and called for Hillary “Rotten” Clinton to be locked up.
Controlling the press/de-fanging the Fourth Estate: the role of a free press is to serve as a watchdog on those in power, especially the government. Trump has waged an actual de-legitimizing campaign, calling every story and every media organization which raises questions about his governance and his administration as “fake news”, actually threatening to take away a broadcast license, and now, sending his DoJ to challenge a merger between AT&T and Time Warner not because it is monopolistic, but to force Time Warner to shed CNN. And yet, the Trump Administration’s FCC, under Ajit Pai, a former Verizon executive, has no problem with the merger of ultra-conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group with Tribune Media which would violate existing regulations intended to block a monopoly of political viewpoints in a media market; the merger would mean that “Trump TV” would reach 72% of American homes. This follows Pai’s determination to overturn net neutrality, which is designed to give a level playing field across the now ubiquitous and essential cyberspace,
Just this week, James O’Keefe, whose scams have brought down Acorn and Planned Parenthood, through his Project Veritas, tried to scam the Washington Post in order to bolster Roy Moore. O’Keefe should be prosecuted for industrial sabotage and fraud. They are intent on damaging the Washington Post’s reputation, which costs them money, and force the real press to spend more time and money in their investigative reporting which obstructs publication. What they did is no different than poisoning a Tylenol bottle. But a politicized DoJ, under Sessions, won’t prosecute.
On the other hand, a West Virginia reporter was arrested simply for shouting out a question about health care at (then) HHS Secretary Tom Price and a Code Pink activist was arrested, prosecuted and tried for giggling during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing.
Unequal Justice: Take for example how George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s murderer, was acquitted based on Stand Your Ground laws, but Marissa Alexander, who fired a warning shot to scare off her enraged estranged and violent husband who was about to beat or kill her, was found guilty after just 12 minutes of jury deliberation and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Personhood laws that states are trying to install set up more imprisonments of mothers who lose their children to miscarriage, who are shown to drink or do drugs during pregnancy, or who seek to abort a pregnancy. (A hidden provision of the Republican tax plan would create personhood for a fetus, and pave the way for abortion to be illegal and mothers prosecuted for miscarrying or bad behavior during pregnancy, stripping the woman of civil and human rights.)
The way that women who have been victims of sexual assault, become victimized by the predators with the assistance of the judicial system is the reason that so few have come forward before to charge Trump, Roy Moore and others.
Discrimination in sentencing: African-American men serve prison sentences that average almost 20 percent longer than those served by white men for similar crimes, according to a study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. There has a consequence for voting rights as well, with as many as 6 million blacks (one in 13) disenfranchised because of a prison record.
School to prison pipeline: 67,000 preschool kids, 3 and 4 years old, are being suspended or expelled a year for ‘infractions’ that might be considered normal development, but African American kids are twice as likely to be punished in this way, setting the stage for failure in school and ultimately a path to prison.
Privatizing Prisons: Meanwhile, AG Sessions has abandoned efforts to reform sentencing guidelines which profit private prison companies and have made the US the most incarcerated country on earth. His renewed War on Drugs policy – overturning Obama’s effort to empty prisons of unfairly sentenced individuals – assures they will be full, and profitable.
Raise your hand if you believe Jared Kushner will ever go to jail for lying to Congress and federal agent, conspiracy, treason, dealing with sanctioned Russian banks and oligarchs, and obstruction of justice? Can you imagine what would happen if instead of Don Jr., it was Chelsea Clinton who met with the Russians? But as long as you can imagine a different result depending upon who is president, judge, prosecutor or defendant, or which party is in control of Congress, there is no “Rule of Law” or equal justice.
In the waning days of his administration, and in face of what is shaping up to be the most regressive administration intent on reversing the gains hard-fought over a century toward social, political, environmental justice, President Barack Obama is working feverishly to continue to make advances in criminal justice system. Donald Trump has pledged to repeal each and every one of Obama’s executive actions.
The White House issued this Fact Sheet on November 30, 2016:
FACT SHEET: White House Announces New Commitments to the Fair Chance Business Pledge and Actions to Improve the Criminal Justice System
Since the President took office, this Administration has been committed to reforming America’s criminal justice system and highlighting the importance of reducing barriers facing justice-involved individuals trying to put their lives back on track.Over 2.2 million men and women are incarcerated in American prisons, and over 11 million spend time in our jails, and the vast majority of them will return to their communities. Improving education and job opportunities for these individuals has a recognized effect of reducing crime, and will make our communities safer.
Today, the White House is hosting a convening on criminal justice reform to discuss the progress and advancements that have been made over the past eight years and the opportunities that remain to tackle persistent problems. This event is part of the Administration’s continued efforts to bring together Americans who are working to improve the criminal justice system, from activists engaging in communities around the nation to law enforcement and elected officials working to lower the crime and incarceration rates, to formerly incarcerated people who are earning their second chance.
In conjunction with this event, the White House is announcing a round of new signatories to the Fair Chance Business Pledge and a series of Administration actions to enhance the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system including:
Final Office of Personnel Management “Ban the Box” Rule
Federal Bureau of Prison Reforms
White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Report
These announcements build on the Administration’s longstanding commitment to reforming the criminal justice system, improving reentry outcomes, and removing unnecessary obstacles facing formerly incarcerated individuals.
Fair Chance Business Pledge
In April, the White House launched the Fair Chance Business Pledge encouraging companies to take action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. The pledge represents a call-to-action for all members of the private sector to improve their communities and expand their talent pools by eliminating unnecessary hiring barriers facing those with a criminal record.
Today’s signatories to the Fair Chance Business Pledge bring the total number of pledged employers to over 300. The companies and organizations that have signed the pledge collectively employ over 5 million Americans. The new commitments come from a diverse range of employers including: Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, CVS Health, Gap, Intel, Kroger, LinkedIn, Monsanto, Perdue Farms, Shinola, Target, Tyson Foods, Union Square Hospitality Group, and WeWork.
Additionally, Glassdoor created a Fair Chance Pledge badge that companies can add to their profile on the website to proudly demonstrate their commitment to maintaining hiring and training programs for individuals with criminal records.
The Department of Justice recently funded the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSGJC) to assist Second Chance grantees and the field at-large through the National Reentry Resource Center. The award includes funding to provide employer-focused outreach and education to promote fair chance hiring practices.A coalition of Fair Chance Business Pledge Signatories has committed to working together with CSGJC and other external partners to share their successes in adopting fair chance hiring practices and encourage other businesses to follow suit.
Today’s announcement is further evidence of the private sector’s support for a more fair justice system, and the Pledge is one of many initiatives where the White House has successfully partnered with the private sector to increase opportunity for all Americans.
By signing the Fair Chance Business Pledge, these companies are:
Voicing strong support for economic opportunity for all, including the approximately 70 million Americans who have some form of a criminal record.
Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to take action to reduce barriers to a fair shot at a second chance, including practices like “banning the box” by delaying criminal history questions until later in the hiring process; ensuring that information regarding an applicant’s criminal record is considered in proper context; and engaging in hiring practices that do not unnecessarily place jobs out of reach for those with criminal records.
THE FAIR CHANCE BUSINESS PLEDGE
We applaud the growing number of public and private sector organizations nationwide who are taking action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. When around 70 million Americans – nearly one in three adults – have a criminal record, it is important to remove unnecessary barriers that may prevent these individuals from gaining access to employment, training, education and other basic tools required for success in life. We are committed to providing individuals with criminal records, including formerly incarcerated individuals, a fair chance to participate in the American economy.
Companies and organizations interested in joining the Fair Chance Business Pledge can do so by signing up HERE.
Today’s signatories include:
Al Abbas Cookies
American Eagle Sealcoating and Asphalt LLC
Andrews Funeral Home
Berry Much Yogurt
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
Butterball Farms, Inc.
C.W. Morris – J.W. Henry Funeral Home
Capital Area ReEntry Coalition
Capitol City Contracting, Inc.
Center for Living and Learning
Colorado Mountain College
Court Programs, Inc.
CPG Partnership Strategies LLC
CSI Saddlepads LLC
D.C. Central Kitchen
Dillard & Associates
Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute
Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color
Fair Chance Workforce Interface LLC
Get Ready Driving Academy
Golden State Foods Corp.
Grandy’s Coney Island
Green Dot Stables
InService Enterprise, LLC
Isidore Electronics Recycling
IT Total Care, Inc.
Jeff’s 40 Minute Cleaners
JSJ Staffing, LLC
Kansas City Community Source, Inc.
The Kroger Company
Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc.
Life Restoration CEDA
Los Angeles Black Worker Center
Los Angeles Conservation Corps
Makin’ Movez LLC
Maria’s Italian Kitchen
Mark O’s Bar & Grill
National Dry Goods Company
Newton Brown Urban Design
Nexus Services, Inc.
NXIS Enterprises, LLC
Olive Branch Village Project
O’Neill Construction Group
Oscar’s Coney Island
Pass Job Connection
Perdue Farms, Inc.
Pet Supplies Plus
Phyllis Wheatley Community Center
Portland Bottling Company
Q Stride Inc.
Restoration Law Center
Roman Labor Services Corp.
Root & Rebound
Saucy By Nature
Shinola Detroit, LLC
Skill Source Group
St. Louis Wing Company LLC
Super Tek Group
Taqueria El Nacimiento
TBS Facility Services Group
The CPAI Group, Inc.
The Grey Door Boutique
The Lancaster Food Company
The Last Mile
The National Incarceration Association
The Pate House
The Phax Group, LLC
The Water Station
TransNation Holdings, LLC
Union Square Hospitality Group
Vaughan’s Public House
Virginia Employment Commission
Work in Progress
Federal “Ban the Box” Rule
Today the Office of Personnel Management is finalizing a rule to ensure that applicants with a criminal history have a fair shot to compete for Federal jobs. The rule effectively “bans the box” for a significant number of positions in the Federal Government by delaying the point in the hiring process when agencies can inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer is made. This change prevents candidates from being eliminated before they have a chance to demonstrate their qualifications.
As the nation’s largest employer, the Federal Government should lead the way and serve as a model for all employers – both public and private. Banning the box for Federal hiring is an important step. It sends a clear signal to applicants, agencies, and employers across the country that the Federal Government is committed to making it easier for those who have paid their debts to society to successfully return to their communities, while staying true to the merit system principles that govern our civil service by promoting fair competition between applicants from all segments of society.
Federal Bureau of Prison Reforms
As part of the Justice Department’s deep commitment to a fair, effective criminal justice system, the Department announced today a series of reforms at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) designed to reduce recidivism and increase the likelihood of inmates’ safe and successful return to the community. Today the department released a memo from Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates on reforms to residential reentry centers including covering the cost of obtaining state-issued IDs for inmates prior to their release from custody. Additionally, BOP is creating a semi-autonomous school district within the federal prison system and providing additional services for female inmates when the BOP facility in Danbury, Connecticut, resumes housing female inmates later this month. The Danbury facility will also house BOP’s first-ever integrated treatment facility for female inmates.
Last year, with the Department’s support, BOP retained outside consultants to review the agency’s operations and recommend changes designed to reduce the likelihood of inmates re-offending after their release from prison. As part of today’s announcement, BOP is launching a new website, justice.gov/prison-reform, that compiles current and ongoing reforms at BOP, and includes the final reports from the outside consultants.
White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Report
Co-chaired by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, and staffed by the DOJ Office for Access to Justice, WH-LAIR was established to help provide legal assistance to Americans in need to further our shared goals of breaking the cycle of domestic violence and elder abuse epidemic, ending homelessness among veterans, and helping to remove obstacles to employment for jobseekers. Recognizing the power of legal aid to both increase the availability of meaningful access to justice and improve outcomes in many federal programs, WH-LAIR agencies have been working together since 2012 to integrate legal aid into their programs, policies and initiatives.
The report addresses key federal priorities where civil legal aid improves program outcomes, and also describes agencies’ efforts to partner with legal aid organizations to meet the needs of special populations, including veterans and servicemembers, tribes and tribal members, people with disabilities, people with criminal records, crime victims and disaster survivors.