Key Proposals Will Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Ensure Access to Contraception, Remove Firearms from Domestic Abusers, Increase Child Care Funding and Support Women Advancing in the Workplace.
Albany, NY - January 11, 2017 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled the 2018 Women's Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity and released the Report on the Status of New York Women and Girls: 2018 Outlook. With 30 proposals, the Agenda will work to advance equality and promote opportunity in women and girls' health, safety, workplace, and family life. Members of Governor Cuomo's administration crisscrossed the State to hear the concerns of New York women. The full Report on the Status of New York Women and Girls: 2018 Outlook reflects the feedback, voices and opinions of women all over the state and is available here.
"From the birth of the women's rights movement at Seneca Falls to the most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy in the nation, New York leads the nation in championing women's rights and breaking down barriers to equality," Governor Cuomo said. "In 2018, we will build on this progress and continue to advance equality across all areas of life. While the federal government seeks to roll back women's rights, New York State looks toward the future, with this bold set of proposals to create opportunity for women to succeed in every area: work, health, safety, education and family life."
Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor and Chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls, said, "I know how demoralizing the 2016 election was for many of us. But in many ways it was also the empowering wakeup call we needed. It helped us find our voice, and our backbone. And for our mothers and grandmothers who came before us and our daughters and my nieces who come after, I promise you this: we will not let this moment pass us by. We have an obligation to ourselves and to them. We will be the change required by this moment: in policy, in practice, in the workplace and all across society. With words and with action. If last year was a reckoning, this year is a battle. And in that fight, New York will lead the way."
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chair of the New York Women's Suffrage Commission, said, "New York State is serious about changing a culture that enables sexism and violence against women. As the birthplace of the women's rights movement, New York just marked the centennial of women's suffrage and we are using this moment to bring about our vision of a world where women's and men's lives and potential are equally valued."
Senator Catharine M. Young, Legislative Ambassador to the New York State Council on Women and Girls said, "I am honored to work with the strong, principled and extraordinarily dedicated women of the Council to address the everyday challenges faced by women in communities across this state. We bring to our discussions, varying viewpoints and ideas on how best to advance the equality and opportunities that we all want for women and girls across New York. The Governor's 2018 Women's Opportunity Agenda unveiled today reflects a shared commitment to these ideals and new ideas for building on New York's historic record of fighting for the rights of women in this state and nation."
Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, Legislative Ambassador to the New York State Council on Women and Girls said, "Everyone deserves a fair shot at the American Dream, and Governor Cuomo has shown his dedication to achieving that promise for all of New York's hard-working women and girls. By implementing this all-encompassing agenda to ensure every woman has the opportunity to earn an education, attain a decent job and lead a quality life - New York is setting an example for the rest of the nation and the world on the true worth and value of every citizen of this state."
Many of the policies and laws that Governor Cuomo has already set in motion to advance women's equality and opportunity will go into effect in 2018, including Paid Family Leave, raised minimum wage and regulations to protect access to contraception no matter what happens at the federal level.
The Women's Agenda State of the State proposals touch on the following categories:
Pass the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to codify access to contraception, including emergency contraception, into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
Codify Roe V. Wade into State Law and Constitution: This year, the Governor will again call for the passage of legislation to ensure the right of women 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. The Governor will also continue to champion a constitutional amendment to codify these protections into the state constitution.
Improve Access to IVF and Fertility Preservation Services: Governor Cuomo will direct the Superintendent of Financial Services to evaluate the best approach for incorporating coverage for in vitro fertilization into New York's infertility mandate and update New York Law to ensure individuals have access to fertility preservation services when appropriate.
Launch Multi-Agency Effort to Combat Maternal Depression: To strengthen and support the ability of New York's health care providers to deliver care to mothers experiencing maternal depression, Governor Cuomo will advance an aggressive strategy to ensure that all new mothers have access to screening and treatment.
Establish the Maternal Mortality Review Board to Save Lives: The Governor will launch a Board that will implement an enhanced multidisciplinary analysis to review each and every maternal death in the New York State and to develop actionable recommendations to improve care and management.
Add Experts in Women's Health and Health Disparities to the State Board of Medicine: The Governor will propose legislation to require that one of the doctors on the State Board of Medicine be an expert on women's health and one of the doctors be an expert in health disparities.
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment: Nearly a century after it was first proposed, New York State has still not passed the Equal Rights Amendment to protect against discrimination on the basis of sex in our State constitution. To right this decades-old wrong, Governor Cuomo will push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class.
Remove Firearms from Domestic Abusers: To ensure that no domestic abuser continues to possess a firearm, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to update the list of prohibited offenses to include those domestic violence misdemeanors which are shockingly absent from current law.
End Sextortion and Revenge Porn: Governor Cuomo proposes a two-pronged approach that will criminalize disclosing or threatening to disclose sexually compromising images or videos with the intent to cause material harm to the victim's mental or emotional health or to compel the victim to undertake some sexual act; and compelling a person to expose him or herself or engage in sexual conduct by threatening to harm the victim's health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.
Extend the Storage Timeline for Forensic Rape Kits at Hospitals: Governor Cuomo will advance new legislation to extend the length of time sexual offense evidence collection kits are preserved from 30 days to at least five years, or when the victim turns 19.
Extend Human Rights Law Protections to All Public School Students Statewide: New York has the proud distinction of being the first state in the nation to enact a Human Rights Law, affording every citizen "an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life." However, the law does not currently protect public school students due to a court ruling. Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to amend the Human Rights Law to protect all public school students from discrimination. All students in the State of New York must have the right to pursue an education free from discrimination.
Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: The Governor proposes a multi-pronged plan that targets sexual harassment in the workplace. Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to prevent taxpayer funds from being used for settlements against individuals relating to sexual assault or harassment and to ensure that individual harassers are held accountable; propose a uniform code of sexual harassment policies binding on all State branches of government, agencies and authorities; and propose legislation to prohibit confidentiality agreements relating to sexual assault or harassment for all public entities and branches of government—State and local—unless it is the express preference of the victim.
Call on the New York State Common Retirement Fund to Invest in Companies with Women and Minority Leadership: Governor Cuomo will call for the New York Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with adequate female and minority representation in their management and on their boards of directors. The Governor will work with Comptroller DiNapoli to put in place processes and standards to systematically invest in companies that invest in women and minority leadership.
Reauthorize MWBE Program Legislation and Expand the MWBE Program to All State-Funded Contracts: The Governor will advance legislation that will seek the reauthorization of the State's Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program, which is due to expire this year, and increase the participation of minority and women-owned businesses in all levels of State contracting—both prime contractors and subcontractors, and propose legislation during the 2017 session that will expand the MWBE Program to more contracts entirely funded by the State
Establish the Women Lead Fellowship for Women in Government: To recruit more talented women to work in the highest levels of New York State government, the Governor proposes creating the new Women Lead Fellowship. Ten new fellows will be placed alongside some of the most senior female officials within the Executive Branch.
Close the Gender Wage Gap: In 2017, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Labor to launch a gender wage gap study to identify the root causes of the gender wage gap—as well as strategies to close it. To review the causes, scope and economic impact of the gender pay gap in New York State, DOL held hearings and stakeholder discussions across the State and solicited testimony from a diverse array of academic experts, women's groups, workers, business owners and the public. In 2018, DOL will unveil the results of their analysis, as well as a comprehensive suite of policy recommendations to help close the gap.
Support Women Returning to or Advancing in the Workforce: As part of a new Fund for the Future, Governor Cuomo will pursue a new Women's Economic Empowerment Initiative, supporting female-headed households and providing training and job placement services accompanied by the critical wrap-around services women need to move toward economic self-sufficiency.
Power Women-Owned Businesses by Taking Steps to Close the Financing Gap: At the Governor's direction, New York State's Innovation Venture Capital Fund will set a goal of investing $20 million to support women as they grow and scale their businesses.
Establish New York State as a Model Employer for Working Parents: Recognizing that a 21st century workforce requires a 21st century workplace, Governor Cuomo will take new actions to establish New York State as the best employer for working parents, including issuing a memo about increasing the use of flexible work schedules and establishing permanent, private, nursing mothers' rooms and designate priority parking spots for pregnant people at all OGS buildings with dedicated parking lots.
Close the Gender Gap by Giving the Youngest Learners Access to Computer Science and Engineering: This year, Governor Cuomo will launch the Smart Start Computer Science Program, New York's largest state investment to expand high-quality computer science education and create model computer science standards.
Launch "If You Can See It You Can Be It," A Day for Girls to See What is Possible: As part of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, born over 25 years ago in New York, New York State will enhance internal programming and partner with top New York companies to give more young girls the opportunity to shadow women leaders in "non-traditional" fields. The State will also be working to connect homeless youth, youth in foster care and young people from low-income areas to programming where they live.
Continue the Successful New York State Mentoring Program: Recognizing the importance of the role of a supportive adult in a child's life, Governor Cuomo relaunched the New York State Mentoring program in 2015. In 1984, at the request of her husband, Governor Mario Cuomo, Mrs. Matilda Raffa Cuomo created and implemented The New York State Mentoring Program, the nation's first statewide unique school based one-to-one mentoring program to prevent school dropout. Today, the New York State Mentoring program serves 1,766 students in 97 school-based sites across New York State.
Create the "Be Aware-Be Informed" Learning Module to Empower Young People to Forge Healthy Relationships: Governor Cuomo proposes that State Education Department and the Department of Health coordinate to create a K-12 learning module on healthy relationships. Such curriculum will include the same definition of consent used in the successful Enough is Enough law to foment a common understanding for all students.
Ensure Access to Menstrual Products in Public Schools: Governor Cuomo will propose legislation requiring school districts to provide free menstrual products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12. This important step will make New York State a leader in addressing this issue of inequality and stigma, ensuring that no girl's learning is hindered by lack of access to the products her biology demands.
Invest $25 Million to Expand Vital Pre-K and After-School Programs: In order to fulfill the promise of universal pre-kindergarten, and alleviate the child care burden on working families, Governor Cuomo will invest $15 million to continue to expand universal pre-kindergarten for high-need students around the state, creating 3,000 new slots. To ensure that as many students as possible have a safe and supportive place to go after-school, the State will launch an additional $10 million round of Empire State After-School Grants to create 6,250 new slots in high-need areas—especially communities with high rates of homelessness.
Increase State Funding to Provide Working Families with Affordable Child Care: Child care subsidies help parents and caretakers pay for some or all of the cost of child care. Families are eligible for financial assistance if they meet the State's low income guidelines and need child care to work, look for work or attend employment training. This year, Governor Cuomo will increase State support for child care subsidies by $7 million above FY 2018 Budget funding levels, restoring recent cuts and sustaining a record level of funding.
Continue the Enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for Middle Class Families: In 2017, Governor Cuomo created the Enhanced Middle Class Child Care Tax Credit to reduce child care costs for working families. This expansion more than doubled the benefit for 200,000 families. This year, Governor Cuomo will continue the Enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for working families to continue to alleviate costs for families and support the needs of working parents.
Establish the Child Care Availability Task Force: To build on his investments in child care and the development of safe, accessible, and affordable child care, the Governor is establishing a new Child Care Availability Task Force. This task force, which will include representatives from the child care provider community, the advocacy community, representatives of the business community, unions that represent child care providers, representatives from several state agencies and local departments of social services, will be responsible for examining access to affordable child care; availability of child care for those with nontraditional work hours; statutory and regulatory changes that could promote or enhance access to child care; business incentives to increase child care access; and the impact on tax credits and deductions relating to child care.
Ensure Equal Access to Diaper Changing Stations in Public Restrooms: Governor Cuomo proposes to change New York's Uniform Building Code to require all new or substantially renovated buildings with publicly accessible restrooms to provide safe and compliant changing tables. Changing tables will be available to both men and women, and there must be at least one changing table accessible to both genders per publicly-accessible floor.