VOCAL-NY 2021-2022 State Legislative Platform

April 15, 2021

VOCAL-NY is dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic, drug war, mass incarceration and homelessness in New York. We do this by building the power of low-income people directly impacted by these issues. We have chapters in NYC, Westchester, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

During the 2021-2022 NYS budget session three critical priorities of VOCAL-NY were enacted into law. The Marijauna Regulation and Taxation Act, the HALT solitary confinement bill and an increase in personal income tax and corporate taxes that will generate annual revenue that can be reinvested in our communities. Yet many of the policies that will have a significant impact on the lives of our membership remain unfinished business.

Addressing the Overdose Crisis by Ending the Drug War in New York State:

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in all NYS Prisons and Jails S1795/A533 (Bailey/Rosenthal): Establish medication-assisted treatment programs in all New York State jails and prisons to decrease overdose deaths, breaking the cycle of incarceration,  and increase positive public health outcomes.

  • Decriminalize Syringes and Remove Limits at Expanded Syringe Access Programs (ESAP) S2523/A868 (Rivera/Gottfried):  New York has a draconian law that puts people at risk of being arrested for simply possessing syringes and limits the number of syringes people can purchase at a pharmacy to ten. 

  • Decriminalize Life-saving Buprenorphine S2524/A612 (Rivera/Rosenthal): Because of barriers to buprenorphine, many people turn to diverted buprenorphine to manage and prevent withdrawals, self wean off drugs, and maintain abstinence. Yet, people continue to be arrested and criminalized for possession and intent to sell this life-saving medication, even when they have a prescription.

  • Safer Consumption Services Act S603/A224 (Rivera/Rosenthal): Allow the New York State Department of Health to authorize community-based organizations to operate as safer consumption spaces (SCS), where people can legally consume previously-purchased illicit drugs with supervision from trained staff, and receive healthcare services, counciling, and social services.

Ending Homelessness:

  • Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP) S2804A/A9657A(Kavanagh/Cymbrowitz): HAVP is a state-funded rental assistance program. At least fifty percent of the rent-supplement program – administered through public housing authorities – will be dedicated to help homeless New Yorkers across the state find stable housing. The rest will go towards eviction prevention for households at risk of becoming homeless. 

  • Housing Our Neighbors With Dignity Act (HONDA) S5257/A6593 (Gianaris/Reyes): is a new program that would support the state and nonprofits to purchase financially distressed hotels and commercial spaces to convert them to affordable and supportive housing for homeless and low-income New Yorkers. All units will be permanently affordable, non-profit operated, rent stabilized, and high quality, and the program would neither threaten good hospitality jobs nor override local land use authority. With the consequences of the pandemic on real estate, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leverage a moment with many distressed properties to make a meaningful impact on our homelessness crisis.

Ending Mass Incarceration:

  • Codifying Executive Order 181 (2018) relating to voting rights for people on parole S830/A4448 (Comrie/O’Donnell): Across the country, this year, voter disenfranchisement, especially of people of color, was a defining aspect of the GOP strategy. We must push back every way we can. Codifying this executive order would be a simple, immediate step forward.

  • Challenging Wrongful Convictions S266/A98 (Myrie/Quart): New York State has an epidemic of wrongful convictions, more than all but three other states, in large part because of prosecutor power and criminal court practices that coerce plea bargains instead of trials in more than 95% of cases. We must reform CPL 440.10 to provide people with real ways to challenge unfair convictions. This bill would give people a chance to challenge their conviction when new evidence that might exonerate them, but was unavailable at trial, comes to light. 

  • Repealing Jim Crow Prison-Voting Bans S3073/A6646 (Salazar/Epstein): People incarcerated on a felony conviction are barred from voting in New York as a result of state constitutional changes stemming from the 1860s. No one should lose the right to vote.  

  • Reforming Parole S1415/A4231 (Rivera/Weprin) & S15/A3475 (Hoylman/De La Rosa) Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole would provide the growing elderly population in New York State (and others) with a more fair process for parole. 

Ending AIDS:

  • Point of Access to Housing and Services (PATHS) S5284/A4265 (Holyman/Hevesi) Will be Reintroduced:  Provide access to the existing HIV rental assistance program and the 30% rent cap affordable housing protection, as well as enhanced nutrition and transportation benefits, to income-eligible NYers with HIV statewide. 

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