Could this be the year of single-payer health care in New York? | News


ALBANY (TNS) – Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, longtime chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, is retiring at the end of 2022. Before that, Gottfried hopes to pass landmark legislation which he sponsors to create a single-payer health care system in New York.

“I think we’re within reach this year,” Gottfried said. “We have a majority of both houses as co-sponsors, a new governor. We are actively talking with members of the labor movement, public sector unions, who have had concerns – and I am optimistic that we can resolve them.

New York’s health care law would be a seismic shift for New York businesses — and isn’t the only sweeping idea that will be pursued in the next session by Democrats holding large majorities in both Assembly and in the State Senate. Here are some items on the agenda of legislative committees important to business.

Health care

Public sector unions have expressed concern that, if passed, Gottfried’s single-payer bill could be less generous than members’ current plans. Gottfried has worked to add language to his bill to explicitly address these concerns, which he hopes will lead public sector unions not just to withdraw their opposition, but to support New York Health. Act.

Assembly and Senate leaders “seem at this point concerned about the position of public sector unions, and that is certainly understandable,” Gottfried said. “As for the new governor, I don’t know if she has started thinking about this issue.”

The sweeping government program would be funded by a progressive, progressive income tax — and Hochul recently said she opposes further tax hikes on the wealthy.

The Liberal Working Families Party, which is influential in the Democratic primaries, is pushing candidates seeking endorsements in 2022 to support Gottfried’s bill, which could help push the bill forward.

Gottfried’s other priorities include raising wages for home healthcare workers to address major shortages; allow people to qualify for health insurance under New York’s Essential Health program, regardless of their immigration status and if they meet income thresholds; and the lifting of the cap on Medicaid imposed a decade ago by former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Senate Health Committee Chairman Bronx Democratic State Sen. Gustavo Rivera also identified the single-payer bill as a top priority, though perhaps a longer-term goal.

For the session that begins next month, Rivera’s priorities include the Essential Plan bill for undocumented immigrants, a package to protect patients from medical debt and the creation of overdose prevention centers to help fight against the opioid crisis.

Labor issues

Queens State Senator Jessica Ramos, chair of the Senate Labor Committee, is pursuing several radical ideas that would have a significant impact on business.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ramos was interested in the concept of pegging the minimum wage to inflation. With inflation rising over the past year, Ramos says struggling families need sufficient wages to meet rising food, housing and other costs.

“We need to index the minimum wage more than ever, so wages can keep up with the cost of living in New York,” Ramos said.

Under the bill, which is supported by the AFL-CIO, the minimum wage could be adjusted annually based on increases in the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers on a national, seasonally adjusted basis.

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Ramos is pursuing another bill that would require New York companies to disclose compensation or compensation range to applicants and employees when issuing a job opportunity.

“Secrecy is the biggest enemy of equal pay in any workplace and people need to know they are being paid the same for comparable work,” Ramos said.

Assembly Labor President Latoya Joyner is bringing both of these bills to this chamber. A third bill on Ramos’ priority list, which has already passed the legislature but was vetoed by Cuomo, would crack down on wage theft by allowing workers to sue their employer and place an “employee lien” on their assets. Ramos said Hochul’s stance on the idea is still unclear.

Consumer protection

Long Island State Senator Kevin Thomas, chairman of the Consumer Protection Commission, is making a data privacy bill, the New York Privacy Act, a top priority.

“Our data is now worth more than a barrel of oil or gold,” Thomas said. “The feds can’t even be okay if the sun comes up tomorrow, so I’m not sure they’ll do anything about it. When the federal government does not act, we must intervene.

California has a similar law, although Thomas said there are flaws he plans to fix in New York, which would have the strictest regulations in the country. He hired big tech companies, but some resisted. According to Thomas, Facebook said it would have to shut down its New York operations if the bill passes.

Thomas countered that Facebook already complies with strict privacy laws in other countries, as well as in other states.

“They’re compliant around the world, they can be compliant in New York as well,” Thomas said.

Other Thomas priorities this term include a bill to prohibit universities from withholding student transcripts if they have not paid their tuition in full and to protect the legal rights of student loan co-signers.

Economic development

Long Island State Senator Anna Kaplan, chair of the Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business Committee, is prioritizing a bill creating tax-deferred savings accounts for small businesses. The bill would save small businesses up to $5,000 a year and draw funds tax-free if used for future capital investments or expenses resulting in the creation or maintenance of businesses. full-time jobs.

She also wants to establish a “small business regulatory link” within each state agency that regulates them, which would function as a one-stop shop for regulatory information, feedback and assistance on the agencies’ websites. State; this would allow small businesses to “get help and play an active role in the regulatory process”.

An impending bill backed by Hochul, and expected to be championed by Kaplan, would expand eligibility for the COVID-19 pandemic small business recovery grant program to businesses started just before or during the pandemic.

Assembly Member Harry Bronson, Chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Trade and Industry, is working to ensure a fair and inclusive economic recovery, including how the state spends funds to stimulate job creation.

Bronson, who represents a Rochester district, said economic development programs passed by the Legislative Assembly need to focus more on creating opportunities for “meaningful career development and upskilling for unemployed and underprivileged people.” employees”. It backs additional funding for apprenticeships and skills training, and makes “wraparound” support programs and services such as childcare and transportation a budget priority.

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