NYS Seal
A Report on the
2002 Legislative Session from the

NYS Assembly Task Force on
Women’s Issues

Sheldon Silver, Speaker · Joan Millman, Chair · December 2002

Assemblywoman Joan Millman
Joan L. Millman

An Update on Women’s Issues

This year saw some significant milestones in passage of legislation of interest to women. The Women’s Health and Wellness Act was signed into law, giving New York the most comprehensive women’s health coverage law in the country, including access to vital preventive health care screening and treatment services. The Health Care Workforce Recruitment and Retention Act also passed, providing $1.8 billion over a three year period for pay increases, additional benefits and training for health care workers - over 75% of whom are women.

We will continue to advocate legislation for working women and families, including an increase in the minimum wage and equal pay laws to close the wage gap between men and women.

As Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues, I am proud of the Assembly Majority’s commitment to the advancement of a woman-friendly agenda. Copies of bills and their descriptive memoranda are available on the Assembly website or by contacting the Task Force on Women’s Issues at 518-455-3632.

Joan L. Millman, Chair

Task Force Legislation

This year, the Task Force on Women’s Issues continued its focus on gender equity issues in the workplace. While women in the work force have made great strides, much remains to be done to secure economic equality. More than half of all women workers are concentrated in sales, clerical and service positions - jobs that pay a fraction of the amount that typical male occupations do. Women comprise 98% of secretaries, 97% of child care workers, 88% of hairdressers and cosmetologists, and 77% of cashiers, but only 4% of computer scientists and physics teachers, 5% of office machine repairers, 13% of dentists and 18% of architects. This occupational segregation has serious consequences for women in terms of job availability, promotion and pay equity.

Assemblywoman Millman introduced two bills aimed at strengthening opportunities for women to train for better-paying jobs:

  • A.10481; Millman - The Nontraditional Occupation Act - would establish a grant program within the state Department of Labor to promote the recruitment, placement and retention of individuals in nontraditional occupations such as skilled trades jobs for women, or nursing for men. Grants would be made directly to eligible organizations for training and assistance programs.
  • A.10479; Millman would require social services districts to emphasize training for employment in sustainable wage jobs, and to promote nontraditional work opportunities for individuals participating in public assistance programs. As welfare reform moves into its sixth year, more emphasis needs to be placed in securing sustainable wage jobs for welfare recipients. Simply placing a welfare participant in a dead-end, low paying job is not a solution we can accept anymore. For women in particular, a crucial but underutilized route to independence is through nontraditional employment, for example in fields such as the skilled trades or protective service jobs. This bill passed the Assembly, but was not acted upon by the Senate.

In addition to broadening job training options for women, improving opportunities for women-owned businesses is also crucial. In 2002, there are an estimated 452,325 women-owned firms in New York, accounting for 28% of all privately held firms in the state. Women-owned firms in New York employ almost half a million people and generate nearly $59.5 billion in sales. In addition, as of 2000, women make up 48.8% of the labor force in New York. State contracts can provide valuable contracting and employment opportunities for women and women-owned businesses, but often, long-standing patterns of discrimination and stereotyped perceptions can be barriers to the full utilization of qualified women.

Assemblywoman Joan Millman (third from left) joins other government officials and employees of Significant Steps child development center to celebrate a ground breaking that will add a new building to the existing facility.

To address this issue, the Task Force on Women’s Issues, in conjunction with the Assembly Committees on Corporations and on Government Operations, the Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Legislative Caucus and the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, sponsored a hearing in Albany in June 2002 examining how public authorities such as the MTA and the Dormitory Authority make sure that women-owned and minority-owned businesses get their fare share of state contracts.

In conjunction with the hearing, Assemblywoman Millman sponsored three new bills related to Article 15-A of the Executive Law, which established the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development within the Department of Economic Development to coordinate the state’s efforts to reach out to women and minorities to participate in state contracts:

  • A.10476; Millman establishes a permanent funding stream for this office and for implementation of the law.
  • Article 15-A expires on December 31, 2003 and must be renewed by the Legislature during the 2003 Legislative Session. To prepare for this, A.10477; Millman called on the Department of Audit and Control to conduct an analysis of the law and its implementation. This bill was passed by the Assembly, but not acted upon by the Senate.
  • A.11494 - Rules; Destito, Brodsky, Millman extends the valuable Article 15-A program for another fifteen years, and broadens it to include the Urban Development Corporation. This bill was also passed by the Assembly, but not the Senate.

We would like to thank all of you who provided input and support for our legislation and educated us about your programs and activities. We look forward to continuing to work on women’s issues during the coming legislative session, and encourage you to contact us with your ideas and concerns.

photo Keeping Women and Their Families Healthy

Women’s Health

As noted above, this was a landmark year for women’s health. After four years the Women’s Health and Wellness Act (A.11723; Rules; co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Millman; Chapter 554 of the Laws of 2002) was passed and signed into law. The law:

  • expands women’s access to mammography and cervical cancer screenings (Pap smears) by closing a loophole in earlier laws requiring coverage that exempted some “multi-state” policies.
  • requires insurers to pay for annual breast cancer-detecting mammograms for women beginning at age 40. New York is now the first state that requires this. (Current law requires coverage for biannual screenings for women aged 40 to 49 and annually from age 50.)
  • mandates coverage for preventive screening tests such as routine bone-density exams to detect osteoporosis.
  • requires that prescription drug plans include coverage for approved contraceptive drugs and devices.
  • exempts certain religious organizations from providing such coverage, when the nonprofit employer’s main mission is religious, and it primarily employs and services people of that religion. Employees of these organizations would be able to purchase this coverage on their own at a lower-cost group rate.
  • clarifies a 1994 law allowing women to choose an obstetrician/gynecologist without a referral from a primary-care physician to cover all women enrolled in eligible plans.
  • provides free screenings for breast or cervical exams for individuals who cannot meet deductible or co-pay obligations, and to establish a state-wide outreach campaign.

To better serve the needs of women struggling with breast cancer, the Assembly approved a bill (A.5681; Englebright) that would expand the number of breast cancer survivors or sufferers on the state Health Research Science Board from one non-voting woman to 10 voting persons who have first-hand experience with the disease. Another bill (A.4036-B; Luster) would authorize DOH to award grants for community-based breast cancer detection, counseling, outreach and education programs. These bills were not passed by the Senate.

Emergency contraception is a safe and effective method for preventing pregnancy and has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. A bill (A.2214; John) approved by the Assembly would ensure access to emergency contraception and timely counseling for rape survivors. The measure would require all hospitals to provide female rape victims with information regarding pregnancy prevention, and upon their request, to provide immediate emergency contraception. The Senate did not pass this bill.
Assemblywoman Joan Millman participates in a ribbon cutting ceremony, welcoming a new women’s birthing center to Long Island College Hospital.

Other important legislation, the Health Care Workforce Recruitment and Retention Act, provides $1.8 billion in funding over three years to help hospitals, nursing homes and clinics throughout the state prevent staffing shortages, and recruit and retain a highly trained workforce through higher salaries, increased training, and additional benefits. The bill also expands Medicaid breast and cervical cancer coverage for low-income women. (A.9610; Rules; Chapter 1 of the Laws of 2002.)

Promoting Recognition of Women

Again this year, the Assembly passed two bills to honor New York women who left a distinguished legacy of achievement and public service. Under one bill (A.2039-B; John) the Agency Buildings One, Two, Three and Four of the Empire State Plaza in Albany would be named after four prominent New York women: Susan B. Anthony, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt. The other bill (A.4090; Eve) would designate March 10 as a public holiday to be known as Harriet Tubman Day, in recognition of Tubman’s achievements in establishing the "Underground Railroad" in the mid-19th century to secure the freedom of blacks escaping slavery. The two bills did not pass the Senate in 2002.

photo Providing Economic Security for Families

Pay Equity
Equal pay has been the law since 1963, yet women today earn a meager 73 cents for every dollar earned by men. Equal pay remains a top issue for all working women. Wage discrimination affects the ability of women transitioning from welfare to work to obtain a job with a living wage. It results in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages over the course of a lifetime, affecting pensions, social security benefits and retirement income. With that in mind, legislation was passed by the Assembly again in 2002 to ensure that women’s wages no longer lag behind men’s for work of equal or comparable worth. The Assembly bills would establish a constitutional amendment providing comparable worth wage protection (A.290; Christensen) and require employers to pay comparable wages for comparable work (A.5416; DiNapoli, A.7432; Nolan, A.236; Grannis, and A.7012; Stringer). In addition, the package includes legislation making it easier to challenge pay discrimination by allowing complaints to the Division of Human Rights to be filed as class actions (A.97;Christensen) and a resolution (R.2249; Millman) urging Congress to enact legislation eliminating wage discrimination nationwide.

The wage gap between men and women is even larger for women of color than it is for white women, with black women earning only 65% of what white men earn, and Latina women earning about 52% of what white men make. In addition to the above bills, a new pay equity bill (A.6691-A;Nolan) was passed specifically prohibiting employers from paying women of any racial or ethnic background less money than men for work of equal or comparable worth.

The Senate has not acted on any of these bills.

Minimum Wage Increase
The minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation and in terms of buying power is at its lowest level in many years. An increase in the minimum wage is particularly important for the many hard-working women who head single-parent households, and struggle to make ends meet on minimum-wage earnings. The Assembly pushed extremely hard again this year for an increase in the state’s hourly minimum wage, passing three bills (A.11805; Nolan; A.5132-B; Nolan; A.5132-A; Nolan) in an effort, ultimately unsuccessful, to find common ground with the Senate on this issue.

Support for Women-Owned Businesses
As noted above, women-owned businesses are an important and growing sector of the state’s economy. This year, the Assembly passed a number of initiatives to help women-owned and small businesses.

A new law (A.8735 - Rules; Sweeney; Chapter 486 of the Laws of 2002) provides entrepreneurial assistance through development centers for new businesses started by minorities, women and persons with disabilities to help them master the essentials of operating a business, including marketing, financing and management.

The Business Outreach Center Network Assistance Program (A.2789-A; Morelle) would help small businesses, especially micro-enterprises of ten or fewer employees, access economic development programs that provide low interest loans, capital funds and technical assistance. The bill did not pass the Senate.

A package of bills providing targeted support for small businesses was passed by the Assembly but not by the Senate. The bills include: a regional venture capital fund administered by the Urban Development Corporation (A.5172; Sweeney); incubator facilities for small food production operations (A.747; Cook); financing for businesses that use agricultural and forest products grown in New York State (A.5800; Gunther); and assistance for small businesses in complying with pollution prevention and environmental requirements (A.606; Destito).

Protecting Consumers
Studies have shown that women are often charged more than men for the same services, such as dry cleaning or hair cutting. A.5396; Clark would prohibit price discrimination for services based solely on a person’s sex. This bill did not pass the Senate.

Nursing Mothers
This bill (A.7200; Destito) would require employers to allow employees who are breast feeding to take paid or unpaid leave time to express breast milk. Under the bill, reasonable leave time must be given for up to one year following childbirth. The bill would require employers to provide a room or other private location in close proximity to the work area for mothers. The bill also prohibits employers from discriminating against mothers who wish to express breast milk while at work. The bill was not passed by the Senate.

Displaced Homemakers
The Legislature appropriated an additional $1.7 million over the Governor’s proposal for the Displaced Homemaker Program, which provides information to women on education, health, employment and financial management services as well as advocacy on a range of women and family issues.

Fighting Crime...Ensuring Our Families’ Safety photo

Signed Into Law This Year

  • Chapter 280 of the Laws of 2002 (A.7763-A; Weinstein) which specifies that the dynamics of domestic violence be included in course training for employees of child protective services.
  • Chapter 462 of the Laws of 2002 (A.11193; Weinstein) which lets courts handling family violence cases make more informed decisions related to orders of protection, by enabling them to take into account the history of compliance or noncompliance with all orders of protection to which a person is subject before issuing or reviewing a new order. It also broadens the registry of orders of protection to include those involving intimate partners as victims of domestic violence.
  • Chapter 251 of the Laws of 2002 (A.10761; Stringer) which amends the Corrections Law to make temporary work release available, taking into account the opinions of the prosecutor and the sentencing court, to certain violent felons who have been the subject of domestic violence, provided they meet certain criteria.

Curbing Domestic Violence
Again in 2002, the Assembly advanced a number of bills to protect the victims of domestic violence:

  • A.2543; Nolan - would provide a 5% credit of state disability insurance for employers who implement a domestic violence awareness program.
  • A.2544; Nolan - would prohibit employers from discriminating against domestic violence victims who may miss work to appear in court.
  • A.3257; Tokasz - would ensure the privacy and safety needs of domestic violence victims by limiting access to voter registration information.
  • A.3309; Hooper - would provide housing subsidies for victims of domestic violence.
  • A.7745; Weinstein - would add to the period of an order of protection the time the abuser is incarcerated for a family offense misdemeanor or felony.
  • A.7747; Weinstein - would prevent landlords from evicting tenants who are forced to flee their rent-controlled home to escape domestic violence.
  • A.8721; Weinstein - would permit the transfer of cases from local criminal courts to a centralized domestic violence court.

Unfortunately, the Senate did not pass these bills this year.

Crime Victims
The Assembly passed legislation, not passed by the Senate, to improve the services provided by the Crime Victims Board, which helps victims put their lives back together. The bills would require that a health care professional experienced in treating and counseling crime victims be included on the Crime Victims Board (A.5567; DiNapoli) and establish a victims’ assistance education program (A.1721; Sidikman.)

Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues

Hon. Joan L. Millman, Chair
Hon. Vivian Cook · Hon. Sam Hoyt · Hon. Rhoda S. Jacobs
Hon. Naomi Matusow · Hon. Catherine T. Nolan
Hon. Scott M. Stringer

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