A Report on the
2003 Legislative Session from the

NYS Assembly Task Force on
Women’s Issues

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Joan Millman, Chair • November 2003

Joan L. Millman
Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues

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

Agency Building 4, 13th Floor
Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12248

Message from the Chair

Dear Friends:

The New York State Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues, created in 1981 to give women a greater voice in state government, works closely with women’s groups, community organizations concerned with women’s issues, state agencies and other legislators to propose new legislation, promote passage of pending legislation, advocate for funding of programs serving women, and review the impact of the governor’s budget proposal on women. As Chair of the Task Force since 2001, I am proud of Speaker Silver’s and the Assembly Majority’s commitment to the advancement of a woman-friendly agenda. This newsletter summarizes significant legislation of interest to women passed by the Assembly during this year, and details activities and legislation sponsored by the Task Force.

The state’s budget deficit overshadowed much of the Legislative session this year. The Assembly majority fought hard to preserve programs that serve women, restoring cuts in education, libraries, social services and health care. Funding for child care programs and services was maintained. The Legislature restored $10 million in funding for the STEP/CSTEP program, which had been eliminated in the governor’s proposed budget. This program helps prepare minority and economically disadvantaged high school and college students for careers in science and technology fields. Almost $3.5 million was provided for the Minority and Women-Owned Business Development and Lending Program, including $1.3 million for the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program which provides training for women and minorities interested in starting up businesses, and up to $525,000 for linked deposits in federal and state-chartered credit unions for loans to minority and women-owned businesses.

In addition, several key proposals affecting women became law, including:

  • Legislation that cracks down on video voyeurism, making it a class E felony to secretly photograph or video tape individuals in private circumstances without their consent.
  • A new measure to assist victims of sexual assault, requiring hospitals to fully inform women of their health care options, including the availability of emergency contraception, and to provide such treatment upon request.
  • Legislation to help minority and women-owned businesses get a fair share of state contracts.

The new laws are described more fully on the following pages. Copies of bills and their descriptive memoranda are available on the Assembly Web site or by contacting the Task Force on Women’s Issues at 518-455-3632.

Joan L. Millman, Chair

Task Force Activities and Legislation

Women and Technology. For the past two years the Task Force, under the leadership of Assemblywoman Millman, has focused on issues related to achieving equality for women in the workplace. This year the Task Force, along with the Committees on Governmental Operations and on Labor, the Legislative Commission on Skills Development and Career Education and the Legislative Commission on Science and Technology, sponsored three Roundtables on Women and Technology: in Utica on March 20, 2003; Albany on April 15, 2003; and New York City on October 9, 2003. The round tables brought together experts from educational institutions, computer and technology industries, policy organizations and the not-for-profit sector to discuss the gender gap in science and technology and how to increase women’s participation in these fields.

Research has shown that although women and girls have made encouraging and impressive gains in science fields, especially at the high school and college level, women still receive a relatively small percentage of computer and engineering degrees, are still under-represented in the technology workforce, and still earn less than men in these fields. With future economic growth in the state coming from areas such as biotechnology, new media, computer software and hardware development, New York will need a technology-savvy workforce with the participation of all its citizens, and the continued under-representation of women in these fields risks continued disparity in income between men and women.

Participation in the round tables has been phenomenal, and we have learned a tremendous amount about the innovative, creative programs in many different sectors to encourage girls and women to enter and persist in science and technology fields. The Task Force, along with the other Committees and Commissions involved, is exploring legislation to encourage further development in this area.

Equal Pay. Every Spring advocates for equal pay mark Equal Pay Day, representing the day when women’s wages catch up to men’s wages for the previous year. Women earn only 76 cents for every dollar earned by men. Equal Pay Day this year fell on April 15th, and as noted above, the Task Force along with four other legislative committees and commissions sponsored a round table on Women and Technology, subtitled "Promoting Equal Pay and Gender Equity" and featuring a presentation on equal pay issues. In addition, the Assembly passed a seven-bill pay equity legislative package and a legislative resolution urging Congress to pass federal pay equity legislation.

Nontraditional Employment. Part of the strategy for achieving equal pay is to break down the stereotypes that classify certain jobs as "women’s work" or "men’s work" and act as barriers to women entering nontraditional but well-paying careers in areas such as computers, engineering and the skilled trades. Assemblywoman Millman has sponsored legislation to encourage women’s participation in nontraditional fields, defined as occupations in which individuals from one gender make up 25% or less of the total numbers of workers in that occupation. The Nontraditional Occupation Act (A.4999; Millman) would establish a grant program to promote the recruitment, placement and retention of individuals in occupations where they are currently under-represented. A.5068; Millman (passed Assembly) addresses the pay gap for women transitioning from welfare to work by requiring 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.

Women-owned Businesses. In 2002, there were almost half a million women-owned businesses in New York, accounting for 28% of all privately held firms in the state. Women-owned firms in New York generated nearly $59.5 billion in sales annually. State contracts can be an important developmental opportunity for small businesses, and it is crucial that the state improve its outreach to emerging woman and minority-owned businesses.

Article 15-A of the Executive Law, establishing the state’s program to assist minority and women-owned businesses in securing state contracts, was due to expire in December of 2003. In light of the pending expiration of the law, a number of Assembly entities including the Task Force on Women’s Issues, the Committee on Governmental Operations, the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, the Committee on Small Business, the Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Legislative Caucus and the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force held a roundtable in New York City on May 30, 2003, which was well attended by trade groups, business organizations, and minority and women business owners, who shared their experiences and suggestions for the reform of the law.

Assemblywoman Joan Millman (right) with Carol Linn, Coordinator of Special Projects and Policy Analysis, Brooklyn Public Library, and Dr. Susan Merritt, Dean of the School of Computer Science and Information Systems, Pace University, at the New York City round table on Women and Technology, October 2003.

The Task Force considered four bills this past year related to the expiration of Article 15-A and aimed at improving the state’s outreach efforts:

  • A.7233-a; Destito; co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Millman extends the provisions of Article 15-A until 2018, and adds the Urban Development Corporation and its subsidiaries to the list of state agencies that must comply with the article’s provisions. This bill was passed by both houses and signed into law by the governor.
  • A.9057; Towns; co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Millman requires enhanced monitoring and reporting on the progress of small and minority and women-owned businesses in securing state service and construction contracts. This bill was passed by both houses and signed into law by the governor.
  • A.6750-a; Millman would require the State Comptroller to conduct an audit and review of the Article 15-A program, as well as a disparity study of the availability and utilization of minority and women-owned firms. The Assembly passed this bill, but the Senate did not.
  • A.6749; Millman would establish a permanent funding stream for the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development within the Department of Economic Development.

The Task Force plans to continue to monitor this area, advocate for zealous implementation of the Article 15-A program by state agencies and authorities, and look for ways to further assist women-owned businesses.

Cell Phone Program. In conjunction with Women’s History Month in March 2003, Assemblywoman Millman collected over 300 used cell phones for victims of domestic violence. The phones were presented to Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes for distribution to women in need. "Tragically, domestic violence still affects thousands of women," said Assemblywoman Millman. "The phones will provide 300 women with a measure of safety they did not previously have."

The Task Force would like to thank all of you who participated in our round tables and other activities and provided input and support for our legislation. 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.

Assemblywoman Joan Millman (center) joins Assembly Members RoAnn Destito and William Scarborough moderating the Albany Roundtable on Women and Technology, April, 2003.

Significant 2003 Legislation For Women

Fighting Crime…Ensuring our Families’ Safety

Video Voyeurism. A new law makes it a class E felony to photograph or video tape individuals secretly in most private circumstances without their consent. It also makes it a felony for a photographer or an accomplice to distribute these images, and bans anyone from knowingly disseminating them. The bill also would require that criminals who repeatedly commit video voyeurism crimes be charged with a class D felony and face up to seven years in prison. (A.8926; Schimminger; Chapter 69 of the Laws of 2003)

Sexual Assault. A new law strengthens provisions of the Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2000, improving protections for individuals who are sexually assaulted by their spouses, creating a sexual assault forensic payment program, and setting effective penalties for forcible touching and persistent sexual abuse. (A.9116; Lentol; Chapter 264 of the Laws of 2003)

Stalking. A new law would allow stalking and other crime victims to seek a special order of conditions against a defendant who has been found not guilty of the crime due to mental disease or defect. Currently, the law invalidates orders of protection if their target is found not guilty by reason of insanity or accepts a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease. (A.6895-a; Eddington; signed into law as Chapter 525 of 2003)

Keeping Women and their Families Healthy

Breast Cancer. In addition to a landmark law passed last year, Chapter 554 of 2002, that made New York the first state to require insurers to pay for annual mammograms beginning at age 40, the Assembly passed legislation this year to:

  • Guarantee Medicaid coverage of treatment for women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through the federal Center for Disease Control Early Detection and Prevention program (A.4519; Eddington);
  • Add six persons who have or have had breast cancer and are active on community-based breast cancer organizations to the Health Research Science Board to ensure breast cancer survivors have a voice in important policy decisions (A.4002; Englebright); and,
  • Encourage more innovative proposals for mapping of breast cancer in the state and streamline collection of data on pesticides (A.3638; Englebright).

Emergency contraception. As noted above, a bill (A.15-A; John) requiring hospital emergency departments to inform rape victims about the availability of emergency contraception and dispense it on site to those who choose it, was passed and signed into law as Chapter 625 of 2003. Prior to passage of this law, state Department of Health guidelines called for hospitals to inform rape victims about the use of emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, but allowed hospitals to decline dispensing the medication.

Health Care for Women in Prisons. Providing adequate health care for women inmates in New York state prisons is an issue of critical concern. Women inmates often have not had sufficient access to health care prior to incarceration, but have high incidences of chronic disease, mental illness and substance abuse problems. The female inmate population is especially hard-hit by hepatitis C and AIDS. Fourteen percent of newly-admitted female inmates test positive for HIV, compared with 9% of men, and 23% test positive for hepatitis C, compared to 13.6% of men. AIDS is the cause of death of nearly one-third of female inmates who die in prison. Overall, mortality among female prisoners in New York state is double that of women in equivalent age groups in the community. Providing essential medical care to these inmates is not only crucial to their well-being, but also to their families, communities and the correctional staff with whom they come in contact.

Several bills aimed at improving health care in correctional facilities were considered by the Assembly this session. To improve HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C care, the Assembly passed A.4204 (Gottfried) requiring the state Department of Health to review the Department of Corrections’ policies and practices regarding the care of patients with these serious chronic diseases, and giving the Department of Health the authority to require correction of deficiencies that are contrary to professional standards. Other bills considered by the Assembly included A.3692 (Gottfried) which would place prison clinics, infirmaries and hospitals under the oversight of the state Department of Health, as are other health care facilities, and A.3940-A (Gottfried) which would require the Corrections Commissioner to implement programs for employees and inmates in each correctional facility to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection.

Providing Economic Security for Families

Pay Equity. The Assembly’s pay equity bill package, passed this year to ensure that women’s wages no longer lag behind men’s for work of equal or comparable worth, included the following measures:

  • A.6701; John - would enact the New York State Fair Pay Act to ensure that pay differentiation is not based on a person’s sex, race or national origin;
  • A.379; Christensen - would establish a constitutional amendment providing comparable work wage protections;
  • A.737; Grannis - would implement a state policy of equal compensation for public employees;
  • A.3998; DiNapoli; A.6252; Nolan - would require private employers to pay comparable wages for comparable work;
  • A.148; Christensen - would make it easier to challenge pay discrimination by allowing complaints to the state Division of Human Rights to be filed as class actions;
  • A.6237; Stringer - would make it a discriminatory practice for public employers to compensate employees of different sexes differently for work that is of comparable worth;
  • K.459; Millman - a resolution urging the United States Congress to enact legislation eliminating wage discrimination nationwide.

The Senate did not act on any of these measures.

Title IX. Title IX, the 30-year-old federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education and requiring schools receiving federal funds to give women and girls an equal chance to play sports, was under review this year by the federal Department of Education. In response to proposed policy changes that would have drastically reduced athletic opportunities and scholarship dollars for women, all 46 women legislators of the New York State Legislature signed a resolution, introduced in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Adele Cohen, calling for strong enforcement of Title IX.

Since the law’s passage in 1972, women have made impressive gains both academically and athletically. The number of women in college sports has grown dramatically by 400%, and girls’ participation in high school sports has increased by 847%. However, aggressive enforcement of Title IX is still needed — women’s and girls’ participation opportunities, operating budgets and recruitment dollars are still much lower than men’s. Thanks to the outpouring of support for the law, the Department of Education resisted the efforts to weaken Title IX, and reaffirmed its commitment to equal opportunity for women and girls.

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