NYS Assembly Task Force on
Women’s Issues
A Report on the 2005 Legislative Session

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Barbara Lifton, Chair • Joan L. Millman, Past Chair
December 2005
Message from the Chairs
Assembly Member Barbara Lifton
Dear Friends:

In June, I was appointed Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues.

The Task Force works closely with women’s groups, community organizations, state agencies and other legislators to propose new legislation, promote passage of pending legislation and advocate for funding of programs serving women. This newsletter provides an overview of Task Force activities and significant legislation passed by the Assembly in the past legislative session.

Among the most significant measures affecting women passed by both the Assembly and the Senate last session dealt with emergency contraception. The legislation, which I co-sponsored, would allow women needing emergency contraception – the morning-after pill – to obtain it through a pharmacist or registered nurse without a prescription. Current law requires a prescription from a doctor before a pharmacist can dispense the medication, often stopping women from getting treatment in time to prevent pregnancy. In a disappointing setback for women’s health, the Governor vetoed this legislation in August. At the federal level, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has continued to delay the approval of emergency contraception for over-the-counter availability, despite overwhelming approval from the FDA’s own advisory panel.

I am looking forward to continuing the work of the Task Force in promoting women’s issues. My initial goals as Chair include:

  • Exploring funding for and regulatory issues related to child day care – a critical issue for working parents, including women entering the workforce, and for day care providers, who are primarily women;

  • Looking at issues related to nursing mothers, breastfeeding, and childhood obesity; and

  • Advocating for measures to increase the presence of women in science and technology fields.

In mid-November, the Task Force sponsored a Roundtable on Child Day Care in Ithaca.

We encourage you to contact us with your ideas and concerns. Copies of bills and their descriptive memoranda are available by clicking here, or by contacting the Task Force at 518-455-3632.

Barbara Lifton, Chair

Assembly Member Joan L. Millman
Dear Friends:

I would like to extend a warm welcome to Assemblywoman Lifton as new Chair.

In New York State, as elsewhere, women on the whole are less financially secure than men. Based on recent census data, the earnings ratio between full-time, year-round employed women and men was about 75%, ranking New York 24th among the 50 states. The percent of employed women in managerial or professional occupations was about 35%, with New York ranking 12th among the states. The percent of businesses that are women-owned is 29.6%. One out of every seven New York women (14.9%) lives in poverty, and the poverty rate of elderly women is even higher: 17.8%. For children in female-headed households, the poverty rate is 41%.1

As Chair of the Task Force between 2001 and June 2005, I have worked on and supported a number of key Assembly initiatives to promote the economic well-being of women, including:

Supporting comparable worth legislation to encourage job evaluation systems to ensure that employers value and compensate comparable jobs equitably. For the past eight years, the Assembly has marked national Pay Equity Day by passing comparable worth legislation. We hope that soon the Senate will act on this critical issue. (To learn more, click here)

Strengthening support for enforcement of equal opportunity laws. The Assembly has passed A.4133; Morelle – important legislation aimed at eliminating the backlog of cases at the state Division of Human Rights. The Assembly supported increased funding for the Division in this year’s budget.

Supporting the recruitment of women into nontraditional occupations. Jobs predominantly held by men often pay better than traditionally female jobs. As Chair of the Task Force, I have introduced A.570, the Nontraditional Occupation Act, which would establish a grant program to promote the recruitment, placement, and retention of individuals in occupations where they are currently underrepresented, and A.1550 (passed Assembly) which would require local social services districts to promote nontraditional work opportunities, and emphasize training for employment in sustainable wage jobs, for persons transitioning from welfare to work.

Investing in technology training and science and technology education at all levels, with emphasis on programs and practices that encourage underrepresented groups – women and minorities – to enter and remain in the increasingly-important technology sector. The Assembly this year issued a report on Women and Technology in the 21st Century, co-authored by the Task Force, based on a series of roundtables held on this topic. (Click here for a list of 2005 bills on technology education and training.)

Increasing the minimum wage. Reasonable, living-wage floors are especially beneficial for women workers, because they are more likely to be in low-wage work. In 2004, the Assembly and Senate overrode the Governor’s veto to pass an increase in the minimum wage.

Supporting women-owned businesses by ensuring that state and local government contracts are accessible to women-owned businesses; promoting the availability of loans, technical assistance and training. The Task Force co-sponsored a series of hearings this year on minority and women-owned business issues and has developed a package of legislation aimed at improving minority and women-owned business access to state contracts.

Supporting workers with family responsibilities. Women workers especially benefit from paid parental and dependent-care leave policies. The Assembly this year passed the Families in the Workplace Act (A.1301; Nolan.)

By improving women’s economic status, New York can promote broad-based economic growth that benefits everyone. I am proud of Speaker Silver and the Assembly’s commitment to these issues.

Assembly Member Joan L. Millman

Task Force Activities and Legislation

Surety Bonds. On April 14, 2005, the Task Force co-sponsored a public hearing in New York City, along with the Assembly Commission on Government Administration; Committee on Governmental Operations; Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions; Insurance Committee; Small Business Committee; Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus; and the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. Testimony on “Access to Surety Bonding on State Contracts for Small, Minority, and Women-Owned Businesses” was provided by small, minority and women-owned firms, state agencies, contractor groups, and surety industry representatives. The hearing focused on the extent to which statutory bonding requirements for state projects pose a barrier to small, minority, and women-owned businesses that want to bid on state contracts, and examined the effectiveness of state bonding assistance and bond waiver programs.

Contractors performing work for the state are generally required by State Finance Law and other statutes to secure performance and payment bonds. These bonds, which are provided by surety companies, are a type of insurance that protects the public owner, workers, subcontractors, and suppliers from financial loss if the contractor fails to perform the contract. Surety companies approve bonds based on criteria such as financial strength and construction experience, making it difficult for start-up firms to qualify.

New York State does have some bond waiver programs and bonding assistance programs in statute. However, testimony at the hearing highlighted minority and women contractors’ difficulty in obtaining bonding for large projects, a shortage of training assistance programs, and inadequate outreach efforts as some of the factors limiting survival and growth.

Responding to concerns raised during the hearing about better access to surety bonding, the Task Force and the Commission on Government Administration developed legislative proposals which were introduced this year:

A.9070; Millman - would improve outreach efforts of the Department of Economic Development’s (DED) Divisions for Small Business and Minority and Women’s Business Development;

A.9069; Millman - would provide for increased performance and payment bond waiver levels for small and minority and women-owned businesses;

A.9068; Millman – would establish a mentor-protégé program for small and minority and women-owned businesses; and

A.9067; Millman – would require agencies to post contractor utilization plans on the agency website.

photo Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman speaks with Wilfred Chabrier and Sandra E. Dixon from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the Assembly Hearing on surety bonding for small, minority and women-owned businesses.
Minority and Women-Owned Businesses. In addition to the hearing on surety bonds, the Task Force on Women’s Issues co-sponsored, in conjunction with the Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations, the Assembly Committee on Small Business, and the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, three other hearings on the state’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program, commonly referred to as Article 15-A, which was established in 1988 to increase participation in state contracts by minorities and women.

The hearings were prompted in part by the prospect of major public construction programs in New York City such as the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan and the expansion of the Jacob Javits Convention Center, as well as public construction in all areas of New York State. These projects will provide substantial opportunities for business growth and development, and make it important to understand the challenges facing small and minority and women-owned businesses as they seek to take part. The hearings were held in Buffalo on December 14, 2004; in Utica on February 23, 2005; and in New York City on March 3, 2005.

In June, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver created a new Subcommittee on Minority and Women Businesses, chaired by Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples. Issues identified at the hearings included the need for:

  • A streamlined minority and women-owned business certification process;

  • State and regional minority and women-owned business advocates;

  • Capturing all public authorities in Article 15-A;

  • A statewide disparity study to justify minority and women-owned business enterprise programs; and

  • Improved monitoring of agency outreach efforts to minority and women-owned businesses.

Women and Technology. The Task Force co-authored a report released this spring, Women and Technology in the 21st Century: a Report on the Assembly Roundtables on Women and Technology. The report, which is available by a clicking here, current employment statistics and opportunities for women in technology-related fields and outlines successful programs around the state designed to foster an interest in science and technology in girls. The report details a number of Assembly bills on this issue:

A.2002; Morelle – would authorize the New York State Office of Science, Technology, and Academic Research to establish a high-tech employment and training program, including projects to increase enrollment and retention of minority and women students interested in high-technology careers (referred to the Committee on Economic Development);

A.268; Destito – would establish tax credits of up to $100 per employee for skills training for small businesses (referred to the Committee on Ways and Means);

A.3088; Morelle – would establish a tax credit for training expenses for emerging technology employees (referred to the Committee on Ways and Means);

A.570; Millman – would provide grants for training programs to encourage individuals to enter nontraditional occupations, defined as jobs in which one gender makes up 25% or less of the total number of workers (reported from Committee on Labor and referred to the Committee on Ways and Means);

A.1550; Millman – would require social services districts to give increased emphasis to education and training for sustainable wage jobs and nontraditional employment opportunities in their public assistance employment programs (passed Assembly);

A.3746; Scarborough - the “Employer Participation in School-to-Work Act”; would require businesses receiving state assistance to provide supervised work-based experiences to school-aged youth (referred to the Committee on Economic Development);

A.5668; Scarborough – would establish the statewide public-private partnerships for student achievement and workforce development program (referred to the Committee on Educaton); and

A.4008; Espaillat – would require teachers to complete coursework or training with computers (referred to the Committee on Higher Education.)

Significant 2005 Legislation For Women

Providing Economic Security for Families

Equal Pay. For the eighth consecutive year, the Assembly has passed a package of pay equity bills, along with a resolution calling on Congress to pass federal pay equity legislation. Based on full-time wages, women overall make only 75 cents for every dollar men make. Over the course of a woman’s career, and into her retirement, this significant gap affects her life and the life of those around her.

The causes for the male-female wage gap are complex, but one striking reason for the disparity is that job titles disproportionately held by women have historically been undervalued. For example, school nurses and teaching assistants (mostly female) may be paid less than school custodians (mostly male.) Child care workers may make less than parking lot attendants. It is now illegal to discriminate between men and women performing the same job title merely on the basis of gender; the Assembly bills listed below would extend this policy to include not only the same jobs, but also jobs of comparable worth in skills, effort, responsibilities and education:

A.305; Grannis – would implement a policy for employees in state service of equal compensation for work of comparable worth;

A.1470; Stringer – would amend the Civil Service Law to make it discriminatory for public employers, including local governments, to compensate workers of different sexes differently for work that is of comparable worth;

A.2825; DiNapoli – would amend the Executive Law to make discriminatory salary practices unlawful; and

A.3637; John – would enact the New York State Fair Pay Act, amending the Labor Law to ensure that pay differentiation is not based on a person’s sex, race or national origin.

Although pay equity has broad support from both Democratic and Republican Assembly Members, the Senate has so far not allowed these bills to come to the floor for a vote.

photo Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton listens to child day care providers’ concerns at the “Let Your Voice Be Heard” Forum in Ithaca, NY.

Families in the Workplace. Over the past 25 years, with increasing numbers of women entering the workforce, the number of working men and women caring for children and parents has greatly increased. In 1993, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which required employers to provide up to 12 weeks leave for pregnancy, to care for a new child or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent. However, while the Family and Medical Leave Act protects an employee’s job, seniority and health benefits during leave, it does not replace wages. The Families in the Workplace Act (A.1301; Nolan; multi-sponsored by Assemblymembers Millman and Lifton) provides that employees who qualify for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may also be eligible for paid disability leave. The bill would also allow employees time off to help handle family responsibilities, permitting limited unpaid leave for family and medical issues, school visits such as teacher conferences, family emergency and necessary medical care, and bereavement leave, for the death of an immediate family or household member.

Nursing Mothers. A.252; Destito – would require employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a location for women employees to express breast milk in privacy. It would also prohibit discrimination against employees that breastfeed their infants, and provide women with the right to express breast milk at work.

Keeping Women and their Families Healthy

Women’s Health. The Assembly passed a number of bills this year to promote universal cervical cancer screening, and to enhance care for breast cancer survivors. In addition, Speaker Silver this year created a new Subcommittee on Women’s Health, chaired by Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther.

A.8827; Greene - cosponsored by Assemblymembers Millman and Lifton - adds to the breast cancer detection and education program responsibilities for cervical cancer, increases the membership of the advisory council, and provides for the inclusion in the annual report of strategies to implement and promote the cervical cancer prevention program. (Signed into law as Chapter 430 of the Laws of 2005.)

A.116; Paulin – would enact the “Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act” allowing women to obtain emergency contraception without a prescription. (This bill passed both the Assembly and the Senate, but was vetoed by the Governor.)

A.2264; Englebright - would authorize funding for mapping the incidence of breast cancer from the Breast Cancer Research and Education Fund; requires electronic filing of restricted use pesticides reports. (Passed Assembly.)

A.5176; Englebright – would add six people from distinct geographic regions of the state who have or have had breast cancer, and are active in community-based breast cancer organizations, to the health research science board. (Passed Assembly.)

A.4472-A; Eddington - would provide for presumptive eligibility and exemption of resources under the Medicaid program for women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through the Center for Disease Control Early Detection and Prevention screening program, as provided in New York State through local Healthy Women Partnerships. (Passed Assembly.)

A.2069; Lifton - would authorize grants to community groups that provide counseling, education and outreach programs to persons diagnosed with breast cancer. (Passed Assembly.)

A.2323; Englebright – would clarify that the state will match funding from the breast cancer income tax check-off and license plate sales and any bequest, grant or gift to the Breast Cancer Research and Education Fund. (Passed Assembly.)

A.2343; Green – would establish an 18-member Task Force on cervical cancer prevention, detection and education. (Passed Assembly.)

Fighting Crime. . .Ensuring Our Families’ Safety

Domestic Violence. A.8651; Weinstein - Requires training about domestic violence for all persons who are allowed to issue orders of protection. (Signed into law as Chapter 563 of the Laws of 2005.)

A.617; Stringer – would provide an unlisted telephone number at no additional charge to victims of domestic violence with an order of protection. (Passed Assembly.)

A.5052; Weinstein – would provide that orders of protection may be obtained against any member of the same family or household; expands the definition of “member of the same family or household” to include a former spouse, unrelated persons who continually or at regular intervals reside in the same household or have done so in the past, and persons who are or have been in a dating or intimate relationship whether or not they have ever lived together. (Passed Assembly.)

A.1221; Tokasz – would protect victims of domestic violence by providing for the confidentiality of election registration records. (Passed Assembly.)

A.3147; Hoyt – would require that victims of domestic violence be notified when the convicted offender is to be conditionally released. (Passed Assembly.)

A.6282-A; Destito – would protect domestic violence victims from housing discrimination based on their status as a victim. (Passed Assembly.)

Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues

Hon. Barbara Lifton, 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

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