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Policy Matters – October 2023

Eòghann Renfroe October 31, 2023

Welcome to the October edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. This edition includes good news about important bills signed into law, the launch of the Telesca Fund for Justice in Rochester, a Senate briefing and opinion piece on a bill that will protect New York consumers and small businesses, new guidance for law enforcement responding to domestic violence, trainings related to domestic violence awareness month, and more 

 

Signed into law 

In a big win for access to justice, Governor Hochul signed Notarization Reform bill S.5162 (Hoylman-Sigal) / A5772 (Lavine). This bill will remove barriers for low-income New Yorkers and bring New York into alignment with the federal government and 20 other states; this has been a priority for Empire Justice and the New York Legal Services Coalition. You can read President and CEO Kristin Brown’s statement on the signing of the bill, our memo of support and the NYLSC’s sign on letter from this summer. We thank Gov Hochul and sponsors Senator Hoyman-Sigal and Assemblymember Lavine. The bill will take effect on the first of January. 

We also applaud the governor’s signing of S. 5881-A (Skoufis) /A. 5549-A (Thiele), which expands the right of first refusal for homeowners in manufactured home parks when the parks are being sold, as part of a package of bills to support homeowners at manufactured home parks.  

 

Telesca Fund for Justice Launched 

On Wednesday, October25th, the Telesca partners – which includes Empire Justice Center, Just Cause, the Legal Aid Society of Rochester, and Legal Assistance of Western New York Inc. (LawNY) — formally announced the expansion of our long-standing partnership, which has ensured access to justice for hundreds of thousands of people in Rochester and throughout Monroe County, New York for decades. The expanded partnership includes a fully collaborative fundraising and development effort – the Fund for Justice – to raise awareness and funds to empower a community where stability and fairness reverberate to all people, in all neighborhoods, and in all homes. Media coverage included the NY Daily Record (Fund for Justice created to support Telesca Center), WHAM (Local legal organizations reaffirm commitment to create equal access to justice for all community members) and WXXI (Local legal aid organizations work to enhance services for low-income clients).  

 

Protecting Consumers and Small Businesses 

On Wednesday, October 18, Senators Comrie and Thomas led a well-attended Senate briefing on the Consumer and Small Business Protection Act S795 (Comrie) / A7138 (Weinstein). The bill will protect consumers by bringing New York in line with 42 other states by banning unfair practices – currently New York only bans deceptive conduct. You can watch the briefing (passcode: Q30H^*$w) and read the  Times Union opinion piece by Senator Comrie and Assemblymember Weinstein. 

 

Concerns about the New York Independent Assessor Program 

NYS Dept of Health (DOH) has announced an expansion of the NY Independent Assessor Program (NYIAP) to include routine reassessments – which are assessments required annually in order for Medicaid recipients to maintain home care services – beginning January 1, 2024, and non-routine assessments beginning March 1, 2024.   

Advocates have raised concerns with DOH and have been making suggestions for consumer protections since the NYIAP was first implemented, including in a joint letter sent to DOH in October 2022 from consumer advocate and managed care plan representatives. Medicaid Matters NY, a statewide coalition dedicated to advancing the interests of Medicaid beneficiaries – of which Empire Justice is an active participant – sent a letter to the NYS Medicaid Director on Oct. 10, 2023, urging delay of the rollout and changes to the program to help protect Medicaid recipients as they try to access and keep necessary home care services. 

Advocates have raised concerns with DOH and have been making suggestions for consumer protections since the NYIAP was first implemented, including in a joint letter sent to DOH in October 2022 from consumer advocate and managed care plan representatives. Medicaid Matters NY, a statewide coalition dedicated to advancing the interests of Medicaid beneficiaries – of which Empire Justice is an active participant, sent a letter to the NYS Medicaid Director on Oct. 10, 2023, urging changes to the plan to help protect consumers.  

 

New guidance for Law Enforcement When Responding to Domestic Violence 

On Tuesday, October 24, Governor Hochul announced new state guidance for law enforcement agencies responding to domestic incidents. The guidance includednotifying individuals about the availability critical civil legal services so they can obtain orders of protection, and assistance with custody and housing, among other legal matters resulting from their victimization” and linked to the Crime Victims’ Legal Network website. Empire Justice Center was part of the committee that worked on the model policy. The Crime Victims Legal Network (CVLN) is run by Empire Justice Center and is a partnership of organizations that work together to connect victims of crime with civil legal information, resources, and assistance.  For more information about CVLN, please read Crime Victims Legal Network Project Leader Remla Parthasarathy’s testimony at the Joint-Senate Standing Committee Hearing on Human Services Programs for Domestic Violence Survivors, or the CVLN report.  

Language Justice 

On Tuesday, October 17, Marlene Cortés, Senior Manager, Language Justice participated in the Rochester stop on the Office of Language Access’s Listening Tour at the Memorial Art Gallery. The event was well attended by local language access advocates including members of the Deaf Refugees Resource Center, Deaf MCLAC (Monroe County Language Access Coalition), court personnel and many more. During the event, the Monroe County Board of Elections Commissioner demonstrated a new device being used by the Board of Elections to provide virtual interpreters at polling sites; attendees were able to see a live demonstration in connecting with an ASL interpreter. This method was well received by the attendees as it is a huge step forward in having interpreters available on site when needed. Please check the Office of Language Access Listening Tour registration page for times and dates for upcoming events. 

 

Servant of Justice Award 

Congratulations to Chief Strategy Officer Jill Paperno, who was honored at the tenth annual Servants of Justice Awards Banquet of the organization, “It Could Happen to You.” Jill won the inaugural Jonathan Gradess Public Defender of the Year award. Jonathan Gradess was an incredible advocate for justice and longtime ally in the fight for justice in New York State.  We are proud to have a member of Empire Justice Center’s leadership team receive this award.   

 

We Teach the Law… 

Empire Justice Center’s 360 approach means we practice the law, we teach the law, and we change the law. A few highlights for the month:    

 

Thank You For Reading

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The Empire Justice Policy Team