Legislative Caucus vows to push progressive agenda in state Senate
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 5/30/2013, 4:46 p.m.
Now that the state Senate is seeing a shift in power due to the coalition of the Republican Party and the Independent Democratic Committee (IDC), several elected officials want to make sure that the issues affecting communities of color remain part of the conversation.
On Monday, Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara led a press conference along with members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus. Representatives from community groups, nonprofits, labor, clergy and business were also present. The Caucus vowed that it would take the lead on ensuring that this year's legislative session in Albany included a progressive agenda.
"The Caucus intends to take the guesswork caused by the Senate leadership uncertainty of whether critical issues facing our communities will be resolved by holding Albany's feet to the fire on issues such as gun violence, minimum wage, education, stop-and-frisk, the Dream Act, marijuana drug laws and health care, '' said Camara, who chairs the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus.
The press conference comes after concerns over the coalition between the Republican Party and IDC in the state Senate. The coalition, which is made up of mostly white senators, leaves non-white senators in little power. Many lawmakers feel issues concerning a large number of New Yorkers will be left out of the conversation. Queens Sen. Malcolm Smith is the only Black legislator in the IDC. Black female state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins was recently selected as minority leader of the Senate.
The caucus pledged to fight to restore millions of dollars that went to vital community initiatives in legislative member items under a new and more transparent New York Neighborhood Initiatives program. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been cut from initiatives for four consecutive years, resulting in damaging effects to neighborhoods throughout New York.
Some of the new ideas and initiatives Camara presented include addressing and reducing gun violence and adopting community schools. The Caucus said that it will push the Senate to take early action on stop-and-frisk, increasing the minimum wage and the Dream Act.
For the first time in New York's history, the Caucus announced its session priorities in advance of session and the State of the State, signaling the intention of the Caucus to push a progressive agenda on day one.
"The Caucus believes that the issues outlined today in our People's Budget and Priorities must be a part of the Albany discussion at the outset, and releasing these priorities today gives everyone a sense of how they comport with the priorities of others. As a result, New Yorkers will know where there is common ground in Albany and where work needs to be done to establish consensus," said Camara.