Opinion

Mainline and Independent Democrats in the Senate must unite behind a Resistance Agenda

By Letitia James |  

May 29, 2017 |  

State Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference. (John Nilsen/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

President Donald Trump and his corporate cronies threaten everything we as New Yorkers hold dear – our right to see a doctor when we are sick without breaking the bank; our right to send our children to a high quality school; our right to work in a safe environment; our right to breathe clean air and drink clean water; our right to be treated fairly and equally no matter who we are; our right as women to make choices about our bodies; and even our fundamental right to vote.

Just this month the president proposed a budget that slashes funding for everything from health care to college programs.

With the federal government completely controlled by Trump and his allies, states like New York can and should be the place to defend our rights. But so far, New York’s elected officials are squandering the opportunity to lead, largely because Democrats in the state capital remain divided.

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When I talk to New Yorkers and activists leading the resistance movement, such as the Working Families Party, it is clear that it’s time for Albany’s Democrats – mainline and Independent Democratic Conference – to come together. This is the only real way we will move forward on so many critical issues like reproductive choice, health care, education funding and the DREAM Act.

If Democrats come together, we can pursue a real Resistance Agenda that moves New York forward. The Resistance Agenda lays out in detail what we can gain if Democrats in Albany unite. 

  • Guarantee that every woman can make her own decisions about her reproductive health care by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act and the Reproductive Health Act.
  • Ensure a quality and equitable education for all our children by fully funding our public schools as required by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. Similarly, we need to step up and finally provide adequate funding for our public colleges and university systems, CUNY and SUNY, which have long provided a path to the middle class for hundreds of thousands of aspiring New Yorkers.
  • Ensure access to health care for all by providing badly needed support for our public hospitals and passing the New York Health Act so health care truly becomes a right for every New Yorker.
  • Strengthen our democracy by making it easier for every eligible voter to register to vote and passing campaign finance reform to ensure anyone can run for office, not just the wealthy and connected.
  • Keep the affordable housing we have through stronger rent laws to protect tenants and closing loopholes that incentivize evictions, along with more financial support for new affordable housing and public housing.
  • Protect New York’s hard-working immigrant communities by passing the DREAM Act to ensure higher education access for all, the Liberty Act to draw a bright line between immigration enforcement and local law enforcement, universal legal representation for anyone facing deportation, drivers licenses for all qualified motorists, regardless of immigration status, and other protections to ensure all immigrants can continue to be productive New Yorkers.
  • Ensure that all New Yorkers – regardless of religion, nationality, sexual orientation or gender identity – are treated equally and are safe from hate crimes.

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This may sound like a tall order, but these are basic progressive values; these are New York values. If we organize together and win a progressive majority in the state Senate, we can move on to debating how to implement these ideas, not whether we can do so. But we need all of New York’s Democrats to come together.

The stakes are high. This is the time to stand up and be counted. It starts with the IDC and mainline Democrats reuniting so New York can lead the resistance and live up to its reputation as the Empire State.

Letitia James is the public advocate for New York City.

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