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Politics and Government

Women's equality supporters say fall elections are next battleground

Democrats and their allies in the legislature say there’s little chance anything major can be accomplished in the remaining days of the legislative session. Those pushing a Women’s Equality Act are already looking ahead to the fall campaigns as the next step.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is downplaying expectations for any major agreements in the final days of the legislative session.

“We have some clean up items,” Cuomo said. “I don’t expect us to do any major initiatives.”

Advocates for a Women’s Equality Act, which is supported by Cuomo, also seem to be looking ahead to the political season. Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York announced a new political action committee to elect more pro-choice candidates to the state Senate.

Tracey Brooks, with Family Planning Advocates, says the public favors a bill that would codify the abortion rights in Roe v. Wade into New York state law, yet the measure cannot get to the floor under the present Senate leadership. She says that’s because GOP senators are overly influenced by the state’s conservative party. She says the conservative party locked down Republican senators a year and a half ago.

“We haven’t been able to move the Women’s Equality Agenda because there were people who are worried about one of the smallest parties we have in the state of New York,” Brooks said.

Senate Republicans have said the bill is too wide ranging, and would result in abortions being performed up to the day before delivery, something supporters deny.  

The GOP rules the Senate in a coalition with a group of breakaway Democrats. Cuomo has also come under the influence of a minor political party, the Working Families Party. He told the party at its convention that he would work to convince the breakaway Democrats, known as the Independent Democratic Conference, to return to the rest of the Democrats.

Cuomo now says that is not likely to happen until after the fall elections.

“We’ll go through the elections, and then what we are talking about is next year, the reunification,” Cuomo said. “Not this year.”

The governor also promised to work to elect more Democrats to the state Senate. Even if the Independent Democrats were to rejoin the rest of the Democrats right now, there still would not be enough yes votes among Democrats alone to achieve the 32 votes needed to pass abortion rights legislation in the Senate.

Senate Democrats at the political action committee announcement say they are renewing their efforts to take out some GOP senators. Sen. Mike Gianaris is head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

“There has been a growing coalition of support behind the effort for a true Democratic majority in the Senate,” Gianaris said. “What’s being announced today is another important piece of that puzzle.

Senate Republicans have countered that they expect to pick up three or four GOP seats in the Senate.

The legislative session continues until June 20, and backers of the Women’s Equality Act say they have not completely given up hope, and intend to lobby for the measure until the very end.