After an unusual mid-summer session in which lawmakers passed multiple measures addressing the historic criminalization of black and brown people, an activist told Spectrum News that the State Senate appears to be skittish when it comes to passing some pieces of progressive legislation. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Legislature last week passed several bills addressing the criminalization of people of color

  • Lawmakers did not pass the HALT Solitary confinement bill, the Walking While Trans Act or a bill to release older incarcerated prisoners

  • Marvin Mayfield of Community Alternatives blames the inaction on these bills on the State Senate

During the past week, lawmakers dispatched bills that will protect New Yorkers from the targeting of immigrants by ICE at New York State courthouses; end the suspension of drivers’ licenses for inability to afford fines and fees; keep incarcerated parents close to their children; create additional oversight in state prisons and protect contact tracing data from being accessible to police and immigration enforcement.

“I guess you could describe it as a mixed bag,” said Marvin Mayfield, the statewide organizer at Center for Community Alternatives.

But he’s not happy. Mayfield explains that there have been some lingering issues that haven’t been passed, that he says the legislature has been ignoring. These include bills that address solitary confinement, elder parole and the “Walking While Trans Act."

“The biggest failure of the legislature is that these pieces of legislation have come before lawmakers multiple times. This is an on-going process,” explained Mayfield. “My particular take on it is that this is an election year in November, and the Senate, most particularly the Senate, feel that protecting black and brown trans women and incarcerated people is a particular liability.”

When informed that Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a woman of color, Mayfield responded, “Yes, this is what I’m saying. It’s not unprecedented. If you look back at the rollback on bail reform, it was the Senate who was the holdout on bail reform.”

“Speaker Heastie has been more amenable to our campaign, and made it easier to get things on the floor of the Assembly than Stewart-Cousins,” said Mayfield.

A spokesman for Stewart-Cousins did not have a comment.