New York City Council Stated Meeting Report
Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.
STATED MEETING - APRIL 9, 2003
Quote of the Day:
"If the people in the gallery were at work or at school, you wouldn't be here booing us." – Councilmember Madeline Provenzano, who voted against a bill to allow education to count toward welfare to work requirements.
On April 9, the New York City Council overrode four mayoral vetoes, passing laws that Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposed.
The first veto override was on legislation (Intro 93-A) that would allow welfare recipients to count GED and English language classes toward welfare to work requirements. The council argues that under the current requirements people are forced to quit school for low-paying, dead-end jobs.
Mayor Bloomberg criticized the council, calling the bill "a giant step backwards in welfare reform" and promising to fight the measure in court.
"The council has chosen to turn back the clock on welfare reform, reviving a dated, discredited policy that we long ago learned was a failure," the mayor said in a statement. "Worst of all, what the council did today is a tremendous disservice to the very people it claims to be helping."
The council passed the bill into law by a vote of 46 to 5, with substantially more than the 34 votes need to override a veto.
Three Republican council members – James Oddo, Andrew Lanza, and Dennis Gallagher – and two Democrats – Peter Vallone, Jr. and Madeline Provenzano – sided with the mayor and were booed by members of the audience who came in support of the bill.
When voting against the measure, Bronx Councilmember Madeline Provenzano turned to the balcony full of advocates and made a remark. The microphone on her podium was turned off at the time and her statement was inaudible to most of the council. According to several people and reporters sitting near Provenzano at the time, she said, "You people need to go get jobs, not school."
After the meeting, Provenzano denied using the phrases "you people" or saying that they "needed to go get jobs," only that she said, "If the people in the gallery were at work or at school, you wouldn't be here booing us."
"I never had the luxury of going anywhere for three or four hours," said Provenzano, who raised three children by herself after her husband died. "I was full time mother, full time working, full time school. I think that's the way it should be."
The three other veto overrides also passed by a wide margin.
A measure the council calls the School Accountability Act (Intro 215-A) would require the Department of Education to submit quarterly reports on the status of all capital projects. All 51 councilmembers - even the three Republicans - voted to override Mayor Bloomberg's veto.
Mayor Bloomberg said the reports would cost the city $500,000 a year. "Since so much of this information is already available to the City Council and is not even read...it is hard to imagine why, during a fiscal crisis, we need to use scarce resources to pay for more bureaucracy," the mayor said in a statement.
The two other mayoral veto overrides related to the issue of emergency contraception.
One bill (Intro 278-A) requires pharmacies that do not carry the drugs Preven or Plan B, which were both approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997, to post signs indicating that they are not sold at that location. The council overrode the mayor's veto of Intro 278-A by a vote of 43 to 8. (Council members Avella, Felder, Gallagher, Jennings, Lanza, McMahon, Vallone, and Oddo voted with the mayor.)
The other bill (Intro 281-A) requires hospitals that contract with the city to inform rape victims that emergency contraception is available and to offer it if requested. The council overrode the mayor's veto on Intro 281-A by a vote of 47 to 4, with council members Felder, Gallagher, Lanza and Oddo supporting the mayor.
"These bills will significantly reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in the city and are especially important for victims of sexual assault or rape," said Councilmember Christine Quinn, one of the authors of the legislation.
The council also passed a new piece of legislation in preparation for tax season. The bill (Intro 383-A) requires tax-preparers to let New Yorkers know the interest they will be charged if they take their rebate as an immediate loan. These loans, often billed as "Rapid Refunds," can charge between 200 to 500 percent interest.
The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for April 30, 2003.