Update From Albany: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Caitlin O’Brien, our government relations director in New York State, sums up our activities from the recently concluded legislative session – and gives us a forecast of what’s to come. 

New York’s Legislative Session came to an anti-climactic end on June 20th. With continued political turmoil in the Senate stemming from an even number of Democrat Senators and Republican Senators, the Legislature failed to pass any significant public health legislation. While this is disappointing, thanks to the advocacy efforts of our volunteers who made phone calls, sent emails, and tweeted at their elected officials, one of our top priorities, Tobacco 21, was very close to passing in the Assembly. Tobacco 21 successfully passed through two committees and was taken up for a vote on the Assembly floor, but laid aside for debate. In the months leading up to the start of next year’s legislative session in January, we’ll be working hard to keep up the momentum surrounding Tobacco 21 so we can finally get it passed state-wide, once and for all.

Since it’s never too early to start campaign planning for next year’s policy priorities, here’s a run through of what I’ll be working on this summer.

  1. Healthy vending machines on state owned property: there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to snack healthily, especially in places like parks and state office buildings. After all, healthy eating means less money spent preventing and treating diseases like diabetes and hypertension. This summer, I’ll be working on the language of the bill with the legislative sponsor, Assemblyman Jeffery Dinowitz (D)-Bronx.
  2. Making New York’s kids the healthiest in the nation: keeping kids healthy means keeping them physically active and eating healthy. Physical activity, specifically, Physical Education can lead to better performance in school, and higher chances of living healthier lives. Frequent and quality physical education in schools should be something parents don’t have to worry about, but unfortunately, not all school districts can provide the level of physical education necessary.
  3. Kids’ meals: sugary beverages are disastrous for kids’ health. With one in three children considered obese or overweight, any measure that can help keep children at a healthy weight are important. I’ll be working with our partner organizations to develop a policy requiring kids’ meals to offer healthy alternatives to sugary drinks. We need to make the healthy choice, the easy choice by providing water, milk, and 100% juice to kids when they eat out.

Your help matters – please send me an email to let me know if you’ll join us in passing legislation in the coming year.  You can always reach me at Caitlin.obrien@heart.org. Thank you!