Staying Engaged with My Legislators

The Logistics:

  1. My state senator once told a town hall group of constituents they’d be surprised at how a small group of citizens can affect policy change. Your phone call, email, letter and participation will make a difference. Common Cause will help you identify who your federal, state and local legislators are. Click “find your representative” on the top bar.
  2. List your representatives names, addresses, and phone numbers on a desktop document with links to their contact email. Save this information in your Contact List. It’s far easier to respond when contact information is easily accessible.
  3. Locate their Facebook, Instagram and website pages for updated information. Many use live broadcasts from social media sites.
  4. Find out what’s happening in your state and locality. Stay informed through newspapers, advocacy groups, webinars, zoom meetings, and newsletters. Social media sites often alert you to upcoming events.
  5. Create a message that’s simple and to the point.
  6. All legislators need to hear your opinion, regardless of party affiliation.
  7. Find out how local and statewide candidates stand on the issues of importance to you.

Climate Change

New York City

I plan to urge Governor Cuomo not to approve the repowering of The Gowanus Fracked Gas Plant, operated by Astoria Generating Company. Activists at a recent rally feel that the repowering does not fit in with the city’s ambitious climate goals. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) pledges New York to 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040.  Present at the rally was State Senator Brisport who recently introduced a bill, known as the Pollution Justice Act of 2021, that would bar all “peaker” plants in New York State from renewing their license unless they commit to 100% renewable energy.The repowering proposal brings up environmental justice concerns. Patrick Houston, organizer with New York Communities for Change, said, “we can no longer sacrifice, black communities, and Latinx communities, and all communities of color, and their health and their well being and their dignity.” The plants currently contribute to pollution in South Brooklyn, specifically Gowanus and Sunset Park which are primarily working-class communities of color.

New Jersey

New Jersey citizens must reach out to Senator Booker, Senator Menendez and Congressman Malinowski to express your distress with the Biden Administration’s decision in supporting the Penn East pipeline before the U.S. Supreme Court. Environmentalists were dismayed by the Biden administration’s move. Maya K. van Rossum, head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said the Justice Department’s decision to support PennEast in the case “is an abuse of power and trust and a failure of the current administration to do its duty to protect people and our environment.” The NJ Sierra Club and every municipality in Hunterdon County is on the record as opposing the proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline. The NJ Sierra Club is concerned that the route would destroy open space, farmland, and historic sites; that the fracking gold rush is leaving NJ crisscrossed by unnecessary pipelines; and that the emphasis on extraction of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is steering us away from sources of clean, renewable energy.

Criminal Justice Reform


My Congressional Representative Lydia Valazquez will hear about my approval of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I will contact my NY Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand about their support. Senate Democrats will have to sway at least 10 Republican members for the bill to pass. The bill that would ban chokeholds and alter so-called qualified immunity for law enforcement, which would make it easier to pursue claims of police misconduct. The wide-ranging legislation would also ban no-knock warrants in certain cases, mandate data collection on police encounters, prohibit racial and religious profiling and redirect funding to community-based policing programs.

New York City

The second phase of the City’s police reform was announced today with the aim of undoing the legacy and harm of racialized policing. The New York City Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative hopes to bring greater accountability to the NYPD, make New York City residency a more significant factor in hiring officers, and end the poverty-to prison-pipeline. I plan to add my comments to the draft plan.

Last June, the New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo repealed a section of the civil rights law known as 50-a as it had prevented the public from seeing most law enforcement disciplinary records. Unions had opposed a new state transparency law on the grounds that it would unfairly taint the reputations of police officers, endangering them and affecting their future employment. An Appeals Court, however, approved the release of such records. Last week the NYPD released these secret records. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea have said that releasing the records would allow the nation’s largest police department to respond to public demands for accountability and transparency by showing it has a strong disciplinary system.

Legislators to contact: Mayor, City Council Representative, Governor, State Senator and State Assembly Representative. I communicate my support of specific local police reforms.


Why do grand juries decline to indict police officers? What happens in a court of law? I will contact my state legislators and ask them to raise the standard for the use of lethal force by police from “objectively reasonable” to “necessary,”. They should also create a special unit within the state attorney general’s office to handle the investigation and prosecution of killings by police officers in order to address the conflict of interest that local prosecutors necessarily face in handling cases. Finally, legislators should make it easier to sue police officers by eliminating the qualified immunity doctrine, which is a defense that enables rights-violating police to escape liability if it was not “clearly established” that the particular misconduct they engaged in was unlawful at the time they committed it. In addition legislators should require all officers to carry professional liability insurance.

Legislators to Contact: Your Governor, State Senator and State Assembly Representative and request these reforms.

New Jersey

New Jersey police have new guidelines on when they can hit, chase or shoot suspects under the first overhaul of the state’s use-of-force policy in two decades. The position of attorney general is uniquely powerful in New Jersey because the duties of the office include direct oversight of all the state’s law enforcement officers, from neighborhood cops to county prosecutors. The process of rewriting the policy was announced a year ago and included input from law enforcement groups, civil rights and religious organizations and more than a thousand comments from the public. These new rules are following a comprehensive Excellence In Policing Initiative which includes the major components of Professionalism, Accountability and Transparency . Multiple webinars around the state are informing communities about the policy which includes de-escalating situations of citizen resistance, and mandating conflict resolution tactics before exerting forceful methods of restraint.

Legislators to Contact: Contact Governor Murphy, State Senator and your Assembly Representative and show your support for these guidelines.

Disinformation Campaigns


Statehouses around the nation are seeing the rise of the “Stolen Election” myth as a smoke screen to to change the rules of voting and representation — and enhance their own political clout. The national Republican Party joined the movement this past week by setting up a Committee on Election Integrity to scrutinize state election laws, echoing similar moves by Republicans in a number of state legislatures.

New Jersey

A local county official who attended the “Stop The Steal” rally before the riot in Washington DC has heard from her constituents on a regular basis, asking her to step down. Now is the time to hold your representatives accountable when falsehoods are stated. Let them know by attending virtual meetings, writing letters to the editor, emails and so on.

New York City

A bipartisan, community-based political action committee against Congressmember Nicole Malliotakis has quickly gained traction since it went public on Jan. 30. “The overall goal and mission of the organization is to hold her accountable, particularly on votes”. This newly elected Congressional Representative found herself embroiled in controversy after she voted against certifying the electoral votes in Pennsylvania and Arizona because of alleged voter fraud on her third day in office.

Legislators to Contact: Contact and hold your representative accountable on all levels of government if you find them participating in this misinformation campaign.

Public Education


The recent $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue law included $2.75 billion dollars for private schools. Democrats had railed against the push by President Donald J. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to use pandemic relief bills to aid private schools, only to do it themselves.

Legislators to Contact: President Biden, Senator Schumer, in addition to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. I will express why I disagree with this.

Single Payer Health Care

New York

Is the pandemic a game changer for a New York single payer bill? The The New York Health Act, a single-payer system, will guarantee that all New Yorkers regardless of income or job status can focus on their health and health care, not medical bills. “This bill must be central to a just and equitable recovery from this pandemic and brought to a vote this year, ” said the codirector for the Campaign For New York Health.

Its passage, despite large Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, still remains unlikely. Business organizations, which have formed a coalition opposing the bill in recent years, pointed to the tax increases needed to help pay for it. Others, however, feel now is the time for the New York Health Act.

Legislators to Contact: Governor, State Senator and State Assembly Representative and explain why I support the New York Health Act.

Income Inequality


It looks like the federal minimum wage won’t be increased anytime soon — news that will hit women harder than men. Senate Democrats dropped the $15 minimum wage provision from the latest $1.9 trillion stimulus package after the Senate parliamentarian last week decided that the policy couldn’t be passed through budget reconciliation. Then the Democrats abandoned the backup plan to increase the minimum wage through a corporate tax penalty.

There is a disconnect between wealth growth for the ultrawealthy and wealth growth for most Americans. Consequently, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Brendan Boyle introduced legislation that would tax the net worth of the wealthiest people in America. It would apply a 2 percent tax to individual net worth — including the value of stocks, houses, boats and anything else a person owns, after subtracting out any debts — above $50 million. It would add an additional 1 percent surcharge for net worth above $1 billion. Polls have consistently shown Ms. Warren’s proposal winning the support of more than three in five Americans, including a majority of Republican voters. Wealth at the top, particularly among billionaires, has grown in the two years.

Legislators to contact: The President, my Senators and My Congressional Representative. I will express support for the $15 minimum wage and an increased tax on the wealthiest of this nation.

LGBT Rights


The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.The legislation, passed 224 to 206 almost entirely along party lines. It was the second time the Democratic-led House had passed the measure, known as the Equality Act, which seeks to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add explicit bans on discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in both public and private spaces.

President Biden said on the campaign trail that this bill would be one of his top legislative priorities for the first 100 days of his presidency. But it’s also controversial — while the Equality Act has broad support among Democrats, many Republicans oppose it, fearing that it would infringe upon religious objections. The bill would need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster in the Senate.

Legislators to contact: My U.S. Senators and explain why I expect their support for this Act.

Nursing Home Reform

The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the nation, killing more than 174,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The roots of the long-term care industry’s problems are deeply tangled,The institutions that serve so many older and infirm Americans were created based on rules and laws passed decades ago, when needs and expectations were different. Nursing home funding and oversight come in large part from government budgets. But most nursing homes are privately owned, meaning there is little transparency into their finances and operations. Are they, as they claim, pinching pennies to survive, or are they profiting at the expense of quality care? AARP has done extensive reporting and analysis of this nationwide problem and has come up with Ten Steps To Reform and Improve Nursing Homes.

Legislators to Contact: The Governor, your State Senator and State Assembly Representative. I will advance the AARP recommendations.


Those of us who have researched the best nursing homes for our loved ones have come to use the rating system run by the U.S. Center For Medicare/Medicaid services. The Covid 19 pandemic, however, has exposed how nursing homes had manipulated the influential star system in ways that masked deep problems. Despite years of warnings, the system provided a badly distorted picture of the quality of care at the nation’s nursing homes. Many relied on sleight-of-hand maneuvers to improve their ratings and hide shortcomings that contributed to the damage when the pandemic struck. The findings of this investigation included the fact that much of the information submitted to C.M.S. is wrong. Almost always, that incorrect information makes the homes seem cleaner and safer than they are. In addition, some nursing homes inflate their staffing levels by, for example, including employees who are on vacation. In one sign of the problems with the self-reported data, nursing homes that earn five stars for their quality of care are nearly as likely to flunk in-person inspections as to ace them. But the government rarely audits the nursing homes’ data. Health inspectors still routinely found problems with abuse and neglect at five-star facilities, yet they rarely deemed the infractions serious enough to merit lower ratings.

Legislators to contact: The President, my Senators and my Congressional Representative Express your concerns regarding the U.S. Center For Medicare Medicaid ineffective and misleading rating system and oversight.

New York

The New York State Senate will be advancing legislation to improve oversight and care at nursing homes. This legislation includes patient care ratio reporting, publication of nursing home ratings (see the above article as to whether this is accurate), a long term care task force, a long term care ombudsman (patient advocate) reform act, and more.

Advocates, like Voices for Seniors, fear these bills won’t fundamentally change life for residents. They fear the proposals don’t go far enough to address the most pressing issues — low staffing levels, state funding, and lax oversight — much less incorporate innovative approaches to redesigning how communities manage end-of-life care.

Legislators to Contact: The Governor, my State Senator and State Assembly Representative. I will support the legislation,l but ask for a more comprehensive bill.

New Jersey

With support from AARP, the state is taking steps to overhaul its long-term care system. In September Governor Murphy signed a bi-partisan legislative package of six bills dealing with the long-term care industry. It included wage enhancements for frontline staff, improved response coordination, data reporting procedures and staffing ratios. The New Jersey Task Force on Long-Term Care Quality and Safety was also created. It is made up of 27 government and public members and will recommend improvements in several areas, including staffing levels and capital investments.

Legislators to Contact: Your State Senator and State Assembly Representative for further improvements as recommended by the Task Force and/or AARP.



At least 250 new laws have been proposed in 43 states to limit mail, early in-person and Election Day voting. It is crucial that you become informed, aware and involved in state and local voting legislation.


The U.S. Senate is getting ready to debate the S1 bill – the furthest-reaching attempt at federal election reform. The HR1 bill, also known as the For the People Act, was passed for the second time in two years this past February. This bill includes reforms such as national automatic voter registration, online registration, 15 consecutive days of early voting, voting sites opened for at least 10 hours, removal of restrictions for vote by mail, the prohibition of voter roll purging and more. It also includes Campaign Finance reform including the public financing of campaigns, and a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United. This ruling allowed unlimited election spending by corporations and labor unions and fueled the rise of Super PACs.

Legislators to contact: Your U.S. Senators Let them know you want their support of the For the People Act and why it is important to you.


The redistricting of state legislative and Congressional districts occurs every ten years following a census. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau has said it won’t release detailed population data needed to draw maps until late September — a delay of several months. As a result, legislatures will probably be called into special sessions to draw maps toward the end of the year, and the window for legal challenges will be exceedingly narrow.

Whoever controls the map-drawing wields enormous and long-lasting power over the U.S. political system.The GOP has complete control of the redistricting process in 18 states — including the growing states of Texas and Florida — giving it the power to redraw boundaries for 181 U.S. House seats, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice, which advocates for a redistricting overhaul.

Legislators to Contact: Your Governor, State Senator and State Assembly Representative regarding your state’s redistricting plan.

New Jersey

Governor Murphy signed bills into law safeguarding voting rights. One law requires county boards of election to establish ballot drop boxes in each county at least 45 days before election and also revises procedures concerning mail-in ballots for 2020 general election. Another, The Ballot Cure Act, requiring election officials to notify voters within 72 hours of receiving their ballot – or within 48 hours of Election Day – to provide an explanation for the potential rejection and an opportunity to repair the defect. Another extends deadlines and use of voting by mail.

Legislators to Contact: Governor Murphy, your State Senator and State Assembly Representative. Express your support for the new laws.

Redistricting in New Jersey is unlikely in 2021. The state Constitution requires that legislative districts be reconfigured every decade to reflect the population based on census data. A New Jersey constitutional amendment approved by voters in November dictates that if the state does not receive U.S. Census data by Feb. 15, it will delay redistricting. It is unlikely that the New Jersey Apportionment Commission will be creating boundary lines to be used in this year’s state elections.

This does not sit well with Jesse Burns, executive director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, which opposed the constitutional amendment. Burns and other good-government advocates note that New Jerseyans have moved around the state over the last decade, and that the state’s Latino and Asian populations have grown by 20%. They suggest the old maps, last redrawn in 2011, need an update sooner rather than later.
“What we have for [the next] two years now is a map that does not reflect ‘one person, one vote,’ where folks are getting their rightful representation in the legislature,”.

The New Jersey Constitution gives each head of the state’s two major political parties the authority to appoint five members to the N.J. Apportionment Commission. The members chosen this year are mostly male, mostly white political insiders. This is despite the fact that New Jersey’s population has diversified: Non-Hispanic whites made up about 55% of residents in 2019, down from more than 59% in 2010, while the proportion of Asians increased from 8% to 10% and Hispanics from roughly 18% to about 21%.

Legislators to Contact: Your Governor, State Senator and State Assembly Representative in supporting the Fair Districts Coalition’s goals in Redistricting Reform. Demand that the N.J. Apportionment Commission represents New Jersey’s diverse population.

New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Democrats once welcomed the creation of a nonpartisan redistricting commission that would redraw congressional maps free of political influence and avoid contorted gerrymandering.But now that the commission is stepping up its work, New York Democrats seem to be having second thoughts. Some Democrats want to make it easier to overrule the commission.

One of the first acts of the Democratic legislature this year was to place on this November’s ballot a measure that would make it easier to override the nonpartisan maps, requiring only simple majority vote.

Advocates of the nonpartisan commission have been alarmed for months as the Cuomo administration failed to release the $1 million the commission was owed. Then, more recently, Democratic and Republican commissioners agreed that the language providing the $1 million was so unacceptable they would refuse to take it.

Legislators to Contact: My Governor, State Senator and State Assembly Representative in support of a properly funded independent nonpartisan redistricting commission.

The American Rescue Plan


This law is much more than a $1400 stimulus check and expanded unemployment insurance. Billions are going to coronavirus testing, vaccinations and the public health workforce. State and local governments, territories and tribes will get extensive support for budget shortfalls, transportation and infrastructure. Included is financing to open schools safely, and child care block grants to prevent hunger and homelessness. Assistance for food, rent, and mortgages is included in addition to business relief and retirement security. Lastly it reduces health care premiums for low and middle income families, and provides COBRA subsidies. Become informed as to how your state and locality will be supported.

It has provided a way to reduce child poverty by half. The centerpiece of the child poverty plan is an expansion of the child tax credit, up to $3,600 a year for young children. This is transformative for many low-income families. One reason to think that this would be so successful is that many other countries have used similar strategies to cut child poverty by large margins. Canada’s parallel approach cut child poverty by 20 to 30 percent, depending on who’s counting, and Britain under Tony Blair cut child poverty in half.

Legislators to contact: Your U.S. Senators and U.S. House Representative. Let them know why you support this law and thank them for their vote. Hold them accountable if they did not support the Plan.

Next Post:

The NYC races for Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, District Attorney, City Council and Borough President . The New Jersey races for Governor, State Senator and State Assembly

Ongoing and/or new legislation

About Debra29

I am a retired public school teacher who believes that a strong democracy rests on the shoulders of its citizens. This blog was created as a central resource of civic engagement. Together, we can make a difference. Follow me on Twitter: Determined@2AlterTheCourse
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