NYSBA Advocates for its Priorities on ABA Lobby Day

By Hilary Jochmans

NYSBA Advocates for its Priorities on ABA Lobby Day

governmental relations

The leadership of the New York State Bar Association and the association’s Government Relations team met with key members of the New York Congressional Delegation as part of the annual American Bar Association lobby day on April 21.

Participating were NYSBA President Scott M. Karson, President-Elect T. Andrew Brown, Secretary and President-Elect Designate Sherry Levin Wallach, Stephen P. Younger, former NYSBA president and current New York state delegate to the ABA; Evan Goldberg, NYSBA Legislative Policy Committee chair; and Hilary Jochmans and Cheyenne Burke of NYSBA’s Government Relations staff.

The group met with Congressmen Andrew Garbarino and Tom Suozzi in addition to senior staff for Congresswoman Kathleen Rice. The NYSBA delegation discussed the association’s 2021 federal priorities including:

§  Providing Greater Student Loan Relief for Attorneys and Non-Attorneys in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Areas:  More than 40 million Americans, mostly people under 35 years of age, have student loan debt.  Covid-19 has exacerbated the financial challenges these individuals face.  While Congress did provide relief, more needs to be done including extending the moratorium on payments, expanding the program to private loans, and providing targeted monetary relief in cases of economic hardship.

§  Funding for Broadband: The pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders left millions of Americans working, educating, and socializing in a virtual world.  It has become abundantly clear that broadband service is an important communications tool that has become vitally necessary for educational purposes and medical care, as well as access to justice.  The pandemic widened the existing digital divide.  Millions of Americans lack access to broadband internet service due to technological or financial barriers.  Appropriate funding is critical to provide access to all areas and populations.

§  Support for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC): LSC is an independent non-profit corporation established by Congress in 1974 and New York’s seven LSC grantees provide critical civil legal aid to low-income Americans.  Additional funding was provided last year as part of pandemic relief, but robust funding is needed to ensure LSC can continue to provide access to justice for those who need assistance.

§  Firearms and Mass Shootings:  The United States has more mass shootings and more casualties from mass shootings than any other developed country in the world.  NYSBA believes lawyers have a special role to play in addressing gun violence in America.  Specific policy requests include enacting universal background checks and extending the time for background checks to be completed before finalizing the sales of a firearm. NYSBA staff met earlier this year with Congressional staff, and the House of Representatives passed measures dealing with these issues in the Spring.  Congress is also expected to take action this year on another NYSBA policy recommendation: banning possession of  ‘ghost guns” – firearms without a serial number.

§  Sealing Records of Criminal Conviction: The criminal justice reform movement has advocated for productive reentry into the social fabric for ex-offenders.  The consequences of criminal convictions are numerous and profound, perpetuating a cycle of unemployment and disenfranchisement that can lead to recidivism.  Federal law should allow those convicted of non-violent federal offenses to petition the court to have records of their convictions sealed.

Several of this year’s priorities resulted from the work of NYSBA’s sections, committees and task forces including the Task Force on Rural Justice, the President’s Committee on Access to Justice and the Task Force on Mass Shootings and Assault Weapons.  NYSBA regularly interacts with members of Congress and their staff on issues of key importance to the association and its members, but these meetings provided an exceptional opportunity for one-on-one meetings with members who are involved in these crucial issues.

Click here for a complete list of NYSBA’s federal priorities.

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