By Jessica Bakeman
ALBANY The Senate's Independent Democratic Conference introduced its own women's agenda Sunday, minus the abortion provision but including additional measures to boost women in the workplace.
IDC Leader Jeff Klein introduced the bill Sunday, which will age three days and be ready for a vote on the Senate floor Wednesday. It circumvents Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Women's Equality Act by removing the controversial provision that would strengthen New York's abortion laws.
Klein, who has been an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, has been slammed by women's groups who have pushed him to force a vote on the bill. His four-member breakaway conference shares control of the chamber with Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, and both leaders must agree on which bills come to the floor.
Cuomo has been criticized for refusing to separate the abortion piece from the package, which has scuttled passage of the other nine points. The other measures of the Women's Equality Act have widespread support, addressing pay inequity, sex trafficking and discrimination against women and mothers in housing and employment.
Neither the IDC nor the governor's office could be reached immediately for comment.
Earlier in the session, the IDC introduced its "Working Women's Agenda," which would boost maternity leave, broaden eligibility for child-care subsidies and attack pay inequity in the public sector.
Senate Democrats have called the IDC's plan "a distraction," and Cuomo said he would support it in addition to his 10-point proposal but not in lieu of it.
Andrea Miller, president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York and one of the leading advocates for Cuomo's women's agenda, told Gannett's Albany Bureau Monday that the IDC's move undermines New Yorkers' wish to strengthen the state's abortion laws.
"We are seeing, frankly, a political stunt in the middle of the night that appears to be about creating cover for the IDC with women voters and others across the state who clearly are calling for the governor's 10-point agenda," she said. "These things should not be made mutually exclusive, and it is deeply disturbing the Senator Klein seems to be setting up a conflict where none exists, in the electorate or in the eyes of the public writ large."
NARAL will launch a radio ad attacking Klein, who represents the Bronx and parts of Westchester County, for the legislation later Monday.