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Republicans block reproductive health bills to Senate floor

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Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times The New York State Capitol in Albany, N.Y., where the Legislature holds its sessions, March 13, 2017. Senate Republicans blocked attempts by Democrats to force a vote on two reproductive health bills — one to provide health insurance coverage for contraception and one that would recodify abortion rights.
June 8, 2018 05:38 pm

ALBANY — Democratic candidates for state Senate seats attacked senate Republicans for blocking a vote on two bills — one that provides insurance coverage for contraception and one that would recodify the state’s abortion law under the health code rather than the criminal code.

Senate Republicans unanimously voted Wednesday not to consider the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which is sponsored by Sen. John Bonacic, R-42, who voted against his own bill, and the Reproductive Health Act.

Senate Democrats tried to force the two bills to the floor for a vote by introducing them as amendments to other legislation. The vote was 30 against and 31 in support, a split down the aisle, with Democrats unanimously supporting the bills.

“During session [Wednesday] Senate Republicans did not vote against either bill,” said state Sen. Kathleen Marchione, R-43. “Instead, what we actually voted on was whether or not the Senate Democrats’ hostile amendments were considered germane, meaning were they relevant to the legislation they were attempting to attach the amendments to. We did not vote to accept the Democrats’ hostile amendments.”

State Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46, was not present for the vote. The senator was excused because of a family medical emergency, said Amedore’s spokesperson Eileen Miller.

Amedore’s potential opponent in his re-election race this year Pat Strong, who was unofficially nominated by the Greene County Democratic Committee, called Amedore out for expressing his opposition to the two bills in the past.

“George Amedore has stated that he is ‘pro life, without exceptions,’” Strong said. “This explains why he has done nothing to secure passage of these two important bills and confirms that he is out of step with his district.”

Amedore was unavailable to comment Wednesday due to a medical emergency.

The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act would require health insurance policies to include coverage of all Federal Drug Administration-approved contraceptive drugs, devices and products. The bill has sat in the Senate Insurance Committee since January.

Abortion is legal in the state, but the legality is filed under the state criminal code. The Reproductive Health Act would re-file that legality under the state health code. The Reproductive Health Act was defeated in the Health Committee on May 30.

Republicans have walked a tight rope in recent weeks after Sen. Tom Croci, R-3, was called back to active duty as an officer in the U.S. Navy, which he announced May 2. With Croci’s untimely departure both parties are split with a 31-31 vote for the short time left in session — an advantage Democrats are seeking to leverage.

In the last month, Democrats have tried three times to force a vote on the floor for the two bills — May 30, June 5 and Wednesday. The first two times, Republicans blocked the votes by abruptly closing out session for the rest of the day.

Republicans allowed Wednesday’s vote, but Democrats needed 32 votes for the bills to be considered, because of the rules of the senate chamber. The result could have been changed with support from one Republican or with a vote from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was not present, according to the senate Democratic Conference.

“Senate rules allow for such amendments to be utilized, and ultimately, it is the Democrats’ prerogative to do so,” Marchione said. “At the end of the day, with only seven scheduled days of our 2018 session remaining, what really matters is that senators work together to find common ground and finish the people’s business.”