“I’ll trade you vaccines if you give me drivers licenses”
July 23, 2019 — The repeal of the religious exemption to vaccination may have been intimately tied to the Driver’s Licenses for All “Green Light” bill in behind the scenes Albany vote-swapping. That’s not to say the Green Light bill is the reason why the religious exemption was repealed; not at all.
The reason the religious exemption to vaccination was repealed was because the Democratic Leadership in Albany of Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins and Heastie decided to side with Big Pharma and repeal the exemption. On May 25th at this blog I reported the following:
To me it seems like Democratic Party Leadership in Albany, NY – meaning Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie – may all be aligned and committed to revoking the religious exemption to vaccination ASAP.
But once this decision was made, it is then up to the leader of each chamber to make sure they have all the votes they need to get the bill passed. This is where the Green Light bill may have played a big role. I do not have any “inside” information. I am merely connecting the dots as they logically fall from my estimation: I reserve the right to be wrong in the following analysis. Nevertheless let’s take a look at how all the clues add up:
CLUE #1 – Timing: Green Light passed the Assembly on June 12th – and the very next day the religious exemption to vaccination was repealed.
Why does this matter?
Green Light was a very important bill to almost every Hispanic Democrat in the Assembly, and nearly every one of them voted YES on June 13th to repeal the religious exemption to vaccination. I am hard pressed to find one Hispanic Democrat who voted NO. In addition to this the bill to repeal the religious exemption had some major controversy surrounding it in the Assembly Health Committee. On June 13th, one day after Green LIght was passed in the Assembly, Assemblyman Sayegh voted NO on the repeal bill. That created a 13-13 tie, and should have killed the bill.
However Speaker Heastie was present during the vote, and he called Sayegh over and told him to switch his vote to YES, which Sayegh did. That was the key vote that allowed the bill to go to the Assembly for a floor vote. Had Sayegh not flipped his vote, the religious exemption would not have been repealed.
CLUE #2 – Sayegh was a co-sponsor of Green Light.
Sayegh is brand new in Albany. He hadn’t even yet completed his first session as an elected official, and here comes the most powerful man in his chamber telling him that he just “voted wrong.”
I can only imagine the conversation when Heastie called Sayegh over during his vote in the Health Committee. Green Light at that point had *only* passed the Assembly, and Governor Cuomo was widely reported to be “quietly” lobbying the suburban Democratic Senators to vote no on that bill (so quietly it was headline news).
Even though Green Light had passed the Assembly, it was highly likely the bill would not make it to the Senate floor this session. I can imagine Heastie using this as a carrot to Sayegh. If there was anyone in the Assembly who would have known that the Senate was set to vote on – and pass – Green Light just four days later on June 17th it would be Heastie. In the thesis I am presenting here that June 17th Senate vote on Green Light would not have happened unless or until the religious exemption was repealed. Would freshman Sayegh be willing to take the political heat from Dems saying he killed Green Light?
CLUE #3 – I can’t find one Hispanic Democrat who voted NO to repealing the religious exemption to vaccination.
Isn’t that a little odd?
There were a number of African Americans who voted no. But no Hispanics.
On one level, this isn’t a big shocker.
The Hispanic community in NYC is very compliant when it comes to vaccination. The overwhelming majority of Hispanics in NYC (and I assume NY State as well) believe vaccines are safe and effective and they are thankful to have them. The issue in their neighborhoods is usually more about easy access to vaccines (and medical care in general) rather than vaccine (or medical) choice and freedoms. So the constituents in this community did not come beating down the doors of their representatives begging them to vote NO on repealing the exemption to vaccination.
However to have not even ONE Hispanic Democrat vote NO does kind of stand out. You would think there would be a handful that would have been convinced by the facts presented by Rita Palma, John Gilmore, and the brilliant Dr. Larry Palevsky among others: but no. Not one.
As I said earlier, the Green Light bill was very important to Hispanic Democrats as it directly impacted their constituents. A little less known fact is that the Asian Community in NYC also has a high number of undocumented immigrants, and Green Light was big for them as well. I didn’t have time to closely analyze how Asian Assemblymembers voted, but the few I do know all voted YES to repealing the religious exemption to vaccination and voted YES to Green Light.
CLUE #4 – Hispanic Assemblymembers who cosponsored a bill to *strengthen and standardize* the religious exemption last year not only voted YES to repeal the religious exemption this year, they went as far as to be cosponsors of the repeal bill!
That is an astounding 180 degree turn that defies logic!
To go from cosponsoring a bill that would have standardized and strengthened the religious exemption to vaccination last session, to now sponsoring it’s complete repeal is so nonsensical it begs the question – “What changed?”
I was on the phone with a staffer for a high-profile Hispanic Assemblymember who I have met with face-to-face in the past regarding immigrant rights legislation. I asked for a meeting on the religious exemption to vaccination and was politely told no. Here is a paraphrase of what I was told.
“We’ve received hundreds of calls from all over New York, but we have not gotten even one call from a single constituent in our district.”
I can’t say whether or not that was true, but it certainly could be true. As I said earlier, the Hispanic Community in NY does not have vaccine choice at the top of their list of issues they lobby for.
CLUE #5 – What if Cuomo was campaigning against Green Light to scare Hispanic Assemblymembers into vote-swapping on the religious exemption?
As late as June 6th reports were being published with headlines such as,
“A Powerful Cuomo Ally Is Discouraging Senators From Voting For Drivers Licenses For Undocumented NYers” https://gothamist.com/2019/06/06/green_light_bill_jay_jacobs.php
What if Cuomo was signaling that he may try to stall the Green Light bill in the Senate if the religious exemption repeal didn’t go through the Assembly? When it comes to playing manipulative politics like this, Cuomo is a masterful player. Of all the possibilities as to what game he was playing, this one makes the most sense to me.
Conclusion: I don’t know if anything I’ve laid out here is illegal, and I don’t think any of it is. I believe this is just how business is done in Albany and really in politics in general. This isn’t the most shocking report I’ve ever published, however for me it is helpful to break this type of information down and think about it. I do not blame the Hispanic Assemblymembers who voted to repeal the religious exemption to vaccination. Many of them truly believe they were doing what was best for New York and their constituents. There is plenty of blame to go around. I hope nobody uses this report as a way to gaslight Hispanic Legislators or the Hispanic community in general. I personally support the Green Light Law, and immigrant rights in general. My entire family came to New York through Ellis Island fleeing hard times in search of a better life. However it does truly sadden me that one minority group may feel they have no choice but to sell out another minority group in order to advance the wants and needs of their community (don’t forget, religious & health freedom advocates are a minority group).
HOW DID WE GET TO THIS POINT?!? That is an interesting question, and there is plenty of blame to go around, including on our side of the fence (more on that in a future report).
Fed Up Dem