From John Gilmore
Autism Action Network
Just when you think things are as bizarre as they can get something happens that moves the goal post. One of the latest political twists is the budding effort to dump Joe Biden as the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. When the New York Times runs editorials entitled, “Democrats, It’s Time to Consider Plan B” those efforts must be taken seriously.
This Action Alert is not about the merits of either Joe Biden, or the 1993 accusation of sexual assault leveled at him by former employee, Tara Reade, that is the ostensible reason for the need for Plan B. It is about who is “Plan B.” And the mostly likely Plan B for the Democrats, at this time, appears to be New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is currently riding high in the polls based on his daily television appearances, as opposed to his dismal real-world performance, on the corona crisis. Cuomo has said he is not interested in running for President this year, but there are many people, some with a great deal of clout in the Democratic Party, who would love to see him replace Biden on the top of the ticket.
The Autism Action Network focuses on issues that impact people dealing with autism and similar developmental disabilities, and vaccine rights. In those policy areas Cuomo has been a disaster for some of the most vulnerable people in New York, and we expect that if he was ever elected President he would replicate on the national level the policies he has implemented as Governor.
Cuomo is responsible for repealing New York’s religious exemption from vaccine mandates to attend school. As late as April in the 2019 legislative session Cuomo appeared to have a hands-off approach on a longstanding bill to repeal New York’s religious exemption, he even questioned the constitutionality of such a move. During the last week of the session, just days before for repeal was passed, Albany insiders said there were insufficient votes to pass the bill, but then on June 12, Merck announced a $48 million development deal in the Albany area, Cuomo suddenly committed his full clout to passing the bill. Deals were cut, arms were twisted, and enough votes were squeezed out of the Assembly to pass the bill. No hearings were held by either House. And in a single day on June 13, the Assembly Health Committee passed the bill (after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie forced a junior member to change his vote when the measured initially failed), the bill passed on the Assembly floor, the Senate Health Committee didn’t even bother to vote on the measure, it went straight to a floor vote held behind doors closed to the public, and Cuomo signed the bill into law 15 minutes after the Senate voted.
Two weeks later implementation of the law began with throwing any not fully vaccinated disabled students out of their summer school programs. Fourteen (14) days. When California passed a similar law, parents were given up to 7 years to make alternate arrangements, in Maine three years.
A few months later, in August, Cuomo rewrote the already stringent regulations and policies for obtaining a medical exemption to a vaccine. Now the only way to get a medical exemption is if a child has already had a documented near-death anaphylactic shock as the result of a previous vaccine. If a doctor believes a vaccine could injure a child there is no mechanism to protect the child. It only exists now as a means to prevent re-injury in limited circumstances. Fortunately, a number of recent court rulings are indicating that Cuomo’s regulation is illegal and could be overturned shortly.
Cuomo has a similarly dismal record on autism and developmental disabilities. Since 2011, when he first assumed office Cuomo, has slashed the budget of the primary state agency in New York that deals with developmental disabilities (Office of People with Developmental Disabilities) by more than 50% while the overall state budget has increased by 35%.
As a result of the cuts disabled students aging out of schools usually have no services of any kind for a year or two. Processing times for new applications for disability services are usually 2 to 3 years now. An application submitted by Assemblyman Tom Abinanti for his disabled son took over a year to process. This is in a state among the top two or three in combined income, sales and property tax burdens.
Cuomo closed the few remaining large residential institutions for people with developmental disabilities but did not replace them with any alternative housing, despite an annual 7% growth rate in the number of adults with development disabilities. Waiting times for adult placements in group homes is now more than 10 years.
Since he came into office the rates of pay for therapists and teachers working in New York’s Early Intervention program for children less the 3 years old has remained the same. In fact, they haven’t got a raise since 1994, but Cuomo gave himself a 40% raise. As a result of the low rates of pay some counties no longer have functioning programs, denying children with autism access to crucial services at the time of life when they can benefit the most from intervention.
Cuomo placed a 2% annual cap on school budgets, which are determined locally, at a time when autism rates among students have increased at an average rate of about 13% per year, resulting in severe pressure on special education budgets which have not been matched by funding from the State.
And, believe it or not, there has been no mechanism to investigate and prosecute crimes committed against residents of group homes and residential schools or facilities since the “New York Justice Center for People with Special Needs,” an agency created by Cuomo in response to a spate of scandals, was ruled un-Constitutional by the Courts in 2017. Cuomo has taken no action to replace or reform the agency to make it Constitutional. And Cuomo has done nothing to correct that for three years. In New York now there is no way, for example, to investigate and prosecute a sexual assault of a resident of a group home. Yet at the same time Cuomo was caught secretly placing convicted sex offenders in group homes for the disabled.
It is hard to imagine a worse record on our issues. But that’s Andrew Cuomo. And he could be the Democrats “Plan B.”