On The Issues
Legislation I have Sponsored Includes:
- Fair Pay for Home Care
- Expanded Bottle Bill
- Nursing Home Visitation Rights
- Tenant Dignity and Safe Housing Act
Legislation I have co-sponsored includes:
- The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act
- The Reproductive Health Act
- The Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act
- Early Voting
- Repeal of 50-a to promote police transparency
- Extended Producer Responsibility
- Public Water Justice Act
- Municipal Broadband
- Pollinator-Friendly management of state lands
- A ban on campaign contributions from LLCs
- the Child Victims Act
- Green Light
- Gun Safety
and much more.
Jobs and The Economy
I have supported businesses small and large in Central New York, while also being a strong voice for labor and for training new people to enter the workforce where they are most needed.
Business development: I have helped to steer investment to the Tech Garden business incubator, assisted local manufacturers, restaurants, and retail businesses with grant applications, and supported legislation to attract and enhance new industries like cannabis and green microchip manufacturing. Early in the pandemic, I passed legislation to allow Industrial Development Agencies to give grants and loans to small businesses, which helped many small businesses protect their workers and customers
and avoid closing.
Job development: I have worked closely with federal, state, and local agencies planning for the I-81 transformation, to make sure that employment goes to local workers and that unions and the City of Syracuse have the resources to train the necessary workforce. I’ve collaborated with local higher educational institutions to create training opportunities and pathways to advancement for health care workers and cannabis growers and marketers. And I was instrumental in gaining funding for
redeveloping the empty Central Tech building in Syracuse into a county-wide high school for the arts and STEM disciplines, so that young people from across Onondaga County can pursue Career and Technical Education in cutting-edge fields.
The accelerating climate crisis has brought a host of new challenges as well as some real opportunities to our region. The Climate and Community Protection Act that I helped draft in 2019 has put New York at the forefront of finding and implementing solutions to address the crisis, while prioritizing the communities that have borne the brunt of environmental degradation. The state is giving municipalities, farmers, businesses, and individuals new tools and resources to allow a transition from fossil fuels toward green energy and from an economy of waste to one of efficiency.
I am focused on:
- Protecting our precious fresh water from privatization and pollution, while managing watersheds to minimize flooding and harmful algal blooms
- Helping farmers manage soils for greater resiliency and combine agricultural production with green energy production to maximize productivity and income
- Urban and regional planning to minimize heat and air pollution in low-income neighborhoods and maximize transit mobility and access
- Reducing waste and taking the burden off local taxpayers for recycling and disposal, through an expanded bottle bill and “extended producer responsibility” legislation
- Expanding habitat for crucial pollinators
I was honored with Environmental Advocate’s 2020 Legislator of Year award and named to the US EPA’s Local Government Advisory Council in 2021.
As was made abundantly clear by the pandemic, New Yorkers need reliable, universal, and
affordable health care. The best way to achieve that is through a single-payer system like the
New York Health Act. We have experienced a trial run of this system in the form of free COVID
vaccinations and tests. When we make preventive measures like these available to all, and
when we keep people with serious medical issues out of medical bankruptcy, society as a whole
benefits from better public health, less poverty, and higher life expectancies. While advocating
to reach that goal, Senator May has supported or sponsored significant policies to improve
health care in New York, including:
- Lowering the cost of insulin
- Making Medicare benefits available to more New Yorkers
- Addressing disparities in maternal health outcomes
Abortion is health care. Senator May strongly supported the Reproductive Health Act and Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act, and she was a leader in getting the legislature to vote for additional abortion protections and the Equal Rights Amendment after the Supreme Court’s retrograde ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade.
As Chair of the Committee on Aging, Senator May has focused on improving the long-term care system in the state. She fought hard with the previous Administration to allow visitors back into nursing homes after the initial pandemic shutdown. She has sponsored or co-sponsored bills and advocated for funding for:
- Raising pay for home care workers so that they have a living wage and so that more people will choose this line of work and help our seniors age at home
- Better oversight of nursing homes
- Safe staffing levels in nursing homes
- Recruitment and training of more nurses, CNAs and home care workers
- A tax credit for family care givers
- A task force to reimagine the long-term care system
- Work on a Master Plan for Aging that includes more accessible neighborhoods and support systems outside of institutional care
Supporting Rural Communities
In 2022, I was named Leader of the Year by the Rural Schools Association and Rural Health Champion in 2021 by the New York Association for Rural Health. My district is unusual in that it contains one of the big-five cities in New York and one of its most rural agricultural counties. Although the outlines are different, the new 48th district retains this unique geographical diversity. As Chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, I have worked to bring attention to the concerns
of rural communities and succeeded in passing significant legislation and budgetary
support for these communities.
Some achievements include:
• A major investment in rural broadband expansion, including enhanced opportunities
for municipal or public broadband development
• Protections for residents of manufactured homes from predatory landlords
• Support for rural health care, including air ambulance services and protecting Medicaid coverage of rural medical transportation.
Democracy and Ethics Reform
American democracy is under threat. Republicans and their allies across the country are trying to overturn fair elections, call into question basic voting procedures, severely limit voting rights and punish people for exercising their rights. We are seeing threats to the safety of elections workers and many, many candidates who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election and
pledge to overturn or undermine future elections.
New York has taken major steps to strengthen democracy under the Democratic majority. This was a main reason why Rachel ran for office in 2018, and she has been a strong supporter of significant legislation like Early Voting, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and numerous efforts to make it easier to vote, easier to know your vote has been counted, and easier to understand the choices on the ballot. She has also Sponsored and supported legislation for greater transparency in elections and in government in general, better vetting and training of elections officials, and reforming the state’s ethics watchdog organization.
New York’s Constitution demands that the Legislature provide for a “sound basic education” for all students in the state. New York was failing in that responsibility until the Democratic Majority turned things around in 2020. The last two budgets have made significant investments in funding the formula for state aid to schools. Rachel will fight in 2023 for the final installment
of that funding, as well as for a principled revision of the formula to account for new realities in communities across the state, including smaller cities like Auburn and some rural communities that currently receive inadequate funding for their needs.
Rachel has also secured funding for a new STEAM school in Syracuse, the first county-wide school and only school of the arts in the region. And her advocacy led to an important investment in public schools on Native American lands in the state, including the Onondaga Nation School, which had suffered from years of neglect and disinvestment.
With her background in higher education, Rachel has also been a champion for the state’s colleges and universities, advocating to close the gap between TAP awards and the actual cost of attending college, supporting On Point for College and other efforts to help first generation college students succeed, and promoting agricultural education across the state.
Standing Up for Syracuse
Upstate cities were neglected for decades by state policy makers. Democrats tended to focus on NYC, and Republicans tended to focus on suburban and rural areas upstate. Senator May’s relentless advocacy for Syracuse and other upstate cities has been a key factor in changing that dynamic. She has brought most of her downstate colleagues to the region to learn about the specific issues we face. In fact, the Senate created a new standing committee on upstate cities as a result of her advocacy.
Some of the other results of her efforts include:
- Legislation to prevent the siting of schools adjacent to major highways (SIGH Act)
- Legislation to allow tenants recourse when landlords fail to address serious problems (Tenant Dignity and Safe Housing Act)
- Legislation to give tenants the right to legal representation in eviction proceedings (Statewide Right to Counsel)
- State investments in Syracuse Build, in gun violence interruption efforts, in the Tech Garden business incubator, and in city parks and critical infrastructure
Revitalizing Syracuse’s I-81 Corridor
Interstate 81 covers 846 miles from Tennessee to New York, and Syracuse is the only place along its entire route where the highway cuts through the center of a city. The original construction of the viaduct, which was opposed by the city at the time, destroyed the old, vibrant, predominantly African-American 15th Ward. It resulted in fifty years of racial segregation, concentrated poverty, and reduced quality of life in the area. With the end of its useful life approaching, we finally have an opportunity to restore that central corridor in Syracuse as a hub of mixed-use development that can serve long-time residents and welcome new entrepreneurs.
I support the “community grid” option that would keep traffic in the area at street level and create a walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly landscape that is not designed solely to move cars through the city at high speed. I believe, if you design a city for cars, you get cars. If you design it for people, you get people. There are ample alternative routes for through traffic, and there is no substitute for a coherent urban core. Cities around the country are tearing down highways and rejuvenating urban neighborhoods without creating any serious traffic concerns. We can do this; it’s time.
I also have introduced legislation to protect schools from major highways. Right now, too many of our schools, including in Syracuse right near I-81, face major pollution problems from nearby highways that negatively impact the health and learning ability of our students. My legislation would require transportation planners to take schools into account when making major decisions, and engage in better air quality mitigation to protect our kids.