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The City Bar’s Legislative Advocacy – by Carey R. Dunne

Dozens of New York City Bar Association committees each year prepare reports on legislation or comment letters on pending regulations on the city, state and national level. A substantial number of these committees go beyond drafting reports to meet with legislators and agency officials, or even draft legislation that they then seek to have enacted.

This work is coordinated by our Legislative Director, Maria Cilenti, and our Assistant Director, Elizabeth Kocienda. They are a regular presence in Albany, and the City Bar has had good success advocating for, and occasionally against, legislation. In recent years we have contributed to the drafting of several pieces of legislation and proposed bills in the Trusts and Estates, Lien Law and Art Law areas that were signed into law. Achieving passage of those bills requires far more than just coming up with bill language. Effective sponsors for the bill must be found in each House.  In addition, the committees that draft the legislation must be prepared to work with legislative committee members and staff, and the leadership staff in both Houses, to address any questions that arise at any time during the bill’s progress. They must line up support from other organizations and respond to criticisms from those interests that oppose or question the bill. It requires extensive, long-term involvement in the legislative process, and we very much appreciate those committee members who have given so much time to participate in this process on behalf of the City Bar.

On the city level, over 20 committees contributed to the report we issued in May that presented a wide range of policy issues for consideration by the mayoral candidates. With the election virtually upon us, we will soon have a new mayor transitioning into office, and we plan to reach out to the appropriate members of the transition team and new administration to follow up on those policy issues; in addition, a number of committees will provide further policy input. I am sure many committees will seek to connect with officials of the new government, inviting them to committee meetings and having them speak at programs, to develop an important two-way dialog with those who govern our City.

Nationally, the Association’s business and finance committees continue to issue comment letters and meet with government officials to address the efforts of several agencies to implement Dodd-Frank, the JOBS Act and other recent legislation. Our Immigration and Nationality Law Committee has worked continuously with members of both Houses of Congress to advance meaningful immigration reform, with a focus on providing a right to counsel for those most in need of assistance. Other committees continue to advocate for civil liberties, First Amendment and other federal issues. And twice in the past year we visited Congress with the State Bar Association to impress upon New York’s congressional delegation the harsh effects of the sequester on funding for civil legal services and on the federal courts. Our Federal Courts Committee and the Pro Bono and Legal Services Committees are monitoring developments, as we – and everyone else – await the outcome of the current stalemate in Washington.

You can follow our legislative advocacy on the Legislative Affairs page of our website and on the various committees’ Reports pages, and on the 44th Street Blog on our homepage. If you do, you will see how seriously we take one of our original missions when the City Bar was founded in 1870: “promoting reforms in the law.”

Carey R. Dunne is President of the New York City Bar Association.

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