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NY Governor Visits Vassar To Tout Women's Equality Act

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Poughkeepsie Wednesday as part of his tour to push his Women’s Equality Act. Meanwhile, a Hudson Valley state Assemblyman is calling on Cuomo to have Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver removed from office following what could be a new development in the Vito Lopez sexual harassment case.

Cuomo spoke at Vassar College, urging the roomful of supporters to make the Women’s Equality Act a reality before the fast approaching end of this year’s legislative session.

According to Cuomo, the Act is a 10-point piece of legislation that would achieve pay equity, stop sexual harassment, prevent pregnancy discrimination in all workplaces, strengthen human trafficking laws and protections for domestic violence victims, and protect a woman’s freedom of choice. It is the latter that has proven highly controversial since Cuomo talked about his women’s equality agenda in his state-of-the-state speech in January. The New York State Catholic Conference is one that opposes what its spokesman has called the Abortion Expansion Act. Cuomo says the voice of opposition is loud and politically powerful, and that the voice of support needs to be louder.

Republican Assemblyman Kieran Lalor, of Fishkill, attended Cuomo’s speech at Vassar. Lalor, who does not support the measure about protecting a woman’s freedom of choice, says the governor should be focusing on something else.

He says the first point in the governor’s 10-point agenda should be removing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver after alleged sexual harassment involving former Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Says Cuomo:

Silver has admitted that not referring initial complaints about his Democratic colleague, Lopez, was a mistake. He also engaged in a then-secret monetary settlement with the victims.

The state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, investigated the matter and released a report in May that was critical of Silver. This week, the Daily News http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/damning-email-suggests-silver-aide-inappropriate-relationship-article-1.1363381 reports that it has obtained an e-mail not referenced in the JCOPE report sent to Assembly lawyers from an attorney representing two Lopez staffers who accused Lopez of groping them, and also suggests that Silver had an inappropriate relationship with a top aide. When asked by reporters for Lohud.com http://statepolitics.lohudblogs.com/2013/06/05/assembly-speaker-sheldon-silver-email-report-is-nonsense/, Silver called the Daily News story “nonsense.”

Following those revelations, Lalor, along with 11 Assembly Republicans, including Assemblyman Steve Katz of Westchester, has written to the U.S. Attorney requesting an investigation.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows 51 percent of New York State voters say Sheldon Silver should step down, and 58 percent they would not want their daughters to be interns in the state Legislature. Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday shows 67 percent of New York State voters support Cuomo's proposal to expand a woman's right to an abortion, allowing late-term abortions when the woman's health is at risk, but her life is not.

Vassar College was a women’s college for more than a century. It became coeducational in 1969. Cuomo’s visit to Vassar to tout his Women’s Equality Agenda followed one earlier in the day to Seneca Falls, the site of the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848.

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