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The Capitol View—in review

June 11, 2024

From food insecurity to mothers in government, our public affairs series is leading the conversation

By Leanne Politi

January to June is prime time for The Martin Group’s Public Affairs team in Albany. This is when the New York State legislative session is convened at the Capitol. Lawmakers have six months to pass a state spending plan and address other critical issues before heading back to their districts. During this time, our experienced PA team is supporting a variety of clients from around the state, ensuring their voices are heard and their goals are achieved.

Due to the fast-paced nature of state politics and the news media, our clients’ messages are often delivered in concise, simple sound bites. This is important because we want their intended audiences to be able to easily consume and remember their priorities.

But sometimes, it’s nice to give a little more life to an issue. That’s why the PA team runs The Capitol View, an hour-long discussion with key players in Albany talking about the intricacies of policy and advocacy. The following is a recap of three very successful events held this year.

Mothers in state government

The most highly anticipated and well-attended event was about being a working mother in state government. Through our legislative connections, we invited Assemblymember Mary Beth Walsh, Assemblymember Michaelle Solages, and Business Council of New York State President Heather Mulliganto talk about their experience as moms working in the male-dominated state Capitol.

The number of women entering public office has been steadily rising in recent years. With the increasing representation comes an increase in discussions over policies that benefit women and more attention on the issues. Assemblymember Solages recalled the moment she breastfed her infant daughter on the Assembly floor. She wanted to demonstrate that an infant’s need for nourishment doesn’t revolve around a work schedule, and that accommodations for nursing mothers are needed in every workplace, including the Capitol.

As women, we spent so many generations keeping quiet about very normal things like menopause or maternal mental health. All three women on our panel agreed that bringing light to these issues and taking action is critical to the success of all women and mothers.

Reporters roundtable

No one has a better view of the state Capitol than the members of the Legislative Correspondents Association. They are the journalists covering every gubernatorial and legislative announcement, every advocate rally, every lobbyist gossip mill.

So we got four of them in a room to talk about the negotiations surrounding the State Budget: Nick Reisman of POLITICO, Raga Justin of the Times Union, Rebecca Lewis of City & State, and David Lombardo, host of The Capitol Pressroom.

The conversation reflected on the changing of the old guard to the new; the influence of the legislature’s budget proposals; and the impact an election year has on lawmakers’ productivity. This year, there has been a steady drumbeat of retirement announcements coming out of the state Capitol, from veteran lawmakers to high-level administrative staffers. The loss of experience and wisdom brings up questions of how the politics will change—and who will be the new players to enter the realm—questions that we will wait to see the answers to in the coming months.

Food insecurity

A recent report from Feeding America found that more New Yorkers are dealing with hunger compared to previous years. The statewide food insecurity rate is 13.4%. In the 23-county coverage area for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, one in nine people are struggling to put food on their table.

Providing tens of millions of meals to communities across the state requires a tremendous effort from the charitable food system, local farms, and other nonprofit organizations. We learned about the importance of the state’s Nourish NY program, which provides funding for food banks to purchase fresh food directly from farms. It is a vital resource that has made strides in the fight against hunger.

The top takeaway: Continuing the discussion about hunger is crucial. It takes support on the local, state, and federal levels to combat stigmas surrounding food insecurity, accepting necessary aid, and breaking down barriers between hunger and help.

It may be the end of this year’s “busy season” at the state Capitol, but that doesn’t mean our PA team is taking a break. Now begins the fun work of crafting the next winning advocacy campaigns for 2025 and beyond.

Want to learn more about the work of our Public Affairs team? Click here.

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