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Legislators Introduce Travel Ban Bills

Last year, talk of COVID-19 travel bans were all the rage across the country.

As the nation struggles to return to normalcy in its second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York state Legislature has returned to a bit of normalcy with two bills proposing travel bans on state employees to Georgia and Arkansas that have nothing to do with COVID-19.

These travel bans are political in nature.

Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti, D-Port Washington, has introduced A.6969 to suspend all state-related travel to Georgia while Sen. Robert Jackson, D-New York City, has proposed S.6088 to suspend state travel to Arkansas.

Sillitti’s bill would suspend travel to Georgia as long as Act 9 of 2021 is in effect.

“New York state has a long history of supporting voting rights, and has made great improvements over the course of the past several years in relation to expanding voting opportunities for our citizens,” Sillitti wrote in her legislative memorandum. “The State of Georgia should expeditiously repeal their new law to ensure that all citizens are able to exercise their voting rights.”

According to a recent analysis by Politifact, Georgia has offered early in-person voting for more than a decade while New York has offered early voting only for the last two elections; Georgia also has more days of early voting than New York. Georgia has also allowed for no-excuse absentee ballots since 2005; New York has required an excuse for absentee ballots until the 2020 elections, when it changed its rules due to COVID-19. A referendum on no-excuse absentee ballots will be on New York’s election ballot in November. Georgia has also had automatic voter registration since 2016, something that didn’t come to New York until December.

Conversely, New York has the longest voting hours in the nation at 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. while Georgia’s voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. New Yorkers don’t need an ID to apply for an absentee ballot or to vote in person. The new Georgia law requires those applying for an absentee ballot to provide a driver’s license or other form of ID and to vote in person.

Jackson, meanwhile, propooses suspending all unnecessary travel to Arkansas over HB1570, which took effect in early April after the Arkansas state Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The legislation makes Arkansas the first state to ban individuals from undergoing gender reassignment surgery or hormonal treatments until they are 18.

“New York will not stand idly by when states infringe upon people’s rights,” Jackson wrote in his legislative justification. “Arkansas’s Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act strips away the health care and human rights of transgender youth by denying them of their ability to receive gender-affirming health care. The Arkansas law prohibits doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment or surgery to minors. Everyone has the right to seek and acquire the health care that best suits their needs.”

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