Smith’s Legislation Assists Minorities And Women
As Chair of the State Senate’s Democratic Conference, State Senator Ada L. Smith knows all too well how difficult it has been – over time – to push meaningful legislation through the Republican-controlled Senate.
Part of her role as Conference Chair involves working on and carrying out Conference policies. In setting the agenda for session and legislative meetings this year, the Conference chose to move forward with a bold vision of being recognized as a real voice in the State Senate. In this first session under new leadership, an innovative way of doing business in Albany has been created.
In fact, on many levels, legislators witnessed an unprecedented cooperative effort during this past session. From agreeing to a responsible budget for our fiscally strapped state to the Conference’s ability to bring real bills to the Senate floor for passage (such as the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act known as SONDA), this year was an example of how much progress can be made when the legislators are determined and united.
"As an African-American woman living in Queens, I understand the challenges women and minority small business entrepreneurs face in attempting to secure equitable tools to build a successful business in New York State," noted Smith.
"I am very pleased to announce that legislation that I sponsored to assist minority and women-owned businesses passed in the Senate and the Assembly, and now awaits the Governor’s signature. My bill, which is commonly referred to as "Article 15-A, extends the current program to 2018. Originally enacted in 1988, Article 15-A was predicated on ensuring that a fair share of state contract dollars are awarded to businesses owned and controlled by minorities and women. In addition, Article 15-A provides equal employment opportunity to minority group members and women on all state contracts and promotes the development of minority and women-owned businesses," said Smith.
New York State spends an estimated $10 billion annually on contracts for goods, services and construction, providing a major market for businesses. Article 15-A ensures that the State continues its policies and programs to improve the participation of minorities and women in state contracts. What’s more, the program certifies businesses as minority and/or women-owned and lists them in a statewide directory distributed to all state agencies and contractors doing business with the state.
Smith continues, "That is why it was imperative that I lobby to make sure that legislation extending this vital program passed this session; as it was due to expire at the end of this year. We took things one step farther. We also passed legislation that adds minority and women-owned businesses to every provision of the state finance law, which will increase participation among local minority and women-owned businesses in the contract application and granting process."
As one of only three African-American female members of the Senate (out of 62 members there are only 11 women in total) she is keenly aware of what has to be done to advance equal opportunity for all New Yorkers. In her role as a State legislator, she has made a deep commitment to the needs of her community and the state. "This legislation is critical to New York’s economic recovery. It’s no secret that our economy has suffered a serious beating, and finding solutions to help overcome this fiscal crisis has been particularly challenging. By giving emerging businesses the tools needed to build and sustain their enterprise, we can ensure their success," said Smith.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has reported that SBA lending to market businesses has substantially increased in New York. In 2002 alone, the SBA approved a combined 1,104 loans for close to $200 million in loans to Asian Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and women. This year participation is even greater. "There’s no question that the desire is there and we need to continue fostering that entrepreneurial spirit," said Smith.
"I am so proud that I can say, through my legislation, I was able to help provide and expand the economic opportunities for minorities and women in New York State. I can only imagine the kinds of wonderful businesses that will open their doors in my neighborhood and around the state because the opportunity is there for them," said Smith.