Combatting the effects of pollution and climate change on communities, as well as further changes to New York's criminal justice system and education laws are at the top of the agenda for the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus in the new year. 

Caucus lawmakers on Monday released their priorities and policy goals for 2022, a day before Gov. Kathy Hochul is set to release her first budget proposal. The spending plan is expected to pass by the end of March. 

“People of color face unique challenges as they seek to grow their families, become homeowners, or start a small business. Today, the Caucus has presented a blueprint for advancing the equality and prosperity of the communities that we represent," said Assemblymember Michaelle Solages, the caucus chair. "Specifically, we have proposed life-changing policies such as New Deal 4 CUNY, universal pre-k and childcare, and the New York Health Act. All measures that would reinvigorate our economy and provide substantial support to children and families as we maneuver through this pandemic."

The caucus is calling for the enactment of a law setting targets for transitioning New York state to cleaner and more renewable forms of energy. At the same time, the lawmakers want to invest in ways of reversing years of environmental racism while the state is expected to spend heavily on infrastructure in the coming years. 

The agenda also calls for more spending in the education sector meant to aid student outcomes and improve child development while also seeing through a plan that would enable statewide universal pre-kindergarten. 

And the lawmakers want to further address the state's criminal justice laws through ending solitary confinement and make it easier for people in prison, especially those who are older, to gain parole. 

“The moral arc of humanity bends toward justice, but only when moral people rise up and make it so. With this plan of action, the Caucus is taking concrete steps to represent the needs and yearning of the communities they serve," said Jose Saldana, the director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign. "Among the many urgent priorities included within the People’s Budget, we are particularly grateful that they are committed to working to pass the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills. Parole justice is racial justice, in line with the legacy and dream of Dr. King. If we want to live in a society free of racism, where the content of one’s character holds value and families can be reunited, then we must pass these two bills. Recognizing the fierce urgency of now, we must get it done this year.”