Kaplan-led legislation against hate symbols, political ads on public property introduced

Originally published in The Island Now on February 09, 2021.

Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) would prohibit symbols of hate and political advertisements from being displayed on public property and taxpayer-funded equipment in the state.

Kaplan introduced the legislation in the Senate last week in conjunction with state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx/Westchester). Kaplan’s office said the legislation comes after a widely reported incident last year involving the display of a Confederate flag on a fire truck in a parade in Suffolk County, and after a Confederate flag and political flag were displayed in a window at a fire department in Nassau County.

“In the past year, we have seen hatred, anti-Semitism, and hate fueled violence explode across the country, and it takes us all working together, speaking with one voice, to say that hate has no place in our community, and we will fight back against it every step of the way,” Kaplan said.

“We took steps last year to make sure that state property would be free from symbols of hate, but we need to take further action to ensure that all public property and taxpayer-owned equipment are entirely free from hate.”

Last year, Biaggi introduced a bill, later passed and signed into law, to ban the sale and display of symbols of hate on state property and limit their display at the State Fair.

“Our work is not done,” Biaggi said. “I am proud to join Sen. Kaplan in introducing legislation to build on that progress, and ensure all of our government property – including our municipal and local government buildings – are welcoming spaces free from hate.

“Additionally, the display of political advertisement on public property is highly inappropriate, and a misuse of government resources to advance a partisan agenda. It is critical that we also move to bar municipal employees from displaying any political advertising on government property, regardless of what party you affiliate yourself with. I appreciate Senator Kaplan’s partnership on these bills, and look forward to working together to move them forward.”

The legislation introduced by Kaplan will prohibit municipal corporations, towns, cities, villages, fire districts, volunteer fire companies, or police departments from selling or displaying symbols of hate, except when the display is for educational or historical purposes. It will also prohibit any municipal officer or employee, paid or unpaid, from displaying a political advertisement of any kind on a public building, flag pole, monument sign, vehicle, uniform, or other permanent structure except when the display is for educational or historical purposes.

“Government and politics should never mix, and any property owned by the taxpayers should never be used to promote a political candidate, no matter who they are or what party they belong to,” Kaplan said. “It’s time we strengthened our laws to protect our public spaces from these kinds of abuses.“