As part of my community engagement platform, I promised to provide a regular weekly update on what’s happening up in Albany. This is an update from weeks thirteen and fourteen.

You can always email me directly at gounardes@nysenate.gov if you have any other questions, ideas, or want more information about what’s happening in Albany or the district.

*Session Week 13*

Committee Meetings

There were no committee meetings this week as we worked on finalizing the budget.

Session

Remember that you can watch sessions live on the NYS Senate website and follow along with session proceedings on the official NY Senate Twitter. Last week we passed 20 bills.

Other Noteworthy Bills

  • S1416 certifies “recovery living residences” for people recovering from substance abuse disorders .
  • S1453B Prevents certains services of residential and small business from being disconnected due to non-payment of overdue charges.

You can see all the bills the Senate has passed so far this year here.

A Note on the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act

Last week, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) was signed by the Governor, legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults. After weighing the costs and benefits of the bill, and negotiations that lasted for several years, I voted in favor of the MRTA. Given the reality that complete prohibition has failed and that many people use marijuana frequently, New Yorkers will be better served by a regulated market where products are laboratory-tested, safe, measured, and labeled.

What the bill does:

  • New York will allow a variety of different cannabis licenses, with different ones available for growers, processors, distributors and retail sites.
  • Create thousands of jobs and bring in much needed, sustainable revenue to NYS. The projected marijuana tax revenue once the bill is implemented — estimated to be $350 million a year — will be split between grants for communities disproportionately affected by prior drug laws; schools and education; and toward drug treatment and education programs.

Important Vehicle & Traffic Law Changes:

Like many of my constituents, I shared a concern for how legalization of recreational marijuana would affect traffic safety. The MRTA took these concerns seriously and incorporated many solutions, including:

  • The bill provides funding for the State to develop accurate saliva tests, with the goal of adopting an accurate saliva test that can detect the recent use of marijuana, which can be used in these situations.
  • This bill will actually provide law enforcement with more ways to identify substance-impaired drivers, including additional training, more Drug Recognition Experts able to identify the mental and physical markers of different substances’ impact on drivers, and a pathway to State approval for a saliva test to positively identify recent marijuana use.

Legalizing and regulating marijuana will create a substantial source of new revenue that can be reinvested productively and will free up law enforcement resources for better use on other priorities. Marijuana is significantly less harmful than other banned substances and, for that matter, legal substances like alcohol. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this new law, please contact our office directly for more information at 718–238–6044.

*Session Week 14*

Budget

This week, we were focused entirely on passing the FY2022 budget. I have outlined some of the key components of the budget:

Higher Education

K-12 Education

Homeowner relief

Tenant relief

Small Businesses

Early Retirement Incentive (ERI) for New York City employees

Revenue

Excluded Worker Fund

Other Key Budget Investments

In addition, the enacted budget rejects all of the Governor’s proposed healthcare cuts, increases state support for human services providers, including entities serving adults with disabilities, provides $3 million for refugee resettlement agencies, fully funds the Nourish New York initiative at $50 million, which will allow New York’s emergency food providers to purchase surplus products from New York farmers and deliver them to those in need, and provides $40 million to support the Arts and Cultural Organization Recovery Grant Program.

You can read more about what is included in the budget, and related bills here.

The Senate is not in session for the next two weeks, so I’ll be seeing you around the neighborhood. Legislative activity resumes the week of April 19th.

Thanks for reading! As always, you can email me directly at gounardes@nysenate.gov or call my office as 718–238–6044.

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