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 week twenty one.

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 21*

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.

This week, we passed 119 bills, including 6 of my own.

I have highlighted some of these below:

Combating sexual harassment in the workplace

All workers deserve a safe, positive, and dignified experience in their workplace. Victims of harassment who fear losing their job or being penalized for coming forward will now have increased protections and a wider avenue of recourse for discrimination they’ve experienced. I’ve worked to advance legislation that extends coverage under anti-discrimination provisions laid out by the Human Rights Law, and demonstrates that no individual or institution — no matter how powerful — is above the law. It’s our responsibility to listen to those who wish to speak up, and to amplify their voices to ensure that our government ethics are held to the highest standard. I’m proud of the reforms laid out in these bills.

  • My bill S849 will extend the statute of limitations for employment discrimination, including sexual harassment, from three years to six years
  • I also sponsored S3395A, which would clarify who is to be considered an employee of public employers covered under the anti-discrimination provisions laid out by the Human Rights Law . Previous interpretations of “employer” excluded the personal staff of elected officials and judges. This bill would rectify that.
  • S566A raises the statute of limitations to three years for all unlawful discriminatory complaints to be brought to the Division of Human Rights, recognizing that victims need sufficient time to come forward.
  • S738 would reform current Non-Disclosure Agreement laws that financially penalize survivors who speak out about their abuse by prohibiting settlements that require plaintiffs to pay liquidated damages for violating their NDA.
  • S1059A requires anti-sexual harassment training for lobbyists appearing before members of the legislature.
  • S812A establishes a legal hotline for complainants of workplace sexual harassment.
  • S123 creates a statewide campaign for acceptance, inclusion, tolerance and understanding of diversity.

Senior Issues

  • S612B enacted a series of reforms to the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman program and related programs to increase accessibility for residents of nursing homes and residential care facilities.
  • S1065 establishes the elder abuse shelter aftercare demonstration program.
  • S2535A allows individuals who have comparable coverage to a Medicare Part D plan to also be eligible for EPIC if they otherwise qualify.
  • S4216 allows localities to raise the income eligibility limits for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) or Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) program to $55,000 beginning on July 1, 2016.
  • S5196B ensures senior service providers are trained in the detection and reporting of elder abuse by the New York State of Aging in cooperation with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, and the Division of State Police.

Other Noteworthy Bills

  • I also sponsored S4233A, which makes it easier for firefighters with Parkinson’s Disease to get disability retirement benefits.
  • S6964A improves the NYS Joint Commission on Public Ethics by maintaining partisanship by allowing the legislative leader of each conference to make two appointments. It will also remove the requirement that investigations can only begin with votes of at least two members of their own political party appointed by a particular official. Finally, it will allow a simple majority of JCOPE members to vote in favor of appointing or removing an Executive Director.

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

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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