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-three, the final week of session for 2021!

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 22*

Appointments

This week, we voted on nominations in three of my committees for various positions in government.

In the Judiciary Committee we voted on:

  • 8 nominations for the Court of Claims: Damaris R. Torrent, Esq., Rhonda Ziomada Tomlinson, Esq., Philippe Solages, Esq., Ramon E. Rivera, Esq, Gary Francis Miret, Hon. Linda Kelly Mejias, Hon. Debra L. Givens, and Alicia Gerez.

In the Labor Committee we voted on the nomination of Kenneth R. Theobalds for the Board of the State Insurance Fund, and Sandra Abeles for the Industrial Board of Appeals.

In the Higher Education Committee we voted on:

  • Kisha Santiago-Martinez for the board of the State University Construction Fund;
  • Alan Lee Van Capelle for the board of the CUNY University Construction Fund;
  • For the board of the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, Oluwole McFoy; and
  • Lastly, Andrew Sherman for the board of the Higher Education Services Corporation.

Session

This week, the Senate passed 316 bills, including 12 of my own. Some of these bills are highlighted below:

Supporting New Yorkers with disabilities

  • S7107 identifies Supported Decision-Making as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship and to create additional support and autonomy to individuals needing assistance to make decisions for themselves.
  • S6517 enhances support and services for postsecondary students with disabilities.
  • S1232 ensures that the environmental philosophy and policy which guides the State of New York provides environmental justice for all people.
  • S4150 also known as the “Shepherd Patterson Law” provides potential life saving information to parents and guardians of children with certain medical conditions about their right to request a 504 education designation.
  • S6194B establishes a three-digit, 9–8–8 suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system that will save lives by connecting people experiencing mental health crisis with compassionate, lifesaving, and culturally competent mental health care services.

Improving Voting

  • S4306B require the board of elections to designate at least one early voting polling place for certain counties and to extend voting polling site hours of operation during early voting
  • S4658 provides that election districts shall not be drawn in such a way that they are partly on and partly off a college or university campus or other contiguous college or university property with 300 or more registered voters, excluding inactive voters. It would also require that the poll sites for election districts serving such concentrations of college or university voters shall be on the campus or college or university property, or, at a site approved by the college or university.
  • S7150 makes necessary changes to the state’s redistricting process.
  • S7191 provides that write-in votes in a primary resulting from the filing of an opportunity to ballot petition will only count if the write-in candidate is enrolled in the party holding such primary.

2021 Highlights

In the 2021 Session, I introduced 170 bills. So far, 7 of my bills have been signed by the Governor and have been chaptered, meaning they are now officially state law. I passed 25 other bills in both houses of the legislature that have the potential to be chaptered, and an additional 12 through the Senate. Some of these bills are described below:

Chaptered bills

  • S1295 requires public employers to adopt a pandemic operations plan to protect employees at the worksite.
  • S1304 requires the MTA to develop criteria to determine how to best prioritize subway stations for accessibility.
  • S2588A grants employees four hours of excused leave per injection to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
  • S4681 provides accidental death benefits to the beneficiaries of civil servants who contracted COVID-19 at the worksite.
  • S6065 extends the ability of unions to petition for injunctive relief for improper labor practices during the course of collective bargaining.

Other noteworthy bills I sponsored:

  • The legislature unanimously passed S4350. This bill allows Angelina Liu, conceived after the death of slain NYPD officer Wenjian Liu using his genetic material, to be declared his biological child and receive Social Security benefits for his lost wages.
  • S858 has also passed both houses of the legislature and will soon be considered by the Governor. This bill would close a judge-created loophole in the Labor Law which allowed employers to get away with wage theft.
  • My bill S859A, which has passed the Senate, would require employers to provide newly hired employees with a notice detailing student loan repayment options that may be available to borrowers.
  • S4233A has passed both houses of the legislature and I am looking forward to it being signed by the Governor soon. This bill would establish a presumption that firefighters in New York State who develop Parkinson’s Disease did so as a result of performance of duty.
  • My bill S5870 has passed the Senate. It clarifies that the release of personnel records to undermine or discredit victims of workplace discrimination counts as a retaliatory action under the Human Rights Law.
  • Finally, S6079A, which has also passed the Senate, would provide a gender-neutral marker option for individuals in the welfare management system to allow people to be accurately identified.

Noteworthy bills I cosponsored:

  • S4943 requires the MTA to develop a strategic plan to promote cycling and pedestrian access on MTA bridges, bike parking at MTA subways and commuter rail stations, and bike access on board MTA equipment.
  • S64 passed the Senate and would ensure that homeless, elderly and disabled SNAP recipients are able to use their benefits for hot or prepared meals at participating grocery stores, delis and restaurants
  • S2836 also known as the “HALT Solitary” bill was chaptered and would limit the time an inmate can spend in segregated confinement, end the segregated confinement of vulnerable people, restrict the criteria that can result in such confinement, improve conditions of confinement, and create more humane and effective alternatives to such confinement.
  • S1034b was chaptered and would protect New Yorkers from exposure to airborne infectious diseases by reducing workplace transmission and community spread through enforceable health and safety standards. This bill also permits workplace health and safety committees which allows employers and employees to work together to stop the spread of airborne infectious diseases.
  • S830B was chaptered and would restore voting rights to parolees, post-incarceration to facilitate community reintegration and participation in the civic process, rather than requiring a parolee to wait until he or she has been discharged from parole or reached the maximum expiration date of the underlying sentence.
  • Finally, in order to prevent animal cruelty, S1130 has passed the Senate. This bill would prohibit the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits by retail pet shops.

Thanks for reading! We had a very productive session this year, pushing for as much positive change for our neighborhoods as possible. I look forward to being back in Brooklyn full time and listening to your concerns before returning to Albany in January. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can email me directly at gounardes@nysenate.gov or call my office at 718–238–6044.

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