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 the first two weeks of the 2021–2022 Legislative Session.

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.

* The 2021–2022 Legislative Session*

January 1, 2021 marks the beginning of a new legislative session as well as my second term as your Senator. I am honored to have been reelected to continue to represent our community. Some of the priorities I will be focusing on this year are recovering from Covid-19 and bolstering small businesses most affected by the pandemic, reinvesting in and reimaging the role of our City University in a post-Covid economy, continuing our work on pedestrian and street safety, reforming state sexual harassment laws, pushing for comprehensive property tax reform, and of course, supporting our public workers.

*Committee Assignments*

For the 2021–2022 term, I will once again be Chair of the Civil Service and Pensions Committee. I have also been assigned to the following committees: Judiciary, Higher Education, Labor, Consumer Protection, Insurance, and Cities 1.

The Civil Service and Pensions Committee has jurisdiction over anything concerning public employees and retired public employees. This ranges from legislation related to employee benefits to amendments to the Retirement and Social Security Law.

The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over a broad array of matters, including changes to the state constitution, anything that affects our court system, the uniform commercial code, debtor and creditor laws, trusts and estates law, general construction laws, real property laws, and others.

The Higher Education Committee has jurisdiction over matters concerning the licensing of professionals and semi-professionals, as well as anything that affects higher education in the state. As a proud CUNY alum, I’m very excited to serve on this committee.

The Labor Committee has jurisdiction over any issues that deal with the workforce, employer’s liability, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation.

The Consumer Protection Committee has jurisdiction over concerns related to unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent business practices, especially those regarding online conduct that affects consumers.

The Insurance Committee has jurisdiction over all lines of insurance including property/casualty, health, and life.

The Cities 1 Committee has jurisdiction over city laws specific to New York City, such as the NYC Charter, Property Tax Law affecting NYC, and General Business Law relating to NYC.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about the committees and the work we will be focused on during the legislative session, please email my office.

*First Weeks of Session!*

Committee Meetings

Judiciary Committee

On January 11th, we had the first meeting of the Judiciary Committee. During this meeting, I voted in favor of the following measures:

  • S360 allows registered voters to vote by mail without declaring a reason for doing so. I am a co-sponsor on this bill;
  • S514 increases the jurisdiction of NYC Civil Courts for money or property worth $25,000 to $50,000 to remain in line with inflation and help decrease the burden on the NYS Supreme Courts;
  • S515 updates redistricting laws to (1) change the date redistricting plans are due to complete redistricting by the June primaries; (2) remove language that excludes “aliens” from the population count; and (3) include incarcerated individuals in the count for their residences previous to being incarcerated as opposed to where they are currently incarcerated;
  • S517 removes the requirement of a 10-day advance registration to vote. I am a co-sponsor on this bill as well;
  • S528 includes the right to clean air and water and a healthful environment to the NYS Bill of Rights.

You can watch our Judiciary Committee meeting (including a brief appearance by our newest family member, Evan!) here.

Session

Election Reform Bills

We kicked off the 2021 session on Monday, January 1th by doubling down on democracy and passing a series of 10 bills to make it easier and better for New Yorkers to vote:

  • S253 allows absentee voters to have their ballots counted if there are stray marks on the ballot as long as the intent of the voter is clear;
  • S360 authorizes voting by mail for anyone, not just those who have excuses such as being out of the county or disabled;
  • S492 authorizes the Board of Elections to create absentee ballot dropoff locations so voters can drop off their ballots at convenient locations instead of having to mail them in;
  • S517 removes the ten day advance voter registration requirement, allowing voters to cast their ballots as soon as they are registered, without needing to wait ten days;
  • S264 standardizes the deadline for absentee ballot applications to comply with USPS guidelines and assure the timely delivery of applications;
  • S516 establishes clear deadlines for when the board of elections must mail out absentee ballots that have been requested;
  • S631 allows absentee ballot applications to be sent to the board of elections earlier than 30 days before the election;
  • S632 allows registered voters to request absentee ballots electronically and requires the board of elections to count all absentee ballots that are postmarked by the day of the election;
  • S1027 requires boards of elections to begin canvassing received absentee ballots starting 40 days before the election. This allows New York to speed up the process of counting ballots and certify election results sooner;
  • S1028 requires boards of elections to provide a secure website where voters can track their absentee application and ballot.

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

State of the State

This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State address. As anticipated, much of his speech focused on how to safely navigate through the continued COVID-19 pandemic while simultaneously increasing economic activity. I look forward to working with the Governor on his budget plan in the coming months. You can watch all four segments of the State of the State on the Governor’s YouTube page here.

*Looking Forward*

2020 was a hard year for all of us. I am excited and motivated to continue working hard for our neighborhoods to help with the burdens created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as look to the future to pass laws that will positively impact our community beyond the pandemic. I am grateful that you have entrusted me to continue to serve as your State Senator, and can’t wait to continue the work.

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

NYS Senator, District 22.