As part of my community engagement platform, I promised to provide a regular weekly update on what’s happening up in Albany. The purpose of this update is to explain the major bills that we voted on in Albany, highlight upcoming issues, and demystify the legislative process overall.

As I gather your feedback, the format of this update may change as I play around with the best way to share this information without over-sharing more than just the top-level highlights. Of course, I’m always more than happy to delve into more detail about specific bills or issues as they come up.

You can always email me directly at gounardes@nysenate.gov if you have any questions, ideas, or want more information about what’s happening in Albany or the District. I’ll try my best to follow up with any comments posted below, but the best and most direct way to contact me is by email.

This is the first full week of the legislative session, and we were only in session for two days this week. To see the full schedule of the legislation session, click here: https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/pdfs/2019_new_york_state_legislative_session_calendar.pdf

*Committee Assignments*

This week, I was assigned to the following committees: Judiciary, Higher Education, Labor, Codes, and Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions. These committee assignments are in addition to the Civil Service and Pensions Committee that I was previously assigned to Chair.

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 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 Codes Committee has jurisdiction over civil and criminal procedures in our court system and civil rights laws.

The Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions Committee has jurisdiction over matters concerning business corporation law, not-for-profit corporation law, partnerships, LLCs, and other legal entities, as well as all public authorities created by the state. Most relevant for our district, this committee has jurisdiction over the M.T.A.

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, you should email me and I’ll gladly send along additional detail.

*Committee Meetings This Week*

Two of my committees met this week: Judiciary and Higher Education.

On Monday, the Judiciary Committee considered two important constitutional amendments that would modernize our election laws, both of which I voted for in the committee meeting:

· S1048 — a constitutional amendment to eliminate the ten-day advance voter registration requirement, which paved the way to authorize same-day voter registration.

· S1049 — a constitutional amendment to allow for no-excuse absentee voting and any voter to request to vote by mail without declaring a reason for doing so.

Amendments to the constitution require passage by two successive legislatures, and then approval through public referendum. That means that these two amendments need to be passed again in the next legislative session (2021–2022) and then put before the public for a vote.

On Monday, the Higher Education committee considered S1046, legislation to prohibit mental health professionals from engaging in “conversion therapy” to try to change the sexual orientation of patients under 18. I also voted to support this bill in committee.

*Major Bills on the Senate Floor This Week*

This was an incredibly powerful first week in Albany. On both Monday and Tuesday, we passed a flurry of bills that modernized our election laws, empowered voters, and extended civil rights protections. For years, these bills were passed by the State Assembly, only to be blocked from even being brought up for debate and a vote in the State Senate.

I also had my first bill passed by the state senate! It was a small technical amendment to a previously passed bill. You can read that bill here: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s1277

<Monday>

On Monday, my Democratic colleagues in the State Senate and I voted on a sweeping election reform package of seven bills that would dramatically expand voting rights in our state and push back on efforts to undermine the democratic process. For decades, our election laws have been some of the worst in the nation. That dubious distinction comes to an end as we go from worst to first in voter empowerment. I was a co-sponsor of each of these bills:

· S1099 — Eliminates the requirement for voters to re-register with the Board of Elections when they change addresses within the state. The BOE will now process change of address automatically.

· S1100 — Allows 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote when they reach 18 years of age. By engaging them earlier in process, they are more likely to become lifelong active voters.

· S1101 — Helps to get money out of politics by closing the much-abused “LLC loophole.” The bill caps contributions from an LLC to a political campaign at $5,000, the same as corporations. Also requires LLCs to disclose the identity of owners and attributes the donation to the underlying individual(s).

· S1102 — Provides for early voting 10 to 2 days prior to an election from 7:00am to 8:00pm during the week (9:00am — 6:00pm weekends and legal holidays). Guarantees you never have to wait more than 30 minutes to cast a vote.

· S1103 — Consolidates federal and state primary dates to reduce number of separate elections, saving the state a considerable amount of money. Also designed to comply with a federal act that gives veterans overseas enough time to vote absentee.

· S1048 — Passes a constitutional amendment to eliminate the ten-day advance voter registration requirement, which paved the way to authorize same-day voter registration. Because this requires a constitutional amendment, it needs to by passed by two successive legislatures and then be approved by public referendum.

· S1049 — Passes a constitutional amendment to allow for no-excuse absentee voting and any voter to request to vote by mail without declaring a reason for doing so. Because this requires a constitutional amendment, it needs to by passed by two successive legislatures and then be approved by public referendum.

<Tuesday>

On Tuesday, we achieved a historic milestone in the Senate: It was the first time in 2762 days — eight years! — that the State Senate allowed an LGBTQ civil rights bill to be debated and voted on the floor. I was a co-sponsor of both of these bills and they passed the Senate:

· S1046 — Prohibits mental health professionals from engaging in “conversion therapy” to try to change the sexual orientation of minors under the age of 18.

· S1047 — Enshrines civil rights protections for transgender individuals into state law in areas of housing, employment, education. Also adds gender identity or expression to the list of protected traits under the state’s hate crimes statute. Prior to this bill, transgender or gender non-conforming individuals could be denied an apartment, fired from a job, or denied service in a restaurant just because of their gender identity.

After we wrapped up session on Tuesday afternoon, I attended Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address and budget presentation. The Governor laid out a budget that has a lot to digest. I’ll be reviewing the proposed budget with my staff and will work with my colleagues in the senate on a fair and equitable budget that helps move our state forward.

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

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NYS Senator, District 22.

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Senator Andrew Gounardes

Senator Andrew Gounardes

NYS Senator, District 22.

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