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 Three.

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 3*

This week began with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. On this day of reflection, we must focus on how we can help our neighbors. Our team participated in the National Day of Service by launching an initiative to provide PPE care kits for those in need and spearheading an effort to send thank you notes to the hardworking men and women who cleaned up the Capitol after the events of January 6th.

Committee Meetings

Higher Education Committee

On January 19th, we had the first meeting of the Higher Education Committee. During this meeting, I voted in favor of the following measures:

  • S1352 requires certain medical professionals to complete cultural awareness and competence trainings, with the hope of eliminating the disparity in healthcare outcomes for those in at-risk populations such as racial and ethnic minorities, those in the LGBTQ+ community, and many others;
  • S1407 establishes an interagency task force to study health literacy and provide recommendations for increasing health literacy to allow individuals to effectively serve as advocates for themselves;
  • S1519 allows certified optometrists to prescribe certain oral medications to patients;
  • S1520 creates a commission on affordable college education to study the participation of community colleges in Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP) to determine the best way to increase opportunities for students to take advantage of EOPs.

You can watch our Higher Education Committee meeting here.

Consumer Protection Committee

January 19th was also the first meeting of the Consumer Protection Committee. During this meeting, I voted in favor of the following measures:

  • S192 adds commercial vehicles to New York’s Lemon Law, which protects consumers of automobiles against deceitful sales practices and faulty manufacturing by allowing refunds of defective cars;
  • S687 allows only toy guns of certain conspicuous colors, such as bright orange, red, yellow, and pink, to be permissible to decrease the likelihood they are mistaken for real weapons;
  • S1554B aims to protect restaurants by limiting delivery fees that apps such as Grubhub and Postmates can charge restaurants during COVID-19 to 15%;
  • S1630A also aims to protect restaurants by prohibiting apps such as Grubhub and Postmates from listing a restaurant without written agreement with the restaurant.

You can watch the entire Consumer Protection Committee here.

Labor Committee

My final committee meeting of the day on January 19th was the first meeting of the Labor Committee. During this meeting, I voted to advance the following measures:

  • S18A requires the Department of Labor to send informational materials on the unemployment shared work program to employers annually for them to educate their employees;
  • S615, on which I voted aye with reservations, prohibits employers from asking potential or current employees to provide their social media usernames and passwords or otherwise ask for access to their private accounts. I was concerned about some of the language excluding certain types of employees, and will wait for more clarity before voting for this if it comes to the full Senate;
  • S1034 requires private employers adopt policies to prevent exposure to airborne infectious diseases in the workplace, to mirror the requirements for public employers that we passed last year;
  • S1042A changes the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits to be based on weekly earnings as opposed to number of days worked;
  • S1197 prohibits an employer’s unemployment insurance experience ratings to change based on reasons related to COVID-19.

You can watch the full meeting of the Labor Committee here.

Session

The Senate passed 21 bills this week on a number of different issues. I was very proud to vote to pass a legislative package aimed at supporting local businesses. I’ve highlighted some below:

  • Third-Party Restaurant Posting: S1630A prohibits any third party food delivery platform from listing, selling or advertising products of any food service establishment without a written agreement with them.
  • Restricting Third-Party Delivery Fees: S1554B creates a maximum limit for the total fee that can be charged to a food service establishment by a third-party food delivery service (such as Grubhub, Seamless, Postmates, Doordash, etc.)
  • Increased Outreach From DOL on the Shared Work Program: S18A creates a requirement for the Department of Labor to increase their efforts to provide information to employers about shared work program eligibility and have information available on the Department’s website. The shared work program can help reduce layoffs and is fully funded by the federal CARES Act during the pandemic.
  • Freezing Employers Unemployment Insurance Premiums: S1197 freezes New York State’s unemployment insurance experience rating for one year for layoffs and closures that occurred due to COVID-19. This action will prevent significant increases in costs to employers who have experienced higher unemployment rates in 2020.
  • Partial Unemployment Insurance: S1042A establishes a system of partial-unemployment. This would shift the current calculation that any day of work leads to a 25% reduction in benefits, and instead would reduce benefits by an amount proportional with the amount earned. This legislation will help incentivize part-time work by reducing the disincentive that a day of work will lead to a disproportionate reduction of benefits.
  • Other bills focused on housing, included disclosure of disabled tenants’ rights to reasonable accommodations (S867), appointment of members to the affordable housing corporation (S871), and requiring lenders to maintain records and provide notice of rights to borrowers of mortgages (S884);
  • Lastly, bills on economic issues included financial literacy education (S876), and publication and maintenance of a list of available programs to assist small businesses (S889).

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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