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 — providing enough detail without over-sharing. 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 additional 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 second full week of the legislative session, and we were 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 Meetings This Week*

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

On Tuesday, the Labor Committee considered four important pieces of legislation that would add protections for workers in our state and create additional educational opportunities for our students. I voted for all four of them in the committee meeting:

  • S660 — an amendment to New York’s labor law, to prevent discrimination based on an employee’s or a dependent’s reproductive health decision making by their employer by disabling employers’ access to their reproductive health records without written consent.
  • S1721 — an amendment to New York’s workers compensation law, to expand access to information about available services and benefits provided by the Workman’s Compensation Board to non-english speaking injured workers.
  • S839 — an amendment to New York’s labor law that will expand the number of YouthBuild programs in the State. It will provide work training programs to at-risk youth.
  • S1720 — an amendment to New York’s labor law that will require public schools to create and administer programs to prevent workplace violence.

All four of the bills were successfully voted out of the Labor Committee. Three of the bills are now in the Finance Committee. S660 was reported from the Rules Committee and passed the Senate with a vote of 56–6.

On Tuesday, the Higher Education committee considered S1250 and S1889, legislation to provide educational opportunities to many previously disenfranchised New Yorkers.

  • S250 establishes a private student loan refinance task force to allows us to study the impact of loan refinancing on student debt.
  • S1867 promotes volunteer service by higher education students.
  • S1250, also known as the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, extends state financial aid to all students who meet the Tuition Assistance Program requirements and allows all New York students to be open 529 tuition savings accounts, regardless of their immigration status.
  • S1889 combats the current student loan debt crisis by increasing the ceiling on income eligibility for students to receive financial aid awards to $95,000 and increasing the minimum Tuition Assistance Program award from $500 to $1000. I also voted to support these bills in committee.

*Major Bills on the Senate Floor This Week*

This was another remarkable week in Albany. For the second week in a row, the New York State Legislature made bold, historic reforms that will advance New York in the direction that so many have been waiting for. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, we passed a number of bills that would ensure the protection of women’s health rights and expand access to educational opportunities in our State. 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 in the past.

<Tuesday>

On Tuesday, my Democratic colleagues in the State Senate and I achieved yet another historic milestone that was years in the making. Passed on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, New York not only protected women’s reproductive rights, we also passed historic legislation to protect women’s access to health services and information, and to protect employees from discrimination based upon their reproductive choices.

The following bills were passed by the Senate:

  • S240 — ​Enacts the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) that decriminalizes abortion and recognizes that a woman’s right to choose is a health related matter and ensures that women who need access to care are not denied care when it is deemed necessary to protect her life and health. Prior to passing this law, reproductive choice was in jeopardy of being overturned by the Supreme Court.
  • S659A — Enacts the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA). The CCCA will require health insurance companies to include coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptive options, as well as contraceptive counseling, and services. By ensuring that individuals have timely access to contraceptive care and information, the health and welfare of New York State will improve.
  • S660 — Enacts the Boss Bill. The Boss Bill forbids all employers from discriminating against any employee based on the reproductive health decisions made by an employee or his or her dependent.

<Wednesday>

On Wednesday, we passed more historic legislation to expand access to educational opportunities in our state. I was a co-sponsor of all three of these bills and they passed the Senate:

  • S1250 — Enacts the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act. The bill will eliminate financial obstacles to obtaining State financial aid and extend the opportunities for all students to attend institutions of higher education, regardless of their immigration status.
  • S1262 — Enacts the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). The APPR eliminates the mandatory use of state assessments to determine a teacher or principal’s effectiveness.
  • S1889 — Increases the minimum award and raises the ceiling for income eligibility of the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).

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

NYS Senator, District 22.