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 weeks one and two of the 2023 session. The first week was memorable because of my swearing-in ceremony. The second week was significant because of Gov. Hochul’s State of the State address and the start of the 2023 legislative session.

As always, 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 One*

Session

Remember that you can watch sessions live on the NYS Senate website and follow along with session proceedings on the official NY Senate Twitter.

This week we were in session for two days and passed a series of important bills concerning voting rights and board of election reform:

  • S587 relates to mandatory training curriculum for poll workers; requires the state board of elections to develop and provide to each county materials for a model poll worker training program which the counties may use to train individuals to serve as poll workers in state and county elections.
  • S.617 relates to mandatory training curriculum for election commissioners and key staff of boards of elections.
  • S.619 restructures the exercise of powers and duties of the New York City Board of Elections and its executive management. The bill reduces the NYCBOE size from 10 to 2 commissioners and concentrates authority in an Executive Director selected after a nationwide search. The bill also requires that staff hired and promoted by the NYCBOE be qualified to carry out their duties.
  • S.657 regulates public data maintained by county and city boards of elections; establishes the New York voting and elections database and institute to maintain a statewide database of voting and election data.

Governor Hochul’s State of the State

Last week, Governor Hochul unveiled her priorities for the 2023 legislative year. There are some big changes on the table for Brooklyn and for our state, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in government to improve and deliver upon her agenda. The reality is that New Yorkers are feeling a pinch in their pockets. As State representatives, we must do everything we can to make families’ basic needs more financially accessible: healthcare, college, childcare, housing, and more.

It’s painfully obvious that our city and our state’s housing ecosystem is on the brink, and I’m encouraged to hear about Governor Hochul’s ambitious goal to build 800,000 new homes across New York State. As the Governor continues to share details of her investment into housing access, I hope to see robust discussion around tenant protections, property tax reform, and responsible incentivization for development as part of her plans.

The MTA is poised atop a financial precipice: it is our responsibility as State legislators to ensure it returns to sound financial health. This speech was a missed opportunity to adequately address its funding needs, and commit to a robust plan to ensure the MTA is able to fully realize its potential in the coming years. I was disappointed to not see more policy regarding our public transit, as well as disappointed to see that no mention was made of de-carbonization in the Governor’s plans for the MTA.

After the economic impacts of the COVID crisis, the rising costs of living, and the federal government’s failure to renew the incredibly successful expanded child tax credit, millions of New York’s working families continue to struggle to meet basic costs. I am encouraged to see her commitment to a minimum wage tied to inflation across New York State laid out in her vision, which will certainly help working families, but I am disappointed that the Governor did not take steps to invest in an expanded, revamped child tax credit to counter federal inaction, such as my New York State Working Families Tax Credit legislation.

While I was glad to hear of the Governor’s commitment to keeping tuition low-cost and stable for in-state residents, I am deeply opposed to any tuition increases for CUNY and SUNY. Our City University is an economic engine that is the pathway to a world class higher education for hundreds of thousands of working- and middle-class New Yorkers, if only we are willing to invest in it. I remain committed to fighting for the New Deal that CUNY deserves.

Further, there are some big changes on the table for Brooklyn in particular — most notably, the light rail Interborough Express, which will span 14 miles from Bay Ridge to Jackson Heights. The robust outer borough connections across 17 subway lines that the Interborough will afford holds great promise to transform access for many neighborhoods that lack meaningful transit connections, and I am eager to continue working in partnership with the Governor and our community partners to see it through.

Regarding street safety, the Governor’s inclusion of Sammy’s Law today was very welcome news. We know that common-sense measures like lowering speed limits work to combat reckless driving in New York City, and I appreciate the Governor’s recognition of this measure. Additionally, the Governor’s direction to the Department of Motor Vehicles to enact stronger penalties for dangerous drivers has the power to significantly make our streets safer. Increasing the number of points associated with dangerous driving, decreasing the threshold at which drivers are disqualified from holding a license, and lowering the bar for permanent license loss for repeated violations — all of which are actions suggested by the Governor today — could save hundreds of lives each year, and would be crucial in achieving Vision Zero, once and for all.

The direction given to the MTA to install Automated Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) cameras on 900 buses is also welcome news. Millions of New Yorkers rely on buses to get them to work, school, and family commitments every single day. We must ensure that our city’s buses are reliable and timely, and installing ABLE cameras is a strong step forward here.

I am also encouraged to hear the Governor recognize that, as I wrote in my own bill, New York’s Paid Family Leave law must be extended to State employees. Adequate paid family leave is crucial for families’ mental, physical, and financial health, but for far too many working families across our state, financial struggles continue long past their child’s infancy. We must do more to address the rising indicators of child poverty across our state.

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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