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 Five. There’s no planned legislative session for this week coming up, so my next update will be for the week of February 25th.

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. I’ll always try my best to follow up with any comments posted below, but the best and most direct way to contact me is via email.

This week we were in legislative session for two days. To see the full schedule of the legislation session, click here:

*Special note about this week’s Joint Senate and Assembly Public Hearing on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace*

On February 13th, the state legislature held the first public hearing since 1992 on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.

If the “Me Too” movement has taught us anything, it’s that no matter how noble our intentions, we need to listen more to the experiences and stories of survivors and those who are affected by harassment.

The hearing lasted more than 11 hours. Click here to see my questions to the Department of Labor and click here to see my questions to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

While the public hearing was a pivotal moment, our work on the issue of sexual harassment is far from done. I’m introducing legislation with Assemblywoman Nily Rozic to lower the threshold necessary to prove a claim of sexual harassment under state law. Currently, the law requires a showing of “severe and pervasive” behavior, which is an incredibly high standard. To read our proposal, click here.

State Budget Process

This week, we continued holding joint legislative budget hearings on the Governor’s proposed budget. You can read a copy of the Governor’s proposed budget here.

Every year, the Governor proposes an Executive Budget in January, which becomes the basis of the negotiations and deliberations between the executive and legislative branches. The final budget is due to be approved by the Legislature by March 31st of each year, because the state’s fiscal year begins on April 1st.

I am hosting a State Budget Town Hall on March 7th. See the flyer below for more details. Come learn more about the state’s budget process and tell me what you think we should be prioritizing in this year’s budget.

Committee Meetings This Week

Judiciary

On Monday, February 11th, the Senate Judiciary Committee met and considered four bills. I voted to support all of the bills in committee:

· S482A — extends the rights of victims of assaults on private property to pursue reasonable civil judgements against negligent property owners and pursue criminal charges against the assailant.

· S2072 — proposes an amendment to the Constitution of New York State to establish a constitutional right for New Yorkers to consume clean water, breathe clean air, and will protect New Yorkers’ access to a healthy environment. I am co-sponsoring this bill.

· S2224 — extends the same confidentiality privilege of victims of sexual assault to victims of domestic violence. The bill protects the communications made by victims of domestic violence to employees or volunteers of domestic violence programs (domestic violence advocates) unless the confidentiality is waived by the victim or there exists an imminent threat of danger.

· S2505 — eases the process of retaining a pre-marriage last name as a middle name by amending the marriage license application and the marriage license itself to allow for New Yorkers to change their legal middle name. The bill cuts out the costly and time consuming process that exists currently, when a spouse wants to keep his or her last name as a middle name upon marriage.

Labor

The Senate Committee on Labor met on Tuesday, February 12th and considered four pieces of legislation, all of which I supported; I am also a co-sponsor of S1826A:

· S678 — provides reservists the opportunity to spend time with their spouses while they are on leave from their military deployment.

· S1826A — requires prior notice of relocation of call center jobs from New York to a foreign country; directs the commissioner of labor to maintain a list of employers who move call center jobs and prohibits loans or grants to such employers.

· S3292A — establishes a registry of workplace fatalities to record information pertaining to all incidents under which an employee suffers a fatal injury; requires the filing of 72-hour and 90-day reports pertaining to such workplace fatalities and requires the department of labor to publish such reports on the department’s website.

· S3343A — provides employees with information that they need to identify and report sexual harassment.

Day by Day

<Monday>

On Monday, the following five bills were passed by the Senate:

· S642 — extends the authority of New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association (NYPIUA) to offer broad form coverage from 10 years to 15 years from June 30, 2009 (the NYPIUA provides personal and commercial property insurance to persons unable to obtain coverage in the voluntary market).

  • S1643 — increases the fine for intentionally dumping snow onto handicapped parking places.
  • S1832 — raises the civil jurisdiction limit, so that cases in small claims court can be made up to ten thousand dollars exclusive of interest and costs (the current limit is five thousand dollars).
  • S1978 — establishes the legislative task force on responsible gaming, which will provide recommendations to the New York State Gaming Commission and each Division on issues related to the prevention and treatment of a problem gambling.
  • S2040 — creates a new notice provision for installation of utility transmission facilities to ensure that affected elected officials and ratepayers receive adequate notice of new above-ground transmission lines being installed.

<Tuesday>

On Tuesday, we passed some bills focused on consumer advocacy and transparency by local governments to residents.

The following bills were passed by the Senate:

· S1146 — requires an electronic version of a town clerk’s sign-board on a town website to increase resident knowledge about all town actions that require an official legal notice.

· S1875 — requires proposed Urban Development Corporation (UDC) projects to extend the current ten day window between public notice of a project and public hearing to twenty days.

· S2355 — directs the Department of State and the Public Service Commission to study and report upon the prevalence of the disclosure by public utilities, cable television companies and cellular telephone service providers to credit reporting agencies of late payments and defaults in payment of fees and charges by consumers.

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.