Senator Andrew Gounardes
5 min readFeb 23, 2023

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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 seven of the 2023 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 Seven*

Committees

This week three of my committees met: Higher Education, Judiciary, and Budget & Revenue, which I chair. Here’s a snapshot of what we did:

Higher Education

  • S2208, relates to observance of all religious holidays by institutions within the state university and the city university of New York, and includes the Asian Lunar New Year within the definition of such holidays
  • S3052, makes provisions with respect to student awards, loans and tuition assistance programs. This bill will require the higher education services corporation to make a determination of financial eligibility of a student for financial aid, awards and loans within 60 days from the day of the receipt of the financial aid application.

Judiciary

  • S2631, which creates an electronic statewide searchable database of all eviction proceedings. This bill will help identify trends and can shed light on where, when, and why evictions are happening, so we can better assist keeping people in their homes.
  • S3262, which waives the biennial registration fee for attorneys who are employed in public service.
  • S3280, my legislation to amend the state constitution as it relates to veterans’ preferences for civil service positions. Under my proposed amendment, anyone that has served in the armed forces could receive credits for civil service appointments and promotions. Currently, the constitution provides additional credits for veterans who served during a period of war.

Budget and Revenue

Lastly, I chaired the first meeting of the Budget & Revenue Committee of the 2023 legislative session. As Chairman, my aim is to explore important issues such as the fairness of our tax code, how to spur job growth and social equity, and how to make daily life just a little more affordable for working families across our state in an era of sky-high inflation.

  • S267A, my bill to create a tax credit for employers who assist their employees in paying back their governmental education loans that they received during their time as a student. This bill provides an incentive for employers to help relieve some of their employee’s financial burdens, via governmental loans, while receiving benefits for doing so. This legislation would also open up the job market for those who have governmental loans because they will have an incentive to work for potential companies and organizations that would be willing to pay their loans. Employers could use this as both a recruitment and retention strategy for skilled employees.
  • S57, enacts the “School tax relief (STAR) credit bill of rights and establishes the office of STAR ombudsman to ensure STAR recipients are provided a better understanding of their rebate and their inquiries receive prompt responses. This legislation will ensure that taxpayers entitled to a rebate receive timely responses to their inquiries as well as updated access to information regarding their rebate.

*Budget Hearings*

The Senate and Assembly continued holding joint legislative hearings on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023–24 Executive Budget Proposal. These hearings focus on a programmatic area of the Executive Budget Proposal and are intended to provide the appropriate legislative committees with public input. The hearings were (and will be) available for viewing on the Senate and Assembly websites. For this week we held joint legislative budget hearings on Human Services, Environmental Conservation, Local Governments, and Mental Hygiene.

During the Environmental Conservation hearing I had the opportunity to engage with Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conversation (DEC), on the DEC’s involvement in the Gowanus cleanup and its effects on the future development plan for the area. I expressed community concerns around lack of communication and responsiveness from DEC, emphasizing the need for improvement and better communication. You can watch our exchange below:

2023 Budget Hearing on Environmental Conservation: DEC Must Participate More in Gowanus Cleanup — YouTube

During the Local Government budget hearing, I asked Mayor Eric Adams about the Executive proposal to shift large amounts of MTA operating costs to New York City. Specifically, I inquired about costs totaling half a billion dollars and how it compares to what the city and surrounding localities are currently providing in comparison. The Mayor’s team illustrated that NYC pays about $2.3 billion to the MTA with city residents contributing about 68.5% of all the revenues toward the MTA on top of that. From their standpoint, the Governor is essentially asking the city to pay half a billion dollars more per year to operate the MTA.

*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 the Senate passed important legislation that helped promote diversity in education:

  • S2140A, develops “grow your own” initiatives at school districts, boards of cooperative educational services and higher education institutions to attract underrepresented candidates into the teaching profession.
  • S3385A, establishes a task force on educator diversity in New York state to conduct a study on the state of diversity among educators in New York, and devise strategies to promote better diversity going forward.
  • S1192, establishes the underrepresented teachers of tomorrow teacher recruitment and retention program, which would provide awards designed to attract and retain educators from underrepresented demographics.

Additionally, we voted to pass S4134, the Build Public Renewables Act, a bold proposal that authorizes the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to develop and implement renewable energy projects that will ensure New York State can meet the goals laid out in the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The Build Public Renewables Act empowers NYPA to develop a renewable, reliable, and affordable energy infrastructure that will reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050, and convert 70% of its power generation to renewables by 2030.

Lastly, the Senate held a full floor vote on the nomination of Justice Hector LaSalle to be the next Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. I have great respect for Justice LaSalle, but concluded that he was not the best and appropriate choice to lead our state’s highest court. You can read my full statement here and see my speech on the floor below.

Floor Speech on the Nomination for Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Feb. 15, 2023 — YouTube

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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