And we’re back! As you may know, there was no legislative session last week; but this week, the New York State Senate was back in session.

If you have additional questions, issues, or concerns about our work in Albany or in district, you can always email me directly at gounardes@nysenate.gov. 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.

*Southern Brooklyn Pedestrian Safety Task Force*

On February 28th, I held the inaugural meeting of the Southern Brooklyn Pedestrian Safety Task Force to address persistent issues in notoriously dangerous intersections of Brooklyn. Members include representatives from community boards, community education councils, community precinct councils, police precincts, elected officials, and community activists who are focused on street safety. The group is tasked with developing actionable recommendations to create safer roadways; preventing serious crashes and eliminating traffic-related fatalities on our local streets by focusing on four broad concepts: enforcement, education, advocacy, and legislation.

The first meeting generated some great ideas. I’m looking forward to our next, bi-monthly meeting. For more information, please email russell@senatorgounardes.nyc.

*Meanwhile, back in Albany…*

This was the 7th week of legislative activity, and we are now just shy of a 30 days before we have to complete the state budget. Some of this weeks’s highlights include passing legislation to move our election databases into electronic format and criminalizing the distribution of “revenge porn”. To view the full list of bills we passed this legislation session, click here.

State Budget Process

We’ve continued our work on the state budget. Because the scale and scope of the budget is so large, we’ve organized working groups to go over specific sections of the Governor’s proposed budget and work on improvement. I’m on the general/local government, ethics, and elections working group. Our role is to make full recommendations to the rest of our colleagues as we work towards final resolution of the budget by the end of the month. You can read a copy of the Governor’s proposed budget here.

On March 7th, I am hosting a State Budget Town Hall. See the flyer below for more details. Come learn more about the state’s budget process and share your feedback and the priorities you’d like to see funded in this year’s Budget.

*Committee Meetings This Week*

Civil Service and Pensions

On Tuesday, February 26th, I chaired my second Civil Service and Pensions committee meeting. You can watch the committee meeting in its entirety here.

During this committee meeting, we considered four pieces of legislation that help support public sector employees, their families, and retirees. I voted to support all of the bills in committee:

● S2094 — allows for the transfer of past service credit for members in the title of deputy sheriff transferring from the New York state and local employees’ retirement system to the New York state and local police and fire retirement systems

● S3099 — allows step-children to be eligible for additional credits for children of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and paramedics killed in the line of duty on civil service exams.

● S3168A — increases certain special accidental death benefits; increases the special accidental death benefit paid to a widow or widower or the deceased member’s children under the age of eighteen, or if a student, under the age of twenty-three.

● S3659 — allows any Tier 6 member (retirement plan) who is a uniformed court officer or peace officer employed by the Unified Court System to retire without early age reduction upon attaining 30 years of creditable service and age 55. It also reduces the normal retirement age from 63 to 62, and lessens the reductions in benefits for those who retire prior to normal retirement age.

Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions

The Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions Committee met on Tuesday to consider two nominations for the MTA Board: Sarah Feinberg and David Mack. Sarah Feinberg was nominated by Governor Cuomo and had previously served as U.S. Federal Railroad Administrator under President Obama. David Mack was nominated by Governor Cuomo on the recommendation of the Nassau County Executive, Laura Curran, and had previously served on the MTA Board from 1993–2009.

The MTA Board has 17 members. Members are nominated by the Governor, with four recommended by New York City’s mayor and one each by the county executives of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, and Putnam counties (the members representing the latter four cast one collective vote). The Board also has six rotating non-voting seats held by representatives of organized labor and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee (PCAC), which serves as a voice for users of MTA transit and commuter facilities.

In committee, I voted to support to Sarah Feinberg’s nomination based on the strength of her public transportation policy experience. She also committed to visiting southern Brooklyn with me and touring our subway stations, bus lines, and express bus routes. I voted to advance David Mack’s nomination to the full Senate without making a recommendation, because he will represent Nassau County on the MTA Board and unless there is something disqualifying about a candidate nominated by one of the county executives outside of New York City, I will trust that they know what is best for their county’s interests without making my own recommendation.

Labor

On Wednesday, February 27th, the Senate Labor Committee met for the third time this year. I voted to support all of these bills in committee:

● S3062 — grants unemployment benefit eligibility to those who are forced to leave their employment to accompany their spouse during a military reassignment/transfer.

● S3120A — requires employers who provide their employees with an employee-based health insurance plan to disclose their coverage of contraceptives and contraceptive medication to prospective employees, and requires employers to provide at least a 90 day notice when altering, restricting or terminating contraceptive coverage for employees.

● S3394A — requires insurance carriers/companies (including self-insured employers) to notify injured workers who have filed a workers compensation claim when the representative who is handling their case changes or is determined to be no longer needed by that insurance carrier/company within 14 business days of such change.

● S3692A — prohibits employers from requiring prospective, current or former employees from disclosing their wage history as a condition of future employment, promotion or application to a job. The bill also prohibits retaliation for nondisclosure of previous/current wage history and retaliation for the voluntary disclosure of such information.

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee met the same day on Wednesday, February 27th. The committee considered four pieces of legislation, all of which I supported.

● S877A — makes it easier for a healthcare professional to file an affirmation in court instead of requiring an affidavit

● S1887 — requires the summons with notice in a cause of action for personal injury or wrongful death to include a description of what type of remedies the plaintiff seeks .

● S2416 — increases the statute of limitation for civil suits related to injury caused by domestic violence to two years.

● S2949 — requires landlords to mitigate damages if a tenant vacates a premises in violation of the terms of the lease.

Day by Day in the Senate Chamber

<Tuesday>

Tuesday was a busy legislative day, as the State Senate passed eight bills. I voted in favor of all of the following bills:

● S180 — limits the separation of municipal parkland to instances of compelling public need where no other alternative is available and requires that the parkland be replaced if such an instance occurs.

● S1082A — requires driver’s education and defensive driving instructors to include proper behavior when stopped by a law enforcement officer as a part of driving instruction courses.

● S1864 — lowers the tax redemption period for abandoned buildings from two years to one year for properties that have been certified as vacant and abandoned.

● S1877 — grants the Mamaroneck union free school district and the Minisink Valley central school district the authority to establish insurance reserve funds.

● S1913 — allows localities the option of extending the volunteer firefighter and ambulance credit to residents who serve in a neighboring municipality.

● S2069 — authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Markets to aid in the promotion of New York grown farm products for holiday celebrations by providing information about New York growers to vendors who sell such products and to municipalities where vendors sell them on sidewalks, lots, or streets.

● S2145 — directs counties and the city of New York to contact a veterans’ organization to provide for the disposition of the unclaimed remains of a deceased veteran when such veteran has no next of kin or other person designated to provide for the disposition of his or her remains.

● S2494 — prohibits littering on state park lands.

<Wednesday>

On Wednesday, we passed six pieces of legislation focused on election reform, women’s access to hygiene products, recognizing the importance of early child care, and providing breastfeeding mothers an excuse from jury duty.

The following six bills were passed by the Senate:

● A290 — requires feminine hygiene products to be offered for free in charter schools.

● A1044 — 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.

● S508A — authorizes counties to employ computer generated voter registration lists; updates the list of supplies to be delivered to poll sites.

● S546 — raises the election district registrant enrollment from a maximum of 1,150 registrants to 2,000.

● S748 — provides an exemption from jury duty for breastfeeding women; jury duty for breastfeeding mothers would be postponed up to two years.

● S1481 — requires that all employees of programs and organizations providing care to runaway and/or homeless youth complete training providing instruction in issues pertaining to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

<Thursday>

The third and final day of legislative session this week was a big one. We finally took action to criminalize the dissemination of “revenge porn”, something I consider to be a form of sexual assault in the 21st venture. I proudly co-sponsored this bill.

The following seven bills were passed by the Senate:

A976 — clarifies the intent of the legislature that the commissioner of health has broad discretion to place applications before the Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) during the moratorium on licensed home care service agency (LHCSA) approval.

A5981 — makes the act of sharing an intimate image by means of publication or dissemination without the consent of the person in the image, a crime.

S1632A — prohibits the operation of any vehicle, except an emergency vehicle, that is equipped with a device which affects the operation of a traffic control signal.

S2497 — prohibits a child less than ten years of age from being left unattended in a motor vehicle under conditions presenting substantial risk.

S2625 — expands the crimes included in domestic violence to include identity theft, grand larceny and coercion, for purposes of assisting victims.

S2714 —clarifies how local districts will help kinship families by connecting them to information and services.

S3291 — provides for the creation of a drug guide for seniors regarding the drugs commonly used by people over 62 years of age.

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.