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 Four.

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 6*

I am very excited to announce that this week we passed one of my first bills this session, the “No Wage Theft Loophole Act.” S858 closes a judicially-created loophole that prevents workers from recovering back wages if all, and not some, of their pay was taken from them.for wage theft. My bill ensures that employees are paid what they are owed, no matter what.

Committee Meetings

Civil Service and Pensions

This week, I convened our first Civil Service and Pensions Committee meeting of the new session. We passed several bills, including two of my own.

  • My first bill on the committee agenda this week, S2588A, provides employees with up to four hours of paid leave to go get a COVID-19 vaccination. My hope is to help individuals have greater access to vaccines without worrying about employer retaliation.
  • My second bill, S2866, provides a pension benefit parity payment to managerial or confidential retirees who retired during a wage freeze and did not receive their authorized salary increase.
  • Other bills on the committee agenda relate to enacting the New York State Teleworking Expansion Act (S159), and establishing a temporary task force on variable supplements funds (S2681).

Labor

I voted to pass eight bills through the Labor committee this week:

  • S17A and S4049 make shared work programs more accessible to workers;
  • S2623 and S3623 expand eligibility for unemployment benefits;
  • S2928 closes a family leave loophole by adding “sibling” to the definition of family for purposes of paid family leave;
  • S3291 clarifies that domestic workers working at least 20 hours per week are covered under temporary disability;
  • S3293 ensures that contractors who are debarred for wage payment violations cannot bid on state contracts for another three years;
  • Lastly, S3470 establishes an incentive program to encourage unemployed individuals to enter jobs in healthcare.

Session

Halfway through February, the legislative session is picking up speed. This week, we passed 42 bills, including my own on wage theft (S858).

We also passed bills on:

Fair Housing:

Protections for Students in Higher Education

  • S2291 requires SUNY and CUNY institutions to examine the availability of campus services and resources for veteran students, and S2680A allows SUNY and CUNY institutions to grant academic credit to veterans for skills obtained during their service;
  • S2764 and S2756 standardize TAP allowances for dependent and independent students, respectively and S2767 establishes a private student loan refinance task force;
  • S2778 prohibits employees at SUNY or CUNY institutions from requesting specific details of a student’s immigration status;

Gun Safety

  • The Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act (S13) and the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act (S14) penalizes the manufacturing, sale, or possession of “ghost guns,” which are unregistered or untraceable guns and gun components with no serial numbers, for those who are not registered to do so.

You can see all the bills the Senate has passed so far this year here.

*Budget Hearings*

This past week, we continue to hold hearings on the Governor’s proposed budget. I participated in the Public Protection (watch here) and Local Government Officials/General Government (watch here) hearings about issues facing our district. All of the budget hearings from this year can be found on the NY Senate Events page here.

Our next week of legislative activity will resume February 22.

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

NYS Senator, District 22.