As part of my community engagement platform, I promised to provide a regular weekly update on what’s happening up in Albany. Here’s last week’s update.

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.

*Verrazzano Bridge Bill*

On Thursday, May 30th, the Senate passed my bill, S4490, bringing it one step closer to becoming law. My bill fights for fair pricing to the Verrazzano Bridge for Brooklynites by allowing Brooklyn residents who drive over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge 10 times or more a month to pay $5.50 per trip with E-ZPass, the same rate that Staten Island residents pay.

*Three for Community*

My Three for Community challenge has a goal of getting 10,000 neighbors to pledge to do three good deeds a week to improve our neighborhood. Don’t know how you can contribute to your neighborhood? Check out my interactive list of examples and ideas here and then take the pledge with me and help us in being a stronger, more vibrant community! For more information, please email community@senatorgounardes.nyc.

*Transit Survey*

Over the past month, I have been visiting subway stations and bus stops across my district to talk to riders about their commutes. The feedback that I have collected will play a crucial role in presenting the MTA with data about the shortcomings of Southern Brooklyn subway and bus service. Share your stories and tell me about your commute using my transit survey.

*SHSAT Forum*

Don’t forget to RSVP for my SHSAT & Diversity Forum taking place on June 7th at IS 201 (8010 12th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11228) from 6:30–8:30PM. The forum will be an open discussion on the state of diversity in our public schools and the SHSAT exam. It will be a great opportunity to hear from you on the Mayor’s proposed changes to the exam and on the exam process itself. Each attendee can speak for up to two minutes at the forum by signing up here.

Last Week in Albany

The week of May 29th to May 30th was the nineteenth week of legislative activity. To see the full schedule of the legislation session, click here.

Committee Meetings This Week

Civil Service And Pensions

I chaired the seventh Civil Service and Pensions Committee meeting on Wednesday, May 29th. Here are some of the highlights of the bills that we passed out of my committee:

  • S3977A — Establishes a lung disease presumption for correction officers, correction supervisors, deputy sheriff patrol and deputy sheriff patrol supervisors employed by the NYS Department of Corrections for purposes of disability claims.
  • S5038 — Authorizes individuals who were previously ineligible to receive the military service credit because they retired before May 31, 2006, to become eligible to receive the credit.
  • S5205 — The bill requires that disciplinary hearings against individual employees shall he held by a hearing officer who is a member of the American Arbitration Association, selected by the mutual agreement of the parties involved.
  • S5455 — Establishes a 25-year retirement plan for fire protection inspectors who are members of the NYC Employees Retirement System.
  • S5676 — Extends the minimum retirement allowance provided to long standing retired members of the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System who retired prior to July 1, 1980 and increase the minimum retirement allowance for all such retirees to $550 per year of New York State service up to a 35 year maximum of $19,250.
  • S5905 — Eliminates the requirement that paraprofessionals (teacher aides, educational associates, auxiliary trainers, bilingual professional assistants, family workers, family associates, and parent program assistants) file an application to become a member of the New York City Teachers Retirements System, making enrollment automatic and mandatory for these paraprofessionals. As a result, paraprofessionals will be treated like all other educators and they will receive a pension commensurate with their years of dedicated service.

You can read more about the bills on the agenda and the committee meeting here.

Codes

The Senate Codes Committee also met on Wednesday, May 29th and considered ten pieces of legislation. Included in the bills was S2171, a bill that redefines the term “physically helpless” in the Penal Law to mean a person who is unconscious or for any other reason physically unable to communicate affirmative consent to an act. You can read more about the bills on the agenda and the committee meeting here.

Corporations, Authorities and Commissions

The Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee convened on Thursday, May 30th in conjunction with the Senate Transportation Committee to consider the nomination of Carolyn Pokorny for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Inspector General. Carolyn is currently serving as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Special Counsel for Public Integrity and has previously dedicated her life to working for the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. I voted in favor of the nomination. You can watch the committee meeting here.

New York City Education

The Senate New York City Education Committee met for the first time this year to consider seven very important pieces of legislation on Thursday, May 30th. I voted in favor of advancing all of the bills out of committee, including my own bill, S2838B, which requires the NYC DOE to provide special meals for students with religious dietary restrictions. My bill requires schools to provide food options that meet the dietary restrictions of students, if twenty-five percent or more of students practicing a religious faith with specific dietary restrictions attend that school. You can read more about the bills on the agenda and the committee meeting here.

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on May 30th marked my fifth committee meeting of the week and we considered a fifteen bill agenda. I voted to support all of the bills in committee and you can read more about them and the meeting here.

Higher Education

The Senate Higher Education Committee also met on May 30th, marking the committee’s eight meeting of the year. The committee agenda included fifteen bills, all of which I voted in favor for, including S3844A, The Ravi Thackurdeen Safe Student Study Abroad Act, which will provide access to safety and mortality data for study abroad programs similar to what the Clery Act provides for at the federal level with regard to on-campus crime and deaths. Another bill on the agenda, S5127, adds athletic trainers to the list of licensed professions and adds a process and policies to the licensing of such professionals. It also adds athletic trainers to the list of persons required to report cases of suspected child abuse or maltreatment.

Labor

My final committee meeting of the week was also on Thursday, May 30th and the Senate Labor Committee considered seven pieces of legislation, all of which I voted to advance out of committee. You can read about the bills on the agenda and watch the committee meeting here.

Day to Day

We had two days of legislative session last week, and we passed four of my bills. Below are some of the highlights of bills that passed during this past week’s legislative session:

<Wednesday>

  • S1674- Establishes the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities to advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities and assure that persons with disabilities are afforded the opportunity to exercise all of the rights and responsibilities accorded to citizens of NY State.
  • S3675- Provides that uniformed court officers and peace officers employed in the unified court system shall be entitled to accidental disability retirement if they sustain injuries as a result of a physical assault by an assailant suffered while in service.
  • S4080B- Requires proper training of persons employed to design, construct, inspect, maintain, alter and repair elevators and other automated people moving conveyances and requires the licensing of individuals involved in elevator projects.

You can watch Wednesday’s legislative session and read more about Wednesday’s agenda here.

<Thursday>

  • S222B- Requires the department of social services to collect, aggregate and report the number of unaccompanied undocumented children that are placed by the federal office of refugee resettlement in the care of an authorized agency.
  • S1627B- Enacts “Harper’s Law” which will require that retailers who sell certain new furniture offer for sale compatible tip restraint devices and post a notice informing consumers of the risk of furniture tipping.
  • S2248- Creates a veterans’ mental health and suicide prevention task force.
  • S3661- Authorizes colleges and universities to seek more affordable textbook options for students.
  • S4339- Ensures that the child welfare housing subsidy program is better able to prevent homelessness and address housing instability for families and youth aging out of foster care.

You can watch Thursday’s legislative session and read more about Thursday’s agenda here.

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

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