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 nineteen. This week marked the final week of the session calendar. I am proud of the work we accomplished this year, and look forward to continuing to fight for our community.

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.

During our last week of session, we passed an astonishing 522 bills, including a series of packages aimed at improving the lives of New Yorkers. Keep reading for details on some of the bills we passed.

Gun Violence Prevention

On Thursday, June 2nd, the Senate passed a legislative package to strengthen gun safety measures to reduce deadly weapons being placed in the wrong hands. The proposed legislation will update the criminal code to lessen the threat of mass harm and increase security measures to prevent individuals with criminal backgrounds from obtaining guns and ammunition. In the first half of 2022, the United States has already endured over 200 mass shootings with guns being the number one cause of death among children and teenagers. The New York Senate worked to combat this by passing a gun violence prevention package to avoid such tragedies from reoccurring. Some bills in the package include:

  • Establishing New Crimes of Mass Harm: S89B redefines the term to include making a threat of mass harm and aggravated threat of mass harm.
  • Act to Microstamp Ammunition:S4116A mandates semiautomatic pistols manufactured or delivered to any licensed dealer in this state to be capable of microstamping ammunition.
  • Strengthening Background Checks: S4970A creates and imposes restrictive commercial practices and stringent recordkeeping and reporting to prevent gun and ammunition sales to individuals with a criminal record. Additionally, the bill requires firearms recovered by law enforcement to be reported to the criminal gun clearinghouse within 24 hours.

Voting Rights

On Tuesday, May 31st, the Senate majority advanced several bills including the John R. Lewis Voting Rights of New York to enhance voter protections and democracy in New York. Named after the late civil rights activist and American statesman Rep. John R. Lewis, this robust voter protections bill will provide legal recourse for denying or abridging any individual’s right to vote.

  • Act to Penalize Voter Deception and Suppression: S1032 prohibits deceptive practices and the suppression of voters, and increases penalties for those who deceive voters or threaten their right to vote.
  • Establishing the New York Voting and Elections Database: S8202 regulates public data maintained by county and city boards of elections and establishes the New York voting and elections database and institute to maintain a statewide database of voting and election data.
  • Preventing Electronic Interference: S118 establishes the misdemeanor of interfering in the election process by electronic means.

Reproductive Rights

This week, we also passed legislation to protect the right to choose for New Yorkers as well as those who travel to New York from states where their rights to obtain a safe and legal abortion has been revoked. These laws protects the rights of individuals seeking abortion care or gender affirming care in the state of New York and expands the eligibility of the Address Confidentiality Program to safeguard New Yorkers who seek reproductive health care, and directs the Commissioner of Health to study the impact of limited service pregnancy centers. This package of bills protects New Yorker’s reproductive rights and women’s right to choose.

  • Extradition and Discovery Non-Cooperation: S9077 prohibits New York State from cooperating with out-of-state legal cases involving abortion except in limited circumstances. In criminal cases, this bill prohibits New York from extraditing a defendant to another state to face abortion-related charges. In civil cases, this bill restricts s a New York court from honoring a subpoena request from the court of another state if the out-of-state case relates to abortion services legally performed in New York State.
  • Prohibiting Medical Misconduct Charges for Performing Reproductive Health Care: S9079A forbids professional misconduct charges against licensed medical professionals for providing legal abortion and reproductive health services to patients who reside in states where such services are illegal.
  • Protection of Malpractice Coverage: S9080B limits medical malpractice insurers from taking adverse action against a healthcare provider in New York State for performing legal healthcare reproductive services, protecting providers and ensuring that people can safely access abortion and related services in New York State.
  • Address Confidentiality Program: S9384A will expand the eligibility of the Address Confidentiality Program to include reproductive health care services providers, employees, volunteers, patients, or immediate family members of reproductive health care services providers.

Other bills:

Seventeen of my bills were passed this week, including some of my top priorities on speed cameras in NYC, the HEAL Act, and Freelance Isn’t Free Act.

  • S7199A This bill, known as the Hospital Equity and Affordability Legislation (HEAL Act), aims to improve market access and increase transparency of health insurance contracts by banning certain anti-competitive provisions. It also prohibits the use of most-favored-nation provisions and allows insurers to disclose price and quality information regarding negotiated rates and other discounts with health care providers.
  • S8369B “Freelance isn’t Free Bill”- This bill provides for the payment of freelance workers as independent contractors, including requiring written contracts; timely payment of compensation and handling controversies relating to payment, complaint procedures, and penalties.

Additional bills of mine include:

  • S6617A provides that a state employee’s net salary may be deposited directly in a bank to an account in the name of such employee. This legislation authorizes an employee to file a request for an exemption from the requirement to be paid by direct deposit in accordance with rules and regulations promulgated by the Comptroller.
  • S8218 permits a claimant to submit an order determining compensation from the workers’ compensation board as proof of disability for purposes of real property tax exemptions. By updating the list of proofs of disability while retaining all existing requirements for DHE programs, this bill will help disabled homeowners unable to afford sky-high property taxes keep a roof over their heads.
  • S8297A allows the admissibility of testimony that a person reported acts of discrimination to another person in a civil trial under the human rights law, including the contents of such report. Victims would be allowed to submit evidence of a report of discrimination in a civil trial, so long as such report was made before the last adverse action being complained of was taken or promptly thereafter. By explicitly allowing these details as evidence in civil trials, New York can help victims of workplace discrimination seek justice while aligning evidentiary rules in similar criminal and civil cases.
  • S8559 relates to accidental disability retirement for deputy sheriffs by providing that deputy sheriffs shall receive a pension of three-quarters of their final average salary. This legislation will provide the option for employers to provide an accidental disability retirement benefit for deputy sheriffs in the amount of three-quarters of the deputy sheriff’s final average salary. Currently, a deputy sheriff is entitled to an accidental disability retirement of two-thirds of his or her final average salary. This bill will provide parity between deputy sheriffs and a majority of police and paid firefighters throughout New York State.
  • S9119 extends the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) benefit for public employee death benefits until December 31, 2024 by providing accidental death benefits to the statutory beneficiaries of all public employees (state and local) who worked on or after March 1, 2020, contracted COVID-19, and died of COVID-19 on or before December 31, 2024. This bill helps to create certainty for these families by providing them the option of receiving an accidental death benefit from the state and local retirement plans.

Other noteworthy bills:

  • S6453C, the Build Public Renewables Act, enables the New York Power Authority to build new renewable energy generation, storage, and transmission to provide renewable energy to all State owned property. This bill will also require certain New York power authority projects and programs to pay a prevailing wage and utilize project labor agreements.
  • S9462 creates the special joint legislative commission on affordable housing to make recommendations to the legislature on how to preserve and maintain existing affordable housing. Furthermore, this commission will support the development of new affordable housing in the state of New York, strengthen, diversify, and stabilize communities to maximize the impact of private, state, local and federal resources by ensuring long term affordability. This commission will assess the effectiveness of current affordable housing and formulate recommendations for improvements which will be used to provide a roadmap of housing initiatives to prioritize in the upcoming years.
  • S9336 establishes a juvenile justice education task force to address effective coordination and programmatic coherence in the provision of educational opportunities and services to certain students. Establishing a temporary task force to review and study the needs of educational programming will help improve the educational programming across the spectrum of juvenile justice confinement settings and the educational transition of youth post-confinement.
  • S7585 establishes the sanitary retail food store grant program to provide funding to retail food stores that fail inspections to correct deficiencies if such stores are unable to sustain the costs to immediately correct critical deficiencies or would otherwise be unable to stay in operation due to their inability to meet and maintain sanitary standards. This legislation provides sanitary retail food store grants to retail food stores such as; bodegas and delicatessens that can demonstrate they are in food insecurity areas, not turning a high profit, and being the only food stores in the community. This grant would expand access to fresh food in areas with food insecurity; incentivize stores to maintain grade A.
  • S7613 prohibits public officers from compelling subordinates to use their official time to perform activities intended to benefit a private business. This bill will explicitly state all acts in violation of Public Officer Law including officers using their power to make their subordinates “volunteer” for outside projects during work hours. Under this law, supervisors are forbidden to ask their subordinates to use their official time or resources of the state unrelated to the discharge of their duties for the benefit of a private business or for other compensated nongovernmental purposes.
  • S7618 requires social services districts to distribute educational materials pertaining to sexual health, including information on HIV prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis to individuals enrolled in Medicaid. It is critical that we protect the privacy of individuals considered part of high risk populations, as well as every individual’s medical history. Both within Medicaid, and when it comes to informing patients about their options, those administering education campaigns must be mindful to do so in a sensitive, culturally appropriate manner.
  • S7743 permits a retail license for on-premises consumption to prepare and keep drinks containing alcoholic beverages that have been mixed and emulsified inside a sealed PET vessel, having a capacity of not less than a gallon, which are dispensed via pressurized draft system. Currently, NYS Alcohol and Beverage Control Law prohibits the ability to serve beverages meeting higher food safety and sanitation levels. With new advances in technology, the law should be updated. For instance, newer systems where liter bottles of spirits are added to recyclable, tamper proof, airtight kegs with mix to create cocktails, which then, being dispensed by tap, are able to produce many benefits such as the prevention of aerobic bacteria growth and so forth.
  • S8037 prohibits state contracts with contractors who do not provide health insurance which covers supplemental breast cancer screenings. Furthermore, this bill authorizes the comptroller to promulgate any necessary rules and regulations and leverages the contracting power of our government to support women and their families by mandating any contractor wishing to conduct business with the state to provide their employees with health coverage that includes supplemental breast cancer screenings.
  • S8536A aims to ensure that each school, whether they are public or private, possesses at least one non-invasive airway clearing device available for use in the event it is needed. Using an airway clearing device is extremely simple and can be utilized by nearly anyone. Anti-choking devices like this should be made available in all schools, since they are cost effective and life-saving devices.
  • S8861 establishes a specialized health home program for Medicaid-eligible adults with a diagnosis of a neurological, muscular, or neuromuscular condition and a mobility impairment. This bill would provide distinct legislative authority for a program for adults with physical disabilities within the health home framework that can focus on maximizing their function with wheeled mobility, supporting independent living, and reducing the most common risk factors for poor health.

Thanks for reading! I am grateful that you have entrusted me to continue to serve as your State Senator. I hope that I have fulfilled my promise to push for as much positive change for our neighborhoods as possible. I look forward to coming back up to Albany in January to continue the great work that we have done and accomplish even more.

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

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NYS Senator, District 22.

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Senator Andrew Gounardes

Senator Andrew Gounardes

NYS Senator, District 22.

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