Senator Andrew Gounardes
6 min readMay 16, 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 sixteen of the 2023 session.

As always, you can 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 Sixteen*

This week, my colleagues and I rallied with students and advocates for my bill, S4170, the Fair College Admissions Act. This legislation addresses inequitable admissions practices by prohibiting legacy preference and early decision policies at colleges and universities across New York State. With a conservative Supreme Court widely expected to overturn affirmative action in a month’s time, colleges and universities will find themselves in a situation where race cannot be considered in admissions decisions but familial connections can. Legacy and early admissions already disproportionately disadvantage low-and middle-income students, immigrants, first generation college students, and historically underrepresented racial minority groups. By enacting our Fair College Admissions Act to ban these practices, New York can finally achieve a system of college admissions that is open and inclusive to all, and further contributes to the economic success and mobility of all New Yorkers.

Later in the week, I rallied with survivors, advocates, and colleagues in support of my Don’t Silence Survivors Act, S4233. This bill would bar employers from including any non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in any settlement for sexual harassment or discrimination claims. All too often we see those in positions of power make it impossible for survivors of sexual violence to speak out.

Committees

This week the Investigations & Government Operations, Judiciary, Finance, Labor, Higher Education, and Civil Service & Pensions committee met, Here’s a snapshot of what we did:

Investigations & Government Operations:

  • S1682, relates to the packaging of cannabis and industrial hemp products by requiring the cannabis control board to develop strategic plans detailing the packaging and labeling requirements to be used prior to the retail sale of any cannabis or cannabis product.
  • S3256, directs the department of taxation and finance to create and implement an online program which will enable each New York state taxpayer to prepare and electronically file his or her federal and state income tax returns free of charge.
  • S291, establishes a veterans internship program (V.I.P. NY) which awards ten percent of available internships in the assembly youth participation program and the senate student program to eligible honorably discharged veterans.

Judiciary:

  • S968, relates to requiring certain civil court documents be provided to parties in their native language as well as requiring parties to demonstrate their understanding of the nature and effect of such documents.
  • S994, prohibits the admissibility of evidence of a victim’s sexual conduct, sexual predisposition, or manner of dress in civil actions or proceedings with limited exceptions provided.
  • S5515, prohibits an individual convicted of a crime involving elder abuse from inheriting from the elder’s estate as a distributee.

Finance:

  • S2099B, enacts Matthew’s law which provides for the dispensing of drug adulterant testing supplies by health care professionals or pharmacists to any person.
  • S4235, requires state contractors to submit a statement on preventing human trafficking in bids to the state as well as maintain a written policy for preventing human trafficking within its operations, business dealings, and supply chain.
  • S110, requires commercial garages containing electric vehicle charging stations to ensure public access to such charging stations at commercially reasonable rental or fee rates.

Labor:

  • S1860, directs the commissioner of labor to create and distribute to employers written materials regarding mental health services and resources available to employees to be posted in the workplace. This legislation also directs voluntary guidance for employers to put in place strategies and programs to support the mental health and wellness of their employees and provides that such guidance be in written and digital resources and in English or translated to an additional primary language or languages as applicable.
  • S2370, enacts the “New York state YouthBuild act” setting program requirements, authorizing grants to eligible YouthBuild participants, and establishing application requirements.
  • S6635, relates to claims for mental injury premised upon extraordinary work-related stress incurred at work applying this allowance to all workers.

Higher Education:

  • S6585, extends certain tuition waivers for police officer students of the city university of New York to 2026.
  • S5355, requires the SUNY and CUNY boards of trustees to establish a policy for the awarding of posthumous degrees requiring such policy to waive any remaining credits for students who are killed and would otherwise have been eligible for graduation had they been able to complete their academic career.
  • S5914, relates to the automated storage and dispensing of controlled substances using an automated dispensing device at licensed nursing homes, residential health care facilities and hospices.

Civil Service & Pensions:

  • S5876, authorizes the beneficiaries of a member of the state and local employees’ retirement system who dies after filing a retirement application to choose pension benefits rather than a death benefit.
  • S6141, provides additional benefits for certain county correction officers in Suffolk county and provides benefits to retirement system members with credited service in excess of twenty-five years.
  • S6290, relates to the determination of salary base for members of the New York city police pension fund and provides that the salary base for members of the New York city police pension fund whose employment with the police department of the city of New York commenced on or after July 1, 2000 shall be determined in the same manner as members whose employment commenced prior to such date.

*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, bills to strengthen the rights of victims of domestic and sexual violence :

  • S3071, enables prosecutors to access orders of protection issued in association with sealed prior domestic violence cases if the offender commits a new domestic violence offense. This allows prosecutors to charge abusers with criminal contempt if they have violated a past order of protection.
  • S1951, relates to removing the ten year time period from the crime of persistent sexual abuse. This allows individuals to be convicted of a class E felony if one commits multiple sexual abuses outside of a ten year period.
  • S3340, requires extreme risk protection orders to be reported to the statewide computerized registry of orders of protection and certain warrants of arrest.
  • S4686, enacts the “New York State Phoenix Act” which extends the statute of limitations for felony family offenses to ten years and misdemeanor family offenses to five years.
  • S303, increases the amount for awards made to crime victims and specifies certain items of personal property which constitute what is necessary and essential to the welfare of a claimant.
  • S3236, Adds to the definition of a victim of a sexual offense by including a victim of unlawful dissemination or publication of an intimate image.
  • S1901, enacts Emma’s Law which provides for victim statements at the sentencing of a defendant for a misdemeanor.
  • S936, requires statewide housing authorities to grant domestic violence survivors the same preference as granted to other prioritized populations.
  • S214A, expands eligibility for victims and survivors of crime to access victim compensation funds by removing the mandatory law enforcement reporting requirement, providing alternative forms of evidence that would show that a qualifying crime was committed and the confidentiality of certain records.
  • S5502, provides additional rights to crime victims and requires the court or district attorney, either at sentencing or at the earliest time possible, to provide the victims of said crime with an informational sheet explaining their rights.

This package of legislation builds on recent budget wins, where we secured $13 million for State victim and witness assistance, $5 million in grants for assistance to survivors and victims of domestic violence, and $4.5 million for rape crisis centers.

The senate also commemorated Animal Protection Week by passing legislation to further protect animal welfare and strengthen rules around the sale and treatment of pets. These bills continue the Senate’s efforts to elevate the humane treatment and well-being of those who can’t advocate for themselves. Here’s a snapshot of our efforts:

  • S142, restricts the practice of surgical devocalization procedures on dogs and cats to medical necessity.
  • S5325, enacts “Tucker’s law” which removes the provision that provides that any term of imprisonment for a violation of aggravated cruelty to animals may not exceed two years.
  • S6365, relates to the inspection of property that has been vacated for abandoned animals. This legislation requires property owners and lessors to inspect such property within three days and to immediately notify the appropriate authorities when such person finds an animal which appears to be abandoned.

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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