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

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 Sixteen*

Rally for HEAL Act

Accessible, quality healthcare is a human right, and yet the skyrocketing hospital prices are robbing New Yorkers. My bill, the Hospital Equity and Affordability Law (HEAL) Act (S7199), 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.

On May 10th, we held a lobby day in Albany to pass HEAL. I stood with advocates from 32BJ SEIU and the Coalition for Affordable Hospital to raise awareness and highlight the need for this bill.

Rally for the Warehouse Workers Protection Act

I am proud to cosponsor the Warehouse Workers Protection Act (S8922), which supports warehouse workers who currently do not have protections from inhumane work quotas and lack workplace ergonomics standards. This bill mandates employers to provide a written description of quotas to which employees are subject and states that employees shall not be required to meet quotas that prevent compliance with meal or rest periods, use of bathroom facilities, or increase the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders. Warehouse companies like Amazon would be forced to disclose their productivity quotas placed to employees and their disciplinary actions if those quotas were not met if they are within reasonable expectation.

On May 10th, New York lawmakers and union leaders came together to demand the state legislature pass these protections for warehouse workers. I was proud to stand with the sponsor of this bill, Senator Ramos, and support the Warehouse Workers Protection Act. As workers are fighting for their rights, it is only right we use our power in Albany to make sure they are protected from unfair working conditions.

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 was a three day session week, and 58 bills were passed including one that I sponsored and eight that I have cosponsored.

  • S5960 is a bill I am cosponsoring. This designates August thirty-first of each year as a day of commemoration to be known as “Overdose Awareness Day”. This will also combat the stigma that surrounds drug-related deaths by honoring those who have suffered at the hands of an overdose related death by bringing awareness to this issue.
  • S4839B is another bill I am cosponsoring. This prohibits the manufacture or sale of cosmetics tested on animals. New York must join with the 30 other countries that have already outlawed animal-testing for cosmetics.
  • S2937 prohibits fuel oil, grade number four in any building or facility in the state on and after July 1, 2027. Fuel number 4 contains high concentrations of contaminants which can lead to a number of health issues for people of all ages. The prohibition would be phased in by the year 2025, which is ample time to accomplish this important environmental change.

You can view the remaining bills the Senate has passed so far this year here.

Committee Meetings

This week, I sat on the committees for Insurance, Labor, Higher Education, Judiciary, Civil Service and Pensions, Finance, and Budget on Revenue of which I am the chair. In these meetings, I voted on a number of important bills, including several of my own that I hope to see on the Senate floor soon.

Budget and Revenue

In the Budget and Revenue committee, thirteen bills were passed including the following:

  • S8140 is another bill I am sponsoring. This establishes a tax deduction for attorney expenses for pro bono representation of sexual harassment, harassment, or discrimination claims.
  • S8033 establishes the “diaper initiative affordability for parents and elderly remedy (DIAPER) act” This bill would ensure that specifically adult and children’s diapers (including disposable) are not subject to this tax by the counties/jurisdictions and follow the state exemption.

Insurance

In the Insurance committee we passed seven bills including the following:

  • S8902 extends certain provisions related to medical malpractice insurers. This bill extends the exemptions from the Risk-based capital (RBC) requirements and from an application for an order or rehabilitation or liquidation until December 31, 2025.
  • S7263 Requires health insurers to provide victims of domestic violence with the option of providing alternative contact information. This legislation allows victims of domestic violence to seek medical and mental health services and to utilize their health insurance to pay for those services without fear that insurance claims, forms, or billing correspondence will be sent to the address of the policyholder, which may be the same address as the alleged abuser.

Labor

In the labor committee, we passed twelve bills including the following:

  • S768 is another bill I am sponsoring. This bill defines temporary total disability as the injured employee’s inability to perform his or her pre-injury employment duties or any modified employment offered by the employer that is consistent with the employee’s disability.
  • S7577B requires employers to provide their employees with valuable information and resources on mental health issues to destigmatize mental health in workplaces. This bill also shows employees that their mental health issues matter and are important and recognized by their employer by providing employees with the proper tools to get the help they need.

Higher Education

In the Higher Education committee, we passed twenty bills including the following:

  • S1352 improves the duality of healthcare in the state of New York by creating a system of cultural competency course work and training that will help healthcare professionals improve their interactions with minority patients.
  • S6592 relates to the registration of new curricula offered by a not-for-profit college or university. Expediting the program approval process will allow institutions to introduce new programs of study quicker to meet needs and demands while remaining competitive in the field of higher education.

Judiciary

In the judiciary committee, we passed fourteen bills including the following:

  • S6812 allows a duly appointed personal representative of the estate of a victim of the September eleventh, two thousand one terrorist attacks to file a claim with the September eleventh victim compensation fund without being in violation of any restriction on the powers granted to the personal representative relating to the filing of a claim. This bill seeks to treat all victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attack and the processing of their claims equally without unnecessary delay.
  • S74A provides for the types of damages that may be awarded to the persons for whose benefit an action for wrongful death is brought. This bill would permit the families of wrongful death victims to receive compensation for their emotional anguish.

Civil Service & Pensions

In the Civil Service & Pensions committee, we passed twenty-three bills including six that I am sponsoring. Here are some of the bills passed within the committee:

  • S8401 is another bill I am sponsoring. This bill provides that certain members of the police and fire retirement system shall have final average salary be calculated as the regular compensation earned during the twelve months of actual service immediately preceding the date of such member’s retirement.
  • S7662A requires employment opportunities to be posted on the department of civil service website. This will enhance access to employment opportunities in the civil service by requiring open positions, examination announcements, and application instructions be posted on a publicly accessible website.

Finance

In the Finance committee, we passed thirty-two bills including the following:

  • S2068 requires police officers to attend annual diversity training seminars. This legislation calls for expanded cultural diversity knowledge and understanding to all members of law enforcement to eliminate corruption and exemplify this type of behavior shall not be tolerated under any means.
  • S6924A establishes a task force on missing women and girls who are black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) to develop policy changes that will work to address the lack of care and concern for missing and murdered BIPOC women and girls with New York state governmental agencies.

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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