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.

*The 2021–2022 Legislative Session–Weeks Two and Three*

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.

During these two weeks of session, I sat on the committees for Finance, Insurance, Judiciary, and Higher Education where I voted on several important bills, including several of my own that I hope to see on the Senate floor soon:

  • S2866 provides managerial/confidential employees who retired between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2015 at frozen salary levels due to the recession with a rebate;
  • S6079a requires the welfare management system, and any related state systems, to allow for a gender neutral marker “X”;
  • S6617 requires state employee salaries hired after January 1, 2023 to be paid via direct deposit unless they opt otherwise.

In these committee meetings, we also voted on nominees for several important roles in the State. I had the opportunity to ask some important questions and hear the nominees’ thoughtful responses. I am proud to have voted to approve the following individuals:

  • Adrienne Harris, Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services
  • Chinazo Cunningham, Commissioner of the Office of Addiction Services & Supports
  • Dr. Mary Bassett, Commissioner of the Department of Health
  • Janno Lieber, Chair and CEO of the MTA
  • Elizabeth Velez, Member of the MTA

We also passed 71 bills in the Senate, including S6791a, which increases the weekly maximum unemployment benefit for 2022 and 2023.

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

Budget Hearings

This week, we once again began our annual public budget hearings! As the Chair of the Budget & Revenue Committee and a new member of the Finance Committee, I have pledged to attend every budget hearing to better understand the varying needs of the state.

Public Protection

The public hearing on Public Protection covered many topics from bail reform to reentry services. As always, it is my goal to keep our neighborhoods safe while working towards a fairer justice system. I believe that it is possible to do both, and was excited to learn more about how to make that happen from the people doing the work on the ground every day. I also had the opportunity to ask about prioritizing gun cases.

Elementary and Secondary Education

A huge focus for many of us throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been how we can ensure our children are still getting the education they need. At the Elementary and Secondary Education public hearing, we heard from experts about how schools are working to help the mental health of students, how the City and State can ensure students with disabilities get the services they are owed, and where the State and City education departments are planning on focusing their funding for the coming fiscal year.

Next week, we will be having public hearings on Workforce Development, Housing, Environmental Conservation, and Human Services. You can watch all of the previous budget hearings and the upcoming ones live on the NY Senate Events page here.

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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