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 Weeks 5 and 6 of the 2023 session.
As always, you can always email me directly at email@example.com if you have any other questions, ideas, or want more information about what’s happening in Albany or the district.
*Session Week Five*
This week three of my committees met: Judiciary, Higher Education and Labor. We passed important legislation relating to tenant protections, hate crimes, and paid family leave. Highlights include:
- S14 — my legislation to prohibit “do not darken” clauses in settlement agreements for cases of workplace harassment or discrimination. All too often, as a condition of settling a harassment or discrimination claim, an employer will ban an employee or contractor from ever applying for or working with that company ever again, which is often meant to silence and intimidate victims from pursuing justice.
- S286, requires court approval before the termination of, or failure to renew, a lease for tenants in rental buildings where substantially all of the lessees or tenants occupying such units are sixty-five years of age or older and/or are persons with disabilities.
Higher Education Committee
- S447A, allows for at least one-third of required clinical training and competency for licensing as a registered professional nurse, licensed practical nurse, and nurse practitioner to be completed through simulation experience, as long as such simulation experience has been approved by the department of education prior to January 1, 2023.
- S2060, relates to hate crime reporting on college campuses; requires colleges to post campus crime statistics on their website; requires colleges to implement a plan to provide investigation of hate crimes on campus; requires colleges to inform incoming students about hate crime prevention measures.
- S1209, allows parents and legal guardians to work from home; allows flexible working arrangements during a public health emergency or state or local disaster emergency which closes schools or day care centers; defines terms; creates a rebuttable presumption that an employee can work remotely if such employee has done so for two consecutive pay periods or two weeks; creates a civil penalty for violations.
- S2175, amends the workers’ compensation law to include the birth of a stillborn child as a qualifying condition for family leave in New York State. I cosponsor this legislation.
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 regarding limousine safety, as well as an amendment to a hospital spending bill that I passed last year:
- S1330, an amendment to my HEAL Act which passed last year. This amendment makes some useful technical corrections by including the new transparency requirements in additional sections of law. With the passage of HEAL, entities like self-insured plans that contract with third-party administrators for provider networks will be able to obtain and publicly share actual claims costs. This will allow for the disclosure of actual hospital prices and other health care prices by and between self-insured plans and other groups who are committed to containing ever-increasing health care costs.
- S1371, improves the Safe Limo safety rating system to line it up more closely with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER system and compare three years’ worth of data.
- S1367, requires pre-trip safety briefings by drivers of stretch limousines, similar to those administered for airline passengers or other commercial rides; directs the commissioner of DMV to establish content for safety briefings to be made to passengers and requires drivers to demonstrate proficiency in providing briefings.
- S1442, relates to additional equipment requirements for stretch limousines; requires that stretch limousines are equipped with the necessary quantity of window break tools and operational fire extinguishers, and have them incorporated into the inspection process.
This week was also significant because on February 1st Governor Hochul unveiled her budget for the 2023 legislative year. My top priority in the budget this year remains increasing affordability for working families. New Yorkers are feeling a pinch in their pockets and we must do everything we can to make families’ basic needs more financially accessible: healthcare, college, childcare, housing, and more.
Budgets are a reflection of our state’s values, and as such I am pleased to see a commitment to indexing the minimum wage to inflation, investing in child care, increasing access to mental health services, and tackling the climate crisis. But we need this budget to more fully recognize the plight of hardworking families with an enhanced state-wide child tax credit, like my New York State Working Families Tax Credit, as well as increase the minimum wage. I’m also concerned with the proposed tuition increases for SUNY and CUNY students: another hurdle in making college affordable and accessible to all.
The MTA is the lifeblood of our city, and I appreciate Governor Hochul’s recognition that the economic engine of New York City and its surrounding suburbs cannot function without a reliable mass transit system. The one-time $300 million infusion, the push for the MTA to find internal cost-cutting measures, and dedicated funding streams are good places to begin, but we need more to improve and enhance service.
As many New Yorkers know, our city has welcomed in over 43,000 asylum seekers and immigrants in the past year. I am pleased that the state will invest in the response to assist these new New Yorkers, as our city, local community organizing efforts, and small nonprofits are currently bearing too much of the associated costs.
I look forward to working with the Governor, my colleagues, and our community to ensure our state’s $227b budget reflects these needs, and to continue building a New York that is fairer, and more affordable — where all truly have the opportunity to thrive.
*Session Week Six*
This week two of my committees met: Civil Service and Pensions and Investigations and Governmental Operations Committees. We passed a number of bills through both committees, including:
Civil Service and Pension Committee
- S1118, allows for NYS Teacher Retirement Systems retirees to change their retirement plan beneficiary to a spouse at any time either prior to or after retirement.
- S1991, relates to establishing a twenty year retirement plan for members or officers of law enforcement; includes every non-seasonally appointed sworn member or officer of the division of law enforcement in the department of environmental conservation, a forest ranger in the service of the department of environmental conservation, a police officer in the department of environmental conservation, the regional state park police, and university police officers in such twenty year plan.
Investigations and Governmental Operations Committee
- S532, authorizes the commissioner of human rights to enforce provisions relating to real estate brokers and unlawful discriminatory practices; awards compensatory damages to the aggrieved person; assesses a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest; makes related provisions. This bill aims to deter violations of the Human Rights Law in relation to fair housing by increasing penalties related to claims brought by the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights as well as those brought by the Attorney General in relation to patterns and practices of discriminatory conduct.
This week the Senate and Assembly started joint legislative hearings on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023–24 Executive Budget Proposal. These hearings, 13 in total, each of which focuses on a programmatic area of the Executive Budget Proposal, are intended to provide the appropriate legislative committees with public input. The hearings were (and will be) available for viewing on the Senate and Assembly websites.
This week we had joint legislative budget hearings on Transportation, Public Protection, Elementary and Secondary Education, Economic Development, and Taxes. During the Transportation hearing, I pressed State DOT Commissioner Dominguez on the need for her agency to be at the table as part of the community engagement and planning process for the future of the BQE. Check out my comments below.
As Chairman of the Budget and Revenue Committee, I also asked Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Amanda Hiller about how the tax system can and should be used to deliver relief to those who need it the most. We spoke at length about my Working Families Tax Credit, S277, which is estimated to reduce childhood poverty by more than 19% statewide by providing a no-strings-attached, fully refunded tax credit up to $1,500 four times throughout the year for families with children. It is my firm belief as Chairman of the committee overseeing state tax policy that bills such as the Working Families Tax Credit represent a critical shift in how we must be thinking about our state tax code — as not merely a means to calculate how much money individuals and businesses owe the state, but as an active policy vehicle for social good and economic equity.
This week the Senate also passed important legislation to boost small businesses and minority- and women-owned business enterprises:
- S1424, directs state agencies to develop a growth plan in order to increase participation of minority- and women-owned businesses with respect to state contracts and subcontracts. This bill increases minority- and women-owned business enterprise participation in state contracts by requiring state agencies to develop a three-year growth plan.
- S702, relates to assistance for certain small businesses by expanding the eligibility of the urban development corporation act to allow dry cleaning businesses and appearance enhancement businesses , such as nail salons, to make capital improvements through grants and flexible financing programs.
- S1862, establishes the New York state innovation voucher program; provides small businesses with access to research and development by colleges and universities, government laboratories and public research institutes in order to assist such businesses in the creation of innovative products or services. Under the program, Innovation Vouchers would go directly to small businesses, to provide dollar-for-dollar matching funds to acquire expertise from colleges and universities, government laboratories and public research institutes. A public-private partnership would be formed, connecting small businesses with research and development facilities to create jobs and innovation in New York.
Thanks for reading! As always, you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office as 718–238–6044.