As part of my community engagement platform, I promised to provide a regular weekly update on what’s happening up in Albany. Here’s an update from the first two weeks of the new legislative session.

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.

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January 8th kicked off my first day back in Albany and it was great to be back in the Capitol with my colleagues continuing the work that we started last year. Last year’s session was one of the most productive and prolific legislative sessions in history, and there’s still so much more to do. If you would like to know more about what we accomplished together and about my goals for this year’s session, here is a link to my One Year Anniversary newsletter.

Just a couple of FYIs about this year’s legislative session. First, because this is the second year in the two year session cycle, all of the bills that we introduced last year keep their bill numbers and do not need to be reintroduced. And second, all of the bills that were not signed into law or vetoed by the Governor, get returned to their original committee.

*State of the State*

On the Senate’s first day back, January 8th, Governor Cuomo delivered his 10th annual State of the State address where he outlined his 2020 agenda. The remarks featured proposals such a newdomestic terrorism law to address the spike in hate crimes, establishing paid sick leave for working New Yorkers, expanding protections for gig economy workers, and dedicating millions of dollars to address veteran and law enforcement suicides and homelessness.

To read more about the Governor’s State of the State address, click here.

These are just some of the proposals that I am looking forward to working on this year, in addition to priorities like reforming our broken property tax system, improving MTA accountability, tightening up laws on reckless driving and hit-and-runs, fully funding our public schools and colleges, and finally enacting Verrazzano Bridge toll relief.

*Week 1*

Beginning on Wednesday, January 8th and concluding on Thursday, January 9th, the first week of the legislative session focused on improving election laws.

Some of the voting reforms passed by the Senate during week 1 include:

  • College or University Provided Polling Place: S.4378, provides that election districts shall not be drawn partly on or off a college campus. It also requires a polling location on the grounds of the college or university when there are 300 registered voters or more on the campus. The bill will ensure that students living on campus get their own election districts and their own poll sites, that are not unreasonably far from their on-campus address.
  • Voter Notifications: S.6805 authorizes the State and City Departments of Transportation to display important voting registration and Election Day information on message signs on highways.
  • High Population Early Voting Polls: S.6923A, will require New York’s largest cities and towns to have at least one early voting polling site per 50 thousand registered voters.

You can watch Wednesday’s (January 8th) legislative session and read more about Wednesday’s agenda here.

You can watch Thursday’s (January 9th) legislative session and read more about Thursday’s agenda here.

*Week 2*

Week two kicked off on Monday, January 13th for the first of three consecutive days of session. Four of my seven committees met this week and the Senate took up some important traffic safety legislation relating to safety regulations of the limousine industry.

Committee Meetings

Codes

The Senate Codes Committee was my first committee meeting of the year. Convening on the morning of the 13th, Here are a couple of the bills that we advanced out of committee:

  • S.2636 adds “text, email, or other electronic communications” to the definition of what can constitute aggravated harassment in the second degree. By updating the law to treat texts, emails and other electronic communications under the same standard as phone calls, the legislation will provide law enforcement with greater ability to address this new form of harassment.

You can read more about and watch the Senate Codes Committee meeting here.

Higher Education

The Senate Higher Education Committee meeting was my first of three committee meetings the next day, January 14th. Below are some of the bills that we voted to move out of committee:

  • S.3661 is my bill that authorizes colleges and universities to seek more affordable textbook options for students.

You can read more about and watch the Higher Education Committee meeting here.

Judiciary

Next, I attended the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. I voted in favor of all 13 bills on the agenda. Here are a few that we advanced:

  • S.3822 amends the constitution to allow a person who will be 18 years old at the time of a presidential election to vote in primary election if they are 17 at the time.
  • S6698 is a bill that I introduced in honor of late NYPD Detective Wenjian Liu, who was tragically murdered in his vehicle on December 20th, 2014 while on-duty with his partner Detective Rafael Ramos, and his wife Pei Xia Chen. The bill establishes a process by which children who are posthumously conceived using the genetic material of a decedent and the surviving spouse can be considered the biological child of the decedent. In the case of late Detective Liu, 2 ½ years after his tragic death, Ms. Chen gave birth to her daughter Angelina. When Ms. Chen went to apply for federal Social Security benefits, however, she was denied under a federal law which dictates that the child must be born or conceived prior to the genetic parent’s death in order to automatically receive benefits.

You can read more about and watch the January 14th meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting here.

Labor

My final committee meeting of the week was with the Senate Labor Committee. Here are some of the bills that we advanced out of committee:

  • S.3821 makes teachers in a religious, charitable or educational institution eligible for the NYS Paid Family Leave benefits.

You can read more about and watch the Senate Labor Committee meeting here.

Session

Thirty-one bills passed the Senate during week two. Below are some examples of bills that I voted in favor of passing:

  • Commercial GPS Requirements: S.6187C requires stretch limousines to use commercial GPS devices to assist them in using roads that are best suited for their vehicles.
  • Increased Penalties for Illegal U-Turns: S.6188B expands the U-turn ban to stretch limousines capable of carrying nine or more passengers including the driver, and increases the financial and criminal penalties for drivers making illegal U-turns.
  • Creation of Passenger Task Force: S.6189C creates a passenger safety task force to study and make recommendations on additional safety measures for stretch limousines such as anti-intrusion bars, roll-over protection, emergency exits, and improved coordination between the DOT and the DMV.
  • Seatbelt Requirements: S.6191C requires stretch limousines to be equipped with seat belts for every passenger for which the vehicle is rated. This includes a requirement for stretch limousines to be retrofitted with seat belts no later than January 1, 2023, and for any stretch limousine modified on or after January 1, 2021 to be equipped with seat belts.
  • Immobilization of Defective Limos: S.6193C authorizes the DOT to immobilize or impound a stretch limo with an out-of-service defect.

You can watch Monday’s (January 13th) legislative session and read more about Monday’s agenda here.

You can watch Tuesday’s (January 14th) legislative session and read more about Tuesday’s agenda here.

You can watch Wednesday’s (January 15th) legislative session and read more about Wednesday’s agenda here.

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

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