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 weeks seven and eight of the 2020 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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*Week 7*

**New Safe Streets Legislation Package**

On Friday, February 28th, I stood with fellow elected officials, advocates and the family of Jose Contla, the 26-year-old man killed two weeks ago in a hit-and-run collision in Bensonhurst to announce my new package of street safety legislation designed to protect New Yorkers from traffic injuries and deaths.

The new bills that I have introduced along with a handful of legislation that I introduced last year, are in response to the spike in traffic deaths in our City in 2019 and 2020.

Just last week there were six pedestrian deaths in only five days, including two Brooklyn schoolchildren and a hit-and-run in Bensonhurst. The 219 traffic fatalities felt by our City last year represented a roughly 9% increase in fatalities overall and a staggering 200% increase in cyclist fatalities. Additionally, there were 7,916 collisions with injuries in the NYPD’s Brooklyn South, the highest of any patrol borough in the City.

Below are six bills I am working on to create safer streets in our community:

  • S7875 expands pedestrian rights by deeming every intersection, marked or unmarked, to be a crosswalk. This common-sense measure has been adopted in multiple other states including Oregon, Washington and Georgia, and has been shown to increase driver awareness and reduce pedestrian injury and death.
  • S7876 requires the DMV to create a pedestrian safety rating of all vehicles registered in New York based on how likely these vehicles are to cause injury or death to others on the road.
  • S.7894 clarifies the State’s Vehicle and Traffic Law to make it easier for dangerous drivers to be charged by District Attorneys.
  • S3470 makes it easier for drugged and impaired drivers to be taken off of our roads.
  • S5226A requires drivers to retake the DMV written exam upon license renewal, to keep them up to date on new driving rules and regulations.
  • S5228A adds pedestrian and bicyclist safety awareness as part of the pre-licensing curriculum in New York State.

Committee Meetings

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee convened for the fifth time this year, on February 25th. The committee considered and advanced five bills including S.4006, a bill that I co-sponsor, that will allow for family members, including spouses, children, parents and siblings of wrongful death victims to be compensated for emotional loss.

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

Civil Service and Pensions

On February 26th, I chaired the second meeting of the Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee. We considered five bills, all of which were focused on implementing common sense reforms for our active and retired civil servants across the state.

You can read more about and watch the Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee meeting here.

Session

During week seven, we passed twenty-six bills, including my bill, S3647, which is a constitutional amendment to allow for all men and women who have served in the military to receive additional credits on competitive examinations for civil service appointments and promotions. The amendment must be passed and signed by the Governor in two separate and successive legislative sessions before the measure would move to the ballot for voters to decide on.

Here are some of the other bills that we passed in the Senate Chamber during week seven:

  • Public Awareness Program for Renters: S.628 establishes a public awareness program through the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to inform the public of the risks of signing a fraudulent or invalid lease.
  • Veteran Program in the State and City University of New York: S.3471A creates the Veteran Career Assistance Program in colleges and universities of the State and City University of New York to assist veterans with resume writing and job placement services.
  • Restrictions on Drug costs: S.3654 bans the price gouging of medicines listed as being in short supply by the US FDA.
  • Creates a Health Literacy Task Force: S.5023A establishes an interagency taskforce to study health literacy across New York and make recommendations on how to improve public health literacy. The bill defines health literacy as an individual’s ability to read, understand, and act appropriately on health care information.

You can watch Tuesday’s (February 25th) legislative session and read more about Tuesday’s agenda here.

You can watch Wednesday’s (February 26th) legislative session and read more about Wednesday’s agenda here.

You can watch Thursday’s (February 27th) legislative session and read more about Thursday’s agenda here.

*Week 8*

Committee Meetings

Corporations, Authorities and Commissions

The Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee met for the third time this year, on March 2nd. The committee considered and advanced eleven bills including S.7355, which will promote services and programs aimed at developing and assisting small businesses in the state.

You can read more about and watch the Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee meeting here.

Higher Education

The Higher Education Committee met on March 3rd and we considered five bills, including a bill that I co-sponsor, S.6668, which expands the eligibility of student loan forgiveness for public defenders.

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

Labor

I wrapped up my committee meetings this week with the afternoon meeting of the Labor Committee on March 3rd. I voted to advance all seven bills on the agenda out of committee, including a bill that I introduced, S.5777, which closes loopholes in the labor law which companies exploit to commit wage theft against their employees.

Session

We passed a total of thirty-nine bills during week eight of this year’s legislative session, largely focused on street and car safety. Below are some of the bills that we passed:

  • Complete Street Designs: S.1549A requires the State Department of Transportation to consider the convenient access and mobility on the road network by all users of all ages, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation users when completing resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling projects.
  • Prohibiting Signal Manipulation Devices: S1632A prohibits the operation of any vehicle, except an emergency vehicle, that is equipped with a device that can affect the operation of a traffic control signal.
  • Seatbelt Bill: S.4336 requires all adult passengers (16 years of age and older) of motor vehicles to wear a seatbelt, including backseat passengers. The legislation will save New Yorkers’ lives. According to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost half of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 were not wearing a seatbelt.

To see the full schedule of this year’s legislative session, click here.

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

NYS Senator, District 22.

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