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 fifth and sixth weeks of the 2020 legislative session. We are off for the week of February 17th, so the next update will be for the week of February 24th.

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.

*Week 5*

Week five kicked off on Monday, February 3rd for the first of three consecutive days of session. I participated in a number of joint budget hearings and we passed 42 bills in the Senate, many having to do with stemming the opioid crisis that still grips our state.

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*Joint Public Hearings on the Executive Budget Proposal*

As part of the legislature’s review of the Governor’s budget proposal, the Senate and Assembly hold 17 joint public hearings on the different parts of the budget. This week, I attended the budget hearing on Higher Education and co-chaired Workforce Development.

During the Higher Education hearing, I listened to testimony from SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson and CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez about issues ranging from mental health services on campus to the burdens that students face trying to balance tuition increases and their costs of living.

Click here to see my questions for SUNY and CUNY.

During the Workforce Development hearing, I listened to testimony from the Acting President of the NYS Department of Civil Service, Lola Brabham, as well as representatives from public sector labor unions and other advocacy groups about the state of our public service workforce and how the Governor’s proposed budget would affect our state workers.

Click here to see my questions for the Department of Civil Service.

You can watch the legislature’s joint public hearing on Higher Education here and the joint public hearing on Workforce Development here.

Committee Meetings

Labor

On Tuesday, February 4th, I attended the second meeting of the Senate Labor Committee of 2020. We considered a total of six bills, including S.6204, a bill that I co-sponsor that extends the statute of limitations for employees bringing claims of retaliatory personnel actions to court as a result of reporting illegal or improper activities by their employers. The bill will help ensure that employees who report illegal activities by their employer are protected against retaliation.

You can read more about and watch Tuesday’s Senate Labor Committee meeting here.

Session

We passed a total of 42 bills on the Senate floor this week. Many of these bills were largely focused on combating substance misuse and protecting New York communities from the opioid crisis.

Below are some of the bills that I voted in favor of passing:

  • Pain Management and Substance Use Disorder Education: S.7132 requires medical and mental health providers to receive training in pain management and substance use disorders.
  • “Pill Mill” Surveillance: S.5653A authorizes the state to identify the over-prescribing of opioids and to ensure that those individuals engaging in criminal activity are referred to the appropriate enforcement authority.
  • Substance Abuse Sensitivity Training: S.1063A requires substance use disorder counselors to receive sensitivity training and up-to-date training on how to provide the best care to individuals.

You can watch Monday’s (February 3rd) legislative session and read more about Monday’s agenda here.

You can watch Tuesday’s (February 4th) legislative session and read more about Tuesday’s agenda here.

You can watch Wednesday’s (February 5th) legislative session and read more about Wednesday’s agenda here.

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.

*Week 6*

Week six kicked off on Monday, February 10th for the first of four consecutive days of session. I participated in a joint budget hearing on education with Chancellor Carranza and had meetings of the Codes, Higher Education, Judiciary, and Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions Committees. We also passed 26 bills in the Senate, many which dealt with building code enforcement.

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*Joint Public Hearings on the Executive Budget Proposal*

As highlighted in last week’s Albany Update, the legislature holds joint public hearings on different topics of public interest to better inform legislators of the needs of New York residents and institutions as related to the state budget. This week, I attended the budget hearing on Elementary and Secondary Education.

During the hearing, I spent my time questioning NYC schools Chancellor Carranza on a range of issues like the lack of services for special education students in our schools.

You can see my questions to Chancellor Carranza here.

Committee Meetings

Codes

On Monday, February 10th, the Senate Codes Committee convened for the third time in 2020. We voted to advance six bills out of committee, including S.3674-A, a bill that I introduced last year to more harshly punish those that illegally convert their homes. Illegal conversions create a dangerous environment for both potential tenants and first responders if they are ever required to access that particular building.

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

Higher Education

Later that same day, I attended the third Senate Higher Education Committee meeting of the year. The committee considered and advanced five bills, including:

  • S.5071 , a bill that I co-sponsor, which will allow students with intellectual disabilities enrolled in an approved postsecondary education experience or transition program to receive financial assistance from the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).
  • S.5695-A , which prohibits the City and State Universities of New York from penalizing students for the observance of religious holidays not observed by the Universities. This will protect students from being penalized for celebrating holidays like Eid Ul-Fitr, Eid Ul-Adha, Diwali and Asian Lunar New Year.

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

Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee also convened for the third time this year, on February 11th. We considered and advanced five bills from the committee including S.7116, which requires judges who recuse themselves from cases to provide a reason why, except when the reason will result in embarrassment or will violate the privacy of the judge. This measure will allow for more transparency between judges and the public.

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

Corporations, Authorities and Commissions

On Wednesday, February 12th, the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee met and considered a total of eight bills. The agenda included S.7124, which requires the MTA to study an above-ground rail line stretching 24 miles from Co-op City in the Bronx to Bay Ridge. Named “The Triboro,” the line will make use of existing rail lines and is proposed to have 22 stations, starting from Co-op City in the Bronx, connecting to Astoria, Jackson Heights, and Middle Village in Queens, and then East New York and Bay Ridge. The Triboro would provide connections to 17 subway stations and four commuter rail lines along the way. The bill requires the MTA to complete the study in a year and mandates dictated study areas: the population served and ridership expected to benefit, potential reductions in travel times and greenhouse gas emissions, among other variables.

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

Session

This week, we passed twenty-six bills in session largely focused on improving educator diversity in our school system and improving safety by addressing code enforcement failures across New York. Here are some of the bills we passed:

  • Educator Diversity Taskforce: S.5808A establishes a task force on educator diversity in New York State to study the presence of educator diversity.
  • Creation of Residential Rental Registry: S.7288A creates a statewide residential rental registry to provide information including code violations related to rental units.
  • Increases State Code Enforcement: S.7287 increases the state code enforcement powers of the secretary of state by establishing a separate state code enforcement office headed by an ombudsperson.
  • Code Enforcement Training and Certification: S.7291 increases the minimum standards for training and certification for code enforcement personnel.

You can watch Monday’s (February 10th) legislative session and read more about Monday’s agenda here.

You can watch Tuesday’s (February 11th) legislative session and read more about Tuesday’s agenda here.

You can watch Wednesday’s (February 12th) legislative session and read more about Wednesday’s agenda here.

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

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.