Senator Andrew Gounardes
6 min readMar 27, 2023

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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 week ten of the 2023 session.

As always, you can 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.

*Session Week Ten*

Senate One House Budget

This week The Senate released its one house budget; we now move onto collaboration with Governor Hochul to produce a unified final state budget.

I am proud that the Senate’s resolution included these necessary programs and policies to improve the lives of New Yorkers: ensuring available paid sick leave for domestic workers; establishing the Universal School Meals program to ensure no student goes hungry; advancing tenant protections that align with the core principles of Good Cause Eviction; restoring ERAP funds that will include NYCHA residents; continuing to support building new housing; and raising the minimum wage to a living wage before then indexing it to inflation.

Budgets are a reflection of our values; my top priority remains affordability for working families. The Senate one-house includes an expansion of the Empire State Child Credit to children aged 0–3, as well as legislation to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to immigrant New Yorkers, two initiatives I’ve fought to include. As we continue working towards our state’s final budget, we must ensure that no one gets left behind by including a fully enhanced statewide child tax credit, like my New York State Working Families Tax Credit.

Locally, The Senate sent a message to the State Department of Transportation that it must come to the table on repairing and modernizing the state-owned portion of the BQE, a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

The final budget must be certain to not leave the SUNY and CUNY systems — New York’s engine of economic mobility — behind. Our budget rejects proposed tuition increases for students, and provides SUNY and CUNY systems with additional necessary funding. Our public universities need more than the bare minimum which is why I’ve introduced S2145, The New Deal for CUNY.

Finally, the MTA is the lifeblood of our city. We must ensure that this year’s budget doesn’t leave the millions of New Yorkers who rely on the MTA every day behind — and that they aren’t waiting on a platform for 15+ minutes at a time; this is necessary to improve and enhance services. For this purpose, I’ve circulated an MTA budget letter requesting $300 million in funding for increased service as well as $500 million to make the MTA whole on certain 18-b and Payroll Mobility Tax (PMT) exemption funding on which the state has been shortchanging the MTA for decades. I will continue my fight for a public transit system that works for everyone as we finalize the FY24 budget.

As we enter into this next phase of our budget process, I’m committed to building a New York that is fairer, and more affordable — where all truly have the opportunity to thrive.

Committees

This week three of my committees met: Investigations and Government Operations, Judiciary, and Higher Education. Here’s a snapshot of what we did:

Investigations and Government Operations

  • S5230, relates to requiring annual fair housing testing, defines fair housing testing, and requires the attorney general to conduct yearly fair housing testing to ensure compliance with the human rights law.
  • S2449, prohibits an employer, licensing agency or employment agency from requesting or requiring that a prospective employee disclose his or her age, date of birth or date of graduation from an educational institution on an initial employment application or during an interview, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need.
  • S2442, relates to the definition of “sexual orientation” as applicable to the human rights law. The purpose of this bill is to To remove outdated and stigmatizing statutory language from the definition of “sexual orientation” in New York’s Human Rights Law.

Judiciary

  • S2305, relates to the discoverability of recordings found on police body worn cameras and vehicle cameras. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that full disclosure shall be made on all recordings found on a police or peace officer’s body camera as well as any camera installed in a police or peace officers vehicle.
  • S4516, prohibits settlement agreements in any claim involving sexual harassment or any other form of discrimination prohibited by law from containing any condition that requires the complainant to pay the defendant liquidated damages in the event that the plaintiff violates any nondisclosure agreement included in such settlement agreement.
  • S3320, creates a residential condominium owner’s bill of rights that includes the right to transparency, the right to timely decisions, voting rights, the right to notice, and the right against extraordinary expenses.

Higher Education

  • S3474, increases the income eligibility threshold for the tuition assistance program. The purpose of this bill is to increase income eligibility threshold of the tuition assistance program for dependent students.
  • S1669, allows the granting of academic credit at state or city operated institutions to veterans.
  • S259, requires cultural awareness and competence training for medical professionals, including two hours of course work or training encompassing minority healthcare issues and provides an exemption for certain individuals. This bill requires hospitals and facilities to request documentation of the completion of training from employees and prospective employees.

*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. This week the Senate passed important legislation to increase utility transparency and support student safety:

  • S1804, requires gas and electric corporations to provide sixty days’ notice to customers whenever there is a service rate or charge increase.
  • S1316, relates to requiring the establishment of utility customer financial assistance programs and arrears reporting. This legislation also requires utilities to report to the public service commission on customers who are in arrears due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to establish financial assistance programs of 24 or 36 months for customers to pay back their arrears.
  • S2515A, establishes scramble crosswalks leading to and from school buildings during times of student arrival and dismissal to ensure all vehicular traffic is stopped while pedestrians are crossing in the same intersection.

*Session Week Eleven*

This week I stood with the Riders Alliance to push for a $300 million budget inclusion for six minute service. With this investment, we could transform the MTA by improving bus frequency for riders in every borough, increasing off-peak subway service by 50%, and cutting long waits to make transit more reliable, convenient, and safer for all. We must get our public transit system back to the ridership and service levels that we know the world’s greatest city deserves and demands.

Later in the week, I held an annual Greek Heritage celebration in the State Capitol alongside my fellow Greek-American colleagues. I also had the honor of hosting Archbishop Elpidophoros of America during this year’s festivities. This event recognizes the anniversary of Greek independence and highlights the role that Hellenism plays in the fabric of our communities.

Committees

This week the Finance Committee met. Here’s a snapshot of what we did:

Finance

  • S2150, establishes an LGBTQ+ youth and young adult suicide prevention task force; provides for the number of members, manner of appointment and the topics to be reviewed.
  • S3354, relates to conducting investigations into the administration and enforcement of the New York state uniform fire prevention and building code and the New York state energy conservation construction code by counties.
  • S2194, creates the office of expungement and automatic sealing within the division of criminal justice services to oversee the sealing and expungement of certain convictions.
  • S224, adds certain properties located in a city of one million or more to the definition of a qualified historic home for the historic homeownership rehabilitation credit.

*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. This week the Senate passed important legislation to increase utility transparency and support student safety:

  • S3249, requires the installation of smoke detectors in common places of certain dwellings to make residential buildings safe from fire hazards.
  • S2450, includes contacts via text, email, private message, direct message or other electronic communication in the definition of the offense of aggravated harassment in the second degree.
  • S259, requires cultural awareness and competence training for medical professionals, including two hours of course work or training encompassing minority healthcare issues; providing an exemption for certain individuals. This bill also requires hospitals and facilities to request documentation of the completion of training from employees and prospective employees.
  • S1398, requires public utility companies to repair or replace all damaged residential lateral sewer and water pipes where such damage was caused by such public utility company.

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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