Senator Andrew Gounardes
8 min readMay 2, 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 thirteen 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 Thirteen*

Judiciary Committee & the Court of Appeals

This week the Judiciary Committee met to consider the nominations of Judge Rowan Wilson to be Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and Caitlin Halligan for Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals. During these hearings, I focused on my concerns about how the current Court has taken incredibly conservative views on cases concerning consumer protection, criminal justice, and employment law, among other issues. I also focused on my concern about the shrinking number of cases that the Court of Appeals heard under the prior Chief Judge’s tenure, going from more than 200 cases 5 years ago to just 80 last year.

After giving both nominees careful consideration, I voted to support their nominations out of the Judiciary Committee, and voted for both candidates when they were before the full Senate.

*New Report on Students with Disabilities*

This week I also released a new report with Assembly Member Harvey Epstein highlighting the need to increase funding for college students with disabilities. Our report highlights how existing funding has been utilized in the past and why we need to increase support for New York’s 86,000 college students with disabilities. With this funding, educational institutions can build more equitable academic accommodations with trained staff, assistive technologies, and more support for students with disabilities to succeed in higher education.

Committees

This week the Civil Service and Pensions Committee met. Here’s a snapshot of what we did:

Civil Service and Pensions Committee

  • S4097A, my bill that directs the president of the civil service commission to collect health care claims data relating to the price and utilization of hospital benefits by active employees, retired employees and their dependents and to publish a New York State health benefit plan hospital pricing report.
  • S5495,which provides for the continuation of state health benefit plans for certain survivors of employees of the state and/or of a political subdivision or of a public authority.
  • S5618, Increases the amount of years of military service credit a member may purchase from three years to four years.

*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 regarding discrimination reports in civil trials, our state constitution, and improvements for veterans seeking civil service promotions.

  • S2573, my bill that permits the admissibility of prompt outcry testimony for civil cases related to sexual harassment or discrimination under the human rights law.
  • S280, my bill that designates April twentieth as New York Constitution Day, commemorating the anniversary of New York’s first state constitution.
  • S3280, my bill that relates to veterans’ preferences with respect to civil service promotions. This legislation removes requirements of service during a time of war for additional points on civil service examinations for veterans.

I also proposed a resolution to commemorate New York Constitution Day and spoke about the predecessor to the New York Court of Appeals, the Court of Errors. What’s interesting about the Court of Errors to me is that it was a court of nearly 40 members, and included the entire State Senate. That’s right, the same legislative members who passed laws were also, for a period of 70 years, the same members of the judiciary who ruled on the validity of those same laws. You can watch my speech about this interesting chapter in our state’s constitutional history below.

https://youtu.be/4Eb3Gf3PlsE

*Session Week Fourteen*

In the coming days, New York is expected to vote on a final state budget. In the deal that has been stuck so far, an expansion of the Empire State Child Credit to include children zero to three years old is expected. I am pleased to see the inclusion of this element of the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), my bill S277A, in this year’s budget. This expansion marks a huge win for our WFTC campaign and is a substantial down payment towards the full WFTC, providing relief for families across the state. I’ll have more updates on the final budget once we vote to pass it.

On Tuesday, I rallied with colleagues and advocates in support of the New York For All bill, which I sponsor. This legislation prohibits ICE from conspiring and colluding with local governments to enforce immigration actions.

The following day, I introduced new legislation, S6537, with Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon to end New York’s burdensome and ineffective lockdown drill mandate. New York mandates every school do four lockdown drills a year, the highest in the nation, without minimum standards, guidelines, or training for school officials. These drills are incredibly traumatizing for students, and they don’t help students be or feel safe. There’s a better, smarter way to protect our children that spares them this trauma. My bill decreases the frequency of lockdown drills in schools, directing implementation with a trauma-informed approach, and providing advance notice to parents.

Committees

This week the Judiciary, Labor, Finance, Higher Education, Civil Service & Pensions, and Investigations & Governmental Operations Committees met. Here’s a snapshot of what we did:

Judiciary:

  • S2948, Relates to preventing fraudulent deed transfers. This legislation protects homeowners from being misled into transferring their home to mortgage servicers.
  • S5137, prohibits a court from denying class certification for the purposes of class action lawsuits solely because the action involves governmental operations.
  • S5269, provides for the development of expedited settlement conference processes in each family court to facilitate the establishment of child support orders consistent with the state’s child support guidelines for parents who agree on child support and seek to voluntarily engage in a settlement conference.

Labor:

  • S5572, my bill that increases the threshold for applicability of wage payment protections for certain persons employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity, from $900 to $1,300 per week.
  • S4540, provides that the recovery of wages due to a clerical error by the employer or vendor of the employer is prohibited if such clerical error did not result in an overpayment or other inaccuracy in the amount of wages paid or the time in which wages were dispersed.
  • S2976, requires that notice of initial determinations for unemployment benefits be provided to claimants within 30 days of such claimant furnishing all necessary documentation, and if the commissioner is unable to issue a determination within such time frame they shall inform the claimant of the new estimated time frame for the issuance of a determination.

Finance:

  • S548, provides a deceased tenant’s legal representative the option to terminate such tenant’s lease upon notice to the landlord.
  • S2364A, establishes an “operation SNUG” program within the division of criminal justice services which provides grant awards to reduce, prevent or respond to gun violence.
  • S1535, requires certain state owned and operated parking garages, open parking lots and other parking facilities to install and maintain charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles.

Higher Education:

  • S3475, mandates that no employee or officer of the university shall determine the specific details of a student’s immigration status except when required by federal law, pursuant to a court order, or as required in connection with tuition or financial aid eligibility.
  • S3552, provides for the licensing of genetic counselors and creates the state board for genetic counseling.
  • S5616, relates to tuition assistance program awards for dual or concurrent enrollment coursework and provides dual or concurrent enrollment program awards for payment annually to school districts in which dual or concurrent enrollment programs are located.

Civil Service and Pensions Committee

  • S5876, authorizes the beneficiaries of a member of the state and local employees’ retirement system who dies after filing a retirement application to choose pension benefits rather than a death benefit.
  • S6157, provides additional benefits for certain county correction officers in Westchester county; provides benefits to retirement system members with credited service in excess of twenty-five years.
  • S6290, relates to the determination of salary base for members of the New York city police pension fund. This bill provides that the salary base for members of the New York city police pension fund whose employment with the police department of the city of New York commenced on or after July 1, 2000 shall be determined in the same manner as members whose employment commenced prior to such date.

Investigations & Governmental Operations Committees

  • S5981, prohibits all registered organizations, licensees, or permittees or other entities under the jurisdiction of the cannabis board from selling or delivering any edible cannabis products not in child resistant packaging.
  • S3371, relates to publishing records of public interest by agencies and the legislature on their websites.
  • S5124, requires copies and abstracts of certain provisions, rules and orders to be provided to new hires both physically and digitally.

*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.

The legislation passed this week reflects New York’s position as a leader in climate and environmental protections. The Senate passed important legislation to mark Earth Day and make strides towards protecting New York’s environment. The impending climate crisis is harmful to New Yorkers at present and jeopardizes the future of our state. Here’s a synopsis of our sustainability efforts this week:

  • S5331, expands the food donation and food scraps recycling program by scaling down the annual average tonnage requirement every two years until 2027 as well as removing exceptions regarding recycler capacity.
  • S5512, enacts the lead pipe right to know act requiring public water systems to take service line inventories and make such information available to the public.
  • S4198, enacts the “New York wildlife crossing act”. This legislation directs the department of transportation to identify sites along all highways, thruways and parkways in the state where wildlife crossings are most needed to increase public safety and improve habitat connectivity and create a priority list of wildlife opportunity areas where federal grant monies may be available to implement the top five projects identified.
  • S5135, requires certain state owned and operated parking garages, open parking lots and other parking facilities to install and maintain charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles.
  • S1725A, provides for protection of certain streams and adds class C streams to the list of protected streams. This bill exempts soil and water conservation districts which have an MOU with the department of environmental conservation from certain permitting requirements as well.

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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