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Strengthening Of New York’s Sexual Harassment Laws Proposed

In the wake of a tidal wave of allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct sweeping the country, Senator Elaine Phillips (R – 7th S.D.) and Senator Catharine Young (R,C,I – 57th S.D.) have proposed landmark legislation that would strengthen New York State’s sexual harassment laws. The measure would enact sweeping new protections for victims including banning secret settlements, establishing a statutory definition of sexual harassment, and expanding the law to protect independent contractors. The measure represents the most significant statewide initiative on the issue in decades.

 

“Our nation is at a defining moment with respect to the issue of sexual harassment. In the last two months, dozens of courageous individuals have come forward to share painful stories of harassment and abuse they suffered at the hands of those in positions of power. Nearly all of these women and men have been silent for years, either as a result of intimidation by their abusers, or because of the humiliation associated with the abuse – or a combination of both. With each new revelation, our shock grows at the apparent pervasiveness of this problem along with our resolve to take action,” said Senator Young.

 

“There is no place in our government, or society as a whole, for sexual assault or harassment. It is inspiring to see the movement of women across our country coming forward, sharing their personal stories, and overcoming the stigma and shame brought on by the inappropriate actions of others. The dialogue must continue and as elected officials we must do all possible, to protect those who have been forced to carry the burden of harassment out of fear for their future,” said Senator Phillips.

 

“This landmark legislation aims to punish abusers, prevent harassment, and further protect all victims. I applaud the courageous women who have come forward to share their difficult stories and hope this bravery will aid them with their personal healing process,” she added.

 

“It is important to remember that for each individual who has come forward in the last two months, there are thousands of others who have also been the victims of sexual harassment. While the celebrities’ stories make headlines, the reality is that individuals in low-wage service occupations such as restaurant wait staff and sales clerks have the highest incidence of sexual harassment,” said Senator Young.

 

“While harassment can take many forms, from innuendo to outright assault, it cannot and must not be tolerated, at any level. As a society and as a state, we need to step forward to protect people from the discrimination and degradation of sexual harassment and abuse. Bringing this issue out of the darkness and into the light is the first step towards addressing this problem. The other component involves changing our laws to help prevent harassment, punish abusers and protect victims,” she added.

 

The legislation co-sponsored by Senator Phillips and Senator Young would include the provisions below.

 

Prohibit secret settlements. To help discourage serial predators, this measure would prohibit courts from accepting any settlements that include confidentiality agreements or provisions. This would help ensure that those responsible are held accountable while providing employers with a greater incentive to institute strong anti-harassment policies and build a workplace culture that discourages such behavior.

 

“As the Harvey Weinstein case and others have highlighted, serial predators often use confidential settlements to silence their victims and protect their reputations, leaving them free to harass others. In order to affect real and lasting change, these settlements must be removed from the equation,” said Senator Young.

 

Prohibit mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment complaints. Mandatory arbitration clauses are often used by employers to force sexual harassment victims into private arbitration proceedings, which precludes their ability to seek legal action.

 

“Mandatory arbitration clauses, much like confidential settlements, are intended to keep sexual harassment incidents under wraps, shielding the company, and often the offender, from negative publicity. Eliminating these clauses is necessary to ensure that justice is served and that these offenses aren’t hidden from view,” said Senator Young.

 

Expand the definition of “employer” to include those who employ independent contractors. Currently, individuals who are freelance or contract workers cannot file sexual harassment complaints against the enterprises or individuals who have employed their services. This includes a broad and growing range of businesses, including entertainment companies, news and media organizations, construction firms, real estate agencies, and hair salons, among many others. The Government Accountability Office has placed the percentage of freelance and contract workers at approximately 40 percent of the workforce.

 

This legislation would close this loophole by extending to contract workers the same right to file sexual harassment complaints as individuals who are directly employed by the company or entity.

 

“Many of the actresses who’ve made allegations against Harvey Weinstein had no legal recourse because they were ‘independent contractors’ working on films his studio was producing. Under this bill, those women, and individuals in any independent working arrangement, would be eligible to file sexual harassment complaints, rightly having access to a process for redress,” said Senator Phillips.

 

Adopt the definition of “sexual harassment” into state law. Although the NYS Division of Human Rights has a definition it uses administratively, there is currently no definition in statute of what constitutes sexual harassment. That leaves litigants subject to varying interpretations by judges, who may improperly dismiss sexual harassment cases at the outset. One study found that approximately 37 percent of cases are dismissed pretrial.

 

“Establishing a definition in state law offers protection for everyone involved in sexual harassment cases. With a consistent standard to evaluate claims, the subjectivity is removed, providing a clear benchmark for evaluating the merits of a case. This will benefit both claimants and the accused,” said Senator Young.

 

“Behind the revelations of recent weeks are real people – women and men who bear emotional scars from the harassment they endured and from the burden of remaining silent for so long. Yet, their stories and experiences have provoked a long-overdue national dialogue on sexual harassment and will lead to important changes in our laws. I am grateful for their courage and Senator Phillips and I will fight to ensure this legislation becomes law,” Senator Young concluded.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Pay April 2018 School Taxes Now and Deduct Taxes on 2017 Return

Coping with the Federal Tax Code Overhaul, Clavin Urges Homeowners to Pay April 2018 School Taxes Now and Deduct Taxes on 2017 Return

 

As Congress wrestles with a major overhaul of the Federal Tax Code, which may eliminate or cap deductions for expenses such as property taxes, Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin is urging property owners to expedite certain property tax payments in order to take advantage of property tax deductions before a new tax code is enacted. In specific, homeowners who pay their second half school taxes before January 1, 2018 may be eligible to deduct the payment for federal income tax purposes on their 2017 returns. The second half taxes are due on April 1, 2018; however, if property owners wait until the due date to make payments, they will likely not be able to deduct the full amount of property taxes under the federal tax code being hammered out in Washington. Also joining Clavin at today’s press conference were Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby and Councilmembers Ed Ambrosino, Bruce Blakeman, Erin King Sweeney, Anthony D’Esposito and Dennis Dunne, Sr.

 

“The proposed federal tax overhaul will adversely impact many people in our area, and I am focused on finding any possible way to help local taxpayers,” said Clavin. “Many homeowners may be able to take deductions on their school taxes that are due in April of 2018 by paying them by December 31st of this year.”

 

School taxes are collected twice each year, once in October and again in April. Some homeowners have called Clavin’s office, expressing an interest in paying the April school property taxes prior to the end of this year in order to be able to deduct the payment. Clavin has consulted with tax professionals who indicate that property owners who fall below the Alternative Minimum Tax threshold may qualify to deduct their second half school tax payment on their 2017 income tax return if it is paid prior to the end of 2017. The Receiver did emphasize that individuals should consult with their tax professional to determine if they meet eligibility requirements.

 

“Don’t miss your opportunity to maximize your tax deductions,” said Clavin. “I urge homeowners to consult with their tax professionals to determine if they can reduce their income tax burden by paying their April school tax bill before December 31st of this year.”

 

“The new federal tax code could negatively impact our residents, and these valuable tips give our taxpayers one more opportunity to benefit from the current tax code before it expires,” Goosby said. “We encourage residents to consult their tax professionals to determine if it will be beneficial to pay school taxes before the end of this year,” Ambrosino added.

 

“Time is running out on the current federal tax code, and this is one way that our taxpayers could potentially benefit before it expires,” Blakeman said. “By paying your next tax bill by December 31st, you could deduct a portion of your property taxes that may not be deductible under the new federal tax code,” King Sweeney said.

 

While many taxpayers may elect to pay their second half school taxes (April school taxes) in the 2017 year, property owners will NOT be able to pay their 2018 general property taxes prior to the January 1, 2018 due date. In specific, Nassau County’s Administrative Code expressly prohibits the payment of general taxes in the year prior to the one in which they are due. The County’s Administrative Code states (in part) that general taxes “…shall be due and payable on the first day of January, and the remaining and final one-half of such taxes on real estate shall be due and payable on the first day of July…”

 

Clavin has staff prepared to answer questions about hours of operation, payment locations, payment options (cash, e-Check, credit card, check) and other issues related to the early payment of second half school taxes (staff will not be able to advise property owners on income tax questions, including eligibility for deductions).”

 

“Our knowledgeable Receiver of Taxes office staff is prepared and ready to accept school property tax payments before the New Year for neighbors who want to deduct them on their 2017 tax returns,” D’Esposito said. “Take this advice, speak with your tax professional, and consider paying your school bill by December 31st to benefit from the current tax code before it’s replaced by new regulations,” Dunne added.

 

“Now is the time to consider your options when it comes to making an early payment of your April 2018 school taxes,” concluded Clavin. “Speak to your tax professional today to determine if you are eligible to make an early payment of second half school taxes or any other possible payments, and deduct the amount on your 2017 income taxes.”

 

Visit the Town of Hempstead website

Hearing Held Regarding Water Quality Infrastructure Act of 2017

Assemblyman Ed Ra attended a hearing on December 4 regarding water quality and the implementation of the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017. Representatives from the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) were in attendance to talk about progress on initiatives funded in the 2017-18 Enacted Budget. Topics discussed included funding for the replacement of residential lead service lines and the recently announced plan for a new outfall pipe at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.

 

“Clean drinking water is a basic necessity of life and preserving and protecting our sole source aquifer should be of the utmost importance,” said Ra. “There are many steps and routes we must take to ensure this, and I am happy to see that our historic investment in this year’s state budget is already having an impact. The feedback from our agencies and other organizations will help ensure that this funding, and future initiatives, are focused on ensuring clean, quality drinking water for generations to come.”

 

Also discussed was the issue of emerging contaminants, which was a focus of the legislation. Ra questioned representatives from the DOH regarding the progress of a pilot program launched by the NYS Center for Clean Water Technology (CCWT) at Stony Brook University to find an advanced water treatment to remove 1,4 dioxane that is found in many water districts on Long Island. The DEC is also working on a $75 million Nitrogen action plan, while the state is spending $6 million for a groundwater study on Long Island with the U.S. Geological Service. Legislators in attendance stressed the need for continued investment during the upcoming legislative session.

 

Visit Assemblyman Ra’s webpage

Phillips Announces $3 million in Local Funding from Regional Economic Development Council

Senator Elaine Phillips  announced that 10 job creation and community development projects in the 7th Senate District will receive critically important state funding through the seventh round of Regional Economic Development Council awards.

 

“Funding for these crucial projects will strengthen our local economy, create jobs and expand innovative cultural programs in our communities,” Senator Elaine Phillips said. “It has been a pleasure to collaborate with groups throughout Nassau County, including leaders in business, education, local governments, economic development and planning, to develop a list of job creation projects that achieve our goals of generating jobs and building a strong foundation for future growth.”

 

A total of $755 million was awarded statewide, with Long Island receiving $84.3 million for 98 projects.

 

The following projects in the 7th Senate District will receive more than $3 million in funding from the second round of the Regional Economic Development Council program:

 

County Project Project Title Amount
Nassau Incorporated Village of Manorhaven Sewer Infrastructure Upgrades Project $30,000
Nassau NYU Winthrop Hospital Certified Professional Coder Training $100,000
Nassau Oerlikon Metco, Co, Inc. Oerlikon Metco, Co, Inc. $100,000
Nassau Old Westbury Gardens Inc. Westbury House Roof Restoration $500,000
Nassau Spectronics Corporation Electrical Equipment and Appliance manufacturing Skills Training $39,623
Nassau The Feinstein Institute at Northwell Health Computational Genomics Center at Feinstein Institute for Medical Research $1,600,000
Nassau Town of Hempstead Department of Occupational Resources Hempstead Works Career Pathways 7.0 $99,988
Nassau Town of North Hempstead Hempstead Harbor Shoreline Trail $450,000
Nassau Town of Oyster Bay The Workforce Partnership Medical Training Program $100,000
Nassau/Suffolk Long Island Traditions Connected Waters Heroes of the Harbors $51,000

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

VA Announces Rollout and Application Process for New Veterans ID Card

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced that the application process for the national Veterans Identification Card (VIC) is now available for Veterans. This has been mandated through legislation since 2015 to honor Veterans, and the rollout of the ID card fulfills that promise.

 

Only those Veterans with honorable service will be able to apply for the ID card, which will provide proof of military service, and may be accepted by retailers in lieu of the standard

 

DD-214 form to obtain promotional discounts and other services that are currently offered to Veterans. To request a VIC, Veterans must visit vets.gov, click on “Apply for Printed Veteran ID Card” on the bottom left of the page and sign in or create an account.

 

In addition to this new government program, Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell’s long-running “Veterans Recognition Program” is still available to veterans in Nassau County free of charge in recognition of their service to our country. This program allows veterans the opportunity to record their Veteran Discharge (DD-214) papers for safekeeping with the Nassau County Clerk’s Office. Upon recording these documents, the veteran will be eligible to receive Clerk O’Connell’s Veterans Discount Photo ID card which provides discounts at participating businesses throughout Nassau County. For more information on the County Clerk’s “Veterans Recognition Program” please visit our website at www.nassaucountyny.gov/clerk.

 

Visit County Clerk O’Connell’s webpage

Montesano Invites Local Business Owners to Attend Business Roundtable Discussion

Assemblyman Michael Montesano is excited to announce he will participate in a business roundtable discussion facilitated by Assemblyman Dean Murray on December 15. Topics will include how legislation regarding minimum wage will affect small businesses and tip workers (A.6203), wage compensation for schedule changes, paid family leave and other regulatory issues. The discussion will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rose Caracappa Auditorium at the Suffolk County Legislature, William H. Rogers Building, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown.

 

“As businesses are the backbone of any community, discussions on how to improve them should occur frequently,” said Montesano. “I look forward to learning more about what my colleagues and business owners have to say about these topics and sharing my own thoughts about passed and pending legislation which affects the business community. I would like to invite business owners from my Assembly District to attend and participate in this discussion and give testimony on topics such as wage compensation for schedule changes, paid family leave and minimum wage. Coming together to share ideas and thoughts is important when it comes to the growth of the business community.”

 

Business owners in the 15th Assembly District who would like to attend or learn more about this event may contact Montesano’s district office at (516) 937-3571.

 

Visit Assemblyman Montesano’s webpage

Senator Elaine Phillips Awards New York State Senate Liberty Medal To Great Neck Teen

Oliver ReinSenator Elaine Phillips recently presented Oliver Rein, a 16-year-old Great Neck junior firefighter, with the New York State Senate’s Liberty medal, one of the highest civilian honors a New York resident can receive.

 

Earlier this year, Oliver extricated two injured individuals from a vehicle after the car had crashed into a tree.

 

“Oliver Rein embodies all of the characteristics of true hero: courage, bravery and selflessness,” Senator Elaine Phillips said. “Without hesitation, instead of running away or calling for help, Oliver ran toward the danger to ensure the driver and passenger received the care they needed. It was my pleasure to award Oliver with the much-deserved New York State Senate Liberty Medal for his tremendous act of heroism.”

 

Senator Phillips also presented a formal New York State Proclamation to David Adler, a Great Neck resident, who assisted Oliver in carrying the two people to safety.

 

Oliver and David were walking along Middle Neck Road in August when a car came speeding around a bend and crashed into a tree. Without hesitation, even though the car was smoking and sparking, Oliver, a two-year junior firefighter with the Great Neck Alert Volunteer Fire Company, ran to the car and pried open the crushed door. When he opened the door, he saw a motionless male driver in his 20s covered in blood. Unsure if the driver was alive at first, Oliver made verbal contact, extricated the man from the car and kept him calm until assistance arrived. Oliver and David carried the man to safety and pulled out a second passenger as well.

 

The New York State Senate Liberty Medal is the highest civilian honor a State Senator can bestow on a New Yorker. It is awarded to citizens who have merited special commendation for their actions on behalf of their fellow New Yorkers and their community.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Boy Scout Troop #45 Honors Eagle Scouts

Boy Scout Troop 45Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell joined Boy Scout Troop #45 of Mineola at their Eagle Scout Court of Honor Ceremony for Charles Austria, Nathan Bischoff, Thomas Randazzo, Brendan Mulrooney, James Reardon, Joseph Mueller and Ryan Duffy. County Clerk O’Connell, along with other area officials, the leaders and families of Troop #45 honored these outstanding young men who have demonstrated great commitment to community service.

 

Clerk O’Connell presented each of the Eagle Scouts with a County Citation in recognition of their individual achievements. Their dedication and many accomplishments earned them the rank of Eagle Scout which is the highest award in the Boy Scouts of America. Congratulations to Charles, Nathan, Thomas, Brendan, James, Joseph, Ryan and the entire Troop #45 family on this special occasion and for all their great works on behalf of the community.

 

Pictured above are Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell with Eagle Scout Honorees Ryan Duffy, Thomas Randazzo, James Reardon, Joseph Mueller, Charles Austria, Brendan Mulrooney and Nathan Bischoff, New York State Senator Elaine Phillips.

 

Visit County Clerk O’Connell’s webpage

Senator Phillips Joins North Shore Child-Family Guidance Center Officials Promoting Access to Mental Health Care

North Shore Child-Family Guidance CenterSenator Elaine Phillips joined North Shore Child-Family Guidance Center officials at a news conference today to promote the importance of affordable and timely mental health care for all New York residents. . The news conference unveiled results to “Project Access,” a study conducted by the center that explores roadblocks individuals face when trying to obtain mental health and addiction care.

 

“Timely and affordable mental health and addiction care should be accessible to anyone in need.” Senator Elaine Phillips said. “I applaud the North Shore Child-Family Guidance Center for its unwavering support and dedicated work to raise awareness of a problem that has affected far too many middle and working class families on Long Island. ‘Project Access,’ the Center’s recent study, sheds much needed light on the obstacles individuals face when trying to obtain care for mental health illnesses and substance abuse problems.”

 

“Project Access” is an initiative to improve access to mental health and addictions care. Nearly 650 Long Islanders responded to the survey, with almost half of the respondents indicating that it was more difficult finding help for mental health or substance abuse problems than finding help for physical illnesses.

 

The North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center helps children and families address issues such as depression and anxiety, developmental delays, bullying, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, teen drug and alcohol abuse, and family crises stemming from illness, death, trauma and divorce.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Senator Elaine Phillips Tours TRI Business & Career Center

TRI Business & Career CenterSenator Elaine Phillips recently toured the TRI Business & Career Center in Westbury. The center assists individuals with disabilities in reaching their highest level of independence through vocational and educational services.

 

“We are extremely fortunate to have organizations such as TRI Business & Career Center who work directly in our communities, placing individuals with disabilities in internships and jobs and providing opportunities for independence and success in the workforce. Senator Elaine Phillips said. “Thank you to Andrew Cohen and the dedicated staff at TRI for inviting me to tour the facility. It was a pleasure to learn first-hand of the many wonderful programs and services offered.”

 

The center offers a business and trade school program, a transition services program for young adults and other opportunities for people with disabilities to obtain internships and jobs. These services are designed to assist an individual in identifying personal and professional goals and include vocational assessment, counseling, training, remediation, day habilitation, production, and support services

 

TRI collaborates with the Town of North Hempstead’s “Project Independence” initiative, which provides light maintenance and cleaning services to aging residents of the Town, in an effort to ensure a safe and clean environment for those who wish to remain in their own homes. The company also manufactures and sells environmentally friendly cleaning products.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage