Category Archives: Elaine Phillips

Senator Phillips Announces Kendra’s Law Amendment Passes The Senate

Bill Would Protect the Public and Provides Better Care for the Mentally Ill

 

Senator Elaine Phillips announced that the New York State Senate passed a bill, which she co-sponsored, that would strengthen Kendra’s Law and make its provisions permanent. The bill, S.516B, enhances public safety, improves the quality of care provided to the mentally ill, and makes Kendra’s Law permanent.

 

“Too often, we hear tragic stories of individuals suffering from untreated mental illnesses causing harm to themselves or others,” Senator Phillips said. By making this law permanent, we not only help prevent those with mental illnesses from hurting others, but we provide essential treatment to those in need. Because family and household members often witness dangerous behavior first or know when a loved one is facing a serious personal crisis, this measure would provide a new avenue of support and care. In addition, by adding attempted suicide to the list of qualifying conditions, we are providing recourse for those who believe they have run out of options. I applaud my colleagues in the Senate for passing this lifesaving bill.”

 

Kendra’s Law was first enacted in 1999 following the tragic death of 32-year-old Kendra Webdale, who was shoved in front of a New York City subway train by a man with untreated schizophrenia. The law helps address the concerns about mentally ill people who are potentially a danger to themselves and society by allowing for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) for individuals who won’t voluntarily seek help.

 

Since Kendra’s Law was enacted, studies have found that patients given mandatory outpatient treatment and who were more violent to begin with were four times less likely than members of a control group to perpetrate serious violence after undergoing AOT. The studies also found fewer psychiatric hospitalizations, shorter lengths of hospitalizations, declines in the probability of arrest, higher social functioning, less stigma, and no increase in perceived coercion.

 

The law is designed to avert serious injury to the mentally ill person or others, but gaps exist in the present system that must be fixed to make it more efficient. The measure would not only make Kendra’s Law permanent, but includes several provisions to improve the current system of AOT, requiring:

  • Follow-up for those who move during the AOT period to ensure that they receive their treatment;
  • An assessment for AOT when mental health patients are released from inpatient treatment or incarceration so that people needing services do not fall through the cracks;
  • Counties to notify the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) when an assisted outpatient is missing and thereby unavailable for an evaluation as to whether he or she continues to meet AOT criteria; and
  • The Commissioner of OMH to develop an educational pamphlet on the AOT process of petitioning so that family members have information on how to file a report.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Senator Elaine Phillips Comments on Belmont Park Redevelopment Plan

Senator Elaine Phillips provided the following statement at the March 22, 2018 Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) public scoping meeting for the Belmont Park Redevelopment plan.

 

As State Senator for the 7th Senatorial District, I want to provide input, as well as bring to the attention of Empire State Development Corporation, concerns that have been shared with me from various stakeholders from the Belmont Park communities.

 

While I believe that the Belmont Park Redevelopment plan is a positive step forward in providing a long overdue economic boost for the region, it cannot come at the expense of local residents and their quality of life.

 

The Belmont Park communities have brought serious, thoughtful and insightful concerns to my attention as a result of the changes in the draft scoping document published on the ESD website.

 

As part of my listening effort regarding this plan, I have spoken with our local school districts, elected officials and recently took a tour in and around the Belmont property. During that tour, many of these concerns were highlighted to me.

 

First, putting a 40,000 square foot electrical substation next to Floral Park-Bellerose School is inappropriate, short-sighted and directly impacts quality of life. Not only are these school grounds, but they are utilized by local athletic leagues in the evenings and weekends. This is a non-starter and must be immediately addressed by developers and PSEG. One only has to look at the Belmont Property to see that there are far better locations for the substation that will meet the needs of the economic development plan.

 

Second, I have very serious concerns regarding the height of the proposed hotel. If the hotel is developed, as it is outlined in the scoping document, the structure will become the tallest building in Nassau County. Simply stated, the height of the hotel should complement the track and arena and not negatively impact the quality of life for our community.

 

Third, the plan must provide an adequate and abundant barrier between residential homes along the South Lot. The quality of life that residents of Elmont and Floral Park currently enjoy should not be impacted by development as a next door neighbor.Fourth, Plainfield Ave is a major thoroughfare through the Elmont and Floral Park communities. This artery is the home of Floral Park Memorial High School, Our Lady of Victory, several dozen homes and is an entranceway to Our Lady of Victory and Emanuel Baptist Churches.

 

The integrity of this corridor should not be adversely impacted by traffic patterns that could evolve into safety issues. The Plainfield Avenue entrance must be restricted for the New York Racing Association. Specifically, this entrance should only be used for horsemen, NYRA and the Equine Hospital.

 

Fifth, traffic studies cannot be limited to a half mile radius. The impact of the project far exceeds a half mile. To that end, traffic studies should look towards the impact of contiguous communities. In addition, special attention must paid to Elmont Road, Plainfield Avenue and arteries that lead into the Jamaica Square section of Elmont as well as South Floral Park.

 

Sixth, developers should look towards beautification, revitalization and enhancement of current parks that surround the Belmont Park Development initiative.

 

Lastly, the development plan must keep within the breadth and scope it was originally designed. To that end, Empire State Development Corporation must continue to strive towards striking an appropriate balance between providing economic developments and disrupting the lives of the local communities.

 

I truly believe that the Belmont Park Development Initiative will enhance the community, existing horseracing industry, bring new jobs and create opportunities to Long Island when we ALL work together with respect, transparency and the communication that is needed to continue to build trust.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Series of Bills Protecting New York’s Community Heroes Passes Senate

Measures Would Protect Police, Firefighters, Corrections Officers, and Other Emergency Responders by Increasing Penalties for Criminals Who Specifically Target these Professions

 

Senator Elaine Phillips announced that the New York State Senate recently passed several measures to increase protections for the state’s law enforcement community, firefighters, and other emergency service workers, including the “Community Heroes Protection Act.” The measures are in direct response to the numerous incidents of violence directed at New York’s first responders, and would increase penalties for assaults or threats to police, increase safety at correctional facilities, and increase benefits for those who became sick from their heroic service during the World Trade Center recovery.

 

“Thousands of men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting our communities as law enforcement officials, firefighters and emergency service workers have done so without asking for anything in return,” Senator Phillips said. “This legislation provides individuals protections from target attacks by making certain crimes committed against them punishable as hate crimes. We must continue to stand with these brave individuals who put their lives on the line each and every day.”

 

The Community Heroes Protection Act was inspired by those who have lost their lives, were wounded, or targeted specifically because of their profession as community protectors, such as last year’s fatal shooting of NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia. The bill, S.1114A, would make certain crimes explicitly committed against law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders punishable as hate crimes.

 

In addition, the Senate passed a variety of bills aimed at safeguarding New York’s law enforcement community, including:

 

  • S1747: Helps protect retired police officers from retaliation by individuals who had been arrested by the officers when they were still on active duty. The bill makes the law consistent with the stronger criminal penalties currently in place to prevent the assault of active duty law enforcement by specifically including retired officers;
  • S1984: Straightens existing penalties by creating a new crime when a terrorist threat is made against a police officer. A person would be guilty of making a terroristic threat against a police officer when they threaten to commit or cause to be committed a specified offense against a police officer, while also demonstrating intent to intimidate or coerce the public or government actions through murder, assassination, or kidnapping, while also demonstrating.
  • S2125: Prohibits civilian drone use within 1,000 feet of a correctional facility. The civilian use of unmanned aerial systems, or drones, has increased exponentially in recent years. Though many are used for innocuous reasons, in August 2015, a drone dropped a package containing tobacco, marijuana, and heroin into the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio. By restricting drone use in the immediate vicinity of a correctional facility, this bill would help promote a safer prison environment;
  • S5337: Expands the permitted use of TSA body image scanner devices in correctional facilities across the state as part of an effort to reduce a high level of inmate “slashing” violence through the use of smuggled blades. The use of the body scanners has been proven to reduce inmate slashing, but the state Commission of Correction suspended the use of the scanners in jails because the Public Health law limits use to medical purposes only – something this bill would amend;
  • S6898B: Expands line of duty sick leave to include every public officer or employee who, on the job, engaged in World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup activities. The expansion acknowledges that every public employee deserves benefits related to any qualifying World Trade Center illness or condition as a result of putting their lives on the line to help in any way they could following the tragic events of 9/11; and
  • S1302: Increases penalties for criminals who target law enforcement through vehicle vandalism. As a result of serving and protecting communities all across the state, law enforcement personnel are placed in dangerous situations on a daily basis. This bill would protect those who protect communities and serve as a deterrent to those who seek to commit such crimes.

 

The Senate Republican conference has been a consistent advocate for the law enforcement community throughout the state. In last year’s budget, and in response to the tragic assassinations of NYPD Officers Miosotis Familia, Wenjian Liu, and Rafael Ramos, the Senate secured $4 million to help retrofit NYPD patrol cars and command vehicles with bulletproof windows and door panels to help save the lives of law enforcement.

 

The Senate Republican conference has also spoken loudly and clearly in support of stronger penalties for hardened criminals. This includes a recent Senate petition drive that collected thousands of signatures calling on the state Parole Board to deny parole for cop-killer Herman Bell and last week’s call for the resignation of Parole Board members who granted the release despite Bell’s politically-motivated and premeditated assassinations of two New York City police officers.

 

The bills will be sent to the Assembly.

 

Visit Senator Elaine Phillips’ webpage

 

Phillips Joins in Calling for Increased Transit Funding to Better Serve Millions of Riders

Transit is New York’s Infrastructure of Access and a Key Driver of Economic Development in Urban and Rural Areas

 

Senator Elaine Phillips joined with New York Public Transit Association officials, transit operators and fellow lawmakers to call for adequate and equitable funding for the state’s aging transit systems, including the Long Island Rail Road and NICE bus service.

 

“As a Long Islander, and Chairman of the Senate Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, I understand the importance of a safe and seamless transportation system and the importance of both MTA and non-MTA transit systems to our region.” Senator Phillips said. “Transit service is vital to the continued viability and economic growth of our region, and I will continue to advocate for a fair share for all transit systems and riders.”

 

Increased funding will allow the NICE bus service to expand north and south routes in coordination with LIRR schedules. In addition, aid will help LIRR infrastructure issues and safety concerns, allowing upgrades to signals, equipment maintenance facilities and technology.

 

In January, the LIRR experienced the worst on-time percentage in 22 years –with riders failing to reach their destinations on schedule 16 percent of the time.

 

“With ticket costs topping off at $300, $400 and $500 in some LIRR zones, commuters deserve a railroad they can rely on to get them to and from home, work, medical appointments, school or recreational activities,” Senator Phillips said.

 

Visit Senator Phillip’s webpage

 

Senate Passes 2018-19 Budget Resolution; Controls Spending, Protects Hardworking Taxpayers

Senator Elaine Phillips announced that the New York State Senate passed a 2018-19 budget plan that promotes affordability, opportunity, and security for all New Yorkers. This fiscally responsible plan keeps state spending within the two-percent cap and serves as a blueprint for the creation of a better budget and a stronger, safer, and more prosperous New York.

 

“This budget is a comprehensive plan that will make Long Island more affordable for hardworking taxpayers, create jobs and opportunities and protect our quality of life,” Senator Elaine Phillips said. “The Senate’s plan rejects new taxes and fees, provides record funding to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic, and delivers key investments in infrastructure, education and healthcare, while supporting overburdened families, seniors, veterans and businesses. The Senate’s budget also addresses critical funding for clean water and increases the state’s commitment to providing women with quality medical care.”

 

It includes none of the new taxes and fees proposed by the Executive, but instead cuts taxes to create jobs; reduces the state’s high cost of living; provides record levels of funding for education, the environment, and opioid abuse prevention; and addresses the serious public health and safety challenges facing the state’s communities.

 

“I am extremely proud to join my colleagues in the Senate to stand up for our families and students on Long Island by doubling the Governor’s school aid proposal with an additional $379 million in vital foundation aid. Our schools are the most critical investment we can make to ensure our students can have the best learning opportunities possible,” said Senator Phillips. “More investment in our children’s future is key but we must foster a safer learning environment for them to learn and grow. That is why this budget demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to keeping our children safe by improving school security measures that establish a school resources program, require schools to perform active shooter training and reimburses schools for participating in a new school safety program”

 

“As a member of the Senate’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force, I have seen first-hand how the opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities and families throughout Long Island and across the state. With this budget plan, we have included a record $265 million that not only ensures law enforcement, treatment providers and addiction specialists have the proper resources, but supports prevention, expands treatment, encourages recovery and enhances enforcement,” Senator Phillips said.

 

AFFORDABILITY

  • Maintaining Fiscal Discipline by protecting taxpayers and adhering to, and making permanent, a self-imposed two-percent spending cap for the eighth year in a row, which has saved taxpayers nearly $41 billion since the 2010-2011 budget.
  • Rejecting nearly $ 1 billion Tax and Fee Increases proposed by Governor Cuomo, including new taxes on internet purchases and new DMV fees.
  • Protection and Expansion of STAR Property Tax Relief by rejecting the Governor’s cap on STAR benefits and extending the property tax rebate check program. Additionally, new initiatives to help reduce the local tax burden on taxpayers would save small businesses $275 million by making small businesses eligible for the STAR property tax savings program; and freeze school property taxes at current levels for many seniors and completely eliminate their school property taxes over the next 10 years.
  • Protecting Taxpayers from Negative Impacts of Federal Tax Changes by decoupling the state and federal tax codes to prevent New Yorkers from taking a $1.5 billion state tax hit as a result of recent federal tax changes. It holds harmless New Yorkers who may have to pay more in state income taxes because of the changes at the federal level and prevents the state from benefitting from the sudden revenue increase at the expense of taxpayers.
  • $280 Million in New Energy Tax Relief to business and resident ratepayers by eliminating the two-percent Gross Receipts Tax on utility bills.
  • Savings on Retirement Income by increasing the private pension and retirement income exclusion from $20,000 to $40,000 for single taxpayers and to $80,000 for married taxpayers, over three years.

 

OPPORTUNITY

  • Improving Economic Development Programs by shutting down the under-performing START-UP program and redirects $44.5 million in advertising funding to support more effective economic development initiatives.
  • Providing Tax Relief for Businesses by Reducing the amount small businesses and farms must pay in taxes by raising the corporate tax threshold and lowering the rate, and also raising the personal income tax exemption and threshold for a combined tax savings of $495 million;
  • Cutting Red Tape to Encourage Business Growth with a comprehensive regulatory reform package to eliminate regulations that are unnecessary and duplicative, preventing businesses from succeeding and growing. The measures curtail the overuse of emergency regulations, improve the accuracy of regulatory “job impact” statements, and help foster more cooperation between regulators and businesses, among other reforms.
  • Promoting Workforce Development by continuing to improve employee readiness; better meet the workforce needs of private sector employers; connect job seekers with potential employers; retrain those who have lost jobs; and help make New York State’s overall economy more robust, dynamic and resilient. This budget plan rejects the Executive’s proposal to include workforce development as part of the Regional Economic Development Council competition and instead directs any additional resources be made available towards existing proven programs.
  • Increasing Education Funding to Help Children Succeed by including an approximately $1 billion – 3.8 percent – increase in school aid funding over last year, bringing the total investment in schools to a record level of $26.1 billion. Other highlights include:
    • Doubling the Governor’s Foundation Aid proposal with $379 million in additional funding, for a total increase of more than $717 million in 2017-18;
    • Providing flexibility for Community Schools funding;
    • Fully funding expense base aids at $240.4 million;
    • Creating an Education Investment Tax Credit that provides new tax incentives designed to encourage charitable giving to schools and improve the quality of education for students;
    • Continuing support for last year’s $5 million in funding for STEM initiatives in non-public schools, and creates a new formula with no cap to reimburse non-public schools’ STEM teacher salaries beginning in the 2019-20 school year;
    • Increasing nonpublic schools’ mandated services aid by $5.4 million as the Executive Budget proposed, and restoring $7 million in immunization funding. The Senate also continues $15 million in security grants for non-public schools and allows those schools to participate in programs funding the placement of school resource officers.
  • Preparing Students For Bright Futures Through Higher Education by restoring the Executive Budget’s $200 million cuts to SUNY capital and includes an additional $55 million each for SUNY’s and CUNY’s capital programs. The measure also advances a five-year capital plan for SUNY and CUNY to make new investments in the state’s higher education institutions. It increases base aid funding for community colleges by $100 per FTE to help prevent tuition hikes and to help working parents succeed in school, $2 million was restored for childcare centers at community colleges. To support New York’s Bravest, the Senate includes a measure allowing firefighters to take up to two CUNY free courses that pertain to their line of work. The proposal also restores a $35 million cut to Bundy Aid in the Executive Budget so that more private college and university students can access financial aid, and it expands the ability for private schools to participate in the STEM Scholarship program.
  • Increasing Support for Local Roads and Bridges by maintaining the Senate’s commitment to parity between the DOT and MTA capital plans, and ensures long-term regional balance in the funding of transportation projects.  Highlights include:
    • Provides an additional $27 million in State operating assistance for non-MTA downstate and upstate transit systems, for a total of $552 million, a 6 percent increase over last year;
    • Adds $65 million for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Program (CHIPS), for a total of more than $503 million;

 

SECURITY

  • Providing Record Support for Heroin and Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment by increasing the state’s support for opioid use disorder-related services to a new record of $265 million – going beyond the 2018-19 Executive Budget proposal of $228 million.
  • In addition, the Senate includes measures to reduce exposure to opioids for children and adults; limit and provide alternatives to opioid use; better define controlled substances to include deadly drugs like fentanyl; screen expectant mothers to prevent and treat addiction in infants; encourage the successful recovery for those struggling with addiction; and provide law enforcement with new tools to help get drugs and big-time dealers off the streets.
  • Improving School Security with a comprehensive critical school safety package that would strengthen security and help keep students safe. This budget incorporates many of those initiatives:
    • Requires every public and private school to conduct at least two active shooter drills during the school year;
    • Reimburses schools for participating in a new School Safety Program at their option whereby teachers and school personnel are equipped with personal safety alarms that would, when triggered, connect to local police departments, fire stations, and medical assistance providers;
    •  Establishes a School Resource program available for any public, nonpublic, or charter school, or BOCES in order to provide improved public safety and or security on school grounds. Such officers would be allowed to possess firearms while performing their duties. Costs for having school resource officers would be aidable for BOCES and charter schools;
    • Develops a grant program for school resource officers whereby nonpublic schools would be reimbursed for the costs of the salaries for school resource officers;
    •  Allows School Safety Improvement Teams to review procedures for safety and make on-site inspections of school district, BOCES, nonpublic school, and charter school facilities.  Any improvements made by a school based on a recommendation from the school safety improvement team would be an aidable expense;
    • Allows schools to use and be reimbursed for a software program in conjunction with security and safety technology platforms;
    • Establishes state reporting requirements of school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists and recommendations on how to improve the ratios of those professionals to students;
    • Creates a School Mental Health Program Services Coordinator to identify, report, and address issues of student mental health in public and nonpublic schools; and
    • Creates a comprehensive school security grant program for the total capital costs of quick capacity smart sensor threat detection and 360-degree security awareness.
  • Taking Additional Actions to Protect Children by reaffirming the Senate’s strong support for amendments to both the civil and criminal statutes of limitations to further protect children from dangerous sexual predators.
  • Increasing Counter-Terrorism Resources with improved counter-terrorism resources, the budget includes an additional $10 million in funding for the purchase of new technology. Local law enforcement agencies could purchase drones with offensive and defensive capabilities and advanced weapon detection systems, among other equipment to protect communities.

 

IMPROVING PUBLIC HEALTH AND NEW YORKERS’ QUALITY OF LIFE

  • Protecting the Environment and Critical Water Resources with support for the Environmental Protection Fund at a record $300 million. It also allocates up to $5 million of last year’s historic $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act for an Emerging Contaminant Contingency Fund to address public water systems that have confirmed one or more emerging contaminants at a potentially harmful level. In addition, the Senate directs funding from the EPF to support a new at SUNY Stony Brook laboratory testing facility or equipment for PFOA and other chemicals, and increases public access to the Governor’s planned initiative to combat harmful algal blooms.
  • Investing in Women’s Health by increasing the state’s commitment to providing women with access to quality medical care. It will restore $475,000 cut in the Executive Budget and include more than $4.5 million in new funding for a total of $5 million that will be used to support initiatives like breast cancer prevention, education, and support, and prenatal and postpartum services, among others.
  • Preventing Lyme Disease by restoring $400,000 in Executive Budget cuts and including an increase of $800,000 for a total of $1.2 million to support the Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases recommendations.
  • Transforming Health Care Delivery Statewide by increasing the Health Care Facility Transformation Program funding from the Executive Budget’s $425 million to $500 million in order to boost a new third round of awards and help ensure long-term sustainability for facilities as they adjust to the changing dynamics of health care in New York. In addition, the Senate rejects the Executive’s Medicaid cuts to hospitals and nursing homes and increases the amount of funding available for new capital projects. It also provides an additional $157 million in support to SUNY hospitals to restore cuts in the Executive Budget and provide them with full Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments.
  • Supporting Veteransby restoring more than $6.125 million in Executive Budget cuts for veterans’ initiatives including:
    • More than $3 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer to Peer Services Program and adds nearly $450,000 in new funding for a total of $3.5 million;
    • $750,000 to support field service operations conducted by Congressionally Chartered Veterans’ Service Organizations;
    • $450,000 for the Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative;
    • $250,000 for the New York State Defenders’ Association Veterans’ Defense Program;
    • $125,000 for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of New York;
    • $100,000 for SAGE Vets Program; and
    • $50,000 for Vietnam Veterans of America New York State Chapter.
  • Assisting Seniorsby restoring Executive Budget cuts and provides additional resources to allow seniors continued access to long-term services and supports, such as home care, transportation and meals, and initiatives to prevent elder abuse. The budget includes:
    • $20 million increase in the state Supplemental Security Income allowance for individuals living in enhanced residential facilities, raising reimbursement $4 per day for the first year, for a total increase of $20 per day over the next five years;
    • $3.6 million in addition to the $22.3 million in the Executive Budget for the New York Connects program, which provides free comprehensive services and supports for seniors and caregivers;
    • $500,000 restoration for the Community Services for the Elderly program, which provides essential in home services to the elderly, allowing seniors to maintain their autonomy and thrive at home in their communities;
    • $200,000 restoration for the continuation of elder abuse prevention and education initiatives, protecting older adults from abuse, maltreatment, and financial exploitation; and
    • Establishment of a statewide, toll-free telephone number (hotline) to receive reports of allegations of reportable incidents 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Comprehensive Strengthening of New York’s Sexual Harassment Laws Passes in State Senate

Legislation Combats Sexual Harassment in the Public and Private Sectors to Create Safer Workplaces for All Employees

 

Senator Elaine Phillips announced that the New York State Senate has passed the most comprehensive response yet to sexual harassment in New York. The bill (S7848A), sponsored by Senator Phillips, will prevent individuals from engaging in misconduct that creates a hostile work environment in either the public or private sectors, and encourage victims to come forward.

 

“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 despicable actions of others,” Senator Phillips said. “This landmark legislation defines in statute sexual harassment for the first time in our state; bans secret settlements; prohibits mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment complaints; protects independent contractors; and ends taxpayer-funded settlements. New Yorkers will now have the protections and safeguards they deserve. As a Senator, as a woman, as a mother, I urge the Assembly and the Governor to take up this legislation and enact these sweeping changes.”

 

The major reforms passed today include: establishing a statutory definition of sexual harassment; prohibiting the anonymity of the accused in court-approved settlements and banning mandatory sexual harassment arbitration clauses; prohibiting confidentiality agreements unless the victim requests confidentiality; expanding protections to independent contractors; creating uniform policies for all branches of state and local government; and protecting hardworking taxpayers from paying for public sector harassment settlements.

 

The bill mirrors much of what the Governor proposed and builds on it in key ways. It would:

 

• Adopt the definition of “Sexual Harassment” into state law: Although the state 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.

 

The bill creates a uniform definition of sexual harassment that is based on federal regulations: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to or rejection of such conduct, explicitly or implicitly, affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment without regard to actual economic injury to or discharge of the individual.

  • Prohibit secret settlements unless the victim requests confidentiality: Courts would be prohibited from accepting any sexual harassment settlements that include confidentiality agreements or provisions. This would help ensure that those responsible are held accountable and prevent future harassment.
  • 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.
  • Protect non-employees in the workplace: Currently, individuals who are not employees but are present in the workplace on a contract basis cannot file complaints against their harassers. The legislation would close this loophole by extending to contract workers the same right to file sexual harassment complaints to the state Division of Human Rights as individuals who are directly employed by the company or entity.
  • Create a uniform policy for all branches of state and local government: The state Department of Labor would be required to create a strong model management policy defining and prohibiting sexual harassment. Every county, city, town, village, school district, or other public entity would be required to develop a sexual harassment prevention policy that applies to all employees and which includes investigation procedures and a standard complaint form. Each complaint would be confidential and the policy must include the prevention of intimidation, retaliation, or coercion to help protect the complainant.

 

The measure also standardizes the process for state government. The legislature would be required to designate an independent attorney specializing in employment law to investigate complaints based on sexual harassment. A specialized unit within the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics would also be established to receive and investigate complaints. Managers and supervisors would be required to report as soon as they become aware of sexual harassment conduct.

  • Protect taxpayer funds from being used for individual sexual harassment settlements: When there is a finding or admission of sexual harassment by a state or local employee, this measure holds the harasser financially accountable for the settlement by enabling the public entity to recoup taxpayer money.

 

The bill will be sent to the Assembly.

 

Visit Senator Schaefer’s webpage

Senate Proposes Largest Ever State Commitment to Prevent Heroin and Opioid Abuse

Senate Budget Proposal Includes $265 Million for Drug Prevention and Treatment, Addresses Fentanyl and Other Deadly Synthetics, Protects Children and Adults from Opioid Exposure, Strengthens Enforcement

 

Senator Elaine Phillips announced the New York State Senate Majority has unveiled details of their extensive response to the challenges facing communities in the fight against opioids and heroin. As part of the Senate’s 2018-19 Budget proposal to be taken up tomorrow, the conference commits to providing a record level of state funding to combat opioid abuse and will propose far-reaching health and safety initiatives to reduce the harmful effects of drug abuse on everyone from infants to adults.

 

“The heroin and opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities throughout New York, and especially here on Long Island, which is why the Senate Majority has proposed $265 million in record funding,” Senator Phillips said. “This package not only ensures law enforcement, treatment providers and addiction specialists have the proper resources, but supports prevention, expands treatment, encourages recovery and enhances enforcement.”

 

The Senate proposal increases the state’s support for opioid use disorder-related services to a new record of $265 million – going beyond the 2018-19 Executive Budget proposal of $228 million.

 

In addition, the Senate will propose measures to reduce exposure to opioids for children and adults; limit and provide alternatives to opioid use; better define controlled substances to include deadly drugs like fentanyl; screen expectant mothers to prevent and treat addiction in infants; encourage the successful recovery for those struggling with addiction; and provide law enforcement with new tools to help get drugs and dealers off the streets. They include:

 

Supporting Prevention

  • Enact the Drug Take Back Act to get unused and unneeded medications out of medicine cabinets.
  • Ensure labels on opioid prescriptions warn of the highly addictive potential of controlled substance medications.
  • Reform prescribing practices to:
    • Limit initial prescriptions from a seven-day to a three-day supply;
    • Require patients prescribed opioids for thirty-days or longer to have a pain management plan with their prescriber;
    • Require written consent from parents or guardians for the prescription of opioids to minors;
    • Require the Department of Health to develop guidance on the administration of opioid antagonists; and
    • Establish a demonstration program to reduce opioid prescribing by utilizing emergency department physician collaboration to control pain through alternative means, including non-opioid medications.

 

Expanding Treatment

  • Authorize the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (OASAS) to provide funding to substance use disorder programs operated by for-profit agencies.
  • Establish a jail-based substance use disorder treatment program.
  • Require testing of newborns for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
  • Establish a program on screening expectant mothers for opioid addiction and linking them with care.
  • Establish a workgroup and provide education for healthcare providers on screening and caring for mothers with an opioid addiction.
  • Prohibit prior authorization for outpatient substance abuse treatment.
  • Establish an OASAS ombudsman to assist consumers and providers with insurance issues, including network adequacy.
  • Require hospitals and Emergency Room physicians to notify a patient’s prescriber that the patient has been treated for a controlled substance overdose.

 

Encouraging Recovery

  • Establish a voluntary certification process for sober homes.
  • Codify the Peer Engagement Program, connecting individuals with substance use disorders to treatment and recovery services.
  • Establish an infant recovery pilot program with at least four infant recovery centers in areas of need for infants suffering from drug withdrawal resulting from in utero exposure.
  • Establish the Family Support and Recovery Services Program to provide recovery services and support to individuals exiting treatment and their families for up to 12 months after leaving a treatment program.

 

Enhancing Enforcement

  • Criminalize the sale of a controlled substance on the grounds of a drug or alcohol treatment center, or within 1,000 feet of such facilities.
  • Make it a crime to offer or accept any kickback from an individual or entity that provides substance abuse services in exchange for patient referral and admission.
  • Establishes appropriate level penalties as it relates to heroin sales.
  • Makes the sale of 2 milligrams or more of Carfentanil a Class A-II felony and the sale of 10 milligrams or more of Carfentanil a Class A-I felony.
  • Update controlled substances penalties to reflect emerging issues.

 

Addressing Fentanyl and other Synthetic Drugs

  • Update the controlled substances schedule to promote consistency with the federal controlled substances schedules.
  • Add new derivatives of fentanyl to the controlled substances schedule.
  • Increase the criminal penalties for the sale of an opiate containing a fentanyl derivative.

 

Senator Phillips, a member of the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, hosted a panel discussion in Mineola in July to discuss the ongoing epidemic of heroin abuse on Long Island and throughout the state. Several members of law enforcement, healthcare professionals, victims and treatment providers participated in the panel and discussed ways to prevent young people from falling prey to the devastating effects of heroin and other opioid drugs. The panel agreed that education is crucial in the war against addiction.

 

The Senate will take action on these measures on Wednesday, March 14, and continue to make addressing heroin and opioid abuse a priority during ongoing budget negotiations.

 

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Senator Phillips Announces Passage of Comprehensive School Safety Package

Measures Provide New Security Funding and Increase Availability of School Resources Officers, Improve School-Based Mental Health Coordination, Enhance Information-Sharing, and Strengthen Penalties for School-Based Crimes

 

Senator Elaine Phillips announced that the New York State Senate passed a comprehensive package of school safety measures that would strengthen security and help keep New York students safe.

 

“Like all Americans, I am shocked at the number of school shootings taking place across our country. As a mother of three daughters, I am outraged and saddened by the regular acts of senseless violence occurring in our schools and elsewhere,” said Senator Phillips. “After listening to the concerns of law enforcement officials, school administrators and parents, we brought forth more than a dozen bills in an effort to prevent this violence from occurring in our state. Yesterday we provided a solid plan to bolster school security through personnel and infrastructure improvements, increase access to school-based mental health services to help students in need and identify potential threats, and increased penalties. I believe that by coupling this wide-ranged school safety plan together with sensible gun regulations, including banning bump stocks and military-style assault weapons, requiring comprehensive background checks, and providing mental health safeguards, we will ensure our schools remain safe havens for students to learn and teachers to educate.”

 

The package also includes legislation, which Senator Phillips sponsored, that would make the Smart Schools Review Board more efficient and accountable in an effort to get much-needed safety and security funding to school districts. The board would be required to meet monthly to review and approve plans submitted by schools, provide updates on pending applications, and notify schools within seven days of a plan being rejected or modifications being sought.

 

“The State Education Department is withholding valuable financial resources, which could be used to assist schools throughout the state with enhanced safety and security efforts to protect our children,” Senator Phillips said. “Over the last few weeks, I have reached out to school Superintendents in my district, including David Flatley, President of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, to learn first-hand what their needs are as we work to ensure New York schools remain safe locations for our children to receive the best education and opportunities possible. Access to funding for increased safety and security upgrades is one of their top priorities. Because of this, I have introduced legislation that would require the Smart School Review Board to meet monthly, notify school districts in a timely matter and provide much needed funding to districts within 30 days when approved.”

 

Other bills increase the ability of schools to hire qualified security personnel, create new state funding mechanisms for infrastructure investments that improve school safety, increase access to school-based mental health services, expand state actions and intelligence coordination to protect schools against attack, and strengthen penalties for crimes on school grounds. Below is a summary of several bills included in the package:

 

Increasing the Ability of Schools to Hire Qualified Security Personnel:

  • Create a School Resource Officers Education Aid Program and Grant Availability:
    (S7811A and S7810A) These new bills define the term “school resource officer” to include a retired police officer, retired deputy sheriff, or retired state trooper, or an active duty police officer, deputy sheriff, or state trooper. School districts throughout the state except New York City would be authorized to receive state funding to hire a school resource officer or contract with the state, a county, city, town, or village for their services. The officers would be charged with providing improved public safety and/or security on school grounds and be authorized to carry and possess firearms during the course of their duties if licensed to do so.

 

  • Peace Officer Status for School Resource Officers:
    (S1144A) The bill provides retired police officers with peace officer status when they are employed by a school district as a school resource officer.

 

  • More State Aid for School Resource Officers:
    (S7791) This new bill helps promote the availability of qualified security personnel that could be hired in schools by increasing the state funding available to support the employment by schools of retired police officers from the current $30,000 per year limit to $50,000 per year.

 

Improving School Safety with Infrastructure Investments:

  • Security Hardware Aid Program:
    (S7790) The new bill would provide state education aid to school districts acquire safety technology and improve security of their facilities.

 

  • Improve the Smart School Bond Act Allocation Process:
    (S7846, sponsored by Senator Elaine Phillips) This new bill requires the Smart Schools Review Board to meet monthly and approve plans submitted by schools, provide updates on pending applications, and notify schools within seven days of a plan being rejected or modifications being sought,. It also requires the state Department of Education, Division of Budget, and State University of New York to develop a process to notify districts of the status of their applications, respond to district status inquires within seven days, and for the Board to pay for approved projects within 30 days.

 

Increasing Access to School-Based Mental Health Services:

  • Create a New Mental Health Services Coordinator Aid Program and Grants:
    (S7805) This new bill establishes a Mental Health Services Program Coordinator Education Aid Program for the state to reimburse school districts outside the city of New York. Schools would be eligible for $50,000 in state funding for the hiring of a mental health services coordinator. The coordinator is defined in the bill as a mental health services professional, with qualifications determined by regulation by the commissioner of education, whose role and responsibility shall be to work with students, faculty, and other mental health and health care professionals to identify, report and address mental health issues in any public or non-public school that could pose a risk to public safety.

 

  • Assess and Improve Mental Health Resources in Schools:
    (S7838) This new bill requires the state Department of Education to investigate and report on the number of full and part-time school counselors, school social workers and school psychologists in each school, the ratio of students to the number of school counselors, the ratio of students to the number of school social workers, the ratio of students to the number of school psychologists in each school, and when such staff is working in more than one school. Upon completion of the report, the state must propose how to increase the number of school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists to meet the nationally accepted ratios, taking into consideration the specific needs of individual school districts and the region in which such school district is located.

 

Expanding State Action to Protect Schools Against Attack:

  • Define School Shootings as Terrorism and Improve Intelligence to Prevent Attacks
    (S7813A,)This new bill enables individuals to be charged with committing an act of terrorism if they knowingly and unlawfully discharge a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school, a place of worship, a mass gathering of 25 or more people, or in a business of one or more employees and protects such sties under counter terrorism laws. The bill also codifies the operations of the New York State Intelligence Center and makes it responsible for the collection, integration, receipt, processing, evaluation, analysis, fusing, dissemination, sharing, and maintenance of intelligence information to aid in detecting, preventing, investigating and responding to acts of terrorism, including school shootings. The Center would cooperate with the state Division of Homeland Security among other state, local, and federal government agencies, as well as – for the first time – include schools and the state department of education as part of that collaboration. The bill also requires the establishment of a new Buffalo office to the current fusion centers in Albany and New York City and increase the information-sharing and analysis capabilities of the state.

 

  • Upgrade School Safety Improvement Teams:
    (S7832) This new measure expands the membership of existing required school safety improvement teams to include representatives of the state Division of Homeland Security, State Police, Department of Criminal Justice Services, Office of General Services and Education Department. It provides for a 120-day response timeline for such teams; provides for on-site examinations of the teams at the request of the school district, BOCES, nonpublic school, or county vocational and educational board; and allows for the provision of state education aid for the performance of school safety upgrades recommended by a team examination.

 

Strengthening Penalties for Crimes on School Grounds:

  • Protect School Communities From Violent Threats:
    (S2521) The bill expands the existing laws in place to prevent school bomb threats so that other types of threats can be prosecuted as well. Under current law, an individual who threatens a fire, explosion, or release of a hazardous substance on school grounds is guilty of a class D felony of falsely reporting an incident in the first degree. This measure would also make it a felony for someone to issue a threat of intentional acts or a continued course of action of serious physical harm to 10 or more people on school grounds.

 

In the last year alone, the Senate successfully extended a 10 percent increase in building aid for schools to fund additional security measures like door hardening, metal detectors, and other related infrastructure. The Senate also secured $25 million in new funding for nonpublic schools, daycares, and community centers at risk for hate crimes and $15 million for nonpublic schools to increase their security. Initiatives like these will continue to be a part of this coming year’s budget negotiations.

 

The bills will be sent to the Assembly.

 

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Senator Phillips Joins Colleagues on Measure Making School Shootings Acts of Domestic Terrorism

Legislation Introduced to Allow Law Enforcement to Treat Threats Against Schools, Houses of Worship, Places of Business as Terrorist Threats

 

In the wake of the latest mass shooting, Senator Phillips has joined several of her colleagues in co-sponsoring legislation which makes mass shootings acts of terrorism.

 

“Like all Americans, I am shocked at the number of mass shootings taking place across our country. As a mother of three daughters, I am outraged and saddened by the regular acts of senseless violence occurring in our schools and elsewhere,” said Senator Phillips. “Intentional violence in any form against groups of individuals – be it at a concert, place of worship, shopping venue, or schools – are terrorist attacks and they must be treated in the same manner to provide our law enforcement the best tools possible to prevent such attacks.”

 

“Numerous tips were provided to several Florida law enforcement agencies prior to the recent Parkland shooting, and sadly they all fell through the cracks. By enacting this legislation and designating mass shootings as terrorism – federal and state intelligence gathering resources of the New York State Intelligence Center would be better equipped to prevent these crimes through their expertise, data collection technology and better communication between state and federal agencies.”

 

The bill, S.7813, also codifies the New York State Intelligence Center, a federally authorized intelligence gathering partnership between the FBI, CIA, State Police, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and local policing agencies, and adds a mandate for the Intelligence Center to prevent mass shootings.

 

The proposed legislation would reference mass shootings in the statute describing them as acts of domestic terrorism. The bill clarifies that a school, house of worship or business could be considered a “civilian population” when a terrorist discharges or attempts to affect the conduct of such areas by discharging a weapon with the intent to cause harm.

 

The measure is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs.

 

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Phillips Talks State Measures to Protect LI’s Drinking Water

Senator Elaine Phillips recently attended the monthly Nassau Suffolk Water Commissioners’ Association meeting to discuss state measures for protecting Long Island’s drinking water.

 

“As State Senator, ensuring that our Long Island water resources remain safe for current residents and future generations has always been a top priority, and I look forward to working with all the water districts on this important initiative,” Senator Phillips said. “Thank you to President Andrew Bader and the entire board for inviting me to speak and for your dedication to Long Island’s water.”

 

Senator Phillips discussed updates on 1,4-dioxane, her legislation to halt the renewal of permits to open the Jamaica wells, and the allocation of the historic $2.5 billion in funding for clean water infrastructure and water quality protection.

 

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