Category Archives: New York State Senate

Senate Passes Package of Bills to Make New York’s Roads Safer for Motorists and Their Families

Measures Include Creation of a New Commission to Prevent Teen Motor Vehicle Accidents, and Increase Enforcement and Penalties for Reckless Drivers

 

Senator Elaine Phillips announced that the New York State Senate has passed a package of bills designed to prevent motor vehicle accidents and acts of unlawful driving, and make New York’s roads safer for motorists and their families. The measures require a new study of distracted driving and other causes of teens’ accidents, increased penalties and enforcement for reckless drivers who endanger schoolchildren or construction workers, preventing staged accidents and insurance fraud, as well as those who repeatedly drive unlicensed.

 

“With motor vehicle accidents being the third leading cause of death in New York, and the first for teenagers, it is critical that we continue working to make our roads safer,” Senator Phillips said. “These measures are designed to prevent accidents and unlawful driving by increasing penalties for reckless drivers, protecting schoolchildren and stopping staged accidents and insurance fraud. I applaud my colleagues on passing these lifesaving measures and urge the Assembly and Governor Cuomo to take them up.”

 

Preventing Distracted Driving by Teens and Adults

Recent findings suggest that motor vehicle crashes are higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group. A bill, S.2632, creates the “Teen Driver Safety Commission” to examine and review the issue of teen driver safety. This legislation creates a 12-member commission to study the availability and effectiveness of driver education and training programs in New York, as well as a selection of driver education and training programs offered throughout the United States. The commission will also:

  • Review the impact of distracting behaviors while driving;
  • Survey and assess the problems of driving under the influence and aggressive driving among teens;
  • Determine the type of motor vehicle violations that are most often associated with accidents involving teen drivers;
  • Analyze and provide measures that may mitigate the risks associated with the operation of motor vehicles by teen drivers; and
  • Report all findings and conclusions to both the governor and the legislature to help form effective public policy.

 

Other measures passed today include:

Protecting Kids on School Buses and in School Zones

  • S.1064A: Increases penalties for those who recklessly pass a stopped school bus on multiple occasions. The legislation would help protect children going to school by suspending a driver’s license for a period of 60 days when the driver is convicted of passing a stopped school bus twice in 18 months – a similar punishment under current law for repeat speeders in construction zones.
  • S.6212A: Helps to deter dangerous drivers from committing traffic infractions and traffic misdemeanors in a school traffic control zone by doubling fines for these offenses. By creating harsher penalties for those would put children at risk in a school zone, this measure will create incentives for drivers to abide by the laws and reduce the amount of vehicle and traffic incidents.

 

Increasing Safety on all New York Roads

  • S.421: Creates new criminal penalties for those who engage in staged accidents – the intentional act of causing a vehicle collision to commit insurance fraud. Aside from the fact that this illicit activity poses a serious public safety risk, the economic cost of staged accidents is staggering, with no-fault insurance fraud estimated to cost insurance companies and their policyholders $1 billion per year. This bill would impose tougher punishment on those who stage accidents, thereby deterring individuals from engaging in this dangerous crime.
  • S.258: Establishes the crimes of vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter in an active work zone. The legislation creates newer, tougher penalties for injuring or killing a construction worker and would help serve as a deterrent to driving carelessly in a construction zone. It also builds upon the “Work Zone Safety Act of 2005,” which increased penalties for speeding in work zones, allowed police presence and radar speed display signs in work zones, and created a system for reviewing safety and design in work zones.
  • S1258: Increases safety on New York’s roadways by making it easier to prosecute those who repeatedly drive unlicensed. This legislation helps to ensure offenders of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle may be charged in the second degree when they have two or more suspensions for failure to answer, appear, or pay a fine. Under current law, the offenders must have had three such suspensions to be prosecuted for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the second degree.
  • S1188: Closes a serious loophole in traffic law by toughening penalties for those operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license in a parking lot. This legislation would ensure serious legal ramifications for these types of offenders by applying the “parking lot as a public highway” interpretation of traffic law, which currently only pertains to DWI-related offenses. Currently, if a driver with a suspended license causes a serious accident in a parking lot, they could face no serious legal ramifications.

 

The bills will be sent to the Assembly.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Senate Passes Package of Bills to Protect, Assist, and Recognize Current, Former Military Service Members

Senator Elaine Phillips announced that the New York State Senate has passed a package bills this week in an effort to care for and memorialize the courageous men and women who have served in our military, as well as those still on active-duty. The legislative measures will help protect the well-being of those who defend our freedoms, ease their financial worries, connect them with crucial benefits, and honor their service.

 

“The brave men and women who have answered the call to serve our country have done so with honor and resolve, and we owe them a great debt of gratitude,” Senator Phillips said. As elected officials, it is our duty to fight for them with the same ferocity they exhibited fighting to protect our liberty. This legislative package provide protections to veterans, ease the financial burden for them, and honor their service.”

 

Senator Phillips also honored U.S. Navy veteran Ralph Esposito of Floral Park Crest for his distinguished military career and commitment to providing necessary services to veterans. Joined by his wife, Joanna, Ralph was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame, which highlights the service of a veteran from each Senate District, during a special ceremony at the State Capitol today.

 

“Ralph Esposito embodies what it means to be an American hero – from his service in the Navy and dedication to the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, to his time Director of the Nassau County Veteran Service Agency,” Senator Phillips said. “Ralph’s selfless devotion to improving the lives of his fellow service members and caring for their loved ones is truly outstanding. It is an honor to recognize Ralph for his distinguished career and endless commitment to ensuring fellow veterans receive the care and help they deserve.”

 

Bills passed include:

 

Protecting the Welfare of Military Personnel

  • S927: Establishes a Class D felony for the crime of inciting violence against both active duty and reserve military service members in an effort to curb the destructive trend of targeting those who have made a career out of protecting the citizens of this country.
  • S955: Makes it a Class C felony to commit assault against an active-duty soldier if the accused’s intent was to prevent that soldier from performing their lawful duty.
  • S957A: Creates the Class E felony crime of stolen valor and directs that anyone convicted under this new crime pay a fee to be deposited into the veterans cemetery fund. Requires those who deplorably impersonate the brave men and women who served in the military – whether for money or other benefits – to pay a fee towards maintaining veterans’ cemeteries is a fitting way to ensure real heroes are honored appropriately.

 

Making it More Affordable to Live and Thrive in New York

  • S936A: Creates a task force to study and improve the job market for veterans. The task force, to be made up of stakeholders within state government, the private sector, and institutions of higher education, will be charged with holding annual public hearings and making recommendations to the legislature regarding ways the state can assist those who served our country in finding and maintaining meaningful employment opportunities.
  • S5642A: Creates a certified service-disabled veteran-owned business enterprise development and lending program to help provide financial and technical assistance to disabled veterans who have started a business in New York. Building upon the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act enacted in 2014, this legislation would help guarantee that certified service-disabled veteran-owned businesses have the necessary assistance to succeed.
  • S3879A: Encourages public employers to hire military service veterans by establishing the “Hire a Vet” program, which would provide grants to municipalities when a veteran is hired and employed. Similar to tax credits offered to private businesses, the grants would range from $5000 to $15000 for qualified and disabled veterans, and incentivize public employers to help honor and recognize sacrifices made by members of the military in service to their country.
  • S854: Provides free hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses to state residents who are active duty members of the United States armed services.
  • S3571: Streamlines the process for active duty service members to receive their free Empire Passport for state park usage. Current law requires the Empire Passport to be filled out annually and to be received in the mail, making the entire process lengthy and cumbersome. Active duty service members and their immediate family would instead be eligible for the free entry to state parks by providing their military ID upon entry.
  • S3336: Grants an additional real property tax exemption for two qualified veterans who reside in the same household in relation to the alternative veterans’ exemptions. This legislation would properly recognize and financially reward all veterans who have served their country and own property in New York.

 

Connecting Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families with Important Services

  • S255: Changes the eligibility dates for a military enhanced recognition, incentive and tribute scholarship to include all the military conflicts that occurred on or after June 1, 1982. The enactment of this bill would allow family members or financial dependents of New York State residents who were wounded or killed while serving the United States military from June 1, 1982 onward to qualify for academic scholarships such as the NYS Regents Award for Children of Veterans and the Military Service Recognition Scholarship.
  • S254: Provides surviving dependent family members of New York State military personnel who have died while performing official military duties with free tuition and room and board at CUNY or SUNY institutions, or a commensurate amount to be applied to a public college or university.
  • S5158: Assists service-related disabled veterans in affording a home by giving those with a VA disability rating of 40 percent or higher a preference in applications to the state’s Affordable Home Ownership Development Program. This legislation would help disabled veterans sustain a good quality of life after sacrificing their health for their country.
  • S2319: Creates a mechanism for parents or guardians who find themselves deployed for short-term military service to appoint a temporary guardian for their minor child or children while they are serving our country. With all the other worries and considerations that come with a deployment for military service, parents or guardians who are called upon to serve their country should be able to choose a guardian for their children during their deployment without undue complication.
  • S1013A: Authorizes military personnel scheduled for deployment in less than 30 days to get married within 24 hours of receiving their marriage license. Currently the mandatory waiting period of 24 hours for couples to get married is a hindrance to those expected to serve our country overseas and on short notice.
  • S944: Allows the ballot of an active duty service member who has died in combat to be counted towards the election for which it was cast. Current law prohibits the counting of an absentee ballot cast by any individual who died prior to the date of the election, but this bill gives our brave service members one final act of citizenship.
  • S2813: Updates provisions for leaves of absence for public employees who are war veterans to continue their education by including the current federal veterans educational programs.
  • S200A: Increases the base amount of the annuity for legally blind veterans and their unmarried widows, and clarifies that the formula for an annual increase consider the cost of living increase established for veteran benefits by the federal government on December 1, 2015. The blind annuity was established in 1923 in New York to help take care of veterans who made great sacrifices during wartime, and was last updated in 2004.
  • S3709: Establishes a Veterans’ Gerontological Advisory Committee. This measure would address the needs of a state with the second-highest veteran population in the country, and an older veteran population whose needs and problems pervade multiple geriatrics and gerontology disciplines. At no cost to the taxpayers, the advisory committee will be able to provide crucial recommendations to the Director of the Office for the Aging on policies, programs, services, and trends affecting the aging veteran population.
  • S733: Ensures job protection for both New York State public and private employees who live outside of New York and are deployed, as an active duty member of the National Guard.
  • S1011: Allows any individual who has served in active duty in the United States military to attend SUNY colleges and universities as an in-state resident. Under current law, active duty veterans who choose to come to study at SUNY colleges are charged out-of-state tuition – a significant amount not entirely covered by the federal GI bill. This bill would encourage service men and women to study at state colleges and universities, and start their futures in New York.
  • S1124A: Provides an annual increase to the Gold Star Parent Annuity in relation to increased annual costs of living. Established in 2008, the yearly compensation shows recognition for parents that have lost a son or daughter in the armed services during a time of war, yet it has never increased since its implementation.
  • S2189: Empowers the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs and other state agencies to study and address the alarming trend of homeless persons who are veterans in New York, as well as the amount of homeless veterans who are also parents. The study and analysis would help gather information on the number of homeless veterans in New York, and help lead to solutions to combat the growing problem among the men and women who have served in the military and are now homeless, as well as their children.

 

Showing Respect for and Recognition of Service to Country

  • S216: Designates March 13 of each year as “K9 Veterans Day” in this state.
  • S6606: Establishes the “New York State Silver Rose Veterans Service Certificate” for veterans exposed to dioxin or phenoxy herbicides during military service. This legislation would help to bring awareness to the long-suffered effects of exposure to tactical herbicides such as Agent Orange while also recognizing and honoring the tremendous sacrifice and bravery of our veterans.
  • S198: Creates a new Korean War Service Medal for military service abroad in the Korean War from June 25, 1950, through July 27, 1953.
  • S199: Creates the Vietnam War Service Medal for military service abroad in the Vietnam War from November 1, 1955, through April 30, 1975.
  • S3906: Establishes a veterans cemetery funding promotion program, building upon the Veterans Remembrance and Cemetery Maintenance and Operation Fund and New York State Veterans Cemetery program, both created in 2013 and administered by the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs. The legislation would require the Division to produce and conduct programs, projects, and materials designed to solicit financial contributions by individuals, groups, and corporations to give to the fund, in order to support the construction and maintenance of veterans’ cemeteries in New York. Also included in the bill are directions for the Division to apply for grants and contributions from governments and other institutional funding sources, and the production of an annual report on the activities, operations, and progress of the promotion program.
  • S7870: Establishes the “Veterans’ Memorials Preservation Act,” to help protect veterans’ memorials throughout the state. An omission under current law has resulted in many veterans’ memorials being destroyed by those with disregard for the sacrifices of our veterans – something this measure would help correct by further providing for the preservation of military history in New York to ensure that future generations understand the significance of what military service veterans have done to preserve democracy and freedom.
  • S3675A: Creates the option for a voluntary contribution on state personal income tax returns for congressional chartered veterans service organizations. By contributing to organizations like the Veterans Service Organizations Fund, taxpayers would be helping to cut through red tape and connect veterans with services they have earned without any effect on state fiscal concerns.

 

The bills have been sent to the Assembly.

 

Earlier this session, the Senate also succeeded in restoring significant budget funding cuts for veterans’ initiatives as part of the enacted budget and increased funding for several programs that support veterans and their families. Funding includes:

  • $645,000 in additional funding to expand the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Services Peer-to-Peer Program to an additional seven counties. Total funding for this successful program, which is based on veterans helping veterans, is now $3.7 million and reaches 23 counties;
  • $500,000 for the NYS Defenders Association Veterans Defense Program;
  • $450,000 for the Veteran’s Mental Health Training Initiative;
  • $220,000 to expand the Veterans Defense Program to Long Island;
  • $200,000 for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project;
  • $200,000 for Warrior Salute;
  • $100,000 for the Veterans Justice Project;
  • $100,000 for the SAGE Veterans Project;
  • $50,000 for the Vietnam Veterans of America New York State Council;
  • $200,000 for Helmets-to-Hardhats;
  • $25,000 for the Veterans Miracle Center; and
  • $125,000 for Veterans of Foreign Wars NYS Chapter Field Service Operations.

 

Information about the 2018 New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame will soon be posted at https://www.nysenate.gov/initiatives/honoring-our-veterans.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Senator Phillips, North Shore University Hospital Host 2nd Annual Nurses Appreciation Ceremony

Nurses Appreciation CeremonySenator Elaine Phillips, in partnership with North Shore University Hospital, recently hosted the 2nd annual Nurses Appreciation Ceremony to honor nurses as part of National Nurses Week.

 

“Nurses are the frontline and backbone of our health care system, and are too often overlooked for their selfless devotion to patients, hospitals and communities,” Senator Phillips said. “Our region is fortunate to have some of the best nurses and healthcare facilities in the country. It was a privilege to recognize the outstanding nurses from North Shore University Hospital and personally thank them for their hard work and commitment to providing top-notch care to those in need on Long Island. Thank you to Northwell Health for co-hosting this celebration and congratulations to all the nurses.”

 

National Nurses Week runs from May 6 to May 12 and was first celebrated in 1954 on the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s famous mission to Crimea. In 1982, President Ronald Regan signed a proclamation making May 6 National Nurses Day. This year’s National Nurses Week theme was “Nurses: Inspire, Innovate, Influence.”

 

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Senator Phillips Announces Comprehensive Package of Legislation to Combat Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases

Senator Elaine Phillips announced recently that the New York State Senate passed measures to strengthen the state’s efforts to combat Lyme and tick-borne diseases at a time of year when ticks are becoming active once again. The bills assist in implementing the goals of the Senate’s Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases by increasing public awareness and prevention and improving diagnosis and treatment to better protect the health of all New Yorkers.

 

“New York, especially Long Island, continues to see an increase in Lyme and tick-borne diseases and unfortunately we all know someone who has been affected by this debilitating disease,” said Senator Phillips, a member of the Senate’s Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases. “The measures passed today further our efforts to promote awareness, boost prevention efforts and improve diagnosis and treatment opportunities. It is paramount that everyone not just understand these diseases, but that they have the tools needed to protect themselves and their families.”

 

In addition to today’s package of comprehensive bills, the Senate also approved a resolution (J4517) today designating May 2018 as Lyme Disease Awareness Month in the State of New York. The resolution helps focus on this significant and complex disease, provides information on and raises public awareness of its causes, symptoms, and treatments, and underscores important education and research efforts surrounding Lyme and tick-borne diseases.

 

According to reports by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), New York State has the third highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the entire country. Over the last decade, the number of people getting diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick, and flea bites has more than tripled across the country. While this problem has historically been concentrated on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley, the state DOH reports that it’s quickly migrating to other counties across New York. Since Lyme reporting became available in 1986, there have been over 95,000 cases of Lyme in New York State alone.

 

While the Northeast United States remains one of the hardest-hit regions for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, the Senate has been actively working to help reverse this trend. The Task Force, which was created in 2013, has continued to engage stakeholders and develop legislation to address the epidemic. During this year’s budget negotiations, the Task Force was instrumental in securing $1 million – a record level of funding – to support ongoing education and prevention efforts.

 

Legislation passed today builds upon the progress already made by the Task Force to address the spread of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases and includes:

 

Expanding Education and Public Awareness

S2588: Provides homeowners with vital and reliable information on the best way to protect their property from ticks. People should be made more aware of the EPA’s approved pesticides that are recommended for tick prevention and the best methods to use pesticides to better protect both people and pets from exposure to ticks on their property. The bill directs the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to develop guidelines for best practices in treating residential properties to reduce exposure to ticks.

 

S7242: Directs the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to install and maintain tick warning signs at all state-managed parks, including trail entryways and campgrounds. The signs will inform the public that ticks may be found in such areas and that they can spread Lyme or other diseases.

 

Promoting Prevention and Strengthening Treatment

S7169: Establishes a pilot program for Lyme and tick-borne disease testing in children under the direction of the Commissioner of Health. This legislation will allow health care practitioners and providers to submit samples to exclude Lyme and tick-borne diseases from children who present with clinical diagnoses that have similar symptoms to these illnesses. The qualifying medical institution or laboratory chosen by the commissioner would be required to submit a report on health outcomes to DOH, as well as develop a graduate medical education curriculum to teach medical students about these illnesses.

 

S8534: Directs the Commissioner of Education and the Commissioner of Health to promulgate and review rules and regulations related to pupils who have a tick removed from them during school or a school-sponsored activity. Both commissioners will be required to issue guidance to educators, particularly school nurses, regarding the removal of ticks from students and notification of parents. This legislation also provides for the development of informational materials on Lyme and tick-borne diseases for school districts and parents.

 

S8539: Requires the Department of Financial Services, in consultation with the DOH Commissioner, to conduct a study considering the current scope of health insurance coverage for Lyme and tick-borne diseases. The study will also examine initiatives in other states and the fiscal implications of various proposals.

 

S6926: Directs the Commissioner of Health to establish a standard protocol for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. This legislation requires the commissioner to work with health care providers and experts to develop a standard protocol process and patient notification of related symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and other information relating to Lyme and TBDs.

 

S7168: Requires a coroner, pathologist, medical examiner or other qualified examiner that discovers Lyme and tick-borne disease infections during an examination of a deceased person to report the case to the DOH. The legislation is a result of a recent Task Force forum, in conjunction with the Senate Health Committee, to provide appropriate surveillance and statistic accounting in cases where Lyme and TBDs underlie the primary cause of death.

 

S7208: Requires that the Council on Human Blood and Transfusion Services review current medical research and guidance regarding the donation of blood by patients with a history of Lyme or tick-borne illnesses. Concerns about blood donations and transfusions of blood with TBDs are not unfounded. In order to safeguard the state’s blood supply, its recipients, and prevent the potential spread of the disease, the council will research these concerns and make recommendations about blood donations to the Commissioner of Health based on currently available medical research.

 

The bills have been sent to the Assembly.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Tessie Shirley Pierce Garber Inducted into NY Senate’s Military Veterans Hall of Fame

Tessie Shirley Pierce GarberWhen the United States entered World War II, Tessie “Tess” Shirley Pierce Garber’s brothers entered the U.S. Army, and Garber felt strongly that women should be able to serve in the Armed Forces as well. She was unwilling to wait until she was 21 to join the Army WACs, so she decided to join the Navy WAVES or Coast Guard SPARS, which accepted 20-year-old women. As luck would have it, she met a woman Marine recruiter and ended up in the Marine Corps.

 

Ms. Garber’s military adventure began on November 2, 1943 when she and seven women recruits met at a Cleveland, Ohio railroad station to proceed to Marine Boot Camp at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Her field training with the other women recruits was the same that the men received…cleaning rifles, manual of arms, target practice, obstacle course, guard duty, marching, running with pack and rifle, scaling cargo nets and calisthenics.

 

After training, Ms. Garber was assigned to a Signal Corps unit in Washington, D.C. that used Teletype machines and required secret clearance. She handled daily reports listing names of wounded, missing in action (MIA), and killed in action (KIA). On occasion, she and other women were taken to Walter Reed Army Hospital to help rehabilitate those who lost hands, arms, legs and eyesight. One day at a service club, she was hit by a ping-pong ball. That was how she met Morris Garber, and six months later, they were married.

 

Ms. Garber has been an active member of the Jewish War Veterans Post 655 for many years.

 

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Senator Phillips Announces Senate Passes Historic Package Of ‘Good Government’ Reforms

Measures Boost Accountability, Transparency, and Prevent the Misuse of Taxpayer Money

 

Senator Elaine Phillips announced today that the New York State Senate passed the most sweeping package of good government reforms proposed in years. The measures, which she supported, will help ensure taxpayer monies are invested in effective programs, prevent real or perceived conflicts of interest and enhance transparency in government dealings, and increase the accountability of public officials.

 

“As elected officials, we must be held to the highest of ethical standards,” Senator Phillips said. “New York has played host to far too many political scandals – and New Yorkers are tired of their representatives abusing their power and recklessly handling state funds. This package increases transparency, protects taxpayer money and further holds all elected officials accountable to ensure government is working for the people. I applaud my Senate colleagues for passing this comprehensive legislative package, and urge Governor Cuomo and the Assembly to take up these measures.”

 

The bills passed by the Senate today include:

Preventing the Appearance of “Pay-to-Play” 
S8409: Limits political donations from parties applying for grants, licenses, or doing business with public entities to the public officials or candidates who would approve such grants, licenses, or contracts. Unfortunately, disclosures of significant donations by people or businesses who have received significant public contracts or licenses gives rise to public suspicion that there may be a relationship between the two occurrences, and thus to public cynicism and distrust of the process of how public bodies make decisions.

 

Prohibiting Certain Political Contributions by Government Appointees
S8404: Prohibits appointees who are appointed by the Executive to make political contributions to the Executive or his or her political campaign. The appointees would be prohibited from making political contributions within a year of appointment, during their term, and for a year after the term ends. It also prohibits the appointee from soliciting contributions on behalf of the Executive or the Executive’s campaign committee. This prohibition also applies to members in the appointee’s household.

 

A February 2018 New York Times article profiled a current trend whereby Executive appointees have made political contributions to the Executive totaling nearly $900,000. An atmosphere where appointees operate under the practice of making routine political contributions to the individual appointing them to their positions fosters skepticism and distrust of the political process in Albany, and leads hardworking citizens to believe that Albany in rife with a “pay-to-play” culture.

 

Requiring Financial Disclosure for Regional Economic Development Council Members
S922B: Codifies the existing Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) and requires appointees to comply with financial disclosure requirements and the code of ethics that all other public officers are currently bound by.

 

Since 2011, the Governor has appropriated more than $5.4 billion dollars to thousands of projects, through the Councils. The REDCs were never formally adopted into statute, giving the Governor the unrestricted ability to appoint the individuals who are at least partially responsible for determining the future of the State’s economic development. REDC members are also unilaterally appointed by the Governor and not subject to the financial disclosure requirements of the public officers law, resulting in no way for the public to be assured that there are no conflicts of interest or members engaging in self-serving activities. This bill would make the REDCs more transparent through increased public disclosure and further assure New Yorkers that their tax dollars are being allocated in an appropriate manner.

 

Developing a Searchable Subsidy Database
S6613B: Requires the creation of a searchable state subsidy and economic development benefits database that would benefit New Yorkers and policy makers by helping monitor the use of taxpayer money used to grow our state’s economy and create jobs.. The database would include the name and location of the participant; the time span of received economic development benefits; the type of benefit received; the total number of employees at all sites of a project; the number of jobs a participant is obligated to retain and create during the project; the amount of economic development benefits received for the current reporting year; and a statement of compliance indicating if any other state agency has reduced, cancelled or recaptured economic development benefits from a participant.

 

Creating the New York State Procurement Integrity Act
S3984A: Prevents self-dealing in the government procurement process by enhancing the integrity, transparency, and accountability of the state’s procurement process. Historically, the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) has performed this essential oversight function, but in recent years, OSC’s ability to do so has been eroded by executive and legislative action. The bill, called the New York State Procurement Integrity Act, would:

  • Restore the state Comptroller’s independent oversight (eliminated in 2011 and 2012) of SUNY, CUNY, and OGS centralized contracts;
  • Expand the Comptroller’s oversight of the procurement process to include contracts in excess of $1 million awarded by the SUNY Research Foundation; and
  • Prohibit state contracting through state-affiliated not-for-profit (NFP) entities unless explicitly authorized in law;

 

Protecting State Investments When Deals Don’t Meet Expectations
S7697A: Ensures that the Public Authorities Control Broad members have sufficient information to make informed decisions prior to a vote approving funding and includes disclosure of claw-back provisions for instances when a project job creation claim does not come through, the state could recoup funding.

 

Creating an Independent Budget Office
S2325: Creates the New York State Independent Budget Office to provide objective, non-partisan analyses of state revenues, expenditures, and management practices to members of the Legislature for any legislation with fiscal impact or at the request of a leader or a committee. Accurate, up-to-date information is a key ingredient for prudent, timely budgetary and policy decisions. At least 23 other states including California, Texas, Florida, Connecticut and Vermont have already established non-partisan budget offices to assist their legislatures.

 

Reforming START-UP NY
S5985A: Restores and bolsters reporting requirements for START-UP NY by requiring the preparation of an annual report, which would be provided to the Governor and the Legislature. The report would include, but is not limited to, the number of business applicants, number of businesses approved, benefits distributed and received, and the number of net new jobs created per business  - including cumulative data that reflects the amount previously recorded and adjusted for net new jobs that have been lost.

 

Providing More Stability in State Agency Leadership
S7781: Defines the length of time an individual may head a state agency or department in an acting capacity while the Legislature is both in and out of session, and it defines how often a person may serve in an acting capacity. Currently there is no limit to how long an individual may serve as the acting head of an agency or department. The legislation will provide stability at the executive level of New York’s many state agencies, as well as save taxpayer money.

 

Prevent Regulatory Steamrolling: 
S5912C: Would curtail state agency overuse of the emergency regulation process to ensure it is only used in true emergency situations when necessary to protect public health and safety. By amending the State Administrative Procedure Act’s emergency rulemaking provisions, it constricts the timeframe an agency can promulgate a single regulation as an emergency, and the circumstances surrounding the need for emergency rulemaking action by a state agency.

 

Making Economic Data Available to Help Measure Effectiveness
S3354: Directs the state Division of the Budget (DOB) to prepare an annual Unified Economic Development budget that outlines the aggregate amounts of state investments in economic development projects statewide, the benefactors of these investments, and the number of jobs created or retained by businesses because of this development assistance. The legislation also standardizes the types of information that state entities and recipients of development assistance must report to DOB.

 

The bills have been sent to the Assembly.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Senator Phillips Sponsors Historic Legislation to Help Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Measure creates state fund to compensate all time-barred victims of abuse, eliminates the criminal statute of limitations and adds clergy to list of mandated reporters

 

Senator Elaine Phillips is sponsoring landmark legislation in the New York State Senate that will advance justice and healing for the courageous survivors of childhood sexual abuse by making it easier to prosecute perpetrators and provide restitution to victims. Key elements of the measure include creation of a $300 million state fund from asset forfeiture monies to compensate victims for physical and psychological harm and the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations for child sex offenses.

 

“The effects of childhood sexual abuse are often severe and long lasting — and the time has come in New York State to compensate all victims,” Senator Phillips said. “I am proud to sponsor this historic legislation, which not only includes providing timely restitution for victims, but also eliminates the statute of limitations for criminal child sex abuse offenses. With the input of advocates and experts, the New York Child Victims Reconciliation and Compensation Fund was crafted to ensure victims receive the compensation they are due and that additional measures are made to protect New York’s children.”

 

“Today Senator Elaine Phillips, and several colleagues, filed a comprehensive and important bill that will give compensation and justice to victims and out predators. This is a sincere effort by the sponsors to help past and future victims. The bill is a work in progress and I urge all parties to work together to bring long-sought healing and justice to victims of child sexual abuse,” said Gary Greenberg, founder of ProtectNYKids.

 

The cornerstone of the legislation is a state compensation fund that will be available to all time-barred victims of childhood sexual abuse. Administered and overseen by the New York State Comptroller and a chief administrator, the fund will be comprised of $300 million in asset forfeiture funds from the Manhattan district attorney’s office. After a hearing and review process facilitated by hearing officers experienced in sexual abuse cases, the claims administrator will make a decision on compensation. Information such as the abuser’s name will be made public in cases receiving monetary awards.

 

The legislation also eliminates the statute of limitations for the criminal prosecution of sex offenses against children. One of the most widely underreported crimes, estimates are that approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. As a wide body of research indicates, victims of child sexual abuse often take years, or even decades, to come forward as they struggle to come to terms with the abuse they endured as children.

 

Increased vigilance in reporting and preventing abuse are the goals of the final provisions of the bill which add members of the clergy to the list of “mandated reporters” obligated to report suspected abuse and require criminal background checks for employees and volunteers who work with children.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Senator Hannon Introduces Legislation to Protect Minors from Harmful Electronic Cigarettes

Senator Kemp Hannon, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Health, introduced legislation to combat the ever-increasing use of electronic cigarettes among minors. This legislation (S8609) and (S8610) will curb use among minors through prevention and education, establish sale to minor compliance checks, and eliminate enticing flavors that lure young people.

 

Senator Hannon stated, “Use of electronic cigarettes among minors has risen exponentially and is unacceptable. Something must be done to stave off the temptation so that we can reduce the number of people who become addicted to nicotine and become regular tobacco users. Eliminating the availability of flavored e-liquids like cotton candy and bubble gum intentionally marketed to attract minors, in addition to expanding current state efforts on prevention and education, and addressing the loophole in enforcement will do just this. Requiring retailers to register as electronic cigarette sellers will ensure that they are adhering to the law and not selling to minors.”

 

The CDC reported use of electronic cigarettes among middle school and high school students more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. New York State lead the way in 2012 by banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors under the age of 18. However, according to recent reports by the FDA, electronic cigarette use among minors is still on the rise. A recent study found that 19 percent of 12th graders, 16 percent of 10th graders and 8 percent of 8th graders have in fact used an electronic cigarette in the past year. Schools across the country continue to report their struggle with the number of “Juuls” being used by students. The FDA has sought to combat this issue through undercover sting operations targeting retailers of the new trendy “Juul” devices.

 

Senator Hannon stated, “It is imperative that action be taken not only at the federal level, but at the state and local level as well. New York must remain a leader in curbing use of electronic cigarettes by minors. We must ensure our current laws are being adhered to and more is done to protect minors from what could lead to a lifelong addiction. Discouraging use and availability of cigarettes to minors is crucial.”

 

Town of Hempstead Councilman Dennis Dunne stated, “I, the Hempstead Town Board and a coalition of community organizations have been working diligently to fight the scourge of e-cigarette use, particularly among children. We are very fortunate to have a partner like Senator Kemp Hannon to assist us on the State level. The surge of the legal prescription and illegal drugs has been destroying local families, as well as negatively impacting the town, the state and our country. I am grateful that our New York State Senate is helping us to fight this battle for our children and grandchildren. E-cigarette use and vaping is a gateway into the horrors of drugs. Whether it be opioids, fentanyl, heroin or prescription drugs, we need to have a unified front in fighting this problem. Our local community organizations have joined with us in the Town to form a coalition to try to loosen the restrictions that exist in the state, these pieces of legislation will go a long way to help us reach that goal. I thank Senator Kemp Hannon for carrying our banner, taking off some of the restrictions so we can fight a fair fight in an attempt to stop the destruction of so many in our community. Thank you Kemp Hannon, the New York State Senate and all that have come to your assistance to help us get this legislation passed.”

 

This legislation is currently in the Health Committee.

 

Visit Senator Hannon’s webpage

Senate Passes Senator Phillips’ Legislation Expanding STAR Program

Expansion is Part of the Majority’s Package to Make New York More Affordable; Other measures Eliminate County and Reduce City Mandated Medicaid Contributions to Give Dollar-for-Dollar Cuts in Taxes, and Reduce Taxes for Seniors and Utility Customers

 

Senator Elaine Phillips announced that the New York State Senate has passed her legislation significantly expanding the STAR property tax relief program as part of the Senate Majority’s sweeping affordability package that focuses on property taxes, energy costs, unfunded mandates, and other drivers that are making it harder for middle-class families to succeed.

 

“The cost of living in New York, especially on Long Island, continues to rise and it is time we provide the hardworking taxpayers of our state with much needed and deserved financial relief,” Senator Phillips said. “By significantly expanding the already successful STAR property tax relief program by 25 percent, we are reinforcing our commitment to reduce the property tax burden and make New York more affordable for citizens to live and raise families.”

 

The bill, S.8398, provides additional property tax relief for all STAR-eligible New Yorkers by increasing the amount of the property tax relief credit by 25 percent. This bill expands an already successful program first created by Senate Republicans that is helping to reduce the property tax burden and helps mitigate tax savings that could be lost as a result of the recent federal State and Local Tax deduction. The increase would take effect in the 2019 tax year and save an expected $331 million by 2020, $1.6 billion annually thereafter.

 

The Senate Majority’s affordability package would result in billions of dollars in savings annually for taxpayers in the form of new and expanded property tax cuts, including the state assuming local Medicaid costs. The package also includes eliminating costly energy taxes; creating new tax cuts for seniors to prevent them from moving to another state; requiring a supermajority vote when taxes are increased by state and local governments; and preventing unfunded mandates from being passed on to the taxpayer.

 

Cutting Local Medicaid Contributions to Give Direct Property Tax Relief

The largest savings from this package comes from two initiatives that require the state to assume the local share of Medicaid payments. Since the enactment of the Medicaid program in 1965, counties and the City of New York have been required to share in both its cost and administrative operation. The State is responsible for program design and, over the course of several years, the overall administration of the program has been gradually shifting to the state. The counties’ Medicaid share is currently capped at 2015 levels and the current local contribution amount to the state for Medicaid is a combined statewide total of $7.63 billion.

 

The first bill, S.8411, reduces the local Medicaid contribution by 20 percent a year over five years for all counties outside New York City. The counties must then enact dollar-for-dollar reductions in property taxes, resulting in direct taxpayer savings of up to $451 million in the first year alone, and $2.3 billion when fully effective.

 

The second bill, S.8412, reduces counties’ contributions by 10 percent a year over 10 years and again requires that $2.3 billion in cumulative savings to be returned dollar-for-dollar back to property taxpayers. In New York City, the contribution would also be reduced by up to $2.3 billion and returned to taxpayers in the form of a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the personal income tax. In addition, the city would be required to enact a two-percent property tax cap similar to what is already in effect in the rest of the state and which has already saved taxpayers $23 billion to date.


Providing $280 Million in New Energy Tax Relief

S.8399: Saves business and resident ratepayers by phasing in a new elimination of the two-percent Gross Receipts Tax on utility bills. S8407 eliminates the base underlying 18-A assessment tax and shifts the cost of the Public Service Commission to the General Fund. Together, they will result in needed reduction in consumers’ utility bills and provide a total savings of $280 million.

 

Eliminating Property Taxes for Seniors to Keep Them in New York

S.8406: Creates a senior school tax rate that phases in a yearly 10 percent reduction of school taxes, based on age of the eligible senior, starting at age 70 to reduce the burden that seniors face when paying the school tax portions of their real property tax bills. By reducing the financial burden of home ownership for seniors, this bill may make it more affordable for a larger number of seniors to stay in New York State instead of relocating to states with less burdensome real property tax rates. The bill would save $274 million by 2022 and $556 million by 2023.

 

Increasing Retirement Exemptions to Make Living in New York More Affordable

S.414A: Helps more seniors save money and choose to stay in New York during their retirement by increasing the private pension and retirement income exclusion from $20,000 to $40,000 for single taxpayers and up to $80,000 for married taxpayers, over three years. This would be the first increase to the exempt amount for private pensions and retirement since 1981 and will save retirees approximately $275 million.

 

 

Requiring a Supermajority for New Tax Hikes

S.8401: Requires a two-thirds vote from each house of the state legislature to increase, impose, or extend taxes, a two-thirds vote from local legislative bodies to increase, impose, or extend local taxes, and a two-thirds vote from local legislative bodies requesting an increase, imposition, or extension of taxes by the state legislature. This bill holds elected officials more accountable to the state’s taxpayers, both at the state and the local levels of government, by requiring a supermajority. S.8402 would also accomplish the supermajority requirement for state and local tax laws by proposing a constitutional amendment.

 

Preventing Unfunded Mandates /Local Tax Increases

S.8400: Proposes a constitutional amendment to reduce property taxes by prohibiting many of the unfunded mandates that place a hardship on local governments. The bill would prevent state government from passing a financial burden of new mandates to local governments without financial assistance, preventing them from being forced to decide between taking resources from already strained local programs and redirecting those funds to the latest unfunded mandate, or turning to already over-burdened taxpayers for additional support.

 

Making Education More Affordable

S.7783: Makes New York’s tax law consistent with changes to 529-plan tuition eligibility that recently took effect on the federal level. The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted last year expanded the use of 529 plans to include tuition expenses for attendance at elementary or secondary schools, but existing tax law in New York may not allow such expenses to be eligible. This bill enables 529 plan distributions used to pay for elementary or secondary school tuition expenses after January 1, 2018, to have the same tax benefits as distributions used for attending an eligible institution of higher education.

 

The package builds upon the Senate Republican Majority’s record of success in securing new and needed tax relief. This year alone, the conference led the way to include a provision in the budget that will help protect taxpayers from the negative impacts of federal tax changes by enabling a decoupling of the state and federal tax codes to prevent New Yorkers from taking a $1.5 billion state tax hit as a result of the SALT deduction changes. Earlier this year, the Senate also passed legislation (S1207)to make the property tax cap permanent and to enact a two-percent spending cap into law (S365).The self-imposed spending cap has already saved taxpayers $41 billion to date.

 

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Marcellino Passes Legislation to Protect American Water Customers

Senator Carl L. Marcellino announced he has passed Senate Bill 6862-A which will require the Public Service Commission (PSC) to conduct an independent audit of private water utility companies prior to and after rate changes are approved by the PSC. This is the first of a package of bills he sponsors to address the dramatically high water bill spikes that have affected customers of New York American Water on Long Island.

 

“More than 100,000 Long Island customers have been shocked when they opened their water bills from American Water. Some residents have seen their rates more than double. The public outcry has been loud and justified. Yet, American Water and the PSC are unwilling to take any steps to reduce this burden on consumers,” said Senator Marcellino.

 

The legislation requires the public service commission to retain an independent auditor to conduct audits of private water utility companies prior to and after rate changes are approved by the public service commission.

 

In May 2017, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) granted New York American Water a rate increase for the next four consecutive years. These increases range from 1 percent to as high as 9.6 percent.

 

“The combination of a draconian rate increase and the practice of passing the companies taxes on to the backs of their ratepayers has created a dramatic financial burden in water bills. Add to that the lack of accountability by American water and you have a situation where people feel betrayed and helpless,” added Senator Marcellino.

 

New York American Water is a private company that services 120,000 households and businesses in Nassau County. Unlike public water utilities in New York State, American Water pays property taxes and passes that expense to their customers in their water bills.

 

“The PSC played a major role in creating the American Water crisis and this bill will force them to be part of the solution. This is an important first step in protecting ratepayers and fixing a problem that has gotten out of control,” concluded Senator Marcellino.

 

Visit Senator Marcellino’s webpage