2015-12-30 / Political Page

Paid Parental Leave For City Employees, Mayor Announces

MAYOR ANNOUNCES PAID PARENTAL LEAVE FOR CITY’S EMPLOYEES: Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new paid parental leave policy for New York City employees “that puts the city at the forefront of city and state policies around the country.”

The mayor proudly explained, “the new policy will provide a national benchmark of six weeks at 100 percent salary for maternity, paternity, adoption or foster care leave – or up to 12 weeks fully paid when combined with existing leave.”

“This new policy brings New York City in line with the most generous localities in the country, Austin and Pittsburgh,” de Blasio declared, and added, “Too many new parents face an impossible choice: taking care of their child or getting their pay check. New York City is leading by example… this is a common-sense policy that will make for healthier and more financially stable working families – making it good for employees and employers.”

The mayor’s announcement said he will sign an Executive Order so that the city can provide its approximately 20,000 managerial and original jurisdictional employees with this new paid parental leave policy as of January 1, 2016. Any changes to benefits for represented employees must be done through collective bargaining, and the city is ready to immediately enter talks with its municipal unions about extending the policy to their covered employees.

The statement also noted that the new benefit will come at no new cost to New York City taxpayers, as the city will be “repurposing the existing managerial raise of 0.47 percent scheduled for July 2017 and two days of existing vacation leave policy (the 26th and 27th days, which are received by long-service employees) to provide these six weeks of paid parental leave to all managerial and original jurisdiction employees.”

The mayor’s announcement also stated, “The six weeks of paid leave at 100 percent of salary can be combined with existing leave – including accrued sick leave and/or accrued vacation – so that employees will be able to take up to 12 weeks maternity, paternity, adoption, or foster care leave without losing pay.”

First Lady Chirlane McCray, honorary chair of the city’s Commission on Gender Equality, stated, “New parents need time to bond properly with the baby and also adjust to the new life. Having a baby can be tough, even while it is full of joy. In a place like New York City, where new parents are often far from family support, giving new moms and dads paid leave means healthier families.”

Commenting on the new NYC plan, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D–NY) said, “We need a national paid-leave program that covers all working Americans.”

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/NY) commented, “It’s really shocking to think that the strongest economy in the world cannot bring itself to provide the paid parental leave that families desperately need.”

City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) commented: “I applaud Mayor de Blasio for putting families first.” And Councilman Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) said he was “thrilled” that the mayor has “modernized NYC policy,” while Julissa Ferreras- Copeland (D–Corona) stated, “I applaud the Mayor for leading New York City to the forefront of this kind of policy,” and Councilman Donovan Richards (D–Springfield Gardens) said, “I hope to see more cities across the country follow the lead of New York City.”

FDA HEEDS MALONEY CALL TO BAN TANNING FOR MINORS: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a proposal to restrict the use of tanning beds for those under 18 years of age, thus heeding the same proposal issued by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in 2014.

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) said the FDA’s proposed edict follows her repeated calls for the agency to go beyond its 2014 reclassification of indoor tanning lamps “to ban the use of these dangerous devices by minors.”

The lawmaker recalled that even after the FDA’s reclassification – which added a warning label to tanning beds – Maloney was concerned by “the high rates of indoor tanning by minors.”

Maloney stated, “According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20.2 percent of female high school students used tanning devices in 2013. Partially because of increased UV exposure due to indoor tanning, skin cancers are now the second most-common form of cancer for young women age 15 to 29.”

The lawmaker declared: “I’ve long called tanning beds ‘cancer coffins’, because we know their direct link to higher rates of skin cancer and deadly melanoma. This proposal is a long-overdue step to keep young people safe from these dangerous devices” said Maloney.

“I first investigated tanning beds because too many young women came to me when they were diagnosed with melanoma in their early 20s and 30s after regular trips to the tanning salon in their teens. It became clear to me that skin cancer had gone from a disease predominantly found in older men to one that affected a growing number of young women.”

In June 2014, Maloney sent a letter to the FDA urging age restrictions on tanning beds, and in April 2015 she followed up on this call by urging the Administration to move forward with the proposal issued now by the FDA. In June of this year, she called on the Office of Management and Budget to release this rule from its review process.

Actually, Maloney’s concern with the tanning bed issue goes back to 2006, when she introduced the TAN Act (H.R. 4767), which passed as part of the FDA Amendments Act of 2007, which required the FDA to study the efficacy of warning labels for tanning beds and began the process that led to this reclassification of UV tanning lamps as Class II medical devices, which was finalized in May 2014.

CROWLEY ADDRESSES GOVERNMENT SPENDING BILL: Explaining his vote in support of legislation that will fund the government for fiscal year 2016, which was passed by a vote of 316 to 113, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus Joseph Crowley stated:

“This isn’t a perfect bill, but it is a compromise that avoids another disastrous Republican government shutdown and makes key investments in critical areas like education, renewable energy and health care.

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) also points out, “The bill brings many benefits to New Yorkers, including tax benefits for mass transit commuters, increased funding for housing and rental assistance programs, and funding to help protect parks and water resources in Queens and The Bronx.”

Crowley continues: “I am especially relieved that included in this bill is the much-needed extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Fourteen years after the September 11 attacks, thousands of our brave heroes are suffering from severe illnesses as a result of their service. It brings great reassurance to these heroes, and their families, that Congress will finally do right by them.

But he added: “I am, however, disappointed that this legislation did not address the urgent need to act on Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, and I urge my Republican colleagues to move swiftly to help our fellow Americans. I will continue to make this issue a top priority in the weeks and months ahead.”

Crowley said the bill’s investments in priorities include the following:

Renewable Energy: Provides a major boost to renewable energy by extending the wind Production Tax Credit for five years (through 2019), and extending the solar Investment Tax Credit for five years (through 2021), while phasing both credits down somewhat over time. Extending the solar tax credit is estimated to create 61,000 jobs in 2017 alone. It is also estimated that the wind industry will grow to over 100,000 jobs over four years with the renewed wind tax credit.

Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy R&D: Provides an 8 percent increase over 2015 for R&D activities in the pursuit of new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Overall Education: The bill restores the $2.5 billion cut in education that the GOP had proposed and also makes critical additional investments of $1.4 billion above 2015, in such areas as Title I that serves 24 million at-risk students.

Early Learning: Investing in Head Start produces results – and this bill invests nearly $400 million more than the House GOP bill and nearly $600 million more than 2015 in this vital initiative. The bill also provides $250 million for Preschool Development Grants, assisting 18 states across the country.

Medical Research: Medical research at NIH has been underfunded for the last several years. This bill provides $900 million more than the House GOP bill and $2 billion more than 2015 for this life-saving research.

Infrastructure: The popular TIGER grants are being used across the country to repair infrastructure and contribute to economic growth. The House GOP bill had slashed TIGER grants by 80 percent, killing jobs, but this bill restores the funding to the 2015 level of $500 million.

Law Enforcement: The bill provides $187 million for COPS hiring grants, $7 million above the 2015 level and $187 million above the House GOP bill, which had eliminated the hiring grants. The bill also provides $80 million for the Community Policing Initiative, including $22.5 million for body-worn cameras and $15 million for Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grants, an increase over the House bill.

PRAISE NEW LAW WHICH PUNISHES ASSAULTS ON EMS WORKERS: Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro led a group of lawmakers and union representatives who praised a law which will take effect on February 18 and strengthens a previous law that protects EMS personnel who are assaulted while performing lifesaving duties.

The new law, a felony, covers any assault against on-duty EMS personnel, and is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Nigro stated, “EMTs and Paramedics should never be assaulted while performing their difficult life-saving work. These men and women deserve our protection and respect.” He also thanked state Senator Martin J. Golden (R–Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D–Brooklyn), who sponsored the bill. It was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on November 20.

Nigro said it amends a previous law “to provide stronger protection than ever before for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Paramedics and EMS officers.”

Golden stated: “Emergency medical service paramedics and technicians are required to treat patients under extremely dangerous and stressful conditions, and deliberate, violent attacks against these public servants are, sadly, not uncommon. Therefore, EMS paramedics and technicians should be offered every protection under the law.”

Lentol added, “Individuals who set out each day to save lives need to know they are protected by the law. I am proud of this legislation which protects New York’s heroes who selflessly give of themselves for the sole purpose of saving someone else.”

Also welcoming the law were Vincent A. Variale, President of the Uniformed EMS Officers’ Union and Israel Miranda, President of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors FDNY Local 2507.

Variale said, “We are happy this law was changed and will provide the protection and justice for EMS members who are assaulted while protecting and saving the lives of the people in New York City.”

Miranda stated, “We are very appreciative of support from (Brooklyn) DA Ken Thompson, Fire Commissioner Nigro, bill sponsors Lentol and Golden and the legislative leadership.”

CROWLEY JOINS BACKING BILL CONDEMNING ANTI-MUSLIM VIOLENCE: Following weeks of anti-Muslim bigotry, Congressman Joseph Crowley joined several colleagues in introducing legislation condemning violence, bigotry and hateful rhetoric toward Muslim-Americans.
Crowley, the Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, declared: “The despicable rhetoric and violence on American Muslims is reprehensible and goes against everything this country stands for. Whether it’s a store owner attacked in Astoria, a child bullied at a school in the Bronx, or a slur painted on a building – hate is hate.
“And, each and everyone of us has a duty as an American to speak out against discrimination and intolerance.”
Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) stated, “I'm proud to join Congressman Beyer and my colleagues in introducing this resolution that sends a powerful message that the Congress stands behind our Muslim-American communities and firmly against hate and intolerance.”
Crowley referred to the seven lawmakers, all Democrats, with whom he had allied to introduce legislation condemning anti-Muslim hatred and violence. They are Congressmembers Don Beyer (VA), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Betty McCollum (MN), Mike Honda (CA), Keith Ellison (MN) and Andre Carson (IN).
Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) submitted the text of the House Resolution denouncing hate speech and hate crimes against Muslim-Americans, as follows:
Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.
Whereas the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes and rhetoric have faced physical, verbal, and emotional abuse because they were Muslim or believed to be Muslim;
Whereas the constitutional right to freedom of religious practice is a cherished American value and violence or hate speech towards any American community based on their faith is in contravention of our founding principles;
Whereas there are millions of Muslims in the United States, a community made up of many diverse beliefs and cultures, and both immigrants and native-born Americans;
Whereas this Muslim community is recognized as having made innumerable contributions to the cultural and economic fabric and well-being of American society;
Whereas hateful and intolerant acts against Muslims are contrary to the American values of acceptance, welcoming, and fellowship with those of all faiths, beliefs, and cultures;
Whereas these acts affect not only the individual victims but also their families, communities, and the entire group whose faith or beliefs were the motivation for the act;
Whereas Muslim women who wear hijabs, headscarves, or other religious articles of clothing have been disproportionately targeted because of their religious clothing, articles, or observances;
Whereas the rise of hateful and anti-Muslim speech, violence, and cultural ignorance plays into the false narrative spread by terrorist groups of Western hatred of Islam, and can encourage certain individuals to react in extreme and violent ways;
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) Expresses its condolences for the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes;
(2) Steadfastly confirms its dedication to the rights and dignity of all its citizens of all faiths, beliefs, and cultures;
(3) Denounces in the strongest terms the increase of intimidation, violence, vandalism, arson, and other hate crimes targeted against mosques, Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim;
(4) Recognizes that the Muslim community in the United States has made countless positive contributions to our society;
(5) Declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all United States citizens, including Muslims in the United States, should be protected and preserved;
(6) Urges local and Federal law enforcement authorities to work to prevent hate crimes; and to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those perpetrators of hate crimes; and
(7) Reaffirms the inalienable right of every citizen to live without fear and intimidation, and to practice their freedom of faith.

KATZ ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS TO SERVE ON COMMUNITY BOARDS: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz issued an announcement last Tuesday that her office is accepting applications from qualified and community minded individuals who want to serve on one of the boroughs’ 14 Community Boards.

Katz pointed out the boards “play an important advisory role in considering land use and zoning matters,” while also contributing to public dialogue at various hearings and also the budget.

Katz stated: “The City of New York is a city of neighborhoods, and Community Boards help address numerous issues relating to the well-being of those neighborhoods. Serving on a Community Board is a significant commitment, demanding both time and energy. Any civic-minded resident willing to make this commitment is encouraged to consider applying. All candidates – both new or reapplying – are evaluated based on relevant experiences they bring to the table.”

There are 14 Community Boards in Queens, Katz explained, with each board having up to 50 unsalaried members, and each member serves a two-year term. All members are appointed by the Borough President, with half of her appointees nominated by the City Councilmember who represents the area where the applicant resides.

Katz said all Community Board appointees are required to re-apply at the conclusion of each twoyear term and are subject to review and reconsideration by local elected officials. The deadline for returning applicants is next January 22; for new applicants it’s January 29. For the upcoming round of appointments, the two-year term of service will begin on April 1, 2016.

Katz noted that, “Despite the important role community boards play in city government, community board members are not compensated for their service.”

The Community Board appointment application is available online at www.queensbp.org/community-boards. Further information may be obtained by calling the Borough President’s office at 718-286-2900.

DEN DEKKER-MILLER ‘INDIGENT VETERAN’S’ BILL SIGNED: A bill sponsored by Assemblymembers Michael Den Dekker and Michael Miller, which raises the reimbursement rate for all indigent veterans’ funeral costs, has been signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Previously,” Den Dekker (D–Jackson Heights) and Miller (D–Woodhaven), explained,” the allocation for the funeral of a veteran with no next of kin and insufficient funds to pay for a funeral was capped at $900. This bill more than doubles the amount to $2,000 per funeral.”

Den Dekker stated: “This increased allocation for funeral costs for indigent veterans was long overdue. The previous allocation of $900 did not keep up with rising funeral costs, and simply did not allow these men and women to be buried with the dignity they deserve. These are people who bravely served their country, and we owe them a proper burial.”

Miller stated: “I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law. Assemblyman DenDekker and I worked hard to make sure that all indigent veterans in New York State have a proper burial in line with their service to their country, and this bill helps ensure that.”

The lawmakers further explained that the the new law comes after the legislature included an additional $250,000 in the 2015 New York State budget to reimburse the American Legion of New York for indigent veteran burial costs they had incurred in excess of the $900 allocation.

CUOMO SIGNS SIMOTAS’ SENIOR HOUSING BILL: Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D–Astoria) that gives family members adequate time to keep Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) benefits following the death of a loved one.

Simotas stated: “Previously families had only 60 days to file the necessary paperwork, after which the benefits expired.” Simotas’ legislation extends the period to up to six months after the death of the benefit holder, helping senior citizens and people with disabilities to stay in their homes.

Simotas added, “Families experiencing loss have many decisions to make in addition to coping with grief. Giving them more time to take over the benefits they are entitled to is not only the right thing to do, it is good policy. We must not put affordable housing out of reach for senior citizens and people with disabilities just because they didn’t get their paperwork in on time.”

Simotas has long been an advocate for senior citizens and people with disabilities. Shortly after taking office, Simotas noted that while the number of New Yorkers eligible for rent assistance increased every year, the number of enrollees had actually decreased. She resolved to correct this deficiency and, in 2012, legislation she authored to increase the accessibility and visibility of DRIE and SCRIE benefits was signed into law.

Importantly, the legislation also ensured that individuals getting benefits through DRIE were transitioned to the SCRIE program seamlessly upon reaching the appropriate age. SCRIE and DRIE enrollment has grown since the passage of Simotas’ legislation as a result of the new outreach efforts and increased awareness.”

Simotas concluded, “I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this bill and ensuring that our seniors and neighbors with disabilities have a reasonable amount of time to get their deceased loved ones’ affairs in order while allowing them to remain in the communities they have worked so hard to build.”

GOV ENABLES PREGNANT WOMEN TO GET HEALTH INSURANCE QUICKLY: Seeking to expand health insurance access to pregnant New Yorkers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation to permit pregnant women to enroll in the state health insurance exchange at any time during their pregnancy – making New York the first state in the nation to make pregnancy a “qualifying life event” in order to obtain health insurance benefits – at any time – through the health exchange.

“This legislation will help expectant mothers get access to essential pre-natal care and help build a stronger and healthier New York,” said Cuomo. “I thank the bill sponsors for their hard work on this critically important issue that will have a significant impact on future generations of New Yorkers.”

The governor explained that previously, pregnancy was not included on the list of qualifying life events,” which include a change in residence, birth or adoption of a child, and marriage, divorce or death of a spouse. As such, he noted, “enrollment through the exchange is only available during the open enrollment period (October through December).

Cuomo said the bill (S.5972A, 6780B) will make pregnancy a “qualifying life event,” allowing enrollment in an insurance plan at any time during the pregnancy through the state’s health insurance exchange, New York State of Health. Insurance coverage for the woman would be effective as of the first of the month in which the woman is certified as pregnant.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D–Astoria) said: “I applaud Governor Cuomo for making New York the first state in the nation to guarantee prenatal care for all women, regardless of income. As a mother, I know firsthand how important prenatal care is and this historic legislation ensures that women’s and children’s health is not placed at the mercy of an arbitrary date on the calendar.”

STRINGER: ‘BANKS IN NYC SHOULD BE OPEN TO ALL…’: That’s City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s message to banks, after getting reports that “more than 800,000 unbanked New Yorkers” are being rejected by banks. He states: “Banks in New York City should be open to all New Yorkers, regardless of their economic or immigration status. Earlier this year, I issued a report showing that less than one-third of banks surveyed accepted IDNYC as a valid form of identification. This policy prevents many of the more than 800,000 unbanked New Yorkers from securing bank accounts, harming their ability to save and leaving them vulnerable to high fees. My office will be contacting every bank that does not accept IDNYC to discuss what steps they are taking to change their policy.”

AVELLA: CITY/STATE WILL NOT HOUSE HOMELESS AT CREEDMOOR: State Senator Tony Avella (D–Northeast Queens) issued the following statement regarding the use (or non-use) of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, a state facility, to house the homeless.
Avella states: “After several calls, I can confirm that the Governor’s office has no intention of using this facility to house the homeless population.”
As an add-on to the statement, he stated: “I am pleased to confirm that the city – (New York City) – will not be seeking to use the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center for homeless services either” because it is an asset of the state.

CROWLEY: ‘NEW MARITIME TRAINING VESSEL DESIGN IN BUDGET’: Funding amounting to $5 million for the design of a new national Security Multi-Mission Vessel for the country’s six State Maritime Academies has been included in the bill funding the federal government for FY 2016, recently signed by President Obama, it was announced by Congressman Joseph Crowley, the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus.
For over a year, Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) has championed the need for updating our nation’s aging training ships, spearheading multiple bipartisan letters to the US Department of Transportation and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Crowley stated, “Our maritime industry continues to play a essential role in our nation’s economy and national security.” The lawmaker’s district includes SUNY Maritime College in The Bronx.
“Yet,” he continued, “our maritime academies – the institutions that produce the next generation of mariners – are stuck with an aging, outdated fleet of vessels. We need to ensure that SUNY Maritime College and other academies have the resources necessary to continue developing highly skilled mariners – and that means replacing the vessels where they are being trained.”
RADM Michael A. Alfultis (USMS) Ph.D., President of State University of New York, Maritime College, responded:
“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Joe Crowley, who spearheaded this initiative over the past several years. His leadership and enthusiastic support have been outstanding. I appreciate Congressman Crowley’s keen understanding of the nation’s need to maintain a strong maritime workforce.”
Last year, Crowley led 25 members of Congress in sending a letter to the US Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget with the initial request that the agencies develop and support a plan to replace the aging ships used by our nation’s State Maritime Academies. In February, President Obama designated $5 million in his budget to design and replace aging ships. In April, Crowley announced that the bill to fund the Department of Transportation and Department of Housing and Urban Development would include these funds, which was just signed into law as part of the larger bill funding the entire government.”

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