2016-01-13 / Political Page

Crowley Leads Queens Dems Backing Obama’s Guns Stance

President Obama issued new executive measures last week to help prevent gun violence in America and was followed by Congressman Joseph Crowley’s statement of support. Also pledging similar action were US Senator Charles Schumer and Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Grace Meng.

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, stated:

“I commend President Obama for putting forward a comprehensive and responsible approach to reducing gun violence in this country. I know to some it might seem easier, and certainly less provocative, to do nothing. But while Republicans in Congress continue to sit on their hands and refuse to even acknowledge the crisis plaguing our communities, President Obama understands real lives are at stake.

That’s why he is putting forward a plan to make our country safer by taking responsible, reasonable steps to help prevent the tragedies that have sadly become far too commonplace.”

Crowley emphasized: “We can no longer stand idly by, tragedy after tragedy, shooting after shooting, without taking action. We can’t keep pretending that the laws on the books are enough to keep Americans safe. The status quo isn’t working, and we know what needs to happen: it’s time to increase enforcement of existing laws, it’s time to bolster resources and expand access to mental health services, and its time to strengthen background checks to ensure dangerous weapons stay out of the hands of dangerous people.

“These are much-needed, life-saving steps, but the fact remains that the President cannot solve this crisis on his own. Congress needs to be a partner if we’re going to achieve the comprehensive reform that is critical to protecting our communities and families.

We have an opportunity to make real progress, and I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join Democrats in supporting responsible and reasonable measures that will help ensure the safety of the American people.”

The executive actions announced by the President today will make significant progress in the ongoing struggle to curb gun violence:

Toughen Background Checks Nationwide: The President’s executive actions provide new guidance on existing federal laws, clarifying that any individuals in the business of selling firearms must obtain a license through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and therefore conduct background checks of prospective gun purchasers. These actions also include new measures and resources to make the background check system more efficient and effective.

Protect Communities With Bolstered Enforcement: The executive actions take new steps to promote smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws – including a proposed increase in funding for more ATF agents, greater resources for tracking illegal online firearms trafficking, and strengthened domestic violence outreach efforts.

Improve Mental Health Services: The President is proposing increased investment to expand access to mental health care. Further, the executive actions remove barriers that prevent the reporting of relevant mental health information to the background check system.

Drive New Research Into Gun Safety: The executive actions direct the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into new technology to make firearms safer.

Additionally, US Senator Charles Schumer issued the following comment on President Obama’s executive orders on guns:

“The repeated obstruction in Congress of common sense measures that seem reasonable to almost all Americans has led to the President’s strong and necessary action on gun safety. The vast majority of Americans will welcome Presidential action to break the unnatural vice grip that the NRA has over safety in America.”

MALONEY APPLAUDS OBAMA EXEC ACTIONS ON GUNS: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney issued a strong statement supporting President Obama’s executive actions to improve the background check system and encourage smart gun technology.

“Americans are tired of killing,” Maloney declared. “They’re tired of our streets, schools, churches and other public spaces being treated as war zones. And they’re tired of the NRA’s carry a gun or be killed mentality that has led to tens of thousands of gun deaths each year.”

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan), a long-time gun control advocate who has sponsored several gun safety measures, stated:

“President Obama is taking appropriate action to require more gun sellers to have a Federal Firearms License, thereby expanding background checks. This will help close the gun show loophole, but my legislation, which would require background checks for all gun sales at gun shows, would give the administration the authority it needs to do more. Private sales without background checks need to be eliminated so that we can stem the flow of guns to criminals.”

Maloney continued: “President Obama is also working to promote smart gun technology. The private sector has already created guns that can only be fired by authorized users. This technology has been fought by right-wing extremists, who oppose any gun safety efforts. By supporting research and procurement of smart guns, the President is helping to improve the development and use of this technology. Every year more children die from gunshot wounds than cancer.

“Smart guns can stop many of these accidental deaths. The only thing standing in the way is the NRA, and its supporters.

“I applaud President Obama for using his existing authorities to address gun violence, but it is time for Congress to do its job and protect the American people. It is a disgrace that more hasn’t been done, and many more will needlessly die if something doesn’t change.”

According to Maloney, the following are the executive actions issued by President Obama last week:

New guidance from ATF on who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms to include those who primarily sell weapons at gun shows or over the internet. These sellers would be required to register as licensed firearms dealers and conduct background checks to sell a gun.

Maloney is the sponsor of the “Gun Show Loophole Closing Act” – comprehensive legislation to require background checks on all gun sales at gun shows, and increase the reporting and inspection standards for these events.

Another executive order issued by President Obama, according to Maloney, is a Presidential Memorandum directing Department of Defense, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to take two important steps to promote smart gun technology, including support for research and the possible acquisition of this

AVELLA, DENDEKKER BILL PASSES: When a person is issued a traffic ticket or violation and it is subsequently dismissed, there are usually fines or fees still to be paid. But under a bill sponsored by state Senator Tony Avella and Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, once the original violation is dismissed, the person who originally was charged will not have to pay any fees, fines, penalties, or forfeitures that had been created after he or she got the ticket.

As a result of the Avella and DenDekker legislation having become a law, they said:

“…municipalities will be prohibited from assessing and collecting these additional fees associated with dismissed traffic and vehicle violations.

“In effect, people will no longer be subject to undue fines that linger even after they have been found innocent of any wrong doing.”

Avella (D–Northeast/Queens) and DenDekker (D–Jackson Heights) added;

“Many states have been accused of engaging in this practice to generate revenue, and New Yorkers, too, have been subject to this unjust practice.”

To address this issue, the lawmakers introduced S.5046 A and (A.7230 A), which passed both houses in Albany and were subsequently signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, December 22, 2015.

Avella stated: “People who have had their traffic violations dismissed and yet are still being forced to pay additional fees are nothing but victims of a legal shakedown. The fines that New York State collects from the pockets of those who have wrongly been issued violations are entirely unjustified.

Avella added: “I am glad that Governor Cuomo agrees and has signed the Fines and Forfeitures bill into law. New York will no longer be on the list of states that squeeze middle and working-class families with undue fees for revenue,” said Avella.

DenDekker said, “The fact that hard-working

New Yorkers were being charged administrative fees on dismissed tickets is absolutely outrageous, and I am very proud that we were able to pass this legislation removing that burden. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this common-sense legislation, and Senator Avella for introducing the bill in the Senate. These are the kind of important steps that we can continue to take to protect all New Yorkers. technology for federal use.

MENG WELCOMES OBAMA’S EXEC ACTIONS ON GUNS: President Obama was “well within his authority” in issuing tougher gun restriction via executive actions last week, said Congresswoman Grace Meng as she commended the President’s move.

Meng (D–Flushing), a member of the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, stated, “The wave of mass shooting – and many other instances of gun violence – around the country has been horrifying and the President had the guts to say ‘enough.’”

Meng added, “It is clear that something must be done to address the terrible and senseless tragedies caused by guns. Continuing to sit by and do nothing is unconscionable and unacceptable.”

The measures being implemented by the President are “common sense initiatives for which I have advocated and supported,” said Meng. While his actions won’t prevent all gun violence, it will certainly save lives, the Queens lawmaker felt.

Meng also stated, “Although The President deserves praise for his decision, more work to improve gun safety remains. Despite the road blocks, we must not abandon our efforts to further strengthen the nation’s gun laws, and I for one will continue to keep up the fight.”

Meng explained, “The House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force consists of lawmakers tasked with examining steps that Congress can take to reduce and prevent gun violence. It was established by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D–CA) after the Newtown tragedy.

SIMOTAS READY AS ASSEMBLY SESSION OPENS: The state Assembly’s 2016 session opened last week and Assemblyowman Aravella Simotas (D–Astoria) got it off on the right foot, pledging to “continue to fight for the issues that matter most to our community.” The lawmaker’s complete statement follows:

“As we embark on a new legislative session, and my sixth year representing Astoria in the New York State Assembly, I will continue to fight for the issues that matter to our community. My focus will be on helping families by robustly investing in education to help our children succeed, making New York’s economy stronger and making paid leave a reality for families caring for children and ailing loved ones. Most importantly, I am committed to a more transparent government where there is no question that legislators work for the people and not for personal gain.”

STAVISKY, GIANARIS, COMRIE HIGHEST SCORERS: State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky reports she received a score of 81 in the 2015 NY State Environmental Scorecard from EPL/Environmental Advocates, the highest score in the state Senate, along with Queens Senators Leroy Comrie (D–St. Albans) and Michael Gianaris (D–Western Queens).

Stavisky (D–Flushing) explained that each year, EPL/Environmental Advocates records the environmental voting records of every Senator on bills that could help or harm the air, land and water. Legislators’ scores are based on their votes on a wide range of bills, Stavisky said, but their scores are “heavily influenced” by their support for “super bills” – legislation dealing with pressing environmental issues.

Stavisky stated, “The EPL/Environmental Advocates Scorecard shows how committed Assemblymembers and Senators are to the environment and I’m proud to say I, along with Senators Gianaris and Comrie, received the highest scores in the Senate. I am dedicated to making this world habitable for our children and our children’s children, which will only come about if we make serious changes in our approach to the environment.”

Out of the five positive environmental impact bills and two super bills, Senator Stavisky said she voted in favor of all of them, including:

Super Bills:

S.5995 Child Safe Products Act – Identifies chemicals of concern, prioritizes them based on the likelihood of exposure and requires disclosure by children’s product manufacturers as to whether their products contain priority chemicals. Phases out use of priority chemicals in children’s products starting January 2018.

S.884 Closing Hazardous Waste Loophole – Makes all hazardous waste produced from oil and gas drilling subject to the same regulations for hazardous waste generation, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal that apply to other industries.

Positive Environmental Impact Bills

S.5205-B Street-Lighting Replacement and Savings Act – Amends public service law to provide municipalities with the option to acquire ownership and control of outdoor lighting systems currently owned by electric utilities.

S.4926-A Paint Stewardship – Creates stewardship program. Establishes a non-profit organization which partners with existing local government programs, expands collection infrastructure and educates consumers.

COMMENTS ON PASSING OF FORMER N.Y.S. CHIEF JUDGE JUDITH S. KAYE: The following are commentaries upon the death of Judge Kaye, the former Chief Judge of New York State’s court system by Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan).

DA Brown stated: “I was deeply saddened by the passing of former New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye. Judge Kaye was an extraordinary and well-respected attorney and inspiring jurist who served with great distinction on our state’s highest court for 25 years, the last 15 as Chief Judge. She was a passionate advocate for the improvement of the criminal justice system and a mentor to young lawyers. During her tenure on the court, members of my office had the honor and privilege of arguing before her and her associates on numerous occasions. She was always courteous, insightful, fair to the litigants, and measured in her consideration of the issues.

“On a personal note, I truly feel as if I have lost a close friend and colleague. Judge Kaye was a woman of great poise and charm, who had the innate ability to make every person with whom she came in contact feel special. In an age of computers and emails she unfailingly took the time to handwrite notes, a warm and personal touch that was always much appreciated.

Judge Kaye will be sorely missed by all who were fortunate to know her. She leaves behind a rich legal legacy for future generations and a justice system more accessible to the New Yorkers who rely on it.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) said the following on the passing of Chief Judge Kaye:

“Today, New York has lost one of its greatest legal minds. Judith Kaye – a dedicated, hardworking woman – was the longest-serving chief judge in New York State history, and the first woman to serve as Chief Judge, the highest judicial office in the state. During her tenure in the Court of Appeals, Kaye was responsible for extensive efforts to modernize and reform the judicial system in New York. Under her control, New York State became a leader in alternatives to incarceration cases. Her time as Chief Judge was well spent, and will be well remembered in New York’s judicial history. Her death is a loss for our legal system, and for our state.”

CRUZ LEADS IOWA VOTE 26 DAYS AWAY: About two months ago, Senator Ted Cruz began getting recognition as a presidential contender in Iowa, where the first voting on that group of campaigners will be held on February 1, just 20 days away.

At this point, Cruz is now the clear favorite to win the Iowa caucuses, according to the polls, which have him clearly ahead of Donald Trump, and according to most of the media covering the campaigning in Iowa.

But the truest measure of the Texas lawmaker’s ascendency in Iowa is that Trump, less than a week ago, started to raise questions in the press about Cruz citizenship and whether he meets the US Constitution’s test of being a “natural born citizen” in order to hold presidential office in this country.

Cruz has responded to Trump’s observation that the fact is he was born in Canada to an American mother, and Cruz, an attorney, said that set of facts establish him as a “natural born citizen.” As Cruz phrased it in one newspaper story, he stated “his eligibility to run was settled law.”

Meanwhile, Trump, ever helpful, suggested that Cruz might consider taking the matter to court to settle it so it shouldn’t be a problem. But Cruz remained firm and remains confident there’s no problem.

Cruz and his advisers, meanwhile, are continuing their campaigning in Iowa, constantly trying to build on their coalition of Christian activists. His treasury is still growing as the campaign reported recently raising $20 million over the last three months.

As for any late developing threats or challenges from Trump or any other candidate to Cruz’s lead in Iowa, the Cruz camp doesn’t detect any strong activity or a late surge, according to media reports.

If the polls on the Iowa race turn out to be accurate and Cruz romps there on February 1, that should position him well enough to challenge Trump in New Hampshire, where the primary is scheduled about a week after Iowa’s. According to a recent poll, Trump leads Cruz there, 32 percent to 14 percent, but a major Iowa victory for Cruz could change those numbers in a hurry.

Also involved in the New Hampshire primary, according to the poll we cited, were Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, both sharing third place with 11 percent of the vote. So there’s the possibility that an impressive victory by Cruz in Iowa can enable him to steal votes from the other candidates in New Hampshire.

ISRAEL’S SUDDEN RESIGNATION: Congressman Steve Israel, whose 3rd Congressional District seat includes a small part of Northeast Queens (the rest is Long Island), announced he will not run for reelection this November. Instead, he will pursue a writing career, he said. The 57-year-old pol, who has already published a fairly-successful humorous book, plans on writing another humorous book, this one on the gun lobby.

At least a dozen Long Island Democrats and Republicans have declared their interest in running for his seat. One possible candidate, state Senator Jack Martins, a Republican from Old Westbury, would be of interest to Democrats. The election to replace Martins, if he runs for Congress, would open the possibility of a Democrat winning it and helping the Dems win control of the state Senate, which is now-controlled by Republicans by a thin margin. A similar situation already exists as former Senate GOP leader created when Senator Dean Skelos surrendered his seat after being found guilty of corruption charges recently.

20TH ANNUAL ‘VALENTINES FOR VETS’ GIFT DRIVE: Valentine’s Day, February 14, is about four weeks away, but the sponsors of the 20th anniversary of the Valentines for Vets Gift Drive are already enthusiastically planning to celebrate the day.

The sponsors Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D–Bayside) and former Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza, the former occupant of that seat, are the sponsors and they announced:

“We are collecting donations of cards, candy, toiletries and new clothing items such as pajamas, robes, slippers and socks for the hospitalized and disabled veterans at the St. Albans VA Community Living Center and the New York State Veterans Home at St. Albans. I am proud to sponsor such a long-standing Northeast Queens community tradition,” said Braunstein.

Carrozza, now an attorney, explained, “For the last 20 years, these donations have brightened the days of thousands of veterans by showing that we care about them and appreciate their sacrifices. It would mean a great deal to our hospitalized heroes if you would choose to be their Valentine by donating to our drive.”

The donation deadline is Wednesday, February 10, four days before Valentine’s day falls on the following Sunday. If you are interested in participating and would like to receive further information, please contact Braunstein’s office at 718- 357-3588 or Carrozza’s law office at 718-224- 4746, both in Bayside.

If you would like to drop off gifts, you can bring them to Braunstein’s office at 213-33 39th Avenue, Suite 238; or The Law Offices of Ann- Margaret Carrozza at 213-38 40th Avenue, both Bayside.

Other drop off points for gifts are at the: Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance Service, 12-15 150 Street, Whitestone, or Community Board 11 at 46-21 Little Neck Parkway.

PERALTA, ESPAILLAT INTRO. HOVERBOARD ACT: Introduced by State Senators Jose Peralta and Adriano Espaillat was an act to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to exempting hoverboards and electric unicycles from the definition of “motor vehicle,” and to amend the executive law, in relation to directing the consumer protection division to monitor incidents of hoverboards and electric unicycles that explode or ignite.

CROWLEY ON RECENT DHS DEPORTATIONS: Congressman Joe Crowley (DQueens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, released the following statement on the recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration enforcement actions:

“The recent reports of enforcement tactics used by immigration officials are incredibly troubling, and I’ve heard from our immigrant communities that families are scared and hurt by actions that seem to have been unnecessarily cruel. I fear that this approach may just force people back into the shadows – many of whom have come here to escape violence, live safely, and ensure their children are protected. I urge the Department of Homeland Security to stop and reconsider their current methods.

“The harm done by these raids is more than just a blow to community trust, it diverts attentions from the broader issues that must be addressed. I hope that instead of provoking fear, our federal agencies can pull back and devote resources to solutions like strengthening legal representation for those requesting asylum, ensuring that our detention and adjudication policies protect civil rights, and perhaps most importantly, pursuing regional solutions that respond to the violence and conditions that are driving women and children to leave their homes in hopes of finding safety in the US.”

DROMM ON PASSING OF VALDESCLAUSELL: Councilman Daniel Dromm issued a statement on the recent death of Robert Valdes- Clausell, who died in a car accident at 77th Street and Astoria Boulevard in Jackson Heights.

“Robert Valdes-Clausell’s passing is a great shock to the Elmhurst community,” said Dromm (D-Elmhurst, Jackson Heights). “Robert was involved in numerous organizations and was a strong advocate for the community. As a board member of the Newtown Civic Association, Robert fought to keep historical buildings in Elmhurst intact, advocated for the reopening of the Elmhurst LIRR and was involved in many other worthy civic activities. His presence will be sorely missed.”

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