2016-01-20 / Political Page

House Passes Meng’s Intern Protection Act

The House has passed Congresswoman Grace Meng’s legislation, the Federal Intern Protection Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate against or sexually harass unpaid interns in the federal government, she stated.

Interns include men and women, many beginning in their teens, who work on the floor of Congress and the US Senate, delivering documents or messages from one lawmaker to another.

The bill, which was passed unanimously, 414-0, Meng (D–Flushing) said, would protect unpaid interns who work at federal agencies by:

Defining “intern” as someone who performs uncompensated voluntary service at an agency to earn credit awarded by an educational institution to learn a trade or occupation.

Extending workplace protections against discrimination and harassment to unpaid interns.

Closing existing loopholes that permit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin as prohibited by section 717 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; age as prohibited by sections 12 and 15 of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; and handicapping condition as prohibited in section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

“Everybody in the federal government, from executives to interns, are entitled to be protected from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and the passage of our bill puts us one step closer toward accomplishing that critical goal.” “Everybody in the federal government, from executives to interns, are entitled to be protected from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and the passage of our bill puts us one step closer toward accomplishing that critical goal.” Meng stated: “It is unacceptable that interns working in the US government continue to be denied the same safeguards that are provided to employees.” The lawmaker pointed out that:

“Everybody in the federal government, from executives to interns, are entitled to be protected from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and the passage of our bill puts us one step closer toward accomplishing that critical goal.” I now call on the Senate to quickly approve our legislation as well.”

Meng explained that federal laws do not adequately protect unpaid interns against sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, handicapping condition, or other factors.

In the news release, Meng noted; “For example, in the 1997 case of O’Connor v. Davis, an employee made unwanted sexual advances against an unpaid intern, calling her ‘Miss Sexual Harassment,’ suggesting that she participate in an ‘orgy,’ and making comments about lingerie. The court found that the plaintiff was not covered by existing law because she was not an employee, concluding, “it is for Congress, if it should choose to do so, and not this court, to provide a remedy under either Title VII or Title 1X for plaintiffs in O’Connor’s position.”

Congressman Robert Scott (D–VA), Ranking Member, Committee on Education and the workforce, who’s also a bill sponsor, said: “Internships are often the first real entry into a profession. Yet, unpaid interns are currently not expressly protected from prohibited discriminatory practices addressed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Rehabilitation Act and other law, regulations, and agency policies.” HR3231 would remedy this problem and extend these workplace protections to unpaid interns who may be vulnerable to egregious treatment.”

Congressmember Elijah Cummings (D–MD), Ranking Member, Committee Oversight and on Government Reform, said, “This common-sense legislation should have become law long ago. Allowing this kind of behavior to go unchecked can have serious consequences on the lives and careers of young people interested in government service, and I am encouraged that the House passed our bill with unanimous support.”

MALONEY, 57 HOUSE MEMBERS SEEK FIRST WOMAN UN SECRETARY GENERAL: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is leading 57 House members in a call for the next Secretary General of the United Nations to be a woman who has a strong record of promoting global gender equality. Since the UN’s inception in 1945, all secretaries general have been men, Maloney noted.

In a letter to UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Security Council President Elbio Oscar Rosselli Frieri, the House members define the great impact that a woman with these qualifications as secretary general would have in building upon the United Nations’ progress advancing rights of women and girls around the world.

“Over the years, the UN has played a critical role in advancing women’s rights,” the House members wrote. “It is essential that the next secretary general of the United Nations be a woman who supports the full implementation of all existing UN agreements and resolutions that empower women and girls around the world, including the 1994 International Conferences on Population and Development Programme of Action in Cairo, the Key Actions for its implementation adopted by the UN in 1999, the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women’s Declaration and Platform for Action in Beijing, the sustainable Development Goals, and the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security adopted in 2000.”

The letter continues, noting: “The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report for 2015 shows we are still a long way from achieving global equality for women. Since 2006, another quarter of a billion women have entered the labor force, and yet annual pay for women only now equals the amount men were earning 10 years ago. The report also notes that the most progress toward closing the gender gap has been in the political world, but women only make up 19 percent of parliamentarians and 18 percent of ministers. There is still much more work to be done to achieve global gender equality, and the UN must continue to help lead the way.”

STAVISKY SIGNS ‘CLEAN CONSCIENCE PLEDGE’: As part of her ongoing commitment to substantial ethics reform in the State Legislature, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky has signed on to the Clean Conscience Pledge, she announced.

Stavisky (D–Flushing) said Citizens Union, New York Common Cause and the New York Public Interest Research Group “do good” groups active in the state capital – had joined forces and asked elected officials and leaders “to commit to embracing solutions to state ethics laws by enacting legislation that will bring about large scale change.”

“Over the past couple of years,” Stavisky stated, “we have seen individuals who have taken advantage of their position, be held accountable for their inexcusable actions. I applaud the small steps we have taken, but we need to do more and soon.

“I have always been committed to strengthening our ethics law and stand proudly with my colleagues and sign on to this pledge. New Yorkers deserve the comfort in knowing their representatives are working to improve the quality of life for constituents. This goes beyond party lines. We must join together and say, ‘it’s time for reform.’”

Stavisky said a list of the legislators who have and have not signed the pledge is available at EthicsPledgeNY.org.

PALADINO ANNOUNCES HE’S RUNNING AGAIN FOR GOVERNOR: Carl Paladino, Buffalo businessman and attorney who was defeated by Andrew Cuomo in the 2010 election for governor, indicated he “has his sights set” on running for New York state’s governor again in 2018. He would probably face Cuomo again running for a third term, although there’s been no such announcement yet.

Paladino made the statement in an exclusive interview with Joe Piscopo on Piscopo’s morning show, The Answer on AM 970 in New York City. Paladino, who ran as the Republican- Conservative candidate, “confirmed his intentions,” stating, “as it stands right now, I see an opportunity and I think I’m going to do it.”

Paladino, was described in the press announcement as the “brash Buffalo businessman,” who “seemed unimpressed by the announcement from US Attorney Preet Bharara indicating that he was unlikely to bring charges related to the premature closing of the Moreland Commission.”

DEMOCRATIC LAWMAKERS PRAISE OBAMA’S RECORD: Led by Congressmember Joseph Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, and other key Democratic lawmakers, including US Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, praised President Barack Obama’s accomplishments during his two terms in office.

Following Obama’s final State of the Union address, Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) recalled:

“Seven years ago, President Obama entered the White House with a bold vision for how to make life better for hardworking Americans. Since then, the president, along with Congressional Democrats, has worked tirelessly to put our country on a path to a stronger economy and a brighter future for Americans – whether it is giving families much-needed health security through the Affordable Care Act, boosting our economy and reducing our deficit, or strengthening our national security and improving America’s standing in the world.”

Turning his attention to the president’s address, Crowley stated, “tonight the president was clear that while we’ve made great strides, our job is far from done. We need to build on the economic progress made and create longterm and good-paying jobs, ensure workplace fairness and equal pay, and address the savings and retirement crisis in America by helping to make Americans more financially secure throughout their lifetimes.”

The nine-term lawmaker declared; “We need to make investments in education, as well as research and innovation, to ensure the US continues to be a leader in the global economy. We need to reform our broken immigration system in a way that respects our long, proud tradition of welcoming immigrants. We need to take action to better protect Americans from the gun violence plaguing our communities.

“In short, we need to put the American Dream back in reach for American families.

Crowley concluded: “The president has a vision, and House Democrats stand ready to help make these goals a reality. These are challenges, yes, but also opportunities – opportunities for real solutions that will have a meaningful impact on the lives of the American people. The Congress has a job to do, and I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join us in building a better, stronger America for everyone.”

US Senator Schumer issued the following statement: “The President gave a speech aimed not at the next six months or the next election, but at the next generation. By appealing to the ‘better angels of our nature,’ the President stood in sharp contrast to the nastiness of the Republican Presidential Primary.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement following the president’s address:

“President Obama spoke tonight about the progress we have made toward getting our economy back on track and the ways we can continue this momentum to create more jobs and remain competitive in a growing global economy.

“And while we must continue to be vigilant and work to stop terrorism from metastasizing abroad as the President outlined, we must also take every step necessary to prevent and protect against any threats here at home.

“I am optimistic as we enter 2016. We can work together to end gun violence. We can and should work together to give every working American paid leave. I will continue to work toward making these goals a reality for all New Yorkers in the year ahead.”

Congressmember Maloney, in a statement released prior to the president’s address, stated:

“When President Obama took over from George W. Bush our economy was shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs per month, unemployment was rising, wages were falling, GDP was down, home prices were in freefall, and more than $13 trillion in household wealth had evaporated. We faced what former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called ‘the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression.’ The economic state of our union was weak.

“Under the leadership of President Obama, we have made remarkable progress. We’ve added more than 14 million private-sector jobs over a record 70 consecutive months of private sector job growth. The unemployment rate has been cut in half from its peak. Real GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is up more than 14 percent. Average home prices have recovered from severe losses. Household wealth has increased more than $30 trillion.

Maloney stressed, “This was not just a stroke of good luck. It resulted from efforts by President Obama, Democrats in Congress, and the Federal Reserve. A recent study by economists Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder found that without these aggressive efforts, the economic contraction would have been more than twice as long and we would have lost about twice as many jobs.

“Yet many of my friends across the aisle opposed President Obama every step of the way, and even today they defend their actions and deny his success.

“But President Obama is continuing to demonstrate his commitment to strengthening the economic recovery so it reaches every American family. We must do more to support middle-class families. And we must do more to grow wages so that everyone who works hard can make a decent life for themselves and their families. College must be made more affordable and accessible. Paid family and medical leave should be a right enjoyed by all Americans – not just those at the top.”

Maloney states: “The President has shown time and again that he recognizes that big challenges remain. Even after seven long years, he is still fighting for bipartisan reforms and looking for opportunities to work across the aisle to get things done for the American people.

“I am proud of President Obama’s accomplishments. He makes me proud to be a Democrat.”

CROWLEY’S BIPARTISAN BILL ADD DOCTORS TO MEDICARE: In a Congress that can’t agree whether the moon will rise tonight, Congressman Joseph Crowley’s bill to add many needed doctors to Medicare “surpassed a milestone… as over 100 bipartisan members” signed on to cosponsor the measure and virtually assure its final passage.

Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, noted that Congressman Charles W. Boustany Jr., a Louisiana Republican, coauthored the important bill which “addresses the looming doctor shortage by expanding the current cap on the number of Medicare-supported residency training slots for doctors, helping to ensure teaching hospitals can meet the growing demands for more physicians.”

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) continued: “A doctor shortage is something we just can’t ignore. Completing a residency in a chosen specialty is required to become a licensed doctor, yet each year, more and more qualified medical school graduates find that there are no residency positions available for them.”

Crowley added: “This bottleneck means that no matter how many qualified, talented would-be doctors graduate medical school, many will legally be unable to complete their training and go on to care for patients. Taking action to increase the number of residency slots will enable us to continue developing the highly trained physician workforce our nation needs.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is expected to face a stunning shortage of as many as 90,000 doctors by 2025, including shortages in both primary and specialty care. Medical school enrollment is growing, yet the number of residency positions is still subject to an outdated cap, meaning that these medical school graduates will have no place to finish their required training, Crowley said.

The Crowley-Boustany legislation would increase the number of Medicare-supported hospital residency positions by 15,000 (3,000 slots per year, over five years), bringing the total number of slots available to approximately 102,000. The legislation also places an emphasis on expanding residency slots in primary care and other specialties necessary to meet the needs of a growing civilian and veteran population.

Crowley first introduced the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act in 2009 and again in subsequent Congresses. The bill was reintroduced in the 114th Congress in April 2015.

The legislation is supported by over two dozen leading national organizations, including the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, and Association of American Medical Colleges, as well as numerous physician specialty groups,” Crowley stated.

MONTHLY FREE LEGAL HOUSING AID STARTED BY KOO: Free legal housing assistance is coming to Flushing, Councilman Peter Koo announced, saying he is partnering in the venture with Queens Legal Services (QLS).

Koo (D–Flushing) explained that starting Friday, January 15, and following on the first Friday of every month, QLS will provide a staff attorney at Koo’s office to help his constituents with housing issues, including tenant/ landlord disputes, harassment, rent stabilization and evictions.

Consultation with the QLS attorney must be arranged, by appointment only, by calling Koo’s office at 718-888-8747. QLS provides high quality civil legal services, social work support and advocacy to low-income communities in Queens. It was founded in 1967, its staff of over 65 members assists over 5,000 individuals each year and reaches thousands more through outreach and community legal education. For more information, visit www.legalservicesnyc.org.

Koo stated: “One of the most common complaints I receive from constituents involves tenant landlord disputes. Many people, particularly immigrants, don’t know their rights and the legal options available to them. QLS has the staff and experience to help people navigate the often confusing legal labyrinth of housing law, and I’m grateful they have agreed to lend their assistance here in Flushing.”

Jennifer Ching, Director of Queens Legal Services, said, “QLS is thrilled to partner with Councilmember Koo to provide these critically needed legal services to the Flushing community. Please don’t be embarrassed or ashamed if you have been experiencing difficulties with your landlord. As a tenant, you have the right to a safe and healthy home. Laws also protect many of us from unlawful rent increases and harassment from landlords. QLS is here to help, and we thank Councilmember Koo for working with us to reach the wider community.”

CRUZ BLEW IT : US Senator Ted Cruz got involved in a hassle with Donald Trump, who’s one of his rivals in the battle to become the Republican candidate for President of the United States in the election to be held next November.

In the midst of it, the Tea Party stalwart started to respond to Trump during their latest presidential debate last week, and attacked him for having New York values.” Further along the way, the insult were applied to other New York City officials, and when he supposedly was doing that, he really went off the deep end, throwing out insults willy-nilly to many city officials.

All this coming from a US Senator, a graduate of Princeton and Harvard law school. And when, later on, he was supposed to be apologizing, he made a worse fool of himself and also turned out to be an ingrate because he had received several large campaign contributions from New York residents.

We have been covering Cruz and Trump, along with all the other candidates, and I think if he had confined his comments to Trump or any of the other candidates, that would have been alright. He’s entitled to his opinions about his opponents, but there was no way he should be swinging wildly at all other New Yorkers because, as a Texan who spends most of his time in Washington, he really doesn’t have enough knowledge about them and our city to try to attack us.

As for Trump, Cruz began to gradually reduce the lead Trump had against him in past months; in fact, he’s passed him in Iowa, where the primary election is being held, on February 1, and they’re closely bunched in New Hampshire, where the voting will be held a week after Iowa.

The remarks Trump made about him not being qualified to become a president of this country figure into the future outcomes of those two primaries coming up, and that may be why he lashed out at Trump which maybe set him off against New Yorkers in general.

Trump had been telling Cruz that he should discuss his situation regarding the language in the US Constitution on qualifications. Cruz said he was convinced that he qualified and that he had looked into it already.

But more recently there was a story in the papers that a woman lawyer is going to legal authorities and officials for an opinion covering the facts that apply to Cruz, which are that although his mother was born in the US, Cruz was born while his mother was living in Canada.

The business about Trump repeating his advice to Cruz that he should check the qualifications, that also appeared in the press repeatedly, probably bothered Cruz a lot because raising doubts about it could have caused some potential voters to change their minds about voting for Cruz in the upcoming primaries.

More generally, there was a story in The New York Times recently that some high level Republicans, not presently officials but who had held jobs with past Republican presidents, or who worked in presidential campaigns or owned major businesses – all of these – were reported to have attended a fund-raising meeting in New Orleans with Cruz, who was being viewed as an alternative to Trump, who has been looked upon as the Republicans’ only possibility to be the Republican candidate for president.

It had also been written that Cruz attended a meeting during the summer or early fall where Republican “king makers,” so to speak, were also discussing alternatives to Trump, who hasn’t been an active member of such a group, and thus would be bypassed when the final choice of a nominee was to be made.

Surely, Trump got wind of this meeting, which was reported in the press, which would make him regard Cruz as an identifiable enemy henceforth, and each of them then assumed those roles, poisoning the air between them. It was in this atmosphere that Cruz weighed in with his feelings about Trump and, by extension, all New Yorkers.

DAYS DWINDLING DOWN TO A PRECIOUS FEW… that’s the way the song goes, but it also holds true for elections, as the calendar shows the first crucial primary of the 2016 presidential primary, set for February 1 in Iowa, is now a mere 12 days away.

We’ve already covered the Republican election dominated by Donald Trump, who overall is sitting quite comfortably. but on the Democratic side, former First Lady Hillary Clinton, enmeshed in a mess of her own making – about how she may have mishandled classified information as Secretary of State – is still trapped and enmeshed in a trap set by Republicans in Congress who won’t let go.

Prospective voter polls on the first two primary elections, in Iowa (February 1) and New Hampshire (February 9) – in which US Senator Bernie Sanders, is her chief opponent – tell the tale.

In one of the latest polls testing the relative strength of Clinton and Sanders with voters, Sanders leads in both: in Iowa, by 49 to 44 percent, and in New Hampshire by 53 to Clinton’s 44 percent. The latter poll was taken by Monmouth University, the Iowa count was taken by Quinnipiac University.

Needless to say, at the start of polling on these contests in the fall of 2015, Clinton was comfortably ahead, but in addition to the battering Clinton was taking from Republicaninspired congressional hearings on Benghazi etc., Sanders was conducting spirited campaigns around the country and also enjoying equally profitable fundraising campaigns from two million small donations.

The benefits derived from these first contests is that they set the tone for other races that follow closely behind, giving the winning candidate in Iowa and New Hampshire a helpful boost in momentum in the races that follow.

For instance, in 2008, Barack Obama, having to overcome serious problems such as race and his opponent’s (Clinton’s) comparatively high voter recognition in these early races – which he did, and the momentum he gained carried him a long way to victory.

MILLER, ADDABBO AIM AT UNLICENSED MASSAGE PARLORS: Unlicensed massage parlors that promote prostitution and illegal sexual activity are in for a thorough cleanup under a package of legislation introduced by state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Assemblyman Mike Miller.

The two south Queens Democrats said in a joint statement that: “there has been a substantial increase in the amount of massage parlors that have set up shop under the guise of being massage therapists’ and promoting prostitution and illegal sexual activities.”

Miller (D–Woodhaven) stated:

“I have introduced this package of bills in an attempt to shut these illegal parlors down. These bills would increase regulation on unlicensed massage parlors by allowing the Department of Consumer Affairs the authority to enforce the law and it also expands the definition of massage therapist to require these illegal parlors to be licensed as opposed to just opening up another massage parlor wherever possible,” Assemblyman Miller said. “I want to thank the NYPD for their help thus far in shutting down a number of these massage parlors and I look forward to continue working together to preserve the integrity of our communities.”

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) added:

“Illegal massage parlors have plagued our communities for too long, and it is time we show them that they have no place on our local streets. While identifying these facilities is the first step toward shutting them down, enforcement has been the downfall due to current regulations that tie the hands of law enforcement officials behind their backs. This package of bills will help remedy that and show those who operate these illegal facilities that they will not get away with breaking the law. I thank Assemblyman Miller for introducing this legislation and look forward to ridding Queens of these institutions once and for all.”

The package of legislation would:

 Expand the definition of ‘Massage Therapist’ and require licensees to be on premises at all times;

 Impose a duty on the landlords to verify the licensure of a massage therapist tenant prior to entering into a lease agreement;

 Prevent a massage parlor from obstructing the view of their lobby area;

 Impose a duty on the landlords to terminate a tenancy of a massage therapist location found guilty of promoting prostitution within 60 days of notification to the landlord by a city or state agency; and

 Grants the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs the authority to enforce the imposition of fines relating to the practice of massage therapy.

“I would like to thank Assemblyman Mike Miller for taking an active role in trying to change the law to make the community a better place to live,” said Captain Mark Wachter of the 104th Precinct. “I also appreciate all the members of the community for their support and assistance in identifying these locations that are violating the law. This effort of the police, elected officials and the community working together is a great example of how collectively we can solve these issues.”

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