2016-05-18 / Political Page

Crowley To Obama: Expand Access To Retirement Savings

Congressman Joe Crowley (D–Queens, The Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, announced he led over 65 members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama urging him to issue an executive order to require government contractors to auto-enroll employees into retirement plans.

“We need to address the retirement security crisis in America, and we can start at work. With nearly half of all workers not having access to a retirement plan through their employer, and many more either not eligible for their employer’s plan or not aware of their employer-provided options, fewer than 10 percent of those workers are contributing to a savings account on their own. We need to take steps now to reverse this trend,” said Crowley. “Using his pen, President Obama can take an important step forward to support hardworking Americans and help even more workers prepare for a secure retirement.”

Specifically, Crowley’s letter urges the President to require federal contractors to automatically enroll their workers in the company’s traditional pension or 401(k) plan, because auto-enrollment has been shown to significantly increase participation. For employers that do not currently offer a plan, the letter suggests employers could make use of the myRA program, which was launched by the Administration last year and provides employers with an easy way to help employees save. The letter also asks that an executive order apply to both full- and part-time employees, and also include a requirement that employees will be considered immediately vested in whatever plan is being offered, giving those workers flexibility and peace of mind when it comes to their savings.

“Given the growing savings and retirement crisis in the country and the difference that can be made for so many workers by putting into effect your Administration’s policies to provide a more secure retirement, we believe now is the time to take these kinds of actions,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter.

The lawmakers also illustrated that expanding access to retirement savings builds on the President’s strong record of taking action to lift up workers at federal contractors, setting a positive example for all employers nationwide.

Last April, Crowley unveiled his “Building Better Savings, Building Brighter Futures” plan to address the savings and retirement security crisis in the U.S. The plan will make Americans more financially secure throughout their lifetimes by creating new financial options that encourage personal saving, expand employer-provided retirement plans, and strengthen Social Security. Crowley released a detailed blueprint for the plan, which can be found at www.crowley.house.gov/ in the tab for legislative work under “latest news”.

SENATE OK’S BILL CO-SPONSORED BY ADDABBO TO COMBAT VANDALISM, THEFT IN HOUSES OF WORSHIP: In an effort to protect churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other houses of religious worship from harm the New York State Senate has approved legislation (S.1104) co-sponsored by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. to increase penalties for criminals who vandalize or steal sacred property from these “venerable spiritual institutions,” said Addabbo.

“Purposefully damaging houses of worship and stealing religious items would probably be considered ‘sinful’ acts by most people,” said Addabbo, with past incidents in his district in mind. “But when the potential spiritual consequences of this behavior don’t serve to prevent it, maybe it’s time to fight back with an increase in New York’s more ‘earthly’ punishments for these deeply disturbing crimes.”

Under the legislation, Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained, criminal penalties for vandalism and theft in places of religious worship would rise from misdemeanor levels to felony charges. Religious property that would be better protected under the proposal includes scrolls, vestments, vessels and other items used in connection with religious worship, regardless of their estimated financial value.

“Some religious properties or objects are simply and undeniably priceless in their spiritual significance,” Addabbo noted. “Sadly, if they are stolen or badly damaged, they cannot be replaced and are lost forever. Hopefully, this legislation will help to prevent this kind of devastating loss for people of faith throughout our communities.”

Noting the importance and contributions of spiritual institutions in his district and throughout the state, Addabbo pointed out that “Houses of religious worship are integral parts of our communities, providing people of all backgrounds with places to pray, reflect, come together, support one another and be part of something bigger than themselves. That’s why crimes against our churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places built upon spiritual faith are particularly distressing to our communities.”

Addabbo pointed out that houses of religious worship often attempt to remain open for many hours a day in order to serve the spiritual needs of their members and their community at large. “This responsiveness to the community – which is welcome, needed and a vital part of their mission – can also serve to make these institutions vulnerable to crime,” said Addabbo. “With this legislation, we can take a big step to help goodness triumph over the evil of theft and destructiveness.”

TRUMP MADE GOOD IMPRESSION, RYAN GETS COMPLIMENTS: Prior to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s invitation to Republican Party’s presumed Presidential nominee Donald Trump to meet with him in Washington last Thursday, the Wisconsin pol admitted frankly that he hardly knew Trump at all, although he had already announced publicly that he would not endorse or vote for Trump in the November election.

Trump quickly accepted the invitation. He had good reason to. The reaction to Trump having been elevated to presumed nominee immediately following his crushing victory over Ted Cruz in the Indiana primary was followed by Cruz quitting the primary competition and leaving Trump without a Republican challenger.

So Trump now had to shift into high gear to get the party behind him, and since his elevation to presumed nominee had come so suddenly, endorsements from members of Congress and U.S. Senate Republicans were hardly happening, so Ryan’s invitation to Trump to visit in Washington to unite the party looked like a good move for Trump.

While there, Trump was probably figuring to land some endorsements from GOP lawmakers, which could be added to the few that followed his elevation to presidential candidate. He would also have to deal especially with lawmakers who didn’t feel he was the right fit to be the party’s candidate, and which wouldn’t help their reelection chances. And there was the problem of raising campaign funds from GOP fat cats who reportedly didn’t feel his chances against Hillary Clinton were so great. The road to party unity would surely be a good factor in approaching financial contributors.

Trump and Ryan met for only 45 minutes, according to The New York Times and, while it was generally congenial between the pair, no great strides were made on agreements on issues, which were just touched upon.

But in a joint statement they issued they stated: “We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall.”

Ryan said at a news conference additionally, “It was important that we discussed our differences that we have. But it was also important that we discuss the core principles that tie us together.”

Trump made no public statement after the meeting, but it was disclosed that in the closed meeting Trump had withdrawn his threat to remove Ryan as Chairman of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in July. Trump also pledged to help Republican legislators get reelected in November. But there were apparently no discussions on the major issues that have been aired by Trump during the primary election campaigns, and the positions held by the Republican establishment.

On this subject, Trump apparently let it be known before the meeting with Ryan that he (Trump) felt “very strongly about” the issues of trade and border security – the latter, of course, would include immigration. Meanwhile, Trump has cited Republicans’ failure to fix a broken immigration system, which he proposes to remedy by expelling 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. (This appeared in a recent New York Times editorial.)

But as for the central point made that at Thursday’s Ryan-Trump meeting they were in agreement to unify the Republican Party to support Trump’s election in November, it enhances Trump’s chances of defeating Hillary Clinton, so both sides will do what they must to win the White House – no matter how difficult it may be.

Party unity that was achieved at the meeting last Thursday will be solidified by the party platform that will be presented at the National Convention in July. It will be written by someone selected by Ryan and the Senate Majority Leader and Trump has promised he won’t make a fuss over changes.

CLINTON URGED TO PICK HISPANIC CONGRESSMAN AS V.P.: Congressman Xavier Becerra, 58, and in his 24th year in the House – 4th in seniority overall – is being advanced by Hispanics in Los Angeles to be chosen by Hilary Clinton as her Vice President in the race for the White House in the November election.

Becerra is presently running for reelection in November, but he doesn’t have any prospects of stepping up to a higher job in Congress because there are three others there who are higher in seniority. He would eagerly say yes to Clinton if she made the V.P. offer to him, he stated in a recent story in a Los Angeles newspaper. But he’s also got plans for reelection, he stated if the V.P. offer doesn’t come.

Becerra speaks excitedly about plans he has to win reelection and then “help lead a major overhaul of immigration laws that Mrs. Clinton has promised to pursue if she wins the White House.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Biden stated recently that if he had succeeded President Obama in office, he would have selected U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) as his running mate. But the Politico item in the New York Daily News said that Warren was “noncommittal” when Biden discussed the topic with her last September when he was considering running for the presidency.

LATE NOTE: The final presidential primaries of the season are set for June 7 and involve California, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota. The Republican primary ended when Donald Trump picked up the Republican presidential nomination after winning in Indiana. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton still needs 143 delegates to reach the winning goal of 2,383 delegates and she seems certain to gather that many and more from the California primary where 476 delegates are up for grabs. Clinton’s rival, Bernie Sanders presently has 1,473 delegates and needs 910 delegates more to reach 2,383. Clinton appears to have the winning edge.

CROWLEY CO-SPONSORS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL: Congressman Joe Crowley (D–Queens, The Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, joined Reps. Don Beyer (VA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Keith Ellison (MN), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Mike Honda (CA), Betty McCollum (MN), and Andre Carson (ID) to introduce the Freedom of Religion Act to prohibit the use of religious litmus tests as a means to ban immigrants, refugees, and international visitors trying to enter the United States.

“This bill is about the very foundation our nation was built on, and that’s religious freedom,” said Crowley. “Unfortunately, the rhetoric we’ve heard over the past year or so has not only greatly affected our national discourse, it has fanned the flames of hate and hurt innocent families. I’m proud to join Congressman Beyer and my colleagues on this legislation – we must ensure that the United States will continue to remain a model for religious tolerance and freedom.”

Article 6, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution already bans religious litmus tests for political offices and the opening phrase of the Bill of Rights prohibits the establishment of a national religion and any limitations on the free exercise of religion, Crowley explained.

A religion – based immigration or travel ban would hurt the United States and our relationships abroad. Such a proposal would deny entry to world leaders, tourists, relatives of Americans, and scientific, business, and political leaders attending meetings in the United States, Crowley added.

In December, following weeks of anti- Muslim bigotry and acts of hate, Crowley joined his colleagues in introducing legislation condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric toward Muslim-Americans.

ADDABBO VOTES FOR BILL EXPANDING DEATH DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR VOL FIREFIGHTERS: To underscore the serious physical dangers routinely faced by volunteer firefighters, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. recently joined with his State Senate colleagues in approving legislation (S.3891) that would expand death and disability benefits to cover a variety of cancers these brave men and women may contract as a result of their duties.

“I have an immense respect for volunteer firefighters throughout the state and especially for those working out of the five in my district,” said Addabbo. “While current state law presumes that lung disease is associated with smoke inhalation and other risks associated with volunteer firefighting activities, it doesn’t acknowledge that certain cancers may also result from this dangerous work. Under this bill, cancer that develops in firefighters who showed no signs of the illness when passing their volunteer physicals will more routinely be viewed as related to their firefighting duties. This will enable volunteers who become ill with cancer to more easily seek partial and full disability benefits for themselves, as well as open the door to potential death benefits for their surviving families.”

Under the legislation, the cancers covered would include melanoma and cancers affecting the lymphatic, digestive, hematological, urinary, prostate, neurological, breast and reproductive systems. Unless proven otherwise by insurance carriers, these diseases would be presumed to be caused by the volunteer’s normal firefighting activities. To seek death benefits or total, partial, temporary or permanent disability benefits, volunteers ultimately diagnosed with cancer must not demonstrate any signs of the illness during their pre-firefighting physicals for acceptance into their fire companies.

“Our volunteer firefighters routinely place themselves in mortal danger on our behalf: running into flames, and literally risking life and limb to keep all of us safe from harm and our homes and businesses standing,” Addabbo said. “When these courageous men and women become ill from cancer or pass away as a result of their selfless volunteer activities, we should be there for them and for their families. This proposal recognizes the extraordinary dangers faced by our ‘vollies’ and seeks to underscore how much their service and dedication means to all of our communities.”

Having passed the Senate, the bill is now under review by the Assembly Committee on Local Governments for approval and then the governor’s signature will be needed for it to become law.

ADDABBO: WOODHAVEN-CROSS BAY BLVD. NEW BUS SERVICE PROJECT: As the NYC Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority continue to develop plans for the Select Bus Service proposal along Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. those who live, work or commute in the affected neighborhoods to attend one of the agencies’ two upcoming public meetings.

DOT and MTA have scheduled a series of open houses that will take place throughout the remainder of this month to allow the agencies to gather feedback and input from residents regarding their concerns with the current SBS plan. During these meetings, residents will also have the opportunity to raise any suggestions that may make implementation smoother.

“SBS is a major project that, whether you support or oppose, will bring significant changes to the community,” said Addabbo (D–Howard Beach). “Although I remain opposed to the current plan, I do believe all area residents should voice their opinion at the upcoming open house community meetings. Pedestrians, drivers, bus riders, homeowners and business owners will all be impacted by the changes brought about by SBS, including the removal of a lane of traffic in both directions to create a bus only lane and moving bus stops to the median of an already busy and dangerous roadway. For these reasons, among many others, I urge everyone who may be affected by this project in any way to attend one of these public open houses and raise your concerns.”

The first of the meetings took place Tuesday, May 17, at PS 42 in Arverne, and additional meetings will follow on Saturday, May 21, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at PS 65 in Ozone Park and Wednesday, May 25, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at PS 306 in Woodhaven. Addabbo is requesting that DOT and MTA hold additional meetings north of Woodhaven for residents of more neighborhoods to attend. He is also urging the agencies to hold another round of public meetings later in the year after completing the three this month in order to unveil to the community how their input was used to make improvements to the plan before any work begins.

“While it may be inevitable that SBS will eventually be a reality along Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard, we have been given a chance to contribute to the planning stages of this project and provide valuable input that can determine whether SBS is a success or a disaster,” said Addabbo.

“Because we have been persistent about our concerns for the SBS plan, DOT and MTA have already postponed the implementation of the project to fine tune some of its major flaws, including changing their plans to now allow turns from the boulevard to our major commercial corridors such as Jamaica and Liberty Avenues. While I appreciate the agencies accommodations, we are counting on these agencies to prove once again that additional concerns of the public are heard by using information from these open houses to make further appropriate changes that may turn SBS into a more sensible project that takes the needs of everyone into account, instead of one that will wreak havoc on the surrounding community,” Addabbo concluded.

ADDABBO BACKS BILL REMOVING WORDS “MENTAL RETARDATION”: FROM NYS LAW: In response to a request from the NYS Office of Court Administration, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. recently joined with his Senate colleagues in approving legislation (S.6858) that will substitute the term “intellectual disability” for “mental retardation” in the state’s domestic relations law, family court act, executive law and social services law.

“This legislation tracks action taken in 2010 by President Obama when he signed a bill called ‘Rosa’s Law’ to remove the term ‘mental retardation’ from federal law,” said Addabbo. “That term is archaic and opposed by many advocacy groups who know that it can be used in offensive and insensitive ways against disabled people. Changing the terminology in law will also provide consistency across state and federal law in family court proceedings.”

The federal law was named for Rosa Marcellino, a Maryland girl with Down syndrome whose family campaigned for the change after they heard the word “retard” being used frequently and hurtfully to describe her, Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained.

Addabbo noted that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014, as part of its decision in a Florida death row case involving disabled inmates, decided to abandon the use of the term in its opinions, choosing instead to substitute “intellectual disability.”

“Having consistent legal language is important to the effective operation of our justice system, and while some may consider this change in terminology largely symbolic, I like to think that it reflects progress in our efforts to treat one another with dignity,” said Addabbo. “Words can hurt, and this legislation will help to spare those living with intellectual disabilities from some measure of disrespect and ridicule, whether purposeful or unwitting.”

The legislation has also been approved by the State Assembly, and will be sent to Governor Cuomo for final consideration.

ADDABBO TO HOST RAIN BARREL GIVEAWAY NEXT MONTH: In an effort to help homeowners conserve water and contribute to the overall improvement of our city’s environmental health, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. will host another free rain barrel giveaway on Saturday, June 19 in partnership with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Constituents of Addabbo’s 15th Senatorial District may sign up to receive a free 55-gallon rain barrel that can be attached to a rain gutter to collect and store excess water. The rain water can later be used to complete certain tasks around the house and outdoors, rather than using fresh water,” the lawmaker explained.

Those who pre-register must pick up their free rain barrel from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC), located at 164-14 Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach. Any barrels that remain at 12 p.m. will be given away on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“Using rain barrels, which are designed to catch excess rain water, can have a major impact on our environment if we all take advantage of their benefits,” said Addabbo, a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. “Simple tasks such as watering plants or washing a car can be completed by using rain water already naturally available to us, rather than clean drinking water from our homes. Not only will this go a long way to help preserve water, but it will save homeowners money in the long run by not having to pay for water needed to carry out everyday household chores. With this being my third rain barrel giveaway in three months, I have seen first-hand how important conserving water is to the people of my Senate district and I thank my constituents for their dedication to our environment. I urge everyone to sign up to receive their free rain barrel and do their part to protect and preserve.”

Addabbo hosted two rain barrel events in April, giving away more than 350 free devices to residents across Queens who wish to help conserve water by collecting excess runoff.

To register to receive a rain barrel on June 18, visit www.nysenate.gov/senators/joseph-p-addabbo-jr. For more information, contact Addabbo’s Howard Beach Office at 718-738-1111.

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