2018-02-28 / Political Page

I On Politics

SHORT-TERM HEALTH CARE PLANS ARE ‘JUNK’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement on the Trump administration’s proposed rule to allow for short-term, “junk” health insurance plans:

“President Trump’s healthcare proposal will leave Americans sicker and deeper in debt. By taking us back to a time when insurers could offer junk plans that fail to cover even the most basic health needs, the Trump administration is pitting the healthy against the sick in a battle where everybody loses. This announcement is the latest in the Trump administration’s never-ending effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and the health of Americans.

“We deserve a better vision and a better plan from President Trump. Health care is a right—not a privilege—and it’s past time that he prioritizes the health of Americans and not the bottom line of insurance corporations,” Crowley concluded.

Critics charge that the proposed healthcare would draw healthier clients from Obamacare, driving those rates up. Short-term plans were previously limited to 90 days, as stop-gap, emergency coverage, but under the Trump administration plan could last a full year. Short-term plans cost much less, but would not be required to cover pre-existing conditions, or even to renew coverage once a client did become ill while covered; would be able to base rates on medical history, and have annual or lifetime limits on coverage. These plans rarely offer free maternity, preventive care, prescriptions and mental health coverage.

FATAL HIT-AND-RUN AT LAGUARDIA: NYS Senator Jose Peralta released a statement regarding a fatal hit-and-run at LaGuarida Airport.

“I am saddened to hear about the hit-and-run that killed a cyclist as he was riding at LaGuardia Airport, located in the district. My condolences go out to the family and friends of the 36-year-old victim, who was an employee at Swissport International, according to news reports. As we work together to improve road and safety measures and reduce traffic-related deaths, I am urging the heartless driver responsible for this fatal hit-and-run to turn him or herself in to the authorities.”

STAVISKY, COLLEAGUES URGE GOVERNOR TO RECONSIDER PROPOSED HIGHER ED CUTS: In direct response to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget for 2018- 2019, NYS Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Higher Education Committee, and her colleagues signed on to a letter rejecting the proposed cuts to student aid programs.

With New York having led the way in higher education, the senator believes it is a step in the wrong direction for these reductions, especially the elimination of Bundy Aid. This program, which provides aid to private, not-for-profit colleges and universities, makes college more affordable for thousands of New Yorkers by providing scholarships for students.

This 17 percent cut in the Executive Budget affects programs, including the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), and the Liberty Partnership Program.

Senator Stavisky, a longtime proponent of higher education and the sponsor of legislation that inspired the Excelsior Scholarship, said it is important to ensure the 300,000 New Yorkers attending private colleges have access to the funding programs that make New York so innovative.

Including Senator Stavisky, 19 senator signed on to the letter.

‘DEM MEMO A TRUE ACCOUNT’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement on the release of a memo authored by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee:

“It is imperative that Americans know the truth about Republican attempts to stymie and discredit the investigation into Russia’s interference in our election. This Democratic memo provides a true accounting of what law enforcement officials have done to unearth the facts.

“It’s time for congressional Republicans to stop worrying about protecting the Trump administration and focus on protecting our elections from foreign countries.”

CROWLEY, CONSTANTINIDES DEMAND ANSWERS FROM AMTRAK ON PUBLIC SAFETY RISKS: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) and NYC Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) are demanding answers from Amtrak on its “failure to properly maintain its properties and address significant public safety risks.”

Residents in Queens have long expressed alarm over Amtrak’s refusal to adequately manage its properties and mitigate the environmental and infrastructural concerns of the community, they said. In a letter sent last week, Chairman Crowley and Council Member Constantinides called on Amtrak to uphold their obligations to the public by repaving and reconstructing the public right of way surrounding 23rd Avenue between 36th and 35th Streets.

“It is shameful that a federal agency has such a concerted disregard for the communities it most directly affects and touches,” wrote the lawmakers. “The residents of Astoria deserve to be able to walk on the sidewalk without fear of tripping into a gaping hole. It is a basic expectation that, unfortunately, Amtrak has failed to deliver on. Beyond that, the lack of care and concern for the neighborhoods Amtrak does business in is not limited to this location alone. In fact, Queens is replete with glaring examples of Amtrak’s abdication of their responsibility to maintain their properties.”

The letter was sent to Amtrak Vice President of Government Affairs and Corporate Communications Caroline Decker.

DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS OF CONGRESS URGE RYAN TO ALLOW VOTE ON GUN VIOLENCE RESEARCH:

On February 21, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), David Price (NC-4), Mike Quigley (IL-5), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Nita Lowey (NY-17), Robin Kelly (IL-2), and Stephanie Murphy (FL-7) called on Speaker Ryan to allow debate and a vote on legislation to finally repeal the Dickey Amendment and provide adequate funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research about gun violence.

In their letter to Speaker Ryan, the members state, “The Dickey Amendment…serves as an unnecessary barrier to finding meaningful and workable solutions to our nation’s gun violence epidemic, so much so that the ban’s author, the late Representative Jay Dickey, came to regret its effects.”

The Democrats’ message stated:

“According to data compiled by the National Center of Injury Prevention and Control, between 1999 and 2010 firearm related violence claimed the lives of more than 360,000 individuals in the United States, including 35,366 children and teenagers. The Institute of Medicine report from June 2013 said, ‘By their sheer magnitude, injuries and deaths involving firearms constitute a pressing public health problem.’

“Research on the root causes of this important public health concern will better inform policymakers and the American people on how best to address this epidemic. We respectfully urge you to take up legislation that would allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the issue of firearm safety and gun violence prevention.

“Mr. Speaker, you have said we need more facts and data on this issue and we agree. Federal research is essential to provide us the facts and data we deserve to protect every American and prevent more senseless tragedies. Thank you for your attention to our urgent request.”

ADDABBO, SENATE COLLEAGUES TO ISSUE REMAINDER OF LEGIS SALARY TO SIMANOWITZ FAMILY: In an effort to aid the family of the late Queens Assembly Member Michael Simanowitz, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. joined with his Senate colleagues to pass legislation (S.7428) to provide the legislator’s widow, Jennifer, with the remainder of his annual legislative salary.

“We were all deeply saddened when Assemblyman Simanowitz passed away, and our hearts went out to his wife and family,” said Addabbo. “I considered Mike a friend and a dedicated legislative colleague. I am glad the legislature is taking action to lend a helping hand to Jennifer and their children. While nothing will ever bring back their beloved husband and father, this legislation will at least provide Mike’s family with some financial support.”

Simanowitz, who passed away in September at the age of 45, left behind his wife and four children. The family will receive an amount which represents what the Assembly Member would have earned in the legislature from the time of his death to the end of 2017. Similar bills have been approved in the past for the families of legislators who pass away while serving in office.

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

CROWLEY PLAN HELPS HARDWORKING AMERICANS SAVE FOR CHILDREN’S FUTURE: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) reintroduced the USAccounts: Investing in America’s Future Act to help hard-working Americans save for their children’s future.

The USAccounts: Investing in America’s Future Act will create USAccounts, a long-term savings account to help every American child start their financial future on the right foot.

The legislation directs the U.S. Department of the Treasury to create the savings program, which will be funded through a combination of federal seed money, matching funds, and family contributions. Upon the birth of a child, a USAccount will be established in the child’s name, and the federal government will contribute $500 in seed money the first year. The child’s family will be allowed to deposit up to $2,000 into the account annually. For families at the lowest income levels, these contributions will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the government up to $500 per USAccount, per year.

Contributions in these accounts can later be withdrawn tax-free to fund higher education. Once the child is no longer a dependent, the funds will be rolled over to an IRA, providing an opportunity to continue to save for retirement, or to access funds penalty- and tax-free when needed to pay for medical expenses, buy a home, or start a small business.

Based on legislation first introduced by Chairman Crowley and Rep. Keith Ellison in 2014, the funds in the account will invest in U.S. treasuries, ensuring a safe investment that won’t go down in value.

ADDABBO VOTES TO CHANGE DATE FOR SEPTEMBER PRIMARY ELECTIONS: NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. recently joined with his Senate colleagues to change September’s state primary election date to the 13th from the 11th—a switch that will ensure the political contests won’t interfere with remembrances of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the observance of Rosh Hashanah.

The legislation (S.7597/A.8917) has already passed the Assembly and will soon go to the Governor for his approval.

“Participating in primary elections is a vitally important part of having a voice in our democracy, but it is also critical that residents of New York have the opportunity to participate in September 11 remembrance ceremonies and observe the most meaningful of religious holidays,” said Addabbo.

Addabbo noted this is not the first time state primary election dates have been shifted to reflect religious observances and the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks in New York City.

“As many of us remember all too well, the date of the terrorist attacks in Manhattan in 2001 fell on the same day as the New York City mayoral primary, requiring the election to be rescheduled,” said Addabbo. “It was a very tragic and life-changing day for all of us across New York City and the nation, and reserving September 11th purely as a day of reflection and remembrance allows us all to continue healing and moving forward.”

SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES ADDABBO BILL TO PROVIDE VETS’ ORGANIZATIONS VIOLATION GRACE PERIOD: In order to help veterans organizations avoid hefty, unaffordable fines for minor building and other code violations, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. has been advancing legislation (S. 3072) to provide these groups with 120 days to fix problems before fines are assessed. The bill was recently approved by the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs.

“Veterans’ posts in our communities that serve the needs of former servicemen and women often have bars, kitchens and other facilities in their buildings which may fall under the jurisdiction of various municipal codes and agencies,” said Addabbo. “Sometimes, code violations are identified that the veterans’ organizations don’t know about, and certainly never intended, and they are slapped with heavy fines that they cannot afford to pay without seriously jeopardizing the continued operation of the posts. Given the value of these organizations to our communities, and the exceptional work they do on behalf of veterans who have served our country, I believe they should be given a chance to make necessary changes before being fined.”

The legislation was crafted by Addabbo after a veterans’ organization in his district was assessed almost $5,000 in fines because it housed an ice machine and was therefore classified as a food establishment. The American Legion Post was also fined for failing to have a sink at an outdoor barbecue event.

“This warning period of 120 days would not apply to serious violations that cause an immediate threat to safety or health, or that violate the alcoholic beverage control law,” said Addabbo, who is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs.

Addabbo noted that many veterans’ organizations operate on a volunteer basis, with limited budgets, and do not receive a great deal of public funding support.

The next step for the bill is consideration by the full Senate. In the Assembly, the legislation is under review by the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

PROPOSED INCUBATION SITE FOR DISTRICT 30: Assembly Member Catherine Nolan released this statement on new kindergartens: “I am grateful to the many parents and interested community leaders who took the time to make suggestions regarding kindergarten classes in Hunters Point, Court Square and Long Island City. The latest proposed plan from the NYC Department of Education Office of Enrollment seems to be a step in the right direction, providing parents with additional location choices at the Court Square Jackson Ave Pre-K. I am thankful to the District 30 Community Education Council, the Gantry Parents Association, the Court Square Civic Association, Queens Community Board 2, the Hunters Point Civic Association, LIC Coalition and the PS 78 Parent-Teacher Association. I would also like to thank Dr. Composto, (Principal Louis) Pavone, Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose, President Lorraine Grillo and her team at the School Construction Authority and my colleagues in government for working towards solutions. In addition, I will continue to advocate for the trailers that are currently near PS 78 to remain as a short-term solution.

“Until we have more support from the many developers who have personally benefitted from the construction in LIC and more attention from NYC government, including from NYC Planning and the NYC Economic Development Corporation, we will continue to face these problems. The long-term issues must be addressed by investing in our infrastructure so that we can responsibly plan for additional schools, hospitals, public transit, adequate roads and green space as additional residents continue to move into our communities. My thanks again, however, for the progress that has been made and I look forward to hearing feedback from parents.”

MILLER CELEBRATES WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: “Throughout time, women have had to work harder, stand up higher and push further than their male counterparts simply to be acknowledged and heard. This March–Women’s History Month–we pay tribute to the women who marched ahead and shattered glass ceilings to prove society wrong and forge brighter paths for us all,” said Assembly Member Mike Miller who will celebrate women who represent different parts of his district who are paving the way for a brighter future, breaking barriers and shaking things up for the greater good of our community.

“Thanks largely in part to fearless New Yorkers, like suffragette Susan B. Anthony and abolitionist Sojourner Truth, we’ve come a long way since our nation’s founding, but not far enough. The courage, perseverance and urgency they possessed have inspired other trailblazing New Yorkers to continue their fight, including disability rights advocate Judith Heumann, who helped develop the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; Gloria Steinem, a world-renowned activist who co-founded the Women’s Media Center to increase women’s visibility in the media as well as founded the Ms. Foundation for Women; Hillary Clinton, the first woman to win a major-party nomination for president, and Ibtihaj Muhammad, who made history as the first female Muslim American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics while also wearing a hijab.

Locally, in honor of Women’s History Month, Assembly Member Miller will host his annual Women of Distinction Awards at 7:00 pm on Thursday, March 8, at the Richmond Hill Block Association located at 110-08 Jamaica Avenue, Richmond Hill. The 2018 honorees are Richmond Hill Block Association Vice President and One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center Program Director Joan Bachert; owner of Rudy’s Bake Shop Antonetta Binanti; President of K9 Korral Charlotte Butler; Vice President of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association Giedra Kregzdys; Manager of Cook’s Crafts Michelle Cook Lopez; and 102nd Precinct Captain Courtney Nilan.

MALONEY APPLAUDS HOUSE MOVEMENT ON TRAFFICKING BILL: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), co-Chair and co-founder of the Human Trafficking Caucus, released the following statement after the House Rules Committee announced that H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), is scheduled to come to the floor this week.

“I’m proud to have partnered with Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) on FOSTA to combat online sex trafficking and raise awareness of this horrific crime. Online trafficking is not only horrifying and downright evil, it is unequivocally illegal and this legislative package will leave no room for misinterpretation. This bill will empower trafficking survivors and their families, and equip law enforcement with the tools they need to crack down on these horrendous crimes. I hope this bipartisan legislation will pass the House with broad support.”

FOSTA will be brought to the floor with an amendment from Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) that includes provisions of S. 1693, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). The FOSTA-SESTA package will make clear that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) does not prohibit states from prosecuting sex trafficking or prohibit victims from seeking justice against online platforms that facilitate sex trafficking advertising.

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