2018-03-21 / Political Page

I On Politics

ADDABBO ISSUES STATEMENT ON THE LOCKDOWN AT FOREST HILLS HS: NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. issued the following statement concerning the lockdown on March 15 at Forest Hills High School: “The news of the lockdown on Thursday at Forest Hills High School is concerning, especially given the recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“When a threat of violence against our schoolchildren is made—credible or not—it truly brings the issue of school safety home. We cannot overlook or minimize the national attention students garnered during the nationwide walkout on March 14. These students are demanding action to make sure they are safe while attending school.

“Although this incident was determined to be a hoax, I commend the faculty and staff at Forest Hills High School for acting according to the guidelines put forth for a situation such as this, as well as the officers from the 112th Precinct for ensuring that everyone inside the school remained safe. I am glad to hear that the person responsible for this hoax is in custody, and pranks such as this should bring greater penalties than just a slap on the wrist.”

PERALTA’S BILL PASSES, MAKING IT EASIER FOR NEW YORKERS TO BECOME ORGAN DONORS: The New York State Senate has passed Senator Jose Peralta’s bill that will include a space on applications for student loans and aid programs to voluntarily sign up for the Donate Life Registry. The proposal (S.6196) will increase opportunities for New Yorkers to register as organ donors. Currently, New York State ranks third in the nation with the highest need for donors, and it is second to last in the nation per capita when it comes to registered organ donors.

Donate Life America, a national nonprofit organ donor organization, pointed out that nearly 9,500 New Yorkers throughout the state are waiting for organ transplants. Over 1,600 New Yorkers have been on a waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant for more than five years. In 2017, more than 2,200 New Yorkers received a lifesaving organ transplant.

“Signing up for the organ donation registry is the highest form of solidarity with others. One organ donated is one life saved. Unfortunately, far too many New Yorkers are waiting for organs. Simply put, this proposal will increase the number of New Yorkers who become organ donors by including an option to check if you want to be included in the donate life registry on student loan forms,” said Senator Peralta. “This is a common-sense approach to increasing the number of people who register as organ donors.”

Under the legislation passed by the Senate, the student loan and student aid applications will include the question: “Would you like to be added to the Donate Life Registry? Check box for ‘yes,’ or check the box ‘skip question.’” Currently, New Yorkers who want to become organ donors can only do so by signing up for the Donate Life Registry at the Department of Motor Vehicles, when applying for health coverage through the New York State health exchange, on voter registration forms, and on separate standalone forms.

Senator Peralta urges the New York Assembly to follow suit and pass his proposal to make it easier for New Yorkers to sign up for the organ donor registry.

ADDABBO STATEMENT ON CALIFORNIA VETERANS’ HOME SHOOTING: NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo released the following statement in response to the shooting at a California veterans’ home on March 9: “It saddens me to read about the tragic events that unfolded at the Pathway Home—a nonprofit organization that is part of the Veterans Home of California-Yountville in Napa County—where 36-year-old military veteran Albert Wong killed three employees and then took his own life after a daylong standoff with police on Friday, March 9.

“It has been reported that Wong may have suffered from physical and mental ailments after returning from serving in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2012.

“As the ranking member of the New York State Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, this situation is a clear indication that we as a nation, even in our state, need to do more for our veterans returning home from combat. If a veteran is showing signs of mental duress and has access to weapons, our government shouldn’t turn our backs on them. Instead, we should offer them more support and counseling.

“I hope to see our veterans receive even more of the vital mental, physical, and economic care they rightfully need and deserve.”

ADDABBO BILL TO SAVE CONSUMERS MONEY ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS PASSES SENATE AND ASSEMBLY: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. joined his colleagues in the Senate and Assembly in approving legislation (S.6940), which he co-sponsors, that will prohibit pharmacy benefit managers from instituting “gag rules” and other limitations on local pharmacists that prevent these medical professionals from providing important drug price information to consumers.

“Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are entities that negotiate medication prices and rebates between insurance companies and drug manufacturers, and then contract with our neighborhood pharmacies,” explained Addabbo. “However, some PBM contracts contain clauses that prohibit our pharmacies from telling their customers that medications they are purchasing through their insurance with co-payments might actually be cheaper if they simply bought them outright with cash. In addition, PBMs are sometimes able to unfairly profit from drug co-payments made by consumers to pharmacies that exceed the cost of the medication itself.”

Under a so-called “clawback” clause, PBMs have been able to take back the difference from the local pharmacy when a consumer provides an insurance co-payment (set by the PBM) that is higher than the actual cost of the drug. The bill Addabbo is co-sponsoring would prohibit this practice, and ensure that pharmacists are able to tell consumers when it may be less expensive to forego their insurance coverage and buy a medication out of their own pocket.

“Action has been taken in a number of other states to address these issues and provide more transparency to consumers where PBMs are being used,” said Addabbo. “Given the high cost of prescription drugs in general, and how difficult it is for many seniors and other New Yorkers to afford them, we must make sure consumers receive all the information they need and deserve when they visit their local pharmacies.”

“I believe the legislature must do what it can to protect our local pharmacists, since they are entrusted to watch out for our constituents’ health and best interests,” Addabbo concluded.

Now that the legislation has been approved by both houses of the State Legislature, it will be sent to Governor Cuomo for consideration and final action.

PHEFFER AMATO INTRODUCES BILL TO EASE E-ZPASS ISSUES: Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) introduced bill A.10005 that would amend the public authorities’ law to require the MTA to establish a cashless tolling amnesty program and to post that violation fee waiver policy on its website. This piece of legislation was created in light of the cashless tolling system which has caused thousands of dollars in violations for NYS residents.

Specifically, the bill would provide rational, consumer-friendly relief and reform of the MTA’s Cashless Tolling System by (1) Enacting toll amnesty for a period of six months; (2) Providing for public disclosure of the current MTA Violation Fee Waiver Policy; and (3) Capping fees for toll charges at no more than twice the original toll charge for the first three months and no more than three times the original toll charge for fees in the four to six month range.

“This legislation would demand the MTA to step up to the plate to ease violations for all New Yorkers who have been affected,” said Pheffer Amato. “The past year of constant and crazy high violations has to stop—this is real money coming out of my constituents’ pockets and it must end now.”

As of March 7 the bill is in the Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions Committee.

WEPRIN AND GRODENCHIK STATEMENT ON HATE GRAFFITI FOUND IN QUEENS VILLAGE: Assembly Member David Weprin and Council Member Barry Grodenchik issued the following joint statement in response to hate graffiti found in the rear of a mosque under construction in Queens Village.

“The anti-Muslim graffiti vandalism that appeared on a construction fence on 237th Street in Bellerose Manor, where a mosque is under construction, is repugnant to this community and deeply disappointing to see in this day and age. Inflammatory words of hate, acts of vandalism, and attacks on the free exercise of faith have absolutely no place in a civilized society and deserve to be condemned. A hate crime against one of us is a hate crime against all of us—an assault on our inclusive New York values, and a threat to our identity as Americans.”

GIANARIS ON ACTION AGAINST MTA FOR FAILING TO UPGRADE FOR ACCESSIBILITY: NYS Senator Michael Gianaris issued the following statement in response to news that the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a complaint against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for failing to include accessibility upgrades as part of station renovations.

“The MTA’s continued emphasis on style over substance wastes scarce resources, hurts transit riders, and stunts our economy while its failed Enhanced Station Initiative continues to cosmetically renovate stations without improving service or accessibility. It should not take federal legal intervention to force the MTA to do its job, yet here we are. It is past time for the Enhanced Station Initiative to end and for the money to be spent instead on actually fixing our subways.”

NEW YORK STATE REGENT CHIN REELECTED: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., the ranking member of the Senate Education Committee, made the following statement on the reelection of NYS Regent Judith Chin, who represents the 11th Judicial District in Queens on the State Board of Regents:

“It was my great pleasure to cast a vote in favor of the reelection of New York State Regent Judith Chin, who first started representing the borough of Queens on the state Board of Regents in 2015. In this capacity, she is deeply involved in overseeing and guiding the NYS Education Department and state university system.

“Since beginning her service on the Board, Regent Chin has been a thoughtful and effective advocate for the schoolchildren of Queens and New York State as a whole. She is a lifelong educator who worked with New York City students as a teacher, principal, and in many other vital capacities, including as a Supervising Superintendent for more than 230 schools across the five boroughs. As a product of the New York City public school system, Regent Chin is uniquely qualified to serve as a member of New York State’s primary education policy-making body.

“I deeply appreciate Regent Chin’s deep dedication to our educational system and the future of all of our schoolchildren, and I wish her continued success as a valued member of the Board of Regents.”

ADDABBO: DON’T PUNISH STUDENTS FOR EXERCISING FREEDOM OF SPEECH: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. released a statement on the school walkouts on March 14: “Students across the country organized and walked out of their classrooms for 17 minutes at 10 am on Wednesday, March 14, in memory of the 17 students who were senselessly gunned down in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“This coordinated walkout was not just a way to honor the lives of the students who were killed on February 14; it is also a call to action against gun violence in America. This is a very important issue right now, and these students deserve to have their voices heard.

Addabbo concluded that “it is paramount that the New York City Department of Education not punish students in the city” who decide to “credibly and briefly express their First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech. These young people have a voice and valid concerns, and therefore as a city, state and nation, we must show them that our government represents everyone and is listening.”

ON THE PASSING OF CONGRESS MEMBER LOUISE SLAUGHTER:

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: “I am deeply saddened that my dear friend and colleague Louise Slaughter has passed away. As a long-serving leader of the House Rules Committee, she tirelessly fought for Democratic principles and gave a voice to those who needed it. Louise devoted her life to serving the Rochester community, she never wavered in her fierce defense of our shared values as Americans, and she was one of the kindest and most compassionate colleagues I’ve ever had. She was a brilliant microbiologist who worked tirelessly to make our food supply safer, she was a moral leader who passed the Stock Act to prevent corruption in Congress, and she was a proud New Yorker who fought to bring highspeed rail to our state. Louise will be remembered as one of the great, pioneering women in our country’s history, and it was an honor to serve alongside her in Congress. I offer my heartfelt prayers and condolences to her entire family.”

House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY): “I am heartbroken by the passing of my dear friend and colleague, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. Louise was a beautiful soul whose love of this institution and commitment to public service was seen each and every day. With a perfect blend of Southern charm and New York hustle, Louise was a steadfast champion for the people of western New York and Americans across the country. She will be long-remembered as a trailblazer who became the first woman to serve as Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, a progressive voice who led the charge on anti-discrimination legislation and health care policy that has shaped the lives of millions of hard-working American families, and a fierce advocate for women and LGBTQ Americans. When it comes to fighting for what is right, Louise’s tenacity was unmatched.

“It has truly been an honor to serve alongside Louise, first in the New York State Assembly and then again in Congress. I will miss her relentless passion, her wit, and above all, her friendship. My prayers are with her children and grandchildren as we mourn the loss of an exemplary woman.”

Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12): “I am devastated by the loss of my dear friend Louise Slaughter and extend my deepest condolences to her beautiful family. No one was a better public servant or fighter for her constituents than Louise. When I first came to Congress, I sought out Louise’s advice and we quickly became close friends. She took me under her wing, showed me what it takes to get things done in the House, and I will forever be in her debt.

“Louise left an indelible mark on so many important priorities, from improving the quality of life of the communities she loved serving so much, to the arts, women’s health and so much more. She was a history-maker as the first woman to ever chair the House Rules Committee— and how fitting with her immense pride in representing the historic home of Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, NY.

“Her passing is a huge loss for New York, the House of Representatives and the country, but Louise leaves behind a legacy that will be remembered for generations.”

ADDABBO: ‘PASS BILL ENSURING COP KILLERS GET LIFE’: With the recent release of Herman Bell—one of three men convicted of murdering New York City Police Officers Joseph A. Piagentini and Waverly M. Jones in 1971—NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. is calling for passage of his legislation (S.3681) ensuring that those who kill law enforcement officials spend their lives in prison with no possibility of parole due to a legal loophole in state law.

“While those who take the lives of police officers are supposed to be sentenced to life without parole in New York’s prison system, a loophole in the law makes it possible that these cold-blooded killers could wind up back on the streets in as little as 20 years,” said Addabbo in a prepared release. “When Bell was convicted, for example, it was on a charge of murder in the first degree, which carries a minimum penalty of 20 to 25 years in prison. Under my bill, this loophole in state law would be closed, and the specific crime of murdering a police officer would carry life in prison without parole as the one and only mandatory sentence.”

While the chances of those convicted of killing police officers being released on parole are relatively small, Addabbo believes New York owes it to the families and friends of murdered law enforcement officials to “make sure their killers stay where they belong: behind bars for their entire lives.” He noted that the family of deceased New York City Police Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in 1988 while guarding a Queens witness in a drug case, was forced as recently as last year to relive his death when his murderer, Philip Copeland, once again came up for a parole hearing.

Addabbo explained that the loophole in the law was created after the New York State Court of Appeals struck down the state’s existing capital punishment (death penalty) statute in 2004, finding it unconstitutional and thus unenforceable. Specifically, the old law contained language regarding instructions that could be given to a jury if it became deadlocked and could not agree on either life in prison without parole or the death penalty. The court found a potential for coercion in the language since the jury would be informed that, in the case of deadlock, the trial judge would be empowered to sentence the defendant to as little as 20 years to life or as much as life in prison without parole. This might lead some jurors to recommend the death penalty, even if they didn’t believe it was right, simply to avoid having the killer eventually released on parole.

“Although the New York State Legislature never acted to re-impose the death penalty, the state did adopt a new law in 2005, known as the Crimes Against Police Officers Act, to recognize the heinous nature of offenses committed against law enforcement officers,” Addabbo explained. Part of this law created the new crime of aggravated murder – deemed to occur when a person intentionally kills a police officer, peace officer or an employee of the Department of Correctional Services. The only sentence which can be imposed under this 2005 law for the crime of aggravated murder is life imprisonment without parole.

However, the earlier crime of murder in the first degree—the charge brought against Herman Bell, Philip Copeland, and others who intentionally killed law enforcement officers prior to the enactment of the 2005 Crimes Against Police Officers Act—remained on the books following the Court of Appeals ruling on the death penalty statute. As such, state law technically continues to provide for prosecutorial discretion in allowing those who murder law enforcement officers to be eligible for parole—in direct contradiction to the intent of the 2005 legislation.

“My bill would address this problem with the law and make it clear that, under any circumstances, those who murder police officers go to prison and stay in prison,” said Addabbo. ”I hope that my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly will join with me in ensuring that justice is done when guardians of the public trust and safety—our law enforcement officials— tragically lose their lives at the hands of vicious, violent, unrepentant killers.”

BARNWELL INTRO’S LEGISLATION TO MAKE OUR SCHOOLS SAFER: Assembly Member Brian Barnwell has introduced legislation (A.10108) that will establish a commission to study how to protect New York schoolchildren from shootings and other threats. The purpose of the commission is to study the various technologies that could be implemented to help prevent/reduce these horrific situations. Some of these technologies include, but are not limited to, bulletproof glass and doors, auto-locking technologies, lockdown systems, and/or barricades. The commission shall also study the feasibility and cost to implement such technologies in schools.

Assembly Member Barnwell noted, “Enough is enough. Our children are under attack. This common-sense legislation will bring together pertinent individuals to study the effectiveness of different technologies that could be implemented in schools to eliminate and/or reduce casualties in a school shooting or bombing event. We cannot wait any longer for change. We must protect our children. If Congress will not act, the states must.”

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