2018-05-23 / Political Page

I On Politics

GIANARIS’ EFFECTIVE BACKGROUND CHECKS ACT PASSES KEY SENATE COMMITTEE: NYS Senator Michael Gianaris announced that the Senate Codes Committee voted 9-6 to advance his Effective Background Checks Act, which would extend the period for a gun purchase background check to occur from three days to 10. This legislation would close what is known as the “Charleston Loophole,” which allowed Mother Emanuel Church shooter Dylann Roof to buy firearms without a background check being completed. “More responsible gun laws will make our communities safer, keep firearms away from dangerous people and ensure preventable tragedies do not happen,” said Senator Gianaris. “My Effective Background Checks Act has now been endorsed by the Senate Democratic Conference, the Assembly Majority, the governor, and now the Senate Codes Committee. The full Senate must vote on this legislation before the end of session so we can make our communities safer.” Currently, there is a three-day period for a background check to be completed before a seller can transfer a firearm to a purchaser. If the check is not completed in that time, the firearm may be sold without a background check at all. Over 300,000 background checks were not concluded in the three-day period in 2016 alone. Gianaris’ proposal would extend that time frame to 10 days, so that proper background checks could be completed in all cases. His bill would also require firearms dealers to report to the police any attempts to make illegal gun purchases and would require employees of gun manufacturers and dealers to also undergo background checks. The Codes Committee referred the legislation to the Finance Committee, where it must be considered before it can come to the full Senate. More information, including the vote totals and text of the bill, is available at www.bit.ly/2IJBMbU.

MALONEY WANTS SPECIFICS FROM AZAR ON CDC STUDY OF GUN VIOLENCE: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) asked Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar how he plans to use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) increased FY2018 budget to conduct gun violence research. Maloney is the House sponsor of a bill that would not only repeal the Dickey Amendment, but also authorize funding for gun violence research at the CDC.

Rep. Maloney notes in her May 15 letter to Secretary Azar that “on February 15, prior to omnibus passage, you were quoted as saying the Dickey Amendment ‘does not in any way impede our ability to conduct our research mission. We’re in the science business and the evidence-generating business, and so I will have our agency certainly working in this field.’”

However, there has been no indication of when the research will begin, what kind of research will be conducted, and when the results will be available to the public, Maloney noted during a May 19 rally where she, joined by gun safety advocates and researchers at Lenox Hill Hospital again called on Azar to direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) to immediately begin research into how we can combat and reduce gun violence research.

“In the meantime, hundreds more people have been killed or wounded by guns and there was another school shooting in Texas just yesterday. It is time for the CDC to do what it does best so we can have the tools we need to start fighting back,” said Maloney.

In her letter, Maloney also asked how does the CDC plan to exercise its authority to use this increase in funds relating to gun violence research and prevention; and “how and when do you plan to make the results of this gun violence research available to the public?”

Specifically Maloney stated, “I write regarding the $1.046 billion increase over Fiscal Year 2017 funding levels for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included in the FY18 omnibus and agency plans for those funds as they relate to gun violence research and prevention in Fiscal Year 2018.

“As you know, on March 23, 2018, President Trump signed into law an omnibus spending bill containing report language contradicting the so-called “Dickey Amendment” originally adopted in 1996, which had been interpreted as a ban on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funds being spent on gun violence research. The report language in the omnibus declared that the CDC is not barred from conducting research on gun violence causes or prevention.”

Maloney supported the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and has since pushed several key bills, to crack down on gun violence by making gun trafficking a federal crime, allowing federal public health agencies to conduct research into gun safety, closing the gun show loophole, supporting innovative “smart gun” technology, and to strengthen the NICS review system to keep guns out of the hands of those we have determined should not own them. She has also cosponsored legislation to require universal background checks, limit the number of rounds in magazine clips, and renew the expired assault weapons ban.

SENATE VOTES TO PRESERVE NET NEUTRALITY: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) released the following statement on the Senate vote to preserve net neutrality: “A free and open internet is a fundamental cornerstone of our economy and democracy. The majority of Americans support net neutrality, and I’m proud that my Senate colleagues voted today to restore these critical protections. I’m now calling on House Republicans to swiftly schedule a vote to reverse President Trump’s decision and ensure the internet is accessible to all.”

‘WORKPLACE DEMOCRACY ACT’ EMPOWERS WORKERS: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) joined US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), and 21 members of Congress to support legislation that would empower workers across the nation to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

The Workplace Democracy Act would simplify the process for workers to form unions, prevent employers from denying their employees the right to collectively bargain, and end the exploitation of workers who are misclassified as independent contractors. The legislation would be the most comprehensive overhaul of federal labor protections in half a century.

“Corporate profits are at an all-time high, and yet the American middle class has been excluded from years of economic growth due to stagnant wages and a lack of workplace protections,” said Chairman Crowley. “It’s no coincidence that economic inequality has risen at a time when collective bargaining rights have been trampled upon throughout the country. We must guarantee bargaining rights to American workers so they can fight for better wages and benefits and a fairer economy.”

Union membership has proven to improve working conditions for employees and lead to higher wages and benefits. According to data released in early 2015 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than non-union workers’ and 79 percent of unionized workers receive health insurance from their employers, compared to only 49 percent of non-union workers, Crowley explained.

Crowley continued, “Across America, Republican officeholders and corporate special interests have conspired to undermine collective bargaining rights with ‘right-to-work’ laws and other efforts designed to diminish the bargaining power of employees. The Workplace Democracy Act would repeal ‘right-to-work’ laws and reinstate labor protections that allow workers to more effectively negotiate with their employers.”

REP. CROWLEY ENDORSED BY QUEENS COMMUNITY LEADERS: Congress Member Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, received the endorsements of leading members of the Queens community in his campaign to serve the people of New York’s 14th Congressional District.

“I’m proud to endorse Joe Crowley for reelection. He is the progressive leader we need fighting for Queens families in Congress. He’s proven he can get things done on so many important issues, including housing, health care, gun safety and immigration,” said NYS Senator Michael Gianaris.

“I am proud to support Joe Crowley for reelection because he is a tireless fighter for Queens and the Bronx. Whether it is standing up to Donald Trump, defending a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, or protecting Obamacare from Republican attacks, New York’s women can count on Joe Crowley to continue doing us proud in Washington,” said NYS Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “Joe Crowley has earned both our respect and reelection to Congress.”

NYS Assembly Member Cathy Nolan said, “Joe Crowley has stood up for the families of our district.  In working on issues regarding education, urban infrastructure, and worker rights, he has led the fight for New Yorkers in Washington. Joe has always made himself available and accessible to the people of western Queens. He listens to our concerns. I am happy to endorse his reelection.”

“I think what makes Joe such an extraordinary representative is that he is totally committed to the idea that elected office is a public service and he joyfully accepts that calling to serve,” said NYS Assembly Member Aravella Simotas.  ”When Joe is in Washington DC, Queens residents know we can trust that he will fight for us, for our communities, and for a bright future for our children.”  

He was also enthusiastically endorsed by NYS Assembly Members Jeffrion Aubry, Brian Barnwell, Edward Braunstein, Michael DenDekker, Daniel Rosenthal, and Ari Espinal.

NYC Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “Joe Crowley has been a champion for our community. Whether it’s fighting for affordable housing, keeping our streets safe, or working to protect our quality of life, our Congressman has been our strongest ally in Washington. Donald Trump has his friends in Congress working hard every day to undo all the progress that we have made and we need our strongest supporters in Congress working even harder to protect it. I know Joe Crowley is a hard worker and a defender of our values. That’s why I strongly endorse him for reelection.”

 “Keeping Joe in Congress is a top priority, not only for our district, but for all of Queens and our country. His endless advocacy and leadership for our values are essential to the Democratic Party as he fights for quality jobs, affordable health care, and our senior citizens,” said NYC Council Member Paul A. Vallone. “I strongly endorse Congressman and Chairman of the Democratic Caucus Joseph Crowley for reelection.”

Crowley has also received the endorsements of Queens County Borough President Melinda Katz, NYC Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm, and more than two dozen leading labor unions in New York State. 

He’s also been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congress Member Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly.

A lifelong resident of Queens, Crowley has proudly represented the borough in Congress and in the New York State Assembly where he’s fought to increase the minimum wage for working families, expand access to health care, increase the availability of affordable housing, and push for comprehensive immigration reform.

“It has been a privilege of my lifetime to represent my neighbors, friends, and fellow Queens residents in Congress. Our diverse and unique neighborhoods are a true reflection of what makes our country great—a melting pot of cultures, religions, background, and ideals living in a bustling community,” said Congressman Crowley. “I’m so proud to have the support of community leaders in Queens and know that, by working together, we’ll be able to ensure progress on the most pressing issues facing our country today.”

The New York 14th Congressional District includes Astoria, Sunnyside, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside. It also includes portions of the Bronx. 

BILLS PROTECT CHILDREN FROM CONVICTED SEX OFFENDERS: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. recently joined with his Senate colleagues to pass 26 pieces of legislation designed to better protect children and members of the general public from convicted sex offenders who are at greatest risk of repeating their horrific and predatory crimes.

“Sex offenses are among the most devastating crimes that can be committed, often leaving victims extremely fearful, humiliated, and in both physical and psychological anguish,” said Addabbo. “While I believe in rehabilitation in some cases, unfortunately the most serious sex offenders have a significantly high rate of recidivism, and may seek out additional victims when released from prison. To protect our kids and others from being sexually assaulted, it makes sense for the state to pursue new measures to better inform the public about these criminals, make sure offenders comply with New York’s Sex Offender Registration law, and place reasonable restrictions on their employment and living arrangements.”

Among the proposals supported by Addabbo in the 26-bill legislative package were initiatives to:

• Prevent level 2 and level 3 sex offenders, who are considered the most dangerous and most likely to re-offend, from living within 1,500 feet of their victims (S.968);

• Prohibit sex offenders from working at facilities where they have door keys or otherwise have unsupervised access to residential living quarters (S.2170);

• Provide that home address information about a sex offender who has moved to New York from another state may be released to the public (S.6548);

• Make it a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison, to harbor, house or employ a sex offender who has failed to register or verify their residence or employment with the State Division of Criminal Justice Services (S.2595); and

• Prohibit convicted sex offenders from working directly with children, whether in paid or volunteer capacities (S.1635).

Now that the bills have been approved by the State Senate, they have been sent to the State Assembly for consideration.

SENATE APPROVES PACKAGE OF BILLS TO COMBAT DEADLY OPIOID EPIDEMIC: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. recently joined with his Senate colleagues to pass a package of legislation to combat the deadly opioid epidemic by better protecting children from dangerous substances, criminalizing new synthetic narcotics, increasing penalties for the sale and possession of a variety of opioid drugs, and providing more oversight over written prescriptions.

“The heroin and opioid abuse epidemic continues to spiral across New York State and the nation, leading to needless deaths, broken families, and an ever-growing burden on our medical system,” said Addabbo. “It’s a battle we need to fight on any number of fronts, whether it’s criminalizing new and deadly substances...We need to be both tough and smart.”

Some of the bills supported by Addabbo to fight the heroin and opioid crisis:

• Significantly increase potential prison sentences for the sale of a controlled substance to a child under 14 by a person over the age of 18. The crime would be raised from a B felony to the more serious A-II felony (S.3845)

• Prohibit a healthcare practitioner from prescribing more than a seven-day supply of a drug containing an opioid to a minor (S.5949)

• Designate the synthetic drug alpha-PVP and all of its components as a schedule 1 stimulant controlled substance, making it illegal in New York State. Also known as “Flakka,” the drug is similar to “bath salts” and methamphetamines that have been banned in New York in recent years (S.816)

• And increase penalties for the sale of drugs containing heroin (S.880), among other bills.

“We need every weapon in our arsenal to fight back against the horrible criminal and public health scourge of heroin and opioid abuse,” said Addabbo. “Higher penalties and even more stringent drug monitoring may be part of the overall solution.”

Now that the bills have passed the Senate, they have been sent to the State Assembly for consideration.

MENG, SERRANO FIGHT CITIZENSHIP QUESTION IN CENSUS: Congress Member José E. Serrano (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Subcommittee, which funds the US Census Bureau, and Congress Member Grace Meng (D-NY), a member of the subcommittee, introduced on May 18 an amendment during the full committee markup of the FY2019 CJS bill restricting funding for the inclusion of a question about citizenship status in the 2020 census.

“Adding a question that asks respondents if they are citizens is a horrible and reckless decision that will likely decrease response rates, resulting in an inaccurate and incomplete count that will have a decade’s worth of consequences on Queens and communities throughout New York and the nation,” said Congress Member Meng. “It will have a devastating impact on the billions of dollars in federal aid that is distributed for schools, infrastructure, social services and other critical resources. We have urged Commerce Secretary Ross to not add this question to the 2020 census, and we’ve warned him about the consequences of doing so. But our requests continue to fall on deaf ears. We will continue to do all we can to stop the administration from including this question on the upcoming census. We don’t need a citizenship question; we need an accurate census count.”

“The purpose of the census is to serve as a nonpartisan instrument to gain an accurate count and understanding of American society every 10 years,” said Congress Member Serrano. “As we have said before, the inclusion of a citizenship question is unnecessary, unsupported, and a clear attack on our immigrant communities. Its inclusion will make people afraid to fill out the form, undermine the count, raise costs, and have a detrimental effect on the distribution of formula funding. As a result, states will receive less funding for education, infrastructure and other important services. This question has no place in the 2020 Census and no taxpayer money should be used for a question that will ultimately hinder localities from accessing the resources that they need to serve the American people. The amendment we introduced today is one of many bipartisan efforts to prevent it from being ultimately included in the final form.”

GIANARIS’ BILL BANNING TAXPAYER BAILOUTS FOR POLITICIANS’ LEGAL BILLS ADVANCES: NYS Senator Michael Gianaris announced the New York State Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations passed his legislation banning state tax dollars from being used to bail out legal expenses incurred by political campaigns by a vote of 7-2. “It is an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars for public monies to reimburse criminal defendants’ campaign accounts,” said Senator Gianaris. “Taxpayers should not be paying for the campaigns of those accused of crimes.” Under current law, politicians can use their campaign committees as legal defense funds if charged with a crime. If acquitted, the campaign committee may recoup attorney’s fees from the state. The politicians can then use that money to run for office or donate to other candidates. Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno did just that in 2014, donating his windfall of over a million dollars from state taxpayers directly to Senate Republicans. Gianaris’ proposal would prohibit campaign committees from seeking reimbursement from the state for their legal expenses.

The legislation now moves to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration. The text of the bill is available at www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S2394.

VALLONE ANNOUNCES $425K ALLOCATION FOR SECURITY CAMERA SYSTEM AT PS 184: Council Member Paul Vallone announced $425,000 in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2019 budget to install a complete Internet Protocol Digital Surveillance (IPDVS) system for PS 184 in Whitestone. This funding allocation is part of Vallone’s continued promise for school safety reforms and reflects his commitment to addressing this issue, both in his district and throughout the city.

In the Council’s response to the mayor’s budget, Vallone requested a massive $100 million increase (double) in funding to install new IPDVS systems in schools throughout the city. An IPDVS system allows authorized school officials to view live and archived camera images directly on their computer stations and provides remote viewing capability to authorized personnel from borough and central offices. Out of the over 1,700 schools in the, only 1,123 have IPDVS, leaving a third of schools without this modern security system. In Vallone’s district, the problem is even worse with 62% of schools lacking IPDVS.

“At the Community Education Council District 25 meeting in March, I made a promise to the parents at PS 184 and today (May 16) I am fulfilling that promise by committing to funding a full security camera system for the school,” said Council Member Vallone. “Unfortunately, while this is great step forward, there are still many schools throughout Queens and the city that continue lacking security systems and only the mayor can provide the amount of funding needed to put cameras in every school.   I’m proud to stand with our students, parents, teachers, and my colleagues in City Hall as we call on the mayor to make school safety a priority.”

ADDABBO SUPPORTS DECISION TO BRING SPORTS BETTING TO NEW YORK: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. hailed the Supreme Court’s May 14 decision to allow states to legalize sports betting as a “major victory, for not only New Jersey,” he stated, “but all states who are interested in entering the sports betting market, like New York. As the ranking member of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues in all levels of government to credibly investigate how we can potentially implement sports betting here in New York to improve the state’s tourism, create jobs and increase revenues. I look forward to moving cautiously forward, as our state entertains the idea of sports betting while protecting the consumer and the integrity of professional sports.”

NOLAN DEMANDS MAYOR STOP WAREHOUSING HOMELESS: Assembly Member Catherine Nolan demanded the city stop using hotels to shelter the homeless. She said, “I stand with the Blissville Civic Association, the neighborhood of Blissville, and the residents of Long Island City and western Queens, and demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Department of Homeless Services take a step back and develop a plan that actually helps the homeless, rather than warehousing them in hotels.

“The use of hotels as shelters is inappropriate. Hotel rooms cannot serve as functional living spaces. Hotel rooms do not provide adequate space or services for families with children, are frequently located far from basic amenities and mass transit, and are not suitable for long-term use.  The use of the City View Hotel and now the Fairfield Inn to house the homeless will greatly hurt our Blissville community without providing long-term solutions.

“Queens, and in particular western Queens, has seen the Maspeth Holiday Inn, the Verve Hotel in Dutch Kills, the former Best Western Hotel in Sunnyside and now City View and the Fairfield Inn turned into homeless shelters over the past few years. Our community has always done our share, having been the location for the Borden Avenue men’s shelter in Long Island City for many years.  Our community worked with the providers to help our veterans who were homeless. There has been oversaturation of our western Queens neighborhoods, oftentimes without adequate notice, and we have had enough.”

ASSEMBLY PASSES WEPRIN’S ANTI-HAZING BILL: Assembly Member David I. Weprin (D – Fresh Meadows, Richmond Hill) announced passage of legislation prohibiting physical contact or activity in any organization’s initiating ceremony. Introduced in 2014, after the hazing death of Michael Deng of Baruch College, A.5200 aims to decrease the amount of dangerous hazing incidents that occur in New York each year.

Deng, who was pledging the Baruch College chapter of Pi Delta Psi when he died during a December 2013 fraternity retreat at a house in Pennsylvania, was subjected to a hazing ritual known as ‘glass ceiling,’ in which he suffered a massive head injury after he was blindfolded and forced to lug a knapsack loaded with 20 pounds of sand as fraternity members repeatedly took him down.

Passage of Weprin’s bill follows a November 2017 Pennsylvania court ruling finding Pi Delta Psi guilty of involuntary manslaughter, hazing, and aggravated assault, as well as the January 2018 sentencing of 4 of 37 individuals charged with murder, aggravated assault, and hazing in Pennsylvania after Deng’s death.

“The best way for us to prevent hazing is to ensure that no student is ever put in a situation where their safety is in jeopardy,” said Assembly Member David I. Weprin. “By prohibiting reckless physical conduct and physical activities during initiation ceremonies, we can protect students and other individuals from the substantial risks caused by hazing. There is no better way to honor the death of Michael Deng, one of my constituents, than by ensuring that this will never happen to another student again.”

CROWLEY INTRO’S LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS OPIOID TREATMENT GAP: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D Queens, the Bronx) announced on May 16 the introduction of the Opioid Workforce Act of 2018, legislation to address the opioid treatment gap in the country by increasing the number of health care workers that serve on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.

In 2016, approximately 21 million people needed opioid and other substance-use treatment, but only 3.8 million received the necessary care. A primary reason for that treatment gap is the existing shortages of physicians trained to treat addiction and substance abuse.

The Opioid Workforce Act of 2018 provides for 1,000 additional residency positions to hospitals with addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain management programs. Crowley introduced this legislation with Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Dean Heller (R-NV).

“As the opioid epidemic continues to take a toll on our communities, it is important that all Americans struggling with addiction receive the quality treatment and care they need,” said Chairman Crowley. “This bipartisan legislation would allow Congress to combat our country’s growing opioid treatment gap by addressing our physician shortage and placing well-trained physicians in hospitals where their service is vital.”

This bipartisan legislation builds on Crowley and Costello’s previous efforts to address the doctor shortage through the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act (H.R.2267), which enables teaching hospitals across the country to expand their residency programs.

The Opioid Workforce Act of 2018 is supported by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA).

OFFICIALS OPPOSE TITLE X DOMESTIC GAG RULE: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY); US Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Patty Murray (D-WA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH); co-Chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO); and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) led more than 200 of their colleagues expressing opposition to the implementation of a domestic gag rule on Title X in a May 15 letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alexander Azar.

“The domestic gag rule would bar patients from receiving information to support their ability to make informed decisions about their own reproductive health,” wrote the members of Congress. “We strongly oppose efforts to undermine the integrity of the Title X program and harm the millions of people who rely on it for care. Federal health policy should be evidence-based and produced with the best interests of patients in mind.”

Title X is the only federal grant program solely dedicated to family planning and related preventive service. Each year, roughly four million people rely on Title X-funded health centers for basic preventive health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection screenings, pregnancy testing, and well-woman exams. In keeping with longstanding legal, ethical and medical standards of health care, Title X providers can offer patients medically accurate counseling on and referrals for all pregnancy options—including parenting, adoption, and abortion.

They explained in a press release that “reinstatement of the gag rule, which has never been fully implemented, would be President Trump’s latest attempt to fulfill his pledge to ‘defund Planned Parenthood,’ whose health centers serve 40% of the patients who go to Title X for contraceptive care.

Title X also yields critical cost savings to the American healthcare system—every $1 invested in Title X saves more than $7 dollars in Medicaid-related costs.”

CALL ON AMTRAK TO GET EAST SIDE ACCESS MOVING: Congress Member Tom Suozzi (D-LI, Queens) has sent a letter to CEO Richard H. Anderson asking for Amtrak to prioritize and fast-track the crucial East Side Access Project. Congress Member Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and Congress Member Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) joined Suozzi to stress the urgent need for expanded transportation options in Long Island and Queens.

Congress Members Suozzi, Crowley, and Maloney issued the following statement on the effort:

“New York City residents are too often plagued by delays and interruptions when commuting to and from work each day. Nowhere is this problem more prevalent than in those boroughs underserved by our existing transit systems. Fast-tracking the East Side Access project, which will connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal and provide more frequent and reliable service, is a critical step forward to improve transportation access for the Long Island, Queens, and Bronx communities.

“Progress has been made and we’re glad to see that the MTA and the LIRR have re-committed to the 2022 deadline. New Yorkers need similar assurances from Amtrak that they will provide the track workers and electricians needed for this project to proceed. There is an urgent need for 15-20 additional Amtrak employees above the existing work force assigned to Harold Interlocking at Sunnyside Yards on a daily basis. There is also a special need to focus on additional electric traction linemen. The East Side Access project is a priority for our communities and must be a priority for Amtrak.”

CROWLEY DEMANDS ANSWERS ON TSA SCREENING PROTOCOLS FOR SIKHS:  House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) urged the Transportation Security Administration to reevaluate their processes for screening Sikhs and Sikh Americans, following an incident when Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains was twice asked to remove his turban when traveling in the United States.

During an official trip to Michigan, Bains was first asked to remove his turban after already passing through the metal detector and then was again asked to remove the religious garb at his gate. Mr. Bains was also subjected to additional screenings and a swab test, which he passed. A TSA spokesman said that the TSA officer in question did not follow standard operating procedures and would receive additional training, Crowley explained.

In 2007, TSA protocol was updated, allowing passengers to keep their turbans on during screenings.

In a letter to Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske, Chairman Crowley asked TSA to review how the agency is approaching Sikhs and Sikh-Americans for screening.

Crowley requested clarifiction on “what standards warrant secondary screening,” and wanted to know “the steps that TSA has already taken or could take to expand education with an aim toward preventing these situations from occurring in the future.”

Chairman Crowley’s request to TSA was supported by the Sikh Coalition, which advocates for the rights of Sikhs in the United States and worldwide. 

“It is clear that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires cultural competency training and review of its procedures and policies, given the incidents of TSA discrimination against observant Sikhs,” said Sikh Coalition National Advocacy Manager Sim J. Singh. “Profiling travelers on the basis of their race, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, or nationality makes our country less secure by diverting resources and attention away from actual threats.”

Crowley has long worked to protect the religious freedom of Sikh Americans and advance civil rights in athletics, the military, the New York Police Department, and the community at large.

MALONEY CITES AN ‘ADMISSION OF POLITICAL MOTIVES’ BEHIND CITIZENSHIP QUESTION IN CENSUS: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), co-Chair of the House Census Caucus and author of the 2020 Census IDEA Act, released a statement following a report from Science magazine in which Thomas Brunell, President Trump’s initial pick to lead the Census Bureau, “confirmed that the addition of the citizenship question was a political decision that will drive down census response rates and increase costs,” she said.

“Today, Tom Brunell confirmed two things many of us already knew—that he was the original pick of the Trump administration to run the Census Bureau, and that a citizenship question will cause millions of people to not answer the census, while dramatically increasing its costs,” Congress Member Maloney said, adding “Mr. Brunell, a partisan Republican redistricting expert who wrote a book entitled, ‘Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America,’ was stunningly unqualified for the position of Census director, let alone deputy director, and today’s revelations by him are more proof of that.

“The Census is supposed to (be) apolitical and count every person living in this country. A citizenship question totally undermines those requirements. It is up to Congress now to protect the integrity of the 2020 Census or the next decade of our country’s representation and funding formulas will be based on partisan, inaccurate data that will cause severe harm to communities all across the nation.”

 Mr. Brunell’s quote is below:

“That follow-up ‘may be a little bit harder and more expensive to do,’ he says, ‘because there will be a couple of million more people they need to count. So the Census Bureau hires more people, and Congress ponies up the money, and they bang on more doors to get the answers they need. They may need to scramble, but they will get the job done.’”

CROWLEY, MENG CONVINCE DOE TO LAUNCH BENGALI PROGRAM: Congress Members Grace Meng (D-Queens) and Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, announced on May 17 that they successfully convinced the city Department of Education (DOE) to create its first-ever South Asian dual language program.

Beginning this September, the DOE will offer a dual language program in Bengali in New York City public schools. The DOE will make the program available at PS 7, the Louis F. Simeone School in Elmhurst.

The decision to add Bengali comes after Meng and Crowley urged the DOE in 2015 to expand their language programs, arguing that these initiatives would better meet the needs of the large South Asian population in New York.

Congress Member Meng said, “By establishing the first South Asian dual language program, the DOE demonstrates that it understands how important these programs are to the South Asian community. Dual language programs help immigrant students flourish in the classroom, and provides them with opportunities to succeed in life. I now call on the DOE to build on this important first step and expand dual language programs to other South Asian languages in order to meet the needs of students and parents in the Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, and other South Asian communities. I look forward to working with Chancellor Carranza to help make that happen.”

“New York City has made great strides in offering a variety of language programs for our city’s schoolchildren, and I’m honored that Queens will be home to the first South Asian dual language program,” said Chairman Crowley. “By bringing Bengali into the classroom, we are creating new opportunities for students of South Asian descent to thrive. Our education system should reflect the diversity of our families, and I hope the Department of Education will continue creating new dual language programs to support other members of the South Asian community.”

In dual language programs, students are taught half in English and half in another language. The programs are made available to English-language learners, immigrant students who are native speakers of the second language, and native English speakers.

ADDABBO BILL TO GIVE SALES TAX BREAKS TO VET GROUPS APPROVED: The New York State Senate recently approved legislation (S.3059) sponsored by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. that would provide a beverage sales tax exemption to veterans’ groups.

 “There are many actions we can pursue to help express our appreciation to the brave men and women who have served us in the armed forces,” said Addabbo, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. “My bill seeks to make sure veterans’ posts with tight budgets can save a little bit of money on beverage purchases while continuing to provide important services and comfortable meeting places for their members.”

Addabbo’s beverage sales tax exemption legislation would apply to veterans’ service organizations chartered by the United States Congress, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Catholic War Veterans, Jewish War Veterans and many others.

 “Veterans’ posts often purchase beverages to serve to members who visit on a regular basis, but they also buy beer, wine, or soda for various fundraisers they might hold to expand or keep their organizations running,” said Addabbo. “This small tax break could have a big impact in helping veterans’ organizations continue to afford the costs of offering meaningful programming and simple opportunities for friendship and camaraderie for their members.”

Addabbo noted that the bill has been overwhelmingly approved by the Senate for the last four years, and hopes the State Assembly will act on the legislation in 2018.

GIANARIS INDUCTS BOB MURPHY INTO VETERANS HALL OF FAME: NYS Senator Michael Gianaris announced Bob Murphy as his 2018 selection for the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame. Murphy served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War and is the longtime President of Immaculate Conception Youth Programs (ICYP), a sports league for children and teens. Murphy was inducted into the Hall of Fame during a ceremony on May 15 at the state Capitol. “Bob Murphy has a lifetime of committed service to our country and our community. I could not be prouder than to select him for the Veterans Hall of Fame,” said Senator Gianaris. “I thank Bob for his impressive record of service.” A native of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Murphy served in the US Air Force between 1966 and 1970, rising to the rank of staff sergeant and serving on bases in New York, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Florida, and Iceland. He is a graduate of the College of Insurance and worked as vice president of claims for Empire Insurance. In 2003, Bob became president of the ICYP, leading sports programs for children and teens in the community. Bob and his wife Sally are active in the Astoria community and have four children. Photos of Bob Murphy and the ceremony in Albany are available at www.bit.ly/2k0jlS4.

ADDABBO TO BRING MOBILE OFFICE HOURS TO WOODHAVEN LIBRARY: In the ongoing effort to reach his constituents, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. will be holding mobile office hours at the Woodhaven Library.

Every year, Addabbo visits libraries in the district in order to personally assist as many people as possible. On Thursday, May 24, Addabbo will be at the Woodhaven Library, located at 85-41 Forest Parkway, in Woodhaven, from 5:30 to 7 pm, to meet with residents wishing to talk with him about problems they may be having or to bring a community issue to light.

By holding these mobile office hours at different libraries throughout his vast Senate district, Addabbo makes it more convenient for constituents to come to him at a time that is easier for them at a site right in their own community.

“For as long as I have been an elected official, I have made it my obligation to make sure I interact with the residents and civic leaders of the communities I represent,” Addabbo said. “I understand that it may be difficult for some residents to visit or call my offices during normal business hours, which is what inspired me to create these mobile office hours. These extended office hours are an excellent way to make sure I am not only reaching as many residents as possible, but also making it more convenient by coming to them.”

Additional mobile office hours are being scheduled for future dates and locations throughout the district. For more information, contact Addabbo’s Howard Beach Office at 718-738-1111.

CROWLEY ON THE HOLY MONTH OF RAMADAN: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) released the following statement in recognition of the start of Ramadan: “I want to extend my best wishes to the Muslim American families in Queens, the Bronx and across the country observing the holy month of Ramadan. The beginning of Ramadan marks a time of reflection, spirituality, and rejoicing for Muslims around the world. During this festive period, let’s embrace the spirit of Ramadan by celebrating the contributions of Muslim Americans, and our shared values of tolerance, dignity, and peace. I wish you all a blessed and peaceful month. Ramadan Mubarak!”

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

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