2019-01-16 / Political Page

I On Politics

MENG’S BILL WOULD STOP TRUMP’S ‘EMERGENCY’ WALL: On Friday, January 11 U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced legislation that seeks to stop President Trump from declaring a national emergency so that he can build his border wall.

The “No Walls Act” would prohibit the construction of barriers along the US-Mexico border if national emergencies are declared during government shutdowns. Under the measure, barriers would include fences, walls, and steel slats.

“It is unconscionable that President Trump is threatening to sidestep Congress and declare a fake national emergency in order to build his wall, as funding for the government and more than 800,000 federal workers hangs in the balance,” said Meng. “We must send a clear message to the president that creating this type of manufactured emergency for the sole purpose of securing an unrealistic campaign promise is unacceptable. There can be legitimate national emergencies. Federal agencies can construct authorized border barriers. But the president can’t just refuse to fund the government, say ‘EMERGENCY’ and get whatever political wish he desires. That’s not how the Constitution works. The passage of my legislation would ensure that this outrageous abuse of power does not happen, and I urge all of my colleagues to support it.”

MALONEY ON LONGEST SHUTDOWN IN US HISTORY: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) released the following statement on January 12, as the “Trump Shutdown” became the longest government shutdown in recent history:

“History will long note that on this day we set a record for the longest government shutdown in American history. Future generations will also remember that this shutdown was caused willfully, recklessly and single-handedly by President Trump.

“They will remember that he inflicted suffering on hundreds of thousands of Americans in pursuit of a vanity project that the majority of the American people oppose: building a wall that won’t work, to address a crisis that isn’t real, so he can keep a promise that wasn’t true.

“The president’s unwillingness to compromise and reopen the government is causing widespread pain to real people, as federal employees and contractors struggle to make ends meet as they miss paychecks, and as critical services, including food safety inspections, anti-hunger programs, and small business loans, are on hold.

“The longer the president refuses to reopen the government, the worse it gets. I will continue to vote to reopen our government and urge my Republican colleagues to do the same. We must end this madness.”

ADDABBO: NEW 2019 LAWS TO INCREASE MINIMUM WAGE, MORE: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. is informing his constituents of a number of new 2019 laws that will offer a boost in wages for lower-income workers, provide more aid to families who need time off from work to care for new babies or sick relatives, and help to protect the environment from drug contamination with safe disposal of expired and unwanted medications.

“The New Year is looking brighter” for our workers with improved wages, and for those who need to deal with family issues without bankrupting themselves, and for the environment, Addabbo said. “As a strong supporter of these initiatives, I am de- lighted they are now in effect.”

First off, he noted, the minimum wage for employees at New York City companies with more than 10 workers has now risen by $2 to $15 per hour. Employees at smaller businesses have received an hourly wage hike to $13.50. “With the cost of living constantly rising, this initiative will enable more people to balance their family budgets,” said Addabbo.

The state’s paid family leave program, which Addabbo championed for years prior to its enactment, expands to provide workers with 10 weeks of paid time off – instead of eight – to bond with a new child or care for seriously ill family members. Employees participating in the program will now receive 55% of their wages while on leave, instead of the 50 percent offered in 2018. “By 2021, paid family leave participants will be able to take a full 12 weeks of paid leave, and receive 65% of their wages,” he said. According to the senator, these changes will help businesses with increased productivity from their employees, with no negative fiscal impact.

The New York State Drug Take Back Act, which Addabbo co-sponsored, will enable consumers to more safely and conveniently dispose of expired, unused, or unwanted medications through on-site pharmacy collections, pre-paid mail-back envelopes, and other means – all paid for by drug manufacturers. “I often hear from constituents who don’t want to flush drugs down the drain, but don’t know how to dispose of them safely,” said Addabbo. “This new law will aid consumers, help reduce access to dangerous opioids left sitting in family medicine cabinets, and protect our environment from contamination with pharmaceuticals.”

Other new 2019 laws now in effect include initiatives to:

• Require that all new and renovated buildings with public bathrooms be equipped with diaper changing tables in both women’s and men’s restrooms.

• Provide new health care and death benefits to volunteer firefighters diagnosed with a variety of cancers, a law initially enacted in 2017 and cosponsored by Addabbo.

GRODENCHIK ON DA BROWN’S RETIREMENT: Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik released the following statement on the retirement of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown: “A year before Judge Richard A. Brown became district attorney, the crime rate was at an alltime high, and just in Queens, 50,000 cars were being stolen off the streets each year. Today, because of the dedication of District Attorney Brown and his exemplary team of prosecutors, the violent crime rate has fallen to the lowest levels since the early 1960s. DA Brown will leave behind a tremendous legacy of upholding justice, addressing the scourge of domestic violence, standing up for crime victims, and carrying out his duties with fairness, honor, and integrity. I congratulate the judge on his planned retirement.

STRINGER: FAIR FARES INDEFINITELY DELAYED FOR SOME: Following the January 4 announcement regarding the next steps in launching the Fair Fares program, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released data that spotlights the estimated 800,000 New Yorkers who were originally promised half-price MetroCards beginning on January 1, 2019. However, the City has significantly scaled back initial eligibility to just a small subset of Cash Assistance and SNAP recipients, leaving out hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers living below the poverty line who will continue to face a significant financial burden to purchase a MetroCard. “The good news is that Fair Fares is finally leaving the station. The bad news is that after today’s announcement, the price of a MetroCard will remain an obstacle for the vast majority of the 800,000 New Yorkers who were originally promised relief. That’s hundreds of thousands of families who will still struggle to get to work or a job interview because they can’t afford a full fare. For their sake, we need to make sure this delay doesn’t become a derailment,” said Comptroller Stringer. When the $106 million program was originally announced as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 City budget, Fair Fares was intended to provide half-priced MetroCards to 800,000 adult New Yorkers living below the poverty line – $25,100 for a family of four. Comptroller Stringer’s office took a look at those families and found the following: Nearly 300,000 potentially eligible New Yorkers live in just 12 community districts, with over

• 50% residing in Brooklyn or the Bronx;

• 60% are either unemployed or struggling to find a job;

• 79% are people of color;

• 58% are women;

• 77% do not have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree;

• 52% were born abroad; and

• 44% are parents living with children in their home.

Stringer completed a more specific breakdown of the data that corresponds to the pool of eligible recipients identified in “The Transit Affordability Crisis,” the 2016 report that launched the Fair Fares campaign.

WOMEN’S BAR SUPPORTS REPRO HEALTH ACT: The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) strongly supports Governor Cuomo’s call to enact into law the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, two of WBASNY’s most important legislative priorities for 2019.

WBASNY stated it has longstanding support for legislation such as the ones outlined on January 7 that acknowledges and enshrines into law the dignity and equality of every person, and added, “We applaud the governor’s efforts to work with the New York State Legislature to bring issues that are critical to women and children in our state to the forefront of the legislative agenda and to protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of our populace.

“WBASNY’s more than 4,400 attorneys and judges in private practice, government, academia, and the courts are dedicated to making life better for all women by advocating for equality and fair treatment of all women and is dedicated to the advancement of women and children. Governor Cuomo’s legislative agenda reflects our common goal to improve, promote and protect women in the work place and society.”

SEN. RAMOS ON PASSING THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ACT: NYS Senator Jessica Ramos released the following statement upon the passage of the Reproductive Health Act: “Throughout our campaign, we made fighting for women’s reproductive rights and uplifting the tireless labor of organizations like Planned Parenthood a central legislative priority. Today, I proudly stand with the Democratic majority as we continue to fight for women’s reproductive rights in New York. As a co-sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act, it will be an honor to cast my vote to pass the bill. I am happy to hear that the governor will be taking action and joining us on the right side of New York history. Solidifying women’s reproductive rights as an amendment in the New York State constitution is a great long-term goal and I am focused on passing the Reproductive Health Act immediately so New York’s women get the protection they need.”

BILL FOR PUERTO RICO HURRICANE COMMISSION REINTRO’ED: US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced on January 7 she has reintroduced legislation to establish a 9/11-style independent commission to investigate the federal response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico and the death toll and federal response. The National Commission of the Federal Response to Natural Disasters in Puerto Rico Act would analyze several factors that impacted the disaster response. Those factors include death toll accuracy and methodology, federal preparedness guidelines issued ahead of the hurricane season, the vulnerability of Puerto Rico’s economic situation, adequacy of the island’s telecommunications, and the capacity of the federal government to quickly mobilize and respond to disasters and emergencies in Puerto Rico. To establish federal procedures for counting fatalities following a natural disaster, Congress Member Nydia Velázquez introduced the Counting Our Unexpected Natural Tragedies’ (COUNT) Victims Act. And to investigate the federal response to Hurricane Maria, Velázquez authored and introduced the National Commission of the Federal Response to Natural Disasters in Puerto Rico Act (HR 6103).

In the US Senate, on June 14, 2018, Gillibrand, along with Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA), Kamala Harris (CA), Ed Markey (MA), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Charles Schumer, and Bill Nelson (FL) introduced the bill (S.3076).

“After Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, we had an extraordinary opportunity to help our fellow Americans rebuild and become far more resilient than ever before. Now, almost 15 months later, it’s clear that Congress and the president have failed to do their job to protect this part of our country and the millions of Americans who live there,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The storms were bad enough, but the government’s response to them was truly horrific, and we need to get to the bottom of exactly what went so terribly wrong. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to create a new, 9/11-style Congressional commission to investigate exactly how and why the federal government abandoned its responsibilities and turned its back on Puerto Rico. I am proud to fight for Puerto Rico in the Senate, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation just as they would if a natural disaster hit their own states.”

“As we move into the 116th Congress, I will continue calling for accountability for how Donald Trump and his administration failed 3.4 million American citizens after Maria struck,” said Congress Member Nydia Velázquez. ”It is clear now, from multiple analyses, that thousands needlessly lost their lives because of the federal government’s feeble response to these hurricanes and their aftermath. Certainly, there will be hearings looking into many facets of what went wrong, but I also believe that the magnitude of this catastrophe warrants the creation of a nonpartisan panel to fully bring to light not only the errors that were made, but also how we can be certain this never happens again.”

For more information, visit Gillibrand.senate.gov

GILLIBRAND’S BILL TO REDUCE MATERNAL MORTALITY: US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood with Christy Turlington Burns, New York City mothers, advocates, and medical professionals on January 13 to announce the Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards (MOMS) Act, legislation that would help prevent women from suffering from medical complications or dying before, during, and after childbirth. The United States has more pregnancy-related deaths than any other developed country in the world, particularly among black women.

Each year it is estimated that there are at least 50,000 women who experience a complication during childbirth, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 60% of these deaths and complications are preventable. An NPR and ProPublica report found that for every woman who dies in childbirth in the US, there are 70 women who nearly die. Hospitals often have not invested the funding and resources necessary for supplies and proper training to implement standards and prevent complications and deaths arising from childbirth. The MOMS Act would help reduce maternal deaths and complications in the United States by providing funding to states and hospitals to develop and implement standardized maternal safety best practices, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to prevent and respond to complications arising from childbirth.

“Our country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world, and this crisis is disproportionately hurting black women, especially in New York. Imagine if a heart surgeon wasn’t checking their patient’s pulse after the surgery was finished. That’s how absurd and dangerous it is that millions of women are not getting the most basic measurements taken when they give birth – and it’s one of the most basic reasons why our rate of maternal mortality is so high in this country,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It’s painfully clear that we are not doing nearly enough to protect women and their babies, and we are not doing nearly enough to end the institutional racism in our health care system. Congress urgently needs to solve this problem, and that’s why I’m proud to introduce the MOMS Act. This bill would take important steps to lower our high maternal mortality rate, and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in fighting to pass it into law.”

CUOMO’S BOTTLE BILL EXPANSION, PLASTIC BAG BAN: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on January 13 that a bottle bill expansion and a plastic bag ban will be included in the 2019 executive budget. To combat litter, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect the environment for future generations, the governor is advancing legislation to expand New York’s Bottle Bill to make most non-alcoholic drink containers eligible for 5-cent redemption. Additionally, Cuomo will advance legislation to ban all single-use plastic bags.

“While the federal government is taking our environmental progress backwards and selling out our communities to polluters and oil companies, in New York we are moving forward with the nation’s strongest environmental policies and doing everything in our power to protect our natural resources for future generations,” Governor Cuomo said. “These bold actions to ban plastic bags and promote recycling will reduce litter in our communities, protect our water, and create a cleaner and greener New York for all.”

Since Governor Mario M. Cuomo enacted the Solid Waste Management Act 30 years ago, New York recycling laws have helped reduce waste in communities across the state. Under the Act, local municipalities adopted local recycling laws requiring source separation of recyclable, which have diverted more than 320 million tons of recyclables from disposal, reducing 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in the process by decreasing methane emissions from landfills and reducing energy and fossil fuel use associated with the production of plastics and glass.

The expanded Bottle Bill will make most nonalcoholic beverage containers eligible for 5-cent redemption, with some exceptions for bottles containing dairy milk, milk substitutes, infant formula, syrups and flavorings, medical prescriptions, and dietary supplements. This proposal will also help reduce sorting and financial burdens on local government recycling programs.

New Yorkers use billions of plastic bags annually which do not break down, creating massive amounts of litter in neighborhoods and waterways and posing a threat to the health of New Yorkers and the environment. Cuomo’s proposed statewide plastic bag prohibition will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic bag production and disposal, from petroleum used to produce the bags to emissions from the transportation of bags to landfills.

DEC will work with stakeholders and community leaders to ensure the roll-out of this initiative does not disproportionately impact low and moderate income and environmental justice communities through the distribution of reusable bags and exemptions where appropriate.

KATZ RECEIVES SUPPORT OF NY HOTEL TRADES COUNCIL: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has been endorsed by the New York Hotel Trades Council (HTC) as she runs for Queens District Attorney. This is the first major labor endorsement of the race and HTC’s first endorsement of 2019.

“The New York Hotel Trades Council is excited to endorse Melinda Katz to be the next Queens District Attorney. Our city needs DAs who will engage with advocates and organizations to create meaningful change in our criminal justice system. In Queens, that’s Melinda,” said Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel Trades Council.

“I am proud to have the support of the New York Hotel Trades Council, one of the state’s strongest unions and most dedicated to criminal justice reform. From advocating for discovery reform to successfully securing protections against wrongful convictions, HTC has been at the forefront demanding criminal justice reform for years. I look forward to working with HTC and other advocates to bring meaningful reform to Queens,” said Borough President Katz.

HTC, one of the state’s largest and most politically active unions, is very involved in criminal justice reform advocacy. Katz launched her campaign a month ago and unveiled an in-depth policy platform. She has been endorsed by nearly 300 community leaders. Her platform and a full list of those endorsements can be seen at Melindakatz.com.

KATZ ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR COMMUNITY BOARDS: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is accepting applications from qualified and civic-minded individuals who are interested in serving on one of the borough’s 14 community boards, which play an important advisory role in considering land use and zoning matters in their respective districts. The boards also hold hearings and issue recommendations about the city budget, municipal service delivery, and numerous other matters that impact their communities.

“Our borough is stronger when residents from across Queens who care deeply about their neighborhood make their voices heard by joining their local community board,” said Borough President Katz. “Serving on a community board can be demanding in both time and energy, but our government is more effective and accountable when it can draw upon the knowledge and expertise of active, engaged community members.”

The community board membership application is available online at www.queensbp.org/community boards. The deadline for prospective and current community board members to submit completed, signed and notarized applications to the borough president’s office is Friday, February 8. For the upcoming round of appointments, the two-year term of service will begin on Monday, April 1.

There are 59 community boards citywide, and each holds monthly full membership meetings. All Queens community board members are appointed by Katz, pursuant to the City Charter, with half of her appointments nominated by the City Council members representing their respective community districts. Each board has up to 50 unsalaried members, with each member serving a two-year term. All community board members who wish to continue serving on a board are required to reapply at the conclusion of their two-year term and are subject to review and reconsideration.

Under her administration, Katz has steadily moved toward making each community board more fairly representative of all the City Council districts therein, she noted. In the past five years, the borough president has appointed over 300 first-time individuals – members who had never served before – to the Queens community boards.

GILLIBRAND’S SERVICE ACADEMY NOMINATIONS FROM NYC: US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced her nominations for candidates from the city to three of the nation’s leading service institutions: the United States Military, Air Force, and Naval Academies.

“I am honored to nominate such dedicated and talented students to our nation’s service academies. They have demonstrated exemplary leadership abilities and an outstanding academic record, as well as a passion to serve our nation,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our service academies cultivate top-tier officers who bravely protect our nation, and I look forward to these nominees’ successes as they further their education and continue their commitment to our country in the armed forces.”

A selection committee formed by Gillibrand chose the nominees from a large group of qualified applicants. Decisions were based on criteria including academic record, leadership potential, and overall achievement. Final acceptance is determined solely by the service academies.

The United States service academies offer a first-class education, as well as the chance for young people to serve our country upon graduation as commissioned officers in the United States Armed Services. This year, Senator Gillibrand nominated the following three candidates from New York City to the service academies:

• Zamien Allard (Brooklyn) – US Military Academy
• Dylan Gomez (Queens) – US Air Force Academy
• Hanford Lockwood (Manhattan) – US Naval Academy
—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

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