This Week in New York State Government
Governor Cuomo Introduces Legislation and Comprehensive Plan to Protect Nail Salon Workers and Educate Employers
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo introduced a comprehensive package of legislation and new regulations to protect workers in the nail salon industry. This complements the work of the Governor’s multi-agency task force, which has enforcement teams in the field to recover stolen wages and shut down the industry’s worst offenders. Additionally, the Governor is launching a public education and outreach campaign to help workers understand their rights and ensure that business owners live up to their responsibilities and obligations under the law.
Many nail salon employees endure unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices. Inadequate ventilation, lack of personal protective equipment, non-payment of wages, nonexistent worker’s compensation coverage, missing business liability insurance, and the unlicensed operation of facilities jeopardize the health and safety of employees and patrons alike. The situation demands immediate action; however, existing statutes impede the State’s ability to act swiftly in order to protect the public and provide employee justice. Therefore, the Governor introduced legislation focused on providing the State with adequate enforcement authority and providing workers with accessible training and job resources.
- Authority to Shut Down Businesses that Violate the Law
- Training and Job Resources for Workers
Several administrative changes are also being implemented, which include:
- Offering Additional Languages: The Department of State will begin administering license exams in the languages of Nepali, Tibetan and Vietnamese, in addition to the following languages currently provided, which are English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Russian and Chinese.
- Clarifying the License Application: The license application will be clarified to highlight for all applicants what is and is not legally required to obtain a license.
- Offering Free English Classes: Office of New Americans English language classes, through Opportunity Centers and the Cell Ed program, will be expanded to include the New York City area. Information about these programs will be provided during the public outreach campaign.
- Free Training: Free training materials will be posted on the Department of State’s website and distributed through community centers to help workers more effectively learn the curriculum and study for exams.
The State also enacted new regulations for nail salons that range from surety requirements to protective equipment standards to posting notices. The regulations include:
- New Bond and Insurance Requirements
- Personal Protective Equipment and Ventilation Requirements
- Health Review of Chemical Agents
- Bill of Rights
- Cease and Desist Postings
As the State implements a regulatory and education campaign, new Task Force Enforcement Teams will follow up on the ground to ensure workers are being paid their legal wages and are working in safer environments in compliance with the new rules and regulations. Unlicensed businesses will be ordered to cease operations until they secure the proper licenses. Licensed businesses that are substantially out of compliance with state laws will also face revocation of their license to operate.
Public Outreach Campaign
In addition to advancing legislation and implementing administrative reforms, the Governor is partnering with not-for-profit organizations to advance a robust public education campaign to help business understand their obligations and help workers understand their rights. Task Force members will be joined with community-based organizations, religious groups and community leaders to host a series of public events to thoroughly inform nail salon workers, industry employers and their clients. The targeted education campaign will provide information about the law, workers’ rights, licensing information and the free services and resources available to the public.
Governor Cuomo Announces Incentives and Low Cost Power to Help Western New York Companies Create 157 Jobs
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the New York Power Authority (NYPA) Board of Trustees has approved allocations of low-cost hydropower to three Western New York companies. The trustees also approved Western New York Power Proceeds awards for three other firms in the region. Together, they will support nearly $100 million in capital investments and 363 jobs—including 157 new positions.
“With this low cost power, these companies have committed to creating new jobs in Western New York, as well as making millions in capital investments,” Governor Cuomo said. “These commitments are yet more good news for a region that is truly on the move.”
The hydropower will be drawn from NYPA’s Niagara Power Plant and allocated to Just Greens in Lackawanna, North American Hoganas in Niagara Falls, both in Niagara County, and Cummins in Lakewood, Chautauqua County. North American Hoganas currently benefits from prior hydropower allocations.
In addition, the trustees approved funding under the Western New York Power Proceeds initiative to We Care Transportation and Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, two Buffalo firms, and Cambria Asphalt Products in Cambria, Niagara County.
Governor Cuomo Announces Administration Appointments
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced seven appointments to his administration, adding to a team committed to implementing his bold agenda.
Jamie Rubin has been appointed as the Commissioner of Homes and Community Renewal. Currently, Mr. Rubin is the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, which was created by Governor Cuomo in August 2013 to oversee New York State’s recovery from storms Sandy, Irene and Lee. The Office of Storm Recovery manages New York State’s $4.4 billion Community Development Block Grant allocation and co-manages the state’s $1.2 billion Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which awards federal funding for storm-related capital projects statewide. Previously, Jamie served as Senior Advisor to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and New York State Director of the President’s Hurricane Sandy Recovery and Rebuilding Task Force.
Byron W. Brown has been nominated to serve as a Trustee of the State University of New York Board of Trustees. He is currently the Mayor of the City of Buffalo, re-elected to a third term after a landslide victory in 2012. Since taking office, Mayor Brown has championed the renaissance that is taking place throughout Buffalo, where over $5 billion in new economic development activity is currently underway, which is expected to result in the creation of over 12,000 jobs. His extensive career in public service is marked with many historic achievements, including the first African-American Mayor of Buffalo and the first African-American elected to the State Senate outside of New York City. He is presently on the Governor’s New York Works Task Force, the Wage Board and the Governor’s Regional Economic Development Council in Western New York.
Sam Roberts has been nominated to serve as Commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Mr. Roberts currently serves as a member of the New York State Assembly, to which he was first elected in 2010 and represents parts of the City of Syracuse and the Towns of DeWitt, Onondaga and Salina. He is Chair of the Task Force on University-Industry Cooperation and a member of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. Prior to becoming an Assemblymember, he served at the Office of General Services as Superintendent of the Senator Hughes State Office building in Syracuse, New York. Prior to this, he was an Onondaga County Legislator while also working as a journeyman tool and die maker at General Motors.
Steve Cohen has been nominated as Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Mr. Cohen has broad experience in both public service and private law practice, having previously served as Secretary to Governor Cuomo and the Governor’s Counselor and Chief of Staff when in the Office of the New York Attorney General. Prior, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he prosecuted criminal organizations.
Otis Cruse has been nominated to serve on the State Board of Parole. Mr. Cruse has extensive experience within the field of criminal justice, serving in various roles at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and most recently as a parole officer at the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in the Special Offenders Unit monitoring registered sex offenders and mental health cases.ons 2014-15 Leadership Program.
Peter Harckham has been appointed Assistant Director of the Office of Community Renewal at the Office of Homes and Community Renewal. Mr. Harckham has a varied background, most recently serving on the Westchester County Board of Legislators for eight years. In his second term, he was voted to the position of Majority Leader, and also served on committees focused on housing, planning, and the environment. Previously, Mr. Harckham worked in media and media planning and served as president at an affordable housing not-for-profit.
Mark Weprin will be appointed Deputy Secretary of Legislative Affairs. Mr. Weprin most recently served on the New York City Council, where he was elected to chair the Queens Council Delegation. Previously, he also served as a member of the New York State Assembly for 15 years, where he represented 120,000 constituents in his district of Queens and served on many committees. He holds a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and a B.A. from the SUNY’s University at Albany.
Governor Cuomo Announces Addition of Text Messaging Feature to NYS Hopeline
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New Yorkers can now contact the New York State HOPEline addiction referral and support service by texting 1-877-8-HOPENY. The HOPEline is a free and confidential 24-hour service that connects people who are struggling with substance abuse and problem gambling to specially-trained behavioral health professionals for assistance in times of need.
“This new feature will make it even easier for those struggling with addiction to get the help and support they need,” Governor Cuomo said. “I encourage anyone who may be dealing with substance or gambling addiction to reach out to us today and let us help them build a safer and healthier future.”
By texting 1-877-8-HOPENY, individuals can get help connecting with a treatment provider in their community as well as across the state, and obtain resources and information about substance use disorders and problem gambling. The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has contracted with the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC) to expand existing HOPEline services to include this texting feature.
Governor Cuomo Announces Recipients of New Farmers Grant Fund to Support Agribusiness Across New York State
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the New Farmers Grant Fund will provide more than $610,000 in grants to help support new and early-stage agricultural businesses across New York state. The fund, enacted in the 2014-2015 budget, will be used to assist early-stage farmers and encourage them to consider farming as a career, adding to the continued growth of New York’s agricultural sector. This funding will allow these farmers to employ the use of innovative agricultural techniques on commercial farm operations throughout the state.
“Agriculture remains a vital part of this state’s economy and today we are taking yet another step in developing the next generation of New York’s farmers,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this investment, we are creating opportunities for early-stage farmers that will increase future productivity on all farms and create long-term agricultural growth across New York State.”
Empire State Development, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, is administering the Fund and has received more than 100 applications for the program. Projects were scored competitively based on specific criteria, including demonstration of project readiness. Grant funds will be used for project costs associated with the expansion of production, construction of farm buildings, purchase of equipment and seed, or upgrades to increase efficiency and boost production.
Governor Cuomo Announces New Actions to Streamline Farming Regulations
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced new initiatives to streamline regulatory burdens currently placed on farmers in New York. The first-ever Strategic Interagency Task Force on Lessening Obstacles to Agriculture identified new opportunities for improving the regulations for pesticide registration and certification without compromising current environmental protections. Additional regulatory changes for the benefit of New York agriculture as a result of the Task Force will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
The Task Force is comprised of leadership from state government and representatives from the agriculture industry. It met five times during 2014, working together to develop recommendations to streamline the regulatory process for the state’s robust agricultural economy to grow. During these meetings, farmers identified concerns on a variety of current regulations and posed them to the task force, which responded with the following solutions:
Easier Pesticide Registration Process
In response to feedback from farmers, the Department of Environmental Conservation improved its pesticide product registration processes by scheduling pre-application meetings with registrants, reducing potential delays. It has also improved notification of new pesticide registrations to applicators and distributors.
Faster Recertification Process for Pesticide Applicators
Farmers using pesticides are required to be certified as private pesticide applicators and take either continuing education courses or a recertification exam every five years to remain current. The Department of Environmental Conservation now tracks applicator certification status in a new database, which improves the renewal notice process. Later phases will allow farmers to view and update their own information online.
Simplify Categories for Pesticide Applicators
New York State has seven private pesticide certifications. To make it easier for farmers to diversify the commodities they grow, the Department of Environmental Conservation now allows an applicant to request to switch their category, in most cases, and will propose consolidating the categories to simplify certification requirements.
Governor Cuomo Announces Major Mortgage Companies Agree to Measures to Combat Vacant Abandoned “Zombie Properties”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that 11 banks, mortgage companies, and credit unions representing nearly 70 percent of the New York market will adopt a set of best practices to help combat the neighborhood blight and economic damage caused by vacant and abandoned “zombie properties” in New York State. Under these best practices, the banks and mortgage companies will regularly inspect properties that fall into delinquency to determine if they are vacant and abandoned, and make sure that those properties are safe and properly maintained, among other measures. The banks and mortgage companies will also report properties determined to be vacant and abandoned to a state registry to be developed by the New York State Department of Financial Services, which will share that information with local government officials. The Department will work with those local officials to address and escalate any concerns about maintenance with the bank or mortgage company that is servicing the loan.
“Zombie properties can bring down the economic health and safety of entire neighborhoods – but by working together we are taking steps to help strengthen and repair local communities,” said Governor Cuomo. “We commend these companies for working with us to address this problem. This action is a win-win that will benefit communities and mortgage owners across the state, and should serve as a model for protecting neighborhoods from the dangers of vacant and abandoned properties in the future.”
Comptroller DiNapoli Releases April Cash Report
One month into the state’s 2015-2016 fiscal year, state tax collections totaled $8.6 billion, an increase of 21.4 percent from last April, primarily due to an increase in Personal Income Tax (PIT) collections. Tax collections, however, were $23.7 million lower than newly released Division of the Budget (DOB) projections, according to the April state cash report released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
Other findings from the April cash report include:
- PIT receipts through April totaled $6.7 billion, 25.5 percent higher than last year for the same period, which was $11.6 million lower than Enacted Budget projections. Payments made in association with tax filing extensions made up $1.1 billion of the $1.4 billion growth in PIT. Strength in the financial markets likely contributed to the increased collections, which also compare favorably to April 2014 collections that were depressed by federal tax changes.
- April consumption and use tax collections totaled slightly more than $1.2 billion through the first month, 2.9 percent more than the previous year and $12.5 million lower than projections. Business tax collections totaled $314.7 million, an increase of 15.2 percent from last year, but $6.3 million below the projections.
- All Funds receipts totaled $11.1 billion, $35.7 million lower than projections. Miscellaneous receipts totaled $705 million and ended the month $13 million lower than projections. Federal receipts totaled $1.7 billion and were $1.2 billion lower than April 2014, largely reflecting a recent agreement with the federal government to reduce reimbursement rates for spending for people with developmental disabilities.
- Total spending of $7.8 billion through April 30 was $86.7 million lower than projections, primarily in local assistance. Spending for local assistance grants totaled $5.1 billion, 6.7 percent or $364.7 million lower than last year and $88.1 million below projections. State operations spending totaled $1.6 billion through the first month. Debt service totaled $165.9 million and spending for capital projects totaled $288.9 million, both figures varying less than $1 million from projections.
- The General Fund ended April with a balance of $10.3 billion, $33.4 million lower than projected, but $4.8 billion more than last year at the same time, primarily due to financial settlement revenue.
DiNapoli’s office issues a state cash report every month identifying actual state revenues and spending from the prior month. The cash report focuses primarily on the General Fund and All Governmental Funds. The General Fund is the major operating fund of the state. All Governmental Funds includes General, Special Revenue, Debt Service and Capital Projects funds, as well as funds from the federal government. The report is now accessible in Excel and Adobe formats.
Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Municipal Audits
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced his office completed an audit of the Town of Cohocton, a budget review for the City of Yonkers and an audit of parkland alienation in 11 municipalities.
Town of Cohocton – Town Clerk Cash Shortage (Steuben County)
The town had a cash shortage of $38,136 in the clerk’s office: $29,322 from the tax collection account and $8,814 in clerk fees. Auditors identified numerous questionable deposits that were made into the tax account and may have been made by the clerk in an attempt to conceal the shortage in tax collections. The clerk was arrested last year and pled guilty to grand larceny, and was sentenced to four months in jail and five years of probation and paid $36,000 restitution to the town.
City of Yonkers – Budget Review (Westchester County)
The city’s proposed budget for the school district has a budget gap of $25.8 million. In addition, the city has appropriated $37.5 million, or approximately 52 percent of the available fund balance, in its general fund in the 2015-16 proposed budget. The city’s use of fund balance to close gaps in the budget decreases the fund balance that is available to cover unforeseen shortfalls in revenue or unexpected expenditures. The city will also have to increase rates for metered water and sewer rents by 31 percent and 50 percent, respectively, to realize additional amounts included in the proposed budget. The city’s proposed budget complies with the property tax levy limit.
Parkland Alienation (2014MS-5)
Auditors examined how municipalities complied with state laws when conveying parkland to a non-public entity or using public parkland for another purpose. Several municipalities did not comply with all of the statutory requirements, including one municipality that has not used the proceeds from its parkland alienation transaction to acquire new parkland or make capital improvements as required. Several others did not take steps to determine fair market value of the parklands alienated or replacement parcels.
Attorney General Schneiderman & The Robin Hood Foundation Announce Program to Help Homeless Families Obtain Permanent Affordable Housing
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and David Saltzman, Executive Director of Robin Hood—New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization— announced the Come Home NYC program, a public-private partnership that will match 300 homeless families with apartments they can afford. Come Home NYC is led by Enterprise Community partners, a national affordable housing and community development organization, in cooperation with New York City’s Department of Homeless Services, Single Stop, and more than 25 private and non-profit affordable housing landlords. With commitments of $1.2 million from Attorney General Schneiderman’s office and $300,000 from the Robin Hood Housing Advisory Board, Come Home NYC will place 300 homeless families in permanent housing over the next two years. Come Home NYC, which began as a pilot program last fall, matches homeless families who earn 30-60% of the area median income with quality homes they can afford. The program requires no ongoing subsidy from taxpayers and is the only program in New York City that matches homeless families living in the shelter system with unsubsidized affordable housing.
According to a recent analysis, roughly 2,000 families entering the shelter system each year have sufficient income to pay rent for affordable housing, and 28% of all families in shelters have an adult that is currently employed. Studies show that the vast majority of homeless families who receive affordable housing are never homeless again. Attorney General Schneiderman made the announcement at Two Bridges Towers on the Lower East Side. Two Bridges Tower is a project of Settlement Housing Fund that participates in the Come Home NYC program. Attorney General Schneiderman and Mr. Saltzman were joined for the announcement by Judi Kende, Vice President and New York Market Leader for Enterprise Community Partners; Alexa Sewell, the President of Settlement Housing Fund; and Ayra Garcia, a formerly homeless New Yorker who moved with her young niece from a shelter into a permanent apartment with help from Come Home NYC.
“Every family deserves a home, and Come Home NYC is an important and innovative step toward achieving that goal,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This innovative public-private partnership places homeless families into permanent housing without the need for ongoing taxpayer subsidies. More New York families than ever before are living in shelters, including families who lost their homes to foreclosure and are working full-time. I am proud to join with Robin Hood and Enterprise Community Partners to help hundreds of New York families find a place they can call home.”
Attorney General Schneiderman Announces Agreement to Protect Consumer Data in Radioshack Bankruptcy
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a settlement with RadioShack over the sale of its customers’ personally identifiable information. New York, along with thirty-seven other states, joined together to oppose the sale of consumer data earlier this year.
General Wireless obtained bankruptcy court approval to purchase RadioShack’s entire e-commerce business, intellectual property and remaining assets, including certain customer data limited by this settlement. The electronic retailer will continue to employ approximately 10,000 former RadioShack employees.
Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement approved on May 20 by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Shannon, the overwhelming bulk of RadioShack consumer data will be destroyed, and the new owner of RadioShack will not gain access to any sensitive personally identifiable information, including credit or debit card information, social security numbers, telephone numbers or dates of birth.
General Wireless will be permitted to retain only the email addresses previously given by RadioShack customers requesting product information, and those customers will be provided an express ability to opt out before their email addresses are transferred to the new owner. Any customer who receives a postal mailing from the successor business will also have an express opportunity to opt out of future communications from the company. The agreement will limit the number of email addresses available for transfer to only those obtained during the past two years.
Assembly Legislation Strengthen Rent Regulations, Protects Tenants
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Housing Committee Chair Keith L.T. Wright announced the passage of legislation that would provide stronger regulations for rent-regulated properties and protect the rights of tenants in New York (A.7526).
The legislation would strengthen existing rent regulations with the aim of maintaining affordable housing in New York State. Its provisions include: prohibiting owners from adjusting preferential rent upon lease renewal, repealing vacancy decontrol, and establishing that rental increases associated with major capital improvements (MCIs) and individual apartment improvements (IAIs) be separately designated and billed as surcharges, and must cease when the cost of the MCI or IAI has been recovered.
In addition, the legislation would establish the crime of second-degree harassment of a rent-regulated tenant when an owner intentionally makes housing uninhabitable, unsafe, or unhealthy, and causes a tenant to vacate. The civil penalties for tenant harassment would also increase. A violation of an order of the Department of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR) would result in a penalty between $1,000 and $2,000 for the first offense, rising to between $2,000 and $4,000 for each subsequent offense. Harassment of a tenant to cause the tenant to vacate would result in a penalty between $2,000 and $5,000 for a first offense, rising to between $10,000 and $15,000 for each subsequent offense or for a violation targeted at more than one tenant.
The legislation would also:
- extend rent regulation provisions and general business law provisions pertaining to cooperative and condominium conversions from June 15, 2015 to June 15, 2019;
- permit a landlord to recover only one housing accommodation as a primary residence for either his or her own personal use and occupancy, or for the use and occupancy of his or her immediate family. Such a recovery would be prohibited if a tenant has occupied an apartment for 15 or more years;
- reduce the amount by rent may be increased upon vacancy, from 20% to 7.5%;
- include former federal project-based Section 8 buildings whose contracts are no longer in effect and Mitchell-Lama buildings that dissolve after the bill become law in the category of housing covered by rent regulation laws, regardless of when the building was occupied;
- allow existing loft units that were included in the 2010 expansion to be brought into compliance with building and fire safety standards;
- make tenant protections for loft tenants permanent. These include reducing rental increases, allowing cases by case determination on incompatible uses, and allowing smaller loft units to be covered;
- expand the ownership period for an owner to be eligible for an alternative hardship exemption, from three years to six;
- require an owner or landlord to provide a prospective tenant with documentation to support any allowable increases in the legal regulated rent during the previous four years; and
- require that the DHCR cap the percentage rent increase available to owners of rent controlled apartments at a rate equal to the average of the last five years of adjustments by the Rent Guidelines Board for one-year renewal leases.
Assembly Speaker Heastie Names New Intergovernmental Relations Staff
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced new appointments to his administration. Joseph N. Garba will serve as secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs. Kim Ramos, esq. and Lanessa Owens, esq. will serve as deputy secretaries for Intergovernmental Affairs.
Joseph N. Garba has been appointed to the role of secretary to the Speaker for Intergovernmental Relations. Mr. Garba has extensive experience in New York State and city government, most recently serving as deputy borough president for the Borough of Manhattan, with a focus on budget and policy. He previously served as the director of State Legislative Affairs for the City of New York in the Office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Prior to that, he worked in a variety of other roles in city and state government. He earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University at Albany.
Kim Ramos, Esq. has been appointed to serve as deputy secretary for Intergovernmental Relations. She most recently served as vice president and general counsel for MirRam Group working extensively in government relations and lobbying with non-profit, corporate and organized labor clients. She is a member and former officer for the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans board of directors, an affiliate of the Acacia Network and a member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association. She is a member in good standing of the New York State Bar and earned a juris doctorate from the Fordham University Law School and a bachelor’s of business degree from Baruch College.
Lanessa Owens, Esq. has been appointed to serve as deputy secretary for Intergovernmental Relations. She began her legal career as a law associate with Hiscock Legal Aid Society in Syracuse, New York and later went on to serve as legal counsel and chief of staff for Assemblyman Samuel D. Roberts. In addition to her work with the Assembly, she is the founding executive director of The William Herbert Johnson Bar Association and is a founding co-chair on the Onondaga County Bar Association’s Diversity and Inclusion committee. She earned a juris doctorate from the St. Thomas University School of Law, a paralegal certificate from Queens College, and a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science from SUNY College at Old Westbury.
Assembly Passes Bill Extending Mayoral Control Of New York City Public Schools
New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan announced the passage of a bill extending mayoral control of New York City public schools for three years (A.7508, Nolan).
The legislation continues the organizational provisions of mayoral control, which has governed New York City schools since 2002 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Under the bill, the mayor would be authorized to appoint the schools chancellor and to appoint eight of 13 members on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, which approves co-location plans, school closures, and contracts. The remaining five members, who must be parents of public school children, are appointed by each of the five borough presidents.
The mayor also oversees the system’s approximately $21.5 billion operating budget and is responsible for putting forward strategies to lift student achievement across 1,600 district schools.
Mayoral control has fostered greater parental participation and input, transparency, and accountability in relation to the management and operation of New York City schools. Since mayoral control took effect, on-time graduation rates have risen to the highest point in a decade, dropout rates have fallen and the percentage of students considered proficient in English and math on state tests is now close to the statewide average.
Senate Passes Bills to Strengthen Penalties for Crimes Against Firefighters and Retired Police
The New York State Senate passed two bills to protect the first responders and law enforcement professionals who protect our communities. The bills would strengthen penalties for individuals who obstruct critical medical emergencies or assault retired police officers in acts of revenge.
Bill S2977, sponsored by Senator Rich Funke (R-C-I, Fairport), would make it a crime to intentionally obstruct a firefighter performing emergency medical care on a sick or injured person. Current law affords firefighters special protections while engaged in a variety of functions during the performance of their official duties. However, the law does not adequately protect firefighters performing emergency medical care.
The Senate passed another bill (S1827), sponsored by Senator Martin Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), to protect retired police officers by strengthening the penalties for crimes committed by individuals seeking retaliation for being previously arrested by the officer. The measure would make such retaliatory crimes a class B or C violent felony, depending on the extent of the assault, and offer the same protection that the law currently gives active police officers to help discourage felons from seeking revenge against retired officers.
Senate Passes Bill Expanding Access to Education for Adult Learners in New York
The New York State Senate passed legislation that would expand the literacy and other educational opportunities available to adult learners in order to help them succeed. The bill (S2895), sponsored by Senator Hugh Farley (R-C, Schenectady), would enable public libraries to obtain additional state funds for their high school equivalency programs and employment training services that help adults get jobs.
The Employment Preparation Education (EPE) program is currently only available to school districts and BOCES to provide educational services to individuals 21 years or older who have dropped out of high school and did not receive their degree, a GED, or a high school equivalency diploma. Libraries offer many of these same services, including English as a Second Language classes, job readiness workshops, and high school equivalency courses. By allowing public libraries to apply for and obtain EPE funds, this bill would help to reduce the stigma attached to adult learners and facilitate their employment opportunities by enabling them to attain critical skills in a setting other than a school.
Senate Passes Legislation to Honor and Help Veterans in New York
The New York State Senate passed 14 measures dedicated to improving the lives of veterans and honoring them for their exceptional service. The Senate also celebrated the achievements of veterans from across the state during the Senate’s annual Veterans’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
To read the full list of legislation passed by the Senate, please click here.
Senate Passes Bill Making Property Tax Cap Permanent
The New York State Senate acted on one of its top end-of-session priorities by passing legislation to make the property tax cap permanent. The bill (S5597), sponsored by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport), would prevent the planned expiration of the tax cap to continue saving taxpayers billions of dollars each year, increase investments by businesses, and create more jobs.
A recent report that looked at the decades-long trends of school tax increases estimates that taxpayers have saved $7.6 billion over the past three years as a result of the property tax cap. School tax levies have risen by an average of just 2.2 percent annually — the lowest average growth for any comparable period in New York since 1982. As voters go to the polls to vote on school budgets, property owners are expected to save a total of $3.3 billion in 2015-16 alone due to the cap.
The property tax cap was enacted in 2011 due to Senate Republican efforts to reduce New Yorkers’ tax burden. The cap limits the annual growth of property taxes levied by local governments and school districts to two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Since 2012, the vast majority of all school districts and municipalities have kept spending increases below the cap, leading to significant property tax savings for residents and businesses.
The cap was created in conjunction with a commitment to continue supporting school districts with school aid increases. This year, the Senate passed an on-time budget that included a $1.4 billion increase in school aid – which reflected an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars above what the Executive Budget originally proposed – to ensure that children are college and career ready. When combined with funding for STAR and Enhanced STAR payments to school districts, overall education spending will total nearly $27 billion.
Senate Passes Measure to Prohibit Registered Sex Offenders from Holding School Leadership Positions
The New York State Senate passed legislation (S4153), sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-C-I, Port Jefferson), that would prevent registered sex offenders from obtaining leadership positions within schools.
Senator LaValle said, “We need to take every responsible action when it comes to protecting our children. My legislation adds an additional safeguard by preventing sexual offenders from serving in positions in schools and on school boards. Individuals with these types of records should not hold places of trust in education. It’s my hope that the Assembly and the Governor follow suit and approve the bill this session.”
Under this legislation, any person required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act will be prohibited from being a trustee, principal, officer, or member on a board of education of any public school in any BOCES, city, union free, common, central school district, or charter school.
Senate Passes Bill to Create a Registry of Violent Offenders
The New York State Senate approved The Domestic Violence Protection Act –Brittany’s Law, a bill that would increase the safety and awareness of communities by increasing access to information about convicted violent felons. The bill (S513), sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette), would create a publicly accessible registry of all individuals convicted of a violent felony and allow local law enforcement to keep track of their location.
Under the bill, all individuals convicted of a violent felony must register with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) upon discharge, parole, or release from any state or local facility, hospital, or institution. The registry would be accessible to the public, similar to the registry of sex offenders that the state currently has in place. The legislation also establishes annual registration requirements for offenders to allow local law enforcement agencies and the state to monitor the whereabouts of these individuals.
“New York State currently requires all convicted sex offenders to register with the state and keeps track of those individuals. It makes no sense that we do not do the same for those who commit violent felony crimes against our citizens,” said Senator Nozzolio. “We cannot continue to put innocent New Yorkers at risk.”