Wrapping up 2018 Session
This past week marked the end of the 2018 legislative session. While much work remains to be done, including on bail and criminal justice reforms, ethics reforms and teacher evaluations, Iím proud of what the Assembly has accomplished this year and would be pleased to return to tackle any of these unresolved issues, along with the expiring NYC speed cameras in school zones, as well as sidearm cameras for school bus safety. The last week of our legislative session ended with a focus on the national front, and the horrendous news of family separations at the borders. More on this and other legislation.
State Legislators Send Strong Letter & Hold Rally against Family Separations. I joined and helped organize dozens of fellow legislators on Wednesday to rally to call for the reunification of families separated by the Trump Administrationís border policies. In one of the largest rallies of state legislators I have witnessed in my time in the Assembly, Assemblymembers and Senators stressed the devastating impact on children from being cruelly separated from their families. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trumpís ďzero-toleranceĒ policy, thousands of children have been separated from their parents and are being held in detention centers and other institutional facilities. I continue to monitor this issue even after the Presidentís Executive Order to reverse this policy, as no plan yet exists to reunite currently detained children with their families, including an estimated 700 being held in New York. This should not be seen as a partisan issue - but as a repeat as some of the worst of our history when families were torn apart and many of the reports from the border are truly heart wrenching and will have lasting traumatic impact on the lives of these families.
State Legislative Updates
LEAD Bill Passes Both Houses of Legislature. My proudest legislative accomplishment this session was passing a bill to dedicate a funding stream for the expansion of law enforcement assisted diversion (LEAD) programs. The program gives law enforcement the option to defer low-level non-violent offenders, such as the homeless, mentally ill or drug addicts, to supportive resources to address their drug abuse, mental health and homeless needs. LEAD has been a successful program in Albany in other cities, leading to a 58% reduction in recidivism among participants in Seattle. The passage of these bill in both bodies is particularly significant given that bail reform and related criminal justice reform did not move. The LEAD program intercedes even before a non-violent offender is arrested or arraigned in court and the pilot program in Albany has successfully led to the diversion of over 100 offenders in just the last year. I am also grateful to the NYS Conference of Mayors, the Albany Mayor, the Police Chief, and District Attorney, as well as Catholic Charities for their support of this legislation.
Assembly Passes Net Neutrality Regulations. The Assembly on Tuesday voted to pass my legislation which would prohibit New York State, its authorities and municipalities from doing business with internet service providers that do not adhere to the principles of net neutrality, including discriminating against lawful content by blocking websites or apps, slowing transmission of data because of the nature of the content or creating an internet fast lane for companies and consumer who pay premiums. Iím proud to have sponsored this bill to protect consumers, small businesses and students in New York by working to keep the Internet free and open. I also appreciated the support of the NYS School Boards and the NYS Libraries for their support of this bill.
Update on Jacobeís Law on School Bullying. I was highly disappointed this week to see my bill to require families to be notified if their child is being bullied in school, known as Jacobeís Law, fail in the Assembly Codes Committee after what was, frankly, a difficult debate. However, after speaking with LGBTQ advocates about concerns over the billís potential to out LGBTQ students to unsupportive parents or otherwise place children in unsafe situations, Iím in conversations with advocates on how to address the crisis of bullying in a way that better balances the rights of families with the privacy needs of students. The bottom line is all students deserve to feel safe at school, and Iím committed to working to protect students experiencing bullying at school and at home.
Legislature Passes Bills Targeting Prosecutorial Misconduct. I voted in support of legislation this week that would create an eleven-member independent commission of legal professionals to be appointed by the governor, legislature and chief judge, to investigate and, where appropriate, recommend sanctions for prosecutors found to have engaged in misconduct in the performance of their duties. The bill directs that the membership be comprised of an equal number of prosecutors and defense attorneys. It provides subpoena authority and other powers to enable the commission to receive, initiate, investigate, and hear complaints relating to prosecutorial conduct, qualifications, or fitness to perform, and to secure the disposition of these complaints. Prosecutors play a key role in our criminal justice system, and Iím proud to have supported this bill to address false convictions.
Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Albany Pine Bush. The Assembly joined the Senate yesterday in passing a bill which would enable the Albany Pine Bush to purchase surrounding land from willing sellers in order to further their important conservation work. Iím glad to see this important bill pass to protect a local natural treasure.
Summer Reading Kick-Off. The Guilderland Public Library is planning a wonderful summer packed with activities, crafts, programs and, of course, books. Starting at 6 pm on Thursday, June 28, theyíll be ready to sign you up for the special events taking place during the summer. Be sure to join me and library staff for a build-your-own ice cream sundae party to kick-off the festivities! And look for their soon-to-be-published Kids and Teens brochures highlighting all the program details for the summer. Theyíll be sending them home from school and will also have copies available throughout the Library.
Empire State Plaza Art for Lunch Tour. The Empire State Plaza will be offering free 30-minute lunchtime tours to learn more about Abstract Expressionism and discover new ways of looking at the Empire State Plaza Art Collection. Each tour will focus on a different selection of artworks and on various themes including, sculptures in nature, women artists in the collection, art you can touch, creating the collection, artists who are World War II veterans, and art as propaganda in the Cold War. Weather permitting, tours will look at pieces located outdoors on the Plaza. If it rains, tours will take place inside on the concourse.
Tour Start Location: Corning Tower, Plaza Level, Security Desk
Tour Dates: 6/6 & 20, 7/11 & 25, 8/8 & 22
Tour Time: 12:00pm-12:30pm
More Information: 518-474-2418 or empirestateplaza.org
As always, for the latest news or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter, or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note, or give us a call at (518) 455-4178.