Americans are sick of the scandals that plague federal, state, and local government. I believe that a number of measures would make a real difference in New York State.
This year, the State Legislature and Governor Cuomo passed the Public Integrity and Reform Act of 2011 (A. 8301). This long-overdue new law will strengthen ethics rules for public officials. Its provisions include:
Greater financial disclosure.
Increased disclosure of who is lobbying state agencies and the state legislature.
Forfeiture of pensions for public officials convicted of a felony.
Establishment of a new Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which will have jurisdiction over all elected officials, their employees, and lobbyists.
Increased penalties for campaign finance and ethics violations.
To read this bill or its sponsor memo, you can look it up on public.leginfo.ny.us (type in "a8301").
There is still more work to be done, including campaign finance reform and independent redistricting. I believe that the Assembly can and should be a leader on these issues.
Supporting Verizon Workers
In July and August, 45,000 members of CWA and IBEW working for Verizon went on strike for two weeks. The workers maintain Verizon's extensive landline and FIOS network.
The need for wireline services is declining as new technologies develop. However, Verizon is still a very profitable company and needs these employees. Last year, it paid its investors $5.4 billion in dividends, and its top five executives received $45 million in compensation. It is unfair and unreasonable for workers to absorb losses in this sector while the company remains profitable overall. It is not the workers' fault or responsibility.
Although they are still without a contract, the workers have returned to their jobs, as the unions believe that negotiations have improved.
I was proud to support the striking workers, and joined them on the picket lines. My letter to Verizon's CEO is attached.
Contraception Is a Medical Necessity - and Will Soon Be Covered 100% by Health Insurance!
Under the federal health reform legislation, health insurance plans will be required to offer preventive health services without charging a co-pay or deductible. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determines which preventive health services are included in the requirement. HHS, under President Obama's leadership, has ruled that contraception will be included under the new law. Contraception is highly cost-effective, protects women's health, and protects a woman's right to control her body.
Too many women who wish to obtain contraceptive care cannot do so because they cannot afford it. It's not surprising that half of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Unintended pregnancy subjects women to unnecessary and avoidable health care procedures and costs, whether the woman chooses to carry a pregnancy to term or to terminate the pregnancy.
In July, a committee of scientists and medical experts appointed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences recommended to HHS that contraceptive and counseling methods to prevent unintended pregnancies be considered preventative health care and thus be provided without cost to the insured person.
On August 1, the Obama administration announced that health plans will be required to cover contraceptive drugs and counseling without co-pays or deductibles, starting next year. However, there is a narrow exemption for religious groups having to offer birth control coverage to their employees.
I joined state legislators from across the country writing to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, urging her to follow the IOM recommendation and include contraception in the package of preventive health care. While women's rights are being chipped away at state by state, this is a step forward at the Federal level to protect a women's right to important health care and contraception access.
Several years ago, New York enacted legislation I co-sponsored that requires health insurance that includes prescription drugs to cover contraception. The federal decision goes further, to bar co-payments and deductibles.
Tropical Storm Irene
Manhattan was largely spared from the damage of Tropical Storm Irene, which was downgraded by the time it reached our shores. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about some other parts of the city, surrounding suburbs, and upstate. There were parts of the City that had to evacuate, some of which were in Chelsea. However, because of precautions taken by the City, the State, and the MTA, we experienced far less destruction, and should be thankful for that.
If you have personal property that was damaged because of the storm, and you have insurance that will cover the cost to repair or replace it, here are some steps you can take to ensure fair treatment from insurance companies:
- Retrieve all relevant documents, including your policy number and details;
- Contact your insurance company right away to let them know you may be filing a claim, and ask what forms are needed in order to file;
- Take photos, or a video, of the damage as soon as possible;
- Keep a diary of all the conversations you have with your insurance company, including names, dates, and times of conversation, as well as the subject;
If you believe your insurance company is treating you unfairly, contact the State Insurance Department at www.ins.state.ny.us. You can also file a complaint about an insurance company at http://www.ins.state.ny.us/complhow.htm.
The City has a comprehensive list of guidelines about how to clean up after the storm, where to report downed trees, how to deal with water problems, and other storm-related damage. Other information can be retrieved by visiting www.nyc.gov.
Rash of Burglaries in 10th Precinct
Burglars take advantage of fire escapes and backyards to gain access to apartments through open windows, especially in the summer, and sometimes even while people are at home.
In the past month, the 10th Precinct has reported eight burglaries. They have largely taken place on the 200, 300, and 400s block in Chelsea. Block associations are working to help the Police investigate and catch the culprit.
The NYPD recommends taking the following steps to prevent a robber from entering your home:
Keep all doors & unattended windows locked at all times.
Ensure good lighting on the exterior of your building; this is an excellent deterrent for burglars.
Install gates, bars, or metal screening on windows: while often unattractive, this will provide a higher degree of security
If you have any questions, or would like more information on how to protect your home, contact the 10th Precinct at 212-741-8226, or attend its Community Council meetings, held the last Wednesday of each month at 348 Eighth Avenue at 7:30 PM.
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248