Queens Lawmakers On The Move Feb. 20, 2018

Queens County City Council News

Schumer Decries Fed Funding Cut To Gun Background Check Program

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) revealed that the just-released White House budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019 makes millions of dollars in cuts to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

NICS is used by law enforcement to check records on individuals who may be prohibited from purchasing firearms. Specifically, the proposed budget cuts the National Criminal Records History Improvement Program (NCHIP) and the NICS Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP), by 16 percent or from $73 million to $61 million in FY’19. Over 90 percent of the public supports a background check system on all gun buyers.

NCHIP works with states and local communities to provide any necessary resources to ensure that accurate records are available to protect public safety and national security. Additionally, the program works with states to identify individuals who are ineligible to purchase firearms and who potentially present threats to public safety. NARIP was implemented to improve the NICS system by providing assistance to states by improving the completeness, automation, and transmittal to state and federal systems of the records utilized by NICS.  

Schumer authored the 1993 Brady Bill, which amended the Gun Control Act of 1968 to require background checks before a licensed gun dealer makes a sale and created the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS determines whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms and contains a buyer’s criminal and mental health records. So far this year, there have been 30 mass shootings. In 2017, the United States saw a total of 346 mass shootings.

“In the midst of the national tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and on the heels of now 30 mass shootings that have taken place this year alone, it is downright dangerous that the president’s budget would seek to undermine the gun background check system. While we are in dire need of an even stronger background check system in this country, like one that closes the Gun Show Loophole, the White House’s proposal would hurt one of the only firewalls we have in place to stop dangerous people from legally purchasing guns,” said Schumer.

PA James, Lancman Call on City to Defend Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act

Public Advocate Letitia James
City Council Member Rory I Lancman

Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Member Rory Lancman (D-Briarwood, Cunningham Park, Flushing, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fresh Meadows, Hollis, Holliswood, Jamaica, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Richmond Hill) yesterday called on the City’s Corporation Counsel to defend a constitutional challenge to the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act (VGMVPA), a law that gives victims the right to sue for damages and relief.

The call comes on the heels of Fox News anchor Charles Payne, joined by 21st Century Fox, is challenging the law in a case brought by Scottie Nell Hughes, a journalist suing the company for gender-motivated violence, gender discrimination, retaliation, and defamation.

“The VGMVPA gives women recourse in the most extreme and horrific cases of workplace sexual miconduct: when they are assaulted or raped due to gender-based animus. New York City successfully created an avenue for those victims who have nowhere else to turn. If we are to deserve our claims of being a bastion of progressivism, a place that doesn’t tolerate gender-based violence, or poisonous cultures of silence, we should defend that duly created right to the utmost,” James wrote in a letter to New York City’s Corporation Counsel.

The VGMVPA allows an individual to file for relief and damages if they are the victim of a gender-motivated crime. Scottie Nell Hughes, a journalist, alleges that Fox News anchor Charles Payne raped and sexually assaulted her for years as he advanced her career. When she ended the relationship, she was retaliated against: blacklisted from Fox News, and publicly defamed.

“New York City has zero tolerance for gender-motivated violence,” said Lancman. “The Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act empowers victims of serious gender-motivated violence to seek appropriate recourse. I stand with the Public Advocate in calling on the City’s Corporation Counsel to defend this important law.”

Peralta Urges State Senate to Increase Adult Literacy Education Funding 

State Senator Jose Peralta

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) on Friday urged the State Senate to include $15.3 million in the final Fiscal Year 2018-19 Executive Budget to support Adult Literacy Education (ALE) programs.

The current allocation for ALE classes in the proposed Executive Budget is $6.3 million. Changes to the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) have resulted in $8 million that was previously available for English Language Civics to be allocated for other purposes. This will put 17,000 adult New Yorkers at risk of not been able to access these critical programs.

Modifications in the federal funding stream particularly hurts beginner-level and undocumented learners. Additionally, despite the spike in the immigrant population in New York, investment in ALE programs has remained unchanged for the past 10 years. More than two million adult New Yorkers lack a high school diploma and 2.3 million lack English proficiency.

In a letter sent to the State Senate and signed by a number of his colleagues, Peralta pointed out that “only 2.5% of those in need of language development skills are able to participate in State-funded classes. It is estimated that over 50,000 New Yorkers are currently on waiting lists to access adult literacy classes.”

ALE programs are designed to help New Yorkers increase their language skills and credentials to improve their earning and employment potential. Classes are provided through community-based organizations, libraries, community colleges and volunteer groups.

“Simply put, they are a springboard to a brighter future, with greater opportunity,” Peralta wrote.

Meng Introduces Legislation To Create MadeInAmerica.Gov Website 

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth) last week introduced legislation to create the first ever U.S. government website through which consumers can find information about products that are made in America.

The “MadeInAmerica.gov Act,” H.R. 4970, would require the United States Department of Commerce to create and maintain a MadeInAmerica.gov website listing American-made products.

“It is time that the federal government did more for American businesses and American workers,” said Meng. “Consumers who wish to know which products are made in America should have a trustworthy, easy-to-use resource, and American businesses should be provided a space in which they can easily connect consumers to products that are made in America. This legislation will promote products made in the USA, support the labor behind them, and encourage people to buy American.”

Presently, there is no U.S. government website that lists products made in America.

Meng’s legislation has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee where it is awaiting further action. Bill text can be found here.

Dromm celebrates Tibetan New Year in Elmhurst

City Council Member Daniel Dromm/via Facebook

City Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Elmhurst, Jackson Heights ) on Friday celebrated Losar (also called Tibetan New Year) at the United Sherpa Association in Elmhurst.

The holiday is a Tibetan Buddhist festival and is celebrated on the first day of the Tibetan calendar, which corresponds to a date in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days.

Families prepare for Losar several days in advance by cleaning and decorating their homes with fragrant flowers and signs painted in flour.  They also prepare cedar, rhododendron, and juniper branches for burning as incense.  During this time of preparation, families settle their debts and put an end to interpersonal conflict.  In addition, they purchase new clothes for the celebration and make special food such as kapse (fried twists) and chang (barley beer).  Because the words “sheep’s head” and “beginning of the year” sound similar in Tibetan, it is customary to craft a sheep’s head from colored butter as a decoration.

 “It is a pleasure to celebrate Losar with the United Sherpa Association,” said Dromm, who represents one of the most diverse districts in NYC.  “It is an honor to participate in such a noble ancient tradition with my Tibetan constituents and their families.  I wish them all a peaceful and prosperous Year of the Dog.”

Avella Announces Results of Constituent Tree Survey 

Sen. Tony Avella

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Flushing, Jamaica Estates, Fresh Meadows, Bellerose, Floral Park, Jamaica, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Kissena Park, Briarwood) on Friday announced the results of a constituent survey regarding how unsafe residents feel about the condition of city trees in front of their homes.

The 1,250 responses, which came as no surprise to Avella, showed an overwhelming concern from residents for the safety of their families and homes in the City because of the condition of a tree in front of their property or on their block.

Two-thirds of respondents said they felt unsafe about the condition of the tree in front of their home, which, as the Senator noted in his letter to respondents, is unacceptable. Additionally, approximately three-quarters of respondents indicated that their tree is either overgrown, dangerous, or needs removal.

Unfortunately, this survey also showed that an overwhelming 71% of residents are completely unaware of the city’s “Tree and Sidewalk Repair Program” which, at no cost to the homeowner, shifts the burden of responsibility for damaged sidewalks due to city tree roots back to the city for repairs. Even though roughly two-thirds of respondents indicated that a city tree has damaged their sidewalk, less than 30% knew of this program’s existence.

“For a long time, I have felt that the City of New York has inadequately addressed the concerns of residents who had issues with a tree in front of their property. Because of this survey, I now have the numbers to prove that what I have feared is actually true. Residents have legitimate safety concerns due to a failed job by our city to maintain trees,” said Avella.