Queens Lawmakers On The Move May 2, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Jeffries Intros Legislation Expediting Creation of Affordable Prescription Medication

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-South Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Brooklyn) Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, this week introduced a new bipartisan bicameral legislation to curb the abuse of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) petition process and increase access to affordable prescription drugs.

The Stop Significant and Time-wasting Abuse Limiting Legitimate Innovation of New Generics (Stop STALLING) Act would reduce the incentives for branded pharmaceutical companies to interfere with the regulatory approval of generics and biosimilars that would compete with their own products, a tactic that delays patient access to more affordable medications.

The bill would also give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enhanced authority to take action against those who file sham petitions.

Specifically, the Stop STALLING Act would:

  • Create an FTC cause of action against sham petitions as unfair methods of competition,
  • Create a rebuttable legal presumption of illegality for certain petitions referred from the FDA with a finding that they were submitted for the primary purpose of delaying the approval of a drug application, and
  • Grant the FTC the authority to seek civil penalties for violations.

Although interested parties may file petitions with the FDA in connection with its review of certain drugs, concerns have been raised that pharmaceutical companies file serial petitions or last-minute petitions in attempts to delay generic approval, while imposing significant and unnecessary review costs on the FDA.

“No one should be forced to make the unthinkable choice between life-saving prescription drugs and putting food on the table. The Stop STALLING Act aims to drive down the sky-high cost of medicine by expediting access to affordable generic drugs for everyday Americans,” said Jeffries.

Meeks Lauds Fed/State Initiative To Provide Free Air Conditioners

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, The Rockaways, JFK  Airport) yesterday lauded Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement yesterday that $6 million is available to help New Yorkers suffering from serious health issues that are aggravated by extreme heat purchase an air conditioner.

Individuals can apply in person for cooling assistance through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) at their county department of social services.  

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which oversees the program, has set aside $6 million in federal funding to provide an air conditioning unit or fan to eligible households. Last summer, $5.5 million was allocated and a total of nearly 8,000 households received cooling assistance, compared to $3 million and 4,000 households in 2017.

To qualify, applicants must meet existing HEAP eligibility criteria and income guidelines, which vary by household size, and have at least one member of the household that suffers from a documented medical condition exacerbated by extreme heat. For example, a household of four can earn up to $55,178 a year, or $4,598 a month, and still qualify for assistance.

“The summer months can pose serious health risks to seniors and people with medical conditions that are sensitive to high temperatures. By making these funds available, New York is helping ensure that no one is exposed to extreme heat simply because they can’t afford an air conditioner and cooling. I applaud the Governor for continuing this successful program,” said Meeks.

Cooling assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. County departments of social services will accept applications through August 30, or until funding runs out.

Koo Says More G&T Schools Is Answer to Diversifying Specialized High Schools

City Council Member Peter Koo

City Council Member Peter Koo (D-Bayside, College Point, Flushing, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fresh Meadows and Whitestone) said yesterday that expanding the Department of Education’s (DOE) Gifted and Talented (G&T) programs to all school districts will go along way to diversifying specialized high schools throughout the city.

Koo’s comments came following the Council’s joint Education and Civil and Human Rights Committee hearing on segregation and diversity in NYC schools held yesterday.

“Today the DOE doubled down on its proposal to abolish the Specialized High School Admissions Test while continuing to downplay glaring disparities that exist across the city within the early childhood gifted and talented programs. While many specialized high school students take advantage of early childhood G&T schooling, there are still school districts in the Bronx and Brooklyn where none exist at all,” said Koo.

“The DOE’s own program map highlights this disparity by showing just one high-performing school district (SD20) with more G&T programs than in the entire borough of the Bronx. Such a lack of G&T programming close to home forces parents in these areas to send their children outside their zoned districts. I agree that increasing diversity should be a priority for our specialized high schools, but we must ensure children in every school district have the same opportunities to succeed at an advanced early childhood education. We must start by expanding G&T programming, not eliminating the SHSAT,” the lawmaker added.

Van Bramer To Cut Ribbon On New Basketball Courts At Ravenswood Houses

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (D- Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside) today will join NYCHA, Ravenswood Residents Association President Carol Wilkins, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House, and members of the Ravenswood community for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of new basketball courts at the Ravenswood Houses.

Van Bramer funded the $350,000 project after it received one of the highest number of votes from community members in the 2015-2016 Participatory Budgeting cycle. The renovations are part of the Council Member’s ongoing commitment to improving quality of life for residents of the Ravenswood Houses and in public housing throughout the district.

The ribbon cutting ceremony is slated for 4 p.m., today May 2 at the Ravenswood Houses, Block C; Behind the Community Center, 35-40 21st Street in Long Island City.

Weprin and Adoptee Advocates Push for Vote on Adoptee Rights Bill

Assembly Member David Weprin

Assemblyman David I. Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows, Richmond Hill) yesterday stood with adoptee rights advocates to push for passage of his legislation, A5494, The Clean Bill of Adoptee Rights.

The legislation establishes the right of adoptees to receive a certified copy of their birth certificate upon reaching the age of 18. The bill, which was first sponsored by Weprin in 2011 and currently has 89 co-sponsors, was reported out of the Assembly Health Committee, and now awaits a full vote.

The legislation restores important civil rights to adult adoptees such as their right to access information that non-adopted persons have a legal right to obtain. In New York State, an adoptee cannot access his or her original birth certificate unless the adoptee goes through a judicial proceeding which does not guarantee that access will be granted.

“The right of adoptees to access crucial information about their own lives is a human and civil right. It is time for New York, like many other states, to guarantee adoptees access to their original birth certificate so that they can gain knowledge of their family history and medical background,” said Weprin. “I applaud the Assembly Health Committee for reporting the bill out of committee and I look forward to the day that the bill passes the Assembly”