Queens Lawmakers On The Move July 30, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Velázquez Bill Would Help Cannabis Firms Secure Insurance

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez

U.S. Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Queens, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan) and Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) have introduced H.R. 4074, the Clarifying Law Around Insurance Marijuana (CLAIM) Act, which would help businesses operating in the rapidly growing cannabis sector to obtain insurance products. 

“Due to discrepancies in federal and state law, insurers are understandably reluctant to provide coverage to legitimate, cannabis-based businesses,” said Velázquez.  “Without casualty, property and title insurance coverage, the growth of this industry will be impeded if not blocked entirely.”

The CLAIM Act establishes a federal “safe harbor,” preventing federal criminal prosecution of insurers that transact with consumers and would prevent civil liability for agents, brokers and insurers that do business with the cannabis sector.

“Without this legislation, insurers will understandably be reticent to insure businesses operating in the cannabis sector,” Velázquez added.  “This means a legal cannabis distributor whose product is ruined from a flood or fire could lose all their capital and their livelihood. This bipartisan bill corrects these problems and I’m proud to introduce it.”

In addition to the insurance provisions, the Velázquez measure would require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of hurdles facing women and minority entrepreneurs interested in entering the cannabis sector.

“For far too long, minority communities bore the brunt of our country’s backward marijuana policies,” Velázquez added. “As we normalize these products and this becomes a business, we must ensure minorities, women and other disadvantaged groups are able to enter this market and profit from this burgeoning industry.”

The CLAIM Act has been referred to the House Financial Services Committee, of which Velázquez is the third most senior member. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate.

Meng Advocates For Increased Education On Broadband Width

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park), House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC), and members of the House Task Force on Rural Broadband sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday urging his agency to reverse its decision to eliminate education requirements for the Educational Broadband Service (EBS).

EBS’ origins date back to 1960 when then-Senator John F. Kennedy envisioned educational television as having the ability to reach many people throughout the nation. As a result of his vision, the Instructional Fixed Television Service (IFTS) was created to distribute licenses to educational institutions that promised to deliver instructional television services to schools. In 2004, IFTS was renamed and reimagined to EBS to encourage the use of broadband for educational purposes. 

While the FCC’s decision establishes a priority filing window for Tribal Nations—which is positive – striking the educational requirements for EBS will be especially harmful to rural communities across the country.

“EBS has connected millions of Americans, particularly in rural areas, and they are able to start businesses, connect with family and friends, apply for jobs, and complete their homework,” said Meng. “The FCC’s decision to gut the educational requirements for EBS is a step backwards and will make it harder for rural Americans to access the internet. I want to thank House Majority Whip Clyburn for establishing the Task Force on Rural Broadband whose mission is to end the rural-digital divide. If Chairman Pai seriously wants to close the digital divide, he will reverse the EBS decision.”

Gillibrand Announces “Resilient Highways Act”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, yesterday announced new legislation to provide more flexibility for New York State and states across the country to use their federal transportation funding for projects that make bridges and highways more resilient to the impacts of sea-level rise, extreme weather, and climate change. 

Gillibrand’s Resilient Highways Act of 2019 would incentivize investments in strengthening highway infrastructure to protect against future floods and natural disasters, saving money in the long-term.

The proposed measure comes as the state and city has experienced significant infrastructure damage in recent years due to extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee. 

“Families and business owners across our state are already seeing firsthand the enormous damage that rising sea levels and extreme weather – the consequences of climate change – are having on our roads and bridges,” said Gillibrand. “Congress has a responsibility to make sure our states have the resources they need to protect their most essential infrastructure from the worst damage, and that’s what the Resilient Highways Act would help do. I’m proud to introduce this urgently needed bill and pleased it was included in America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 that will be marked up in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week.”

Gianaris Announces Gun Safety Reform Is Enacted Into Law

State Senator Michael Gianaris

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven) announced yesterday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed his 30-day background check waiting period into law. 

The bill, S.2374, passed the Senate as part of a historic package of gun safety reforms. 

“Common sense gun safety reform will save lives, period. Stronger background checks will keep guns away from dangerous people,” said Gianaris. “I am proud to have written some of America’s toughest gun safety laws and to be part of a new New York Senate which prioritizes the safety of our families and schools. I’m glad the Governor enacted this important measure.” 

According to the Giffords Law Center, only Washington and New Jersey have waiting periods of up to 30 days. 

Vallone Joins Bayside High School PTA in Fight for Fair Funding

City Council Member Paul Vallone

City Council Member Paul Vallone (D-Alley Pond Park, Bay Terrace, Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, East Elmhurst, Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Little Neck, Whitestone) and the Bayside High School Parent Teacher Association are calling on the Department of Education (DOE) to increase funding to one of the city’s top-performing high schools. 

In previous school years, Bayside High School has only received 83% -90% of the funding amount expected based upon the DOE’s own formula. Funding shortfalls for the coming year will result in cutting the career and technical programs, a significant part of what attracts 12,000 annual applicants to the school. 

In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg implemented Fair Student Funding (FSF), a formula that pools and distributes city, state and federal school funding allocations to each city school. FSF is the main source of money for most schools and is based on a “weighted pupil-funding model.” With input from the School Leadership Team, principals decide how to spend these funds to meet basic educational needs and operating expenses at their schools.

Over the last decade, Bayside High School has faced consistent shortfalls in Fair Student Funding. The majority of city schools, particularly large high schools, face the same issue.

For years, Bayside High School has consistently placed as one of the top-performing schools in the city. The graduation rate has increased in recent years to 98%, the third-highest graduation rate for large schools in the city. A total of 96% of students graduate with college credit.

“Despite its name, this program is clearly not fair to our students at Bayside High School and our high schools in Northeast Queens,” said Vallone. “Year after year, Bayside High School has proven itself to be among the best performing schools in the City, but was shortchanged by nearly three million dollars in the most recent school year alone. Strides to bring Bayside High School fair funding are critical to ensure educators have the resources they need to contribute to continued student success and high graduation rates. I applaud the Parent Teacher Association on their call for true equity and I will continue advocacy efforts at City Hall.”

Katz, NYCEDC Launch “Jamaica Is” Initiative

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, the city’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Jamaica NOW Leadership Council yesterday launched a citywide,13-week-long marketing campaign that aims to elevate local businesses and promote economic growth in the southeast Queens neighborhood of Jamaica.

Through a partnership with NYC + Company, the “Jamaica Is,” campaign will appear on bus shelters and DOITT’s Link NYC kiosks throughout the city. The campaign is part of the City’s Jamaica NOW action plan and was implemented to promote the neighborhood’s history, eclectic restaurants, local arts and small businesses as a destination for families, innovation and culture.  

“In the four years since the launch of the innovative $153 million Jamaica NOW Action Plan, Jamaica’s emergence as a modern hub of entrepreneurship, ingenuity and culture has been a boon to all those who live, work and visit this historic neighborhood,” said Katz.

“The Jamaica NOW Action Plan was designed to promote responsible growth while bringing needed services to Jamaica. Today, we celebrate the successes of the last four years as we realize the true potential of Jamaica as both an economic engine of our city and an ideal place to raise a family, a great place to work and a cultural destination. By marketing the many accomplishments of Jamaica NOW at bus shelters and LinkNYC kiosks citywide — reaching thousands of New Yorkers each day — we can achieve just that,” she added.