Queens Lawmakers On The Move Sept. 18, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Sanders’ New Laws Helps Taxpayers and MWBEs

State Sen. James Sanders Jr.

State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village. Far Rockaway) yesterday announced Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed two of his bills – one helping taxpayers and another helping Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) – this week.

Bill S.4585 / A.4420 will effectively expand the length of time to pay delinquent taxes in installments to 36 months. This bill provides people who fall behind on payments with the time to fully pay their delinquent taxes. As it currently stands, the 24 month time frame does not allow appropriate time for someone to catch up on payments after enduring a temporary financial hardship. This bill relieves this problem by extending the length of time to pay delinquent taxes by a calendar year. This legislation is optional for counties to adopt, and therefore non-intrusive to local governments.

“New Yorkers face many financial burdens, but this new law will alleviate at least one of them,” Sanders said. “A little extra time to catch up on paying one’s taxes can make a world of difference by preventing those who are struggling from falling deeper into debt.”

Bill S.3223 / A.3235 adds minority and women-owned businesses as a category that the superintendent shall take into account when evaluating whether banking institutions are helping to meet the credit needs of local communities. 

“Some institutions may already be helping MWBEs and we want to make sure that we reward those that do,” Sanders said. “We also want to make sure that banks are working to help low and moderate-income individuals stay in their homes.”

AG James Slams Fed Attempt to Circumvent Civil Rights Protections 

State Attorney General Letitia James

New York State Attorney General Letitia James yesterday joined a coalition of attorneys general in opposing a new Trump Administration rule undermining civil rights protections that prevent federal contractors from discriminating against employees. 

Under the proposed rule, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) would expand existing exemptions to allow any federal contractor who asserts a religious purpose to discriminate against current or prospective employees based on the religious or moral objections of the contractor. 

In a comment letter, the attorneys general urged the DOL to rescind the proposal and note, among other things, that it needlessly conflicts with protections afforded under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“This proposed rule legitimizes discrimination and is an affront to our values,” Attorney General James said. “We will not allow this administration to turn back the clock on civil rights without a vigorous fight. They would do well to remember that in America, our diversity is our strength and that hate has no home here.”

Under the new proposal, the DOL seeks to loosen the standards regarding the types of organizations that can self-identify as religious. As a result, DOL is opening the door for a broad range of employers, including for-profit corporations, to claim the exemption and discriminate against their employees based on any worker’s non-adherence to specific religious beliefs or practices as understood by the contractor. 

For example, as a result of the proposal, a gay or transgender employee could potentially be required to adhere to the religious tenets of a for-profit corporation’s owners or board or face the possibility of termination. 

In the comment letter, the attorneys general highlight how this expansion of the exemption would directly conflict with existing protections afforded under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and describe how the rule would harm the states’ residents.

Constantinides Endorses Warren For President

City Council Member Costa Constantinides

City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) yesterday endorsed U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for President of the United States.

Constantinides, who was instrumental in passing the the Green New Deal for New York City legislation and who recently announced his run for Queens Borough President, said the country deserve a leader with a clear vision for fighting climate change, who will stand up to Wall Street and deep-pocketed special interests, and who will make sure no one has to worry about losing their home. 

“Senator Elizabeth Warren has proven she’s ready to take on those fights, which is why I am proud to endorse her to be the next President of the United States. She has an ambitious plan to combat the causes and effects of climate change, in the same way we have here in New York City with the Climate Mobilization Act,” said Constantinides, chair of the council’s Committee on Environmental Protection.

“Senator Warren has the rare ability to filter out the noise created by those too afraid to act on climate change and knows that solving this crisis leads to better opportunities, greater mobility, and a safer future,” the lawmaker added.

Koo Introduces New Korean Community Liaison

City Council Member Peter Koo

City Council Member Peter Koo (D-Bayside, College Point, Flushing, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fresh Meadows and Whitestone ) yesterday announced the hiring of Joonyong Ahn as his Director of Community Affairs and Korean Community Liaison.

Ahn is a Flushing resident and a graduate of Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. He is former editor and reporter for the Korea Daily, and he most recently returned from Korea where he spent the last four years working in marketing for a healthcare company. He is also tri-lingual, speaking English, Korean, and Chinese.

As the Director of Community Affairs, he will work in partnership with community-based organizations to develop and implement programs that will assist the residents of Council District 20, and to serve as a liaison to the Korean-speaking community.

“I am delighted to welcome Joonyong Ahn to our office where I am confident he will serve remarkably as our Director of Community Affairs and Korean Community Liaison. Joonyong has a deep understanding of the city’s political landscape and a long-standing relationship with the Flushing community from his years serving as a reporter and editor here in Flushing.  I encourage our residents to get to know Joonyong, and look forward to working with him to continue our office’s legacy of advocacy with the community,” said Koo.

Gillibrand Urges Extension of National Flood Insurance Plan

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) yesterday urged the Senate leadership to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is set to expire at the end of this month.

Gillibrand also said that any legislation concerning the program should include her reforms to fix the current broken system and make flood insurance policies more affordable for New Yorkers.

Gillibrand helped write the bipartisan National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization and Reform (NFIP Re) Act of 2019, which would extend the NFIP for five years and fix the problems plaguing the program. The NFIP Re Act of 2019 was introduced in the Senate earlier this summer, but there has yet to be any meaningful action to pass this bill. 

“Helping our communities prepare for and recover from the devastation caused by flooding should be one of our highest priorities here in the Senate, especially as so many states continue to be hit with extreme weather. The National Flood Insurance Program is meant to protect households in New York and across the country from the losses that follow major flooding, but for too many New Yorkers, flood insurance is becoming unaffordable. Additionally, following Superstorm Sandy, we learned that our National Flood Insurance Program is broken and riddled with fraud,” said Gillibrand. 

“Congress has the chance now to fix this broken system. The NFIP Re Act of 2019 contains my reforms to make the flood insurance program more affordable, transparent, and accountable, and that’s why I am calling on Senate leaders to put this bill on the floor for a vote without delay,” she added.

Cuomo Implements First-In-Nation Ban On Flavored E-Cigarettes

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday announced that New York State is the first state in the nation to implement a ban on the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes and nicotine e-liquids.

The announcement came following a Public Health and Health Planning Council vote on emergency regulations on the products. The ban, which is now in effect, is the latest in a series of actions to combat the increase in young people using vape products, largely as a result of e-cigarette companies marketing flavors that are intended to get children addicted to nicotine.

“It is undeniable that vaping companies are deliberately using flavors like bubblegum, Captain Crunch and cotton candy to get young people hooked on e-cigarettes – it’s a public health crisis and it ends today,” said Cuomo. “New York is not waiting for the federal government to act, and by banning flavored e-cigarettes we are safeguarding the public health and helping prevent countless young people from forming costly, unhealthy and potentially deadly life-long habits.”

On Sunday, Cuomo directed the Department of Health to convene an emergency meeting of PHHC to consider this ban. The Governor also directed State Police and DOH to immediately partner to ramp up enforcement efforts against retailers who sell to underage youth, with the possibility of criminal penalties, in addition to announcing that he will advance legislation to ban deceptive marketing of e-cigarettes to teens and children.