Queens Lawmakers On The Move Feb. 5, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Cruz, Weprin Support Legislation To Halt Solitary Confinement

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.
Assemblymember David Weprin

Assembly Members Catalina Cruz (D-Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) and David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows, Richmond Hill) joined other legislators and advocates yesterday to urge the legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to enact the #HALTsolitary Confinement Act.

Leading mental health organizations, along with survivors of solitary confinement, their family members, and other mental health advocates say solitary confinement has long been known to cause devastating mental health harm to all people subjected to the practice, and New York continues to hold hundreds of people with pre-existing mental health conditions, and thousands of other people, in solitary confinement each day.

A recent study found that people who spend time in solitary are much more likely to die upon release from prison, including because of increased rates of suicide. The New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health Association in New York State and other top mental health advocacy groups have also long endorsed and advocated ending solitary confinement.

“I fully support the immediate passage of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act.  This is a bill that should have been brought to the floor and passed last session, and it must be made a priority this session.  We must stop the cruel and inhumane treatment of incarcerated people and improve the way we treat individuals who interface with our criminal justice system,” said Cruz.

“Ensuring public safety does not require the disregard of justice and basic fairness. By passing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, we can put an end to the devastating effects that come from extended isolated confinement while taking a significant step towards reforming our criminal justice system,” said Weprin, chair of the assembly Correction Committee.

BP Lee Unveils New Paid Parental Leave Policy For Queens Borough President’s Office

Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee yesterday announced a new policy for all employees of the Queens Borough President’s Office (QBPO): 12 weeks of fully-paid parental leave, effective immediately. 

This new agency-specific paid parental leave benefit is separate from and supplements other city, state and federal family/parental leave policies.

Combining both the new QBPO-specific 12-week policy and already existing plans, all QBPO employees – both managerial and non-managerial – will be eligible for up to 24 weeks of paid parental leave for the birth, formal adoption and/or foster care of a child or children.

“Our nation lags severely behind other industrialized nations when it comes to paid parental leave,” said Lee. “Queens, however, is the Borough of Families, of all shapes, sizes and forms. We recognize that building a family is a precious and significant life event for everyone involved. We also recognize that a baby or child of a non-managerial employee deserves no less bonding time than one of a managerial employee. This new, family-focused paid parental leave policy is designed to move our agency of municipal workers closer to fairness, equity and the values we all share and hold dear. If it’s good for families, it’s good for Queens.”

Meng Statement Ahead of Trump Speech Asks That Issues be Addressed

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), a member of the House Appropriations Committee—which funds all federal agencies and programs—issued the following statement ahead of President Trump’s State of the Union speech tonight.

“The State of the Union is an opportunity to bring together the nation around our shared values and norms; it is a time to heal divisions and speak to our better angels. This evening, I hope President Trump will address three critical issues that affect all Americans: health care, paid family leave, and infrastructure.

“Everyone deserves access to affordable, quality health care. Many Americans confront astronomical health care and prescription drug costs or fear they may lose coverage because of pre-existing conditions—forcing people to decide between purchasing life-saving medications or heating their homes; paying their mortgages or feeding their families. These are impossible choices; it is simply wrong. The House Democratic Majority has advanced a bold agenda to rein in the cost of prescription drugs and has pushed back against attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Hearing the President’s vision on this issue is important.

“In addition, many Americans lack paid family leave benefits and are forced to choose between caring for a loved one or keeping their job. This is wrong. Last year, Democrats successfully secured 12 weeks of paid family leave for federal employees. This is just the first step and all workers should have this benefit. That it is why House Democrats are proud to champion legislation like the FAMILY Act (H.R. 1185) which would ensure families don’t have to make the cruel decision between caring for a loved one or their job.

“Lastly, our infrastructure is crumbling—literally—across the nation. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave a D+ for U.S. infrastructure. It is time for our nation to address this issue in a bipartisan fashion. We need a bold infrastructure package that creates good-paying jobs for Americans, preserves the environment, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This should not be a partisan issue; rebuilding our nation is in everyone’s interest,” Meng said.

Williams Disturbed by Trumps State of the Union

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said last night it was “deeply disturbing to see [President] Donald Trump employ tokenism and tribalism alike tonight, pretending to stand with communities of more color in order to disguise the bigotry of his policies, conduct, and history” in his State of the Union speech last night.

Williams noted it was surreal to hear about ‘criminal justice reform’ from the same man who condemned five young black teenagers to death – formerly the Central Park Five, now known as the Exonerated Five – the man who to this day refuses to admit their innocence.

“Nothing the President said in the State of the Union Address, no promise he made or lie he told, can obscure or erase that he has been impeached for betraying the people he was sworn to serve and the Constitution he pledged to uphold. The state of our federal government is such that he may get away with this shameful behavior in the Senate, but the people still have the power to hold him accountable,” said Williams.