Brooklyn Lawmakers on the Move Feb. 1, 2021

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Schumer:The Senate Must Move FWD On Three Essential Items

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) yesterday announced a plan for the next three weeks that concerns cabinet nominations, COVID relief, and impeachment. 

Schumer said we can—and we must— keep the focus on all three of these efforts as he made the case to equip the Biden cabinet with its essential staff, beat back COVID-19 and hold the former president accountable for inciting the insurrection. 

“We have three essential items on our plate: one, the confirmation of President Biden’s cabinet and other key officials. Two, legislation to provide desperately needed COVID relief. Three, a second impeachment trial of Donald Trump,” said Schumer. “The Senate must—and will—advance all three in the next few weeks: COVID relief, confirmation of nominees, and impeachment trial. The stakes are too high on each front for any gratuitous delay. The American people expect the president to have a fully equipped cabinet, progress on further COVID relief and they want to see the former president held to account.”

Schumer said moving forward on these three essential items is crucial and that he will fight hard to advance them all. With the impeachment trial required by law, key cabinet nominations ranging from HHS to the Attorney General still in the queue, and the sustained need for COVID relief, Schumer detailed what must happen next to advance each effort. He said, in concert with the House, that the Senate is finally able to address these major challenges facing our country and that it will seize the moment on behalf of all Americans.  

Felder Lauds Fed Monitor of City’s Special Ed Program 

Sen. Simcha Felder

State Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Boro Park, Midwood) this weekend lauded a federal court’s decision to install a “special master” to ensure that the city quickly complies with legal orders to provide special education services.

The federal monitor comes after parents win legal orders through an administrative hearing process, but in the past it has taken them months if not years to get compliance

“For years, we have been fighting New York City’s broken and punishing special education process. Instead of promised improvements, it has only gotten worse. I am cautiously optimistic that a Federal Monitor will finally help bring the improvements that parents and their special needs children so desperately deserve,” said Felder.

According to reports, a federal judge approved a “special master” to make sure the city complies with legal orders to ensure special education service after parents win them after administrative hearing processes. 

Adams Statement of City’s Demographic Data Release 

Borough President Eric Adams

Borough President Eric Adams released a statement on the city’s initial release of the demographic breakup for who is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“For weeks, I have called for DOHMH to release the racial demographic data in real time on who is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine — and now that we finally have it, it is exactly what we feared. The failure to administer this vaccine to the populations in greatest need, communities that have suffered the most from the inequitable impact of the pandemic, is a stain on City Hall’s reputation that won’t soon be erased,” said Adams. 

“New York City must immediately: 1) direct the bulk of its vaccine resources to getting the next doses into high-risk communities of color; 2) not wait for any federal money to increase doses to Black and Brown communities and other high-risk populations; 3) install rigorous checks to prevent non-New York City residents from receiving doses assigned to city residents; 4) implement my equity and efficiency plan — introduced in the City Council last week — to ensure speedier and more equitable distribution of the vaccine.”

Colton Demanding to Restore Middle School Screenings   

Assembly Member William Colton

Assemblyman William Colton (D–Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights) is pleased that a great number of the elected officials from the city and state levels of government joined him in a letter to the Mayor and NYC Schools Chancellor demanding to restore screenings and auditions in middle schools’ admission policies.

“Elected officials showed an enormous concern regarding the Mayor’s and NYC Chancellor’s announcement on the elimination of middle school screens. Parents are outraged that middle school admissions will be by the lottery this year and not by merit of the student’s performance. The Mayor and Chancellor have disregarded the 70% of the concerned voices that spoke out to maintain screens at the Admissions Engagement Forum in June. They repeatedly delayed the announcement of these drastic changes until the day before winter break. The news has completely shaken the confidence of families throughout the city in our administration. The parents and students deserve to have a less confusing and more consistent process during this chaotic time,” Colton stated.

“The new lottery for middle school admissions creates unfairness for all students. Children’s education should not be based on random luck but instead, be focused on individual student needs. Lotteries do not attempt to match students with schools and programs that meet their academic needs, talents, and supports. Chancellor Carranza mysteriously mentioned the lack of data as a key reason to remove academic-based admissions criteria for middle schools, although acknowledged that such data exists, and can be used for high school admissions. The DOE is proceeding with talent auditions for high schools but refuses to do the same for 5th graders. This so-called “pause” will have a long-standing impact on students and we cannot allow it,” Colton continued.

The parents are grateful that many elected officials are opposing the changes that were made by the Mayor and Chancellor and will not accept any changes to the Middle Schools’ admission. Parents and students are entitled to the clarifications and the proposed lottery must be immediately cured. We will not allow the Mayor and Chancellor to scrap Gifted and Talented admission policies. We will not stand by and permit them to destroy our children’s future. The fight will continue until we will prevail in the fight against such illogical educational policies by this administration,” Colton added.

Jeffries Bipartisan Bill to Apply Attorney-Client Privilege 

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

U.S. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Queens) last week reintroduced the Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act. 

This bipartisan legislation would bring prison policy into the 21st Century by applying attorney-client privilege to electronic communications sent or received through the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) email system. In 2020, the bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. 

“Most fair-minded individuals understand that our system of justice requires a dynamic where people have access to the effective assistance of counsel necessary to adequately defend themselves. This is not just common sense—it is a constitutionally-protected right. The ability to send and receive confidential electronic communications has never been more important now that email has become the safest and most efficient way for attorneys and their incarcerated clients to communicate,” said Jeffries.  

Specifically, the bill would: Require the Attorney General to ensure that BOP’s email system excludes from monitoring the contents of electronic communications between an incarcerated person and their attorney or an agent of their attorney; Stipulate that the protections and limitations associated with the attorney-client privilege — including the crime fraud exception — apply to electronic communications sent or received through the BOP email system;  Permit BOP to retain the contents of electronic communications until the incarcerated person is released but specifies that the contents may only be accessed under very limited circumstances; and allow a court — upon motion of the defendant — to suppress evidence obtained or derived from access to the retained contents if such contents were accessed in violation of the act.

Stringer Wants More Holocaust Education 

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer called on the State and City to expand Holocaust education and hate crime awareness and prevention in middle and high schools to combat discrimination and religious intolerance. 

Stringer proposed surveying school compliance with Holocaust education; providing outreach and additional resources for coursework, instruction, and curriculum; improving teacher training; and increasing news literacy to help students identify misinformation.

“The egregious display of anti-Semitism during the attack on our nation’s Capitol and uptick in hate crimes around our city are a wake-up call that we must re-commit to educating our young people on the dangers of prejudice and bigotry,” said Stringer. “Schools are an important gateway for teaching civic values, and it is our duty to develop citizens who will stand up against discrimination and promote inclusion and acceptance. It starts in the classroom. That’s why the City should provide more outreach, resources, and training to make sure schools are equipped to effectively teach about the Holocaust, bias, and hate crimes. We cannot delay any longer to improve Holocaust education in our schools – our current students, future generations, and our society depends on it.”

To strengthen and expand Holocaust education, Stringer and Assemblymember Rozic called for:

The New York State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education to survey all middle and high schools’ compliance with teaching Holocaust education in grades 8, 10, and 11, as called for in Assemblymember Rozic’s legislation, Assembly Bill A472. Outreach and additional resources for schools concerning course work, instruction, and curriculum related to the Holocaust. Teacher training to better equip educators to effectively teach about the Holocaust, hate, and discrimination. Increased news literacy for all students to help them identify misinformation, including dangerous misinformation about the Holocaust.