Political Odds & Ends, Dec. 3, 2021


AOC Introduces HOPE Act to Encourage Expungement for Cannabis Offenses

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens/Bronx) and Dave Joyce (R-OH) yesterday introduced the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act. 

This bipartisan bill aims to help states with expunging cannabis offenses by reducing the financial and administrative burden of such efforts through federal grants. Both lawmakers have advocated for cannabis reform on their respective sides of the aisle, with Joyce sponsoring the first Republican-led effort to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level in the U.S. House.

“Having been both a public defender and a prosecutor, I have seen first-hand how cannabis law violations can foreclose a lifetime of opportunities ranging from employment to education to housing,” said Joyce. “The collateral damage caused by these missed opportunities is woefully underestimated and has impacted entire families, communities, and regional economies. By helping states establish and improve expungement programs for minor cannabis offenses, the HOPE Act will pave the way for expanded economic opportunities to thrive alongside effective investments to redress the consequences of the War on Drugs.”

“As we continue to advocate for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, this bipartisan bill will provide localities the resources they need to expunge drug charges that continue to hold back Americans, disproportionately people of color, from employment, housing and other opportunities,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

Prior to the introduction of the HOPE Act, Congress’ cannabis expungement efforts have focused solely on federal crimes. However, while a small number of individuals may qualify for the expungement of low-level, federal cannabis charges over the course of decades of enforcement, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of cannabis-related charges are handled by state and local law enforcement. 

In 2019, the federal government was only involved in a fraction of the 545,000 cannabis offenses charged in the United States. That year, the FBI charged only 5,350 individuals with a top-line charge for any drug offense, not just cannabis.

Persaud Hosts Aging in Place Community Conversation

Roxanne J. Persaud
State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud

State Sen. Roxanne J. Persaud (D-Brooklyn) next week is holding a virtual community conversation: Aging in Place – Public Benefits and Legal Decisions Around Care.

The lawmaker is calling on seniors, caregivers, family members and caring neighbors to attend. There will be informative presentations from the experts at LiveOn NY and Project Guardianship with Q&A to follow.

The event is slated for 6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 6. Register for the Zoom meeting here: https://bit.ly/3mWewdW. Don’t have Zoom? You can watch it (no log-in required) on Facebook at 6:00 PM on 12/6/2021: https://www.facebook.com/SD19SenatorPersaud: https://bit.ly/3mWewdW

Malliotakis Introduces Puppy Mill Bill 

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis. Photo from her Congressional website.

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) yesterday joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the Goldie’s Act, legislation that amends the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which is intended to protect dogs in puppy mills.

This legislation is a needed response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) abject failure to enforce the AWA and consistent pattern of abdicating its duties, which has led to untold animal suffering. The bill will require more frequent and meaningful inspections, confiscation of dogs who are suffering, imposition of deterring monetary penalties against licensees who violate the law, and require the USDA to share information with law enforcement agencies.

“Protecting animal welfare has been a priority of mine since my time in the New York State Assembly,” said Malliotakis. “I’m proud to continue to protect those without a voice by joining my colleagues in introducing legislation that would require the USDA to publicly report all animal welfare violations, remove animals from abusive environments and hold animal abusers accountable once and for all with strict penalties.”

Goldie’s Act is named in honor of Goldie, also known as “female Golden Retriever #142,” who was one of the hundreds of dogs who endured prolonged and extreme suffering while in the care of a puppy mill.

Hochul Signs Kaplan’s Legislation Supporting New York Small Businesses

Governor Kathy Hochul
State Sen. Anna Kaplan

Governor Kathy Hochul yesterday signed a package of legislation authored by Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-Long Island) that will help small business owners to cut through red tape and navigate State Government bureaucracy, and ensure that every small business owner is aware of the free resources that are available to them. 

The first bill, S.33/A.3456, will create a small business liaison within the Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Environmental Conservation, Labor, Transportation, and Taxation and Finance to assist and advocate for small businesses. The second bill, S.113a/A.6508a requires New York’s Secretary of State to send a list of helpful resources for small businesses to anyone who files a new business name or new LLC name.

“After helping my mom start a flower shop, I know how much hard work and dedication it takes to operate a small business,” said Hochul. “Small businesses have been hit hard over the past two years, and New York must do everything in our power to help them survive – and thrive. This legislative package will ensure State government can continue to be a partner and an advocate for small businesses across New York.”

Kaplan, chair of the New York State Senate Committee on Commerce, Economic Development, and Small Business, said small businesses have it hard enough as it is, so the government needs to do as much as it can to make life easier for them, and help them to access all the vital programs and services that are available. 

“By creating small business liaisons within State agencies, and providing every new business with a list of resources available to them, we can help small business owners to better navigate bureaucracy, and have the best chance at success,” said Kaplan.

Espaillat on the Reopening of Elevators at 181 Street Station 

U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat

U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan/Bronx) yesterday lauded the completion of the elevator replacement project at the 181 Street Subway Station, which is a 1-train stop in his district.

“I commend the MTA on today’s announcement to reopen the 181 Street 1 Station following completion of elevator replacements that was not only completely successfully, but ahead of the anticipated timeframe to provide upgraded services and direct access to our residents,” said Espaillat (NY-13). “The station sits at the center of an important transit hub adjacent to the vibrant 181st St. commercial district, a number of bus connections to the Bronx, and a number of schools. The MTA worked closely with my office and other local leaders to make certain that alternative transit services were available for residents and our neighbors who regularly use the station.”

The 181 Street 1 Station project included the full replacement of four elevators at the station, providing direct access to the northbound platform. Also included in this project was the installation of a new LiftNet system that will improve incident response time and a battery back-up system that will allow customers to exit the station by elevators, even during a power outage. A new CCTV camera system was installed, including two CCTV cameras per elevator along with a new fire alarm system.  

The completion at 181 Street signals the end of the broader elevator replacement work at five separate “deep” stations in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. For many customers, the elevators are utilized both for accessing the subway as well as more easily traversing the neighborhood’s unique, steep topography.