Political Odds & Ends, Dec. 27, 2021


Mayor-Elect Adams on Passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Mayor-Elect Eric Adams

Mayor-Elect Eric Adams mourned the passing of South African theologian, and anti-apartheid and human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died yesterday at 90.

“The passing of Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu is a heartbreaking loss for our global community. A champion of civil rights whose voice brought down apartheid in South Africa and advanced the fight for human and economic justice throughout the world, Archbishop Tutu’s advocacy resonated across generations, cultures, and communities. His lessons of love, justice, and empowerment have personally inspired me throughout my journey as a public servant,” said Adams.

“One quote of his in particular always stays with me: ‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in,’ Rest in power, Archbishop Tutu.”

Myrie Legislation Toughens Penalties for COVID Consumer Fraud

State Senator Zellnor Myrie
State Senator Zellnor Myrie

Sen. Zellnor Y. Myrie (D-Brooklyn) announced legislation last week that would sharply increase civil financial penalties for white-collar crime committed in connection with COVID-19, imposing a civil penalty of three times the amount of any unlawful gain (or $25,000, whichever is greater).

“Demand for PCR and at-home rapid COVID tests is at an all-time high, and some bad actors are exploiting the current surge to seek ill-gotten profit from New Yorkers,” said Myrie. “From false promises of 48-hour results turnaround times to sudden price increases on at-home test kits, companies are preying on us during this already difficult time. My bill would dramatically increase the cost of doing business for these white-collar fraudsters and scammers.”

The “COVID-19 Fraud Accountability Act,” (S.4954) would sharply increase civil financial penalties for white-collar crime committed in connection with COVID-19. The legislation defines “fraud in connection with an abnormal disruption of the market” in the General Business Law, and would increase penalties for white-collar crimes arising from the unique circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as future emergencies and market abnormalities defined by law. 

“COVID-19 has already wrought untold economic devastation to New Yorkers, especially upon those who had the least to begin with. On top of everything else, no one should have to contend with additional financial losses due to fraud in this incredibly challenging moment,” said Myrie.

AM Rosenthal, Liu Request Testing Sites for Isolated College Point Neighborhood

Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal
State Sen. John Liu

Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal (D-Queens) and State Senator John Liu (D-Queens) last week have requested testing sites for the geographically isolated area of College Point amidst surges in Covid positivity rates due to the Omicron variant. 

College Point already lacks access to hospitals and doctors, causing residents to travel miles and worsen wait times at other testing sites around the city. Compounded with limited public transportation options in the area, has been frustrating residents who say local city testing options are non-existent amidst the outbreak.

“The City continues to utilize College Point for municipal facilities projects year-after-year,” said Rosenthal. “Our residents are asked to support city services without any additional investment in infrastructure and resources. From treacherous road conditions to limited transportation options, it is inexcusable that the city has failed to act on behalf of more than 24,000 of its College Point constituents. On behalf of our residents, the Queens hospital system and the city’s wellbeing, City Hall must bring testing sites to this community.” 

“The lack of testing sites in northeast Queens underscores how woefully unprepared New York City was for the rapid surge of Omicron.” said Liu. “This isn’t our first rodeo. At this stage of the pandemic, there is really no excuse for New Yorkers to wait hours in line for a test and sometimes days for their results. The city needs to act immediately to provide more locations where New Yorkers can gain faster access to testing, vaccines and boosters.”

Skoufis, Rozic Legislation Allowing Remote Online Notarization Signed into Law

Assembly Member Nily Rozic

State Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Queens) announced last week that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law their legislation allowing for remote electronic notarization with the use of video conference technology. 

Limited remote notarization was authorized by Executive Order for the duration of the initial COVID-19 state of emergency. This law will ensure that safe and secure remote electronic notarization can continue on a permanent basis. 

“Evolving the antiquated process of notarization isn’t just about efficiency or ease — it’s about equity: enabling those who are homebound or otherwise unable to access these necessary services to do so,” said Skoufis. 

“Despite the increasing notarizations that occur every year, the industry has not adapted to societal changes and technological advances. Notarization still requires people to be physically present in front of a notary public, despite technology that would allow for the same — or increased — security over video conference calls,” said Nily Rozic. “Thank you to Governor Hochul for signing this long-overdue legislation that will allow all New Yorkers to access notarial services and would allow working people to have their documents notarized without losing wages for lost working hours spent at an in-person notary public.”

AM Rosenthal’s New Law Eases Overdose Crisis 

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) last week heralded the signing of her legislation into law requiring Medicaid to cover medication-assisted treatment (MAT) drugs, including all formulations of methadone, buprenorphine and Vivitrol. 

Rosenthal said prior authorization does not serve any medical purpose and instead is a bureaucratic tool used by insurance companies to control costs. For people struggling with substance use disorder, this delay has the potential to be deadly, because it delays or disrupts an individual’s treatment regimen, she said.

“New York lost more people in 2020 to preventable overdose than in any other year that records were kept. Eliminating prior authorization for MAT drugs for people covered by Medicaid represents a historic step forward in our work to end the overdose crisis,” said Rosenthal. “Every single overdose is a policy failure, and eliminating prior authorization will make it easier for people to access lifesaving MAT drugs. Addiction is a disease, and universal access to MAT should not be denied to anyone on the basis of income.”