NY Lawmakers on the Move, Jan. 24, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Hochul Signs Legislation Allowing Absentee Ballots through 2022

Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday signed legislation to allow voting by absentee ballot due to the COVID-19 pandemic through 2022. 

This measure continues to allow New Yorkers to request an absentee ballot during the pandemic where there is a risk of contracting or spreading disease that may cause illness to the voter or other members of the public. This legislation first became law in July of 2020, and expired December 31, 2021.

“No one should have to choose between exercising their right to vote and protecting their health and safety,” said Hochul. “This legislation will ensure the pandemic does not create inaccessibility for voters during upcoming elections and help protect New Yorkers’ access to the ballot.”

Absentee ballot applications for the February 15 special elections in the 60th and 72nd Assembly districts are open through January 31 by mail, until February 14 in-person and can be submitted by mail or in-person until February 15. More information on absentee voting and how to apply for an absentee ballot is available here.

In addition, Hochul proposed in her 2022 State of the State a number of proposals to strengthen voting rights protections in New York State, including a state-level voting rights act to protect against voter suppression, improving language access for voters, lowering the voter registration deadline from 25 days to 10 days before Election Day, and requiring polling locations on college campuses.

Velázquez Introduces Bill to Aid Vets Suffering From Hearing Damage

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (Photo Credit: ballotpedia.org)
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez

U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) Friday announced she has re-introduced the Hear our Heroes Act, which would provide crucial health benefits for veterans injured while serving in the armed forces. 

Specifically, the legislation would help veterans suffering from tinnitus or hearing loss to obtain medical care through the Veterans Administration (VA).

“Supporting our veterans requires all of us doing our part to ensure they can access the benefits they deserve, whether it is when they return immediately from abroad or later in life,” said Velázquez. “We cannot make up for the physical and emotional wounds sustained during combat, but we can fill this devastating coverage gap in our medical care system. This includes offering medical services to those who have lost their hearing or are developing hearing problems as a result of their sacrifice to our country.”

A 2017 Department of Veterans Affairs report found hearing loss and tinnitus to be among the most prevalent service-connected injuries. Since these ailments often develop five, ten, or fifteen years after service, VA rules requiring documented proof that injuries were obtained in the line of duty can create hurdles for veterans seeking assistance. 

Velázquez’s bill would eliminate burdensome documentation requirements for veterans seeking medical treatment for hearing problems. It will also allow health care providers who treat veterans for hearing ailments to receive compensation from the VA.

Meng Renews Commitment to Increase Fed Funding for Security at Houses of Worship

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) on Friday renewed her commitment to seek additional funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program – the federal initiative that provides houses of worship and nonprofit organizations with federal grants to improve the safety and security of their properties.   

Meng’s renewal to the funding follows the hostage standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee – the panel that funds all of the federal government’s agencies, programs, and projects – Meng secured a record-breaking $180 million for the program for fiscal year 2021, and she is fighting for $360 million for the current fiscal year.

“For years, I have underscored how crucial the Nonprofit Security Grant Program is to keeping our communities safe,” said Meng. “I have also pushed for additional funding for these grants, and the hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas once again illustrated how essential this need is. As I’ve said, we can never take a backseat to safety. It must always be the top priority. I am proud to have helped increase funding for this program, and I will continue fighting for even more money so that additional houses of worship and nonprofits can protect themselves from threats and attacks.”

Assembly Republicans Offer “Inflation Relief & Consumer Assistance Plan”

Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay

Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)  and members of the Assembly Republican Conference will hold a press conference today to push for the passage of the “Inflation Relief & Consumer Assistance Plan.” 

Ther measure comes as inflation hits a 40-year high. It calls for a two-year suspension of state sales tax on many everyday purchases New Yorkers rely upon such as gasoline, household products, to-go food orders and personal-care items.

The press conference is slated for 12 noon, today, Jan. 24, at the State Capitol, 3rd Floor, Million Dollar Staircase in Albany.