NY Lawmakers on the Move, Feb. 18, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Lavine Announces Legislation to Modernize and Simplify State Court System

Assembly Member Charles D. Lavine

Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles D. Lavine (D-Glen Cove) yesterday announced proposals to achieve long-overdue reform and simplification of the state’s overly complicated court system. 

The initial announcement was made by New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore as part of her State of the Judiciary speech.  Similar legislation is also being sponsored in the Senate, by Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).  

The proposal, which requires a constitutional amendment to be enacted, consolidates New York’s major trial courts into the State Supreme Court, consolidates the trial courts of lesser jurisdiction (not including the Justice Courts) into a new statewide Municipal Court, and permits the Legislature, once every ten years, to adjust the number and boundaries of the appellate Judicial Departments. 

The new structure would enhance access to justice for low-income, non-white and long marginalized communities by untangling a labyrinthian system that is hundreds of years old. It also would save millions in legal costs for low-income litigants, provide a greater platform for the advancement and promotion of judges, and allow greater flexibility for judges to be assigned where needed.

“For generations, New York State has had one of the most archaic, complex, and bureaucratic court systems in the nation. The result has been a two-tiered system that creates radically different experiences for litigants depending on their racial, economic, and geographic backgrounds, and costs everyone time and money,” said Lavine.

“We believe that after more than a half-century, the time for reform has finally come. Society demands that we master this moment and change this structure in order to ensure equal access to justice for all New Yorkers. I look forward to working with the members of the Assembly, the Senate, and the Chief Judge to push for first passage this year and advance the cause of equal justice for all,” the lawmaker added.

Maloney Emphasizes Importance of CDFIs and MDIs for Low-Income Communities 

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney

U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn), senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, this week spoke at a committee meeting about the vital importance of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) on serving low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color. 

She also underscored the significance of these institutions in ensuring a more equitable recovery long-term.

“I’ve been an advocate and a fan of the work of CDFIs and MDIs. These institutions are able to effectively serve low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color at higher rates than their financial institution counterparts. Each year on a bipartisan basis, I lead approximately 100 of our colleagues in requesting additional support for the CDFI Fund’s annual appropriations, and this past year we were successful in securing an increase of $60 million over the previous fiscal year in the House-passed bill,” said Maloney. 

“The CDFI Fund provides resources for a range of innovative and effective programs through this appropriation that enable CDFIs to address the needs of their targeted markets. This committee knows MDIs and CDFIs are an integral part of ensuring equitable access to financial services. That’s why we fought to ensure dedicated funds and boosted support for them in the various COVID recovery packages,” she added.

Addabbo Hosts Webinar About Free Tax Prep

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) is partnering with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) to bring a free virtual webinar for a discussion about free tax prep for his constituents. 

DCWP’s City-funded NYC Free Tax Prep program offers multiple options to file for free, including in-person, drop-off, virtual and online services. Families with dependents who earned $72,000 or less in 2020 and individuals who earned $50,000 or less can use NYC Free Tax Prep. Filers should check the eligibility requirements and choose the filing option that is best for them. Anyone who lives or works in New York City can use NYC Free Tax Prep. 

“Tax season is here and the deadline to file your taxes is right around the corner,” Addabbo said. “That is why I am sponsoring this Free Tax Preparation and Financial Counseling webinar in conjunction with DCWP. Your taxes may be different from what you’re used to in 2021, especially if you were impacted by the COVID pandemic by losing a job or having received unemployment benefits. If you qualify, you can have your taxes done for free through the NYC Free Tax Prep program. 

The webinar is slated for between 7-8 p.m., Wednesday, March 9. To join this free webinar, visit https://tinyurl.com/FTP-webinar, or to view a livestream of the webinar, visit facebook.com/nycdca. 

Nadler Announces ARPA-E Grants Awarded to Columbia University

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn) yesterday announced that Columbia University was awarded two grants totaling more than $4.8 million from ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) as part of the agency’s new OPEN 2021 program. 

These grants will advance technologies for a wide range of areas, including electric vehicles, offshore wind, storage and nuclear recycling. These investments will increase domestic clean energy technology production, strengthen the nation’s energy security, and uplift the economy by creating good-paying jobs. 

The grants were awarded to the following projects:

Lithium-Ion Bobbin Cells for Grid Scale Energy Storage ($1,498,553) and High Capacity Electrolyzers Based on Ultrathin Proton-Conducting Oxide Membranes ($3,375,712)

“I am incredibly proud to once again join my alma mater in announcing a new set of grants earmarked for the development of critical technologies,” said Nadler. “This new round of grants demonstrates why the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia is a worldwide leader in innovation and will help ensure it remains so. I want to thank the researchers, professors, and students at Columbia for their hard work, and I applaud their endless drive toward academic and scientific excellence.”

Salamanca, Riley, Velázquez Support Creation of Permanent Outdoor Dining Program 

City Council Member Rafael Salamanca
City Council Member Kevin Riley
City Council Member Marjorie Velazquez

Bronx City Council Members Rafael Salamanca, Kevin Riley, and Marjorie Velázquez yesterday all threw their support behind the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises and the Committee on Land Use vote to recommend the approval of a zoning proposal, which is a first step in creating a permanent outdoor dining program for New York City.  

The next step in creating a permanent outdoor program is the passage of legislation in the coming months, which will help to support an industry that has employed hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and has been a bright spot in a very challenging time for the City. 

“The zoning that is in place today doesn’t allow sidewalk dining in vast stretches of our City,” said Riley, chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. “Going forward, it is important that we create a program that accommodates the needs of all stakeholders. Together, the New York City Council will continue to support restaurant owners and employees who depend on these businesses to support their families while addressing key community concerns that maintain the quality of life and character of our community. I look forward to working with the Speaker, my colleagues, my community, and the Mayor’s team to get this program right.” 

“After almost two years of temporary rules to respond to the pandemic, now is the time to create a program that learns the lessons from the last two years and addresses the concerns that have been raised,” said Salamanca, chair of the Committee on Land Use. “I look forward to continuing to work closely with the administration, community boards, restaurant owners and other stakeholders on the corresponding legislation that will enhance the outdoor dining program, while speaking to the feedback we received during our hearing.” 

“Over the course of an over eight-hour hearing, I heard loud and clear the many concerns about sanitation, noise pollution, pedestrian safety, designing, accessibility, and enforcement from people all over the City,” said Velázquez, chair of the Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection. “I questioned the relevant City agencies so we could begin the work to find solutions to many of these issues. Restaurants are run by hard-working people and their success impacts not just their livelihoods but countless employees and other businesses, and they need our support. Along with my colleagues, I look forward to crafting a bill that includes a permanent solution and takes all stakeholders’ perspectives into account. I want to thank Speaker Adams, Chairs Salamanca and Riley for their partnership in this effort.” 

The zoning proposal will come before the full Council on February 24.