NY Lawmakers on the Move Aug. 11, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Meng legislation helping veterans exposed to radiation signed into law

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s (D-Queens) legislation to provide health care benefits for “Atomic Veterans” who were exposed to harmful radiation when they cleaned up nuclear testing sites during the late 1970s was signed into law yesterday as part of the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (Honoring Our PACT Act), a key veterans health bill.

Meng’s measure, entitled the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, will allow veterans who participated in the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll on the Marshall Islands to receive the same health care and benefits given to other veterans who were involved in active nuclear tests. From 1946 to 1958, the U.S. military conducted nuclear tests on the islands, but the thousands of servicemembers who cleaned up the area were never made eligible to receive health benefits.

The Honoring Our PACT Act is a sweeping bill that Meng helped pass in the House which expands healthcare to approximately 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their service, including smoke from burn pits and other airborne hazards. It creates presumptions for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers, such that they are assumed to have been caused by toxic substances. It is an issue that many Queens veterans have advocated for with Meng ever since she was first sworn into Congress.

“The enactment of my legislation will finally provide the brave veterans who cleaned up Enewetak Atoll with the health care they need and deserve,” said Meng. “It is way overdue and should not have taken decades to correct this injustice. We must take care of all our nation’s veterans, and that includes all who have cleaned-up nuclear testing sites and those exposed to hazardous materials. As I’ve said, we have a moral obligation to ensure needed care is delivered to our toxic-exposed veterans, and the Honoring our PACT Act will make sure that impacted veterans receive the assistance they require.”

City Council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus To Announce Monkeypox Legislative Package

City Council Member Crystal Hudson
City Council Member Tiffany Cabán

City Council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus members Crystal Hudson (D-Brooklyn), Tiffany Cabán (D-Queens), Erik Bottcher (D-Manhattan), Kristen Richardson Jordan (D-Queens), Lynn Schulman (D-Queens), Che Ossé (D-Brooklyn), and David Carr (R-Staten Island) today will unveil a first-in-the-nation legislative package aimed at combating the monkeypox outbreak.

This package will require the City to create a robust monkeypox response plan, establish an equity-based education and outreach strategy, ensure adequate vaccine access for communities most at risk of contracting the virus, strengthen monkeypox data reporting, and establish a permanent infectious disease vaccine scheduling portal. 

Members of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus and representatives from public health and LGBTQIA+ community organizations will be available to discuss the legislation at 9:30 a.m., today Aug. 11 at the Red Room, City Hall in Lower Manhattan.

Gianaris to MTA: Hold more open houses for Queens Bus Network redesign

Senator Michael Gianaris

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) yesterday called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to hold more in-person engagement in western Queens surrounding the Queens Bus Network Redesign plan. 

Gianaris sent a letter to the agencies encouraging them to plan more events in their series of open houses.  

“Queens commuters are heavily dependent on reliable bus service and any changes should inure to the benefit of riders,” said Gianaris. “To know what works best for riders, the MTA and DOT must have more outreach to them throughout the borough, and especially in western Queens. I encourage these agencies to expand their public outreach plan accordingly.”  

New York’s transit agencies are developing and implementing a plan to modernize bus routes throughout queens. The agencies have held a series of pop-up events and virtual workshops, as well as a current series of five in-person open houses across Queens to gauge public interest in the plan and solicit feedback. Of their in-person workshops, only one is being held in western Queens – in Jackson Heights.  

CM Gutierrez Holds hearing on failure of NYC Technological response

City Council MemberJennifer Gutiérrez

City Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Committee on Technology, yesterday held an emergency committee hearing on the failures of NYCs technological response under critical demand. 

At the hearing, Gutiérrez and committee members addressed the highly publicized failures in the rollout of the Monkeypox vaccine, and examined how the City continues to fall short in its technological responses to the pressing needs of the public. 

From the COVID-19 and Monkeypox vaccines, to ACCESS HRA and Housing Connect, the City’s websites are confusing, inconsistent, and failing New Yorkers. Buggy software, crashing websites, glitching applications, and poor community outreach are some of the issues that have plagued the City’s digital service delivery. 

Gutiérrez said as the city continues to invest millions of dollars in the digital transformation of our programs and services, it cannot allow the mistakes of the past to appear again in the future.