NY Lawmakers on the Move, Aug. 30, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Myrie, Jackson urge credit card companies to take action against gun violence

State Senator Zellnor Myrie
State Senator Zellnor Myrie
Assemblymember Chantel Jackson

Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie (D-Central Brooklyn) last week along with Assembly Member Chantel Jackson (D-Bronx) and nearly 50 other colleagues sent a letter to the CEOs of Mastercard and American Express, urging them to do more to monitor unusual patterns of gun purchases. 

A simple coding change would enable card companies to categorize firearm dealers as a distinct group of merchants, allowing them to flag suspicious spending patterns.

“The rise in gun violence has had devastating consequences for New Yorkers, and we need every sector to step up and do their part,” said Myrie. “Credit card companies have the power to identify merchants and transactions, and report suspicious activity to law enforcement when it may preempt a mass shooting. We urge American Express and Mastercard to take a simple step today that may prevent massive bloodshed in the future.”

Financial institutions like American Express and Mastercard assign Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) to categorize payments and assess transaction risks. Thousands of distinct MCCs currently exist for merchants as specific as “candy, nut and confectionery shops,” “wig and toupee shops” and “electric razor shops,” but gun shops currently do not have their own category code. Instead they are categorized generically as a “sporting goods store,” making it impossible to identify suspicious spending patterns that could be flagged for law enforcement.

By creating a distinct MCC for firearm dealers, financial institutions could effectively track sales at stand-alone gun and ammunition stores separate from other merchants without limiting gun sales or creating new regulations. The new code lets payment networks flag patterns of suspicious gun purchases for law enforcement, potentially saving hundreds of lives.

“Credit card companies already categorize and track purchases of many other products,” said  Jackson. “We need financial institutions to step up and join the fight against gun violence by creating a distinct MCC for firearm sales. Doing so could permit law enforcement to intervene before bloodshed occurs.”

Bichotte Hermelyn on the Flooding in Pakistan and How to Help

Rodneyse Bichotte
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn (D-Brooklyn) yesterday urged Brooklynites to lend a helping hand to Pakistan following this weekend’s devastating flood, leaving more than 1,000 dead, 33 million people displaced, and more than 500,000 homes destroyed. 

“Amidst this devastating tragedy, I urge Brooklynites to rally together and offer support for the victims to help save lives. I also urge you to be comforting neighbors for our borough’s outsized Pakistani community, many of whom are experiencing loss of family and loved ones abroad. I pray for the people of Pakistan, and for the people in the United States and here in Brooklyn, who are feeling the pain of uncertainty, or deep loss,” said Bichotte Hermelyn.

“I also remind Pakistanis here in Brooklyn that you are not alone, and there are resources to help with any trauma. You can access a wide range of mental health support services at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health,” she added.

Supplies and money can be given for the victims at COPO, 1077 Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., phone -(929) 842-7529; Apna Community Center, 236 Neptune Avenue in Brooklyn, phone (646) 643-3746; and PASWO 1, 1117 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, phone (917) 399-8335.

Gianaris legislation would exempt student debt forgiveness from state taxes

Senator Michael Gianaris

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) announced yesterday new legislation that would exempt student loan forgiveness from being subject to state income taxes. Currently, state law could treat any student loan forgiveness as taxable income. New York is one of thirteen states that treats student loan forgiveness as income for tax purposes. 

“Relieving student debt is critical for so many across New York. It should not turn into a cash grab by the state,” said Gianaris. “This is an important step in making it easier to access the higher education and career training New Yorkers need and deserve.” 

Last week, President Joe Biden announced the federal Department of Education would forgive $10,0000 of student loan debt for most borrowers, and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. As part of provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the money is exempt from federal income taxation. Gianaris’ bill would ensure New York law conforms to the ARPA tax provisions. 

Gianaris said he will push for the bill to receive a vote at the earliest possible opportunity. 

Addabbo clears confusion on Whippits bill

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Queens) said yesterday there have been questions raised about a state law based upon his bill S.2819A, which bans the sale of whipped cream chargers or cartridges to anyone under 21 years old. 

There has been a misinterpretation of the language and intent of the bill. My bill is not intended to prevent people under the age of 21 from buying whipped cream dispensers, but the small, individual charger or cartridge inside the whipped cream canisters that is the target of this law, Addabbo said. 

The bill language specifically reads, “the term ‘whipped cream charger’ shall mean a steel cylinder or cartridge filled with nitrous oxide (N2O) that is used as a whipping agent in a whipped cream dispenser.” The language also states, “No person, corporation, partnership, limited liability company, firm or any other business entity doing business within this state shall sell or offer for sale a whipped cream charger to any person under the age of twenty-one.” 

These two-inch steel cylinders contain the nitrous oxide that is dangerous when inhaled directly. They can be sold individually or in packs as refills to recharge whipped cream canisters. It is the individual charger or cartridge that is the sole target of the bill, which are accessible to younger residents and being used improperly to get the nitrous oxide high, the lawmaker said.

“The empty chargers or cartridges could be found littered in areas of my district and many other communities across the state, and people have called my office directly to ask me to do something about this issue. Since the law went into effect there have been less sightings of the discarded whippit chargers or cartridges in the streets in my district,” Addabbo added. 

CM Hanks holds hearing on legislation restricting concealed guns in Times Square

City Council Member Kamillah Hanks

City Council Member Kamillah Hanks (D-Staten Island), chair of the Committee on Public Safety will hold a committee hearing today to identify details of Times Square area restricted from concealed carrying of guns.

Intro 602 would determine the designated sections of Times Square as ‘sensitive areas’ to limit carrying of guns.

The measure for the purposes of state penal law defines the sensitive area for the carrying of guns to include the area commonly known as Times Square. The bill also authorizes the New York City Police Department to promulgate such rules as may be necessary to implement the bill, including rules applicable, as appropriate, to persons with a firearms license who live or work in the area commonly known as Times Square.

The public hearing is slated for 10 a.m., today, Aug. 30 in the council chambers of City Hall in Lower Manhattan. Livestream.