Monday, June 6, 2011

News and Notes from Senator Joe Addabbo - NY Senate District 15


Bills Provide Additional Entitlements; Senator Reminds Residents to Be Mindful of Memorial Day

Queens, NY, May 26, 2011NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens), ranking member of the Senate’s Veterans, Homeland Security & Military Affairs Committee, today announced the passage of several bills before the New York State Senate in honor of all the brave men and women who decided to protect and serve the United States during non-combat and combat instances. The ten bills, comprising the Senate’s Active List for Wednesday, May 25th, would build upon the Senate’s ongoing commitment to increased recognition and respect for veterans and their families. Addabbo voted in favor of all the veteran military bills, including a bill (S.2497) that would require the executive director of the office of real property services to create a list of documents in support of a veteran’s eligibility when applying for real property tax exemptions. The proposed law would make it easier for veterans to apply for real property tax exemptions. With the exception of S.656, all bills now await passage by the Assembly before going to Governor Andrew A. Cuomo for signature. The ten bills included:

  • Bill S.2497, cited above.
  • Bill S.656, authorizing the Department of Environmental Conservation to designate additional fishing events as rehabilitation for armed forces veterans or active members with need for veterans or active duty members to obtain fishing licenses.
  • Bill S.3192, establishing a mechanism for parents or guardians who find themselves deployed for short term military service to appoint a short term military guardian for their child or children during service.
  • Bill S.3222, permitting municipalities to enact a local law to grant additional combat veteran exemptions to persons not discharged from their subsequent service.
  • Bill S.5337, prohibiting the unauthorized use of the names and images of members of the armed forces or organized militia of New York.
  • Bill S.3228, preventing the court from using deployment and military status as a detrimental factor in determining custody.
  • Bill S.193, allowing honorably discharged veterans certified as having a 40% or greater service-connected disability to purchase a lifetime sportsman license for a twenty dollar fee.
  • Bill S.824, providing qualified veterans with a certified disability access by a float plane to appropriate lands under the Department of Environmental Conservation’s jurisdiction.
  • Bill S.4569, which extends two previous military law sections, allowing for rental of armories for non-military use when available and transporting monies from those armory rentals back into the armories state wide to cover operating costs.
  • Bill S.3684, amending the definition of naval militia to conform with federal law and legally recognize the naval militia as the naval forces of the state of New York.

Senator Addabbo stated, “As we approach Memorial Day, the Senate is doing its part to honor veterans and remain mindful of their service to our country. Since the 19th century, the United States has honored the legacies of these brave individuals and proclaimed Memorial Day to be a significant day to acknowledge those that did not make it home.” Addabbo noted by advancing these bills, the legislature would ensure military-family privacies, the entitlement of additional benefits, an expansion of recreational activities with fewer restrictions, and support in custodial matters.

New York was the first state to recognize Memorial Day in 1873, and today as we remain mindful of those veterans who have left us, we cannot forget our current service men and woman who have served, are serving, and who have provided countless hours of service to defend our freedoms,” concluded Addabbo.

Queens, NY, May 26, 2011NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) helped obtain passage in the Senate of a measure that would strengthen a law designed to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes. Previously cited as the “Son of Sam” law, the bill (S.4393) amends the law to include criminals who were found to be mentally afflicted also will be prevented from profiting from commercial exploitation of their stories.

Before the “Son of Sam” law was implemented in response to a string of murders of young women in New York during the summer of 1977, criminals were offered huge sums of money for the rights to their stories. Senator Addabbo disagreed with this rationale. Explained Addabbo, “Surviving spouses of the victims of heinous acts of murder should not be subjected to any glorification of notorious prisoners, nor profiling of a loved one’s murder. On top of this, to be financially exploited and not to receive any monies for the wrongful actions inflicted upon their close ones, is absurd.”

The federal government and 40 states have implemented an assortment of “Son of Sam” laws to address this pressing issue. By voting in favor of a technical correction to the prevailing success of New York State law, Senator Addabbo is placing another barrier before all criminals, to prevent them profiting from their crimes.

The bill passed the Senate in May and is yet to be introduced in the New York State Assembly. “Our first priority must be protecting and keeping victims’ families from public access. These incidents are privacy matters where respect for loved ones and their families is warranted,” said Addabbo.

Bill Mandates Protocols Cities Must Follow

Queens, NY, May 26, 2011NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) announces he introduced legislation (S.5023) that would require cities with a population of one million or more residents to notify residents of public work projects in their area. People living within a half-mile of the proposed public work project must be notified within three (3) days before commencement of a project. “My constituents are frequently victims of having no water or other service due to construction or some other public work being done in their area. I believe these residents should be given ample notice if they are going to be inconvenienced,” explained Senator Addabbo.

The public work projects subject to this provision include construction, repairs, utility services and public work. With the exception of utility services, residents must be notified of any public work that will encompass 48 hours.

Under the proposed measure, sufficient signage would be displayed to inform both residents and visitors of the work.“Informing the community of public work projects would benefit not only residents, but businesses as well. To comply with proposed projects, businesses can schedule deliveries and work around the inconveniences of the public work,” said Addabbo.

Utility service disruptions are the exception, as companies would have to immediately notify the public of any perceived interruptions. “A disruption in utilities is frustrating. Being informed of such a disruption might ease the level of frustration for people,” Addabbo noted.

The bill currently stands in the State Senate Cities Committee and is awaiting sponsorship in the Assembly.


Awaits Governor’s Decision; Highlights Bill that Employs Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

Queens, NY, May 24, 2011NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) announced the passage of legislation that would eliminate references of the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” in the Mental Hygiene Law. The bill (S.4467) was passed by the New York State Senate and previously in the Assembly; it now awaits action from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

I supported this bill because the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" are offensive terms,” explained Addabbo. “These individuals with developmental disabilities should not have to sustain belittling through the usage of offensive terminology.”

In the past, Senator Addabbo has worked on legislation for individuals with disabilities. He pointed to a bill he introduced in March 2011 that would offer small business owners a tax credit for the hiring and retaining of individuals with disabilities (S.4107). “Because of a tough job market and the financial restraints all residents currently face in this ongoing recession, it is vital that incentives are available to small business owners who employ these disadvantaged individuals. They face an almost two-to-one discrepancy in earned median salaries,” said Addabbo.

Should S.4467 be signed into law, it would follow a string of measures taken by the state legislature to move away from the terminology “mental retardation.” In 2007, a law was signed requiring the use of person-centered language when referring to individuals with disabilities. Last year, the New York State agency, “Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities” was changed to the “Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.”

We should always be respectful and mindful of these courageous individuals who endure unfair obstacles and disadvantages in today’s society,” concluded Addabbo.

Queens, NY, May 17, 2011NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens), voted for the recent passage of a Senate bill pending in the legislature, A.05519/S.3777-A, which would amend the social services law to require directors of children’s overnight, summer day and traveling summer day camps to report suspected child abuse and maltreatment, regardless of the location where abuse may have occurred.
Camp operators are currently required by the state Department of Health to report abuse or maltreatment that may occur at camp. However, the directors are not included as mandated reporters of child abuse that may be witnessed in other settings. In addition, directors that report suspected abuse could be liable for civil liability actions, such as slander or defamation. By including overnight, summer day and traveling summer day camp directors among the teaching, medical and law enforcement professions, and many others who act as mandated reporters, New York is increasing the potential for early detection of abuse and facilitating the ability of directors to come forward with important information.
Senator Addabbo explains: “As youth development professionals, camp directors work with hundreds of children each year. Their first interest is in the safety and well-being of their campers. The current Department of Health regulation requires camp operators and directors to report allegations of child abuse only when the alleged abuse or maltreatment occurs at the camp. This new bill extends to outside the camp, granting them immunity from civil liability actions like slander and defamation when they assert a good-faith claim of abuse. It also enlarges the network from the current list of 38 persons and officials required to make such a report immediately to the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment and the local department of social services when there is reasonable cause to suspect abuse. Such protections encourage camp directors to speak out when a child is threatened, guaranteeing that these professionals won’t hesitate when the need arises to protect their campers.”
The legislation has been sent to the Assembly. If passed, the law will take effect immediately.

Queens, NY, May 17, 2011 – Answering the public’s outcry for immediate action on ethics reform, and addressing a top priority of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s agenda, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) joined other Senate Democratic members in hosting and addressing ethics reform for the first public forum in nearly two years. In utilizing Senate Rule VII Section 4(b) of the Senate Rules, the New York State Democratic Conference convened a public forum on legislation under the jurisdiction of the Investigations and Government Operations Committee.

The Senate members at the forum used news media and social networking tools to open up government and engage the public in an unprecedented effort to reform Albany, including broadcasting live updates on Facebook, LiveStream and Twitter, and the acceptance of real time questions from the public, which were used by Senators during the forum.

The highlighted bills within the Ethics Reform Public Forum included:

  • Bill S.31, which establishes an independent commission on governmental ethics;
  • Bill S.382, which increases financial and client disclosure requirements;
  • Bill S.2333, which eliminates pensions of public officials convicted of misusing their office;
  • Bill S.3053, which restricts the personal use of campaign funds;
  • Bill S.1565, sponsored by Senator Addabbo, which prohibits political contributions by businesses that have been awarded state contracts.

According to Senator Addabbo, these bills are essential to ethics reform. “Aside from pledges and promises, if we are to move this state government in the direction of improved ethics and credibility, then ethics and campaign finance reform are required ingredients to that end,” stated Addabbo.

Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League of Women Voters and one of the attendees, addressed Senator Addabbo’s legislation. “Along with our good government colleagues, the League of Women Voters has consistently called for stricter restrictions on campaign contributions by those who do business with the state and lobbyists. The fact that New York has not done so has created widespread public cynicism and a belief that those who do business with the state are paying through campaign contributions to play with the state,” said Bartoletti.

Other group attendees at the public forum included the New York Public Interest Research Group, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizen Action, Citizens Union and Common Cause.

Russ Haven, Legislative Counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group, believes strong, clear ethics laws are needed to keep pace with the loopholes that have been exploited. Jessica Wisneski, Legislative Director of Citizen Action of New York, stated there is a transparent conflict of interest when corporations give money to elected officials to help them win or retain their seats. To this, Senator Addabbo agreed and touched on his work to combat governmental ethics since his 2001 term in the New York City Council. “As a New York City Councilmember and member of its Government Operations Committee, I was involved in groundbreaking legislative changes in campaign finance and ethics reform that I believe benefited the electoral government process, candidates, elected officials and the people we represent.”

Other Democratic Senators present at the public forum included Senators Gustavo Rivera, Neil Breslin, Velmanette Montgomery, Toby Ann Stavisky, Malcolm Smith, Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron, ranking member of the Senate Investigations & Government Operations Committee.

As we continue our work here in Albany to come to a consensus on an ethics reform package, I will remain mindful of the will of the people that unethical actions in Albany are not warranted,” concluded Addabbo.

Bills Heighten Protections, Deal with Sex Offender Penalties, Registration, Employment
Queens, NY, May 17, 2011 - NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., (D-Queens) announced that the New York State Senate recently passed a package of bills that strengthen the state’s criminal and correction laws to protect our children and youth from sexual abuse.
  • S.1882 - Under current law, a criminal charge of sexual abuse in the 1st degree is applied when children under the age of 11 have been abused by individuals 18 and older. Meanwhile, pedophiles who sexually abuse a 12- or 13-year-old victim are charged with only a Class A misdemeanor, a penalty similar to someone who was guilty of stealing a pack of gum. This Senate bill will charge anyone guilty of abusing a child under the age of 13 with sexual abuse in the 1st degree, a class D felony that carries significantly harsher penalties which will keep pedophiles off the street.
    Current law is inconsistent and dangerous, especially in a world where 12- and 13-year-olds are using the same modes of communication as the most tech-savvy pedophiles,” said Senator Addabbo. “Those who would sexually abuse young teens must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, which our bill will guarantee.” The consequences faced under New York State criminal law for a person guilty of a class D felony is up to 7 years in prison, a punishment far more severe than the minimal 15 days to 1 year a person would face if convicted of a class A misdemeanor. The bill is awaiting action in the Assembly.
  • S.3207 – Provides that a person is guilty of the crimes of aggravated sexual abuse in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree when the victim is under 13 years-old and the abuser is ages 18 or older. Section 1 amends the criminal law by adding a new provision to aggravated sexual abuse in the 3rd degree. Under the new provision, a person is guilty of the crime when he inserts a foreign object in the vagina, urethra, penis, or rectum of a child who is under 13 years-old, and the offender is 18 or older. Section 2 adds a new provision to aggravated sexual abuse in the 2nd degree to provide that a person is guilty of the crime when he inserts a finger in the vagina, urethra, penis, or rectum of a person under 13 and causes physical injury to that person and the actor is 18 or older. Section 3 adds a new provision to aggravated sexual abuse in the 1st degree to provide that a person is guilty of the crime when he inserts a foreign object in the vagina, urethra, penis, or rectum of another under 13 years-old and causes injury to that person and the actor is 18 or older. This act makes a similar change in the age threshold for the crimes of aggravated sexual assault in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree, as those made by the enactment of the Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2000 (SARA) for the crimes of rape or sodomy when the victim is under 13. This bill would take effect on the first of November after the date on which it becomes a law.
  • S.1416 – Amends the criminal law and the correction law by establishing penalties for a convicted sex offender’s failure to provide a DNA sample in the 2nd degree (class A misdemeanor) and in the 1st degree (class E felony) and a sex offender’s failure to register or verify as a sex offender in the 2nd degree (class E felony) or in the 1st degree (class D felony), under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). Failure to register is currently a correction law felony, but not a criminal law felony, so it does not constitute a predicate felony with regard to enhanced sentencing. Moving the offense of “failure to register” to the penal law would improve compliance with the important public safety initiative of SORA by making offenders who repeatedly refuse to comply with their sex offender obligations subject to enhanced sentences. Under Executive Law, certain crimes require the convicted to provide a DNA sample (including assault, homicide, sex offenses, escape or incest). The success of New York State’s DNA data bank depends on it being as complete as possible. However, many convicted criminals continue to flout the law and refuse to comply. Offenders are occasionally charged with obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, though this was not the law’s original intent. Several states have addressed this problem with statutes that provide a misdemeanor penalty or fines. Creating misdemeanor and felony offenses in New York for failure to register or to verify as a sex offender as well as for refusing or failing to provide a DNA sample would provide an incentive to comply with the current law. This bill would take effect on the first of November after the date on which it becomes a law.
  • S.3325 – Amends the correction law in relation to sex offender registration, to help insure that sex offenders are held responsible for knowing what the state and local residency and employment laws are in the community and verifying in a statement that they are in compliance with them at time of registration. The current law requires verification of residency and employment but does not put the burden on the offenders of verifying that they are in compliance with state, county and local laws that regulate residency and employment. The State and localities have imposed numerous laws regulating where a sex offender can reside or work. This bill places the obligation on the offender of knowing those laws, complying with them and verifying their compliance. This act shall take effect on the 60th day after it becomes a law.
  • S.1418 – Amends the correction law, in relation to prohibiting permissible employment, employment-related activities and volunteer activities that may be performed by sex offenders. Under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), convicted sex offenders are restricted from living in certain communities, but the law does not extend to limit where they can or cannot work in paid and unpaid circumstances. More specifically, existing state law does not prohibit convicted sex offenders from obtaining “unsupervised” employment. Absent supervision in residential living quarters and assisted living quarters could potentially lead to a dangerous situation. This bill would prevent sex offenders from serving in managerial and supervisory roles in specific fields which the bill identifies as employment within residential living quarters, as a home health aide, and in assisted living facilities. It would take effect immediately.
Addabbo concludes, “I am hopeful that these bills eventually become law in order to strengthen and improve the protection of individuals against sex offenders.”