Key legislative achievements address the foreclosure crisis, ethics reform, public safety, and the heroin epidemic
As session came to a close, members of the Independent Democratic Conference praised key accomplishments, many of which derived from policy proposals in the IDC’s agenda, NY 2020: A Blueprint for a Better New York.
After passing numerous signature issues as part of the 2016-2017 budget, including Paid Family Leave, a $15 minimum wage, and the largest investment in education in state history, the IDC praised the wave of achievements for the state including holding banks accountable for zombie properties, improving day care safety and strong ethics reforms.
“As we close out this legislative session, I am proud of the strides we have taken, and of the accomplishments of the Independent Democratic Conference. After laying out a comprehensive policy plan, we have passed significant passed legislation to keep our children safe, help mothers in need, and ensure greater transparency in our public school system. After having long-championed legislation to cure derelict bank-owned and zombie properties, which pose significant problems in communities all across this state, banks will now be held responsible to maintain zombie properties. I can truly say that as we close session, this year we have created a better New York,” said Independent Democratic Conference Leader Klein.
“This year’s legislative session delivered a number of accomplishments for New York State. For Central New York, which has long struggled with the rising heroin epidemic, I am proud that we have announced a heroin package that looks to prevent addiction while increasing and enhancing services to those who need help. I am also happy to have sponsored, and passed in both houses, my legislation to provide opportunities for struggling communities to recover after the foreclosure crisis, through nonprofit land banks. This year, the Independent Democratic Conference has delivered these and so many more achievements for all New Yorkers,” said Senator David Valesky.
“The Independent Democratic Conference truly delivered for New York’s working families this year. After passing Paid Family Leave, and winning the Fight for $15, I am proud to announce that we have passed legislation to establish the Community Restoration Fund. This fund will go a long way toward helping New York’s homeowners who are still struggling from after the foreclosure crisis, and will ultimately keep families in their homes. Alongside Senator Klein, we championed protections for our children in day cares, to ensure that every parent has the peace of mind that their day care is safe. With our accomplishments this year, New York truly supports its working families,” said Senator Diane Savino.
“At the start of this year’s legislative session, one thing was clear: New York needed stronger ethics reform. I have long advocated for increased transparency and robust ethics laws when it comes to government, and I am proud to say that this year we have delivered. Among the many accomplishments of this session, our ethics reform package included a proposal I championed in the Senate - the disclosure by political consultants who have business before the state. Through this and other reforms, we are one step closer to transparency, and towards rebuilding the public’s trust,” said Senator Tony Avella.
“This was a landmark year for New York State, and I am proud to have championed proposals to address one of our state’s most pressing concerns - the heroin epidemic. Having been at the forefront of fighting this crisis, I am pleased that this year we passed a legislative package that enhances services for those who need help, and that will put New York State on the map as the first state to require over-the-counter Naloxone by law. I am also thrilled to have delivered oversight with funding to restore critical programs to the East Ramapo school district. This is an important step for the students of this area,” said Senator David Carlucci.
Addressing the foreclosure crisis and zombie properties
The foreclosure crisis hit New York State hard - and in more ways than one. Bank-owned and zombie properties have ravaged communities, creating a blight on property values throughout the state.
Senator Klein introduced, and passed in both houses, legislation that will protect neighboring home values while ensuring the speedy rehabilitation of properties. To address the zombie property blight, banks and servicers will have a duty to maintain vacant and abandoned properties, a new toll-free hotline will allow people to report potentially vacant or abandoned sites, and an electronic database will provide streamlined access to information for affected communities. An expedited foreclosure process will protect neighboring homes, while improvements to mandatory settlement conferences will protect homeowners facing foreclosure. Finally, the establishment of a Consumer Bill of Rights will inform property owners of of their rights in foreclosure proceedings.
To help struggling communities recover after the foreclosure crisis, Senator Valesky led the way with legislation, which passed both houses, that provides nonprofit land banks with opportunities to redevelop and rehabilitate foreclosed and abandoned residential and commercial properties. This bill expands the ability of land banks to help struggling communities recover after the foreclosure crisis.
Keeping our day cares safe
Working parents across the state deserve to know that the day care that cares for their children is safe and sanitary. After working to expose the shocking problems the IDC discovered in day care centers throughout New York City, Senator Klein was proud to announce that a report card will be posted in the window of all licensed centers in New York City, that will provide a clear way for parents to access streamlined information for parents on the safety of their day care center.
An agreement on ethics reform addresses pension forfeiture, transparency, and sweeping reform to independent expenditures. Under the pension forfeiture agreement, an elected official who has committed a crime will have their pension stripped. After Senator Avella fought for transparency in political consulting, legislation will require consultants to disclose the elected officials with whom they do business. Finally, sweeping reform to independent expenditures will ensure that shady money stays out elections.
Ensuring Justice for Job Seekers
Throughout the past year, Senator Klein championed legislation after releasing an undercover investigation into the unscrupulous and fraudulent practices occurring at New York City employment agencies. The report unveiled the shocking frequency with which properly registered agencies often violate existing laws, and the more disturbing trend of unregistered and illicit agencies scamming workers out of cash with promises to secure employment that does not exist.
Senator Klein introduced, and passed in both houses, legislation to modify licensing procedures for employment agencies; make it more difficult for them to defraud workers; improve enforcement of existing regulations; and enable victims to seek legal recourse if they have been taken advantage of.
Investing in the future of East Ramapo’s students
The students of East Ramapo deserve access to the resources they need for a strong education. Legislation sponsored by Senator David Carlucci, and passed in both houses of the legislature, provides a $3 million investment into the school district of East Ramapo.
The proposal requires that the new funding be used to restore programs that had been previously eliminated, including extracurricular activities, support services and full day kindergarten, as well as oversight requirements that will be provided by the Commissioner of Education.
Combating the Heroin Epidemic
The legislature, along with Governor Cuomo, announced a comprehensive legislative package to address the heroin and opioid addiction crisis throughout the state. The package includes limits opioid prescriptions from 30 to 7 days, requires mandatory prescriber education on pain management to stem the tide of addiction, eliminates burdensome insurance barriers to treatment. Expands supports for New Yorkers in recovery, increases treatment beds by 270 and expands program slots for substance use disorder by 2,335 in New York.
Helping mothers who depend on WIC
Due to a restrictive policy change in 2014, many mothers who depend on the Women, Infants and Children nutritional program to buy formula were no longer able to readily access WIC-participating stores. The 2014 policy created formula deserts across New York City, severely cutting off access to mothers on WIC.
Senator Klein introduced, and passed in both houses, legislation to allow all stores that participate in the WIC program to accept WIC checks for prescription formula. These stores, like supermarkets and smaller grocery shops, also carry other healthy food items included in WIC packages, such as fresh fruits, and vegetables. The legislation passed both houses, and
Protecting homeowners through the Community Restoration Fund
For many homeowners, New York’s foreclosure crisis is all too real. For those homeowners who are delinquent, at risk of entering default, or may have already fallen into foreclosure due to economic hardship.
Senators Savino and Klein introduced, and passed in both houses, legislation to establish the New York State Community Restoration Fund. This bill would authorize State of New York Mortgage Agency to utilize fund resources to rehabilitate distressed properties, demolish homes that are dilapidated beyond repair, and fund not-for-profit and affordable housing developers, in order to address the foreclosure crisis, repurpose or rehabilitate foreclosed or vacant properties into affordable housing, and keep families in their homes.
Increasing rail grade crossing safety
After several tragic accidents due to outdated rail grade crossings, this year’s legislative agenda included a series of initiatives to increase safety for motorists, pedestrians, and train passengers alike. Senator Carlucci carried the torch, and legislation that passed both houses will now require coordinated, frequent inspections of traffic control devices, while imposing penalties on companies and repeat offending drivers who ignore public safety requirements.
New York City students deserve greater transparency and accountability from their public school system. This year’s agreement on mayoral control extends control for one year, while requiring School Community Districts to publish spending information. This new requirement will streamline information for parents and taxpayers, and enhance understanding of New York City’s public school spending.