Source: Cymbrowitz’s office
The NYC Community EMS Volunteer Ambulance Corp. (CEMSVAC) picked a heck of a time to get rolling. The Midwood-based volunteer group was founded in June of 2012, a few months before Superstorm Sandy created unprecedented emergency conditions.
Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz awarded the new volunteer group a special citation, commending them for performing an amazing service in the worst of circumstances.
“The group dispatched between 40 and 50 volunteers all over southern Brooklyn to rescue residents and fellow first responders whose lives were in danger,” Cymbrowitz said in presenting the corps with an Assembly citation. “Our community needed all the help it could get during Superstorm Sandy, and CEMSVAC selflessly put the needs of others above their own and served as a reassuring presence during a difficult time.”
In accepting the citation, CEMSVAC Chief Operating Officer Ezra Max stressed the importance of volunteering in the world of EMS.
“We not only want to save lives,” said Max, “but also encourage people to get involved in careers in EMS. During a time when people are very ‘me me me’, we are trying to do the opposite — we are trying to bring people together to be selfless and help other human beings.”
Blue387 via Wikimedia Commons
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is joining the effort to junk the new digitized voting machines in favor of bringing back the older and supposedly more reliable lever machines. NY1 reports that Bloomberg said during a press conference that bringing back the old machines might prevent a voting disaster in the upcoming 2014 elections.
We’ve previously reported State Senator Marty Golden and Councilman David Greenfield’s efforts to bring back the old machines, with Golden successfully leading the passage of a bill to bring them back in the senate. The bill then went to the Assembly, which has been lukewarm on it.
“We are not prepared in the Assembly at this point to bring back the lever machines. We think it would be a step backwards,” State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh told NY1. “We are prepared to work with the city and the city Board Of Elections to change some of the rules that may allow them to run the runoff more quickly and more smoothly.”
Mayor Bloomberg’s voice adds to the growing groundswell of support to the return to the old machines. The decision would be costly as the new digitized voting equipment, mandated by federal law, cost taxpayers $60 million.
The Board of Elections has warned that it is unprepared for the upcoming mayoral elections, citing that votes cast with the new electronic machines cannot be certified fast enough to account for a potential runoff after the primary.
While the new voting equipment wouldn’t be ditched forever, an exception could be made just once for a local election.
Bloomberg urged that returning to the old machines could prevent a voting catastrophe.
“If we don’t do that, we are running a real risk of not knowing who the mayor is for months,” Bloomberg said at the press conference.
Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein
The New York State Assembly passed the Consumer Credit Fairness Act, a bill designed to protect low-income and elderly New Yorkers from aggressive debt collection practitioners.
According to a report by the Post Star News, the primary purpose of the Consumer Credit Fairness Act, introduced by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, is to curb abusive debt collection lawsuits by the following means:
- Requiring notice of a pending consumer credit action to be mailed to the defendants by the clerk of the court;
- Requiring court filings to include more information about the debt targeted in a lawsuit, such as identifying the debt or account and providing proof that the debt is owed to the plaintiff;
- Lowering the statute of limitations for consumer credit transactions from six years to three years, and eliminating the right to collect the debt once the statute of limitations is expired; and
- Terminating the ability of debt buyers to sue on expired debt.
Weinstein explained the importance of the legislation as well as its impact on domestic violence victims.
“Abusive debt collection lawsuits exploit gaps in our state’s laws. This bill takes important steps to close these loopholes to protect consumers and helps to address the long-term impact of economic abuse, including identity theft, which is often suffered by domestic violence victims at the hands of their abusers.”
Weinstein’s work on the bill received high praise from Claudia Wilner, an attorney at NEDAP (Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project) who expressed hopes that it will be passed in the New York State Senate.
“We now call upon the Senate to pass the CCFA this legislative session to put an end to abusive debt collection practices. New Yorkers, particularly those who are low-income, elderly, disabled or domestic violence survivors, have been harassed by these unscrupulous debt collectors for far too long.”
Source: Dank Depot via Flickr
Support for the legalization of marijuana is at an all-time high (no pun intended). According to a report in the Huffington Post, for the first time ever a majority of Americans, 52 percent, support the legalization of marijuana. A whopping 72 percent believe that the cost of federal enforcement is simply not worth it.
Led by State Senator Diane Savino, medical marijuana, which is legal in 18 states, is coming to a vote in the New York State Senate, and Savino believes it could pass despite the reservations of Senate Republicans and Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to a report in the New York Daily News.
“Everyone knows this bill will likely pass the New York State Assembly fairly easily,” the Daily News reported Savino saying at a press conference. “The Senate has always been the stumbling block.”
Governor Cuomo is not yet ready to lend his full support to the measure, saying that he doesn’t support the bill “at this time.” He has lent support to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and if polls continue to trend towards the liberalization of marijuana laws there is likely to be greater traction on the issue in the near future.
Senator Diane Savino Source: Thomas Good via Wikimedia Commons
Earlier in the month we reported on State Senator Diane Savino’s plan to introduce a bill that would legalize medical marijuana and, yesterday, Savino, along with Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, made good on her promise, according to a report by the New York Daily News.
With medical marijuana programs being legal in 18 states, Savino thinks it’s time for New Yorkers to decide if legalizing medical pot is right for their state.
“We felt it was important to get the bill in so we could start the discussion,” Savino told the Daily News.
Savino is hoping a vote on the measure will happen before the end of the legislature’s session in June, though passage of the bill will not be easy.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has gone on record opposing the legislation, expressing fears that the law would be abused.
Attempts to pass the bill in the conservative-leaning Senate have also failed in the past, though it’s unclear how the leadership agreement between the GOP and the more liberal Independent Democratic Caucus may affect a vote.
Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein put forward a bill that would protect people from unfair insurance practices administered during a time when the governor has declared a disaster emergency, according to a report by Insurance Journal.
The language of the bill (A05780) states that it “would establish a private right of action for the insured for unfair insurance settlement practices when the claim relates to loss or injury in an area where the governor has declared a disaster emergency.”
The new legislation doesn’t prevent insurance companies from denying claims. Rather, it reintroduces an element of common sense and fairness in situations where disaster victims have lost everything and are left with the maddening process of fighting insurance companies over the technicalities of what they are owed.
The “private right of action” would grant insureds the power to fight their insurance companies over blatantly unfair practices in the face of a storm’s devastation.
The extra cherry on the bill allows for people to seek punitive damages from insurance companies that screw over their customers the next time a huge disaster like Superstorm Sandy comes and wipes them out.
Source: Brook-Krasny’s office
Following President Barack Obama’s lead, Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny is leading the State Assembly’s initiative to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour, according to a report by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Last year, the Assembly passed a bill that raised the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, but are now planning to amend the bill to match the raising rate of inflation and Obama’s national missive. Brook-Krasny stressed the importance of New York State taking the lead in this matter.
“While the national attention to this vitally important issue is encouraging, it’s essential that we don’t wait for Washington to take action. With overwhelming public support to increase the minimum wage here in New York State, we have to act now,” he told the Daily Eagle.
If the legislation is passed, the minimum wage will be raised to $9 per hour starting in January 2014. Food service workers who rely on tips will see their base pay increased to $6.21 per hour. The legislation will also index the minimum wage starting in 2015, so that every year, it’s adjusted to reflect the rate of inflation according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
While the bill is expected to pass in the Assembly, its future in the Senate will be tested by Republicans who argue that an increase in the minimum wage will limit job growth and weaken the economy. Brook-Krasny doesn’t agree.
“By increasing the minimum wage, working families will see a rise in their purchasing power and are likely to spend the money from their hard-earned paychecks at local businesses, helping strengthen our economy,” he said.
Assemblyman Alan Maisel (center) via assembly.state.ny.us
Earlier in the month we reported on Assemblyman Alan Maisel’s quest to fill Lew Fidler’s City Council seat. Though the geographic area he’s looking to represent nearly mirrors Fidler’s, geographic changes from when the incumbent first took office in the 46th District make it a very different place, according to analysis by Barkan Report.
When Fidler began his representation of the 46th District in 2002, it was 53 percent white and 33 percent black. With the latest round of redistricting, which saw the addition of parts of Canarsie and Flatlands, the percentages of white and black have flip-flopped with blacks representing 53 percent and whites 32.
That’s thought to give a boost to his primary opponent, Mercedes Naricisse, a Haitian-American candidate. Despite better fundraising and political connections in the Maisel camp, Barkan suggests race politics could be a greater deciding factor in the fight for the 46th.
Still, the Barkan Report says Maisel is the favorite to win – but November is a long way away.
Source: Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ Office
Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz co-sponsored a couple of bills designed to protect residents from shady insurers (A.2287) as well as require insurance companies to cut through the red tape when processing storm damage claims (A.1092), according to a press release sent out by his office.
Cymbrowitz wants to create a Homeowners Bill of Rights (A.2287), which would require insurers to provide those who own their own homes with easy-to-understand documents clearly stating what exactly their insurance covers, how and when to file a claim, and where to obtain coverage in the case of an emergency.
“It is imperative that homeowners know their rights and aren’t left out in the cold without the necessary insurance coverage they need to rebuild their lives,” Cymbrowitz said.
The purpose behind the other bill (A.1092) is to create a new set of requirements that ensure speedier responses from insurers to residents who are filing claims in the aftermath of a major disaster, such as Superstorm Sandy.
“People can’t wait forever to get their lives back to normal,” Cymbrowitz said in the release. “There has to be an industry standard in processing claims so that people know what to expect and insurers can be held accountable for their actions.”
Members of the New York State Legislature doing what they do best. Get it? Source: Wikipedia
BETWEEN THE LINES: A show of hands, how many of you think our state legislators deserve a pay raise?
Not too many hands.
Now, if they were to get a raise, how many think that a 26 percent hike, the amount that has been reported, is too much, even though they haven’t had an increase since 1999?
That’s more like it. Almost all of you agree that’s too much. It’s like they’d be making up for lost time with an average of two percent a year for the last 13 years, which is when they got their last pay boost.
The current salary would jump from $79,500 to $100,000. But, in return, those noble lawmakers would sacrifice the $165 per diem they now receive when they’re in session. When you tally the numbers, legislators would give up just over $11,000 for a 67-day session — the standard annual legislative session — for a sizeable $20,500 raise.
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