By Linnet Tse
NYS Assemblyman Steve Otis called it “an exciting time to be in state government,” as he and NYS Senator Shelley Mayer recapped key legislative initiatives at the Local Summit breakfast program on September 10. Otis noted that NYS has often led the nation on key issues and this year Albany passed a lot of legislation that is “either first or strongest in the nation.” Mayer called it a “fantastic session in Albany” with a lot accomplished, in part due to having a Democratic majority in both houses.
Election Reform: Mayer highlighted a number of reforms passed by the NYS legislature which are intended to increase the number of people who vote, improve transparency, and reduce costs. They include: early voting; consolidating state and local primaries on the same day;authorizing use of electronic poll books; approving pre-registration of youth in advance of their 18th birthday, effective in 2020;moving towards implementing absentee voting without an excuse and automatic voter registration, although these will require more time to implement; and in the area of campaign finance reform, removing the “LLC loophole.”
Environmental Issues: calling the NYS Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act “the most aggressive in the nation,” Otis explained that it sets ambitious goals to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, including targeting an 85 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It also aims for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. Otis noted that achievement of the targets will require dramatic changes in lifestyle.
Other environmental initiatives include a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, effective March 1, 2020, and a sizable financial commitment for Clean Water initiatives.
Initiatives Impacting the Immigrant Community: Mayer highlighted two important pieces of legislation passed in Albany this year in this area:
- NYS DREAM Act: not to be confused with the Federal DREAM Act, the Senator José Peralta NYS DREAM Act provides undocumented students access to NYS-administered grants and scholarships for higher education at SUNY and CUNY schools.
- Green Light Bill: describing this as an important public safety measure, Mayer explained that this bill enables people without a social security number to obtain a limited license for driving only, thus greatly reducing the number of unlicensed and uninsured drivers.
- Gun Safety Measures: commenting on a topic of great interest to the Local Summit audience, Otis noted that the “Red Flag Bill” is an important measure aimed at improving gun safety. This bill, which went into effect in August, provides a legal process for family members and other individuals to request that guns be removed from the home of an individual who is considered to be a threat to themselves or to others. In addition, a number of loopholes for background check process have been eliminated and a gun buyback program has been instituted.
In closing, asked how members of the audience could help them with their work, Mayer and Otis urged everyone to speak up and share their feedback and concerns with them.
This breakfast forum was hosted by the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit, an informal community council that seeks to make life better for all in the tri-municipal area. Its monthly meetings are held at the Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck at 7:45 a.m., generally on the second Tuesday of the month. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, October 8 on the “Background of the Murals in Larchmont and Mamaroneck.”