Gun Violence, Proposed Free Flu Vaccines, Offshore Drilling Protest

February 17, 2018

Friend,

This week saw yet another horrific mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. I share the outrage and the sadness of the seemingly endless cycle of episodes of mass violence, especially when the victims are so young and innocent. I am proud that New York has helped lead the nation on gun control, and share that complete frustration with how little has been done at the national level -with even the most common sense measures. I am not sure how many senseless murders will occur before we see change at the federal level. In the meantime, I will continue to speak out and speak up.

Gun Violence. We must take steps to provide adequate care for mentally ill individuals and to prevent guns from getting into the hands of violent people, mentally ill or otherwise. I sponsor legislation to ban bump stock devices and to strengthen background checks in New York – and I am committed to doing all I can to keep our kids and communities safe.

Proposed Free Flu Vaccines for Kids. The Governor announced Thursday he is advancing a 30-day budget amendment to encourage pharmacies to enroll in the New York State Vaccines for Children Program, which provides vaccines to children and individuals regardless of their ability to pay. The legislation would codify the executive order temporarily allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children ages 2 to 18. The legislation, which increases convenience and vaccine accessibility for New Yorkers, would permanently suspend the section of state education law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone under age 18.

Offshore Drilling Protest in Albany. Representatives from the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior were in Albany on Thursday to receive public commentary on their proposed plan to allow commercial drilling off the coast of New York. I joined several environmental advocates and leaders to protest this plan and send a loud message that oil and water do not mix. I am strongly opposed to this plan to increase fossil fuel extraction while threatening fragile marine ecosystems and will continue to push for action at the state level to protect the environment and climate.

Assembly Announces Sexual Harassment Workgroup. Assembly Speaker Heastie on Wednesday announced that the Assembly will convene a new workgroup to address sexual harassment. I welcome the recommendations of the workgroup as we strive to create a safe and healthy workplace.

Record High Recovery of Unemployment Fraud Dollars. It was announced Tuesday that through partnerships with local District Attorneys, a record-high $4,500,718 in fraudulently obtained Unemployment Insurance benefits was recovered in 2017. The NYS Department of Labor's Office of Special Investigations is responsible for investigating instances of Unemployment Insurance fraud. Overall, only a very small percentage of individuals who collect benefits do so illegally. Those who do attempt to defraud the system are generally detected quickly. I am pleased to see that the integrity of this important safety net is being preserved.

Governor Announces $75 Million for Septic System Upgrades. The Governor on Thursday announced a comprehensive $75 million program to improve water quality through the targeted replacement of aging septic systems in communities across New York. The State will support the new program in 31 counties with $15 million during its first year. I was a strong supporter of the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 which established the State Septic System Replacement Fund and allocated $75 million to support the multi-year effort. The program provides resources to counties to support the replacement of aging septic systems and other wastewater infrastructure.

Community Updates & Events

Black History Event at the Capital District YMCA. The Capital District YMCA will be hosting local leader Nell Stokes for “Nell Stoke – Excerpts from African American History Spoken Word and Song. The Black History Month event will be held at the Bethlehem YMCA on February 22nd from 12:00 to 1:00 PM. Nell was active in the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama and has been a fixture in Albany civic life since she relocated here in the 1960s. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from one of the most interesting and powerful voices in the Capital Region!

Curling Club Holding Open House This Weekend. The Winter Olympics are in full swing in PyeongChang, and curling remains one of the most unusual sports. The Albany Curling Club will be holding an open house for those interested in trying the sport, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday the 17th and 18th at their facility at 117 West McKown Road in Albany. Participants should wear warm, loose-fitting clothing and bring clean sneakers. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. For more information call (518) 366-0433.

Albany High Basketball Coach Hits 100 Win Mark. Coach Decky Lawson got a special shout-out Tuesday night for hitting a 100-win milestone in his six-year career coaching Albany High School girls’ varsity basketball. Lawson made the breakthrough when the Lady Falcons won the final game of their Suburban Conference season at Schenectady on Feb. 9. He’s the second coach in school history to reach that plateau. Lawson, who won a sectional championship as a member of the Albany High boys’ basketball team in 1993, will enter this year’s Section II Class AA playoffs with a 102-25 coaching record over six seasons, including the 2013 Class AA championship. Congratulations, Coach!

As always, for the latest news or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note, or give us a call at (518) 455-4178.

Pat