Wrapping Up Another Productive Legislative Session

The 2017 legislative session concluded last week, and I am pleased to announce several victories for the people of New York State.  I authored 16 bills which passed both the Assembly and the Senate, including my bill to end child marriage which has already been signed into law. Here is a closer look at the legislation:

Signed Into Law

Chapter 35 Ending Child Marriage

Prohibits the marriage of minors under the age of 17 and strengthens the process to obtain court approval for marriage of minors at least 17 but under 18 years of age.

Awaiting the Governor’s Signature

A.2093-B/S.5273-A Falsification of School Records

Prohibits unauthorized and false alterations and tampering of any official student records, files, or data maintained by the school or college.

A.1982/S.3295 Crohn’s and Colitis Fairness Act

Amends the public health law to make employee-only restrooms in places of business open to those in the general public who have an eligible medical condition, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, which requires immediate access to a restroom.

A.2965/S.4172 Notice of Child Abuse in Foster Care

Requires reports of suspected abuse of a child be sent to the social services district charged with the care of such child when the child has been placed in a foster home in a different social services district.

A.7198-A/S.5512-A Hate Crime Threats Against Community Centers

Amends the penal law to include community centers in the definition of a “public place” as it relates to bomb threats and other offenses against public order. I was spurred into action after bomb threats in February forced evacuations of two community centers in Westchester, including the JCC of Mid-Westchester, where my family and I are members. About 200 people were evacuated from the JCC of Mid-Westchester, including 100 children who attend the center’s early childhood program.

A.1112-B/S.2139-B Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans’ License Plates

Authorizes the issuance of distinctive license plates to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars or their spouses, bearing the words “Veteran of the Iraq War” or “Veteran of the Afghanistan War.”

A.288/S.3745 Electric Car Charging

Requires utilities to offer customers the option to purchase electricity solely for the purpose of charging an electric vehicle. This would enable the utility to offer cheaper time-of-day or off-peak rates for charging, encouraging customers to charge their vehicles at times that are most beneficial for the grid.

A.464-B/S.2098-B Elephant Protection Act

Prohibits the use of elephants in any type of entertainment act. This will protect elephants from the physical and psychological harm caused by the living conditions, treatment and cruel methods necessary to train them to perform in entertainment acts such as circuses.

A.2750-A/S.2392-A Attorney’s Fees in FOIL Cases

Awards attorney’s fees to a prevailing party who has gone to court to challenge an agency’s refusal to provide records requested under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), when the court finds that the agency had no reasonable basis for denying the records.

A.474-A/S.1170-A Financial Literacy Course for Public Assistance Participants

Allows social services districts to offer participants in public assistance employment programs the option to complete a course in financial literacy and personal finance.

A.7394-A/S.5990-A Municipal Sustainable Energy Loan Program

Updates the municipal sustainable energy loan program, also known as property assessed clean energy or “PACE,” to enable municipalities to finance more renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

A.473/S.2516 Disability Coverage for Probation Officers

Authorizes counties to provide disability coverage for probation officers injured in the line of duty.

A.6571/S.5190 Energy Storage Deployment Program

Directs the Public Service Commission to set a target number of energy storage installations and create programs to encourage more energy storage systems to be installed. Energy storage enables renewable energy to be used continuously which reduces the need for energy produced using fossil fuels.

A.7793-A/S.6749 Domestic Violence Voter Confidentiality

Enables victims of domestic violence to vote safely, by making it less burdensome to apply for a court order to keep their voter registration records confidential. The bill also expands the scope of the court order to include other records with respect to an individual in addition to the registration record itself. This will ensure that any records containing the voter’s address will not be made available to the public.

A.3198-A/S.2911-A Combat Veterans’ Paid Leave for Healthcare Services

Grants additional paid leave to combat veterans who are state employees for healthcare related services.

A.260/S.4069 Property Tax Exemption for Fuel Cells

Provides that micro-hydroelectric energy systems, fuel cell electric generating systems, micro-combined heat and power generating equipment systems, and electric energy storage equipment and systems are eligible for the real property tax exemption which is currently available only to solar, wind and farm waste energy systems.

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My Child Marriage Bill Was Signed Into Law

I am proud to announce that my  bill (A.5524-B/S.4407-B) raising the minimum age to marry to age 17 was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in a Tuesday-afternoon ceremony in the Red Room of the New York State Capitol. The law prohibits the marriage of minors under the age of 17 and strengthens the process to obtain court approval for marriage of minors at least 17 but under 18 years of age.

I am thrilled that the Governor has taken this historic step and signed the bill into law. His unwavering support went a long way toward getting this done. Children who are 14 and 15 years old should be worrying about their schoolwork and spending time with their friends, not whether they have to get married. Girls marrying much older men are being abused physically, mentally and emotionally.  Marriage at such a young age destroys the lives of young girls. I am relieved we have changed this outdated law so that we can end this intolerable practice.

Senator Andrew Lanza, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, and I were on hand for the signing.  Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York and a staunch advocate for the bill, was in attendance as was Safia Mahjebin, who had become the poster child for ending child marriage in New York.  Mahjebin has courageously spoken out about her own experience as a young woman from a traditional community in which girls are pressured and threatened to comply with the practice and are often subjected to abuse if they resist their parents’ demands. Keerthana Nimmala and Jenise Ogle from Sanctuary for Families, advocate for victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence, and a tireless proponent of the legislation, also attended.

“With the signing today of the law banning child marriage, New York State has taken an important step forward to end a human rights violation,” said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families. “Sanctuary for Families has seen firsthand that young girls who are forced to marry are more likely to suffer domestic violence and are much less likely to complete their education.  We thank Governor Cuomo, Assemblywoman Paulin and Senator Lanza for their leadership and for standing with us against gender inequality and child exploitation. Marriage is now a milestone of adulthood, not childhood.” 

The minimum age to marry in New York State under previous law was fourteen. A 14-or 15-year old could marry with parental consent and court approval while a 16- or 17-year old could marry with parental consent. Prior law enabled children to be forced into marriage by their parents who brought their children before the court or the court clerk to provide their “consent”. In reality, the consent was a sham as the parents had forced their child to marry, threatening the child with ostracism, beatings or death if the child refused.

According to Fraidy Reiss, executive director and founder of Unchained At Last, nearly 4,000 minors were married in New York between 2000 and 2010 and more than 84 percent of those children were minor girls married to adult men. Unchained At Last is the only nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages. 

“This is an important first step toward ending the human rights abuse of child marriage in New York State,” Reiss said. “I applaud Assemblywoman Paulin for her leadership.”

The court approval process to authorize the marriage of 14- and 15-year olds under prior law did not provide adequate protections against abuse or fraud by the parents or guardians to force a child to marry.  The newly signed law strengthens the court process which will now apply to marriages of persons who are between 17- and 18-years old.  The new law requires, among other things, the appointment of an attorney for the child who has received training in domestic violence that includes a component on forced marriage, as well as requires the court to hold an in camera interview, separately with each minor party, and make specific written findings.  The law also provides that if the court approves the marriage, each minor party will have all the rights of an adult, including the right to enter into a contract, except for specific constitutional and statutory age requirements. 

“New York has recognized child marriage as a human rights violation,” Ossorio said. “We urge the rest of the country to follow suit.”

Putting An End To Child Marriage In New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed my child marriage bill into law today. I couldn’t be prouder. This is the culmination of a great deal of work on the part of so many people. From the Governor, to the advocates, to my fellow legislators. I would like to thank everyone who helped make this very important piece of legislation become a law. No longer will children be forced into marriage in New York State.

Putting An End To Child Marriage In New York

One of the most important pieces of legislation on which I am working concerns ending child marriage in New York State. This is a disgusting, dirty and ugly practice of which not many people are aware. But it is happening in New York. Help me to bring an end to this horrible practice. Share this powerful video that UNICEF put together and spread the word. Let children be children.

Rendition courtesy NPR

Rendition courtesy NPR

 

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