Thank You Governor Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke this morning about prioritizing my domestic violence gun bill. I am very grateful for his interest in this issue. I issued the following statement as a response.

While we lead in New York with some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and the lowest firearm homicide rates, domestic violence victims in our state are still in grave danger because legal protections for their safety come up short.

Here in New York, a gray area in between state and federal laws allows some convicted domestic violence offenders to retain access to firearms. While federal law stipulates that someone found guilty of a misdemeanor domestic abuse charge cannot possess any firearms, state law is not consistent.

In other words, a person who is found guilty of a crime that results in him not being able to buy or own a gun under federal law can keep the one he already possessed under New York law.

My legislation would outline an unambiguous legal procedure, provide uniformity in the courts, and ensure that abusers cannot keep the guns they are prohibited from possessing.

As a result of the most recent shootings in California, Las Vegas and Texas, we have come to face the fact that no New Yorker is safe from the lethal rage of an armed domestic abuser, even those with no relationship to his victims.

We must work together to find ways to combat domestic violence and reduce the danger that perpetrators pose to victims and communities alike by enacting common-sense solutions that will save lives.

I want to thank Governor Cuomo for prioritizing my legislation and working towards protecting all New Yorkers from the epidemic of gun violence.

My FOIL Bill Has Been Signed Into Law

I am proud to announce that A.2750-A/S.2392-A, legislation I authored, was signed into law today by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The law will award 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). The time and cost involved in these court proceedings can be staggering for individuals, and may deter them from pursing legal action to compel agencies to provide the records. This bill would encourage agencies to comply with FOIL in order to avoid potentially paying the attorney’s fees for prevailing individuals who challenge the agency in court.

Very often, the time and effort involved in getting a FOIL request fulfilled is trying enough. A person petitioning an agency through FOIL shouldn’t have the added expense of a lengthy court proceeding as well.

This law establishes a two-tiered approach. In court cases where an agency failed to respond to a person’s request for records or appeal within the allowable time, the court may require the agency to pay for a person’s attorney’s fees if the person prevails in court. In cases where an agency denied an individual’s request for records and the court finds that there was no reasonable basis for the denial, the court must order the agency to pay the individual’s attorney’s fees if that individual prevails in court.

The Committee on Open Government recommended this two-tiered approach in its 2016 annual report.

The bill is sponsored by Patrick Gallivan (R-59) in the Senate.

My Bill Regarding Additional Days Of Leave For Veterans Signed Into Law

I am proud to announce that A.3198-A/S.02911-A, legislation I authored, was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Nov. 11.

The bill affords combat veterans who are employed by the state with additional days of leave in order to obtain health services, counseling and access to other services.

Many members of our military are required to engage in combat during service, placing their lives on the line for the safety and protection of the citizens of our country. The experiences of combat can take their toll on these men and women, both physically and emotionally. To afford these brave men and women with a minimal amount of additional leave, for healthcare related services including counseling, is reasonable and sound public policy.

Taking these small steps to assist our men and women in the military will allow them to more effectively assimilate back into society and positions of public employment.

Thomas Croci (R-3) sponsored the bill in the Senate.

 

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.

My Public Bathroom Access Bill Passes The Senate And Is Sent To The Governor

ALBANY – Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-88) is pleased to announce that A.1982/S.3295, legislation she authored, has passed the New York State Senate and Assembly and will be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo to be signed into law.

The bill would amend the public health law by making 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 orulcerative colitis that requires immediate access to a restroom.

Ally Bain, a teenage girl in Illinois who suffers from Crohn’s disease, was the inspiration for this law in Illinois and 14 other states. Bain had a humiliating experience in which she was denied access to an employee-only bathroom when she was in need of one and no public bathroom was available. A resident of Paulin’s district initially brought this issue to her attention.

“Stories like Ally’s are heartbreaking,” Paulin said. “No one should be forced to endure such a humiliating situation simply because they have a medical condition over which they have no control. This legislation creates a compassionate system for those suffering from gastrointestinal diseases who can be in need of a restroom at any given moment.”

It is estimated that over 600,000 Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease alone, which is an ongoing disorder of the gastro-intestinal tract. It causes swelling of the intestines, creating pain and diarrhea. People who suffer from such diseases often need urgent and sudden access to a toilet facility.  This legislation would not create any additional costs to businesses as they are not required to alter their toilet facility. Also, a business would not be required to provide access to their toilet facility when another facility is immediately accessible to the requesting person.

Kemp Hannon (R-6) sponsored the bill in the Senate.

Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Expanding New York State’s “Move Over Law” To Include Volunteer Firefighters And Ambulance Workers

Some news today out of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. He signed legislation expanding New York State’s “Move Over Law” to include volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers. The measure (S.7938/A.8702-A) requires drivers to slow down and move over a lane when approaching a vehicle with flashing blue or green lights that are operated by volunteer firefighters or ambulance workers involved in a roadside emergency.  2014-chevrolet-silverado-z71-volunteer-firefighter-sema-concept-truck-left-side

“Our first responders risk their lives day in and day out, often putting their own safety and well being in jeopardy, in order to protect their communities and their fellow New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “This new law will help ensure that first responders are protected from avoidable hazards when responding to a roadside emergency.”

Previously, the “Move-Over” law only applied to drivers approaching stopped police, emergency or hazard vehicles with flashing red and white or amber lights.