Assemblywoman Vivian E. Cook Assemblywoman
Vivian E.
reports to the
Summer 2003

Dear Neighbor:

The Legislature convened its 226th Session on January 8, 2003. I am pleased to announce that I have been appointed by Speaker Sheldon Silver as Chair of the Assembly Majority Conference. The Majority Conference consists of 103 Assembly members. The Conference is where important legislative issues are discussed prior to reaching the Assembly Floor for a vote. As you may know, the Assembly and Senate passed a bipartisan $93 billion state budget that restored $1.9 billion of the Governor’s $4 billion in devastating cuts and blocked a 31 percent sales tax hike, the largest in state history. The Governor delivered 119 vetoes to this plan which the Assembly and Senate came together to override. New York faces a major budget deficit. The Legislature had to make tough choices to protect our education and health care system. We had no alternative but to move forward, with or without the Governor, to adopt a budget that will lead our state forward. I have provided an overview of the 2003-2004 state budget as it pertains to New York City residents.

The Assembly did not officially conclude its 226th Legislative Session, as there are a few remaining issues that may be acted on before the year ends. There have been a number of issues that have passed the Legislature and have been signed into law; these measures will be highlighted in my next news report. This report contains 2003-04 budget highlights, the MERIT/Patriot Plan, how World War II and Korean veterans who left school before graduation may receive a high school diploma, the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program, how to curb unwanted telemarketing calls, and how to earn a NYS Assembly Excellence in Reading Certificate.

As a result of the 2000 Census and redistricting, the 32nd Assembly District has changed for the next ten years. My district now encompasses Jamaica, South Jamaica, part of Spring Field Gardens, and part of Richmond Hill. I would like to thank you for your continued support and welcome the new residents to the 32nd Assembly District. My office is located at 142-15 Rockaway Blvd. in Jamaica. Please feel free to stop by my office, or contact me at (718) 322-3975.

Best wishes for a safe and happy summer.



Vivian E. Cook
Member of Assembly

photo Assemblymember Cook met with Ms. Juliet Lewis and other representatives of Mary Immaculate Hospital during their recent visit to Albany to discuss restoration of funding to health care programs.

Legislature’s Override Delivers More For New York City Education and Health

arrowThe Legislature’s bipartisan budget rejected the Governor’s wrong choices by:

  • helping New York avoid a "doomsday" budget that would have devastated basic services - forcing the closure of firehouses and slashing countless other vital city services;
  • giving our students - from pre-K to MBA - the resources they need; and
  • providing vital health services and protecting our already fragile health care industry.

Protecting New York City’s economy
With New York City facing a budget hole of close to $3.7 billion, we need a greater recognition of the fact that New York is the engine that powers our state’s economy. While the Governor’s only attempt to address New York City’s current fiscal crisis was proposing gambling casinos on corner after corner, the Legislature put together a carefully-crafted aid package that helps the city get back on its feet. The plan, enacted over the Governor’s veto, provides:

  • $432 million in budget restorations and additional revenue; and
  • $500 million a year for five years, saving the city a total of $2.5 billion, through state assumption of the MAC obligations.

The Legislature’s budget plan helps New York City maintain vital services, such as fire and police protection, garbage collection and park maintenance. Without that help, New Yorkers’ quality of life and our economy would be compromised.

Saving our schools and protecting our future
The Governor wanted to cut $1.4 billion from schools. The Assembly and Senate came together to make a better choice, overriding the Governor’s veto, restoring $1.1 billion for schools in the coming school year, and ensuring our students have the resources they need to succeed.

arrowThe Legislature’s bipartisan budget:

  • restores $360 million to New York City schools;
  • prevents 45,000 children from being forced out of pre-K
  • saves almost 2,000 teacher jobs in grades K-3; and
  • restores $14 million for teacher resource centers.

Protecting quality, affordable health care
Under the Governor’s plan, the state’s health care system faced funding cuts of more than $2 billion - including a $200 million hit to New York City’s public hospital system. In addition to jeopardizing quality care, the Governor’s proposal could have jeopardized 48,000 jobs in the health care industry - New York’s largest employer.

Again, the Legislature stepped up to block another bad choice from the Governor, restoring $1.2 billion in funding for Medicaid, public health, and Health Care Reform Act programs. These restorations will ensure that New Yorkers receive quality, affordable care when they need it.

arrowTaking Care of New York’s most vulnerable citizens, the adopted budget:

  • protects vital county health organizations serving on the frontline against emerging diseases like SARS and potential bioterror attacks;
  • keeps open the psychiatric and mental health research institutes that the Governor wanted to shutter;
  • restores funds to Breast Cancer Support and Education Services that the Governor wanted cut;
  • restores more than $5.5 million for AIDS programs that the Governor wanted cut;
  • restores $350,000 of the Governor’s cuts to Family Planning initiatives; and
  • restores $252,000 of the Governor’s cuts to Rape Crisis Services.

arrowIn order to protect our seniors, the budget:

  • allows adult day care, meals for seniors, and Alzheimer’s initiatives to keep providing valuable services;
  • passes on the $14 monthly cost-of-living adjustment to the disabled and seniors receiving federal Supplemental Security Income, which the Governor wanted to deny them;
  • protects seniors from fee increases in the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Program; and
  • restores the $27 million the Governor wanted to take from the pockets of state retirees and employees for higher health insurance premiums.

Improving Public Safety
The Assembly has consistently fought for measures to make life safer for every New Yorker. The bipartisan budget:

  • sets aside $100 million to provide grants to localities to help install enhanced 911 technology, which enables emergency dispatchers to pinpoint calls from wireless phones; and
  • is expected to establish a special temporary joint legislative task force - similar to how Congress reviews our federal homeland security efforts - to assess New York’s disaster preparedness efforts.

Creating a more competitive workforce through higher education
The Governor’s budget would have been disastrous for our state colleges and universities, affecting both the students and local economies that depend on them. Under the administration’s original plan, SUNY and CUNY students faced a $1,400 tuition increase, a one-third Tuition Assistance Program cut, and a one-half cut to opportunity programs. He also would have cut base aid to community colleges by $345 per student.

By rejecting the Governor’s shortsighted veto, the Legislature fully restored the cuts to TAP, opportunity programs and community college base aid, and rolled back the Governor’s proposed tuition increase by a third. All in all, nearly $400 million of $703 million in cuts were restored to higher education.


Assemblymember Cook announced the passage of legislation she sponsored that would increase income eligibility for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program (A.6348), the "Over 65" property tax exemption (A.8930), and the exemption for persons with disabilities to $24,000 (A.2439).

Increasing income eligibility levels for programs like SCRIE and the "Over 65" tax exemption will help even more seniors afford to stay in their homes and in their communities. To be eligible for SCRIE, one must be 62 years of age or older and live in a rent controlled, regulated or stabilized apartment where the monthly rent exceeds one-third of monthly household income.

It has been eight years since the income level for SCRIE eligibility has been adjusted and each year seniors who receive cost-of-living increases in their pensions and social security benefits risk losing their eligibility. By increasing SCRIE’s eligibility limit to $24,000, participating seniors can continue saving money.

Other bills the Assembly passed would allow localities to set the income levels for the "Over 65" and persons with disabilities exemptions up to $24,000 from $21,500 for a 50% property tax exemption from municipal and school district taxes.

Localities may also grant an exemption of less than 50% to senior citizens and people with disabilities whose incomes exceed the local income limit. For example, in a community that has taken this "sliding-scale" option and adopts the $24,000 income maximum, an eligible resident whose income is more than $24,000 but less than $25,000 is entitled to a 45 percent exemption. Those making the maximum income level of up to $32,400 would be eligible for a 5 percent exemption.

This legislation will help people living on fixed incomes maintain their independence. "Now that these measures have passed the Senate, I urge the Governor to promptly sign these measures into law," stated Assemblymember Cook.


The Legislature passed the MERIT/Patriot Plan to provide New York’s service men and women with a smooth peacetime transition, to take care of military families, and to assist in boosting morale. The bill was signed into law on July 1, 2003 - Chapter 106.

The brave men and women who selflessly risk their lives to protect our country undoubtedly deserve all the help we can provide them and their families. This legislation ensures that we take care of the people who are now fighting for our country. This legislation is modeled after the Assembly’s Military Enhanced Recognition, Incentive, and Tribute (MERIT) Plan.

Taking care of veterans’ families
When our soldiers are away from home in a combat environment, they leave behind spouses, children and parents who worry constantly about their safety. This legislation will make it easier for families to stay informed and connected to their loved ones – and help boost the morale of service men and women overseas. The legislation will:

  • provide families with an advocate at the Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA) who would be available to answer inquiries of service personnel on active duty and to act as liaison with the Federal Department of Defense;
  • require at least one library in every county to designate a computer for the use of family members of those who have been called to active duty, and provide additional computers to libraries if existing computers are unavailable;
  • direct the DMNA to negotiate bulk telephone service rates for persons in military service, provide facilities in armories for teleconferencing between active duty personnel and their families, and
  • allow students to remain in the same school district if a parent in state military service is relocated temporarily due to active duty.

In the tragic event of a war casualty, the Assembly measure provides up to $6,000 in supplemental funeral costs for each New York resident killed in combat.

Providing veterans and their families with a quality education
The transition from military to civilian life can often be daunting. This measure helps ease that transition, providing access to an affordable college education for returning military personnel and their families.

The MERIT/Patriot Plan provides four years of free tuition, room, and board to any SUNY or CUNY undergraduate school or an equal amount to attend any other college or university in New York for the children, spouses and dependents of any New Yorkers killed or severely disabled in the line of duty after August 2, 1990.

The package also protects students called to duty who have to suspend their education, allowing them to retain credits, standings, or scholarships.

The families of military personnel also make tremendous sacrifices in times of war. When a tragic death occurs in combat, families’ lives are disrupted, and they should not have to worry about being able to afford an education for their children.

Ensuring our veterans return to good paying jobs
Many soldiers leave behind good-paying jobs or businesses that count on their skills when they are called to service. During this time of economic uncertainty, we must help our military personnel find meaningful work upon their return to civilian life.

The Assembly’s legislation:

  • helps veterans transfer their military training and experience to civilian jobs and higher education, providing formal recognition of the skills they acquired while serving in the military;
  • extends the certification period for emergency medical technicians who have been federally ordered to active military duty;
  • waives continuing professional education requirements while on active duty; and
  • automatically extends professional licenses.

Helping veterans deal with important health issues
Many health issues often arise as a result of military combat. Whether they are physical or psychological, the results can be devastating. To address these serious health issues, the Assembly’s MERIT/Patriot Plan establishes a hotline to provide information on the Persian Gulf Syndrome, Agent Orange, Hepatitis C and other war-related illnesses, and provides information regarding health care providers and treatment centers with expertise in illnesses associated with military duty.

Improving returning soldiers’ quality of life
The MERIT/Patriot Plan protects the wallets of soldiers on active duty by: imposing a cap on installment loan interest charged to service personnel; extending eviction protections; allowing the termination of car leases without penalty; and extending mortgage foreclosure protections. The legislation also provides free hunting and fishing licenses to military members who are on active duty.

We appreciate the sacrifices our soldiers have made. This legislation supports our veterans and is only a small reflection of our gratitude for all they have given New York and our country.

Honoring Veterans of World War II -
Operation Recognition

Our veterans helped shape the future of our nation. We owe them a debt of gratitude for protecting the freedoms and values for which America stands. New York recognizes the dedication and sacrifice of World War II and Korean veterans who left school before graduation by awarding them with a high school diploma. The experiences and skills learned in defense of freedom have given veterans unique knowledge and special insight most could never attain. This diploma reflects our pride and gratitude for their sacrifice and bravery.

To participate, veterans need only present ONE of the following as proof of service:

  • DD Form 214 (Report of Separation)
  • Certificate of Service (Honorably served)
  • Certificate of Release or Discharge from Department of Defense (Merchant Marines)
  • Letter from a recognized veterans’ agency affirming such service

Candidates possessing a High School Equivalency (GED) diploma are eligible for the program. Diplomas may be awarded to next of kin if eligibility is established. Please contact your high school if you wish to receive your diploma in recognition of your duty during World War II or the Korean War.

books Assemblymember Cook Challenges Families to Read Together This Summer books

Summer is here and children across New York are enjoying the long summer days. But just because the school year is over does not mean that the fun of reading and learning have to wait until the fall. I am calling on children and parents to participate in the Assembly’s Summer Reading Challenge, a program designed to encourage children to continue reading throughout the summer months.

Children who read with a parent for 15 minutes a day, for at least 40 days during July and August, will earn a New York State Assembly Excellence in Reading Certificate.

In our busy age, reading is often overshadowed by television, video games, and the Internet. It is time that kids and parents rediscover the simple joy of reading. The challenge will help your children develop a love of books and improve their communication skills as well as help them meet high educational standards. It will also give families constructive time together, which can be difficult to find these days.

The Assembly’s Summer Reading Challenge is a wonderful way to keep kids reading for a lifetime and to establish a solid foundation for learning. In the last few years, I have seen more and more young people earn their Excellence in Reading Certificate. This year I hope to see the program grow even further.

Your local library is a good place to start the summer reading program. Libraries play a crucial role in our communities, and they deserve the resources needed to encourage learning in New Yorkers, young and old. To ensure that public libraries are able to provide this invaluable service, the Assembly has consistently fought for library funding. This year, we successfully restored the governor’s proposed $13.3 million cut to public libraries.

The Assembly’s Summer Reading Challenge and support for public libraries are part of my ongoing effort to keep kids reading and learning, so drop in at your local public library and have fun exploring the fascinating world of books. It is more important than ever to give our children a solid foundation now so they may find success in the future.

New York State Assembly
Excellence in Reading
Information Form
***Click here for printable view***
Name of Child
Parent’s Name
Street Address
City or Town
Number of days completed
Favorite Books

To receive your certificate, please complete the above form and send it to:
Assemblymember Vivian E. Cook
142-15 Rockaway Blvd., Jamaica, NY 11436 • (718) 322-3975

You Can Curb Unwanted
Telemarketing Calls

You can block unwanted telemarketing calls under the new national "Do Not Call Registry" Law.

Once you sign up, telemarketing companies have 30 days to stop calling or risk a heavy fine. Some organizations, such as charities, are exempt from the law. There are two easy ways to register:

  1. Phone – The Consumer Protection Board Helpline 1-888-382-1222
  2. Internet –

If you have any questions, you may contact my office at (718) 322-3975.

Albany Office
LOB - Room 331
Albany, NY 12248
(518) 455-4203
District Office
142-15 Rockaway Blvd.
Jamaica, NY 11436
(718) 322-3975