Assemblywoman Vivian E. Cook

Vivian E.

Reports to the People
Fall 2007

Dear Neighbors:

As your elected representative of the 32nd Assembly District, I am pleased to provide you with this report that contains a wealth of important information. You will find highlights of the new laws of 2007, and important telephone numbers, as well as information regarding the Shared Municipal Service Incentive Program, the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights, the Star Rebate Program, and changes to the EPIC laws that will help seniors better afford their prescriptions. The new EPIC changes are great news for our seniors, most of whom live on fixed incomes and are facing an increasing struggle to pay for needed prescription drugs, as drug prices continue to skyrocket. To help reduce these costs so New York’s seniors can afford their medicine and enjoy a healthy life, the 2007 state budget reconfigured New York’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program. Please take a moment to read the enclosed article on how these changes may affect you or someone you know.

I am also pleased to inform you that I have been appointed to the NYC Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission by Speaker Sheldon Silver. The federal government awarded NYC $354 million to implement a congestion pricing program to help reduce traffic in the core downtown area. The commission will conduct public hearings, study the problem, and proceed with caution by conducting a through review of all plans to ensure a solution that will not have an adverse impact on the neighborhoods surrounding Manhattan as well as visitors and commuters who help our city thrive. This is an important commission and one that I am eager to be a part of and undertake its mission.

In closing, I would encourage you to read this newsletter and pass it along to someone you know. If you are in need of additional information or would like to share your thoughts, I welcome you to do so. I may be reached at (718) 322-3975, or feel free to stop by my district office. I am always happy to hear from you.

Vivian E. Cook

What You Need To Know About
Changes In Your EPIC Coverage

New EPIC rules are effective July 1, 2007, so it’s important to know now how these changes may affect you or your loved ones.

  • All EPIC enrollees must join a Medicare Part D drug plan. For seniors who do not contact EPIC to choose a plan, EPIC will enroll them in the plan best suited to their coverage needs.

  • EPIC will cover drugs excluded by the Medicare Part D drug plan and all expenses that fall within the Medicare Part D coverage gap.

  • For seniors enrolled in the EPIC fee plan and Medicare Part D, EPIC will pay up to $24.45 for Part D premiums and reduce drug co-pays. Enrollees pay the EPIC fee (waived if they have full Extra Help) and a portion of every prescription filled.

  • Seniors enrolled in the EPIC deductible plan and Medicare Part D will pay reduced deductibles and drug co-pays. Enrollees pay the plan’s premium, the reduced deductible and a portion of every prescription filled.

Whether you’re enrolled in the fee or deductible plan, show your EPIC card at the pharmacy and the prescription prices will be adjusted to the following EPIC rates:

For each prescription costing You will pay
Up to $15.00 $3.00
$15.01-$35.00 $7.00
$35.01-$55.00 $15.00
Over $55.00 $20.00

Epic Exceptions Might Affect You

Some exceptions to the new EPIC rules include seniors who:

  • Did not meet their EPIC deductible in previous years.

  • Would lose retiree health care coverage if enrolled in a Part D plan.

  • Have Medicare Advantage plans that do not offer a cost-effective Part D option without reducing other medial benefits.

Other Important Information

  • If enrolled you should have received EPIC and Medicare Part D cards by mail.

  • When Medicare Part D bills arrive, you may choose from three different payment options, including automatic deduction from monthly Social Security benefits, automatic checking account deduction, or direct billing

  • If you are not satisfied with your enrollment plan you may change it during open enrollment November 15th through December 31, 2007.

To Apply for EPIC or for further information, please call the EPIC hotline at 1-800-332-EPIC (3742).

photo Assemblymember Cook met with representatives of the InterAgency Council of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Agencies. The Interagency Council membership consists of 120 member agencies that provide services in New York City area. This vital organization serves about 75, 000 people each day in residences, special schools, job training programs, clinical and health services, and supports to families. In the photo is Mr. Seibert Phillips, Executive Director of the Evelyn Douglin Center where Assemblymember Cook has secured vital funding to help those in need.

A Glimpse At The New Laws Of 2007

This year marked the 230th Legislative Session and hundreds of bills passed the Assembly and Senate; many were signed into law. It is important to review these new laws as they are designed to better protect you. I will keep you informed about bills as they continue to be sent to the Governor for final approval. These new laws will be highlighted in future newsletters.


Patients Identification – Provides for a process prior to admission to a general hospital for performance of a cognitive impairment identification on patients 60 or older. (Ch. 290 of 2007)

Children and Families

Administering of Medication at Daycare – Provides for the administering of medication or treatment to a child under certain circumstances at daycare. (Ch. 16 of 2007)


Firearm License – Provides that a person who has been convicted of a violent felony offense or a class A-I felony and who is issued a certificate of good conduct or relief from disabilities shall not be entitled to obtain a firearm license or to lawfully possess a rifle or shotgun. (Ch. 235 of 2007)

Indecent Material to Minors – Includes written communication within the offense of first-degree dissemination of indecent material to minors. (Ch. 8 of 2007)

Sexual Predators – Keeps the most dangerous sexual predators off the streets even after they finish their prison terms, and establishes new, tougher sentences for people convicted of sex crimes. The state Attorney General will decide when to seek civil commitment of individuals determined to suffer from a mental abnormality by a state committee of mental health professionals. If confinement is not ordered, the sex offender will still be under strict and intensive supervision and treatment. In addition:

photo Assemblymember Cook is pleased to welcome and meet with representatives of District Council 37 to discuss its 2007 Legislative Agenda.
  • there will be required treatment to reduce recidivism by prisoners and for the civilly confined;

  • those housed in mental health facilities will be kept separate from vulnerable mental health patients; and

  • civil commitment must be reviewed annually by the courts.

The law also toughens penalties for convicted sex offenders by:

  • eliminating the option of parole for Article 130 felony sex offenses;

  • providing long-term post-release supervision for those convicted of sex offense felonies;

  • moving five existing crimes into the “violent crime” category, including second-degree rape and fourth-degree aggravated sexual abuse; and

  • creating the crime of “Sexually Motivated Felony” in cases where certain other crimes, like burglary or robbery, are committed for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator – subjecting the offender to tougher penalties. (Ch. 7 of 2007)

Governmental Employees

Health Insurance Coverage – Extends a law prohibiting school districts from reducing neither the level of health insurance coverage nor their contribution toward its cost for retirees, unless the reduction applies equally to active employees. (Ch. 22 of 2007)

Public Employee Organizations – Extends right of public employee organizations to agency-shop fee salary deductions for two more years. (Ch. 13 of 2007)

Governmental Operations

Website – Requires state entities that maintain a website to post certain information on them, including the contact information of the person who is responsible for complying with FOIL requests. (Ch. 102 of 2007)

Ethics Reform – This law curtails gifts from lobbyists to legislators and creates a comprehensive watchdog agency to ensure the integrity of state government. Specifically, the package:

  • bans virtually all gifts of more than a nominal value from registered lobbyists to public officials, and expands the gift ban so that lobbyists who appear before boards that include unpaid board members cannot give gifts to those unpaid board members;

  • strictly limits lobbyists from paying or reimbursing travel and accommodation expenses of a public official;

  • strengthens the revolving door provisions that apply to legislative employees by prohibiting them from lobbying the Legislature for two years;

  • prohibits public officials from being paid for speeches;

  • prohibits elected officials and candidates for elected local, state or federal office from appearing in taxpayer-funded advertisements;

  • prohibits gifts from the spouses or children of lobbyists to the spouses or children of public officials in order to gain influence; and

  • requires lobbyists to list their actions seeking grants on their lobbying reports.

The measure also increases penalties for violations of the lobbying law and public officers law and creates a permanent watchdog on ethics issues by merging the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying and the State Ethics Commission into a new entity, the Commission on Public Integrity. (Ch. 14 of 2007)

WTC Site Relief – Provides for reimbursement for unreimbursed or unreimbursable counseling expenses or indebtedness incurred by WTC site relief workers. (Ch. 21 of 2007)


Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act – The law enacts the “allergy and anaphylaxis management act of 2007. (Ch. 579 of 2007)

Higher Education

SUNY/CUNY – Provides that the city and state contribute the required employee contribution on behalf of SUNY and CUNY who are members of the optional retirement program. (Ch. 617 of 2007)


Multiple Dwellings – This law makes technical amendments regarding eligibility limitations on exemptions of new multiple dwellings. (Ch. 620 of 2007)

Eligibility Limitations Multiple Dwellings – Makes technical amendments regarding eligibility limitations on exemptions of new multiple dwellings. (Ch. 619 of 2007)

New Multiple Dwellings – Makes eligibility limitations on exemptions of new multiple dwellings from local taxation. (Ch. 618 of 2007)

Shelter Allowance – Relates to the shelter allowance for individuals and families receiving public assistance and residing in city, state or federal public housing. (Ch. 598 of 2007)


Employee Right to Express Breast Milk – Provides that an employee has the right to express breast milk at work; requires employer to make reasonable efforts to provide a location for a woman to express milk in privacy; and prohibits discrimination. (Ch. 574 of 2007)

Workers’ Compensation Reform – Reduces workers’ compensation premiums by 10 to 15 percent by:

  • limiting the number of years that permanent partial disability claimants can receive cash benefits – although they will still be eligible for medical benefits and other safety net provisions;

  • creating innovative programs to get workers prompt medical treatment and to help them return to gainful employment; and

  • creating strong anti-fraud measures, including the ability to stop work on a job site and debar an employer from bidding on public works projects where a company has failed to obtain workers’ compensation insurance.

The law increases the $400 maximum weekly benefit rate over a four-year period. In year 1, the rate is raised to $500; in year 2, to $550; and in year 3, to $600. In year 4, the rate will be indexed to the average weekly wage. In addition, the minimum weekly benefit will increase from $40 to $100. (Ch. 6 of 2007)

Mental Health

Jonathan’s Law – Allows parents and guardians of individuals with mental disabilities access to investigative records pertaining to their loved ones. Jonathan’s Law:

  • requires facilities to provide notice of an incident to parents or guardians within 24 hours of the initial report of the incident and upon request, provide a written copy of the incident report. The facilities are also required to offer to hold a meeting with the parents or guardians to further discuss the incident and to provide a written report within 10 days on the actions taken to address the incident;

  • authorizes parents and guardians, upon written request, to receive records and documents related to allegations and investigations into patient abuse and mistreatment, provided that names and other personally identifying information are redacted;

  • requires the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities to serve as a clearinghouse and develop an educational pamphlet on the rights of parents and guardians to access mental hygiene patient information and the process for appealing denials of information; and

  • establishes a task force in the Executive Department to study and make recommendations regarding access to mental hygiene patient records. (Ch. 24 of 2007)

photo Assemblymember Cook met with a group of concerned parents that came to Albany to discuss additional support and services for children with special needs.

Small Business

Department of Economic Development – Provides for regional offices of the Department of Economic Development to offer information and assistance to small businesses on environmental compliance and pollution prevention and help provide technical and financial assistance to promote compliance with environmental standards. (Ch. 572 of 2007)


Veterans Burial – Direct NYS Division of Veterans’ Affairs to apply for and institute a fund to provide grants to honorably discharged veterans to offset the cost of burial and interment expenses and to allow for the interment of NY veterans in their own communities at a reduced cost. (Ch. 652 of 2007)

Ways and Means

Budget Process – Brings more balance, timeliness and transparency to the budget process by:

  • eliminating the $200 million in “lump sum” appropriations for local initiatives, instead requiring each local grant to be outlined in the budget and subject to the governor’s line-item veto;

  • mandating “quick start” budget discussions each November;

  • requiring the executive and legislative branches to meet quarterly and share briefings on key fiscal issues and performance;

  • updating multi-year financial plans each quarter;

  • providing detailed, multi-year receipt and disbursement forecasts;

  • assessing the budget’s impact on local governments;

  • providing a detailed summary of state workforce levels – updated quarterly;

  • providing detailed reporting on technology projects in excess of $10 million;

  • calling on the governor to submit amendments to his budget sooner and reforming the consensus revenue process – which generates official revenue estimates for the budget;

  • directing the State Comptroller to establish a revenue forecast by March 5 if the governor and Legislature fail to reach consensus by March 1;

  • supplementing the balanced budget requirement by adding that the enacted budget – and not just the submitted budget – must be balanced;

  • building a new Rainy Day Reserve of 3 percent into the budget to prepare for responses to economic downturns or catastrophes – bringing the state’s combined authorized reserve funds up to 5 percent of annual spending; and

  • requiring the Legislature to explain the fiscal impact of its proposed changes to legislators and the public before a budget vote. (Ch. 1 of 2007)

Flood Assessment Relief Act of 2007 – Establishes the Flood Assessment Relief Act of 2007 for Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Madison, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Tompkins, Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Orange, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, Tioga and Ulster counties; holds school districts harmless. (Ch. 15 of 2007)

Assembly Resolutions

Broadcast of Government Proceedings – Creates a bipartisan and bicameral advisory board to oversee the broadcast of government proceedings. In addition to exploring the expansion of the current statewide television broadcasts, the advisory board will consider broadcasting or Web casting legislative committee meetings. (Adopted by the Assembly 4/23/07)


STAR tax relief is on its way. Seniors 65 years or older who receive the enhanced STAR exemption do not need to apply. These homeowners will get their STAR rebate check automatically. All other eligible homeowners will receive a letter in the mail by the end of September and must fill out an application prior to the November 30th deadline. The rebate checks will be mailed to homeowners as their applications are processed. To receive a rebate check, homeowners only have to verify required information for all resident property owners. You may also go online at or call the STAR Hotline at 1-877-678-2769 to find out when their notice and application will be mailed.

Landmark Legislation Ensures Airline Passengers
The Basics In Emergencies – Signed Into Law

This winter, several delayed flights unwittingly trapped passengers for endless stretches of time in the cramped, stuffy cabins of airliners without any relief.


On Valentine’s Day, passengers were held for more than 9 hours on a JetBlue flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport with little food, little air, and no power. Other JetBlue flights were similarly stalled, one with bathrooms overflowing. On St. Patrick’s Day, passengers were stuck for 14 hours aboard a Royal Air Maroc flight. People on a Swiss flight to Zurich were trapped on board for 8 hours and a Virgin Atlantic flight to London left after a 9 and l/2 hour wait. A Cathay Pacific flight to Vancouver was finally canceled after a wait on the runway of more than 9 hours.

Airline passengers stranded on New York’s runways should have basic amenities to make their wait more tolerable. In joining my colleagues to support legislation creating an airline passenger bill of rights, we ensure more humane treatment for airline passengers in such stressful situations.

Travel brings its share of hassles and frustrations, especially in today’s post-9/11 climate where safety concerns replace the once unfettered path from door to tarmac, meaning longer lines at airport check points to confirm identities, stop potentially dangerous persons and scan baggage and clothing for weapons and other items that can threaten our security.

Passengers also cope with unforeseen delays caused by weather and mechanical problems. In these instances, basic amenities like bathroom facilities and clean air and water should be available to safeguard passengers’ health and well-being.

The airline passenger consumer bill of rights will ensure the availability of electricity to provide fresh air and lights, working bathrooms, and adequate food and drinking water if the wait runs longer than 3 hours. In addition, the legislation creates the Office of the Airline Consumer Advocate to resolve passenger complaints, investigate bill of rights violations and refer cases for legal action by the Office of the Attorney General, which can result in civil penalties.

New York State is a hub for millions of travelers. In 2006, JFK handled about 43 million passengers, Newark International nearly 36 million, and La Guardia approximately 26 million passengers, making New York airports some of the busiest in the United States. We have a responsibility to ensure that airlines provide basic amenities at all times – but especially during delays and emergencies – that protect the health and safety of passengers.

Shared Municipal Services
Incentive (SMSI) Grants Available

I am pleased to inform you that this year’s 2007–2008 budget contains $25 million in funding for the Shared Municipal Services Incentive (SMSI) grant program administered by the Department of State. The SMSI program was created in 2005, to encourage municipal consolation and cooperation. Grants are intended to cover the cost associated with mergers, consolidations, cooperative agreements, dissolutions and shared services, including legal and consultant services, feasibility studies and capital investments. Recurring expenses such as salaries, utilities or fuel are not eligible. Applications are due December 14, 2007. For more information you may go to the Department of State Web site at or by calling (518) 473-3355.

Under this grant, counties, cities, towns, villages, special improvement districts, fire districts, school districts, may apply.


AIDS Information


American Cancer Society Hotline


American Heart Association


EPIC (Senior Prescription Plan Hotline)


Insurance Helpline


IRS Information Line


Medicare Hotline


Medicare Rights Center


National Institute of Mental Health Information Center


NYC Office of the Aging


NYS Consumer Protection Board


NYS Talking Book & Braille Library


NYS Public Service Commission


NYS Partnership for Long Term Care Insurance Hot Line


NYS Taxation & Finance Tax Questions


Tax Forms


Patients’ Rights Hotline


Social Security Administration Hot Line


STAR Hotline


Veterans Affairs US Department


Veterans Benefit Counseling


Other Points of Interest

Cultural Collaborative Jamaica


Jamaica YMCA


Queens Health Center


Queens EOC


York College



Albany Office: L.O.B. – Room 331, Albany, NY 12248
(office) 518-455-4203
(fax) 518-455-3606

District Office: 142-15 Rockaway Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11436
(office) 718-322-3975
(fax) 718-322-4085

Monday – Friday: 9:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m.


For assistance you are welcome to call or stop by Assemblymember Cook’s Office