E-Mail Newsletter – April 30, 2015

As reported in the Albany Times Union, the federal government has skipped the Capital Region in a list of “high-threat urban areas” that limits the speed of oil trains to no more than 40 mph – even though the Port of Albany has been nationally recognized as a major convergence point for crude oil transportation.

Although New York City and Buffalo are listed, I am concerned that the Capital Region was not added to this list given the considerable risk faced due to the two oil train rail lines from North Dakota and Canada, which merge at the port -- only blocks away from residents and businesses in Albany, from Albany County’s river towns, and surrounding communities. Furthermore, many of the derailments in other states have taken place at speeds well under 40mph, raising the need for the federal criteria to be revised.

The federal government has jurisdiction the trains and railways and we will continue to advocate for increased safety measures. Next week, I'll introduce a bill passed in the Assembly last year, the Petroleum Storage Surety Act, to increase safety measures when the oil is being transferred and stored at the port, however, the federal government must do its part and increase regulations and mandates for crude oil transporters. We will also be proposing a resolution urging federal transportation agencies to release increased safety regulations.

Ridesharing. Assemblymember John McDonald and I have co-sponsored legislation that would allow for ride sharing services to enter the Capital Region, such as UberX and Lyft, by amending the state’s insurance law. Transportation is a key factor in smart growth for the Capital Region and ride sharing or TNCs have proven success in a growing number of cities across the country. Ride sharing would add to the number of transportation options we have, while providing flexibility for riders and visitors to the Capital Region. Companies, such as Uber or Lyft, provide a new dimension in transportation and will support our region’s economic growth.

Read more via the Albany Times Union and the Albany Business Review.

Domestic Violence. The Assembly has passed a legislative package that would strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence and empower survivors to reclaim their lives.

According to the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, police outside of New York City responded to 187,710 domestic incidents in 2013 alone. In the same year, New York’s two domestic abuse and sexual assault hotlines received a total of 108,599 calls.

The legislative package includes a bill that would make it illegal for individuals convicted of certain family offenses to possess firearms by adding such offenses to the list of "serious offenses" for which purchasing or possessing a license for a firearm, rifle or shotgun would constitute a class A misdemeanor. (A.6340). The package also includes a measure that would require the surrender of weapons following a conviction in certain misdemeanor cases (A.5257).

Additionally, the package includes a measure that would permit victims of domestic violence to recover non-economic damages from defendants who fail to obey or enforce domestic violence orders of protection or temporary orders of protection (A.260). The bill would exempt these defendants from limited liability provisions and give victims expanded rights of recovery in order to strengthen the enforcement of orders of protection.

The legislative package also includes measures that would:

+ prohibit employers from discriminating against victims of domestic violence (A.272);

+ prevent housing discrimination against domestic violence victims (A.6354-A); and

+ require wireless telephone providers to allow victims of domestic violence to be released from shared or family plans without penalty (A.326).

Pay Equity. With the goal of leveling the playing field in the workplace, the Assembly has passed a series of bills that will eliminate obstacles to pay equity for women and minorities throughout the State of New York. When the National Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, women earned 59 cents to every dollar earned by men. More than 50 years later, the gap has not fully closed. While New York State fares better than the national average, women here are still paid less than men for equivalent work.

The New York State Fair Pay Act (A.6937) would prohibit the payment of differential wages between employees on the basis of gender, race or national origin. This bill would also protect workers against retaliation by employers for sharing wage information with their colleagues.

Another measure (A.6075) would define the circumstances under which an employer could pay differential wages to workers who are performing the same duties. This bill would also provide for an increase in the damages for employees who are found to have been underpaid in violation of pay equity laws.

Crime Victims legislation. The Assembly passed a legislative package to help crime victims, including measures that would provide vital services to help them rebuild their lives. The legislation coincides with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which was recognized earlier this month. The legislation I helped pass will provide vital assistance to those who have lost so much and who deserve not only justice, but also a helping hand to get back on their feet.

Loretta Lynch appointment. Congratulations on Loretta Lynch on her history-making appointment as the first African American woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States. It's a proud moment for all of the Empire State to see a second New Yorker in a row appointed as Attorney General. We look forward to Ms. Lynch continuing to make New York and our nation proud.

Events and Highlights from the 109th:

Guilderland Town Supervisor Ken Runion to retire. A very hearty congrats and sincere thanks to Guilderland Town Supervisor Ken Runion for his many years of dedicated public service. He retires leaving Guilderland a better place -- has set the bar high -- and will be missed! Read the story via the Albany Times Union.

Albany High School senior named U.S. Presidential Scholar Program semifinalist. Congratulations to Albany High School senior Isabel Pottinger, who has been named a U.S. Presidential Scholar Program semifinalist. Isabel, who was accepted early decision by Cornell University, is one of 565 semifinalists selected from an initial pool of some three million high school seniors from throughout the country. View the full list here.

Albany Past and Present Bicycle Tour. A bicycle tour along the waterfront and historic areas of downtown Albany will take place on Saturday, May 2. The three-hour guided tour starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Albany Area Heritage Visitors Center free parking next to C.H. Evans Brewing at the Albany Pump Station. The eight-mile tour through the city will highlight the South End Bikeway Link and some very interesting and historic sites with commentary at selected locations. For inquiries, call (518) 225-4209 or hardworkinjohn@aol.com.

Learn to Swim classes. The City of Albany’s Department of Recreation will be offering Learn to Swim classes at the Arbor Hill Community Center Pool, starting May 7. The first session will be from 3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m., followed by a second session from 4:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. Classes take place at the Arbor Hill Pool (50 Lark Street, Albany).

Job Opportunities: New York State has setup a new job portal entitled Jobs Express, where thousands of private and public sector jobs are listed. Visit jobs.ny.gov for more information on how to apply for these opportunities.

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.

Sincerely ---