Governor Signs Gottfried-Savino Medical Marijuana Bill into Law:
Seventeen years after I began sponsoring medical marijuana legislation, the Assembly and Senate finally agreed to allow patients suffering from severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions to be treated with marijuana under medical supervision. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Diane Savino and was based largely on our Compassionate Care Act bill, with amendments in response to concerns raised by the Governor.
This is a major victory for patients. If a patient and physician agree that a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, it is cruel for government to stand in the way. Those seeking medical marijuana will have to receive certification from a licensed physician registered with the New York State Dept. of Health (DoH); after certification, they will receive a registration card. We will work with the DoH to speed up implementation and to make sure that New York has the best medical marijuana program in the country.
Eligible conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), Parkinson's Disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington's Disease, or others as added by the New York State Commissioner of Health. The Commissioner is also directed to determine within 18 months of enactment the eligibility of Alzheimer's Disease, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Gottfried-Krueger Maternal Depression Bill Passes both Houses:
My bill to promote screening and referral for treatment for postpartum and other maternal depression disorders (A.9601-B, Gottfried; S.7234-B, Krueger) passed the Assembly and Senate unanimously at the end of the legislative session. Despite the widespread nature and severity of maternal depression, our healthcare system has had no system-wide screening and referral procedure. A key element of the bill is recognizing that a newborn's pediatrician can have an important role in identifying maternal depression.
"Maternal depression" includes a range of perinatal mood disorders, emotional and psychological reactions a woman may experience during pregnancy or up to a year after childbirth. Symptoms can include feelings of despair or guilt, sadness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, and thoughts of suicide or of harming the baby. Maternal depression includes prenatal depression, "baby blues," postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis. The severest cases can include hallucinations and delusions, infanticide and suicide.
Treatment for maternal depression has an 80 to 90 percent success rate. Early diagnosis and treatment - the goals of this legislation - significantly improve prognoses. The bill authorizes the Commissioner of Health to provide screening guidelines for maternal health care providers to use with patients during pregnancy and after childbirth. The bill also adds maternal depression materials to maternity education and outreach programs for new mothers and their families.
In addition, the bill bars insurance companies from requiring a special referral for maternal depression screening by obstetricians and pediatricians. Because pregnant women visit their obstetrician and new mothers visit their infants' pediatrician more often than they would any other health professional, these health care providers are in an ideal position to screen women for maternal depression.
Fight Against Fracking: Local Right to Prohibit Fracking:
Drilling for natural gas by hydraulic fracturing has huge health and environmental risks. We know too little about the long-term effects on water supplies, animals, and people who live near fracking sites. There are studies underway to help answer some of these questions, but they are not expected to be completed for another three years. The Assembly again passed legislation disallowing the issuance of new natural gas drilling permits for fracking in New York, with the moratorium extending until 2017. If fracking cannot be done safely, it should not be done at all.
On June 30, the State Court of Appeals upheld the right of municipalities to use zoning as a means of banning fracking. I cheer the decision, which upholds the right of New Yorkers to protect their communities, land and water.
Recognizing NYPD Heroes:
Last month I was happy to attend the Tenth Precinct's annual award ceremony, where 15 police officers and three auxiliaries were recognized for their dedication and professionalism in serving our City. I deeply appreciate the compassion and courage our officers put into keeping our City safe. I applaud them for their hard work, and the commander of the Tenth, Capt. David Miller, for having the Tenth Precinct's annual award ceremony and the "Cop of the Month" program to recognize it.
On Sunday June 29, I marched in The Heritage of Pride Parade, down Fifth Avenue. I was joined by community members, political clubs, and a number of my colleagues at the city, state, and federal levels. It has been three years since New York state enacted marriage equality. As the original sponsor of the marriage bill in the Assembly, I know that was a victory for all same-sex couples and for the whole community. Now we're continuing the fight to pass GENDA, my bill that would protect transgender people under our state human rights laws. Our march celebrated our victories, and brought us together in solidarity to keep fighting for what is right.
Responding to the Heroin Crisis:
The heroin epidemic is a crisis across our state. The legislature passed a package of bills at the end of session designed to combat heroin abuse on several fronts. This new legislation, which has been signed by the Governor, will:
Improve addiction treatment by requiring insurers to cover substance use disorders and use peer-reviewed clinical criteria approved by the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (OASAS) when making medical necessity decisions;
Broaden access to life-saving Naloxone kits, which are safe and easy to use, by making them more easily available to lay people;
Expand public awareness with an educational campaign targeting youth, parents, and healthcare providers; and
Crack down on illegal distribution by increasing penalties for healthcare providers who illegally sell controlled substances.
Authorizing Epi-Pens in Schools:
Young people with allergies or other conditions that put them at risk of needing an epinephrine injection spend a great amount of time in school, away from parents or other caregivers. Epi-pens are safe and effective life-saving devices that can be easily and appropriately used by non-professionals with minimal training. As chair of the Assembly Health Committee, I worked closely with Assembly Member Tom Abinanti to draft a bill allowing personnel of elementary and secondary schools to stock and administer epi-pens, the same way that personnel at children's camps currently can (A.7791A/S.7262A). The bill requires a collaborative agreement with an emergency health care provider, training, and complying with Health Department regulations. Because the bill authorizes, but does not require, school participation, it does not impose a financial burden on schools. The bill has passed both houses and awaits the governor's signature.
Shameful "Hobby Lobby" Decision:
The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision is shameful. Your employer should have no say in your health care decisions, especially about reproductive care. Your pay check and your employment benefits are yours. The decision seems to be based on statutory interpretation, not a constitutional claim. So New York State's long-standing law protecting insurance coverage for contraception is hopefully in good shape.
By the way, if New York enacted my single-payer New York Health bill, only you and your health care provider would make health care decisions - not your insurance company, and not your boss.
Rent Guidelines Bd. Final Vote:
For many years, tenants have faced rent increases from major capital improvements, individual apartment improvements, and lease renewal increases. Many of these tenants struggle to pay their high rents, and come to my office to seek help when their landlords threaten to evict them for late payments.
Year after year, the Rent Guidelines Board has granted landlords Rent Stabilization increases well beyond their actual increases in costs. Last month I submitted testimony to the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), urging them to institute a rent freeze (attached), to partly catch up with those unjustified increases.
On June 23, the RGB voted to allow 1% and 2.75% increases on one and two year lease renewals respectively. These increases will take effect for leases renewing between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015. While it is not the freeze I advocated for and that tenants deserve, it is a victory in that it is the lowest increase ever adopted by the RGB. I will continue to fight to maintain affordable housing and prevent displacement of tenants.
214 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248