The Independent Democratic Conference in the State Senate, led by State Senator Jeff Klein, praised key accomplishments of the just completed legislative session, many of which derived from policy proposals in the IDC’s agenda, NY 2020: A Blueprint for a Better New York.
After passing numerous signature issues as part of the 2016-2017 budget, including Paid Family Leave, a $15 minimum wage, and the largest investment in education in state history, the IDC praised the wave of achievements for the state including holding banks accountable for zombie properties, improving day care safety and strong ethics reforms.
“As we close out this legislative session, I am proud of the strides we have taken, and of the accomplishments of the Independent Democratic Conference. After laying out a comprehensive policy plan, we have passed significant passed legislation to keep our children safe, help mothers in need, and ensure greater transparency in our public school system. After having long-championed legislation to cure derelict bank-owned and zombie properties, which pose significant problems in communities all across this state, banks will now be held responsible to maintain zombie properties. I can truly say that as we close session, this year we have created a better New York,” said Independent Democratic Conference Leader Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester). Sen. Klein's district includes the Pelhams.
Other members of the Independent Democratic Conference are Senator David Valesky (D-Oneida), Senator Diane Savino (D-Brooklyn/Staten Island), Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens), and Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester).
The legislation approved in both houses that the IDC championed included the following:
• Protecting Home Values of Properties Near Blighted Property: Senator Klein introduced, legislation that passed in both houses that will protect neighboring home values while ensuring the speedy rehabilitation of properties. To address the zombie property blight, banks and servicers will have a duty to maintain vacant and abandoned properties, a new toll-free hotline will allow people to report potentially vacant or abandoned sites, and an electronic database will provide streamlined access to information for affected communities. An expedited foreclosure process will protect neighboring homes, while improvements to mandatory settlement conferences will protect homeowners facing foreclosure. Finally, the establishment of a Consumer Bill of Rights will inform property owners of of their rights in foreclosure proceedings.
• Lending by Land Banks: Legislation approved by both houses gives onprofit land banks opportunities to redevelop and rehabilitate foreclosed and abandoned residential and commercial properties.
• Day Care: A new law will require that a report card be posted in the window of all licensed day care centers in New York City; it will provide a clear way for parents to access streamlined information for parents on the safety of the day care center.
• Ethics Reform: Under the pension forfeiture agreement, an elected official who has committed a crime will have his/her pension stripped.(A second vote by the Legislature is required next year.) The legislation also requires consultants to disclose the elected officials with whom they do business. Finally, it also introduces reform so that independent expenditures will ensure that shady money stays out elections.
• Employment Agencies: Senator Klein's legislation, passed in both houses, modifies licensing procedures for employment agencies making it more difficult for them to defraud workers; improve enforcement of existing regulations; and enables victims to seek legal recourse if they have been taken advantage of.
• East Ramapo School District: New funding of $3 million to restore programs that had been previously eliminated, including extracurricular activities, support services and full day kindergarten, as well as oversight requirements that will be provided by the Commissioner of Education.
• Combating the Heroin Epidemic: The legislature passed legislation that limits opioid prescriptions from 30 to 7 days, requires mandatory prescriber education on pain management to stem the tide of addiction, eliminates burdensome insurance barriers to treatment, expands supports for New Yorkers in recovery, increases treatment beds by 270 and expands program slots for substance use disorder by 2,335 in New York.
• Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional program: WIC checks for prescription formula may now be accepted by all stores that participate in the WIC program.
• New York State Community Restoration Fund: This new law authorizes State of New York Mortgage Agency to utilize fund resources to rehabilitate distressed properties, demolish homes that are dilapidated beyond repair, and fund not-for-profit and affordable housing developers, in order to address the foreclosure crisis, repurpose or rehabilitate foreclosed or vacant properties into affordable housing, and keep families in their homes.
• Increasing rail grade crossing safety: Legislation that passed both houses will now require coordinated, frequent inspections of traffic control devices, while imposing penalties on companies and repeat offending drivers who ignore public safety requirements.
• Mayoral Control of NYC Schools: This year’s agreement on New York City mayoral control of NYC public schools extends control for one year, while requiring School Community Districts to publish spending information. This new requirement will streamline information for parents and taxpayers, and enhance understanding of New York City’s public school spending.