Long-Time Assemblyman Robin Schimminger To Retire After 2020

Democrat Robin Schimminger was first elected to the state Assembly in 1976.

He will end his 40+ year tenure in the Legislature at the end of next year. Schimminger confirmed he plans to retire after he completes his current term.

“During that time, I have met with thousands of individuals and been involved with issues that have affected them personally and collectively as a community. After considerable reflection, I have decided that I will not be seeking re-election next year in 2020,” he said.”

He has served as the chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Economic Development for more than two decades. Schimminger has the reputation as a moderate Democrat, who has had no qualms with criticizing the administration, including current Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I will, however, continue to represent the people and places that have been a part of my life for the duration of my present term, after which time I look forward to spending more time with my family,” he said.

Party insiders expect there will be people lining up to run for the long-occupied seat. The names already mentioned as possible Schimminger successors include Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner, Kenmore Mayor Patrick Mang, Tonawanda Supervisor Joe Emminger and Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick.

Spectrum News spoke with Emminger and Hardwick before the assemblyman made his announcement. Emminger said he would consider running for the seat, while Hardwick, who recently defected from the GOP, did not say no but downplayed the idea.

Lentol Bill Would Create Mental Health Community Clinics

Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Joe Lentol on Friday announced a measure that would create integrated mental health community clinics in the state.

The facilities would focus on issues like eating disorders, substance abuse and suicide prevention as well as other behavioral issues.

“While preventative and proactive care of physical health is important, the same must be said for mental health,” Lentol said. “New York State continues to fail individuals and families who suffer from brain disease that manifest as symptoms of mental illness. No matter the health care discussion, mental health always gets left behind.”

The proposal would require the state Department of Health to create the clinics and equip them with services to expand access to treatment.

“We must treat mental health as comprehensively as we do physical health,” he said. “Expanding access to mental health services is not only the right thing to do, but it is a public health emergency. New York State must provide comprehensive and accessible means of mental health treatment for those who need it.”

Lawmakers To Hold Hearing On MTA Capital Plan

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic-led state Legislature on Tuesday will hold a public hearing on the MTA’s $51.5 billion capital plan.

The hearing will be led by Queens Democratic Sen. Leroy Comrie, the chairman of the chamber’s Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions Committee, as well as Sen. Tim Kennedy, the Buffalo lawmaker who leads the Transportation Committee as well as Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Chairwoman Amy Paulin of Westchester County.

The capital plan lays out key infrastructure improvements for mass transit service for the New York City metropolitan region over the next five years. The capital plan is under scrutiny amid broad concerns over the state of the New York City subway in particular and the need to modernize the overstrained system.

“The MTA Capital Plan is a historic investment in New York’s public transit that will improve the lives of riders across the region,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.

“The implementation of the MTA’s 5-year Capital Plan will have drastic implications for New York, our economy, and our quality of life, which is why we must ensure it moves forward effectively. I applaud Senator Comrie, Senator Kennedy and Assemblymember Paulin for organizing this hearing to review this essential capital plan and its implementation.”

The hearing will be held in the Assembly hearing room in New York City starting at 10:30.

Fahy Bill Would Mandate Beverage Containers Contain At Least 75 Percent Recycled Materials

Single-use beverage containers manufactured or sold at the wholesale or retail level in New York should be composed of at least 75 percent recycle materials by the middle of the next decade, according to a bill introduced this week by Assemblywoman Pat Fahy.

The bill would phase in the requirement over the next six years and is meant to reduce the amount of plastic used in consumer items, which have been attributed to a pollution crisis in the world’s oceans.

“Single-use plastics contribute to climate change, create unnecessary waste, and are rarely recycled,” said Julie Tighe, the president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Requiring that single-use beverage containers are made from at least 75% recycled materials will create markets while decreasing the burden of plastic waste in our landfills and making a positive impact on our climate. We thank Assemblymember Fahy for introducing this legislation and leading the way on addressing our waste crisis.”

At the same time, local governments have struggled in New York sell their recyclables as the prices for materials fall due to Chinese policy on importing foreign waste.

The bill, Fahy’s office said, is meant to to also stimulate economic opportunities for the existing recycling system in the state.

“Our nation’s plastic addiction is contributing to global warming and polluting our waterways and communities,” said Liz Moran, the environmental policy director for NYPIRG. “Plastic bottles were the 5th most commonly found litter in the 2019 international coastal cleanup. But the solution is simple – New York must reduce and eliminate single-use plastics. We applaud Assemblymember Pat Fahy for putting forward legislation that would significantly reduce plastic pollution and production, and set New York as a leader in addressing the current plastic pollution and recycling crisis.”

New Bill Would Increase Access To Immunization Data

State lawmakers want to increase the ability of the public to gain access to immunization data, requiring all schools in the state to report specific information on their students’ immunization rate against disease that require vaccinations.

The bill, backed by Democrats Brad Hoylman in the state Senate and Jeffrey Dinowitz in the Assembly, would also require the state Department of Health to create a searchable database on its website that contains information on each school’s rate of compliance with immunization.

Much of the data lawmakers want to make public is already available on a searchable database at the Department of Health.

At the same time, the bill would require state health officials to analyze trends in immunization rates and medical exemptions from immunization over time in order to identify parts of the state that could be vulnerable to diseases.

The legislation was introduced this week after some school districts struggled to ensure students had received their required vaccinations after the state ended the religious exemption for vaccinations. The challenges facing schools led to some state lawmakers worrying about the amount of time education officials had to implement the new law.

That measure, also backed by Hoylman and Dinowitz, is being challenged in court by anti-vaccination advocates.

“Parents have a right to know. As New York continues to recover from the worst measles outbreak in four decades, parents deserve to be informed about whether their child’s fellow students are up to date on all their required vaccines,” Hoylman said in a statement.

“The legislation I carry with Assemblyman Dinowitz will equip parents, policy-makers, and public health officials with accurate data that will help them understand whether a specific school is in compliance with immunization requirements. No parent should have to worry for the safety and health of their child when sending them to school.”

Lawmakers approved the bill ending the vaccine religious exemption following a measles outbreak in Rockland County and Brooklyn, which state and local officials say has now been largely brought under control, with no new cases reported over two incubation periods.

Liquor License Database Bill Approved

A bill that would require the State Liquor Authority to build and maintain a publicly available database of on-premise liquor licenses was approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a move cheered by lawmakers who backed the measure.

The bill, sponsored by Manhattan Democrats Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and Sen. Brad Hoylman, would enable a resident to look up information on bar, such as whether it has permits for live music or an outside patio — enabling police to respond faster to noise complaints in a neighborhood.

“Community boards, block associations, and residents across my district have for years called upon the State Liquor Authority to make information on these licenses more available and accessible, so that they can better understand their impact on our neighborhoods,” Hoylman said. “This is basic, good government.”

Glick also applauded the bill’s approval, saying it will allow people to check if neighborhood establishments are being good neighbors.

“For too long, it has been nearly impossible for community members to get very basic information about State Liquor Authority licensees that operate in our neighborhood,” she said. “Now that liquor license information will be easily obtainable, people can see for themselves if nearby establishments are being good neighbors and are operating within the constraints of their license.”

Lentol Urges Approval Of Records-Sealing Bill

Democratic Assemblyman Joe Lentol urged in a statement on Friday the approval of a bill that would have the records sealed of people who have been convicted of petty offenses by default.

The measure would add language to the law in order to clarify the only determination for whether a record should be sealed is the final disposition of the case, not the original charge.

The bill is meant to address inconsistent records sealing when the top charge was a violation or traffic infraction, leading to low-level violations many people thought had been sealed, were not.

“There were problems with how law enforcement on the local level was applying a 1994 law we passed. We needed to clarify the intent of the original bill that aimed to seal petty offenses,” Lentol said.

“We are confident that this bill will ensure that those cases that the court determines can be sealed will be sealed. This bill is a no brainer for creating a more fair and equitable criminal justice system. We passed monumental criminal justice reforms and this is another win for New Yorkers.”

The bill was delivered to Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week.

Lawmaker Wants All American Flags Sold In New York Made In America

A bill introduced this week by Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara would require all U.S. and New York state flags sold in the state be made in America with American labor.

Federal law requires flags purchased by the federal government be made with 50 percent of American-made materials.

“Our flag has covered the coffins of presidents, it has traveled to the moon, and for those who make the ultimate in sacrifice for our great nation, their remains are covered with the flag for which they fought for when they are given their final honors, and that flag should be made in the United States,” Santabarbara said in a statement.

Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have approved legislation over the years that bars their states from spending money on flags manufactured outside of the United States. Minnesota banned the sale of foreign-made American flags.

“I stand with Americans who want their flag American-made,” Santabarbara said.

It’s estimated that $3.6 million in American flags are imported to the United States; most are made in China.

Assembly Mobilizes Support For Storm-Ravaged Bahamas

From the Morning Memo:

Lawmakers in the state Assembly this week are making a push to provide support and aid to areas in the Bahamas and the Caribbean that were devastated last week by Hurricane Dorian.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, along with the Assembly Haitian Caucus, will announce plans today to work with the Consulate General of the Bahamas and the Bahamian American Association to help the areas affected by the storm.

Lawmakers’ offices will also host relief drive events to help Bahamians.

“The people of the Bahamas will undoubtedly face many challenges ahead, but New Yorkers are always ready to lend a helping hand,” Heastie said in a statement.

“I am grateful and proud that the Assembly Majority never hesitates to help those in need, and we are confident in the resiliency of our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean.”

The islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, home to Haitian immigrants, were heavily damaged by the storms.

The relief effort includes Assembly lawmakers Michaelle Solages, Rodneyse Bichotte, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Clyde Vanel and Mathylde Frontus.

“This disaster hit close to home for us all,” Bichotte said.

“A community known as The ‘Mudd’ located on the island of Abaco was built over decades by thousands of Haitian immigrants in search of a better life. The residential environment has now been completely reduced to rubble by the storm, where many of its residents remain unaccounted for. We play a vital role for this group of people – our voices strongly resonate for those who have been silenced.”

65 Lawmakers Earn Perfect Score From Environmental Group

Sixty-five state lawmakers have earned perfect scores from the New York League of Conservation Voters’ annual scorecard assessing action on key environmental issues facing the state.

The scorecard considered lawmakers’ votes on 16 issues like a ban on off-shore drilling, stated support for a congestion pricing plan in New York City, clean water legislation and a measure meant to fight climate change through reducing carbon emissions over the coming decades.

“New York’s environment was the clear winner in this session, the most pro-environment in recent memory,” said Julie Tighe, the group’s president.

“Senators and Assemblymembers clearly take our scorecard seriously. We encourage New Yorkers to use this scorecard as a resource to see whether or not their representatives are prioritizing environmental issues. We celebrate several longstanding NYLCV priorities finally became law this year, including a bold nation-leading climate change law and congestion pricing. NYLCV will continue to fight for those that did not pass this session, like a low carbon fuel standard that would reduce transportation emissions and improve air quality. We’re proud of all of our environmental leaders for this session’s successes, and we can’t wait to get back to work in January.”

All told, 26 lawmakers in Senate and 39 members of the Assembly earned a perfect 100 percent rating. Twelve members of the Senate and 36 lawmakers in the Assembly earned 80 percent or higher.

The Senate Democratic conference had the highest average rating of 97 percent. Assembly Republicans had the lowest rating of 51 percent.