From the Desk of Senator Jen Metzger: May 2019 Newsletter
Friday, May 24, 2019
It's hard to believe we have just one month left in this legislative session! It has been a very busy first session as your State Senator, in which I've introduced over 70 bills and am working on another ten to introduce in the 2019 session before it concludes in the third week of June. Some of these are what are called "local" bills to address the particular needs of a community or school district that I represent and that require state legislation. Others are on matters of importance to the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions and to all New Yorkers, including universal access to broadband, greening our energy system, reducing utility fixed charges, and expanding affordable access to college in our state.
I am also continuing my crusade to clean up politics in the state capitol, with a new bill that would ban elected officials from holding Albany fundraisers during the months when the legislature is in session. Not surprisingly, these events are only attended by lobbyists looking to get the ear of legislators.
As Agriculture Committee Chair, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that farmers' markets are opening for the new season throughout the district, and I encourage you to drop by your local market and support our local farms. I hope you're having a great spring, and hope to see you in the district!
As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and concerns with me at Metzger@nysenate.gov.
All my best,
New York State Senator, 42nd Senate District
In this Newsletter...
- Upcoming Mobile Office Hours
- Legislative News
- Around the District
- Services that Support Our Communities
- News and Resources from your Agriculture Committee Chair
Upcoming Mobile Office Hours
My constituent services staff travels regularly to towns and villages across the 42nd Senate District to meet with constituents. Whether it’s to discuss a local or legislative issue or to provide guidance on working with a state agency, my staff is always available to assist you. You can also call our Middletown district office line at (845) 344-3311 on Monday (9 am - 7 pm) and Tuesday - Friday (9 am - 5 pm) to speak with a member of staff.
Mobile Office Hours for the month of June are as follows:
WHEN: Sunday, June 2 • 10 am - 2 pm
WHERE: The Rosendale Farmers Market | 408 Main St, Rosendale
WHEN: Tuesday, June 4 • 12 pm - 5 pm
WHERE: Ellenville Public Library & Museum | 40 Center St, Ellenville
* Recurring the first Tuesday of the month at Ellenville Public Library
WHEN: Tuesday, June 13 • 10 am - 4 pm
WHERE: Delhi Village Hall | 9 Court St, Delhi
* Recurring the second Tuesday of the month at Delhi Village Hall
WHEN: Thursday, June 27 • 12 pm - 5 pm
WHERE: Port Jervis City Hall | 20 Hammond St, Port Jervis
* Recurring the fourth Thursday of the month at Port Jervis City Hall
And, don’t forget about our extended office hours every Monday at our Middletown district office. We're open until 7 pm!
• • • Energy & Telecommunications
Introducing the Freedom From Fossil Fuels Act
SENATE BILL: S5200
BILL STATUS: In the Senate Energy & Telecommunications Committee
I recently announced my new bill, the Freedom From Fossil Fuels Act, which would put a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure in New York and require the NYS Energy Planning Board to develop a roadmap for a 100% clean energy system by 2030 if possible, and no later than 2040. Assemblywoman Nily Rozic is carrying the bill in the Assembly.
The Freedom from Fossil Fuels Act represents a commitment to a sustainable future, to a strong and forward-looking energy economy, and to the people of New York. With sensible energy planning, we will transform our economy and create thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs in the Hudson Valley and Catskills and across our state. And we will leave the world a better place for our children.
Addressing the Gaps in Rural Broadband Coverage
SENATE BILL: S5696
BILL STATUS: In the Senate Energy & Telecommunications Committee
I recently introduced legislation to help close the digital divide in our rural communities. The bill instructs the Public Service Commission to identify areas with insufficient broadband access and set targets for the completion of broadband infrastructure in those areas. We know that existing broadband infrastructure does not adequately serve our rural communities, and we need to make sure that everyone has the tools they need in order to thrive in a modern economy.
Introducing a Package of Legislation to Expand EV Ownership & Reduce Carbon Emissions on NY Roads
SENATE BILLS: S3827, S5439, S5820, S5872
BILL STATUS: All bills in Committee
Assemblywoman Pat Fahey and I recently announced a package of important legislation that would help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and significantly reduce carbon emissions in New York. One bill would provide a sales tax exemption for the first $35,000 of retail value in the purchase of an electric vehicle (EV). A second bill would direct the Office of General Services to, when practicable, purchase EVs for use in the state fleet of passenger vehicles and set targets so that all passenger vehicles in the state are zero emissions vehicles by 2030.
Another bill would direct the NYS Energy Research & Development Authority to identify areas where EV infrastructure is insufficient and evaluate options for improvement. A fourth bill sets benchmarks through a renewable electricity compliance program and renewable energy procurement program which will help our state stay on the right path in mitigating the effects of climate change, and ensuring that our economy is based on clean, renewable sources.
• • • Public Health
Eliminating Pill Mills in New York
SENATE BILL: S5653
BILL STATUS: In the Senate Health Committee
I’m sponsoring a bill that would require the New York State Department of Health to use the data made available by the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry to help identify and investigate opioid prescribers with statistically high prescribing patterns. (The registry currently tracks all opioid prescriptions in the state.) If there is evidence that doctors, clinics, or other prescribers have been illegally or inappropriately prescribing opioids, the Department of Health would then refer the matter to the Attorney General.
An interesting fact about this bill: The concept for it came from our Session Assistant Joe Nolan – a recent graduate of Political Science at Hartwick College (congrats Joe!), who has been staffing our Albany office as part of the Undergraduate Session Assistant Program. Earlier this month, Joe participated in a mock legislative session in Albany where he and his peers were tasked with “introducing” and voting on bills that address important issues facing New Yorkers. Joe chose to introduce this bill to address the opioid crisis. It’s a strong idea that I’m now proud to be carrying
Protecting Firefighters and the Public from Harmful PFAS Chemicals
SENATE BILL: S439
STATUS: Passed the NYS Senate
Earlier this week, we passed a bill in Senate that I co-sponsored to protect the health of firefighters and the public by reducing the use of harmful PFAS chemicals in firefighting activities. Studies conducted by the International Association of Fire Fighters & National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health link a variety of illnesses, including cancers, to PFAS exposure.
This bill, supported by the New York State Professional Firefighters Association, would bar the usage of equipment of Class B foams containing PFAS chemicals during training exercises and establish a two-year phase-out on the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of certain fire fighting foam containing PFASs. The bill also holds manufacturers accountable for notifying a purchaser of products containing PFAS chemicals.
• • • Environmental Conservation
Passing the Child Safe Products Act
SENATE BILL: S501B
BILL STATUS: Passed the NYS Senate & Assembly
We recently passed a bill in the Senate (that I co-sponsored) requiring manufacturers of children’s products – including toys, bedding, furniture, and apparel – to notify the NYS Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health (DOH) of the presence of dangerous chemicals in their products and provide information regarding the toxicity of such chemicals. The bill would also allow the DEC and DOH to ban the sale of products containing the chemicals that pose the highest risk to children's health, and require the DEC to post lists of dangerous chemicals on their website so that parents will be empowered with essential information to help them make smart choices to protect their children.
Several other states have adopted similar policies to hold manufacturers accountable. This bill, which has passed both the NYS Senate and Assembly, will reduce the use of dangerous chemicals and help keep our children safe.
• • • Education
Expanding Student Eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship Program
SENATE BILL: S5821
BILL STATUS: In the Senate Higher Education Committee
The goal of the Excelsior Scholarship is to help low-to middle-income students graduate from SUNY or CUNY institutions on time and with little to no debt. Unfortunately, stringent eligibility requirements make qualification difficult for many students to take advantage of the benefits provided by the scholarship.
One of the biggest hurdles for students is achieving a minimum of 30 academic credits per year, which is, of course, impossible for students who hold jobs alongside their studies.
Together with Assembly Member Jonathan Jacobson, we introduced a bill to expand the Excelsior Scholarship Program to include part-time students. The bill would reduce the credit minimum to 12 academic credits per year, provide that tuition be paid for eligible part-time students to up to $2,750, and extend program benefits to both full and part-time students enrolled in a Board of Educational Services (BOCES) (or other approved) vocational program.
The bill would also increase the income eligibility threshold to $135,000 for the 2019-2020 academic year, $150,000 for the 2020-2021 academic year, and $165,000 for the 2021-2022 academic year and thereafter. This measure would help so many students and their families that are struggling to pay for college.
• • • Transportation
Improving Safety on New York Roads
Senate Bills S4336, S2960, S3558A
BILL STATUS: Passed the NYS Senate
Last week in the Senate we passed a series of bills to improve pedestrian, bicycle, and traffic safety, by focusing on crash and injury prevention through education and proper safety measures. Every driver has a responsibility to exercise caution when they're on the road, especially when children are near, and these measures will help ensure that students are protected when traveling to and from school.
Among the bills passed is one I co-sponsored to address a major gap in our seat belt law by requiring that all people, regardless of age, wear a seatbelt in the back seat. (Currently, only backseat passengers under the age of 16 are required to do so.) A passenger is eight are 8 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured if not wearing a seatbelt in the backseat, and twice as likely to kill the driver. Wearing your seatbelt is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in the event of a car accident and this bill, which is awaiting action in the Assembly, will help save lives.
I was also proud to help pass legislation in the Senate to expand school bus safety measures that will protect school-aged children in our communities and reduce tragic accidents caused by reckless driving. These measures include increasing the penalties for drivers who pass a stopped school bus and adding a school bus safety component to driver’s ed courses to ensure that pre-licensed drivers are taught from the very beginning the dangers and illegality of passing a stopped school bus.
• • • Agriculture
Establishing Labeling Standards to Support NY Farmers & Food Producers
Senate Bill S3829
BILL STATUS: Passed NYS Senate
Currently, there are no standards to ensure that the main ingredients of products marketed as "local" are actually produced in New York. A bill that I sponsored, along with Assembly Member Carrie Woerner, to ensure that any food product marketed as "locally made" or "locally grown" is, in fact, made with ingredients grown, raised, harvested, or produced in New York. The local food movement provides a tremendous opportunity to our farmers and food producers, and this legislation helps to ensure that they benefit from it, while also increasing transparency and accuracy in food labeling so that New Yorkers can shop with confidence that when a label reads 'local' it truly means local. I'm proud that the bill passed unanimously in the Senate!
• • • Civil Practice Law & Rules
Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence
Senate Bills S2416 & S1243A
BILL STATUS: Passed the NYS Senate
In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Day, we passed seven bills in the New York State Senate that serve to provide much-needed protections to victims of domestic violence so victims may find safety, seek justice, and live lives free of abuse.
These bills include S2416, which will increase the statute of limitation to two years for civil suits related to injury caused by domestic violence, and S1243A, which will allow a victim to make a complaint to any local law enforcement agency in the state regardless of where the incident took place, protecting victims from having to return to the jurisdiction where the abuse took place. This series of bills passed is an important and long overdue step that will help save lives.
Around the District
Honoring Ellenville NAACP President Maude Bruce with the 2019 Women of Distinction Award. Maude has been a powerful force for the advancement of social, racial, and economic justice, and her legacy is one of tireless dedication to ending discrimination in our society, to expanding voter participation in our communities, and to the promotion of peace and civic engagement.
The Veterans Hall of Fame ceremony took place in Albany this past week, and I was proud to help induct Rosie Otero-Walsh of Wallkill. This is a well-deserved honor for Rosie who has protected and served our country and continues to serve through acts of volunteerism, advocacy, and public service. Rosie has a particular passion for mentoring and educating young people and works as the Youth Coalition Coordinator for the Town of Wallkill Police Department's Youth Coalition.
Visiting the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello to deliver a proclamation honoring Sullivan County Treasurer Nancy Buck for her high standard of work in managing the financial affairs of the County. We were joined by her hardworking team – Senior Accountant Lucrezia Anderson, Deputy Treasurer Kathleen Lara, & Senior Fiscal Officer Shannan Armbrust who have served the people of Sullivan County professionally and responsibly, providing a level of fiscal transparency that is the gold standard in the State of New York.
Celebrating the Grand Opening of Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark in Monticello! It was a pleasure to tour the beautiful facility, and I was particularly excited to learn that Kartrite will serve food made with ingredients grown and produced on NY farms AND that they’ve installed EV charging stations! Kartrite is going to make an invaluable contribution to Sullivan County’s tourist economy for years to come.
This year, on I Love My Park Day, my staff and I volunteered our morning to plant trees and flower beds with the rangers and staff at Sterling Forest State Park in Orange County. That’s us standing behind the maple tree we planted together!
Participating in the ribbon cutting for the Catskills Food Hub in Liberty! The Food Hub will connect farmers with buyers (including our schools!) and will provide marketing, sales, and distribution services to expand markets for the wide array of foods grown and produced in our region. This is great for our farms, great for our local economy, and great for the health of our communities.
I’m so grateful I had the chance to spend time with the wonderful group of kids at the Town of Wallkill Boys & Girls Club! I learned about the many programs available to students including Torch Club (student government), Garden Club (where students are growing their favorite fruits & vegetables), and Influencer Club (where a visiting representative from Safe Homes of Orange County came to talk about healthy relationships.) In the photo above, I’m with the Garden Club group where everyone was asked to pose as their favorite vegetable or plant!
Services that Support Our Communities
National Get Outdoors Day with NYSDEC on June 8th
On June 8th, you can celebrate National Get Outdoors Day with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation at locations across the state. Each location will have its own schedule of FREE recreation activities led by DEC staff including fishing, paddleboarding, archery, kayaking, geology walks, & bird watching!
WHEN: Saturday, June 8, 2019, 10:00 AM - 3:00 P
WHERE: Click here to view all of the participating locations
Caregiver Wellness Retreat at Frost Valley YMCA
Cornell Cooperative Extension & the Office for the Aging of Sullivan County are holding a FREE Caregiver Wellness Retreat at the Frost Valley YMCA in Claryville to serve caregivers in need of respite. Activities include crafts, gentle exercise, music, and massage for caregivers (with separate activities for care receivers). Nonstop caregiving can take a toll on both physical and mental health, leading to burnout which is why it is so important for caregivers to take opportunities to rest and recharge.
WHEN: Thursday, June 20, 2019, 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
WHERE: Frost Valley YMCA - 2000 Frost Valley Rd, Claryville, NY 12725
Grant Opportunity for Providers of Family Support Service in Orange & Sullivan Counties
DEADLINE: Tuesday, July 16, 2019, by 11:00 AM
Funding is available for not-for-profit organizations and government agencies that provide programs and services to families, in Orange and Sullivan Counties, who live with and care for a family member with developmental disabilities. This is a great funding opportunity to help parents and relatives enhance the stability of their family unit and provide critical services for vulnerable children and adults.
The program is organized by the Hudson Valley Developmental Disabilities Regional Office (DDRO) in collaboration with the Hudson Valley DDRO Family Support Services (FSS), and the Advisory Council of Rockland, Orange, and Sullivan Counties. Please also feel free to reach out to my office should you have any questions about this opportunity. You can call (518) 455-2400 to speak with a member of my staff, Monday-Friday 9am - 5pm. Learn more: https://on.ny.gov/2IqWYUd
Project Applications for Round 9 of the Regional Economic Development Council Initiative Are Now Available
DEADLINE: July 26, 2019, by 4:00 PM
Applications are open for municipalities, businesses, not-for-profits, and members of the public to apply for project funding through Round 9 of the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative. There are over 30 funding pathways available through over 10 state agencies to fund projects that create jobs and help to revitalize communities through the REDC’s Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process.
Below are some key documents to guide you through Round 9 of the REDC process:
CFA Workshops & Information Sessions will be held throughout the Mid-Hudson region.
Learn more: www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov/mid-hudson
Questions? Email REDC Regional Director, Meghan A. Taylor at email@example.com or call (845) 567- 4882.
Growing Through Grief Program at Camp Chrysalis in Rock Hill
DEADLINE: Enrollment is limited and the deadline for applications is August 9, 2019.
Camp will run from August 23-25.
Camp Chrysalis is for children ages 5 to 17 who are grieving the death of a loved one that has occurred within the last two years. Camp is held at the YMCA of Sullivan County in Rock Hill, New York and delivered in partnership with the Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties.
This FREE day-camp offers healing activities for children and youth experiencing grief. Through play, art, music, discussion, and activities, Camp Chrysalis provides a safe atmosphere of acceptance, understanding, and grief education. Trained Hospice Social Workers, Hospice Bereavement Volunteers, and YMCA staff will guide children and youth through their grief responses and facilitate effective coping skills. A separate adult support session will be offered on the final day of camp, Sunday, August 25.
Funding Available through HEAP Cooling Assistance Benefit
DEADLINE: County departments of social services will accept applications through August 30 or until funding remains available
Homes without proper cooling can put residents at risk for heat-related illnesses, particularly seniors, youth, and individuals with serious health conditions that are exacerbated by extreme heat. Funding is now available for eligible households to receive an air conditioning unit or fan through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).
News and Resources from your Agriculture Committee Chair
Preserving Farmland for the Next Generation Through a Unique Conservation Easement Collaboration
The late William "Bill" Topp wanted to make sure that his nearly 200-acre farm in Mount Hope would remain affordable enough for a young farming family. With the help of Orange County Land Trust, Scenic Hudson, and Equity Trust, as well as funding from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund's Farmland Protection Program, farmers Trish and Matt Southway took ownership of this beautiful working farm through a unique conservation easement that protects this farmland in perpetuity as a working farm while keeping the land affordable.
The Southways' farm, Farmer's Daughter, produces meat, eggs, vegetables, and goat's milk, which they sell at their two farm stands. While visiting the farm and celebrating this successful purchase, I had a chance to hold one of the Southways' three-day-old baby goats!
Public Hearings on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act
The Senate Agriculture and Labor Committees recently held three joint hearings - in Madison, Suffolk, and Sullivan Counties - to hear from members of our agricultural community on the proposed Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (S2837), sponsored by Senate Labor Committee Chair Jessica Ramos.
As Chair of the Agriculture Committee and the representative of farming communities in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions, I asked for these hearings so we could gather information from a wide array of stakeholders including farmers and farmworkers, who would be most affected by this proposed legislation, as well as advocates, educators, and other valued stakeholders who play an important role in supporting the farmers and farmworkers who make up our agricultural community. The Senators in attendance told me that they found the hearings informative and valuable. I will continue to seek and share input from our agriculture community as the Senate deliberates this legislation.
Video recordings of the hearing proceedings are now available on the Senate’s YouTube Channel.
- Click here to view the FFLPA Hearing in Morrisville
- Click here to view the FFLPA Hearing in Smithtown
Click here to view the FFLPA Hearing in Loch Sheldrake
Meeting with Dairy Farmers at CCE Sullivan
My office recently organized a meeting between U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and dairy farmers in the 42nd Senate District to discuss how we can work to help our family dairy farms navigate the challenges facing the industry. Last week, my office held a second meeting at Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County that brought the offices of Rep. Antonio Delgado and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney into the conversation (both sit on the House Agriculture Committee.) These are not easy issues and are primarily federal in nature, but we have to do what we can at the state level to help New York's dairy farms remain viable.
Touring Farms in New Paltz with the New York Farm Viability Institute
I spent a beautiful afternoon touring several local farms that have benefitted from the work of the New York Farm Viability Institute – a unique statewide organization, led by volunteer farmers, that funds research and educational projects and implements practical solutions to help keep farms and farming profitable in New York.
The first stop was Wallkill View Farm Market, which grows and sells a wide variety of vegetables, plants, and flowers on this third-generation family farm. (I've stopped there many times with my kids over the years!) We then headed to Gopal Organic Farm where Nimai Pandit is growing unique heirloom Indian vegetables and Ayurvedic herbs. He and his wife also produce their own brand of “ethical milk,” guided by a no-kill philosophy and a commitment to caring for the animals after retirement (10% of revenues from the milk are saved for their long-term care – a cow 401k!)
The last stop was Dressel Farms, where I had the pleasure of meeting three generations of the Dressel family at their apple orchard, learning about the farm’s history dating back centuries, and seeing the field research happening right on the farm to assess and utilize biologic methods to promote healthy fruit crops and orchard sustainability.
Celebrating Dairy Month in Albany
DEADLINE: Registration materials due Friday, May 31, 2019
On Wednesday, June 5th Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and I will host a celebration to highlight June as National Dairy Month! We invite dairy farmers, organizations and companies to exhibit their services, share information, and showcase products.
TO REGISTER: Mail, email or fax the response form (bit.ly/DairyDay2019) by Friday, May 31 to Bruce Krupke at the Northeast Dairy Foods Association. Upon RSVP, you will be provided with delivery, drop off, parking directions and other information you will need to participate.
Questions? Contact Bruce Krupke at (315) 452-6455 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event is free and open to the public!
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