A column from Assemblyman Mike Norris, R-C-I-Ref-Lockport:
Last week, the State Legislature reconvened for another session to address a variety of issues, including some of the ongoing concerns New Yorkers are facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As government is essential, my colleagues and I have been meeting throughout the crisis and are prepared to continue doing so in order to make sure the needs of the people are being fully addressed. Though there is a lot more work to be done, and, of course, there were plenty of bills that I didn’t like that came up for a vote, I was pleased we passed some good measures (which are described below) last week in a bipartisan manner working across the aisle that will help the people of Western New York and the 144th Assembly District – including two bills I am very proud to sponsor.
Perhaps most importantly, we passed legislation (A.10840) to scale back the immunity from liability clauses going forward for nursing homes with regards to arranging health care services during the COVID-19 crisis. Of course, many of our nursing homes and their staff are following protocols and doing good job. But in the instances where someone does not follow protocols and take proper precautions, we are seeing how devastatingly quickly those losses can spread throughout an entire nursing home. We have the personal protective equipment, tests, knowledge and, hopefully, the understanding to know better – everything that can be done to protect our vulnerable populations, like those in nursing homes, must be done. No excuses. I proudly voted “yes” on this bill.
To ensure every eligible voter has the ability to vote without greater risking their health, or the health of others, I also voted in support of legislation (A.10833) to allow absentee ballots to be obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic by those who do not feel comfortable voting in person due to health concerns or are at greater risk. To address the food shortage concerns exposed earlier in the pandemic, I also supported legislation (A.10607-A) that would strengthen our state’s self-reliance in terms of farming, food production and ensuring an adequate food supply for New Yorkers. Specifically, this bill creates a working group between various state agencies and relevant industries (agriculture, labor, food transporters, retailers, emergency food providers, etc.) and charges them with compiling a report of recommendations.
I was also the proud sponsor of some bills that came to the floor and ultimately passed. Assembly Bill 9779 creates a task force and report on volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention as well as helps implement a training program within BOCES so that more, younger recruits can get hands-on experience and credit through school. This bill has been passed in both houses, and I hope it will be signed into law by the governor shortly.
I also sponsored Assembly Bill 5070, which passed the Assembly to provide greater assistance to property owners along the shores of Lake Ontario by requiring the state Department of Financial Services to publish information about flood insurance and necessary contact information, including their disaster hotline.
Two other bills I was pleased to support were legislation that creates a registry of workplace fatalities and requires the state Department of Labor to publish a report of such fatalities on their website (A.5965), and a bill that directs that Division of Veterans’ Services to make it easier for veterans with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder to obtain help (A.8114).
Please know, I am working hard for you and will continue to work with my colleagues on common sense legislation to help New York’s families and taxpayers. My staff and I are available to assist you if you are in need. You can call my office at 716-839-4691, email me at [email protected], or follow me on social media for more updates.