Highlighting the latest session in Albany for her constituents, Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) called it one of the most productive, during her third annual state of the Assembly address on Thursday at the Flushing Library.
“We made many reforms this year,” Meng said, pointing to bills passed and actions promoted by Gov. Cuomo.
One of the bills that became law dealt with human trafficking and was introduced by Meng. “Queens is a magnet for the problem,” she said. “It’s treated as what domestic violence was 20 years ago.”
The legislation is designed to enhance victim protections and help decrease associated violent crimes through a new state task force. It is working to direct victims to the proper agencies and increase public awareness.
On the subject of ethics in Albany, Meng noted that under Cuomo, the legislature was able to pass a public integrity reform act which creates an independent commission to investigate charges against legislators.
“Elected officials must now disclose their outside income and where money comes from lobbyists,” she said. “Also, legislators found guilty of a felony will forfeit their pensions, but it’s not retroactive.”
Although Queens has had its fair share of such perpetrators, such as former Assembly members Brian McLaughlin of Flushing and the late Anthony Seminario of Richmond Hill, that means the new law would not apply to them.
“There are always a few bad apples in any business, but they are not representative of most elected officials,” Meng said.
She also discussed the future of the State Liquor Authority, as a member of the SLA Task Force. “We are working on two bills that will give community boards more input on proposed licenses for locations that have been sold,” she said. “Also, we are trying for New York City to have its own liquor authority because the issues are different than the rest of the state and we need more enforcement agents.”
On the local level, Meng said she continues to work on the issue of non-English signs in Flushing. “It’s a Queens issue as well,” she said. “The problem is enforcement.”
The assemblywoman noted that state law requires business signs to include English, but it does not specify who should enforce the measure. She said a bill introduced by Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) to have the Department of Consumer Affairs do the enforcement is in the works.
She is also working on a free shoppers guide with useful phrases in English for immigrants so they can communicate with workers or shoppers. It should be ready by the end of the year.
In Albany, she recently introduced legislation calling for a transit bill of rights for commuters. It would force the MTA to better inform the public on changes or delays and would require commuters and workers to serve on the agency’s board of directors.
“It’s frustrating trying to get the MTA to pay attention,” Meng added.
She also warned residents not to be taken in by an NYPD operation known as Lucky Bag. She said police leave a purse, credit cards or a wallet in a public space and when someone picks it up, they are arrested. “That shouldn’t be done,” she said. “Maybe the person is about to return it to the police.”
Meng told the audience that she is sponsoring two summer events. The first is healthy kids day on July 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at Kissena Corridor Park at Colden Street and 45th Avenue. There will be exercises and lots of activities for youngsters.
On Aug. 25 she is sponsoring a movie night at the same park but at Main Street and Elder Avenue where “Despicable Me” will be shown free. Participants are urged to bring their own blankets or chairs.