Our First Bill Passes Unanimously, EnCon Hearing Recap & More!
Posted on February 1, 2021
I can’t believe this was just last weekend:
We were surrounded (virtually) by friends, new and old, to celebrate my district swearing-in!
That day was for all of us—for those who put their trust in me on election day and for those whose trust I will work my hardest to earn. I’ve learned that no matter where you fall on that spectrum, the thread that unites us is our love for this special place here in New York State that we call home: the 46th Senate District.
We are ready to create a future that we can all be proud of, and it’s my honor to fight alongside you to achieve it. In this newsletter, you’ll learn about the issues I’ve been fighting for this week on behalf of our communities, like increasing investments in broadband and our aging water infrastructure, expanding access to nutritious, New York-grown food in areas of the state where healthy, affordable options are limited, and enhancing COVID safety measures for our upcoming local elections to ensure that our democracy can continue safely amid the pandemic.
Have a scroll, and as always, if you think my office can help solve a problem, you’re facing or if you just want to share your thoughts on an issue important to you, give us a call at (845) 331-3810 or send me an email at email@example.com.
My first sponsored bill to come to the Senate floor passed unanimously this week! It will allow remote caucusing for village and town elections this year and expressly authorizes the use of video or telephone conferencing to accommodate social distancing concerns. This change comes just in time for our upcoming local elections and was advanced as part of a broader package of bills that will help ensure our democratic process can safely continue amid the pandemic. Other bills in the package focus on expanding absentee ballot access, lowering petitioning requirements for the 2021 elections, and advancing protections for residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
On Thursday, we heard from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos at the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Environmental Conservation where I raised two significant issues that our upstate communities face. The first: our overutilized state wilderness here in the Catskills, which lacks critical infrastructure (like walkways, parking, and forest rangers) essential for the safety of visitors and the protection of our natural resources.
I also voiced my concerns about the state of our local water infrastructure, which is in urgent need of upgrade and repair (some of the infrastructure in SD-46 dates back 100 years!). Grant programs like the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act make it possible for our municipalities to fund initiatives that improve drinking water and other clean water projects, and we need to prioritize these investments even in a challenging budget year.
That same day, I also had the opportunity to ask questions of NYS Public Service Chairman John Rhodes. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that the Governor’s claim that 98% of the state has access to high-speed internet is simply inaccurate. We know this to be true here in Upstate New York, where too many families struggle to cobble together a solution to unreliable or nonexistent service, often having to sit in a library parking lot to attend school online or get through a workday.
Like electricity, broadband is a fundamental necessity in today’s world, and I will continue to fight misinformation and work to fully close the gaps in both service and affordability for our upstate communities.
You can view our exchange below.
As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I led our first committee meeting on Monday! The Ranker on our committee, Senator Borrello, joined me in Albany while others participated via Zoom, and together, we moved six bills through committee, four of which will help expand markets for New York farmers and increase food access throughout the state with an important emphasis on our underserved areas known as “food deserts.”
Senate committees are small, bipartisan teams of Senators that meet to discuss, debate, and vote to advance bills for consideration by the full State Senate. In this committee, my colleagues and I will vote on bills related to New York’s agricultural sector, vital to New York’s economy and our long-term food security. We hope to address many needs this year, like incentivizing soil health management practices to help combat climate change, expanding farm-to-school and farm-to-food-pantry programs throughout the state, and helping both our farmers and agribusinesses (including our craft beverage industry) access new markets.
We’re in the process of creating some Hinchey office traditions around here and among them is our First Annual Valentines for Seniors Card Drive! Community members and students are invited to make homemade cards for our local nursing home residents and care staff, which my staff and I will safely distribute by Valentine’s Day!
From now until Wednesday, February 10, by 5:00 pm, you can mail or drop off your card at our Kingston office, located at 721 Broadway, Suite 150.
The COVID-19 Rent Relief Program ends on February 1. This program provides eligible households with a one-time rental subsidy sent directly to the household’s landlord, and recipients do not need to repay this assistance. To calculate your eligibility and apply, click here.
Wedding Receptions to Resume in March: Wedding receptions will be allowed to resume on March 15 and will require the following:
Guests must be tested for COVID-19 prior to the event.
Guest count will be limited to 150 attendees or 50% of the venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller.
Events must be approved by local health departments.
NYS Allowing “High-Risk” High School School Sports to Resume:Beginning February 1, county health departments will have the authority to approve local sports and tournaments, including youth athletics at school. High-risk sports include activities such as football, wrestling, ice hockey, rugby, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, martial arts, competitive cheer, and group dance.
On Saturday, my team and I hit the pavement in Midtown Kingston to make sure our Hispanic community knows that we’re here to help and able to provide assistance in both English and Spanish! We met with local businesses and restaurants and hung flyers to spread the word about the COVID eviction moratorium and general contact information for our office. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Visiting Johnk Family Farm in Greenville
Shortly after I announced I’d be assuming the role of Senate Agriculture Chair, Alex Johnk reached out and asked me to tour Johnk Family Farm in Greenville, the small beef and pork farm he owns with his wife Becky.
This young farming family cares for over 20 cows, selling their farm products through their newly created and very successful farm stand (a recent COVID-19 project!) and directly to the community. It was great to tour their farm and speak with Alex about the challenges he faces as a farm owner and the ways the state can help address the mental health needs of farmers, increase farmers’ access to processors, and find practical strategies to improve farm profitability.
In just seven years, Alex and Becky have grown Johnk Family Farm, but many of the challenges they’ve faced along the way (and still face) are shared by young farmers across our state. I’m committed to finding ways to better support our next-generation of farmers who are helping rejuvenate our local economies and provide fresh food to our communities.
A Great Afternoon at the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston
Our local Boys and Girls Clubs provide kids with a safe space to learn, grow, and socialize with their peers. During this pandemic, when many kids don’t have safe places to go or spaces to do their homework, our Ulster County Clubs in Kingston and Saugerties have never been more important. Dan Whelan, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ulster County, recently showed me around the Kingston facility where I had the chance to spend some time with a wonderful group of students and learn more about the different activities and programs offered every week. Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club provides a critical lifeline for kids in our communities and are often the only safe space, outside of school, our children can go. I look forward to partnering with Dan, and everyone from the Boys and Girls Club, to make sure they’re able to continue serving our communities!
Touring Local Trailheads in West Kill
Last weekend, I had a great meeting up in West Kill with Town Councilman and West Kill Brewing owner Mike Barcone and Christa Whiteman, who, along with Mike, is a Board Member of the NY Backcountry Hunting and Anglers (BHA). They took me on a tour of a few local trailheads to see firsthand the issues the Town has been facing with the lack of parking infrastructure to accommodate the increased volume of visitors. We all want our precious public lands protected and for visitors to have safe access, and I will continue to advocate with the DEC that our high-demand wilderness areas get the resources they need.
And, of course, no visit would be complete without stopping off at