Local lawmakers: From overdose prevention to IRS legislation

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — From overdose prevention to bills aimed at making the IRS more accountable, here's a recap of what some of Staten Island's lawmakers have been up to recently.

OVERDOSE PREVENTION

Sen. Andrew Lanza and Assemblyman Michael Cusick recently sponsored a free opioid overdose prevention event at New Dorp High School to train Staten Islanders to prevent heroin and opiate overdoses from becoming fatal by using intra-nasal Naloxone (Narcan). 

Naloxone, a highly effective prescription  antidote used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, has been credited with saving hundreds of lives in New York.

"With overdoses now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, we have to do everything we can to ensure that this free, life-saving training is made
available to as many people as possible. …," Lanza (R-Staten Island) said.

Community Health Action of Staten Island provided training to the attendees, who learned to recognize heroin and opiate overdoses and prevent them from becoming fatal by administering Naloxone. Upon completion of the course, participants
became certified to administer the antidote and were given Naloxone rescue kits.

"As Staten Island continues to struggle with the scourge of drug abuse it is essential that we equip our neighbors with the tools and knowledge on how to save someone experiencing an overdose. While we recognize that this training does not treat the root cause of the drug abuse problem, we cannot ignore the reality of our current situation," Cusick (D-Mid-Island) said.   

LANZA, SAVINO HONORED

Lanza and Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) were recently honored by Staten Island Legal Services for their work to improve the lives of area families at the organization's annual luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield.

Lanza received the Vito J. Titone Award for Legal Excellence, and The Champion for Justice Award was presented to Savino.

Staten Island Legal Services is a program of Legal Services NYC, which provides free civil legal help to low-income people across all five boroughs.

HELP FOR ECUADOR

Following last weekend's deadly earthquake, Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) and Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) announced the introduction of a resolution in support of the people of Ecuador.
 
"New Yorkers have experienced the tragic destruction of a natural disaster firsthand, and we stand with Ecuador in their time of need," said Donovan. "Thank you to Congressman Crowley for his work on this resolution. Of course, our offices are here to assist constituents trying to reach loved ones in Ecuador."


DISASTER ASSISTANCE

Donovan and Congressman Chris Gibson, who represents the 19th District of New York, teamed up to introduce legislation addressing the severe inequities in disaster assistance after Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy. Gibson sponsored the Federal Disaster Notification and Payment Protection Act, with Donovan as an original co-sponsor.

The bill addresses two core problems with the federal disaster recovery process: inaccurate or incomplete information about what assistance is available to disaster victims, and the requirement for the government to recoup overpayments caused by government error.
 
"The majority of constituent cases my office has handled stems from Sandy recovery, and the overwhelming majority of those involve the two issues addressed by this bill. Thousands of people applied for SBA loans on FEMA's advice, not knowing their application would make them ineligible for grants down the road. This isn't a fair or consistent way to deliver disaster assistance, and I applaud Congressman Gibson for his attention to this problem," Donovan said.
 
HONORING VIETNAM VETERANS

Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D- North Shore) and Lanza joined veterans and elected officials at Tottenville High School on Sunday to recognize the sacrifices of those who served in the Vietnam War at the eighth annual Vietnam Veterans' Day Celebration.

In 2008, Lanza and Titone authored a new law which designated March 29 as Vietnam Veterans' Day in New York state. On March 29, 1973, the last 2,500 troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam, thus ending military involvement in one of the longest wars in U.S. history.

Of the names listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, 4,120 are from New York state. Every year, Lanza and Titone host their annual celebration of Vietnam Veteran's Day to properly memorialize those veterans who fought in Vietnam.

IRS LEGISLATION

Donovan on Tuesday voted to pass legislation aimed at the IRS's targeting of groups and individuals for tax scrutiny. The bill prohibits the IRS from using funds to target American citizens simply for exercising their First Amendment rights.

"It is incredibly dangerous for our own government to punish its citizens for exercising a right as fundamental as free speech. The IRS's shameful conduct in 2013 is a stain on our most cherished values. …," Donovan said.

The legislation addresses the 2013 scandal in which the IRS targeted tea party and other conservative organizations for unwarranted examinations of their tax exemptions. Beginning in 2010, IRS officials selected organizations with "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their titles for intensive scrutiny. A Department of Justice inquiry found "substantial evidence of mismanagement" and "poor judgment" by the agency, although no criminal charges were filed.

The legislation passed in the House Tuesday prohibits the IRS from using any funds to target citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights.

Donovan also voted this week to support a package of bills to make the IRS more accountable to the people it serves.

One of the bills passed in the House this week suspends bonuses to IRS employees until the Department of the Treasury implements a customer service strategy. Another bill prohibits the IRS from rehiring employees who had been previously fired. And another bill passed this week requires the IRS to certify its employees are not seriously behind on tax payments.

Donovan concluded, "Anybody who looks at the policies we passed this week should agree that they're common sense proposals. I hope the Senate acts and sends these bills to the President's desk."

IMPROPERLY ROUTED 911 CALLS

Councilman Joseph Borelli (R–South Shore) introduced legislation this month that would compel the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication (DoITT) to study the issue of 911 calls made from mobile phones being routed incorrectly to 911 dispatchers in New Jersey. DoITT would be required to submit a report to the New York City Council detailing the findings of their study and potential action to be taken to correct this issue.

Borelli has received calls to his office regarding the incorrect routing of emergency calls from constituents who had been affected. One recent call involved a woman who was involved in a vehicle collision in Tottenville, and was connected to an emergency dispatcher in New Jersey who was unable to immediately identify the location, or even identify that the caller was calling from within the bounds of New York City Police Department jurisdiction.

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