Queens’ newest representatives in state and federal government talk priorities

Queens’ newest representatives in state and federal government talk priorities
By Mark Hallum

Following major upsets across the borough, some of the newest Queens lawmakers will be going to Albany and Washington, D.C., this month to focus on what they see as some of the biggest issues for their constituents.

With many gaining important committee appointments in recent weeks, state Sens. Jessica Ramos and John Liu as well as state Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz will be pushing mutual agenda items such as the Reproductive Health Act.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned Congressman Joseph Crowley in the June Democratic primary and cruised to victory in November, has been occupying headlines to mobilize the nation toward addressing climate change. She was sworn in on Jan. 3 as the 14th Congressional District’s new representative.

Ramos, a Jackson Heights activist, defeated State Sen. Jose Peralta, who unexpectedly died in November after losing his seat. She plans to vote in favor of the S2975A, which pertains to hours, wages and supplements in contracts for public work.

“My staff and I are busy this week getting our district office up and running so we can best serve our neighbors,” Ramos said. “As the new chair of the Senate Labor Committee, I am ready to protect workers’ rights, update our infrastructure by passing the public works bill, and fight for green jobs. I’m looking forward to getting the Reproductive Health Act passed as well as lively discussion about congestion pricing, single-payer healthcare, and marijuana legalization.”

Cruz campaigned heavily on rent reform such as eliminating Major Capital Improvements, or permission from the state for landlords to raise prices even on rent controlled units to make up for repair costs.

Being out of the country, Cruz was not able to deliver a statement before press time.

Since announcing his intention to challenge entrenched state Sen. Tony Avella over the summer, Liu said he was running in order to codify Roe vs. Wade into law in New York state through the Reproductive Health Act in order to protect the rights of women if it were to be overturned at the federal level.

“The Senate Democrats are ready to hit the ground running by passing the RHA, election reforms and securing education funding for our public schools,” Liu said. “New Yorkers have given the mandate to the state Senate to deliver these legislative priorities.”

Liu was scheduled to hold a swearing-in ceremony Jan. 6 at 1 p.m. at PS 203 in Oakland Gardens.

Congresswoman-elect Ocasio-Cortez did not respond to a request for comment on how she will be working to improve more local issues, but has been championing a Green New Deal, a proposal to have the Unites States on 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 in an FDR-like nationwide mobilization.

But in the past week, sitting House Democrats led by U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi have sided with the plan of establishing a committee on climate change, which contrary to Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, does not have the power to depose or subpoena and will not be able to vote legislation directly to the floor.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall[email protected]hnepsmedia.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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