Meng Provisions Assisting Military Members Passes House  

    U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

    U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth) announced last week that the House passed several measures she authored which provide needed assistance to members of the military.

    Meng’s provisions include six separate amendments that were attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the legislation that sets funding levels and policies for the U.S. Department of Defense for fiscal year 2019. The Congresswoman’s measures include the following:

    • Allowing any member of the armed forces who gives birth to be exempt from deployment for up to twelve months following childbirth.
    • Requiring the Secretary of Defense to permit military parents flexible (non-continuous) maternity and paternity leave, allowing this time off to be spread out over time instead of being used all at once.
    • Authorizing the Secretary of Defense to develop a burn patient transfer system. This would include military and civilian burn centers that could be used in mass casualty events.
    • Authorizing the Jet Noise Reduction Program within the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research in order to reduce noise produced by high performance military jets.
    • Requiring the Department of Defense to create exit surveys on attrition levels for members of the military in order to better understand why attrition rates are higher for women than for men.
    • Adding oversight responsibilities to the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Policy and Oversight Council. The newly created Council currently has no oversight requirement in its mandate. The Council will be responsible for overseeing the research, development and deployment of artificial intelligence and autonomous machines used by the military. The provision was cosponsored by Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL).

    “I’m thrilled that six of my provisions were included in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act,” said Meng. “My measures would ensure that the Department of Defense is able to retain talent by strengthening family-leave policies and providing data on challenges that women face at various career stages. I’m also proud that my amendments will improve the Department of Defense’s ability to respond during crises and ensure proper oversight of artificial intelligence and machine learning. I now look forward to my provisions in the NDAA moving through the Senate.”


    Crowley, Interfaith Leaders Hold Religious Freedom Roundtable

    U.S. Representative Joe Crowley

    U.S. Rep. and Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Joe Crowley (D-Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside, parts of the Bronx) last week joined Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, and interfaith leaders for a discussion on religious freedom and tolerance.

    The discussion came as President Trump’s first year in office saw an increase in attacks on religious freedoms and human rights. One of his first acts as president was to institute an unconstitutional Muslim ban that federal courts has repeatedly struck down. Since Trump took office, there has been spike in the occurrences of hate crimes throughout the country. In 2017 alone, the FBI reported 6,121 hate crimes, a marked increase since 2015.

    Throughout his time in Congress, Crowley has strongly advocated for religious freedom and led efforts to combat faith-based discrimination. Last fall, he urged the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the rise in hate crimes in America and has spearheaded efforts to improve the methods federal and local law enforcements deploy to monitor hate crimes.

    Crowley has also been a vocal opponent of Trump’s proposed Muslim ban and other proposals that discriminate against individuals based on their religious views.

    “It’s so important for spiritual leaders of all faiths to come together and stand as one,” said Crowley. “I deeply appreciate Sister Simone taking the time to join us to discuss how her religious beliefs guide the work she does to uplift and empower our most vulnerable citizens. As both an Irish-Catholic and a second-generation American, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to defend the rights of Americans of all faiths, which is why one of my top priorities is ridding our nation of bigotry and discrimination wherever it rears its head. It was heartening to discuss with local faith leaders how we can use our spiritual values to act as champions for the common good.”


    Avella Introduces Legislation Banning Single Use Plastic Straws in New York State

    Sen. Tony Avella

    State Sen. Tony Avella (D-College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Flushing, Jamaica Estates, Fresh Meadows, Bellerose, Floral Park, Jamaica, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Kissena Park, Briarwood) announced last week that he is drafting legislation prohibiting businesses in the state from providing customers with single use, non-biodegradable, plastic straws.

    Given the other more eco-friendly options available, like paper, bamboo, and aluminum, Avella believes it is time to eliminate these plastics from our landfills and oceans.

    “New Yorkers go through countless single use plastic straws every day. They end up in our landfills and polluting our waterways and can eventually end up in our oceans as a major pollutant. We have all seen videos or heard stories of marine life getting injured or dying after ingesting plastic straws. Given that yesterday was World Turtle Day, I believe my legislation is an important first step in helping reduce the number of plastics in landfills and our oceans, hopefully saving many of the creatures we all adore in the process,” said Avella.

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