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Senate stalemate hinders passage of Lancman bills

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As a legislative stalemate gripped Albany this week, state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said he was especially concerned about the fate of four of his bills that he said would help Queens residents in the case of future hospital closings and area nonprofits to prepare for potential terrorist attacks.

Additionally, Lancman said the bills would aid individuals facing foreclosure and require the state to study jury diversity. The Assembly has passed each of the bills and each piece of legislation has a sponsor in the state Senate.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have remained at an impasse since Sen. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) helped Republicans overturn the Democratic majority leadership, a move Democrats have since called illegal.

“These bills are caught up in the Republican coup,” Lancman said.

The Hospital Closure Planning Act would require the state to hold hearings in communities affected by a hospital’s closing and issue a report within 60 days that would outline how the state would fill the gap in health care services in the area.

“After St. John’s and Mary Immaculate closed, the state didn’t do any real assessment to determine the impact of these closings on health services in these communities,” he said. “To this day, no one from the state has come into south Queens or the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst area and presented a plan for making up the loss of services in these communities.”

The Assembly last week passed Lancman’s Non-Profit Homeland Security Preparedness Study Act, which would require the state Office of Homeland Security to solicit testimony from the nonprofit sector to determine how to best help them prepare for potential terrorist attacks.

“With New York being the epicenter of potential terrorist attacks, New York state should be doing something financially and in non-financial ways to help our nonprofits,” Lancman said.

The Fresh Meadows lawmaker said this could help to protect synagogues and religious institutions in Queens. Community leaders have been particularly concerned about the security of synagogues since four men were charged in May with plotting to bomb two Jewish institutions in the Bronx.

The Access to Justice in Lending Act, sponsored by Lancman and passed by the Assembly several weeks ago, would allow individuals to potentially recuperate money spent on legal representation in foreclosure proceedings.

The last bill the legislator said he is keeping a close eye on would require the state to collect demographic data to see how diverse jury pools are.

“Queens is the most diverse county in the country, but if you look at jury pools, it’s hard to say the juries reflect that diversity,” Lancman said. “That has a real impact because a jury of one’s peers includes people who share similar life experiences and background.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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