In its first legislative act of 2015, the New York State Senate and Joe Robach acted on a comprehensive Women’s Equality Agenda that would enhance the rights of women and protect those who are most vulnerable to abuse and discrimination. These historic women’s measures are a top priority of the Senate Coalition and were voted on the first day the Senate begins voting on legislation this session.

The comprehensive package of eight bills would: stop human trafficking; ensure equal pay for equal work; combat sexual harassment in the workplace; end gender discrimination in employment, housing and credit decisions; make reasonable work accommodations available for pregnant women; and provide stronger protections for domestic violence victims.

The eight bills comprising the Senate’s Women’s Equality Agenda were passed in 2013 and 2014 but were not acted upon by the Assembly. The measures include:


The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (S.7), sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza (R, Staten Island), toughens penalties against those who buy and sell young women, men, and children and reduces the stigma defendants may face when they are victims of the massive $32 billion sex trafficking industry.

Key provisions of the measure include increasing the accountability of traffickers and buyers by raising the penalty for sex trafficking to a class B violent felony; creating the felony sex offense of “aggravated patronizing a minor”; and aligning the penalties for patronizing a minor with those of statutory rape.

The bill will also strengthen the investigative tools used to build a case against traffickers. Sex trafficking will be an affirmative defense to prostitution and the term “prostitute” will be eliminated from the Penal Law, as that term stigmatizes defendants who are in fact victims of sex trafficking. Nowhere else in the state’s Penal Law are individuals identified by the crime they allegedly committed.

Senator Andrew Lanza said, “Here in New York, thousands of innocent people are bought and sold like property each year. Human trafficking, a modern version of the slave trade, is a devastating human rights violation occurring in our own backyards. I’m proud to have authored the long-awaited Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA) to enhance protections for trafficking victims and hold those who exploit them accountable. I thank Senator Skelos, Assemblywoman Paulin, and the many advocates who are helping make this possible.”


Despite existing protections under the law, women in New York earn 84 percent of what men earn and jobs traditionally held by women pay significantly less than jobs predominately employing men. In New York, on average, a woman working full time is paid $42,113 per year, while a man working full time is paid $50,388 per year. This creates a wage gap of $8,275 between full-time working men and women in the state.

The Senate will take up S.1, sponsored by Senator Diane Savino, to help women receive the wages they are entitled to by prohibiting employers from paying employees disparate amounts due to gender.


Legislation (S.4) sponsored by Senator Betty Little would help working mothers by preventing discrimination in the hiring and promotion of people with families. Employers would be prohibited from denying work or promotions based on family status, such as parents and women who are pregnant. Existing law only prohibits discrimination based on family status in credit and housing, but not employment — which can have a negative impact on women with children.

To help protect pregnant women, the bill (S.8) sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon (R, Nassau) would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with pregnancy-related medical conditions. A pregnancy-related condition would be treated as a temporary disability and employers would be required to perform a reasonable accommodation analysis for employees with conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.


Discrimination against victims of domestic violence is almost always discrimination against women. Eighty-five percent of domestic violence victims are women; 1.3 million women are victims of assault by an intimate partner each year. Many of these victims are forced to stay with or return to their abusive partners because of a lack of available housing or when they are refused housing.

Bill S.5, sponsored by Senator Joe Robach, would make it illegal to discriminate against domestic violence victims and provides the victims with the option of a civil action if discrimination occurs.

Senator Joe Robach said, “When it comes to combating domestic violence it is critically important that victims are able to find housing for themselves and their families to escape the eminent danger they have endured. This legislation will end discrimination in the housing marketplace and give domestic violence victims the protections they need from their abuser.”


Sexual harassment disproportionately affects women in the workplace. In 2011, women filed 75 percent of all sexual harassment complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights and 83 percent of all sexual harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The legislation (S.2), sponsored by Senator David Valesky (D, Oneida), would protect workers from sexual harassment regardless of the size of the workplace. Under current law, people working at businesses with fewer than four employees cannot file a harassment complaint with the state because small employers are exempt from the law that prohibits harassment. More than 60 percent of the state’s private employers have fewer than four employees. This bill would ensure that all employees are protected from sexual harassment by applying existing protections to businesses of all sizes.


A bill (S.3) sponsored by Senator Betty Little would remove barriers to remedying discrimination by allowing for reasonable attorney’s fees in employment and credit discrimination cases when sex is a basis of discrimination.

Under existing law, attorney’s fees for sex discrimination cases involving employment, credit, and lending are not available even after the plaintiff proves discrimination at trial. As a result, many who are discriminated against and cannot afford to hire an attorney never seek redress. Also, those who hire an attorney on a contingency fee arrangement are not “made whole” for their losses because they must pay for their attorneys out of their recovery. Some who cannot afford to hire an attorney, but who try to do so on a contingency basis, are unsuccessful because the case is either too small or too risky.


Domestic violence legislation (S.6), sponsored by Senator Catharine Young, would allow victims to electronically file for orders of protection. The measure creates a pilot program to allow domestic violence victims to seek temporary orders of protection through electronic means rather than having to appear in person. It also requires the Office of Court Administration to review and update its policies and services to make sure the services available to all crime victims are adequate and appropriate.

Upon passage, the bills will be sent to the Assembly.

Legislation originally part of the Senate’s Women’s Equality Agenda was enacted into law in 2013 that strengthened orders of protection for domestic violence victims. It clarifies that a victim for whom an order of protection is issued cannot be arrested for violating that same order; (S5605, Chapter 480 Laws of 2013, Senator Joe Robach.


Joe Robach, of the NYS Senate, announced today that he would again be organizing a back to school drive to help support local education needs. From now until September 30th, Joe Robach will be collecting both school/education supplies and back packs to be donated to the Greece Ecumenical Closet as well as to students in the City of Rochester.

Items can be dropped off to the Greece Ecumenical Clothes Closet (500 Maiden Lane in Greece) or Joe Robach’s Senate office (2300 West Ridge Road). Items that are needed include: Backpacks, Pens and Pencils, Rulers, Lined Papers, Notepads, Folders, Post It Notes, Calculators, Glue Sticks and Highlighters.

Joe Robach, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said “ It is so important that we support our local students’ education needs in every way. I hope that residents will consider donating supplies to help our children prepare for school.

For more information on Joe Robach school supplies drive, please visit his Senate office.


The New York State Senate and Joe Robach gave final legislative passage to a measure (S2753B) that will assist victims of violent crimes and students who may have gone missing by requiring the timely notification of law enforcement.

The bill strengthens the existing College Safety Act by requiring colleges and universities to notify law enforcement within 24 hours of receiving a report of a violent felony or when a student who resides in campus housing is missing.

The original Campus Safety Act was passed in 1999 after the disappearance of Suzanne Lyall, who has been missing since disappearing from the University at Albany on March 2, 1998. The Act required colleges and universities to adopt and implement plans for the notification to local law enforcement of any violent felony offense or missing person occurring at or on the grounds of each such institution.

The Campus Safety Act mandated that plans be created, and not that colleges and universities must report violent felonies and missing persons to local law enforcement.

This Senate legislation, supported by Joe Robach, strengthens the Campus Safety Act by clearly delineating that all violent felonies and missing persons would have to be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency as soon as practicable, but in no case more than 24 hours after it is reported to the college or university.

According to a report by the White House Council on Women and Girls, 1 in 5 college females are the victims of actual or attempted sexual assault, and only 12 percent of student victims report the assault to law enforcement. The report noted that campus assailants are often serial offenders: one study found that of the men who admitted to committing rape or attempted rape, some 63 percent said they committed an average of six rapes each.

This bill will help reduce violence on campuses and help ensure that crimes are properly reported to local law enforcement.

This legislation does not conflict with the federal Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, which gives the victim of a sexual offense the right on whether or not to report such offense to local law enforcement agencies.

The bill will be sent to the Governor. For more information on this or any other Senate initiative, contact the office of Joe Robach.


The New York State Senate, along with Joe Robach that would enable high school students to be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated defibrillators (AEDs).

“Schools prepare students with essential life skills, and CPR skills are among the most critical lifesaving skills that make our communities safer, year after year,” Joe Robach (56th Senate District) said. “It takes only a few minutes to teach CPR. Sixteen states are now ensuring students learn CPR prior to graduation and it’s time to add New York to the list.

According to the American Heart Association, about 400,000 people have sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year, and only about 10 percent of them survive, most likely because they don’t receive timely CPR. Given right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates.

The bill (S7096) requires the Commissioner of Education to make recommendations to the Board of Regents to enabling high schools to train students in hands-on CPR and the use of AEDs. The Commissioner would be required to consider time and financial impacts of the instruction and seek input from impacted parties such as teachers, parents, students, administrators and others.

The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg. For more information on this or any other Senate bill, contact the office of Joe Robach.


Senator Joe Robach and the New York State Senate marked the 4th annual Animal Advocacy Day at the Capitol by passing bills to protect animals from harm and cruelty. Animal Advocacy Day brings together lawmakers, law enforcement and hundreds of pet owners and advocates to raise awareness of the need to protect pets and people from violence.

On Animal Advocacy Day, the Senate passed bills that would: prohibit people convicted under the historic animal cruelty measure –“Buster’s Law” — from ever owning a companion animal again, and require them to undergo a psychiatric evaluation; and expand the crime of aggravated cruelty to animals to include harm to a companion animal during the commission of a felony. The Senate bills were supported by Joe Robach.

According to the ASPCA, 62 percent of American households have a pet. Studies have shown companion animals can provide a variety of positive health benefits, including providing comfort and assistance to seniors and people with disabilities. They help police, fire departments, and search and rescue efforts to keep citizens safe. It’s been widely reported that a military canine went in with U.S. Navy Seal Team 6 when they took down the world’s most notorious terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.

The bills were sent to the Assembly. For more information on these Senate bills, contact Joe Robach’s office


New York State Senate today passed, with the support of Joe Robach, legislation (S1519) that would keep communities safer from sexual predators by prohibiting registered sex offenders from working as bus drivers.

“Registered sex offenders should not be operating a school bus or a passenger bus, plain and simple. Bus operators come in contact with vulnerable individuals every day. To give a registered sex offender a license and access to potential victims is dangerous and makes zero sense. This legislation fixes the problem,” Senator Joe Robach (56th Senate District).

Under the provisions of the bill, the Department of Motor Vehicles is prohibited from issuing or renewing a commercial driver’s license to operate a passenger or school bus to any individual who is required to register as a sex offender.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly. For more information, contact the office of Joe Robach.

Senator Joe Robach & NYS Senate Majority Coalition Host Forum on Heroin and Opioid Addiction

New York State Senator Joe Robach and the members of the Senate Majority Coalition recently hosted a public forum on heroin and opioid addiction on Tuesday, April 15.

The hearing was part of the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction that will hold forums across the state to solicit input from stakeholders and experts about  addiction prevention and treatment options, the rise in heroin and opioid use, and the potential for drug-related crimes and other negative community impacts. The task force will then develop recommendations that will be used to draft legislation to address the issues raised.

The recently enacted 2014-15 state budget included $2.45 million for initiatives to provide prevention, treatment and addiction services to address the growing problems of heroin and opioid abuse. Also in March, the Senate passed legislation to help save lives by allowing authorized health care professionals to increase public access to Narcan/Naloxone which, if timely administered, can prevent an overdose death.

“It’s very concerning to me, not only as a State Senator but as a father of three, to see the recent increase in heroin usage and addiction in our state. We need to do a better job of educating the public, particularly our youth, about the dangers of heroin and all other dangerous recreational opioids. It’s my hope that this task force will help us create measures to prevent future drug addiction,” said Joe Robach.

The Senate task force will also examine the crimes that accompany increases in illegal drug activity. In February, the New York Times reported that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) heroin seizures in New York State increased 67 percent over the last four years. The DEA’s New York office “seized 144 kilograms of heroin, nearly 20 percent of its seizures nationwide, valued at roughly $43 million.”

If you would like to submit written testimony to the Senate, please contact the office of Joe Robach.

Senator Joe Robach, 56th Senate District, Announces Italian Collegiate Scholarships

New York State Senator Joe Robach (56th Senate District) announced today that the New York Conference of Italian-American State Legislators is now accepting applications for four $2,000 scholarships, which will be awarded on June 9th at their Annual Legislative Conference Day.

“Given the high costs of college, every opportunity must be made by students and their families to meet their required expenses with scholarships, student loans, financial aid and personal contributions,” said Robach. “Our conference is very proud of our role in promoting higher education and assisting students in reaching their academic goals and full potential for future success.”

This year, the Italian-American State Legislators Conference will be awarding four $2,000 scholarships to four current or future college students from New York State. Eligibility will be based upon the student’s grade point average, interest in pursuing a higher education, involvement in the local community as well as individual financial need.

The Conference is a bipartisan organization of New York State Assembly and Senate members who are actively involved in promoting and celebrating the state’s Italian-American community. The Conference mission is to work hard to elevate and highlight Italian-American contributions to the State of New York and beyond, in all aspects of society, including literature, the arts, architecture and politics. The conference also tries to dispel negative stereotypes of Italian-Americans.

Students may request an application by contacting Joe Robach’s Senate office.

Joe Robach, New York State Senate Budget Resolution Highlights

Senator Joe Robach joined his colleagues in the State Senate in voting for a bipartisan budget that balances the budget without raising taxes or fees, increases school aid funding and provides significant business and property tax relief. The one-house spending plan was approved by a vote of 36-19.

“This bipartisan budget resolution will provide needed tax relief for hardworking families, businesses and manufacturers throughout New York, and continues to control state spending, something I take very seriously,” said Senator Joe Robach. “I applaud my colleagues in the State Senate for recognizing the needs of New Yorkers, and the importance of creating a more business-friendly atmosphere so we can create more jobs and improve our state’s economy.”

Other highlights from the Senate One-House Budget include:

• Increases school aid by $811.9 million over last year.
• Restores $541 million of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a controversial budget maneuver enacted by the previous Senate Democrat Leadership. Under this plan, the GEA will be completely eliminated in two years after a total restoration of $1.1 billion – helping our schools and property taxpayers.
• The Senate budget provides $145 million to school districts outside New York City for Universal Pre-K expansion, while also giving school districts flexibility to use the funding for kindergarten and GEA restoration.

• In addition to the $811.9 million increase in state school aid, the resolution includes the Senate’s “Freeze-Plus NY” program – a property tax freeze that would provide $1.4 billion in additional property tax relief over two years.
• The program – a simpler alternative to a tax freeze proposed by the Governor – would also make the property tax cap permanent, strengthen the STAR program, and help local governments and school districts keep within the property tax cap.

• The Senate budget expands tax relief statewide for manufacturers and accelerates the elimination of the job-killing 18-a energy tax surcharge on businesses so they can use the resulting savings to hire new workers and grow.

• The Senate is proposing the College Affordability Plan which would help middle-class families afford higher education, pay off their student loan debt and encourage graduates to start a career in New York State.
• Specifically, it increases tuition assistance for low- and middle-income taxpayers, makes more students eligible for TAP, creates a low-interest revolving loan fund to help students pay off loan debt, and establishes a new tax credit for graduates who stay and work in New York.
Under the Budget Reform Act of 2007, both houses of the State Legislature will now convene in open conference committees to resolve differences in their one-house budget resolutions. The state’s new fiscal year begins April 1.
For more information on the Senate plan, contact the office of Joe Robach.


The New York State Senate today passed legislation that would prosecute those who intentionally or recklessly damage the environment while committing another crime. The Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Joe Robach (R-C-I, Rochester), would hold criminals accountable for financial and environmental damage caused by their actions when they contaminate or destroy the quality of water, soil, or air.

During one incident that took place in August 2010, criminals broke into a spare electrical transformer owned by Rochester Gas and Electric in the Town of Greece, Monroe County, and stole copper to resell for profit. During the process of accessing the copper, 4,800 gallons of oil was drained from the transformer, causing land and water contamination of the surrounding environment at an estimated remediation cost of over $1 million. There are no current Criminal Mischief statutes that adequately address environmental devastation.

“So often, when a crime is committed, we are so focused on seeking justice that we tend to forget about the long-term effects the crime could have on our environment,” said Senator Joe Robach. “With appropriate penalties, I hope this bill will hold criminals accountable for damaging the environment or contaminating our water, soil or air.”

This bill would make crimes that result in large-scale environmental damage – either intentionally or recklessly – a class C felony.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly. For more information, please contact the office of Joe Robach.