News from our representatives

Editor’s note: The following are arranged in the order received.

Gillibrand invites decorated transgender Navy lieutenant commander to State of the Union Address

Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann has been deployed 11 times and won the Navy’s highest logistics award

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced that she will bring decorated transgender Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann to this year’s State of the Union address as she readies new legislation to protect transgender service members in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing President Trump’s ban on transgender military service to go into effect. Gillibrand introduced bipartisan legislation with the late Senator John McCain last Congress to defend transgender troops.

“I am inspired by Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann’s leadership and am honored that he will be attending the State of the Union as my guest,” said Gillibrand. “Lieutenant Commander Dremann is a proud member of the U.S. Navy, he is a loyal patriot who has devoted his career to serving and protecting our country, and he is also one of the thousands of transgender service members serving in our military with honor and distinction. Transgender service members like Lieutenant Commander Dremann make extraordinary sacrifices every day to defend our freedom and our most sacred values, and President Trump’s decision to ban them from military service is cruel and undermines our military readiness. The heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have testified to Congress that transgender service members are serving in our military without any problems. Any transgender American who meets the standards should be able to sign up to join our Armed Forces, and that’s why I’m going to introduce new legislation this week to protect current and future transgender service members. I am proud to lead this fight and I urge all of my Senate colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.”

Gillibrand’s State of the Union guest, Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann, is the President of SPARTA, an LGBT Military Advocacy organization focused on transgender military advocacy that assists over 800 service members, across all seven uniformed services, in navigating and understanding the transgender military policies so as to ensure the highest military readiness. Dremann regularly assisted with educating commanders on implementing the Department of Defense’s transgender open service policy.

Lieutenant Commander Dremann’s personal decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. He is qualified as a Submarine Warfare Supply officer and Surface Warfare Supply officer. In 2018, Dremann received the Department of Defense Pride Military Leadership Award and was an Out Serve-Service Members Legal Defense Network “Outstanding Advocate” Honoree for their 25th Anniversary. Dremann is a 2003 graduate of Ozark Christian College, earning his Bachelor of Biblical Literature. He is also a 2016 graduate of the Air Command and Staff College Joint Professional Military Education Phase I and is scheduled to graduate with a Masters of Business Administration from Norwich University in June 2019.

Brindisi launches “Brindisi at Your Business” in Rome

As part of his work to help grow our economy and create jobs in Upstate New York, Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) officially launched “Brindisi at Your Business” Feb. 4, 2019 – an ongoing effort to listen to employees and business owners and leaders in New York’s 22nd Congressional District.

Brindisi kicked off the program at Sovena USA, one of the largest olive oil companies in the country. Sovena supplies more than half of the private-label olive oil sold in the U.S., and its Rome plant is known for its on-site quality control lab, the only one of its kind in the country.

During the visit, Brindisi met with Sovena representatives to learn more about the company, its plans to expand and hire, and the work that can be done on a federal level to help them continue to grow.

“One of my top priorities is to help create good jobs for Upstate New Yorkers and support businesses that drive our local economy,” said Brindisi. “I’m launching Brindisi at Your Business because it’s important for me to hear straight from employers, employees and business leaders about the work we need to do to help them grow and thrive. I look forward to visiting businesses, large and small, all across Upstate New York.”

Any business interested in participating in Brindisi at Your Business should email brindisi.scheduling@mail.house.gov.

Attorney general offers debt relief to workers and families impacted by federal shutdown

Attorney General Letitia James

Program to offer retroactive relief for certain student, medical and other state-referred debt

Attorney General Letitia James announced Feb. 4, 2019, a debt relief program for workers and families in New York who were impacted by the shutdown of the federal government. Over the course of the shutdown, countless New Yorkers were impacted directly or indirectly, forcing them to forgo income and business. Even though the shutdown is over, the pain felt by those impacted continues. In an effort to support these workers and families and ease their financial burdens, the Attorney General’s Office is offering temporary debt relief on certain debt for those furloughed federal employees, contractors, and their families. The relief will apply from Dec. 22, 2018, to April 25, 2019, in order to provide those eligible with debt relief from the day the federal shutdown began to 90 days after the end of the shutdown, Jan. 25, 2019.

Furloughed federal employees, third party vendors, contactors and other impacted parties, and their spouses, domestic partners and legal dependents may be eligible for this program.

Individuals who fit this criteria and are seeking this potential relief should visit the website of the Civil Recoveries Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office to access a Federal Shutdown Debt Relief Application. Individuals can also call the Attorney General’s Office hotline at 1-800-771-7755. Debt Relief Applications will be accepted until May 28, 2019. Hardship applications may be accepted after that date at the sole discretion of the Attorney General’s Office.

Salka solution commonsense healthcare, not snake oil cures

Assemblyman John Salka

Assemblyman John Salka (R,C,Ref-Brookfield) issued the following statement on single-payer healthcare:

“As a medical professional, I wholeheartedly support affordable and accessible healthcare for all New Yorkers, but it shouldn’t be tainted with a $1,600 income tax increase that would cripple already overburdened middle-class families.”

The Assembly Committee on Healthcare met Feb. 5, 2019, to discuss the options of single-payer healthcare in New York. Salka said recent polling indicated a lack of support for single payer healthcare, with only 37 percent in support after being told it would require people to pay more in taxes. He said the number fell to 26 percent in support when told single payer would cause some medical treatments and tests to be delayed.

“We owe it to our constituents to deliver healthcare options that are actually viable, such as creating 529-style healthcare savings accounts and letting taxpayers make the decisions. These accounts would be supported with new and current wasteful state resources so that no matter your situation, you’d have a voice in your healthcare. We can add more competition into the market and give the individuals the power to decide their own fate. It would be tax free and would reduce costs and help improve the quality of healthcare available to all New Yorkers.”

Assemblyman John Salka represents the 121st Assembly District, encompasses all of Madison County and portions of Oneida and Otsego counties.

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