Vivian E. Cook
Summer 2005

Dear Neighbors:

The 228th Legislative Session officially began on January 5, 2005. This legislative year has been both challenging and rewarding. I am pleased to report that the Assembly and Senate passed a fair, on-time, bipartisan budget. The $105 billion spending plan ensures quality health care and increases state aid to local schools while easing the burden on local taxpayers and providing much needed services to New York State residents. We are pleased that through our comprehensive efforts to reform the Legislature we were able to work with joint conference budget committees and open public deliberation to pass the first on time budget in 20 years. I am also pleased that I have been able to secure substantial funding for economic development and infrastructure projects, schools, libraries and various organizations in the district. As your representative, I endeavor to make sure Southeast Queens receives its fair share of state funding and services to help improve the lives of all of our residents.

I am pleased to report that I have been appointed Majority Whip by Speaker Sheldon Silver and assigned to serve on the powerful Ways and Means and Rules Committees and the Sub-Committee on Insurer Investments and Underserved Areas. The Majority Whip plays a crucial role in the advancement of the Assembly Legislative Agenda. The Ways and Means Committee is the largest committee in the Assembly, comprised of 35 members. This committee considers all legislation that would have fiscal implications for the State before it can be voted on by the complete Assembly body. The Rules Committee is unique in its functions. It has the responsibility of considering and introducing legislation; reviewing each message of necessity issued by the Governor, and regulating housekeeping practices of the Assembly. The Subcommittee on Insurer Investments and Underserved Areas will operate under the Insurance Committee. I remain a member of the Codes, Housing, and Insurance Committees, the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, and the Majority Steering Committee. I am very pleased to serve on these committees as my service gives me an opportunity to consider and analyze important legislation that will in some way impact on those I represent.

Please continue reading this report as it contains highlights of the New York State Budget, the New Minimum Wage Law, the new law protecting college students from credit card debt and information on the Health Care Proxy. While we have passed hundreds of bills in the Legislature, they must be signed by the Governor before becoming law. Please watch for my next newsletter which will contain highlights of the new laws of 2005. Should you need additional information regarding this newsletter or if you are in need of any other assistance, please feel free to contact me at (718) 322-3975.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the graduates of 2005. I wish you the best in all that you aspire to do. I hope you have a safe, happy and enjoyable summer.

Vivian E. Cook
Member of Assembly


New bi-partisan legislation raising New York’s woefully inadequate minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15 per hour went into effect January 1 of this year. The phase-in legislation, which increases the wage gradually over three years, increased the state’s minimum wage to $6.00 this year.

As of January 1, this state finally got on the path to paying hard-working New Yorkers a wage that is more in line with what it takes to make ends meet. It’s time we adequately rewarded people for their work.

Following this year’s hike to $6.00 per hour, the wage will continue to increase to $6.75 per hour on January 1, 2006, and $7.15 per hour on January 1, 2007. Food service workers receiving tips also receive yearly wage increases under the plan. The tip minimum wage rose from $3.30 to $3.85 per hour this year. It will increase to $4.35 on January 1, 2006; and $4.60 on January 1, 2007.

In August, the Assembly overrode the governor’s veto of the legislation. The governor’s call to wait for the federal government to raise the minimum wage ignored the immediate economic stress on New York’s lowest-paid workers. It’s worth noting that the governor - who earns $179,000 a year, or roughly $86 an hour - was trying to close the door of opportunity on someone making $5.15 per hour, or less than $11,000 a year.

It’s unfortunate that the governor tried to stand in the way of paying a fair wage for hard work, but the Assembly and Senate came together to do what is best for New York’s working families. Raising the minimum wage just makes sense for the people in this state.


For over 14 years, Assemblymember Cook has worked tirelessly to make sure the district she represents receives its fair share in state funding to help support important programs that provide needed services to the community. This funding is vital to these organizations; without these special efforts, these services may have been jeopardized. The community has expressed their thanks to Assemblymember Cook for her efforts to secure funding to help organizations with programs that benefit the families of the 32nd Assembly District. This partial list reflects a portion of programs and organizations Assemblymember Cook has helped to fund in the State Budget during her tenure in the Assembly.

Brooks Senior Center
Civil Legal Services
Cultural Collaborative of Jamaica
Deliverance Tabernacle Outreach Program
Greater Jamaica Development Corporation
Jamaica Chamber of Commerce
Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica
New York ACORN
New York Junior Tennis League
NYS Defenders Association Backup Center

Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York
Rochdale Village Community Center
Rochdale Village NORC
Queens Borough Public Library - Rochdale Branch
Queens Child Guidance Center
Queens Educational Opportunity Center
Queens Health Center
Urban Renewal Committee of South Jamaica
Queens Legal Services Corporation
York College Remanufacturing and Education Center
Youth Achievement Association

Parents Information Network, Inc.

Law Protecting College Students from Credit Card Debt Takes Effect

Assemblymember Cook announced that a law she supported to protect college students from the financial ruin that often results from overaggressive credit card marketing will take effect July 1 (Ch. 694 of 2004).

Upon graduation, many college students have to begin paying off student loans which alone are a financial burden. Heavy credit card debt on top of that can be a financial nightmare for young people. This law will help college students think twice about spending money they do not have.

Credit card companies are aggressively targeting college students and the results have been less than positive. A recently published report, by Claritas Incorporated, found the average balance due on a college student’s credit card has gone up 134 percent from $900 in 1990 to $2,100 in 1995. As a result of high credit card balances, many college students are forced to file for bankruptcy. Some colleges have contributed to the problem by accepting a percentage of money in exchange for helping companies merchandise credit cards.

Our students go to college to get ahead in life, not to start down the road to bankruptcy. Colleges should teach the minds of society’s future to manage finances responsibly, not lead them astray.

This law will help alleviate the danger of a student taking on too much debt. As a means to protecting college students from credit card debt, the law prohibits marketing credit cards on college campuses unless the college adopts an official credit card marketing policy that includes:

  • registering of on-campus credit card marketers;
  • limiting credit card marketers to specific dates and specific areas of the campus as designated by the college;
  • prohibiting credit card marketers from offering gifts to a student in exchange for completing a credit card application; and
  • informing students about good credit management practices through programs which may include workshops, seminars, discussion groups, and film presentations.

Teaching students about the benefits of establishing good credit will help them develop into responsible adults. They will learn early on how to establish good credit, become financially secure and one day be able to successfully apply for a loan on a house, car or even a business.



Assemblymember Cook met with residents of Rochdale Village on their lobby day in Albany. Rochdale Village in Queens is the second largest housing cooperative, home to over 25,000 residents. Assemblymember Cook enjoys a good working relationship with the residents and management at Rochdale Village. Over the years, Assemblymember Cook has been successful in securing grants to help support the programs at Rochdale.



The budget included $2 million more for programs and services through the Office of the Aging - which is a 6 percent increase in that agency’s budget over last year. We also worked hard to provide an additional $1 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and $1.2 million more for the Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities program. Overall, the new state budget continues a longtime Assembly priority by significantly reducing the Medicaid burden on local taxpayers.

Providing a substantial down-payment toward a brighter future

The budget provides over $848 million more in funding to public schools than a year ago - $327 million more for New York City schools. It also addresses inequities in the state’s building aid formula that have shortchanged the city by making more New York City school building projects eligible for state reimbursement, and increasing the reimbursement rate for city and other low wealth school districts by 5 percent - helping provide our children with a safe, modern environment conducive to learning. Together, these achievements will provide a solid down-payment to New York City schools by providing our children with a sound basic education.

Protecting access to quality, affordable health care

The governor’s budget would have cut a hole in our families’ health care safety net. The Assembly fought for a budget that ensures quality health care while protecting taxpayers by:

  • reducing the governor’s sick tax on nursing homes, cutting his tax on hospitals in half
  • creating a Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century to determine the best way to protect services by eliminating costly excess capacity in the state’s health care facilities
  • creating a preferred drug list with the strongest consumer protections in the nation that ensures physicians have the final say in prescribing medicine
  • scaling back the out-of-pocket expenses that the governor sought to impose on Family Health Plus enrollees through significantly higher co-pays, as well as his attempts to cut basic benefits like vision, dental and hospice care

Restoring cuts to health care

The Assembly’s proposal extends the Health Care Reform Act (HCRA) through June 20, 2007, continues Workforce Recruitment and Retention funding, and extends Child Health Plus and the rural health program. Other health related restorations in the Assembly budget include:

  • $14.2 million for the Commission on Quality Care for the Mentally Disabled
  • $10.4 million for public health programs, which serve as the frontline defense against bioterrorism and outbreaks of disease
  • $3.1 million for alcohol and substance abuse prevention programs in New York City schools
  • $2.1 million for mental health services
  • Nearly $1.7 million in funding for the Office of Advocate for Persons with Disabilities

Easing the burden on New York City taxpayers

The budget includes a soft cap on the growth of local Medicaid costs, which is estimated to save the city $523.6 million in the coming year - vital funding that should be reinvested in the city’s schools.

Improving New Yorkers’ commute

The Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act is part of the budget. If voters approve the bond act this November $2.9 billion will be available to preserve, renew and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure, including:

  • The 2nd Avenue subway
  • East Side access
  • Lower Manhattan - JFK train
  • Roads and bridges

Helping working families keep more of their hard-earned money

The budget rejects the governor’s speeded up tax break for those earning over $500,000 a year to ensure the wealthiest New Yorkers contribute their fair share, and gives working families a break by:

  • providing two weeks free of sales tax on clothing under $110 and a permanent return of that sales tax exemption effective April 1, 2007, unless the governor proposes a tax cut sooner, in which case the exemption starts next April 1

Reforming the Empire Zones Programs and Creating Jobs

The budget also expands and reforms the state’s Empire Zones program and allows each region of the state to use its strengths to compete in the global economy. The plan will improve technology, provide funding to businesses that show job creation potential, and enhance opportunities for expansion across all industries.

The budget authorizes 12 new Empire Zones - expanding one of New York’s most important economic development tools. It also addresses some major abuses and loopholes to make the program more effective and accountable.

To make it easier for business to thrive in New York, the budget cuts business taxes by $213 million.


The Assembly, Senate and governor passed a fair bipartisan budget that rejects tuition increases and any automatic tuition hikes each year.

  • rejecting the governor’s proposed SUNY and CUNY tuition hikes, a 50 percent cut to the Tuition Assistance program (TAP), and his cuts in opportunity programs
  • restoring community college aid by $115 per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) student
  • restoring the governor’s cuts in opportunity programs;
  • rejecting differential tuition that would have made it more expensive to attend our university centers
  • agreeing on a capital plan
  • creating a memorial scholarship for the families of American Airlines flight 587 that crashed in Belle Harbor, New York on November 12, 2001
NYS Seal

The New York State Health Care Proxy - What You Should Know

Whether to accept or reject medical care in an end of life situation is a very personal decision governed by one’s own beliefs. Should a serious accident or illness leave you unable to communicate those wishes, it is necessary to take steps to ensure that they are honored. In New York State, that means having a living will or health care proxy. The emotional case of Terri Schiavo shows what can happen when an individual’s wishes are not spelled out.

A health care proxy and living will are similar in that they both clarify what to do only when you lack the capacity to make your own medical decisions. A health care proxy empowers a loved one to make medical decisions for you, whereas a living will is specific written instructions describing your medical wishes in detail - usually crafted by and left with your attorney. You can use these documents in tandem so your health care agent has greater guidance for what you would want in specific medical situations.

If you prefer a loved one to make decisions for you, the New York State Health Care Proxy Law allows you to appoint a competent adult as your health care agent. It is important to note that you must specifically document your wishes about life-sustaining artificial nutrition and hydration or your health care agent will not be able to make these decisions for you. A health care proxy can be filled out easily without a lawyer, and becomes legally binding after you and two witnesses sign it.

Once you complete a health care proxy, hospitals, doctors and other health care providers must follow your agent’s decisions as if they were your own. The health care proxy will not only help ensure your wishes will be carried out, but also eliminates any conflict or confusion among your loved ones. If at any time you change your mind about your end of life wishes, it is important to amend your health care proxy or living will. If you would like more information about a health care proxy or would like to obtain a form, please contact my office at (718) 322-3975.



arrowAssemblymember Cook met with AARP representatives to discuss their legislative agenda. AARP has over 2.6 million members in New York State that advocate for programs and services that would improve the lives of seniors 50 and over. On May 25th the New York State Assembly joined our nation in celebration of Senior Day, a special day to recognize and honor older Americans who have contributed to our country in so many vital ways. This year the New York State Budget included $2 million more for programs and services through the Office of the Aging, a 6 percent increase from last year. The Assembly remains committed to fighting for the issues that are important to older Americans.


Assemblymember Cook always has time to talk to youth. The children expressed how important the library is to their education and how additional funding is needed to buy a new copy machine.


arrow Assemblymember Cook met with Rochdale Village Library representatives. The group expressed their thanks to Assemblymember Cook for her efforts to secure funding for libraries.

District Office: 142-15 Rockaway Blvd., Jamaica, NY 11436
(718) 322-3975
Albany Office: Legislative Office Building, Room 331, Albany, NY 12248
(518) 455-4203