Assemblywoman Vivian E. Cook
Vivian E.
Reports to the People

Summer 2006

Dear Residents:

As your representative of the 32nd Assembly District, I am pleased to share with you information about the 229th Legislative Session which began on January 4, 2006. I have been appointed by Speaker Sheldon Silver to hold the position of Assistant Majority Leader. This leadership position gives me an opportunity to play a key role in the legislative agenda set forth by the Assembly Majority. I am pleased to report that the New York State Legislature passed an on-time budget for a second year in a row totaling $112.4 billion. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I vote on legislation which may have fiscal impact before it may reach the Assembly Floor for an official vote, as all budget bills must be considered by this committee. I was appointed to the Higher Education Budget Joint Conference Committee where we were able to work out a budget agreement that will help strengthen New York’s higher education system and ensure that all students have access to affordable education by adding $239.31 million in state support to SUNY, CUNY and community colleges. Although the Governor vetoed a portion of the budget, his vetoes were overridden by the Legislature.

As a part of my budget priorities I have been able to secure funding for York College. During my tenure in the New York State Assembly, I have secured funding for many programs at York College, including the day care center. I am pleased to have secured funding this year in the NYS Budget that would provide York College with $13 million for Students’ Services Center and campus-wide site improvements. This funding will help maintain the York College Campus and attract new students to enroll.

As you know, I have been a resident of Jamaica for many years and have worked to secure economic development projects that would benefit the community. It has been my long-time goal to bring a youth center to our area and I am happy to have reappropriated in the budget $1,760,000 for this project. I have secured funding for the Queens Educational Opportunity Center, and the Cultural Collaborative of Jamaica. I will provide a detailed list of other groups receiving funding in my next newsletter. Another noteworthy community project for which I have been able to secure funding is street reconstruction. I am very pleased that this project is well underway. This investment helps maintain our community and make it a desirable place to live. Let’s continue working together to keep our streets safe and clean and a place we are proud to call home.

I would encourage you to read this newsletter as it contains articles on Guarding Against Identity Theft, important information on student loans, promoting summer reading for children, the new televised Legislative Proceedings, the Permanent End to Sales Tax on Clothing, and the new law to cap gas taxes.

In closing, I would like to congratulate and extend best wishes to the graduates of the Class of 2006. If you are in need of further information on any of the articles included in this newsletter, please contact me at (718) 322-3975.

May you have a safe and enjoyable summer!

Vivian E. Cook

photo Assemblymember Cook met with students and faculty from York College on their lobby day in Albany. photo Assemblymember welcomes constituents representing AARP. The members discussed legislation that is important to them.

Guarding Against Identity Theft
Consumer Safety Tips
Credit Card

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S., costing 9.9 million Americans nearly $5 billion last year, according to the U.S. Postal Service. To protect yourself and your family, follow these simple, but important, steps in your everyday life.

  • Avoid carrying extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate, or passport in your wallet or purse.

  • Do not provide personal information to any person or company that initiates contact with you. Only provide personal information to people that you contact directly. Pay special attention to e-mails and phone calls you receive - even if it’s from what appears to be a reputable company.

  • Confirm if personal information is required to open an account or complete a transaction. If it isn’t, don’t give it.

  • Keep your PINs random. Don’t use obvious passwords or PIN codes, such as your birth date, your Social Security number, or your mother’s maiden name.

  • Keep your personal information, such as bills, passports, or Social Security cards, in a secure location.

  • Get your mail ASAP; pick up your incoming mail as soon as possible. If you are going away, put your mail on hold or arrange for it to be picked up.

  • Cancel any unused credit cards. Keep only what you need.

Get news and consumer protection initiative information at

  • Protect your Social Security number! Only give it if you are confident that the information is going to a secure, legitimate, and reputable organization.

  • Review your consumer credit reports annually to be sure you’re aware of any and all activity.

  • Shred and destroy any unwanted documents that contain personal information – including credit card offers!


New York residents can now order one free credit report every year from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to monitor any activity on your credit report from all three of the bureaus: Experian, Equifax and/or TransUnion.

Reports can also be ordered online at or by calling (877) 322-8228. Also, the Annual Credit Report Request form can be printed off and mailed to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281


Nobody likes getting junk mail. If you have had your fill of “You’ve been pre-approved,” you can tell them to stop sending these offers. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to “opt out” of receiving future “pre-approved” or “pre-screened” solicitations for credit or insurance. Simply call (888) 5OPTOUT or visit You can choose to opt out for five years or permanently.


Consumers can search for the best prescription drug prices online, and can visit to find pharmacies and compare prices.

Last year, the Legislature passed a law to establish an even more comprehensive Web site, and Assemblymember Cook will follow through to ensure this year’s budget provides the funding to get the registry off the ground – helping New Yorkers comparison shop for the best prices and save money on prescriptions.


Preventing “Phishing” The Assembly passed legislation making it easier to prosecute thieves who use deceiving e-mails, pop-up ads or SPAM to rob consumers (A.8025-C).

Securing Breach Notification Businesses and government agencies are now required to give consumers adequate notice when a security breach that could publicize personal information takes place, so consumers can take protective measures.

Wireless Telephone Directory A law was enacted that prohibits companies or individuals from getting your cell phone number for the stated purpose of creating a wireless telephone directory.

This information will help to protect your privacy and ensure you have access to the accurate information you need to make informed decisions regarding your finances.

Assemblymember Cook Announces Permanent End to State Sales Tax on Clothing

It will save New Yorkers $600 million annually

Assemblymember Cook announced that New Yorkers will finally see the state’s 4% sales tax on clothing and footwear eliminated on April 1.

The regressive state sales tax on clothing and footwear costs working families hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Since several other states have made clothing purchases exempt from state sales tax, New York businesses found it hard to compete for shoppers. The repeal of this tax will encourage people to shop at local businesses, which in turn will help the entire area’s economy grow.

Effective Saturday, April 1, the state’s 4 % sales tax on clothing and footwear items under $110 will be eliminated. This will mean a total of $600 million in savings statewide. The Assembly rejected the governor’s and Senate’s proposed budgets which would have extended the sales tax, while giving new tax breaks to wealthy New Yorkers.

The tax on clothing and shoes was temporarily imposed following the Sept. 11 economic downturn, but the state now has a multi-billion dollar surplus. The emergency that forced this temporary tax is over. We no longer need to collect it. Everywhere we look, prices are going up, whether it’s gas prices, energy costs, tuition or health care. The Assembly Majority turned back repeated attempts to continue this tax and insisted we simply let the tax expire as scheduled, saving working families more of their hard-earned money.

photo Assemblymember Cook is always delighted to welcome children to her office. These bright young students came to Albany on New York City Board of Education Lobby Day in Albany. Asemblymember Cook met with parents, teachers and students from Community Board 27 & 28.

Assemblymember Cook Sponsors Bill to Cap Gas Taxes – Now Law

Assemblymember Cook cosponsored a bill to cap gas taxes that was signed by the Governor, Chapter 35 of the Laws of 2006. This new law would provide New York State residents with relief from high gas prices by reducing and capping state and local taxes on gasoline. The law would save New Yorkers an estimated $450 million annually at the pump by capping state and local taxes on gas at 8 cents per gallon, which locks in the tax at the $2 per gallon rate. If gas prices should dip below $2 per gallon, the 8-cent cap would be reduced proportionately. For example, with gas prices at $3 per gallon, this agreement would reduce the tax on gas by 4 cents per gallon.

The Legislature’s gas tax plan would take effect on June 1 for the state sales tax and July 1 for local sales taxes. Local governments across the state will be able to pass legislation to cap their local sales taxes on gasoline.

More specifically the law would:

  • Require that service station owners pass along the savings to consumers;

  • Make the state Commissioner of Taxation and Finance, in conjunction with chair of the state Consumer Protection Board, responsible for enforcing the gas cap; and

  • Fine gas stations up to $5,000 per incident, per day, if they neglect to pass savings on to consumers.

In addition to the gas cap plan, the Legislature also agreed to allow New York City to reduce or eliminate its sales tax on residential energy as well as provide consumers with a tax credit for the purchase of home heating fuel oil that contains biodiesel fuel. The credit would equal the percentage of biodiesel in the fuel. For example, consumers would receive a 10-cent per gallon credit for heating if the fuel contains 10 percent biodiesel. The Legislature also established a tax credit for the purchase of energy efficient residential home heating systems. The credit would be equal to 50 percent of the purchase and installation costs for the heating systems, limited to $500. Lastly, the state Thruway Authority and NYSERDA will be required to develop and implement a plan to make alternative fuels, such ethanol, available at Thruway service areas.

“This law is only the first step that we in the Assembly will be taking to give New York families relief from rising fuel costs. I will continue to pursue a windfall profit tax to protect New York consumers from oil companies who have posted record profits this year, as well as tough penalties for price gouging and market manipulation,” stated Assemblymember Cook.

A Special Thank You from
Assemblymember Cook

I would like to express my thanks for all my letters, telephone calls, and visits I receive from all of you who take time out of your busy lives to lobby for issues that are important to you. I look forward to my annual visits from the residents of Rochdale Village that come to Albany to discuss housing and other various issues. I would also like to thank the residents that come to Albany to participate in AARP, DC37, ASFCME, TWU, Council 82 Lobby Day, and the constituents that lobby for day care, health care, and all the teachers, parents and students that lobby for education. These discussions are very important to me as you share your personal experiences and give me an opportunity to provide vital information on the legislative status of your concerns. Lobby days are very important to the legislative process and I encourage you to continue working in this regard.

Please know as your representative I take your concerns into consideration when reviewing legislation and other issues that will have an impact on you. I will continue to work to make sure that your voices are heard.

A Special Thanks to Assemblymember Cook
Thank You Letters

Assemblymember Cook Continues Efforts to Promote Summer Reading for Children, Families and Friends

I am pleased to endorse the Assembly’s 2006 Summer Reading Challenge as a great way to spend a vacation.

Wherever you are this summer, at the beach or park, in the car on the way to see friends or traveling across the country, it’s a perfect time to open a book and read about any subject.

The New York State Assembly helps children and parents pick up the reading habit through its annual Summer Reading Challenge program. To earn a New York State Assembly Excellence in Reading Certificate, children read with a parent for 15 minutes a day, for at least 40 days during July and August.

This is probably less time than a youngster spends getting dressed in the morning. Kids can learn about dinosaurs, the American Civil War, or read the biography of their favorite baseball player. Reading improves speech, vocabulary, pronunciation and listening. It’s a good way to spend time with family and friends. I guarantee that once you start reading, it will become a hobby, and one you will look forward to doing. The key is to find something you enjoy reading.

Libraries can help families participate in the Reading Challenge. The Legislature’s 2006-2007 budget includes $5.7 million for libraries to keep their resources current, which will help assist local libraries. It also provides $14 million for capital projects to help local libraries modernize facilities and invest in new educational technology.

Public libraries connect students to knowledge and reading matters. Children who read do better in other subjects, and can better analyze, think and cope in our increasingly complex world.

For information about the Assembly’s 2006 Summer Reading Challenge, you may contact me at (718) 322-3975 or send an e-mail to Thank you for participating in the Assembly’s Summer Reading Challenge.

Assemblymember Cook Announces Televised Legislative Sessions to Expand

Assemblymember Cook announced that “New York State Legislative Proceedings” – unedited gavel-to-gavel coverage of both the Senate and Assembly – will appear on Time Warner New York City on channel 156.

“Expanding the televising of sessions is another example of the Assembly’s ongoing efforts to improve the way we do business. In addition, conference committee meetings and basic information about legislators will be broadcast. Coverage of sessions has been available via the Internet for four years. Expanding to cable television will help even more New Yorkers stay informed on the issues that affect their lives,” stated Assemblymember Cook.

The broadcasts of Assembly sessions, the first of the houses to go on the air back in 2001, will continue on the Assembly Web site.

This program will go a long way toward the Assembly’s efforts to create a statewide, full-service public affairs cable channel devoted to state government. This reform will fundamentally change for the better the way New York’s government operates by increasing transparency and bringing legislative proceedings to people’s living rooms.

This latest Assembly initiative builds on our commitment to open up state government.

For more information regarding televised sessions, local air times, or to watch proceedings online, click here.

Interest rates on student loans to rise July 1st – Assemblymember Cook urges student borrowers to consolidate before rates go up

Assemblymember Cook is advising both student and parent borrowers to consider consolidating student loans to lock in lower interest rates before a scheduled increase on July 1st.

In February, Congress cut $12 million from student loan programs – slashing subsidies to lenders and raising interest rates. Back in 2002, Congress set a higher fixed rate of 6.8 percent for Stafford loans. The higher interest rates come just as many students and parents are already struggling to cope with rising tuition costs. These increases create more obstacles to an affordable college education.

“While President Bush and Congress have slashed federal funding for educational loans, I along with my colleagues in the Assembly, have fought to ensure that students have access to an affordable college education. The Assembly stood up for students and working families across New York State by overriding the governor’s devastating vetoes of funding for colleges and universities.

“I am committed to providing access to a quality education. Cutting higher education programs and raising interest rates on student loans is not the answer. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of students,” stated Assemblymember Cook.

Loan consolidation may be the best answer to meeting the rising interest rates and increased debt that so many students are facing. When loans are consolidated, the interest rates of the loans are averaged together, giving the student a new interest rate. This often results in a lower interest rate, monthly payments and overall debt amount. More importantly, once loans are consolidated, interest rates are locked in, so student loan borrowers will not be affected by subsequent rate increases.

“I encourage anyone with student loans to explore his or her consolidation options. Under the proper circumstances consolidation can save parents and students thousands,” stated Assemblymember Cook. Student loan borrowers should contact the institution carrying their loans to find out if consolidation is right for them.

photo Assemblymember Cook looks forward to meeting with constituents on their annual Library Lobby Day in Albany. Assemblymember Cook greets Mr. William Manigault, a long time advocate for libraries.

Assemblymember Cook’s Office Information

Albany Office:
L.O.B. – Room 331, Albany, NY 12248
(w) 518-455-4203 (fax) 518-455-3606

District Office:
142-15 Rockaway Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11436
(w) 718-322-3975 (fax) 718-322-4085

Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

You are welcome to stop by Assemblymember Cook’s Office