A Conversation with Senator James Sanders Jr.

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New York State Senate District 10. image / provided


New York State Democrat Senator James Sanders Jr. is a lifelong public servant, Marine Corps veteran, a proponent of education, and an advocate for working-class families, who continues to approach the legislature with a fresh perspective and promise to bring economic opportunities and resources to the people of Southeast Queens.

Senator Sanders is the Chairman of the Senate's Committee on banks and in that role, he is aggressively promoting legislation like bill S5565C - New York Public Banking Act, which authorizes the lending of public credit to public banks and authorizes public ownership of stock in public banks for the purpose of achieving cost savings, strengthening local economies, supporting community economic development, and addressing infrastructure and housing needs for localities.

Senator Sanders is also working with community leaders and stakeholders to create Vital Southeast Queens. This targeted initiative would leverage state programs and resources to empower New Yorkers living in Southeast Queens and improve their wellbeing through eight (8) integrated areas of investment: Open Space and Recreation; Healthy Food; Education; Economic Empowerment; Community-Based Violence Prevention; Community-Based Health Care; Affordable Housing; and Resiliency. It is modeled after Vital Brooklyn.

During each legislative session, Senator Sanders is consistently introducing bills and getting them passed. The legislation covers a variety of issues including unemployment, education, domestic violence, mental health, consumer protections, property sales, and foreclosure mitigation, but all aim to improve life for the residents of the 10th Senatorial District as well as the entire State of New York.

Another important issue to Senator Sanders as it relates to economic development is providing assistance and resources for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs). Senator Sanders is the Chairman of the Senate Task Force on MWBEs, which is charged with working to find innovative ways to better encourage and support MWBEs as a valuable part of growing the New York economy. In addition, Senator Sanders is a member of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's Advisory Council on MWBEs. The Advisory Council guides policy making and strategy to aggressively assist the city in reaching its pledge to award more than $16 billion dollars to MWBEs over a 10-year period. It was Senator Sanders, who in his City Council tenure, set the stage as author of MWBE NYC Local Law 1 to help strengthen the MWBE program and Local Law 129 that established participation goals for MWBEs to help increase the number of certified firms from 700 to over 3,500 program participants and win over $3 billion dollars in city contracts.

The MWBE program is important because for far too long, minorities and women have been negatively impacted by an economic system built to exclude them. In 2019, Senator Sanders passed legislation to extend and enhance Article 15-A until 2024. This law was created to promote employment and participation in state contracts for minorities and women.

Before the bill went to a vote, Senator Sanders spent months working closely with MWBEs to craft legislation that would advance their goals. Additionally, he collaborated with the MWBE Taskforce to ensure that MWBEs would see these goals would be met. The biggest wins MWBE saw in the updated bill are: (1) a shortened certification process from 60 to 45 days, (2) increase of personal net worth from $3.5 million to $15 million, (3) increase in discretionary buying threshold, and (4) agency publication of waivers.

During these tough economic times as the country struggles to restore the economy which was badly damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Sanders is coming up with ways to close the budget gap so that cuts are not made to key areas like education. One such bill involves the stock transfer tax, which is a sales tax on the transfer of shares of stock. From 1905 to 1981, New York State imposed a tax on the sale of securities (stocks). The State began rebating the tax in 1979 and since 1981 the tax is now 100% rebated back to the industry (stockbrokers). Senator Sanders' bill (S.6203- A Same as A.7791-B Steck) would end the rebate and collect 100% of this tax. The funds will be dedicated to the State General Fund for the first two years commencing with the fiscal year April 1, 2021 and ending March 31, 2023 after which it would be divided and dispersed to areas such as transportation, infrastructure, housing, clean energy and more.

In addition to legislation, Senator Sanders also works to encourage entrepreneurialism and business creation in his district by hosting weekly webinars on economic development covering topics such as access to capital, document and cash management, and how to start and grow a business.

Senator Sanders has a long and distinguished career in public service. He served as City Council Member for the 31st District in Queens for 12 years, the term limit. As Council Member, Senator Sanders was unanimously voted Chairman of the Economic Development Committee, making him the first African-American in city history to hold the post. On September 13, 2012, Senator Sanders was elected to represent the 10th Senatorial District, with the neighborhoods of South Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Rosedale, Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Springfield Gardens, and most of the Rockaways.

In addition to being the Chairman of the Senate's Committee on Banks, Senator Sanders is a member of the Committees for Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business; Labor; Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation; Procurement and Contracts; Insurance; Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs.

Senator Sanders makes constituent services a top priority and believes in strengthening transparency and accountability in New York State's government.

If you would like to attend this lecture, please register here.

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