Carol Elizabeth Owens
Senator Samra Brouk (Dist. 55) released a summary of her 2021 legislative efforts and accomplishments on Dec. 27, 2021.
Brouk represents constituents in New York’s 55th senate district which includes the east side of the city of Rochester in Monroe County, as well as the local towns of Rush, Mendon, Pittsford, Perinton, Penfield, East Rochester, and Irondequoit, along with the Ontario County towns of Canadice, Bristol, East Bloomfield, Naples, Richmond, South Bristol, Victor and West Bloomfield.
Brouk chairs the senate’s mental health committee and serves on the senate’s health, education, elections, women’s issues, aging, and alcoholism / substance abuse committees.
“I am incredibly proud of the budget resources and responsive legislation I have been able to deliver to my hometown community,” Brouk said. “As a freshman senator and facing the challenge of navigating pandemic disruptions, I did not lose sight of my goals in Albany ‘to be a forceful advocate for my constituents in Western New York.'”
Her freshman year in state senate ends at the close of 2021, in just two days. Following is the summary provided by Brouk’s office outlining her 2021 efforts and accomplishments:
⦁ $1.4 billion statewide increase in school foundation aid (yielding an additional $64 million dollars for means schools in the 55th Senate District), which Brouk’s office says is the largest in this legislative category. Each constituent school district is anticipated to be allocated at least 60 percent of their full foundation aid funding for the 2021-2022 school year, with receipt of their full allotment of foundation aid by the 2023-2024 school year.
⦁ New York State is investing $105 million to expand universal full-day pre-kindergarten.
⦁ Brouk co-sponsored the third phase of the Rochester School Modernization Bill (S1761-C), adding $475 million to RCSD’s building improvement projects.
“As the proud daughter of a public school teacher and public school graduate, I went to Albany ready to fight for more funding for our public schools in the Rochester area, and I am grateful to announce that we won this fight,” said Brouk. “Schools in the 55th Senate District are now getting the Foundation Aid that was promised to them for over a decade; I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with parents, families and public school advocates to continue the fight in future years to bring even more resources to our students.”
Mental Health Services
⦁ Senator Brouk sponsored legislation (S 6194B) to create a 9-8-8 emergency line which goes beyond the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 passed by Congress. The governor recently signed the 9-8-8 line measure which would ensure that there are appropriate training and reporting measures in place. It also provides for public service announcements and messaging to target hard-to-reach and historically underserved populations.
⦁ Brouk also sponsored legislation (S 6431) signed by the governor to address workforce shortages in mental health through an extension of a waiver of professional licensure requirements for persons employed as mental health practitioners, psychologists and social workers in a program or service operated, regulated, funded, or approved by the department of mental hygiene.
⦁ Brouk also sponsored legislation (S 4345-A) signed by the governor to ensure children’s camps are prepared to serve both children and young staffers struggling with their mental health by allowing these camps to have psychologists and other professionals on staff.
⦁ Brouk introduced “Daniel’s Law” (S 4814)– named for Daniel Prude, which would require trained mental health and substance use counselors respond to mental health and substance use crisis incidents, with response[s] overseen by statewide and regional councils.
⦁ Brouk enacted a state budget that includes a 1% cost of living (COLA) increase for mental health and substance abuse workers statewide which her office says is the first COLA increase in twelve years for this workforce.
“The pandemic has challenged the mental health of residents in my district in ways we could not have predicted; children, adults, and seniors are all suffering from the isolation and loss of loved ones,” said Brouk. “Now is the time to invest in our behavioral health care system, to increase wages for the people who provide human services support, and to expand opportunities to bring more people into the behavioral health treatment profession.”
⦁ Brouk’s office reports that it assisted more than 1,000 constituents with administrative and emergency issues, serving as a liaison between people and state, federal and local agencies such as the Department of Labor, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Corrections, and the Department of Taxation and Finance.
“I am incredibly proud of the work my office is doing to help people in our community in moments of crisis,” Brouk said, adding that “this pandemic has taken its toll on my constituent’s mental health and increased the need for help in applying for unemployment insurance benefits and rental assistance,” stating also how “[h]elping people in their time of need has been one of my proudest accomplishments during this first year in public service.”
Secured $350 million in statewide transportation infrastructure investments, allocated as follows:
$100 million increase for Consolidated Local and State Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS)
[$15,771,780.55 for the municipalities within SD-55; a 21% increase locally.]
$100 million in new funding for Extreme Winter Recovery (EWR) funding a $35 million increase from last year
[$2,773,312.34 for municipalities within SD-55; a 54% increase locally.]
$50 million increase for PAVE-NY
[$4,450,544.62 for municipalities within SD-55; a 50% increase locally.]
$100 million increase for the City Touring Routes Program; new to the 2021/2022 budget
[$5,416,049.97 dedicated to the city of Rochester]
⦁ The city of Rochester is receiving nearly $12 million in state funding for local road repairs and maintenance as part of the state’s 2021-2022 budget, marking a 137% increase in infrastructure funding for the city compared to last year’s budget allotment. The state money also includes $5.4 million in brand new funding for Rochester as part of the creation of the City Touring Routes program.
Other Local Priorities
⦁ Worked alongside community advocates to block plans by New York Power Authority (NYPA)/Canal Corporation to clear cut trees along the Erie Canal.
⦁ Worked alongside community advocates to address continuing odor complaints at High Acres Landfill in Perinton.
⦁ $500,000 in funding for Rochester’s Police Accountability Board, marking the first time a state government has invested in local police accountability.
⦁ Governor signed Brouk legislation that will issue a property tax break to local volunteer firefighters and emergency medical response personnel (S 6676A)
⦁ Governor signed Brouk legislation that will ban the use of pesticides at children’s overnight or summer day camps (S 4478A)
⦁ Governor signed Brouk legislation that will expand the definition of coercion to include the production or dissemination of nude images (S 2986A)
⦁ Governor signed Brouk legislation related to education about fertility issues such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (S 6957)
⦁ Brouk responded to community concerns and introduced legislation to prevent individuals convicted of a crime involving elder abuse from inheriting the elder’s estate (S 7502)
⦁ Brouk responded to community concerns and introduced legislation to provide tuition assistance to certain Afghan and Iraqi immigrants (S 7583)
⦁ Brouk responded to community concerns and introduced legislation to make certain fertility fraud a crime (S 7588)
⦁ Enacted state budget secured $440 million in property tax relief for 1.3 million New Yokers earning below $250,000
Brouk’s office also touted several of the freshman senator’s awards, which include her being recognized as: “one of the top Black leaders in NYS” and “a leader in mental health and health care.” Her office says she has received acknowledgments from the Mental Health Association of New York State, the National Association of School Psychologists, the New York Association Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services and the New York League of Conservation Voters.