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New moms a priority in Meng’s second year

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said that in her second year in Albany she hopes to shift the focus of her legislative efforts from statewide concerns to ones rooted in the community she serves.

Three bills she has drafted this session will do just that, she hopes, by addressing issues that affect new mothers who may have low English proficiency, victims of hate crimes and elected officials’ use of public funds for political gain.

“This year we’re trying to pass laws that are more effective in impacting the people in the community on the local level,” she said.

A mother of two young children, Meng said her experiences in early motherhood inspired a bill she finished writing Monday. Friends often informed her about baby toys and products that had been recalled due to safety or health concerns, and she saw in that a need to provide new parents, especially new immigrants and other people who might have trouble finding the information themselves, with ways to learn about about recalls and safety warnings.

“When a woman gives birth at a health facility, there are laws that require that certain information be distributed, such as information about why a woman may want to breast-feed,” she said. “I want to add information about toys and baby products that would be sent out in an e-mail alert.”

The law would provide such assistance by requiring that maternity leaflets distributed at all births contain information about how to subscribe to the U.S. Product Safety Commission’s free product safety and recall news alerts via e-mail. Those without e-mail would be directed to non-Web-based information about the commission’s services.

On another front, Meng said that when Jack Price, an openly gay College Point man, was savagely beaten and left for dead by two men in an Oct. 8, 2009, hate-motivated attack, it was “the last straw” for her. So she introduced a bill last year to provide added protections for hate crime victims.

The legislation would establish victims of hate crimes as a class of their own, meaning judges would be able to establish orders of protection similar to those afforded to domestic violence victims. The orders would be available for judges to impose upon the release of criminals convicted of hate crimes and would limit the contact and proximity allowed between the perpetrator and the victim.

“We are looking for the sorts of protections that the victims of domestic violence receive, for the victims of hate crimes,” she said.

Meng, whose district covers Flushing, also ran for the Assembly on a number of issues, one of which was political transparency. She said she hoped to do her part to change the culture in Albany.

She introduced a bill Friday aimed at curbing the distribution of certain public funds by legislators within 20 days of the date of an election in which the legislator is a candidate. She said the law would prevent incumbent lawmakers from hosting news conferences and other events where they hand government money to community groups and organizations in a manner that could benefit their campaigns so soon before an election.

“This is something that violates the public’s trust. I don’t think it’s right to use public money for private gain,” she said.

The bill would also require that legislators be more transparent with the ways they dole out public funds, requiring them to discuss their preferences in a public forum before deciding where the money would go.

“A lot of the time these monies are allocated in a way that is secretive,” she said, “so I think legislators should have to have some kind of public hearing.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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