Name: Luis R Sepulveda
Office Sought: New York State Senate District 32
Party Affiliation(s): Democrat
Education: Hofstra University
Occupation/Employer: NY State Senator
Previous Offices, Campaigns and Community/Civic Involvement:
NY State Assembly, AD 79
Please state whether you support or oppose the following reform measures. If you wish to elaborate on your answers, you may do so in the provided space at the bottom of this page.
- Replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the Legislative Ethics Commission with an effective and independent enforcement body (S594A/A1282A).
- Limit outside compensation earned by state legislators and statewide officials to 25% of their salaries and eliminate stipends.
Elections and Voting
- Do you support or oppose the following changes to the state’s current registration and voting system?
- No-excuse absentee voting (second passage of constitutional amendment)
- Election Day voter registration (second passage of constitutional amendment)
- Re-enfranchisement of people on parole automatically through legislation, without requiring a Certificate of Good Conduct or Relief
- Automatic voter registration, unless the potential voter opts out
- Mandating poll sites on college campuses
- No-excuse absentee voting (second passage of constitutional amendment)
- Reform the special election process, utilizing a nonpartisan special election for state legislative seats and eliminate delays in filling vacancies.
- Reduce the vote threshold to become a registered party back to 50,000 votes and keep the gubernatorial election as the qualifying election, and reduce the petition requirement for independent candidates back to 15,000 signatures.
- Amend the state’s public campaign financing system, approved in the 2021 budget, by
- Drastically reduce campaign contribution limits
- Set even lower contribution limits for registered lobbyists and those who do business with the state
- Move the campaign finance matching program to be administered by an independent, nonpartisan body outside of the NY Board of Election
- Simplify the matching system by making both in- and out-of-district donations eligible and by eliminating the three different tiers for matching
- Drastically reduce campaign contribution limits
- Require full disclosure of grants and contracts issued by the state, including the budget lines from which the spending is made and reporting on the results of each grant or contract over a certain amount.
- Provide for effective online disclosure and itemization of spending from elected officials’ lump sum appropriations, including reporting on potential conflicts of interest and how the funds are spent.
- Repeal Civil Rights Law, Sec. 50-a, which shields from public view the disciplinary records of police officers, correction officers, and firefighters.
- Restructure the state Board of Elections to abolish the strict two-party division of governance and operation and put in place professional, nonpartisan administration.
- Empower the attorney general to investigate and prosecute election law malfeasance and cases of public corruption.
- Make mayoral control of city schools permanent, with a governance system that provides for accountability, transparency, parent engagement, and democratic participation.
- Simplify and consolidate New York State’s court system by passing the Chief Judge’s proposed constitutional amendment to modernize the courts.
If needed, you may elaborate below on your positions on the previous questions. You may also provide additional information on any actions that you have taken or plan to take to advance your positions on these issues.
RESPONDING TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Government under the COVID-19 outbreak
- Adopt technological solutions and provisions that will allow the New York State legislature to convene and vote remotely if needed.
- Provide public access to observe and participate in government proceedings, in meetings that would be public under the New York Open Meetings Law, via live and recorded video available on government Website:
- Implement immediate programs to facilitate absentee voting for all New York voters as long as the widespread contagion risk of COVID-19 continues, under current state constitutional limitations. This includes electronic submission of absentee ballot applications without a wet signature and a public information campaign.
- What are your concerns regarding the use of emergency powers during this crisis, and how do you think NY government can maintain public accountability standards at this time?
This is a historical crisis, and our government has needed to use tools to act quickly and effectively. However, we must of course be careful with the use of emergency executive powers and the precedent it might set for future use — it is important that the legislature, as a representative body, and the public, both maintain active roles and voices in our state’s policymaking and governing processes. I personally continue to hold virtual town halls and other meetings to keep my community informed, and the legislature has just announced two upcoming public hearings on the impact of coronavirus on communities across the state. It is imperative that our government maintains public accountability during this time of crisis.
Serving the public under the COVID-19 outbreak
- What are the biggest challenges in your district in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak?
My district faces chronic, systemic health inequalities, including chronic asthma from environmental pollution, lack of accessible nutrition, unhealthy and unstable housing conditions, lack of access to clean water or clean air, lack of health insurance, and a general lack of affordable and adequate healthcare, particularly for the elderly, disabled, low-income, and other vulnerable people. This public health crisis exacerbates those existing inequalities and leaves my community even more vulnerable to the spread of Covid 19, while the economic impact of the pandemic overwhelmingly affects low income communities such as mine. At this time the biggest challenge in my district is ensuring my constituents are receiving the resources they need, including access to unemployment, healthcare, testing, food, and education.
- What are the appropriate roles of city, state, and federal governments in a crisis such as this?
During times of crisis it is critical that our government and local representatives work together to advocate for and support our communities. As a state representative, my team and I are on the ground and in constant contact with community leaders and constituents, responding to needs and advocating for resources at the state level.
- How will you help your future constituents, residents and businesses, access potential funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, or any other future government relief funds?
Throughout my career in public service, I have consistently advocated for funding for my community and my constituents so that they can receive the aid and resources they need, and will continue to do so throughout this crisis.
My office has also established a well-known reputation in the district for providing wide-ranging, top-notch constituent services to our constituents most in need — a crucial aspect of our role as public servants. During this public health crisis my team has continued to offer these services remotely, and has adapted to provide new services and assistance that reflect our current situation, including responding to hundreds of unemployment cases. My office has also been working to reach out to our senior citizens to check in and provide support. Over the past two months we have made over 4000 calls to seniors. We also work with many actors on the ground to coordinate food and pantry distributions to communities across the district.
CAMPAIGN PROMISES MADE TO VOTERS
What are the top five promises you are making to the voters during the campaign?
Campaign Promise 1
I promise to advocate for progressive legislation in the Senate, as it is my commitment that every legislation I support is one that seeks to combat discrimination and the legacies of systemic oppression in our country. This includes my recognized leadership on criminal justice reform, prison reform, and immigrant rights, as well as reforming our housing and education laws to foster opportunity, social mobility, and greater justice.
Campaign Promise 2
Work to support students, teachers, and administrators in ensuring our schools are providing the best education possible. Education is a key social justice issue, particularly for historically and systemically marginalized communities like the one I represent.
I work closely with schools across my district, advocating for resources and funding to ensure the success of our youth and teachers. I am proud to have directly allocated over $3 million in funding to schools in my district. I also support all initiative making higher education more accessible and affordable for all New Yorkers, including the Graduate Student Worker Fee Waiver, Community College funding study (S3445A), school climate bill (S767B), other bills addressing financial aid, student debt relief, special needs education, TAP/GAP, and more.
Campaign Promise 3
Continue my advocacy for criminal justice and corrections reform as Chair of the Corrections committee in the Senate to fulfill the mission of a criminal justice system that is humane and genuinely rehabilitative. This year I am fighting for parole reform, expanding prison education programs, and ending solitary confinement with my bill, the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, which would restrict solitary confinement in NYS prisons and require alternative, more humane rehabilitation methods that don’t constitute as torture by UN standards.
Campaign Promise 4
I promise to support the health of my community, during this health crisis and beyond. As a representative of the South & Central Bronx for nearly a decade, I have personally witnessed and been involved in my constituents’ lives who are uninsured and under-insured, and the life-saving impact that medical care and government services and policy can have. Our constituent services team often aids our community with public health benefits, and I have advocated for increased funding to many local healthcare providers in my district.
Health is also intimately tied with housing justice, environmental justice, and economic justice. I pledge to continue fighting for affordable, accessible, and quality housing, including especially the many NYCHA developments in my district. I will also continue to prioritize initiatives to reduce pollution (with the South Bronx having some of the highest asthma rates in the nation), improve access to quality food, and fight for economic justice initiatives that support MWBEs, small business owners, and employment opportunities for everyone.
Campaign Promise 5
I promise to support the LGBTQ community in my district and across New York. In the community, I have worked closely with LGBTQ community leaders, including Appolonia Cruz and Reverend Carmen Hernandez, both recognized leaders in the South/Central/East Bronx and with a long track record of fighting for justice, recognition, and more resources for the Bronx LGBT community. I have recognized and awarded proclamations and certificates to dozens of leaders in the community fighitng to LGBTQ rights and against discrimination, domestic violence, etc. We maintain a strong relationship with these leaders and other organizations fighting for LGBTQ rights in my district and across New York State.
ETHICAL REPRESENTATION OF CONSTITUENTS
Citizens Union believes that all New Yorkers deserve to be represented by officials who work for the public interest and honor the public trust. With the corruption conviction of recent legislative leaders, we seek to endorse a candidate who will demonstrate that she/he will honor the full commitment of the oath of office, and always represent the public interest above all else.
Please tell us how you have and would continue to conduct the political affairs of this office in an upright manner, and maintain the public trust.
Throughout my time in public office, since being elected to the Assembly in 2013 and the Senate in 2018, I have been dedicated to bolstering economic opportunity, diversity, and social service reforms, especially as they affect middle and working-class families. My top priority has always been, and always will be, working for my constituents and my community to improve quality of life. For any policy I support or initiative I work on — my main thought is always how it could impact the communities I represent.
It is an honor to be a public servant, and I pledge every day to serve with respect, humility, transparency, and in true partnership with my constituents. I value holding town halls, meetings, and visits with anyone and everyone, to maintain a direct line of communication with the people I represent and anyone affected by the policies I support. I always make myself available to anyone who would like to meet, even if we might have differing views.
For example, as Corrections Chair, I once held a roundtable discussion with leaders from academia, advocacy, government, and relevant agencies — mostly people who had never been in the same room before, yet all work on the same issues, albeit from different perspectives. Our conversation was rich, challenging, and meaningful.
I seek to lead by bringing people together, creating a space to listen to all voices, and above all to fight for the most marginalized and vulnerable among us, and the people that I have the honor to represent.