State Legislative Forum: Rochester

April 16, 2021  
10:00AM - 11:00AM
Sponsored By AARP New York
Event Description
With the state budget behind us, lawmakers are set to act on their remaining priorities for the legislative session. These regional forums offer a chance to hear from legislators on their top policy priorities. We’ll touch on topics such as the ongoing response to COVID-19, curbing high prescription drug costs, retirement security, long term care reform, ways to make housing more affordable for an older population, and other pressing topics.
Jeremey Cooney
Jeremy A. Cooney
New York State Senator, District 56
Adopted from an orphanage in Kolkata, India, Senator Cooney made history as the first Asian elected to state office from upstate New York. He was raised by a single mother in the City of Rochester and is a proud graduate of the Rochester City School District (RCSD). He is the first state senator to have earned an RCSD diploma in decades. Senator Cooney began his career working on Capitol Hill for the late U.S. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. He later served as the chief of staff for the City of Rochester under Mayor Lovely Warren. He played a key leadership role in securing the city’s federal designation through the competitive Investing in Manufacturing Cities Program (IMCP) under the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Obama Administration. He also helped secure a $1.4M grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to establish and launch the Mayor’s Office of Innovation with a focus on poverty relief initiatives. Prior to running for public office, Senator Cooney served as the senior director for community relations with Empire State Development under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. At ESD, he helped lead public affairs for large scale economic development projects. Senator Cooney is active in the Rochester community. He sits on the President's Advisory Council for Hobart & William Smith Colleges and is a member of the Vestry for Christ Church Rochester (Episcopal). He is a proud Eagle Scout and serves as a Vice Chair of the Executive Board for the Boy Scouts of America, Seneca Waterways Council. Senator Cooney earned his B.A. with honors from Hobart College and his J.D. from Albany Law School. He is married to Dr. Diane Lu, a urologic surgeon with the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Edward Rath
Edward A. Rath III
New York State Senator, District 61
Edward A. Rath III, Republican – Conservative – Independence – SAM, was elected to the New York State Senate in 2020. Prior to being elected to the Senate, Senator Rath was an Erie County Legislator for 13 years. He has built a reputation for being a fierce advocate for the community, putting taxpayers first. He has advocated for a stronger economy, government transparency and accountability and more affordable, safer communities. As a Legislator, Senator Rath’s leadership led to the creation of the County’s Silver Alert Local Law, an Amber Alert for seniors that has since become a model program statewide. Ed has also been a longtime member of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, where he is a champion for our first responders and has led efforts against cyberbullying. Ed has fought to make Erie County more affordable for families and authored legislation to create a Property Tax Stabilization Fund to protect homeowners and hold the line on property taxes In addition to his public service, Ed has remained active in the community. He continues to volunteer for organizations that provide assistance throughout the community including the Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, Rotary International and the Alzheimer’s Foundation. Senator Rath will serve as Ranking Member of the New York State Elections and Local Government Committees. A lifelong Amherst resident, Senator Rath and his wife, Amy have three daughters. He received his degree from Syracuse University, with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. In 2005, he completed the Executive MBA program at Canisius College – Magna Cum Laude.
Marjorie Byrnes
Marjorie Byrnes
New York State Assembly Member, District 133
Marjorie Byrnes was elected to the New York State Assembly on November 6, 2018. Her district is comprised of Livingston County and parts of Monroe and Steuben counties. As an Assemblywoman, Marjorie will advocate for increases to state-funded infrastructure programs such as CHIPS, PAVE-NY, and BRIDGE-NY. She plans to partner with infrastructure and transportation stakeholders to address New York’s crumbling infrastructure. Marjorie believes the people of New York State are overly burdened by taxes, regulations, and red tape, and will fight for economic relief. She strongly supports term limits. Marjorie has been an attorney for 32 years, and for ten years she served as a Rochester City Court Judge. During her time as a judge, she presided over thousands of criminal and civil cases. She was also Court Attorney to Livingston County Court Judge Dennis S. Cohen from 2006-2017. In January of 2017, she retired from the New York State court system and then served as a Caledonia Village Trustee. Marjorie is a member of the Mt. Morris Sportsmen’s Club, the Conesus Lake Sportsmen’s Club, Rochester-Brooks Sportsmen’s Club, S.C.O.P.E., GOA-NY, and the NRA. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast and a strong advocate for the 2nd Amendment. Marjorie will also push for increased school safety, specifically state-funded armed School Resource Officers in schools. Marjorie has resided in Caledonia for 12 years, and is eager to use her experiences to make a difference in the lives of her constituents in the 133rd District.
Sarah Clark
New York State Assembly Member, District 136
A lifelong Rochester resident and SUNY Stony Brook graduate, Sarah has dedicated her entire career over the last two decades to public service. Prior to running for office herself, Sarah worked for the United States Senate – initially for Senator Hillary Clinton and, for the past eight years, as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Deputy State Director. In the Senate, she worked tirelessly on issues impacting her community daily like affordable health care, the high cost of prescription drugs, equitable public education, college affordability, a living wage for all and protecting seniors from fraud. Sarah has also been a longtime advocate on the local and national levels to reform the criminal justice system and identify sustainable solutions to climate change. For the past seven years, Sarah has served as a member of the Community Impact Cabinet and the Women United Steering Committee for the United Way of Greater Rochester. She is also a longtime volunteer at the Summit Federal Credit Union, currently serving as Chair of the Nominating Committee. Sarah lives in the Maplewood neighborhood of Rochester with her husband, John, and three children, Jack, Sean and Grace. As a working mom and mentor to other moms interested in public office, Sarah is eager to utilize her connections and experience to elevate the needs of children and families in the Assembly.
Jen Lunsford
New York State Assembly Member, District 135
Jen Lunsford is proud to represent the good people of the 135th Assembly District, which includes the towns of Webster, Penfield, East Rochester and Perinton on the east side of Monroe County. Jen was born on Long Island to a working mom and stay-at-home dad. She graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School and then went on to Hartwick College in Oneonta, where she dual majored in political science and philosophy. After working as a paralegal for a major international law firm, Jen attended Boston University School of Law where she concentrated in health care law, served as a Note Editor on the American Journal of Law and Medicine and won the Dean's Award for Constitutional Law. Following law school, Jen moved to Rochester, where her husband grew up, to begin her legal career. Jen has spent the past eleven years working as a litigator, focusing primarily on plaintiff's side personal injury, workers' compensation and Social Security disability. Jen has deep roots as a community volunteer and activist fighting for reproductive justice, criminal justice and universal health care with organizations like Lawyers for Good Government and If/When/How. Jen ran for office because she felt a call to service, following the 2016 election, to shape the world into a place of hope and opportunity for her son, and for all the families of the 135th District. Jen lives in Perinton with her husband, Scott, and their four-year old son, Mackay. When she is not fighting for truth, justice and the American way, Jen enjoys reading, cooking and spending time with her family.
Demond Meeks
New York State Assembly Member, District 137
Demond Meeks is a native of Rochester, NY. Demond and his wife Cratrina raised their children in the 19th Ward. Demond and his family worship at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church. Demond's educational background includes an associate degree from MCC and a BA from SUNY Brockport. He has received additional labor-related trainings and certifications from Cornell University. As a servant leader in the Rochester community, Demond has been an advocate for quality education, fair wages, workers’ rights and social justice. As an administrative organizer with 1199SEIU, Demond represents nearly 800 health care sector employees and takes on an array of tasks including bargaining contracts. Demond has mobilized workers around workplace issues, such as improved wages and benefits, as well as dignity and respect. Shortly after achieving employment with 1199SEIU in November 2010, he became an active member of the Rochester Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Since its induction in 2013, Demond has been an active member of the Parent Leadership Training Institute Civic Design Team, as they’re committed to teaching parents how to become practiced change agents for the next generation to improve the lifelong health, safety and learning of children. Demond is an active member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated. He was initiated into the brotherhood in the spring of 2010. Demond currently assists his fellow fraternal brothers with "Project Stride," a youth mentorship program at School #4 as well as mentorship at the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester. With the assistance of his family, Demond commits to braving the elements on Rochester “Cold Blue” weather days and feeding those in need of a hot meal. As a member of the New York Statewide Coordinating Committee of the Poor People’s Campaign, Demond works with groups such as Metro Justice and the Social Welfare Action Alliance (SWAA) to build coalitions as part of “A National Call for Moral Revival.” Driven by his passion for people, Demond holds dear to heart “The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matt. 25:40). As a vested member of the Rochester community, Demond is an advocate for social justice and the empowerment of youth. Demond’s good works have been recognized by the community at large. In 2017, he was awarded the Black Men Achieve Awards Civil & Human Rights and Brother of the Year. In 2018, he was awarded the Frederick Douglass Award from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. In 2019, Demond was awarded the Civil & Human Rights Activist of the Year. Demond was also awarded the Dr. Walter Cooper Community Service Award by the Rochester Black Bar Association as well as the Superior Community Service Award from the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated. Demond entered the political arena to improve the standard and quality of living for all Rochestarians. He is committed to educating, organizing and mobilizing people around community issues. We must meet with our communities and take into consideration their views on the issues in which we, as representatives, will vote on. In the role of state Assemblyman, I will apply the practices of an organizer. We will keep the community informed of issues by way of social media and mailings, as well as commit to regularly scheduled town hall meetings throughout the Assembly District.
Bill Ferris
Senior Legislative Representative, AARP NY
Bill is AARP’s State Lobbyist located in Albany. He has over 30 years of experience working in the legislative and political process in New York. He has lobbied on behalf of AARP on issues ranging from health, long term care, to Energy affordability and retirement savings issues as well as consumer protections.

Welcome & Introduction By Zach Williams, City & State NY



Senator Jeremy Cooney, District 56

Senator Edward A. Rath III, District 61

Assembly Member Marjorie Byrnes, District 133

Assembly Member Sarah Clark, District 136

Assembly Member Jen Lunsford, District 135

Assembly Member Demond Meeks, District 137

Bill Ferris, Senior Legislative Representative, AARP NY


Session Ends

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