Legislating for future generations

Originally published in LI Herald on June 27, 2019.

State Sen. Kevin Thomas embraces new role

Levittown Democrat Kevin Thomas was 10 years old when his family left India in 1995 to seek better opportunities in the United States, and he recalled the culture shock of leaving a developing Dubai for New York City, where his family settled in Queens.

“Dubai only had a few tall buildings back then,” Thomas said. “But New York was all skyscrapers and city. There was no comparison.”

His parents wanted him to receive an excellent education and find success in their adopted country. Now, Thomas serves as the New York State Senate’s first Indian-American lawmaker, representing communities from Farmingdale to Franklin Square. Like his parents, he wants to serve future generations of New Yorkers.

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State Sen. Anna Kaplan, who shares a similar story of immigration to Thomas and sits next to him on the Senate floor, said their victories helped flip the Senate to a Democratic majority.

“It’s been an amazing, whirlwind experience for us, and holding the majority helped us pass laws that had been sitting on the shelf for decades because of partisan issues,” Kaplan, New York’s first Iranian-American state senator, said. “It was nice making these strides alongside him.”

Thomas and Kaplan helped pass the Child Victims Act, the Reproductive Health Act, gun and voting reform and a plastic bag ban. And when Thomas became the Consumer Protection Committee chairman, he was in a position to help the students who inspired him to run.

From his work with the New York Legal Assistance Group, Thomas knew that students could fall victim to predatory practices from loan companies, so he committed his first 100 days in office to crafting legislation to regulate the companies’ operations. The law now requires lenders to obtain licenses from the state Department of Financial Services, which will provide “much -needed” oversight over the industry and can levy fines against those engaging in predatory practices.