COLUMN: Funding restored, staging auto accidents, improving ATV rider conditions

— There have been quite a few newsworthy items coming out of Albany in recent weeks. I want to share a few of them with you in this column pertaining to health services funding, insurance fraud and tourism.

Increased funding for developmentally disabled

There has been both a local and statewide effort to maintain funding for the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. This year’s budget cut $90 million from OPWDD. Meanwhile, we gave tax credits to the film industry to the tune of $420 million. While the tax credits will purportedly create jobs, those high-profile jobs should not come at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens.

To that end, I support legislation recently introduced that would increase funding for OPWDD by taking money earmarked for film tax credits and giving it to OPWDD.

However, some good news has emerged. It was recently reported that some money will be restored to OPWDD. Additional money will be provided to OPWDD from the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General's audit recoveries. While I’m pleased our state leaders found additional monies for OPWDD, Albany should not continue this preferential treatment of the high-profile film industry at the cost of our developmentally disabled. Perhaps it would be better to have those recovered monies be reinvested into further efforts to reduce Medicaid fraud.

Alice’s Law would make staging accident a crime

I support legislation that would make staging an auto accident a crime unto itself. Unfortunately, many people stage auto accidents in an attempt to falsely collect insurance claims. In fact, in 2003, Alice Ross, a 71-year-old wife and grandmother, was killed as a result of a staged auto accident. This was a terrible loss and crime. No family should suffer the loss and tragedy that the Ross family endured. We need to make these criminals pay for staging auto accidents by increasing penalties.

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