The 2015 legislative session has ended. There were many accomplishments but the list of what did not get done for Upstate is longer. Instead, the end of session was dominated by New York City issues like rent control, property tax exemptions for NYC (421a) and discussions on the control of New York City schools.
Now that the school year has ended, a great way for children to retain the vocabulary and knowledge they’ve acquired this school year is to encourage them to read each day over the summer. Studies show that reading just 15 minutes a day helps prevent learning loss.
The legislature recently passed a bill that, if signed by the governor, would reform the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and expedite the process for those in search of public records. The measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the senate and the assembly. I am urging the governor to sign the bill into law and make this change effective immediately. Its unanimous passage shows there is overwhelming public support for a more open government. Any legislation that cuts through the many layers of bureaucracy the public has to deal with in order to get public information is good legislation.
It is not a secret that New York is a challenging state in which to do business because of our high taxes and oppressive regulatory scheme. Some, but not all, of these policies originate out of New York City which faces different demographics and economic conditions than we do in Upstate New York.
FROM THE ASSEMBLY: New York needs more doctors, better policies to encourage more med students to stay
Access to quality healthcare is a necessary component for a thriving community and we are fortunate to have great healthcare facilities and providers in Central New York. That being said, our healthcare system is under stress because we continue to face shortages of healthcare professionals in New York state — particularly in rural areas. These shortages are particularly acute for primary care doctors and nurses, but extend to specialty practices and other healthcare providers.
Locally, our community has stepped up in honor of those who are bravely fighting cancer which requires multiple blood and platelet transfusions.
FROM THE ASSEMBLY: CNY in good position for state economic award, but cutting taxes would benefit all
There are a lot of things to be positive about in Central New York. Unfortunately, the economy is not one of them. Over the last decade, job growth in the Syracuse area has been anemic. The lack of jobs, among other things, has caused an outward migration of population which, in turn, places additional stress on our economy. We are not alone. Almost all of Upstate New York is facing similar challenges. Naturally, as with any crisis, state government wants to provide solutions. Unfortunately, these solutions are often politically expedient reactions rather than rationally thought-out long-term solutions.
I am skeptical of the claim, however, in light of the fact that we have passed “landmark” ethics reform in the recent past and yet ethical lapses by elected officials continue to occur.
In my mind, there are three issues that define this budget: the governor’s so-called education reform, ethics and capital spending. The education section of the budget is discussed below.
Domestic violence, harassment, and sexual assault continue to be issues that concern me. Studies reveal that such abuse occurs more than many realize. A few new laws were recently chaptered and aim to improve victims’ rights and protections. I supported all of these in the Assembly and I am glad they have been signed into law.
National Ag Week recognizes the abundant crops harvested by farmers all over the nation and the contributions they make to the economy. In New York alone, the agriculture industry recorded $5.68 billion in cash receipts in 2013, up more than $1 billion from 2010.
Recent findings by the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based research organization, should serve as a reminder to the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo during this year’s budget negotiations that New York needs to decrease spending, reduce state mandates and cut property and income taxes.
The Governor’s office announced in 2013 that it would use Microsoft Office365 -- an email and software management system to consolidate 27 agency email systems, improve access to applications, share calendars in a cloud-based system and save taxpayer dollars. Many aspects about the recently implemented system make sense and will hopefully improve inter-agency communication.
Many people are under the assumption that if they sign the back of their driver’s license, then they are a registered organ donor. Signing the back of your license is a good first step, as this indicates your personal wishes, but in order to be listed as an organ donor in the state registry, residents must fill out either an online form through the Department of Motor Vehicles or print and mail a form to the Department of Health. Being registered allows health care officials to better assist those who are on the waiting list for an organ.
Last year, the state spent $22.3 billion on education. In 2012, combined with the local and federal share of education, New Yorkers spent $58.4 billion on public education. This is a 56 percent increase over what was spent on a combined basis in 2002.
In the Central New York area, there have been two suspected cases of mumps in local schools this winter. These reports have understandably spurred discussions and concerns and accordingly it is important to know about New York’s vaccination requirements, childhood safety, and ways you can help protect your families from diseases that were once thought to be eradicated.
We have heard a lot from the governor’s office about the success of New York’s health exchange. The exchange was set up pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that all Americans obtain health insurance. The exchanges, which are either set up by individual states or by the federal government (when a state decides not to opt into the program), are, in theory, supposed to provide a market for people to purchase health insurance. New York, pursuant to an executive order of the governor, set up its own exchange. Compared to other states and to the federal government’s system, New York’s exchange has had fewer reported problems.
It is a tumultuous time in the New York Assembly. Long-time serving Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver has been arrested for public corruption.
FROM THE ASSEMBLY: Governor’s budget provides starting point for negotiations; overshadowed by Albany controversy
Last week, the governor presented his State of the State address. This annual tradition, much like the president’s State of Union address, is an opportunity for the governor to set forth his priorities for the upcoming state legislative session. The State of the State address is usually in the beginning of January but this year it was appropriately delayed due to the passing of the governor’s father.
A 2012 report created by the Energy Highway Task Force, a task force led by key representatives from the fields of energy, environmental conservation and economic development, cited the critical need for improving transmission lines across the state.
With a new year comes new commitments and renewed hope. Last week, the assembly welcomed new representatives. The swearing-in ceremony reminds all who attend to renew our commitment to public service.
I am always impressed with the quality and variety of our local producers — cheese, vegetables, wines and breads. The good news is our economy is benefitting more from these local products.
There are many in our local communities who donate their time and talents to make sure that others do not go without around the holidays. I like reading the news this time of year and finding stories about charities that were helped or how one person can inspire others to give, and even save a life.
Since the passage of Obamacare, polling consistently has shown people do not view the program favorably. Indeed, as has recently been reported, Dr. Gruber, one of the so-called architects of Obamacare, was recorded as saying that the only reasons the law passed Congress was because of the stupidity of the American voters and that there was a lack of transparency as to how the law was going to be financed. Gruber’s comments notwithstanding, this past election confirmed for many federal legislators who voted for Obamacare that the “stupid” American voter was going to hold them accountable for the passage of this flawed law. This is a sentiment that isn’t just coming from a Republican. Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer in a post-election speech also said as much.
School lunch purchases are on the decline. According to the New York School Nutrition Association, more than 19 million fewer meals were sold across the state during the 2012-13 school year than the year before. In the 2011-12 school year, 94 million meals were sold, but in 2012-13, only 75 million were sold.
FROM THE ASSEMBLY: Is weather detection system necessary? Spend budget surplus on Upstate infrastructure, too
Here in central New York, our municipal budgets are often stretched during time of high snowfall because of snow removal costs. If anything, $18 million would be better used to provide our municipalities assistance with these costs as opposed to using the $18 million on a duplicative weather detection system.
This time of year, there are a number of foot soldiers out there working to make someone’s holiday special. Whether it’s adopting a family to make sure they have presents under the tree or working at a local community dinner to ensure that people have a warm holiday meal in good company, many volunteer their time to give back to their community.
Fall is the time of year when many graduating high school seniors start to look toward the future. According to the New York State Education Department, in 2010, 82 percent of high school graduates in New York entered postsecondary education which includes either two- or four-year institutions.
My office receives a lot of inquiries from constituents who wonder why their energy bills are so high. These inquiries are well founded, as New Yorkers pay some of the highest residential energy costs in the nation. In fact, New York’s energy costs rank in the top five highest in the country. We pay on average 19.56 cents per kilowatt hour - significantly higher than what customers pay in other states.
The 2013-14 NYS legislative session has come to an end. During the final week, hundreds of bills were passed. However, the legislation that got the most attention was legislation that legalized medical marijuana.
Unfortunately, our office often hears firsthand accounts from local residents who have been scammed. I wanted to let people know of common scams local residents have experienced recently and how to avoid scams and identity theft.
There has been some good news lately involving dairy and the local economy. New York was recently named the top yogurt producer in the nation. This is the second year our state has earned this distinction, in large part due to the Greek yogurt producers who call New York home. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, New York produced 741 million pounds of yogurt, up from 695 million pounds in 2012. New York also accounted for 15.7 percent of the total U.S. yogurt production in 2013.
New York is home to more than 900,000 veterans, and some estimates indicate that as many as 72 percent have seen combat. Additionally, New York is home to approximately 30,000 active duty military personnel, as well as 30,000 National Guard and reservists.
Library use has increased across the state. According to some of New York State Library’s latest statistics, visits to public libraries increased by seven million from 113 million to 120 million from 2007 to 2009. The number of items borrowed — books, ebooks, movies, magazines and more — has increased by more than 11 percent.
Recently, the Tax Foundation released a map showing the combined local, state, and federal cell phone rates. The map showed, not surprisingly, that New York residents pay the third highest cell phone tax rate in the country. Our state and local cell phone tax is 17.85 percent.