ROADMAP TO RENEWAL
An Assembly Minority Action Plan for New York's Future

Charles H. Nesbitt
Assembly Minority Leader

January 2004

Dear Friend:


Assembly Minority Leader Charles H. Nesbitt (R,C - Albion) joined members of the Assembly Minority Conference in unveiling "Roadmap to Renewal," a sweeping new plan that will help create new jobs, reinvigorate the state's struggling economy and boost the quality of life for all New Yorkers.
Assembly Minority members believe that the goal of a less intrusive, more efficient government is to provide an opportunity for work and prosperity to our citizens, a good quality education to our children, keep our communities safe and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

"Roadmap for Renewal" builds on our successful 2003 NY First agenda, the only comprehensive legislative plan of its kind introduced by a conference of the New York State Legislature, to help make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Each of the proposals in this plan draws from ideas and suggestions advanced by leading citizens throughout New York, as well as those from individual members of our Assembly Minority Conference, leaders in their own right in fields as diverse as agriculture, business, education and the law.

New York's challenges are many - and they are daunting. But we can overcome them and propel this state to loftier heights only by tapping the combined talents, ideas and energy of citizens and their legislative representatives.

Throughout the year, Assembly Minority members will emphasize these initiatives, among others, that also will serve to improve the lives of our citizens, and help make New York First.

Sincerely,
CHARLES H. NESBITT
ASSEMBLY MINORITY LEADER




The goal of a less intrusive, more efficient government is to provide an opportunity for work and prosperity to our citizens, good quality education to our children, keep our communities safe and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

"The Conference of Ideas"

The Assembly Minority Conference has proudly served the role as an incubator for "ideas that work" to make government better and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. The 2003 legislative session will be remembered as especially successful for Assembly Minority initiatives that became law and policy in New York State, and even served as models for the nation. From the innovative Assembly Minority anti-"spam" email proposal (recently adopted by Congress) and creation of a legislative committee dedicated to protecting New Yorkers from terrorist threats to the enactment of the "Patriot Plan," which was copied by states around the country, Assembly Minority ideas and energy are translating into action for New York families and communities. These are some Assembly Minority initiatives that are now New York law:

Patriot Plan

A comprehensive program of benefits and safeguards for New York military men and women called to serve our nation in the war on terror. The Patriot Plan has quickly become a model for other states seeking to recognize the sacrifices of military men and women by easing some of the hardships caused them and their families by activation, as well as provide additional benefits and rewards for their service. Some Patriot Plan benefits include: protecting service men and women from housing and employment discrimination, capping loan obligations and allowing for termination of auto leases in the event of activation, automatic extensions of driver's licenses and registrations, and free hunting and fishing licenses for eligible service members.

"Stephanie's Law"/Video Voyeurism

Closes a loophole in state law that allowed secret videotaping of individuals in their most private moments. This Assembly Minority initiative creates new criminal penalties to protect the privacy of these victims - mostly women and young girls.

"Penny's Law"/Juvenile Sentencing Reform

Increased criminal penalties for murders committed by juveniles. Prior to enactment of this law, juveniles could be tried as adults for murder, but faced lenient sentences, when considering the gravity of the crime.

Providing opportunities for work and prosperity

New York government's top priority must be to encourage the creation of good jobs for every citizen who wants one - making job growth, "Job One." New York already boasts one of the nation's best-educated and productive workforces. But other factors, including tax policy, regulations and energy costs, have impacted negatively on our ability to attract and retain jobs. "Roadmap to Renewal" offers a number of initiatives designed to make the creation of jobs in New York State an attractive and competitive option.

Jobs & Taxes

There is no doubt that the unprecedented tax cuts enacted, beginning in 1995, were a major force in the state's economic resurgence. Fiscal experts have determined that 45,000 new jobs are created for every $1 billion in tax cuts. Conversely, 45,000 jobs are lost by a $1 billion increase.

Keeping New York's promise - The Legislature must commit to rolling back recent tax increases as planned over the next two years, preserving all existing tax cuts already in state law and seeking new ways to lower those levies that impact on our ability to create and retain good jobs.

"Back to Business" tax reform program - High taxes hamper our ability to create and retain new jobs, especially in the critical manufacturing sector. The Assembly Minority "Back to Business" tax reform initiative contains several incentives aimed at making New York more attractive for companies to locate here and create new jobs, as well as to bolster the bottom line of many of our traditional manufacturing employers.

  • Implement single sales factor - currently, New York businesses are taxed based on three factors: sales, payroll and real property owned within the state. Simplifying the tax code to focus solely on sales would encourage companies to locate and remain in New York State;
  • Brownfields incentives for power plant siting - New York can build on its recent reauthorization of the state Superfund for contaminated former industrial sites and speed the reuse of these properties by encouraging construction of new power plant facilities on abandoned brownfields located in industrial areas throughout the state;
  • Create a state task force on health care cost reform - high employee health insurance costs remain a problem for companies seeking to create new jobs. New York has an opportunity to lead the nation by identifying economical ways for companies to provide these benefits to more workers at lower cost;
  • Establish a state commission on workers compensation costs - similarly, high workers compensation costs continue to hinder companies' job-making ability. This commission would identify reforms that could help lower these costs to employers;
  • Regulatory reform - The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that small businesses spend $7000 per employee to comply with federal, state and local government regulations, or more than $860 billion each year, an amount that exceeds the gross domestic product of Canada. Under Gov. Pataki, state regulators have made significant strides in streamlining and reducing government "red tape" that restricts the ability of business to grow. Assembly Minority members propose to establish in statute the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform, which would ensure that regulatory relief remains an important priority of state government.

Empire Zones - a New York success story

New York's 72 Empire Zones (EZs) have been credited with the creation of more than 250,000 new jobs and are responsible for more than $3.8 billion in private sector investment. The EZ program's combination of tax reductions, energy savings and other incentives help companies better compete in the global marketplace. These Assembly Minority proposals, combined with recently proposed reforms, promise to make the EZ program even more effective as a marketing tool for companies looking to expand and create jobs.

An Empire Zone for every county - Currently, 11 New York counties do not have an EZ designation - Delaware, Greene, Hamilton, Livingston, Yates, Nassau, Putnam, Rockland, Schoharie, Tompkins and Wyoming - meaning these localities cannot compete for jobs and new investment on an equal footing with surrounding communities. Assembly Minority members reiterate our commitment to expanding EZ benefits to every county in the state.

EZ statewide "Superzone" - In addition to county-based zones, there is a clear need for a "superzone" that provides the state with the flexibility of offering EZ incentives to job-creating companies that wish to build in New York, wherever they wish to locate. The EZ Superzone would give the state the ability to offer similar incentives to other companies without having to reduce the benefits available in an already designated zone.

EZ Main Street - Downtown retail/commercial/entertainment districts are the heartbeat of a vibrant local economy, especially in smaller and rural communities, as recognized by Gov. Pataki's Quality Community Task Force. Enhancing the appearance of downtown commercial strips can translate into increased business activity. Under this proposal, modeled after a successful local initiative by Sullivan County officials, Main Street businesses receiving EZ benefits would be required to perform fašade renovations and other improvements as a way to revitalize these downtown commercial hubs. EZ Main Street also includes a provision aimed at a resurgence of downtown retail activity by giving localities the flexibility to lower the sales tax by one percentage point, to be matched by an additional one-point reduction in the state sales tax rate, to create an attractive additional marketing tool. Assembly Minority members also support the creation of a New York Main Street Center within Empire State Development, combining the efforts of the Departments of State and Transportation, Office for Small Cities and Division of Housing and Community Renewal, to provide technical assistance, such as organizational and architectural resources, to communities undertaking revitalization projects.

Rural zones, "banking" and sunsets - Assembly Minority members support the creation of Agricultural Empire Zones that extend EZ benefits to farm families. Additionally, the Assembly Minority favors revising EZ regulations to allow the "banking" of unused zone acreage for use in other areas, as well as streamlining the process by which abandoned acreage can be reoffered to prospective job-creating businesses if development does not take place within a predetermined time frame.

Manufacturing - the bedrock of Upstate's economy

New York's contracting manufacturing sector nonetheless remains a central part of our economy, especially Upstate, where the industry provides better-than-average wage jobs for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Manufacturing jobs also create a recognized economic spin-off, supporting an estimated 2.67 related jobs for each manufacturing job. By this measure, New York's more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs support an additional 1.6 million jobs.

Manufacturers' state tax credit and incentive pilot program - Assembly Minority members support creation of a manufacturers' tax credit equal to 2.5 percent of a new employee's salary for each new job created. The credit would last for five years after the employee was hired. Since each new job creates a new taxpayer, the proposal has no real cost to the state. In addition, a manufacturing incentive pilot program would couple tax incentives with new levels of accountability for companies to prove that jobs created are long-term positions.

Re-manufacturing demonstration program - Re-manufacturing is an environmentally friendly process that re-uses products such as engines, transmissions and computers. Re-manufacturers thoroughly clean, repair, retrofit and resell these products - usually at a discounted price - to consumers and industry. Rochester Institute of Technology is a recognized leader in developing technology for remanufacturing. A demonstration project to utilize remanufactured products by a designated state agency, such as the Department of Transportation or Thruway Authority, in the case of vehicle-related products, or the Office for Technology for computer products, would help stimulate this industry.

NY's TIME (Technology Initiative for the Manufacturing Economy) - Assembly Minority members support the creation of a special New York State task force on the future of high-tech manufacturing to identify opportunities, incentives and new initiatives to help support the growth of high-tech manufacturing in the state, as well as efforts to ensure that New York's workforce is equipped with the special skills demanded of a high-tech manufacturing economy, and separate panel to study additional ways to assist traditional manufacturing companies.

Power to Grow - New York faces an energy crisis resulting from increasing electricity consumption and a lack of new power plants. Continuing to ignore the power needs of our region will have a severe impact on our economic vitality, public safety and quality of life. The Assembly Majority continues to block renewal of the state's principal power plant siting law, which was allowed to expire at the end of 2002. As a result, no new generating facilities have been brought on line in New York State. Assembly Minority members support renewal of Article X, with enhanced opportunities for public input as well as legislation proposed by the Governor to help upgrade existing transmission lines. Additionally, the Assembly Minority favors streamlining Article X requirements to encourage the development of underused "brownfields" sites for the construction of new power generating facilities.

Power for Jobs - New York's successful Power for Jobs program has already helped to create or retain 300,000 jobs at over 450 businesses throughout the state. Many of these companies face the loss of their reduced-cost power in 2004, as contracts begin to expire. New York should not abandon this successful program over state budgetary concerns. Assembly Minority members favor renewing the Power for Jobs program to allow these companies to continue to benefit from lower-cost energy.

Promote free energy markets - Assembly Minority members support creation of energy cooperatives organized by regional Chambers of Commerce to purchase bulk supplies of lower-priced energy for their members. One such cooperative, in Saratoga County, is saving members thousands of dollars each year in energy costs.

Seek energy efficiency - Assembly Minority members support continuing the mission of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York Power Authority to promote energy conservation and renewable energy initiatives as ways to help meet the growing energy demands of a growing state economy.

Cellular service improvements - Increasingly, New York businesses rely on wireless communications to help grow their businesses and meet customers' needs. But a large swath of the state remains underserved by wireless companies, making reliable connections virtually non-existent in many areas of the state. The Assembly Minority urges the state Public Service Commission to review problems with wireless phone service connections and support the creation of tax incentives for wireless companies to upgrade connections in underserved areas.

Agriculture - the Pride of New York

The Assembly Minority Task Force on the State of New York Agriculture continues to solicit ideas from farm families at task force hearings throughout the state on ways to improve the vitality of small farms. The Task Force report will include specific recommendations to promote the marketing of New York farm products, lower costs to farmers and provide incentives for new farms. In addition to the economic importance of agriculture to the state economy, family farms help protect open space and limit sprawl. The responsible use of rural lands by farm families also helps protect our state's fragile environment.

Agricultural Empire Zones - Assembly Minority members continue to support the creation of Agricultural Empire Zones to provide tax and other incentives to family farmers who otherwise do not qualify for zone status, in part due to the seasonal nature of their work.

Export NY - New York's successful "Pride of New York" marketing campaign for New York-produced farm products has gained nationwide attention and helped cement in consumers' minds the added value of farm fresh, locally produced products. The Assembly Minority supports an expansion of the program to include international marketing of New York's high quality farm products and creation of an expanded statewide database of food products available from New York producers, including wine, grapes, cheese, apples, specialty and gourmet items, and others.

Adding "value" down on the farm - Assembly Minority members support creation of a grant program to allow farmers to purchase processing equipment that allows them to manufacture food products on the farm for consumer sale, such as specialty cheeses, cider and juices, and other products. This proposal takes the traditional "farm market" concept to the next level, allowing family farmers to offer ready-to-eat and use products, in addition to the fresh produce and other products that are staples of such stands.

Increase funding for purchase of development rights - Assembly Minority members favor increasing available funding through the Department of Agriculture and Markets for purchase of farmland development rights as a way to mitigate development pressure on family farms, preserve open space and protect farms from encroachment by residential/commercial developers. Currently, applications for development right purchases have outpaced the $12 million budgeted for this vital program.

Less Intrusive, More Efficient Government

New York's chronically late budgets (19 years and counting), secretive deliberations, and "three men-in-a-room" oligarchy make excellent fodder for late-night comics, political pundits and professional cynics. In reality, they have too often resulted in gridlock, and discouraged citizen participation in issues that directly affect their daily lives.

The Assembly Minority has long been a leading voice in urging reform of the outdated and exclusionary type of government practiced in Albany, and this year, as last, count government reform among the highest priorities for the coming legislative session.

Real government reform can restore public trust and confidence in government. That is the best legacy that any elected Legislature can leave to future generations.

Budget Reform - No area of public policy in New York State better demonstrates the need for reform than the state budget process. Late budgets have hindered the state's finances for nearly two decades and have a tendency to be brokered at the last minute with little if any public involvement.

It is not only the state's finances that suffer because of late budgets. School districts are denied data that they need to provide information about spending and tax rates to their voters. Municipalities are forced to borrow money to continue critical services. Costs increase for companies that contract with the state while the construction season is shortened. Non-profit organizations experience a tremendous strain on planning and may have to cut or curtail services.

Key provisions of the Assembly Minority budget reform plan include:

  • Establishing a binding revenue forecast-allows intervention by the state Comptroller if the Legislature cannot achieve revenue consensus;
  • Permanently establishing budget conference committees-require open, public debate of revenue and spending issues;
  • Creating a default budget-If a budget agreement is not in place within 72 hours of the April 1 deadline, the previous year's budget would automatically go into effect;
  • Prohibiting action on non-budget related bills-Action on bills not directly related to the budget would be prohibited if the budget were not adopted on time (Since 1995, the Assembly has passed nearly 3,100 one-house bills without a budget in place).
  • Prohibiting the use of "lump sum" disbursements - Increasingly, the Legislature has used "lump sums" to disburse sizeable amounts of tax dollars without public disclosure of the recipients of that spending. Open disclosure would help restore confidence and build support for worthwhile programs.

More efficient government

With New York facing a $5 billion to $6 billion budget deficit in the next fiscal year, it is more important than ever to identify economies in state government operations and seek opportunities to lower the cost of governing without jeopardizing vital services.

NY-stat - Seeking to model the success of New York City's CompStat program, responsible for dramatic decreases in crime by better use of computer mapping and new accountability standards, municipalities across the country have begun to use similar programs to track government services besides police. In Syracuse, officials project they will save $14 million this year by applying the idea to their municipal operations. Baltimore has saved $70 million. Assembly Minority members propose the creation of a demonstration program, NY-stat, utilizing computer technology and aggressive, data-based management techniques, to measure the efficiency of one or more state agencies.

Helping local governments

Medicaid reform - The explosive growth in Medicaid spending in recent years has not only jeopardized state finances, but those of localities as well. New York is one of only a small number of states that requires counties to pay a share of Medicaid costs (about 20 percent on average). However, counties are given no authority to choose which medical services to provide under their locally administered programs, as all such decisions are made in Albany.

Medicaid costs to counties soared 32 percent on average between 1999 and 2002 - and up to 70 percent or more in some cases - and double digit growth is expected in each of the next two years.

In some cases, counties' entire local property tax levy is consumed by Albany-mandated Medicaid costs. Counties have little choice but to pass these higher costs onto local property taxpayers in the form of higher tax levies or reduced local services.

Even as long-term reforms are contemplated for the $40 billion Medicaid program, it is clear that county governments need immediate relief to help avert property tax increases that could cripple our state's economy.

Emergency Medicaid Relief - Assembly Minority members favor providing emergency relief to counties through a $200 million Emergency Medicaid Relief Program that should be part of the new state budget. These funds, to be distributed to counties outside New York City, could be used to reverse recent tax hikes and restore cuts in vital services. County officials throughout the state have warmly embraced this proposal as an important stop-gap until permanent reforms are enacted.

Five-year state Medicaid takeover - The best relief for local taxpayers must include a gradual state takeover of the local share of Medicaid program costs. Assembly Minority members continue to believe the state has an obligation to cover the costs for programs that it mandates, like Medicaid.

Fighting Medicaid fraud - Medicaid fraud is believed to cost state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars each year. This proposal would create a "bounty" or reward for counties that aggressively seek out fraud equivalent to both the state and local share of recovered funds, for use in the county's tax-relief or general funds.

Ban unfunded mandates - Albany-ordered mandates add to the cost of local government in New York, and mean higher property taxes for local residents and businesses. Assembly Minority members support a ban on all new unfunded mandates on local governments.

State/local working groups - New York State directs hundreds of millions of dollars to local communities for projects as diverse as social service improvement programs, infrastructure improvements and affordable housing development. Assembly Minority members propose the creation of regional working groups of state agencies - including the Office for Small Cities, Empire State Development, Division of Housing and Community Renewal, Environmental Facilities Corporation, and others - to proactively reach out to local governments to provide information and assistance to local governments to help identify funding sources for vitally needed projects. The proposal is modeled on the Assembly Minority's successful "Building for our Future, Funding for Affordable Housing" Task Force symposiums, which sought to connect builders, lenders and local development officials with information and access to individual agencies and experts that provide dedicated funding.

Metro-STAR - Assembly Minority members support creation of incentives and other assistance to encourage inter-municipal cooperation in the provision of services by local governments. The Metro-STAR program would provide matching grants to localities to study mergers and cost-sharing agreements with neighboring governments, establish model cooperative programs and cover certain ancillary costs with the goal of saving taxpayers' money.

Tax and mandate relief

"The power to tax is the power to destroy." Nowhere is that insight by former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John C. Marshall better illustrated than by the decline of New York's competitive position throughout the last half of the 20th Century until 1995. Since then, New York has made dramatic strides to regain control over its soaring taxes, with impressive, if predictable results.

State government should recognize the enormous negative impact that higher taxation places on the state's economy, and should take steps to ensure that any decision to increase the tax load on citizens is openly debated and justified before the public that pays the bills.

"Supermajority" for Tax Increases - Assembly Minority members reiterate support for a requirement of a "supermajority" equal to two-thirds of the elected members of each house of the Legislature to enact any new tax, delay any existing tax cut or impose any unfunded mandate on local governments. Under this legislation, a minimum of 140 of the state's 212 legislators (2/3 in each house) would have to vote for such increase.

Pension reform - The recent decline on Wall Street and benefit enhancements for retiring state and local government employees has resulted in higher than expected contributions for local governments. After years of spending very little on pension fund contributions thanks to generous investment returns, local municipalities will be socked this year with 12 and 16 percent increases in their contribution requirements. These higher costs must, by current law, be shouldered by local taxpayers. Assembly Minority members favor reforms that will lessen the burden on local taxpayers for these unexpectedly high contributions.

  • Cap year-over-year increases
  • 30-year amortization of pension enhancements
  • Change payment date
  • Allow use of capital reserve funds

Help America Vote Act - Assembly Minority members support using available federal funds to help modernize New York's voting system, including purchasing new voting machines that would improve ballot security and provide assurances to voters that their choices will be counted.

Safer Communities

Assembly Minority members stand committed to making our communities safer. New York has made tremendous strides in reducing violent crime in recent years, but more needs to be done. These proposals are aimed at ensuring every New Yorker can enjoy safety and security in their own homes and communities.

"Zero tolerance" for sex crimes

Even as violent crime has dropped dramatically, arrests for rape and sexual assaults have increased in communities throughout the state. New York law has not been amended to address this growing threat. The Assembly Minority's "Zero Tolerance" proposal seeks to combat sexual assaults by sending a clear message to criminals that protecting women and children from becoming victims of violence is a high priority for state government. Components of the Assembly Minority "Zero Tolerance" plan include:

Luring/computer luring - creates new criminal penalties for criminals who use the Internet or other means to draw victims, usually children, into illegal sexual liaisons, and allows seizure of vehicles and computers used for such purposes;*

Continued (civil) confinement - allows a court to order the worst sex offenders held beyond their prison release date if upon evaluation there is significant reason to believe that they may strike again;

Gang sex assault - creates new penalties for sex assaults committed by one or more persons;

Serial rapists - allows consecutive sentences for the commission of more than one rape or other sex assault. Current law does not require sentences for multiple rape convictions to run consecutively;

Expand DNA database - requires submission of DNA samples from a broader spectrum of convicted criminals to help law enforcement resolve more outstanding violent crimes;

Statute of limitations - removes statute of limitation in violent sex crimes, extends time limit for prosecution in other violent felonies to 15 years;

Compulsory blood tests - require blood tests of suspects for communicable and sometimes deadly diseases in cases of rape, or where exchange of bodily fluids may take place, such as by biting a law enforcement officer.

"Megan's Law" reform - The Assembly Minority Task Force on Crimes against Women and Children continues its effort to identify failings in the state's existing criminal laws to help improve public safety. Last year, the Task Force held public hearings throughout the state to focus on crime issues that particularly affect children, while in 2004, the Task Force will emphasize crimes against women as it seeks remedies to make our communities safer. The Task Force will issue an interim report early this year. The Assembly Minority continues to support:

  • Expanding information publicly available on the state Division of Criminal Justice Services website to include additional details on all registered sex offenders, not just the highest risk, as currently required;
  • Requiring convicted sex offenders to submit an updated photo annually, so law enforcement officials have a current likeness;
  • Expanding the scope of Megan's Law to ensure that offenders remain registered as required, and mandate notification by law enforcement to school districts.

Urban and gang crime initiative

The dramatic drop in violent crime is one of the most celebrated achievements of recent years that resulted from tough new laws, better enforcement and more efficient use of police resources. The reductions have been most dramatically evidenced in New York City. Yet, crime - especially increasing criminal activity attributed to growing gang activity - remains a threat in some Upstate cities. Assembly Minority members support increased sentences for "street gang activity," especially near schools, and creation of a special task force to study ways to combat violence and quality of life crimes within New York's Upstate cities.

Hazing - Recent incidents of hazing that resulted in death or serious physical injury are reminders of the dangers involved in what far too many people consider a "harmless" rite of passage. Currently, hazing is, at most, a Class A misdemeanor. Assembly Minority members propose to raise the penalty for this crime to a felony when serious injury or death occurs. Additionally, the Assembly Minority supports creation of new penalties for failing to report a hazing incident to a law enforcement official, and strengthening state laws against "bullying" and harassment of students, teachers and other school personnel.

Prescription drug diversion - Prescription drug diversion is a growing crime that involves the resale of powerful medicines that are obtained by an actual or falsified prescription. Diversion increases fraud losses to insurers and the state's Medicaid program, as well as threatens the health of drug users who often are using medicines without the care of a qualified medical professional, and breeds violence. Recent court rulings have made diversion cases increasingly difficult to prosecute. Assembly Minority members favor strengthening the state laws against prescription drug diversion by outlawing the possession of diverted drugs, changing the way that these drugs are valued for the purpose of a criminal prosecution and increasing penalties.

Dangerous dogs - Allow localities to enact laws to define and restrict possession of certain dangerous dogs, require registration of such animals, and create new criminal penalties for use of dangerous dogs as weapons.

Reducing drunk driving fatalities

The recent reduction in New York State's legal blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold for drunk driving to 0.08 percent is a positive step that will save lives on our roadways. But to most effectively attack the problem of DWI New York must crack down on hardcore drunk drivers, those arrested with BAC levels of 0.15 or higher and repeat offenders, who are involved in the vast majority of alcohol-related fatalities. Assembly Minority members propose to:

  • Create the felony crime of "aggravated drunk driving" for those convicted of driving with a BAC of 0.18 or more.
  • Require a 30-month license suspension for second DWI offenses within 10 years. One-third of all DWI arrests involve repeat offenders. These serial drunk drivers are responsible for 58 percent of alcohol-related highway deaths.

Anti-terrorism

The passage of time since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City has seemingly eroded any urgency on the part of the Assembly Majority to enhance New York's anti-terrorism laws. In many cases, specific anti-terrorism laws simply do not exist. It is therefore necessary to enact legislation aimed at the prevention, deterrence, and punishment of future terrorist attacks against the people of New York State. Assembly Minority proposals include:

Establishing criminal penalties for possession and/or use of chemical and biological weapons;

Creating the crime of "cyber-terrorism" for using the Internet or other electronic means to commit acts of terrorism;

Creating the crime of "agribio-terrorism" for those who target the state's farms, or supplies of food or water, in an act of chemical or biological warfare.

2004 Patriot Plan enhancements - The Assembly Minority Patriot Plan provides a host of new benefits and incentives to attract highly qualified men and women top answer New York's and the nation's call to protect our homeland from attack. Assembly Minority members favor additional enhancements to the Patriot Plan to provide additional recruitment and retention incentives:

  • Employer tax credits for hiring military reservists
  • Tuition assistance for graduate study
  • State tax exemption for combat-activated troops
  • Free sportsmen's licenses for all military reservists
  • Property tax exemptions for "Gold Star Parents"
  • Expand tuition assistance for veterans activated after September 11, 2001
  • Special recreational benefits for former POWs and Purple Heart recipients

Ensuring A Quality Education For Our Children

A top priority for New York State government remains the education of our young people. New York boasts some of the best primary and secondary schools in the nation, and the state and local school districts already invest more than $32 billion each year to improve learning and assure that New York's children are best prepared for a challenging future.

The future of state education funding remains uncertain, as state officials continue to review the impact of the Court of Appeals decision last year regarding state aid to New York City schools. Governor Pataki's special blue ribbon commission is expected to make its recommendations for school funding reforms later this spring. Those recommendations should include provisions to protect rural and suburban schools from dramatic shifts in state education aid that will inevitably lead to higher property taxes.

Assembly Minority members, meanwhile, are committed to preserving the successful STAR property tax relief program, which provides $3 billion in property tax savings to millions of New York families and senior citizens, against attacks from advocates who have suggested diverting those property tax relief funds to increased aid for New York City schools.

Bill of Rights for Parents and Students

Assembly Minority members believe that quality education begins with a safe, supportive learning environment. Parents and students should be confident that schools in New York State will meet certain basic criteria designed to fulfill the individual needs of each child.

We have outlined these fundamental goals in our "Bill of Rights for Parents and Students." These common-sense guidelines express our beliefs in safe, quality schools that prepare students for success in life, higher education, and their careers. This declaration will be the basis of all future Assembly Minority education initiatives.

Assembly Minority members believe that all students have the right to:

  • Have their parents and/or guardians involved in their education;
  • A quality education that prepares them to go on to higher education or to join the workforce at a level commensurate with their abilities;
  • Be educated by teachers well prepared in their subject areas, qualified under New York State regulations;
  • Attend a school that provides a safe and nurturing environment;
  • Expect that those who are in violation of the law or of the school's code of conduct will be dealt with swiftly and consistently;
  • Participate in school activities based on ability;
  • An adequate supply of required educational materials, including textbooks;
  • Evaluation of special needs or extraordinary academic talents, and provision of appropriate services.

Assembly Minority members continue to support the "Bill of Rights for Students and Parents" as the conference's statement of principals regarding our commitment to education in New York State.

These basic tenets are the foundation upon which a quality education is built. The Assembly Minority Conference supports these rights for every student in New York State as the first step toward helping our children reach their full academic potential.

Board of Regents reform - Restructure the number and appointment process for Regents to ensure that the state's education policy-setting body better represents communities throughout the state, increasing the size of the Board from 16 to 18 members, including 12 members appointed by the Governor (one from each of the state's Judicial Districts), two members appointed by each the Speaker of the Assembly and Temporary President of the Senate, and one each by the Minority Leaders of both the Assembly and the Senate. In addition, Regents' terms should be extended from five to six years.

Improving school district operations

One of the best ways for state government to help local districts enhance their operations - and provide measurable savings to property taxpayers - is to enact reforms to the state budget process. Late state budgets force school districts to undertake costly borrowings, and also make planning for their own budgets, which rely heavily on state assistance, nearly impossible. Other efficiency initiatives include:

PILOT agreements - Assembly Minority members favor reforms to ensure that school districts are not adversely impacted by agreements with developers that waive property tax payments in favor of "payment in lieu of taxes," or PILOT, agreements. Right now, local governments may enter into these agreements unilaterally and deprive school districts of sorely needed revenues from new development. This proposal would require prior notification to school districts and other affected local governments of the terms of these agreements, and also allow a developer to be declared in default of a PILOT agreement - and forfeit a project's tax exemptions - if payment is not received 180 days after the due date.

Mandate relief - Unfunded state mandates contribute to higher costs both for businesses and local governments. The Conference proposes a School District Paperwork Reduction Act of 2004 which would require the State Education Department to study existing paperwork mandates on local school districts with the goal of reducing required reports and studies that may no longer be necessary.

The Mandate Relief and School Streamlining Act of 2004 would prohibit new mandates that impose costs on school districts unless they are first approved by the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform as necessary for public health and safety.

Tax levy public disclosure - Assembly Minority members support a proposal to require clear public disclosure of the proposed tax levy on the ballot of every school district budget resolution to ensure that voters have up-to-date information about the impact of their vote on local tax rates.

School budget cap - School district budgets - and local property tax rates - have consistently grown at rates greater than inflation in districts throughout the state, despite a record infusion of state financial aid. This higher spending has translated into property tax bills that are fast becoming unaffordable for New York families and seniors, especially those of limited means. Assembly Minority members favor capping year-over-year increases in local school budgets at 4 percent, or 120 percent of the increase in Consumer Price Index for the prior year. The cap may be waived by a two-thirds favorable vote of residents of the school district.

Education Task Force - Assembly Minority members propose creation of a special task force to study the impact of gender, crime, violence , dropout rates and other social factors on academic achievement of New York's youth to identify programs and initiatives that can translate into better opportunities for their future.


AD 1 Patricia L. Acampora
AD 2 Fred W. Thiele, Jr.
AD 7 Michael Fitzpatrick
AD 8 Thomas F. Barraga
AD 9 Andrew Raia
AD 10 James Conte
AD 14 Robert D. Barra
AD 15 Donna Ferrara
AD 17 Maureen O'Connell
AD 19 Dave McDonough
AD 21 Thomas Alfano
AD 60 Matthew Mirones
AD 62 Robert A. Straniere
AD 93 Mike Spano
AD 96 Nancy Calhoun
AD 97 Howard Mills
AD 99 Willis H. Stephens, Jr.
AD 100 Tom Kirwan
AD 102 Joel M. Miller
AD 103 Pat Manning
AD 107 Cliff Crouch
AD 109 Robert G. Prentiss
AD 108 Pat M. Casale
AD 110 James N. Tedisco
AD 112 Roy McDonald
AD 113 Teresa Sayward
AD 114 Chris Ortloff
AD 115 David R. Townsend, Jr.
AD 117 Marc W. Butler
AD 121 Jeff Brown
AD 122 Dede Scozzafava
AD 123 Gary D. Finch
AD 124 Will Barclay
AD 126 Robert J. Warner
AD 127 Daniel Hooker
AD 128 Robert C. Oaks
AD 129 Brian M. Kolb
AD 130 Joseph A. Errigo
AD 134 Bill Reilich
AD 136 Jim Bacalles
AD 137 George H. Winner, Jr.
AD 139 Leader Charles H. Nesbitt
AD 142 Sandra Lee Wirth
AD 147 Daniel J. Burling
AD 148 Jim Hayes
AD 149 Cathy Young

New York State Assembly
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