2004 Legislative Report from the
NYS Assembly Committee on

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • RoAnn Destito, Chair • Summer 2004

Message from
the Chair

As Chair of the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations, I would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on the activities of the Committee. The Committee is working diligently on a number of issues aimed at providing enhanced benefits to our military personnel and their families, reviewing the state disaster preparedness capabilities, and ensuring state agency compliance with the prompt payment law. If you have any questions on any information contained in this newsletter, would like copies of legislation, or would like to share any ideas or concerns, please feel free to contact my office at (518) 455-5454.

Crime Victims Package

In recognition of Crime Victims week, April 19-23, the Committee reported and the Assembly passed legislation to help crime victims and their families regain control of their lives.

The legislative package covered a wide range of victim assistance issues, including bills that would:

  • expand compensation to help child victims who experienced an exacerbation of a pre-existing condition or disability (A.11647);
  • ensure that crime victims are informed of the assistance available to them through the state Crime Victims Board by requiring police officers and district attorneys to provide information to crime victims (A.1739);
  • expedite the claims process, giving priority to emergency claims (A.9943);
  • Chairwoman Destito and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer discuss legislative issues.

  • create an ombudsman to investigate complaints and assist victims through the claims process (A.9946);
  • provide victims whose claims are dismissed with a statement of reasons (A.2853); and
  • allocate fines imposed on violators of the state’s antitrust laws to the Crime Victims Board, thereby putting more money into programs that help victims recover (A.9622).

Prompt Payment on State Contracts with
Not-For-Profit Organizations

New York’s prompt contracting law was designed to ensure the timely approval and payment of state contracts with not-for-profit service providers. However, an audit by the State Comptroller discovered that over ninety percent of contracts in a survey sample were approved beyond the time period allowed by the 1991 law. The failure to have contracts approved and completed in a timely manner has had a significant impact on not-for-profit service providers and on the New Yorkers that rely on the services provided by the not-for-profit community.

To address the issue, the Assembly passed A.11284 to provide an adequate remedy to organizations when state agencies fail to meet the statutory deadlines and to encourage compliance with the law. A.11284 would authorize the State Comptroller to annually survey state agency compliance with the prompt contracting law, grant the Comptroller authority to review waivers of the prompt contracting law, permit the Comptroller to assess interest owed to an organization if a state agency has missed statutory deadlines, and provide for the reimbursement pursuant to existing contracts if a state agency fails to provide the required ninety day notice of intent to end a contract.

This bill has passed the Assembly and is awaiting Senate action.

Days of Commemoration

This year, the Committee reported and the Assembly passed four bills to designate days of commemoration. Days of commemoration honor people or events that have had a profound impact on New York State.

September 11th — Remembrance Day
Our nation and the State continue to feel the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001. A.11673 would designate September 11th as “September 11th Remembrance Day,” a day of commemoration. This bill would also require flags to be flown at half-staff in recognition of the lives lost and the bravery exhibited on September 11, 2001. By designating a day of commemoration, the State would officially recognize the impact this day has had on the nation, the state of New York and on all of its citizens.

Susan B. Anthony
A.2509-A would designate February 15th as a day of commemoration in recognition of Susan B. Anthony. It is fitting to honor Susan B. Anthony and recognize her accomplishments on behalf of women’s suffrage, abolition and labor and in establishing women’s voting, property and labor rights.

Asian New Year
A.11617 would designate a day of commemoration for Asian New Year. The Asian New Year is one of the most important days in the Asian calendar and is a time for rejoicing, family reunions, gift giving and festivities. It is appropriate that the State honor the cultural and historical benefits that New Yorkers have received and continue to receive from the Asian community.

Assemblymembers Pheffer and Destito meet with SUNY Maritime students in Albany.
Juneteenth Freedom Day
A.3098-A commemorates the end of slavery in the United States by establishing June 19th as “Juneteenth Freedom Day.” Juneteenth is the oldest African-American celebration in the United States and dates back to June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers under the command of Major General Granger arrived in Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were free. It is appropriate that the State recognize the historical and cultural impact June 19th has had on the nation and on all New Yorkers.

A.2509-A, A.11617 and A.11673 have passed both houses and are waiting for the Governor’s action. A.3098-A has been signed into law by the Governor.

Hearing on the Statewide Wireless Network Procurement Process

On April 30, 2004, the State Office for Technology (OFT) publicly announced a contract award to M/A-Com Corporation to develop and implement a statewide wireless network (SWN). The announcement was limited in details and did not disclose the cost or implementation time frame for the network. Media reports estimated the cost of the contract to be between one billion and three billion dollars. The last estimate provided to the Legislature by OFT had been approximately $300 million to $500 million. The dramatic increase in the reported contract amount, coupled with reports that localities have not been involved in the planning of SWN, demonstrated a glaring need to review the contract award.

On May 19, 2004, the Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations held a joint hearing with the Committees on Ways and Means, Codes, Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, and Oversight, Analysis and Investigations to review the process by which the award for the statewide wireless network was reached. The Assembly committees held the hearing to ensure that the procurement process for the network contract was fair and in compliance with the state procurement law. Both bidding consortiums, as well as the Office for Technology, testified.

The hearing provided information about the procurement and confirmed a price range for the project from one billion to three billion dollars. The committees have requested more detailed information from the State Office for Technology and expect such information to be provided shortly.

Oversight of this procurement has been an ongoing Committee project. It started in early 2000 when the Committee intervened in what appeared to be a single source contract award and required that OFT put the project out to bid. The Committee will continue its efforts to ensure that the procurement process is conducted in accordance with law, that local governments have an opportunity to participate at a reasonable cost, and that the system work efficiently and effectively.

Statewide communications is a serious issue that impacts all New York State residents, as demonstrated by the attacks on September 11, 2001 and by the North Country Ice Storm of 1998, and will continue to be a priority of the Committee.

The Patriot Plan II: Enhancing Benefits
for Military Personnel

In order to build upon last year’s Patriot Plan and enhance benefits designed to minimize the disruptions that military activation causes in the lives of military personnel and their families, the Committee reported and the Assembly passed A.11697 known as the Patriot Plan II. The Patriot Plan II would continue to express a strong commitment to provide well-deserved benefits for New York State military personnel called to active duty.

The bill would provide a twenty-five percent increase in National Guard pay from $100 to $125 a day, would exempt from income taxes National Guard pay earned when deployed in New York for any emergency, and would allow government retirees to be rehired, without impacting their pensions, to fill in for those mobilized by the National Guard.

To strengthen last year’s Patriot Act, this legislation would also:

  • make the protections offered to military personnel and their families less complicated and easier to enforce when dealing with issues such as mortgage foreclosure, evictions, canceling insurance polices and suspending auto leases;
  • provide tuition benefits for veterans of Persian Gulf and Afghanistan veterans; and
  • extend the definition of “children” who can receive certain education benefits to include adopted children, stepchildren, children for whom an individual is a legal guardian or blood relatives of whom an individual has custody.

This bill has passed the Assembly and the Senate, and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Adopting Strong Anti-Terrorism Measures and Strengthening First Responder Preparedness

On March 30, 2004, the Assembly unveiled the Terrorism Prevention, Preparedness and Enforcement Act of 2004 (TPPEA). This comprehensive bill would enhance the safety of New York citizens by severely penalizing those who commit or would commit terrorist acts while also placing an emphasis on improving New York’s ability to prevent and respond to terrorism.

The legislation addresses the findings outlined by the Assembly report on first responders by including provisions that would enhance hazardous materials training available to first responders, create a task force on statewide communications, and create a centralized grant clearinghouse to increase local awareness of federal grant opportunities. This bill would also enhance the State’s organizational structure by codifying the Office of Public Security into law.

In addition, the Assembly passed a resolution calling on the Governor and the New York Congressional Delegation to continue to work for a threat-based homeland security funding formula. A threat-based funding formula would provide New York State with its fair share of federal funding needed to protect against potential threats.

The Assembly negotiated the TPPEA with the Governor and the Senate. The negotiated outcome is reflected in A.11723-A, which has been passed by both houses and was agreed to by the Governor.

Assemblymembers Destito and Sweeney hold a joint hearing on “Emergency First Responders”

Assemblymembers Destito and Lentol examine equipment used by New York State First Responders

New York’s First

On March 8, 2004, as part of an ongoing commitment to safeguard our communities, the Assembly held a hearing in Albany, New York, on “Emergency First Responders: Equipment, Recruitment and Training.” This hearing provided a forum for first responders from across the state to identify their needs and concerns relating to emergency preparedness. Organizations from across the state testified about their level of preparedness and future needs.

The Assembly issued a report titled, “First Responders: A Last Priority?” which summarized the findings of the hearing. The Assembly report reached four serious conclusions:

  1. There is inadequate federal funding to meet the security needs of New York State;
  2. First responders frequently must function using outdated or obsolete radio equipment and communications systems;
  3. Equipment shortages still exist statewide; and
  4. First responders have insufficient access to training.

These findings form the central focus of the Committee’s work in addressing emergency preparedness and state communication resources.

Assemblymember RoAnn Destito, Chair
Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations
Room 621 LOB • Albany, NY 12248 • 518.455.5454

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