The regular weekly legislative sessions in Albany we finished on June 24 were among the most productive in recent memory.
They began with the adoption of a number of new rules to improve our internal operating procedures, produced an on-time state budget shaped by bipartisan conference committees, and ended with 882 bills approved by both houses of the Legislature and sent or waiting to go to the governor for his approval. As always, many more measures were considered but failed to win the necessary support and/or agreement from both legislative chambers to be enacted into law.
A reform theme revealed itself in a number of different incarnations. Both houses of the Legislature voted to override the governor’s veto and put a budget reform proposal before the state’s voters on the ballot in this November’s elections. State election laws were amended to come into compliance with new federal voting machine requirements. Electronic filing of campaign contributions and expenses, already a requirement for candidates for state offices, will also be required of candidates for local offices. Stricter controls were placed on state authorities and on contacts with state agencies that could influence the awarding of state contracts. A control board was put in place to oversee Erie County’s finances.
We provided additional state financial assistance for school districts, local governments and libraries. Changes in the Medicaid and Family Health Plus programs will save both state and local taxpayers millions of dollars.
“Temporary taxes” adopted to deal with the financial impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were eliminated as planned and on schedule, and additional tax relief will make New York State more competitive in keeping and attracting manufacturing jobs. Improvements to our successful Empire Zones program and a new Regional Partnerships program will also work to promote job growth and retention.
The Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century was created to focus on modernizing, streamlining and improving our state’s health care system. Information on prescription drug prices and hospital infection rates will be made available to the public. Environmental impact statements must also be posted on publicly accessible Internet sites.
Public safety was enhanced by strengthening Megan’s Law provisions against sexual predators, by acting to extend the Amber Alert program for missing children to every corner of the state, and by giving victims of violent crimes more information about the disposition of their cases and the status of their attackers.
To give consumers more protection, we strengthened our state’s Do Not Call law for telemarketers, gave wireless telephone users more control over the dissemination of their phone numbers, and provided for notification to anyone put at risk of identity theft by a security breach exposing their personal information.
These are only a few of the hundreds of bills approved by the full Legislature (and some of them still need to be signed into law by the governor), but they provide a brief overview of a particularly busy and productive legislative session so far in 2005.