As the 2006 legislative session draws to a close, I am pleased that there have been a variety of major accomplishments during this session, such as:
- Strengthening Megan’s Law to increase the length of registration for sex offenders;
- Enacting legislation to keep illegal guns off the streets;
- Increasing penalties for those who injure or kill police officers;
- Passage of Real Property Tax rebate checks, worth 30% of a homeowner’s STAR savings, ranging from $200 to $800 statewide;
- Passage of the $330 per-child Empire State Child Tax Credit; and
- Securing an agreement on legislation to cap the sales tax on gasoline.
However, there are still several priorities I believe we need to complete during this year, such as:
In order to properly recognize the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform we should have a final resting place in New York State, which would be fitting to honor these heroes. In order for this to become a reality, legislation must be approved by the state legislature which would transfer state land to Seneca County to establish a new Veteran’s Cemetery at the former Sampson Naval and Air Force Base. The site’s historical significance as a training facility for our armed forces makes it a fitting location to house a world-class veterans’ cemetery that serves as a lasting memorial to the military men and women who served our nation. Sen. Michael Nozzolio has been successful in moving this important legislation through the Senate; and I am hopeful we will pass this important bill as well.
This legislative session sparked a great deal of debate on the issue of keeping our families safer from sexual predators. As a legislator and a parent, I feel this is our most important priority, and we need to do everything possible to keep our loved ones safe. We were successful in extending Megan’s Law to keep thousands of sex offenders registered with the state Department of Criminal Justice; otherwise, current information about dangerous sexual predators would have been dropped from the state Sex Offender Registry earlier this year.
There is still work to be done to keep the worst sex offenders off the streets by enacting civil confinement legislation. Violent sex offenders show a high propensity for striking again, if given the chance. In the Legislature, I have advocated for requiring that sexually violent offenders who are likely to engage in repeat acts of sexual violence after serving their prison sentences be kept apart from the law-abiding public until they are no longer deemed threats to society. Civil confinement must be done this year.
New York is one of the costliest states for workers' compensation insurance. At the same time, the benefit level is one of the nation’s lowest. New York’s construction industry also has an insurance crisis that revolves around on-the-job injuries with an absolute liability standard that has resulted in skyrocketing increases in liability insurance premiums, and a shortage of affordable options of insurance coverage.
This is particularly hurtful to many of New York’s small businesses, which employ over 52 percent of the state work force. That’s why I proposed legislation to address workplace safety issues that would ultimately provide safer work environments for employees and a more affordable program to businesses. The end result would be job retention and creation in New York. This legislation takes a balanced approach to fixing the system by reducing costs to employers and providing more reasonable benefits to injured workers. These measures would produce a cost savings for employers while increasing benefit levels for injured workers by more than 50 percent.
Reform of § 240/241 of the Labor Law
Similar in nature to the workers’ compensation reforms needed is the need to reform sections 240/241 of the Labor Law. The legislation that I introduced this year, ‘Workplace Safety Act of 2006’, would also amend the current labor law to remedy the unfair absolute liability standard for contractors and owners, while promoting workplace safety by making workers culpable for accidents they cause on the job.
Many times residents don’t realize how the archaic 240/241 Labor laws affect them. Since the creation of these laws in the early 1900s, they have actually become an albatross on many homeowners. Recently in my district two families contacted me who were building new homes, and ended up being taken to court by injured workers. The worker that was hired by the contractor was injured on the job, and took both the contractor and homeowner to court requesting financial damages for his/her injury. It is imperative that we reform these archaic laws to stop the double dipping liability being placed on our homeowners, and make those who are injured follow the workers’ compensation process.
While the Legislature did pass a cap on the state sales tax on gasoline, we have much more to do to transition away from fossil fuels. One of the best ways to help alleviate the pinch felt in the wallet either at the pump or at home by New Yorkers is to develop and continue to explore alternative fuels. That’s why I am advocating for the state to encourage research and development of alternative fuels, such as ethanol, to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.
As always, please contact my office if you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding this or other matters. I can be reached by mail at 607 West Washington St., Suite 2, Geneva, NY 14456, or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by calling (315) 781-2030.