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Assemblyman
Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
Assembly District 71
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Chair, Ways and Means Committee
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…and this month in Albany
May 3, 2017

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 10

Northern Manhattan Marches for Immigrant Rights
Activists Speak Out Against Washington Policy That Separates Families

On Sunday, April 23 I joined several hundred of our friends and neighbors, marching in protest of Washington's treatment of immigrants and new Americans. As you know, under the new Administration, the power of the Federal government has been used not only to go after and deport people who commit crimes while in this country without papers, but also law-abiding members of communities who simply happen to have been born someplace else.

The route of the march was up St. Nicholas Avenue from West 145th to West 191st Street. Marchers came out to stand united against aggressive detention and deportation policies, the government's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau's raids on immigrants' homes, the proposed Muslim ban and border wall, separation of families seeking a better life, and the criminalization of immigrants.

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Assemblyman Farrell joined hundreds of supporters of immigrants' rights for an April 23, 2017 march in support of immigrants' rights.

New Federal Budget Bill Appears to Fund "Sanctuary Cities"

It has been announced several days ago that Congress has agreed on the outline of a short-term budget bill. From what I am told, this bill does not include funding for a border wall and also does not include language barring Federal aid to "sanctuary cities" where immigrants are not actively sought for deportation. If both are true there is reason to breathe a sigh of relief but we must not back down from fighting for our way of life and the rights of our communities.

Assembly Legislation Supports Equal Rights for All

Working together in Albany, the Assembly's Majority Conference is fighting to make equal rights for all the law of our State, if not the law of the land. We recently passed a bill expanding equal-rights protection to include gender identity and expression including banning housing, education and employment discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Now, Members are calling for the Federal government to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment passed by Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification, which New York State did in 1972.

Earlier this year, the Assembly passed legislation to expand legal protection for immigrants in the face of a hostile federal administration as well as expand access to education for the children of immigrants through the State's tuition assistance, scholarships and other educational opportunity programs.

DREAM Act Remains Top Assembly Priority

Now that the budget has been passed, our Conference remains as committed to the DREAM Act as we have ever been, and we plan to continue to push this important program during the final seven weeks of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Expanding educational opportunity to New Yorkers who were brought here as children without paperwork has long been a top priority of the Assembly's Majority Conference, and we hoped to see the DREAM Act become part of the budget with Governor Cuomo's support after passing the program as a standalone bill year after year, only to see it shot down by the Senate.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. We will continue to fight for this program until the dream becomes reality. Please keep an eye on my Web page at nyassembly.gov for the latest on the DREAM Act, other Albany happenings and also the latest goings-on here at home in the District.

How to Get Your Child Into College

As you may have heard, the Legislature recently passed a program called Excelsior which is intended to help make college more affordable for middle-income families. The burden of student loan debt is a growing problem across the country, and I was proud to help put New York State at the forefront of improving access to higher education and a better quality of life.

Excelsior is not as simple as giving free tuition to aspiring students. You may know that the State and Federal governments have long offered a number of grant and loan programs to students, and there are also a variety of scholarship programs available. However, these existing programs by themselves often do not fully cover college costs. That is where Excelsior comes in.

The New York State Excelsior Program is set up to be what is called a "last-dollar" program. What this means is that if a student is faced with a shortfall after State and Federal grants and other scholarships are added up, the Excelsior Program will make up any shortfall students face in tuition costs only as it is phased in over the three coming academic years. Beginning this fall, families with a combined household income of up to $100,000 will be eligible to participate in Excelsior. Beginning in 2019, the income cutoff will be $125,000.

Where (and When) to Start

It is often recommended that parents whose children expect to attend college in the fall begin applying for financial aid well ahead of time, usually around the time you file your income taxes. Likely the best place to start the process is by filing a Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), which may be done on the Internet in about one hour. For 2017, you will need a copy of your 2015 tax return and other information including the number of people in your household, how many members of your household will be enrolled in college during the coming year, how much your family is budgeting to contribute toward college costs and other figures.

A handy benefit of filing the FAFSA on-line is that, once your student's application has been electronically submitted, the Web site, fafsa.ed.gov, gives you the option of jumping straight to the Web site of the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) in order to jump-start process of applying for assistance under the State's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which can be finished in just a few minutes after the FAFSA application has been filed.

Don't Panic! Help is Available

The process of applying to colleges and filing for financial aid can seem intimidating. There are forms to fill out, family documentation including tax forms and Social Security cards to find, and many potentially confusing questions that if not answered correctly could affect your student's future. However, help is available.

Assistance with the FAFSA application is available at (800) 4FED-AID. New York's HESC offices can be reached at hesc.ny.gov or by calling 1(888) NYSHESC. It is also important to speak with the financial aid office of the college your student will be attending, in part to be sure that the school has records of all financial aid applications filed by your student, and also to learn if the school offers its' own financial assistance which may be helpful to your student.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.




…and this month in Albany
April 25, 2017

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 12

2017-18 Budget Includes Raise the Age, More Education Funding
Hard-Won Legislative Victories Could Help Millions of New Yorkers

As you have probably heard, on the afternoon of Saturday, April 8 the Assembly ended a long and hard-fought budget process by passing a $153 billion spending plan that includes a number of important policy items including raising the age of criminal responsibility, billions in funding for affordable and supportive housing programs, increased investment in public defense services and new funding for infrastructure improvements including clean, safe drinking water.

While the Assembly's Majority Conference got much of what we wanted, the truth of Albany is that no matter how hard you may work, in the end you only get 80 percent of what you want and the 20 percent that remains out of reach can be very painful. The public can rest assured that our conference is hoping to do more to realize other priorities such as the DREAM Act, which we have passed for six years in a row without reaching a deal that will make this program the law.

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Assemblyman Farrell debates a budget bill on the Assembly floor.

Raise the Age Was Top Assembly Priority

Early on in budget negotiations, the Assembly Majority Conference made a decision that we must no longer treat juvenile defendants like adult defendants, and we took an unwavering position that Raise the Age would finally happen this year. At that time, only New York and North Carolina swept underage defendants into the adult court system and adult prisons. I am proud to say that this bad policy is now in the past because we have fulfilled our longstanding mission to change the law and raise the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.

New Policies for Underage Defendants

Going forward, cases involving 16- and 17-year-old defendants will be resolved through a special new system designed to deal with juvenile defendants. Civil violations including low-level marijuana possession charges and DWIs would continue to be handled by local courts. All misdemeanor charges would be handled in Family Court, and all felony charges would be handled by a newly-established Youth Part of the criminal court, presided over by a specially trained Family Court judge, with defendants given access to intervention services. Non-violent felonies would be transferred to Family Court, unless the local District Attorney blocks the transfer by demonstrating special circumstances that justify keeping the case in the youth court.

Violent crimes would remain in the youth court but be subject to legal tests that would determine whether the case should be transferred to Family Court. Juvenile cases not transferred to Family Court would be sentenced like adult cases, though the court will be directed to consider the defendant's age when deciding if incarceration is warranted in that particular case. Speaker Heastie deserves a great deal of credit for his stick-to-it-ive-ness on this issue, which, along with our other top priority of giving adequate funding to our public schools, was worth a late budget.

Budget Deal Released $2.5B in Housing Funds

Last year's budget included a down payment on a multi-year, $2.5 billion commitment to improve affordable and supportive housing, with a catch: only some of the money would be immediately released pending agreement on a detailed plan to get maximum bang for taxpayers' bucks. I am happy to say that the finished plan has been agreed to, and money should begin to flow soon to meet New Yorkers' diverse housing needs and will continue doing so until 2021.

A New Six-Year Plan to Improve Public Defense Services

Helping indigent New Yorkers who end up in the court system was another top priority of the Assembly's Majority Conference this year, and I am pleased to say that we succeeded in delivering on this issue as well. Over the next six years, the State will gradually increase investment in improving the quality of public defense services, following a plan developed by the Office of Indigent Legal Services. This plan will ensure that defendants have counsel during arraignment, establish new caseload standards so that attorneys can devote sufficient time to each case, and ensure that attorneys receive adequate training and have the necessary experience.

Raising the Wage for Direct Care Workers

Another top priority the Assembly Majority Conference was able to deliver is funding in the budget to help ensure that critical direct care workers are paid a fair wage so that New Yorkers can continue receiving much-needed critical care and services. During our Joint Legislative Budget Hearings early in the year, my colleagues and I were struck by testimony that direct care workers are leaving their important profession to take other, higher-paying jobs like flipping hamburgers in fast-food restaurants. To help fix this problem, we insisted that the budget include $160 million over two years to support two, 3.25 percent raises for direct care workers.

The finished budget also includes $2.5 billion for water quality infrastructure improvement, including hundreds of millions that will benefit New York City, plus funding for transportation infrastructure improvements and other programs. Please refer to nyassembly.gov for specifics.

How to Get Your Child Into College

As you may have heard, the Legislature recently passed a program called Excelsior which is intended to help make college more affordable for middle-income families. The burden of student loan debt is a growing problem across the country, and I was proud to help put New York State at the forefront of improving access to higher education and a better quality of life.

Excelsior is not as simple as giving free tuition to aspiring students. You may know that the State and Federal governments have long offered a number of grant and loan programs to students, and there are also a variety of scholarship programs available. However, these existing programs by themselves often do not fully cover college costs. That is where Excelsior comes in.

The New York State Excelsior Program is set up to be what is called a "last-dollar" program. What this means is that if a student is faced with a shortfall after State and Federal grants and other scholarships are added up, the Excelsior Program will make up any shortfall students face in tuition costs only as it is phased in over the three coming academic years. Beginning this fall, families with a combined household income of up to $100,000 will be eligible to participate in Excelsior. Beginning in 2019, the income cutoff will be $125,000.

Where (and When) to Start

It is often recommended that parents whose children expect to attend college in the fall begin applying for financial aid well ahead of time, usually around the time you file your income taxes. Likely the best place to start the process is by filing a Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), which may be done on the Internet in about one hour. For 2017, you will need a copy of your 2015 tax return and other information including the number of people in your household, how many members of your household will be enrolled in college during the coming year, how much your family is budgeting to contribute toward college costs and other figures.

A handy benefit of filing the FAFSA on-line is that, once your student's application has been electronically submitted, the Web site, fafsa.ed.gov, gives you the option of jumping straight to the Web site of the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) in order to jump-start process of applying for assistance under the State's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which can be finished in just a few minutes after the FAFSA application has been filed.

Don't Panic! Help is Available

The process of applying to colleges and filing for financial aid can seem intimidating. There are forms to fill out, family documentation including tax forms and Social Security cards to find, and many potentially confusing questions that if not answered correctly could affect your student's future. However, help is available.

Assistance with the FAFSA application is available at (800) 4FED-AID. New York's HESC offices can be reached at hesc.ny.gov or by calling 1(888) NYSHESC. It is also important to speak with the financial aid office of the college your student will be attending, in part to be sure that the school has records of all financial aid applications filed by your student, and also to learn if the school offers its' own financial assistance which may be helpful to your student.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.




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…and this month in Albany
April 5, 2017

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 10

Budget Negotiations Stall Amid Raise the Age Fight
Juvenile Justice Reform is Top Assembly Priority

On Monday, April 3, the Assembly and Senate passed an emergency budget extension handed down by Governor Cuomo late during the previous night that will allow State operations to continue while we continue to negotiate juvenile justice reform, education funding and other issues that are critical to the Assembly Majority Conference and the people of this State.

As you may know, by law, we were to have passed a budget for State Fiscal Year 2017-2018 no later than 11:59 p.m. on March 31. That did not happen. Despite repeated assurances that we were close, agreement was not reached on our "Raise the Age" proposal to take underage defendants out of the adult criminal justice system. New York State is one of only two that still do so, and this practice must end. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues in the Senate are engaging in a fear campaign that dishonestly describes what the Assembly is asking for.

Speaker Heastie Sets the Record Straight

For the record, we are not, as Speaker Heastie has said, "coddling murderers and rapists" who happen to be juveniles. What we are doing is taking a stand to ensure that young people who are accused of non-violent crimes do not end up in adult courts, and then adult prisons. The Assembly Majority Conference will continue to fight to divert troubled young people from a life in the criminal justice system. We should be better than this.

Budget Extension Funds State Operations, Infrastructure Upgrades

Returning to the subject of the budget extension, among the things this piece of emergency legislation does is allow about 150,000 State employees to get their paychecks on time today, provides $16.4 billion in new capital funding for projects across the State including $2.5 billion for water infrastructure improvements, caps prescription drug costs for Medicaid recipients, and keeps the promise to grant pay raises to low-paid health care direct support workers.

What the extension does not do is clarify how much State support most public school districts can expect during 2017-2018. As you may know, most districts must pass their budgets by mid-May, but will have to do so without knowing how much State aid they can expect. Because these districts will be held to a property tax cap increase of just over 1%, this uncertainty could lead to program cuts or layoffs that could hurt students' education. With this emergency spending plan in place, Assembly leadership continues to negotiate details of a full budget for State Fiscal Year 2017-2018. Our Conference's priorities are laid out in detail on the following pages.

Negotiations Began With Assembly "One House" Budget Resolution
Assembly Fighting to Increase School Aid

On Wednesday, March 15 I debated the Assembly Majority Conference's "One House" budget proposal, which is a public statement of our priorities and legislative goals but is not law, but which we hope will become law when the budget passes. Our resolution is a $153.8 billion spending plan that includes more than $26 billion in school aid. Passing this resolution allowed us to begin formal negotiations on the budget. Our budget resolution is an important milestone on the road to passing a budget, and this process is laid out in detail in the State Constitution.

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Assemblyman Farrell debates the Assembly Majority Conference's "One House" budget resolution on the Assembly floor Wednesday, March 15 2017.

Assembly Plan Increases School Aid by $887M Over Executive Proposal

Our plan increases school aid overall by $1.8 billion over the current year, and about $1 billion more than the Executive Budget proposal Governor Cuomo released in January. This includes a rejection of the Executive's changes to the Foundation Aid formula and makes a significant down payment on a four-year phase-in of more aid to our neediest districts. We also propose $847 million in funding for pre-Kindergarten programs, $19.2 million to continue the My Brother's Keeper program which assists young men of color, $25 million for career and technical education programs, extending mayoral control of New York City schools for seven years until 2024 and requiring the Division of Budget to immediately release $75 million in aid already approved for persistently struggling schools in the process of reforming their programs.

Higher Education Plan Expands TAP, Helps Dreamers

The Assembly's plan also seeks to expand access to higher education by increasing funding for opportunity programs including the Tuition Assistance Program and provides for the enactment of the DREAM Act, which makes State financial aid available to people who came to the United States as children without paperwork. We also added $1.4 billion for capital improvements at public colleges and universities and a tax credit for student loan interest. Overall, our higher education plan provides $48 million to increase these programs over the Executive Budget plan.

Support for Affordable Housing Programs

The Assembly's proposal provides a plan for investment of $2.5 billion in funding that was dedicated for supportive and affordable housing in last year's budget, including $1 billion for supportive housing, $500 million for NYCHA capital repairs, $125 million for senior housing, $100 million for Mitchell-Lama preservation programs and $50 million for housing for developmentally disabled people. Our plan also includes a new rental assistance program for low-income seniors, which will be funded by Mayor de Blasio's plan to apply a special tax to multimillion dollar real estate deals in New York City.

Plan Includes a Progressive Tax Structure

The Assembly's plan also seeks to rework the "millionaires' tax" that was put into place after the 2007 recession caused Wall Street revenues to fall. At the present time, single filers who earn over $1 million and married filers who together earn over $2 million pay State taxes at a rate of 8.82 percent. Without Legislative action, that special assessment will end, meaning that millionaires will be taxed at a rate of 6.85 percent as are people who earn at least $300,000.

Assembly Budget Plan Extends and Expands "Millionaires' Tax"

Our expansion of this important program could lead to the highest-earning New Yorkers paying more of their fair share. Those earning between $1 million and $5 million will pay 8.82 percent, while those earning between $5 million and $10 million will pay State taxes at a rate of 9.32 percent. Those earning between $10 million and $100 million will pay a rate of 9.82 percent, and those making over $100 million will be taxed at a rate of 10.32 percent. Revenues raised through this program will be used to fund education, health care and other priorities.

Overall, the Assembly's budget resolution forecasts that the Executive Budget proposal low-balled actual revenues by $450 million in Fiscal Year 2017-2018 and $1.485 billion the following year. Interestingly, shortly before our debate began, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released a report showing that Wall Street revenues were up by 21 percent and cash bonuses rose as well, which is a positive sign that revenues will come in.

Assembly Plan Modifies and Rejects Governor's Proposals

As happens every year, the Governor's budget included many policy changes, some of which the Assembly accepts while others are changed or rejected. Among the changes our Conference agreed to accept are limits on tax deductions for charitable donations, expansion of tax credits for child care expenses, extending tax credits for film productions in the State, closing loopholes to allow the collection of sales tax for on-line sales and other changes.

However, our plan adds changes including an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit which helps families with children, creates a new tax credit for homeowners who add mobility enhancements such as wheelchair ramps and grab-bars and create a food donation tax credit for farmers. Our plan rejects proposals that new State employees not owe outstanding taxes, a requirement that doctors be current on their practice before buying malpractice insurance, or allow the sale of alcohol in theaters. As of now we are pushing to pass a budget as soon as possible, though the Executive would prefer to pass the budget after Easter. Please look to my Web site at nyassembly.gov for the latest on the budget and other Albany happenings.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.




Video Clips:

March 12, 2015
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Farrell addresses questions relating to changes in the Gap Elimination in the Assembly Budget Proposal. E.203
 
 




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