Even as the 2007 legislative session drew to an end in Albany, the moment marked a new beginning for me as I was chosen to be chairman of the Assembly's Standing Committee on Insurance.
It is a rare privilege to serve the people of New York in the state Assembly. Rarer still is the chance to lead a legislative committee whose work has such significant impact on the lives of every citizen in the state.
The work of the Insurance Committee is fundamental to New York's fiscal and economic well-being. It is the legislature's responsibility to review insurance industry practices and to develop a strategy and regulatory framework that ensures that providers and consumers are protected from the costly effects of fraud and mismanagement, which inevitably impact the overall cost of living and doing business in the Empire State.
Still insurance may seem, to some, a rather narrow subject matter best left to actuarial experts. To New York's employers who share the high cost of health care with their employees, however, and to the many thousands of our fellow citizens who still do not have adequate coverage of their medical costs, insurance is anything but an abstract concept.
Insurance is a real-world issue and fact of life for all of us. We hold policies as drivers, as homeowners, and as parents who want to provide for our children and other loved ones in the event of our deaths. We pay billions in premiums collectively, and at great individual expense.
One of my top priorities will be to make health insurance more affordable and accessible for our hard-working families. In particular, I look forward to working with Governor Spitzer as we move toward his stated goal of universal health care coverage for all New Yorkers. We made great strides in that direction in 2007 with the expansion of the Child Health Plus program, but much more remains to be done.
During the past 15 years, the economic revival of upstate New York has been my most consistent concern. It remains far too expensive to own and operate a business in New York; fewer job opportunities have forced hundreds of thousands of young, skilled workers to move to other regions.
From workers' compensation to health care premiums, the cost of insurance has a direct influence on New York's economy, which continues to lag behind the rest of the nation, especially north and west of New York City.
Earlier this year, Governor Spitzer signed legislation overhauling our outmoded, expensive and inefficient workers' compensation system. It is a change I have fought for over many years, and it is just one example of the job-killing effects that bad insurance policies can have. We will continue to find ways to change the insurance landscape in ways that benefit consumer, provider, employer and employee.
As I look ahead to the work of the Insurance Committee, I also reflect upon my stewardship as chair of the Assembly Committee on Tourism, the Arts and Sports Development. Over the past six years, we have dramatically increased funding for the I Love New York Program, the New York State Council on the Arts, and many of our historic sites and trails, generated billions of dollars of new economic activity in the film and TV industry through strategic tax incentives, and sponsored millions in state support for great institutions such as the George Eastman House, the Eastman Theatre, Garth Fagan Dance, the High Falls Film Festival, ArtWalk, and the Rochester Museum and Science Center.
I look forward to continuing my work with my many friends in the arts and cultural community, and to the new challenges that lie ahead as I begin my new role as Insurance Committee chairman. And as always, I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve in the New York State Legislature on your behalf.
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