“During this year’s legislative session we continued New York’s steady return to economic prosperity by passing a sound, responsible budget that delivered real benefits to our communities by focusing resources on strengthening education, health care and our social safety net. The Legislature made progress on important matters by taking action on foreclosure prevention, prescription drug reform, services for people with disabilities and the promotion of New York agricultural products.
“Unfortunately, we missed a tremendous opportunity to build on last year’s historic bipartisan policy achievements because of the unwillingness on the part of some to go beyond political rhetoric and actually engage in constructive negotiations on legislative initiatives important to New Yorkers. The influence and interests of a wealthy few forced serious issues like minimum wage, medical marijuana, the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing and the advancement of solar power to the wayside.
“Although our legislative session is complete, my work is not finished. I will be spending the coming months focusing on the communities of the Hudson Valley and our local health care system, in particular. Additionally, I will be traveling the state to hold hearings on outstanding and unresolved energy issues, like the Solar Jobs Act and power plant retirements, in order to begin next session with the determination and momentum that New Yorkers deserve.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2012 LEGISLATIVE SESSION:
Financially strapped school districts, local governments and property taxpayers are receiving much-needed relief from increases in the state’s share of aid to education and Medicaid, and other measures easing the burden on localities. Investments in our aging infrastructure, state parks and flood damaged communities are putting people to work and making New York a more attractive place to live. Initiatives to consolidate and streamline state operations kept spending growth under two percent for the second consecutive year.
“We passed a fiscally responsible on-time state budget that put hard working families first by strengthening our education, health care and job creation programs, while continuing the tax cuts we enacted for 99 percent of New Yorkers.”
In 2011, the Legislature and the Governor settled several major issues with the passage of landmark legislation designed to promote energy efficiency, job growth and private investment, strengthen environmental protections and spur the development of clean energy. Progress stalled this year due to uncertainty generated by the lack of information about the Executive’s Energy Highway initiative and market disruptions that have led to the potential closure of power plants in certain areas of the state.
“We must focus on the modernization of our electric transmission and distribution system through repowering and replacing old infrastructure coupled with a long-term commitment to solar power and energy storage innovation,” said Assembly Energy Committee Chair Kevin Cahill. “Just because the session is over it does not mean I am going to stop working hard on resolving these issues. I plan on holding many hearings on the impacts of power plant closures, transmission infrastructure and the shortcomings of NYSERDA’s Solar Report.”
PROTECTING OUR VETERANS
Assemblymember Cahill sponsored legislation that will provide a transitional home for veterans in the City of Kingston (A.10516). The building, located at 67 Wurts Street, has the required space and amenities to support veterans’ needs and is in proximity to public transportation and other government services. In addition to living amongst peers, veterans will have access to employment training, career counseling and a host of other programs.
“Many veterans struggle to acclimate to civilian life after they are discharged from service, and too many end up homeless,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “By making housing and support available for our brave service men and women, we are enabling them to get back on their feet in a dignified way.”
The Legislature also passed a bill (A.8932-A) that would require the Division of Veterans' Affairs to maintain an employment portal for veterans on their website. The measure would provide virtual links to appropriate governmental programs on the federal and state level. The information may also be requested in print.
“Our returning veterans are well-trained and highly skilled in many areas,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “This initiative will help them find careers in a difficult job market and successfully transition back to civilian life.”
ASSISTING LOCAL BUSINESSES AND GOVERNMENTS
If signed by the Governor, farm distilleries in New York will now be able to provide samples and sell their products at state and county fairs and farmers markets thanks to a bill (A.9863) authored by Assemblymember Cahill.
“Farm brewers and vintners have long been able to sell their merchandise at these venues,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “It makes sense for us to extend that privilege to distilleries that use our agricultural products in the creation of their goods.”
In efforts to further assist local businesses, Assemblymember Cahill fought for the successful rollback of the MTA payroll tax. A measure went into effect in April that permanently eliminated the tax for public, private and parochial schools, and BOCES. Businesses and not for profits with annual payrolls of less than $1.25 million also received an exemption under the new law. The Legislature also acted to remove the state sales tax on clothing and footwear purchases under $110.
A bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Cahill, will allow towns and villages that share the same boundaries to access state funds that for consolidation of services if they can demonstrate savings to real property taxpayers. The measure passed both houses this week.
“This legislation has the potential to allow the New Paltz Town and Village governments to explore potential opportunities to provide more efficient services at a lower cost to the community,” said Assemblymember Cahill.
STRONG REPRESENTATION FOR BELLEAYRE
The Legislature acted on a measure that will ultimately transfer the management of the Belleayre Ski Center to the Olympic Regional Development Authority. Assemblymember Cahill fought for provisions that ensure local representation, budget resources for year-round operations and protections for current Bellearye employees.
“I was able to work with the Governor and the Senate to win changes that will guarantee meaningful local representation, resources comparable to the ski centers in the Adirondacks and job security for the current employees. Associating Belleayre with the Olympic brand has the potential to bring great benefits to the Ski Center and the Catskill Region.”
Joseph Kelly, Chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, and John Parete, an Ulster County Legislator, have recently been confirmed as members of ORDA.
“Both Joe and John understand the importance of this world class resort to the economy of not only the Route 28 corridor, but our region as a whole,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “I am pleased that two people with intimate knowledge of Belleayre Mountain and the communities that depend on its success will be involved in future decision making.”
The Assembly and Senate passed a bill (A10519) that would increase funding dedicated to the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) by phasing in $56 million collected through the Returnable Beverage Container Law. Since its inception, Ulster and Dutchess Counties have received over $75 million from the EPF to fund 412 projects.
Cahill also guided the passage of legislation (A.9791) that will extend a key protection for communities located within the Hudson River Valley Greenway. The provision gives municipalities participating in the Greenway Compact security against lawsuits filed by developers that bring court challenges to certain aspects of their zoning rules. Many municipalities see this as a necessary assurance when joining the Compact.
“Our beautiful open spaces define the region. Both the EPF and the Greenway have played an integral role in coordinating, advising and assisting communities committed to protecting the natural beauty, safety and ecological equilibrium of the Catskill and Hudson Valley regions in ways that encourage and stimulate growth,” said Assemblymember Cahill.
“This year, the Legislature saw many accomplishments while staying true to our commitment to protect our state's most vulnerable residents, provide our children with a quality education, and build upon New York's prosperity,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “Unfortunately, we had missed opportunities and could not reach agreements on all issues. I look forward to working over the next few months to build strong support for these unfinished initiatives and returning next session to continue to put measures in place for the benefit of all New York residents.”