Budget reform, ethics reform, workers’ compensation reform, and a civil confinement law have highlighted the first two months of the 2007 Legislative Session. These measures, which have been long-championed by me and my colleagues in the Assembly minority conference, have become a reality because of our commitment to a better New York and a belief that we can accomplish our goals by working in the spirit of bipartisanship.
In November, voters went to the ballot boxes and clearly voiced a demand for change and reform. We have heard your calls for a more effective, productive, and efficient state government, which is reflected in budget and ethics reform packages that were passed earlier this year.
The budget reform bill is designed to alter the budget process by making it more timely, transparent, and accountable. For too long, budget negotiations were done in secrecy, behind closed doors, and out of the view of the public’s eye. By supporting this bill, I have taken a stand against Albany’s ‘three-men-in-a-room’ policymaking while standing up for full disclosure and a budget process that includes all citizens of New York.
Further demonstrating a commitment to move away from Albany’s status quo, which has impeded progress for years, is the ethics reform bill that passed in February. While I believe the ethics reform bill was a good step forward, it lacks provisions to deny elected officials who violate public trust of their taxpayer-funded pension and benefits. Elected officials should be held responsible for abuses of power that weaken our government and diminish its effectiveness.
For years, we have been in dire need of cost-saving measures to help businesses and a benefit increase to improve the quality of life for injured workers. That goal was achieved this week when a workers’ compensation reform bill passed the Assembly.
As a small-business owner, and member of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Small Business, I have been a vocal advocate for major workers’ compensation reform. Under the legislation, benefits for workers will increase for the first time in more than a decade while employer costs will drop 10 to 15 percent with savings to grow over time.
My conference realized another goal when a meaningful civil confinement law finally passed the Assembly this week. It is unfortunate that it took 14 years to reach an agreement on an issue that is fundamental to the safety of our children and families. No longer will we hear of cases, like in Hamlin and Batavia, where Level 3 sex offenders were released into society, in areas where children live and play.
The start of the 2007 Legislative Session has been marked by progress thanks to bipartisan negotiation and my conference’s commitment to a better New York. While many goals are yet to be achieved, I am confident that the rest of the year will feature meaningful legislation that will serve in the best interest of all New Yorkers. In the months to come, I look forward to hearing from you and working together to provide a better Western New York for all New Yorkers.