It’s hard to believe the 2012 legislative session already has come to a close. Since passing an early budget in March, my colleagues and I took action to improve the quality of life for all our communities through many different pieces of legislation. With this year’s session concluded, I would like to highlight some of the real achievements of the past six months.
With sound fiscal planning and the consolidation, merging or elimination of nearly 30 government agencies and offices, my colleagues and I closed $13.5 billion in budget deficits over two years without raising taxes.
Along with lowering personal income taxes for our residents, we’ve taken many strides toward spurring job creation. Through the establishment of the $75 million New York Works Economic Development Fund, it is hoped that thousands of jobs will become available. We also supported $1.2 billion in New York Works transportation funding to pay for bridge repairs, pavement preservation projects and protect motorists across our state. While there is still more work to accomplish to provide job opportunities for all our residents, we have laid the foundation for future economic growth across New York.
I introduced legislation to ban synthetic marijuana and similar substances, which influenced the Governor and the State Health Department to issue a ban on substances like Happy Shaman, that have proven dangerous and addictive. Later, during this session, the Assembly and Senate passed different bills to criminalize the sale and distribution of these dangerous products and added synthetic cannabinoids to the list of controlled substances. This is a nationwide problem, and it is my hope that federal leaders will find a way to criminalize these synthetic drugs.
This year, my colleagues and I took many steps to address public safety. I was pleased that we expanded the state’s DNA database by requiring a DNA sample from every person convicted of a felony or penal misdemeanor. We passed legislation to prohibit bullying and cyber-bullying that put forth protocols to protect students and educate them on the consequences of victimizing others.
The Legislature passed bills to create the I-STOP program and established the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. Through I-STOP’s real-time registry to track the filling of prescriptions and improved education and awareness of prescription drug abuse, we can better stop this social epidemic.
I was pleased to support the passage of I-STOP legislation. Prescription drug abuse has become epidemic. I'm pleased that New York finally has a comprehensive plan to combat this serious problem. Through the real-time registry and improved education and awareness of prescription drug abuse, we can help both doctors and patients better navigate the prescription and usage of these medications. I sincerely hope I-STOP will help prevent prescription drug addiction before it begins.
The new Justice Center would protect patients with special needs from abuse and mistreatment, ensuring these vulnerable residents receive the proper treatment that they deserve.
Two disappointments included a measure, which passed the Senate but was not taken up by the Assembly, to prohibit cash assistance from being used to purchase alcohol, tobacco, or lottery tickets and would prohibit cash to be withdrawn from ATMs at locations such as liquor stores, casinos or establishments providing adult-oriented entertainment. I will work with my colleagues to see this pass the Assembly during the next session.
Food stamps and cash assistance programs were not created so people could buy beer, cigarettes and lotto tickets. This bill would help protect the integrity of the cash assistance program, the families who use it as it was intended, and the taxpayers. Though this would not stop misuse altogether, it would make it more difficult for some to abuse the system. I was sorry the Assembly Speaker did not include this on the Legislative Calendar for a vote last week. I plan to work toward passage of this bill in the Assembly during the next legislative session.
The Assembly passed a microstamping mandate for gun manufacturers. Luckily, this was not taken up by the Senate. This would have required gun manufacturers to produce an alpha-numeric code on expended cartridges. However, the technology is unproven and cartridges can be manipulated. I voted against this in the Assembly.
All in all, my colleagues and I undertook many initiatives this year to enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers. While there is still more work to be done to provide the mandate relief for our counties and promote economic growth, several steps were taken in 2012 to put New York back on track and create a state we can be proud of again.
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