In a time of economic challenge and political surprise, this year should be remembered as one in which the Legislature and the new governor seized on the moment to set a new tone in Albany. Working together, we have created a foundation that has shed light on major issues such as energy resources, access to quality health care, education, housing, property taxes, economic development, and the environment.
Following the swearing in of Governor Paterson, the Legislature quickly came together to enact a timely state budget. Despite being confronted with a drastic downturn in the economy, we remained committed to our multi-year effort to reform the way schools are funded. The budget included a record $1.75 billion increase in state aid aimed at not only ensuring excellence in our education system, but also at shifting more of the funding burden to the state in order to help address the property tax crisis.
This session also ushered in a variety of other positive legislative initiatives for our community and state. For example, we passed legislation to help prevent foreclosure for homeowners at risk of losing their homes and toughen oversight of the mortgage-lending industry. Legislation I sponsored will also significantly expand and improve the foundation for a comprehensive renewable state energy policy by expanding our net-metering law to allow for greater production of clean, renewable solar and wind energy.
This newsletter highlights these measures and more. I hope that you will take a moment to look through it.
As always, please call or stop by my local office at 149 Main Street in Setauket to share your comments, concerns or problems with state or local issues. My office also offers complimentary notary public service, senior citizen cards and a selection of informative brochures.
The following Englebright measures passed the Legislature this year and await the governor’s signature.
Expanded solar net metering (Ch. 452 of 2008, Englebright)
As global warming threatens our future and fossil fuel costs spiral ever higher, we need to make a serious commitment to develop clean, renewable, carbon-free energy sources. Assemblyman Englebright’s expanded solar net-metering legislation, now law, will help move our state in this necessary direction.
Net metering is a simple program that allows electricity customers who operate their own on-site solar or wind distributed generators to deliver excess power to their local utility, which can then distribute it to other customers. The excess energy is tallied on a customer’s electric meter and credited to the customer. This offsets the costs of the customer’s energy use, providing an incentive for investment in generating on-site renewable power.
Currently, New York’s net-metering law allows only for residential solar and wind energy generating systems, and on-farm wind and biogas systems. This new Englebright measure will expand our existing net-metering law to include all customer classes and increase both the size of renewable solar energy generation systems eligible for net metering, and the amount of electricity utilities would be required to buy back through net metering.
By expanding our current net-metering law to permit businesses, non-profits, schools, churches and libraries to participate, we will greatly expand the number of citizen pioneers in the development of much-needed renewable energy production. Together with conservation, net metering represents our best hope to fill the gap in our immediate power needs using clean, carbon-free, renewable energy technologies.
Disposal of unwanted prescription drugs (A.840-B, Englebright)
Currently, the only options for unwanted, unused or expired prescription and over-the-counter drugs are disposal as solid waste or by flushing them away. Consequently, recent reports indicate that many drinking water supplies are being contaminated with common medications. This bill would require the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health to develop and implement a public information program on the most effective disposal methods for prescription drugs.
Protecting children at overnight and day camps (Ch. 428 of 2008, Englebright)
The decision to send our kids to summer camp shouldn’t be weighted with worry about their safety. Assemblyman Englebright’s measure, now law, clarifies and strengthens the law that requires overnight camps, day camps and traveling summer day camps to check the sex offender registry prior to hiring employees and volunteers and annually thereafter.
Helping older workers in the workplace (A.5566-A, Englebright)
The aging baby boom generation is causing a demographic shift, with one out of every five New Yorkers expected to be a senior citizen by 2020. With older adults living longer than ever, many will continue to work beyond age 65. This legislation will create a mature worker employment training program to prepare for continuing work after retirement or to train for second careers.
Other bills supported by
Bringing relief for families hit hard by the subprime lending crisis (Ch. 472 of 2008)
Home ownership is among the most basic of American dreams, but the pursuit of this dream has resulted in a nightmare for many borrowers. This comprehensive measure, now law, will provide additional protections and foreclosure prevention guidelines for homeowners at risk of losing their homes, as well as enacting a subprime mortgage lending statute, setting standards and limits for home loans, and requiring the registration of loan providers. The law will also create a new crime of residential mortgage fraud and establish strict criminal penalties to deter those who might engage in such activity.
Safeguarding public pension funds from fraud and waste (A.11743)
In response to the discovery of fraudulent employment arrangements in which lawyers improperly placed on school district payrolls were able to collect state employee pension benefits, the Legislature passed a measure requiring school districts and BOCES to disclose all compensation arrangements for administrators, supervisors, consultants and attorneys they employ. Additionally, the legislation would create civil and criminal penalties for those who participate in illegal benefits arrangements.
Ending mandatory overtime for nurses (Ch. 493 of 2008)
The practice of mandating hospital nurses to work overtime can place nurses and their patients at increased risk for medical error. Legislation passed this session, now law, will help ensure patient safety in hospitals and medical facilities by eliminating mandatory overtime for nurses. This law will require health care employers to limit nurse on-duty time to be no longer than his or her regularly scheduled shift. Nurses could still work overtime at their own discretion.
Legislature approves measure to protect LIPA ratepayers (A.6164)
As electric rates have gone through the roof, rate hikes or surcharges have been passed onto ratepayers without public review by the New York State Public Service Commission. This legislation sets a trigger for the need for Public Service Commission (PSC) approval of any rate increase of more than 2.5 percent a year.
Assembly passes legislation to help with Home Energy Assistance this winter
The rising cost of fuel is creating an incredible strain on our economy. Right now we are feeling it at the gas pump and people are being forced to make some difficult lifestyle changes. If prices remain on the current trajectory, we will face life-threatening conditions this winter as people struggle to heat their homes.
We cannot wait to act on this issue. The Assembly has passed legislation Assemblyman Englebright supported that will double funding for the existing Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), while creating a new fund to expand HEAP eligibility to middle-class families. This legislation proposes that we pay for these potentially life saving measures by creating a windfall-profits tax on oil companies.
Governor Paterson announced on April 10, 2008, at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island Sound that the State of New York found the Broadwater proposal violated the Coastal Zone Management Act and, therefore, was inconsistent with the previously defined values and acceptable uses of the Sound.
Assemblyman Englebright worked with citizens, civic and environmental organizations, and other elected officials to stop this plan, which would have set a dangerous precedent for industrializing a significant estuary our state and federal governments have spent many years and millions of dollars trying to clean up. Long Island Sound would have borne all the environmental costs of this LNG proposal with limited benefit to Long Islanders. Most of the natural gas slated to have been produced at the Broadwater facility was earmarked for the New York City energy market.
New York State Budget
Fighting for our fair share of school aid
One of the most important jobs of a state legislator is to advocate for state aid for our schools to ensure that students have an opportunity to achieve greater academic success while keeping a check on the rise of school property taxes. This year’s final state budget continues our commitment to education as well as providing tax relief to Long Island residents. The $21.4 billion education spending plan passed in this year’s state budget contains an increase of $1.75 billion over the previous year.
Assemblyman Englebright’s work during the budget process helped school districts within the 4th Assembly District see an increase of over $6 million in school aid over the year 2007. The following breakdown shows this year’s increases for the school districts in the 4th Assembly District:
Keeping a college education affordable and accessible
As a member the Higher Education Committee, Assemblyman Englebright worked to protect access to a college education by supporting a budget plan that includes:
|Assemblyman Englebright visited Mrs. Woods’ First Grade Class at Nassakeag Elementary School in Setauket where they showed him what they learned about recycling and reusing waste materials. Pictured above are Assemblyman Englebright, Mrs. Woods, and the first graders.|
Middle Class STAR rebate program
This year’s budget continues the Middle Class STAR rebate program. If you are a homeowner participating in the STAR School Tax Relief Program, you will receive a rebate check this fall.
If you are enrolled in Basic STAR and applied for the 2007 rebate, a check will be automatically issued to you by the end of October. If you didn’t apply in 2007, or if your property information changed during the year, you must apply by December 31, 2008. Applications will be mailed by the end of October. Please note: if you are a property owner and your income is more than $250,000, you are not eligible for a Middle Class STAR rebate check, even if you have a basic STAR exemption.
If you are an Enhanced STAR recipient, a rebate check will be automatically sent to you by the end of October. Enhanced rebate amounts will be about 40 percent higher than last year.
In August, information on the amount of your 2008 Middle Class STAR rebate and the mail date will be posted at www.tax.state.ny.us/star/2008 or call Assemblyman Englebright’s office at 751-3094.
On June 28th, a celebration was held to dedicate the Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve, the ten-acre woodland buffer between the Port Jefferson Power Plant and the Village of Poquott. This natural land has been protected through a conservation easement donated by National Grid. The Three Village Community Trust will be responsible for protecting the conservation value of this nature preserve named in the memory of Stephen Matthews. Dr. Matthews was a Village of Poquott trustee and deputy mayor who worked together with Assemblyman Englebright to permanently preserve this natural landscape. Pictured above from left to right are Poquott Village Trustee Carol Castillo, Trustee Christine Vitkun, Mayor Barbara Donovan, Trustee Carol Lane, Vincent Frigeria of National Grid, Assemblyman Englebright, Kathy Matthews, Janet Kagel, and Cynthia Barnes and Robert Reuter of the Three Village Community Trust.