On June 29, 2011, I had the privilege of being appointed Chairman of the New York State Assembly’s Oversight, Analysis and Investigations Committee.
Oversight Investigations are designed to shed light on the acts of government and assure honest, efficient, and responsible operations that are in compliance with the legislative intent under which they were created. Any and all issues that have been addressed by the legislature through legislation or through the state budget can become the subject of an Oversight Investigation.
The basic power of the Legislature to conduct oversight activities is inherent in the law-making power conferred by Article III of the New York State Constitution. There are also several other constitutional and statutory references that reaffirm this right, including Article V, section 3 of the State Constitution which gives the Legislature the right to inquire into how the functions are being carried out in order to determine what functions should be increased, decreased, or otherwise modified.
With the hundreds of state departments, agencies, authorities, commissions, and task forces that comprise New York State Government, it is essential that the Legislature ensure that the taxes collected from the residents of New York are spent wisely and appropriately, with every effort made to cut down on waste and abuse. Oversight Investigations can and do frequently lead to change in public policy and law, financial review by appropriate authorities, and even criminal investigation when appropriate.
I am honored to take on this responsibility and will do everything in my power to help ensure that New York State’s government is acting efficiently, effectively, and in the best interests of the citizens of the State of New York.
28th Assembly District
On March 25, 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Assembly Bill A.261, which requires the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to submit an annual report detailing energy efficiency portfolio standard and approving programs, into law. Assemblyman Hevesi and Senator Maziarz (R-Niagara) partnered to get this legislation passed by both houses of the legislature and applaud Governor Cuomo for making this a top priority. This was the fifth piece of legislation the governor signed into law this year.
NYSERDA appropriates grant funding to recipients in New York State to achieve energy efficiency savings through capital improvements or other energy saving measures. In our current climate of economic uncertainty, New York State cannot afford to spend money on projects that fail to meet their objectives; in this case, reduction in energy consumption. The report delivered through this legislation will allow policy makers to evaluate the effectiveness of these grants, and, if necessary, to make adjustments to the process of awarding these funds.
This bill promotes transparency in government by requiring openness and accountability for how our taxpayer dollars are spent. It is important that New York State continues to invest in and promote energy efficient technologies, but, in light of the fiscal climate New York currently finds itself in, it is crucially important that every dollar collected be spent responsibly. The reports generated by this legislation will allow us to take a clear and hard look at how this large amount of money is being spent.
On June 17, 2011, Assembly bill A.42, written by Assemblyman Hevesi, passed the New York State Assembly and the State Senate. The legislation directs the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to conduct assessments of consumer behavior in their pre- and post-installation audits of energy efficiency upgrade programs.
Each year, New York State allocates billions of dollars through numerous state and local programs in order to improve the energy efficiency of businesses and residences throughout the state. The goal of this huge range of programs is to make the state as energy efficient as possible in order to reduce demand, so there is a tangible reduction in the amount of less environmentally-friendly fuel sources that are used.
While NYSERDA does conduct calculations of the energy savings that come from the billions of dollars that are spent on these programs, their audits lack a key factor. Absent an analysis of consumer behavior, the state may continue to pour money into programs that do not achieve their intended goals.
There have been studies done in other states that document that some energy efficiency programs do not yield energy reduction. One example included a program where citizens were given energy efficient boilers and household appliances for free, and there was no reduction in the consumption of energy. The reason was that the person took the cost savings from the reduction in their energy bill and went and bought themselves a hi-definition television, which used large amounts of energy. In that case, taxpayer money was used on a program intended to reduce energy use and no energy reduction took place. New York State can simply not afford to spend money on programs that don’t achieve their goals.
For that reason, this legislation requires NYSERDA to undertake a statewide study of consumer behaviors and, in doing so, apply the findings to assessments of real energy saved post-efficiency program implementation. Altering the audit formula with this study will result in greater accuracy when calculating savings based upon consumer usage patterns. This will allow NYSERDA and the state to better assess which energy savings programs are most effective and financially sound.
This bill will provide further fiscal accountability for taxpayer-subsidized energy saving programs and is expected to be signed into law this summer by Governor Cuomo.
On Tuesday, August 16th, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assemblyman Mike Miller, and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley gathered concerned residents, long-suffering trackside homeowners, and community organizations from Middle Village and Glendale to a town hall-style meeting at PS 128 to discuss a plan devised by the elected officials and CSX to bring necessary relief to the residents of Middle Village. Their joint plan/agreement with the rail companies was unveiled to alleviate the excessive traffic and noise caused by outgoing freight trains in Middle Village.
Currently, freight trains carrying municipal solid waste are left idling while their brakes are pressurized at a hook-up northeast of 69th Place. The site is located directly behind residential homes on 69th Place.
Through the combined efforts of Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Senator Joe Addabbo, Assemblyman Mike Miller, and Council Member Elizabeth S. Crowley, many important facets of this plan were agreed upon by the Department of Transportation and CSX Freight Corporation, including the installation of two new hook-up sites located farther back from the current stop.
The first new hook-up would be located approximately 450 feet back from the current location, northeast of 69th Place. This hookup will be utilized when the trains are operating at maximum capacity. A secondary hookup will be located approximately 600 feet behind the current hookup location, off of 69th Street near All Faiths Cemetery, where the freight cars’ impact will be much less disturbing to constituents.
After the Town Hall event, Assemblyman Hevesi commented, “For the first time in several years, community residents, leaders, and elected officials have agreed to take a significant first step toward alleviating serious quality of life and health concerns in our community. We will continue to work diligently until we achieve our shared goals.”
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi introduced two pieces of legislation in the 2011 session to address a gap in the law regarding screening adult volunteers that participate in youth services organizations. These bills will make it easier for organizations that work with children to do more complete background checks on employees and volunteers to eliminate potential sex offenders, closing a critical gap in state laws to protect kids.
Under current law, youth service organizations may obtain a report from the New York State Sex Offender Registry free of charge prior to hiring employees or allowing volunteers to supervise children. But the state sex offender registry reports only include level 2 and 3 offenders, and do not include any crimes before January 26, 1996, when the registry was created.
Assembly bill A.6276 will allow youth services organizations to request a report from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, free of charge, in order to determine whether an applicant for a volunteer or paid position with the organization has ever been convicted of any sex offense or sexually violent offense, regardless of Megan’s law classification. Assembly bill A. 8296, which passed in the Assembly on June 16, 2011, directs the Division of Criminal Justice Services to publish a brochure directing the public on how to gather criminal background information. There are many resources available to the general public for the purposes of investigating a person’s criminal history. Unfortunately, many people and organizations are not aware of the extensive databases available or have questions about using them. This bill will empower people and organizations by giving them the tools and knowledge they need to better inform themselves on the resources available to screen adult volunteers that work with children’s organizations.
“When kids join little league or go to day camps, their parents deserve to know that they are safe,” said Assemblyman Hevesi. “These new bills will help do that by allowing community organizations that work with children to do more complete background checks on their personnel than current law allows.”
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi rallies at Queens Borough Hall against any funding cuts that would have closed senior centers throughout Queens.
Secured unclaimed funds for a constituent from their mother’s estate and worked to expedite this process.
Worked to expedite a medical clearance at the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles for a constituent who had been waiting several months for their renewal license application to clear.
Contributed to the winter blizzard plowing effort by directly relaying several constituents’ plowing needs to the Department of Sanitation for cleanup.
Assisted in expediting a constituent’s notification of approval into the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program after she had waited several months for word of her status.
Helped facilitate an agreement between a constituent and his apartment building to allow the constituent to keep the television antennae he had used for over fifteen years on the rooftop after management required that he remove the equipment.
Aided in expediting the process of getting a new freezer from the Department of Housing for a constituent when theirs broke.
Researched and relayed information to a constituent on how to improve her net security and better protect her and her family’s information on the internet.
Helped a senior citizen compile the necessary paperwork and documentation to obtain her first ever New York State Identification card.
As the representative for the people of the 28th Assembly District, my top priority is to address the needs of my constituents. I encourage residents to contact my office with any complaints or suggestions they have regarding the wellbeing of our community. My staff and I are here to serve you, and no problem is too small. Please contact my office any day of the week at (718) 263-5595, or stop by and visit us at 70-50 Austin Street Suite 110 in Forest Hills.