Assemblyman Scarborough
Assemblyman
William
Scarborough
reports to
the people
Summer 2006



Greetings Friends and neighbors,

We have come to the close of the 2006 Legislative Session, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to update you on some of my activities as your representative for the 29th Assembly District.

This was a busy year, and one which I think we can point to some important initiatives that will benefit the citizens of our state. Between the major decisions that were reached on education, crime victims and economic development, and the issues that I dealt with in my capacity as the chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families, I can say that this has been a productive year so far. I continue to appreciate the opportunity to serve as your representative, and I look forward to working collectively with community residents to improve our community, city and state.

Sincerely,
signature
William Scarborough
Assemblyman 29th, A.D.



BUDGET AND OTHER ISSUES

As this is written (June 24, 2006) the legislative session has just ended for the year. A number of major initiatives were developed and passed. Gov. Pataki, in his last year in office, proposed many initiatives that both the Assembly and the Senate felt were not benefiting the people of New York State. A number of these proposals were either modified or left out of the budget passed by the Assembly and the Senate in March. The governor then vetoed many of our budget initiatives, and even when both houses overrode his vetoes he claimed that he had the authority to refuse to implement the budget as we voted for it. This led to a deadlock and disputed issues continued to be negotiated right up to the end of session. Many were resolved, but some remained outstanding. However, these important issues were approved:

CFE Funding for city schools - the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) sued New York State a number of years ago, claiming that the State short-changed the New York City schools for many years through the state’s school aid formula. They won the case, and the judge ordered the state’s to increase funds to the city in order to correct the inequality. Governor Pataki refused to follow the court’s decision and appealed the ruling, which prevented our schools from receiving the funds that they were due for years. Finally this year we were able to begin to provide a significant amount of funding to the city. The courts had ordered the state to provide $9 billion in capital funds, to be used to build new schools and make needed repairs in existing schools. We actually ended up providing $11 billion in capital funds. This is a huge one-time infusion of capital dollars to the NYC school system. I would encourage the schools in our area to make sure that their capital needs are in the Dept. of Education’s Five-year Capital Plan. The system may never have such an allocation again, and we need to assure that our schools receive their fair share.

Removal of Statute of Limitations on Rape - New York State law required that a charge in a rape case be brought within five years of the attack. With the advances in technology, especially DNA testing, it is now possible to prove that an individual committed a rape many years after the incident. As a result, the legislature voted to remove the statute of limitations on rape. We feel this will bring more rapists to eventual justice, and bring some measure of closure to their victims.

Expansions of DNA Testing to Include All Felony Convictions and some Misdemeanor Convictions - this was a very contentious issue during the session. The Governor and the State Senate wanted to expand DNA testing to include all persons convicted of any felony or any misdemeanor in the State. Currently convicted felons must give DNA samples. There were concerns in the Assembly about such a broad expansion at one time. Some state experts informed us that the State Police (who will maintain the samples) did not have the capacity to handle such a huge increase - about five times the number of samples currently maintained. Some bio-ethicists expressed serious concerns that such a broad expansion would allow for abuses of the testees’ (and their families’) rights through uses not intended by the legislature (abuse of medical information for insurance purposes, for example). A compromise was reached that expanded DNA testing to include persons convicted of any felony as well as those convicted of serious misdemeanors. DNA can be used to prove that a person committed a crime; is has also been used to clear innocent people accused of a crime. Let us hope that is will be used in both instances to help the citizens of New York.

Summer Jobs Funding - I have been pleased to be a strong advocate for state funding for summer jobs for our youth. Many summer jobs providers, as well as some of my Assembly colleagues, have looked to me to make the case for summer jobs funding during each of our budget negotiations. This year we were gratified to be able to allocate $30 million dollars for summer jobs. This is an increase over previous years ($25 million last year) and should allow more of our youth to be able to be employed and off the streets this summer.

Assemblyman Scarborough announces the $29 million Child Protection Package included in the State Budget. With him are Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and Gordon Campbell, Executive Director of "Safe Horizon," a child advocacy center.
Assemblyman Scarborough and Gordon Campbell are briefed on the Child Advocacy Center’s (CAC) efforts to prevent and investigate child abuse. CACs use a multi-disciplinary approach, joining social workers with law enforcement, that has proven to be an effective tool against child abuse. CACs received both financial and legislative support in the budget package.
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Assemblyman Scarborough visits Senior Citizens at the Robert Couche Senior Center
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Assemblyman Scarborough visits Senior Citizens at the Robert Couche Senior Center



COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
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Assemblyman Scarborough with Council members Comrie and Sanders join Rosedale community leaders on Memorial Day at the Rosedale Veteran’s Square.

This was my second year as chair of this committee, and it was both busy and productive. Much of the activity was the result of the tragic deaths of children at the hands of their parents or other family members. After the January death of Nixzmary Brown, Speaker Silver asked my committee to hold hearings around the state. Although the New York City cases got the headlines, the same tragedies were occurring around the State. In Westchester, two little boys were scalded to death in a tub full of boiling hot water while their parents did drugs in another room; in Syracuse a woman whose other children had been removed from her custody put her months-old baby in bed with her after going on a drunken binge. She rolled over on the infant while asleep and smothered the baby to death. A few weeks ago a couple was arrested near Albany for brutally beating and burning their young daughter, and putting bleach in her eyes as a punishment. The child may well be blinded by this treatment.

Many of these children and their families were receiving regular visits and services from local social service agencies, and so our goal was to find out what flaws in the system prevented these children from being saved, and what resources were needed to improve existing policies and practices. We held four hearings, two in New York City, one in Buffalo and one in Syracuse. Some of the things that we found were shocking, and many of the problems were common to social service agencies around the state. Some major problems were:

  • Child Protective Service workers (CPS) were overloaded. These caseworkers deal with seriously dysfunctional families and kids at risk, and national standards recommend no more than 12 cases per CPS worker. We found workers dealing with anywhere from 25 to 40 cases. Given the wide range of problems these families usually have, these workers simply could not give the needed attention to their cases with such large caseloads. This led to oversights or rushed decisions which were factors in some of these tragedies.

  • There are 40 professions in New York State which are mandated by law to report any indications of child abuse (teachers, health professionals, etc.). Their reports are called in to the State Central Registry (SCR), the "hotline" which refers these cases to the proper agencies for follow-up. Seventy percent of the complaints of possible child abuse received from these "mandated reporters" were rejected by the SCR and were not referred out for follow-up. Of the 40 professions that are mandated reporters, only 15 receive any detailed training in recognizing child abuse and proper reporting procedures.

  • The State Central Registry (SCR) does not tape the calls that come into the hotline. This eliminates the opportunity for later review to determine if, in fact, a referral may have been warranted or different actions should have been taken.

    These are but a few of our findings. After the hearings, my committee developed a package that includes both fiscal resources and legislative initiatives designed to combat the problems we found. My committee’s efforts, in partnership with my senate counterpart (Senator Ray Meier), resulted in a $29 million fiscal package and seventeen pieces of legislation which were approved by our colleagues. Included in the fiscal package was $6 million to hire more CPS workers and thus reduce the caseloads per worker; $2 million to train "mandated reporters" about child abuse in a manner relevant and specific to their profession; and $8 million to expand a program that engages parents during pregnancy and right after child birth to identify family problems and needs at the earliest possible time.

    The seventeen bills all were developed by my committee, and I was either the main sponsor or a co-prime sponsor with members of my committee who shared my concerns about the circumstancs we encountered. Some key bills are:

    A.11150 (Scarborough) - mandates that the state set caseload standards and ratios for CPS workers based on nationally accepted standards.

    A.11151 (Scarborough) - requires the State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to create a training curriculum for "mandated reporters" who often encounter children in the course of their professional duties.

    A.11152 (Scarborough) - requires the State Central Registry to record all phone calls received for improved quality assurance and child safety purposes.

    A.11571 (Scarborough) - requires OCFS and the State Education Department to establish uniform statewide standards for reporting and investigating "educational neglect." There are no standards at present, and this shortcoming was highlighted in the Nixzmary Brown case. She missed 40 days of school and no serious investigation was undertaken.

    A.11574 (Titus, Scarborough...) - increases educational standards and training requirements for CPS workers and supervisors.

    A.11635 (Robinson, Scarborough...) Requires OCFS to develop a public education campaign against child abuse, to inform the general public about signs of child abuse and how to file reports with the state hotline.

    All 17 of the bills were passed by the Assembly, and most were also passed by the Senate and will soon become law. (For more details about the full fiscal or legislative packages on child abuse please call (718) 723-5412.)

ENJOY YOUR SUMMER!



CAPITAL AND TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS

Many of the valuable organizations in our community have need for funds to improve or renovate their offices or physical plants. These funds are often difficult to obtain, and I am pleased that I have been able to assist some worthy groups with capital- or transportation-related funding recently. Some of these projects are now reaching completion. Those being funded include:

Black Spectrum Theatre
- $250,000 to renovate the theatre’s lobby and entrance area.

Jamaica Center For Arts and Learning
- $50,000 for building renovations.

Jamaica Business Resource Center (JBRC)
- $50,000 for renovation and upgrading communication system.

Queens Bridge to Medicine School/York College
- $100,000 to establish a DNA laboratory, one of the very few in our area.

I.S.59 Springfield Gardens
- $100,000 to establish an Environmental Laboratory and $200,000 for an air-conditioning system and other renovations.

P.S.116, Jamaica, PS 132, Laurelton and PS 95, Rosedale
- $50,000 each for building renovations.

Haitian American United For Progress (HAUP)
- $50,000 for renovations.

New York City Parks Department
- $100,000 for their "Trees and Sidewalks" Program. This is one of the few programs that repairs homeowners’ sidewalks free of charge if the sidewalk has been damaged by tree roots. The $100,000 will allow the Parks Department to repair many eligible sidewalks in the 29th A.D. free of charge to the homeowner. (For information about the program, call the NYC Parks Department at (718) 520-5905.


Assemblyman Scarborough joins legendary actress Ruby Dee, radio personality Bob Law, Black Spectrum Director Carl Clay and others at a ribbon cutting for the Black Spectrum Theatre Hall of Fame. Capital funds from the assemblyman helped to establish the Hall of Fame and renovate the Black Spectrum Lobby Area.



Note:

Our office has moved. The new address is 129-32 Merrick Blvd. (one block from Farmers Blvd.) The new phone number is (718) 723-5412, and the fax number is (718) 723-5465.

South East Queens Junior Olympics will take place from August 5 - 12, 2006. Ten different events (Basketball, Soccer, Tennis, Track and Field, etc.) will be held at York College, Roy Wilkins Park and other local sites. Over 2,000 young people ages 6-18 participated in 2004. Call SEQJO at (718) 978-2884 for more information.



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