Session 2004 ...at a Glance
A Message For You...
Throughout the past months in Albany, I have worked to respond to the needs of my
constituents and, in fact, the needs of all New Yorkers. Together with my Assembly
colleagues, we have developed and passed legislation that is meaningful and important
to our communities. We have led the way on a host of issues, most notably, responding
in a responsible and comprehensive manner to the moral and legal obligation we have to
reform the education funding system in New York State. In addition, we have fought for a
minimum wage increase, pay equity that ends wage discrimination against women, public
authority reform, Rockefeller drug law reform, election reform, procurement lobbying reform,
an anti-terrorism package, Power for Jobs renewal, Timothy’s Law which requires insurers
to include mental health coverage, an MTA bus plan for improving bus service in the Bronx
and Queens, and regulations to ensure a safe home for those in adult care facilities. I know
that without laws on these issues, our job is not done. Therefore, I remain committed to
advancing negotiations in an open and public forum on these worthy issues in order to
achieve results for the people of this state.
The 2004-05 Executive Budget recommends General Fund Spending of $41.9 billion,
and All Governmental Funds spending of $99.8 billion which includes State Funds plus
any federal funds received by the State. The State faces a projected budget gap of
approximately $5.1 million in the 2004-05 Fiscal Year. Unfortunately, on-going negotiations
on closing this budget gap have not resulted in an agreement to date. The Assembly remains
committed in its efforts to reduce the Governor’s proposed cuts to vital programs and services
for New Yorkers. This year the Governor has proposed cuts in education by $250 million;
Medicaid and health care by $800 million; one-third reduction of TAP; a 5 % reduction of EOP,
HEOP, SEEK, and CSTEP opportunity programs; and increases in taxes by $972 million. The
Assembly remains committed in its fight to restore the Governor’s cuts and make the right
choices for our families.
I appreciate the time that you have taken to review this newsletter. I encourage you to contact
me with any questions or concerns that you may have. I hope that you have a safe and
enjoyable remainder of the summer. I look forward to seeing you in the district!
Member of Assembly
35th Assembly District
Assembly Pushes For Investments in Education
The Assembly continues to fight for real investments in New York’s education system.
While the Governor proposes $369 million in education cuts, the Assembly is fighting
for a spending plan that invests – not undermines – state support for local schools. In
fact, New York schools would have $3.8 billion less if the Assembly had gone along
with the Governor’s previous budget proposals. The Governor’s latest school aid
cuts would force school boards to choose between cutting programs and raising
property taxes to make ends meet.
For the third consecutive year, the 2004-05 Executive budget proposal would
also reduce the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards for all eligible
students by one-third. The proposed 2004-05 Executive budget includes
$604.23 million for TAP. This represents a $259.24 million reduction from
the 2003-04 Academic Year, which would translate into an overall reduction
of $302 million in estimated TAP expenditures in the 2004-05 Academic Year.
A family of four with one child, who has an approximate gross income of
$20,000, would see their TAP award go from $4350 to $2900. That $1450
difference could determine whether a child from a lower-income family
might be able to continue his or her education. The Executive Budget also
proposes to reduce funding for college opportunity programs by $2.7
million, or 5 percent.
The Governor’s 2004-2005 budget proposal includes a number of
proposals which will make it much harder for families to make ends
meet. This approach simply seeks to leave the most vulnerable individuals
behind during difficult economic times. By limiting funding for job skills
development and training programs, the Executive diminishes the
likelihood that those on public assistance will leave the system by
securing employment and achieving self -sufficiency.
New York State receives approximately $2.44 billion each year from the Federal
Government for the Family Assistance Program through the Temporary Assistance
to Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant. The Executive is proposing to use the estimated
$1.5 billion TANF Surplus in SFY 2004-05 for a variety of programs and initiatives. However,
many worthwhile programs that have been funded in the past have either been eliminated
or drastically reduced in the Executive’s recommended budget. TANF funding for programs
serving individuals with disabilities, employment and training programs, youth employment
programs, and preventive or emergency services for families has been substantially
diminished in the Executive’s proposed SFY 2004-05 budget.
The Executive’s proposal includes drastic restructuring changes in New York’s welfare policies.
As part of the proposed budget, a full family sanction would be imposed for adult non-compliance
in work requirements, and public assistance stays will be discouraged for more than one year by
reducing the non- shelter portion of a family’s basic grant assistance.
Assembly Approves Bill Requiring SUNY/CUNY Admissions To Be Based On More Than SAT/ACT
To ensure that every student seeking admission to SUNY or CUNY is evaluated on more than
just their SAT and ACT test scores, the Assembly approved legislation that would require the
state university admission process to also take into consideration a students’ overall academic
performance and community portfolio. The bill was delivered to the Senate
(A.7143/ S.289; Passed Assembly and Senate)
Dignity For All Students Act Will Help Curb School Violence
The Assembly passed legislation to help give students a safe, welcoming learning
environment free of harassment and discrimination. This legislation prohibits
discrimination and harassment on school grounds based on a person’s actual
or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation,
or gender. In addition, each school district would be required to: establish anti-harassment
and discrimination policies; create school training programs in harassment and
discrimination; raise staff sensitivity and awareness as well as enable staff to
respond to harassment; and develop nondiscriminatory instruction and counseling
methods (A.1118; Passed Assembly).
NYC Schools Deserve Equal Funding
Assembly Passes Legislation to Address School Funding Inadequacies
Identified by the State’s Highest Court in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) Lawsuit
On June 26, 2003, the Court of Appeals issued an historic decision in favor of the plaintiffs
in Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. the State of New York. The Court held that children
attending schools in New York City are not receiving a sound basic education and found
the current State education financing system to be inadequate. The Court set a deadline
of July 30, 2004 for the State to implement remedies addressing the four requirements of
the Court’s decision which include: (1) establish the cost of a sound, basic education;
reform the education funding formula; (3) ensure that every school has sufficient resources;
and (4) enhance accountability.
The Assembly passed a school financing plan to equitably fund high-need schools across
New York while making sure that everyone receives and contributes their fair share. The
Assembly’s plan, designed to address the school funding inadequacies identified by the
state’s highest court in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, will phase in an additional
$6.1 billion more in operating aid for schools over the next five years - with New York City
schools receiving 63.9 percent of that funding and more than 86 percent going to high-need
districts across, the state.
The Assembly’s plan proposes to: increase school aid for the 2004-05 school year by $1.223
billion - restoring the Governor’s cuts to BOCES Aid, Transportation Aid, Teacher Support Aid
and programs for disabled children; increase operating aid by $784 million; maintain programs
for children with disabilities; and increase aid for programs for students with limited English
proficiency. The Assembly’s plan also establishes a program for meeting the critical educational
infrastructure needs in high-need schools across the state.
By establishing the cost of a sound, basic education, reforming the funding formula, ensuring
that every school has sufficient resources, and enhancing accountability, the Assembly’s plan
truly invests in our students and ensures that available resources make it to the teachers in our
classrooms in order to produce the results we need for a better tomorrow.
Prescription Drugs For Less
To help consumers – especially seniors – get their prescription drugs for less, the
Assembly passed legislation making the results of the Comparison Cost Survey
available to the public, showing how much prescriptions cost at different stores.
Since there is often a large difference in prescription drug prices from retailer to retailer –
sometimes in excess of $50 per prescription – the measure could potentially save
consumers hundreds of dollars per month
(A.10991; Passed Assembly).
Assembly Passes Protections For Residents Of Adult Homes Experiencing Abusive Treatment
The Assembly approved legislation that would allow nursing-home residents direct access
to a court in order to receive protection from nursing home employees who endanger their
health and safety. Under the bill, residents could request that a court appoint a receiver to
intervene and administer the facility when there are conditions of mismanagement and abuse
(A.8621; Passed Assembly).
Legislation Would Improve The Quality Of Assisted Living Facilities In New York State
The Assembly passed legislation designed to protect the health and well-being of seniors
by requiring state oversight of assisted living facilities. Some highlights of the legislation would:
clearly define “assisted living residences;” require assisted living facilities to be licensed with
the Department of Health; require assisted living operators to undergo character and competence
review by the DOH; require each facility to clearly post residents’ rights; require the execution of a
written residency agreement with each resident; set guidelines regarding the management of a
resident’s money and property; require facilities to assist in the development and operation of
resident and family councils; and set uniform guidelines for the admission, discharge and transfer
of residents (A.421-B; Passed Assembly).
Assembly Passes Legislation Raising The Minimum Wage
The Legislature reached an agreement on legislation to raise New York State’s
minimum wage to $7.15 per hour on January 1, 2007 from the existing $5.15 level –
a $2.00 increase. The bill would establish a state minimum wage of $6.00
per hour on January 1, 2005, $6.75 per hour on January 1, 2006 and $7.15
per hour on January 1, 2007. Food service workers who routinely collect tips
when rendering services would also receive proportionate increases in the
sub-minimum wage, known as the tip wage. Under the legislation, the tip
minimum wage for these employees would be raised from the existing $3.30
level to $3.85 per hour on January 1, 2005, $4.35 per hour on January 1, 2006
and $4.60 on January 1, 2007
(A.11760/S.7682; Vetoed By Governor).
Assembly Passes Small Businesses Legislative Package
The Assembly passed a series of legislation aimed at helping small businesses grow
and create jobs. The Assembly package includes measures that would require
the Department of Economic Development to give small businesses
and entrepreneurs priority consideration in the awarding of economic
development assistance (A.3913), help businesses
obtain loans for the purchase of pollution-control equipment so they can clean up
the environment and comply with State and Federal environmental rules
(A.1382-A) and authorize the Urban Development
Corporation to provide low-interest loans to businesses that have been hurt because
an owner, manager or other key employee has been called up for military duty
(A.1884). These bills were passed in the Assembly
and delivered to the Senate.
Assembly Passes REAP Renewal Legislation
The REAP program, originally enacted in 1987, encourages businesses to relocate to
New York City and provides incentives to businesses that are considering leaving the
city to instead relocate within the city to areas in need of economic stimulus. The
Assembly bill extends the program through 2008 and provides a refundable,
per employee tax credit. The benefit is $3,000 per employee in most eligible
areas and is conditioned upon improvements to the premises to which the
firm is relocating (A.11459).
The Assembly Passes Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Legislation
Legislation to enact the Drug Reform, Drug Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004.
This bill was passed for the third time in the Assembly in April 2004, and is awaiting
action in the Senate. The bill would make sentencing changes that would increase
possession thresholds required to meet Class A-1 and A-II felony sentences from 4
to 8 ounces and from 2 to 4 ounces, respectively. The bill would also provide
prosecutors, in all cases involving eligible defendants, the first opportunity at deciding
whether low-level, non-violent drug offenders may be diverted from a potential prison
term to drug treatment. Only after this initial prosecutorial determination has been made
would a judge be empowered to make a decision on drug treatment
(A.7078; Passed Assembly).
The Senate Abandons Conference Committee On Rockefeller Drug Law Reform
Pictured left to right: Senator David Paterson, Minority Leader; Assemblywoman
Helene Weinstein, Chair, Assembly Committee on Judiciary; Assemblyman
Joseph Lentol, Chair Assembly Committee on Codes; Assemblyman Jeffrion
Aubry, Chair, Assembly Committee on Correction; and Senator Dale Volker,
Chair, Senate Committee on Codes, during one of six Conference Committees
held on Rockefeller Drug Law Reform in May 2004.
A joint conference committee convened in May 2004 to resolve differences on Rockefeller
Drug Law reform legislation. The decision by the Senate Majority to abandon the conference
committee process after six meetings was deeply disappointing to the Assembly Majority and
to the thousands of individuals who have championed reform of these overly harsh
policies for years. Further, the Senate Majority’s suggestion that time did not permit
the continuance of an open and public discussion calls into question their overall
commitment to this important issue. During the six open and public conference
committee meetings with our Senate Majority colleagues, the Assembly Majority
offered creative proposals and compromise after compromise, while being told
each time that its priorities of judicial discretion and retroactivity would be addressed.
Unfortunately, despite the Assembly Majority’s numerous requests for a Senate proposal
on these areas of core concern, none was forthcoming.
A Call On Governor To Enforce Megan’s Law Enacted In 1995
The Assembly has called on Gov. Pataki to protect New Yorkers from sexual predators
by enforcing the provisions of Megan’s Law. Since 1995 when Megan’s Law was enacted,
sexual offender risk levels were established but were never enforced by the Pataki
administration, thereby, allowing many offenders to avoid community reporting requirements.
The Governor has still not acted to establish and implement procedures for setting these risk levels.
The result is that all of these approximately 7,900 offenders continue to be classified at Level
One rather than as Level Two or Level Three offenders, the two higher-risk categories established
under the statute. Level Two and Three offenders are subject to tougher restrictions and significantly
greater community notification under the law. Furthermore, since the enactment of Megan’s Law,
the Legislature has acted repeatedly to strengthen the statute, and it is imperative that the Governor
enforce the law.
Bill Would Require Facilities Holding 1,000 Or More To Have Cardiac Defibrillator
The Assembly approved legislation that would require facilities that can accommodate
1,000 or more people to be equipped with a cardiac defibrillator and to have at least
one trained person capable of operating the defibrillator. According to the American
Heart Association, an estimated 100,000 deaths could be prevented each year if
defibrillators were more accessible in an emergency
(A.9596; Passed Assembly).
Legislation Gives New Yorkers Power To Stand Up To Health Insurance Companies
The Assembly passed legislation that would set penalties for violations of the Managed
Care Bill of Rights, and speed up health care claims. A third measure awaiting Assembly
approval would establish a managed care assistance program. The Managed Care Bill
of Rights provides consumers protection from unfair practices by HMOs. However,
currently there are not any monetary penalties for violations. The Assembly’s legislation
would establish fines of between $500 and $5,000 – depending on the severity of the
violation – for defying the Managed Care Bill of Rights
Coalition for Women Prisoners’ Advocacy Day - Assemblyman Aubry with
Senator Velmanette Montgomery (2nd row, third from left), Indira Noel, Legislative
Director for Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (2nd row, third from right), Tamar Kraft-Stolar,
Director, The Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project
(1st row, 2nd from left) and various members of the NYS Coalition for Women
Prisoners — March 9, 2004.
Assembly Passes Public Utility Safety Legislation
The Assembly passed legislation aimed at ensuring the safety and
reliability of New York State’s energy infrastructure by requiring at least
annual inspections of equipment and the reporting of incidents that could
pose a threat to safety and or reliability. The bill addresses the tragic death
in January 2004 of Jodie Lane, a woman who was fatally electrocuted while
walking her dog in Manhattan. Under the bill, the state Public Service
Commission (PSC) would be required to adopt standards for equipment
inspection, as well as requirements for reporting of incidents, such as the
cases of people and animals coming in contact with electrically charged units
(A.4297-B; Passed Assembly).
Assembly Passes Election Reforms (HAVA) To Modernize NY Voting System
The Senate and Assembly reached a bipartisan agreement earlier this
year on important steps to reform New York State’s election process, but
just days later the Senate Majority backed away. This five- bill legislative
package includes measures that would require poll workers to be trained
and tested annually, using a core curriculum developed by the state Board
of Elections and modified to meet local needs; establish a computerized,
centralized, interactive statewide voter registration list with proper privacy
protections to ease confusion at the polls; ban punch ballots and require
a single type of electronic voting machine that would be accessible to all
citizens; and establish basic guidelines to ensure that persons with disabilities
have access to polling sites
A.5473-A; All Passed Assembly).
Budget Reform Passes – Will Create A More Efficient Budget Process For New York
The Assembly passed legislation that allows historic reforms to New York’s budget
process to go forward. The Senate has also passed matching legislation. The bipartisan
budget reform plan includes moving the start of New York’s fiscal year from April 1 to
May 1 to allow for better revenue and spending projections and instituting provisions
to instill greater accountability in the process. If a budget is in not place by May 1, the
plan provides for a contingency budget equivalent to that of the preceding year