Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry Assemblyman
Jeffrion L.

Reports to
the People
Summer 2005

Session 2005 a Glance

A Message For You...

Dear Constituents,

Budget year 2005 was in many respects historic. It was, for the first time in many years, on time, and the highest at $106.4 Billion.

The advent of budget reforms and the use of conference committees, an open and public process, engineered this change in the way the state legislature and the Governor traditionally conducted legislative business.

The budget of $106.4 Billion, which was adopted and signed by the Governor, was initially negotiated between the Assembly and the Senate. The Governor, who initially proposes the budget, became involved at the end of the Senate’s and Assembly’s negotiations.

In addition, as part of every budget, the Governor proposes changes in the law. Some of these changes are relevant to the budget, but some are not. The New York State Supreme Court determined that the legislature could vote these changes into law, either up or down, but could not change them. This ruling had a significant impact on our negotiations this year because the changes in the law proposed by the Governor were presented in one enormous bill called an Article 7. This bill literally contains hundreds of changes to the laws of this state and must be either accepted or rejected in whole by the Assembly and the Senate. By nature of this decision, the Governor exercised enormous power.

While not all of our budgetary goals were reached, many compromises were beneficial for the state, some of which are outlined below. While the changes in the legislative process have been challenging, it is my hope that they will provide a long term benefit to the State of New York.

Jeffrion Aubry
Member of Assembly
35th Assembly District

Budget Highlights


The budget includes a soft cap on the growth of local Medicaid costs, along with an acceleration of the state takeover of the Family Health Plus program costs. The Assembly originally proposed a hard cap on Medicaid growth – which would have provided New York City with more than $690 Million in savings starting next year. The Governor’s compromise provides $523 Million next year, a step toward easing the burden Medicaid places on local taxpayers. Other steps to ensure quality health care while protecting taxpayers include, but are not limited to: increasing efforts to collect $20 Million in rebates owed the state by pharmaceutical companies; and creating a preferred drug list that protects consumers by giving physicians the final say in prescribing medicine. The budget agreement also dramatically cuts the out-of-pocket expenses that the Governor sought to impose on Family Health Plus enrollees through significantly higher co-pays, as well as the Governor’s attempts to cut basic benefits like vision, dental and hospice care. Instead, the Legislature agreed to only modest co-pay increases, such as the generic drug co-pay from $1 to $3 – the Governor had proposed a $10 co-pay.


The spending plan will provide over $848 Million more in funding to public schools than last year – approximately $354 Million more than the Governor proposed. One of the most important jobs we have as state legislators is to adequately fund our schools. The budget provides $327 Million more for New York City schools. The Legislature restored the Governor’s cuts for various expense-based aids, funds that local schools already spent in anticipation of state reimbursement, including educating students with disabilities. The plan adds hundreds of Millions of dollars to the city’s education budget, increasing the city’s building aid by 5 percent. The budget addresses inequities in the state’s building aid formula that have shortchanged the city, leaving our schools with far less aid than they are entitled to for ensuring students have an opportunity to learn and achieve greater academic success.

photo Assemblyman Aubry with The Sikh Cultural Society of Richmond Hill during their visit to the Capitol in April 2005, and with several Assemblymembers, from left to right, including Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, Assemblyman William Scarborough, Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, Assemblyman Mark Weprin, and Assemblyman Jose Peralta.


The bipartisan budget rejected the Governor’s $500 SUNY and $250 CUNY tuition increase and his plan for automatic tuition hikes each year. I have worked with the Assembly to keep college affordable and defeated the Governor’s proposed tuition hike and annual automatic increases. The bipartisan budget rejects the Governor’s original proposal to cut 50 percent of the Tuition Assistance Program. Other important higher education items in the budget include, but are not limited to: restoring the Governor’s cuts in opportunity programs; creating memorial scholarships for the families of American Airlines flight 587 that crashed in Belle Harbor, New York on November 12, 2001.


The Governor’s latest appeal of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) court ruling to implement a new school financing system will come closer to a resolution when the case goes before the Appellate Division in October. Justice DeGrasse’s CFE ruling ordered the state to provide New York’s high needs schools with billions of dollars more in funding and implement a more equitable school funding formula. Given the poor results of recent English Language Arts (ELA) exams and how poorly students performed in high need areas of New York City, it is important to provide funding from the CFE decision to address the problems of those high need areas. I will continue to work in the Assembly to ensure that this important need is addressed.


The Legislature reached an agreement with the Governor on a comprehensive jobs plan to expand and reform the state’s Empire Zones program and allow each region of the state to use its strengths to compete in the global economy. The plan will improve technology, provide funding to businesses that show job creation potential, and enhance opportunities for expansion across all industries.

Assemblyman Aubry at one of five public hearings which the Assembly held on the Death Penalty in January 2005. Pictured from left to right, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, and Assembly-man John Lavelle.

Legislative Highlights


Death Penalty — Struck Down In New York State
On June 24, 2004, the New York Court of Appeals in People v. LaValle invalidated the “deadlock instruction” provision of New York State’s death penalty law, holding that the instruction created a “substantial risk of coercing jurors into sentencing a defendant to death” in violation of the Due Process clause of New York State’s Constitution. The Assembly responded to the Court of Appeals’ decision to invalidate the death penalty statute by holding five open public hearings in late 2004 and early 2005, which I Co-Chaired as Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Correction, to provide a public forum to review what New York’s experience with the death penalty over the past nine years has been, and what that experience has taught us. The hearings also solicited views on how the experience of other states, the Federal government and other nations can help inform New York’s actions on the issue.

Bill to Reinstate the Death Penalty is Defeated in the Assembly Codes Committee
Shortly after the Assembly public hearings on the death penalty concluded, a bill was brought forward by the Assembly Minority to reinstate the death penalty in New York State. The bill proposed that those convicted of first degree murder be unanimously sentenced by a jury to death, life imprisonment without parole, or an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of between 20 and 25 years, to be determined by the court, and a maximum term of life imprisonment (A.1452). The Assembly defeated this bill in a Codes Committee Meeting in April 2005. This means that the death penalty was not reinstated in New York State in 2005, but legislation may be brought forward during the 2007 legislative session to again seek its reinstatement.


Compilation Of Five Public Hearings Drawing Testimony From 170 Witnesses For And Against State Law
I, as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Correction, as well as Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, Chair of Codes Committee, and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, Chair of Judiciary, released a report on April 3, 2005, entitled “The Death Penalty in New York State.” This 58-page report is a product of five public hearings on the death penalty in New York State which I conducted as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Correction along with the Chairs of the Assembly Committees on Codes and Judiciary. The report highlights the testimony from 170 witnesses. According to testimony received by the committees, under New York’s death penalty statute, 148 people have been sentenced to Life Without Parole (LWOP) in the 10 years since the death penalty was enacted in 1995. The report found that in the past 10 years, state and local governments have spent over $170 Million administering the law without executing a single person. Only seven persons were sentenced to death since 1995, and of these, the first four sentences to reach the Court of Appeals were struck down on various grounds. One sentence was converted to a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole after the Lavalle decision, and two sentences were awaiting review. Of those who testified, 148 opposed the death penalty, 9 argued in favor of the death penalty, 5 argued in favor of the death penalty but suggested specific changes in the statute (other than those necessary to address the LaValle decision) and 8 did not express an explicit view for or against the death penalty.


Rockefeller Drug Law Reform - 2005
In May 2005, I introduced a new Rockefeller Drug Law Reform bill (A.8098) which seeks to sentence certain drug offenders to mandatory drug treatment, expand judicial discretion, and modify drug law sentences for lower level non-violent drug law offenders. Some of the provisions of this bill include the establishment of a drug court in each county of the state which would be authorized to direct certain eligible defendants who have a substance abuse dependency to a Court Approved Drug Abuse Treatment (CADAT) program wherein prosecutors in all cases have the first opportunity to decide whether eligible defendants (without violent histories charged with a lower level drug offenses) are appropriate candidates for diversion from prison to drug abuse treatment. The bill also reforms sentencing laws, creating a new crime for major drug traffickers, and makes A-II and Class B drug offenders eligible to apply to their sentencing court for a conversion of their sentence to a new term consistent with the sentencing reforms enacted in 2004. Weight thresholds are increased for certain Class A, B, C, and D level narcotic offenses (the 2004 bill increased the weight thresholds for Class A-I and A-II drug possession offenses only). Sentences for certain offenders are increased, including a new drug kingpin crime with a sentence of 15-30 years to life in prison, creates a new crime for persons who use minors to aid in selling drugs, and increases the penalty for selling drugs to a minor. The statute that relates to the presumption that if a person is in an automobile or room when certain controlled substances are found, the person is presumed to have possessed that controlled substance is amended to allow a jury to make a “permissible inference” rather than presume that all occupants (i.e., enclosed areas such as a room, car, etc.) possessed the controlled substance.

Rockefeller Drug Law Reform - 2004
In 2004, the Assembly Majority and the Senate reached a bipartisan agreement to reform sentencing provisions of the state’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. The agreement, which I sponsored, provides for possible retroactive sentencing relief for approximately 400 A-I offenders currently incarcerated. Weight possession thresholds were also changed under the bill for A-1 and A-II heroin and cocaine possession crimes from 4 to 8 ounces for A-1 felonies and from 2 to 4 ounces for A-II felonies. Weight thresholds for sale and attempted sale crimes, as well as for possessing other drugs and at other felony levels, were not changed (A.11895/S.7802 of 2004; Laws of 2004, Chapter 738).

The Assembly Enhances Megan’s Law
The Sex Offender Registration Act, also known as Megan’s Law, allows the public to know when a convicted sex offender is living in their community through a community notification process (Laws of 1995, Chapter 195). Over the past 10 years, the Assembly has enacted more than 100 tough new anti-crime laws which have helped reduce the rate of violent crime in our state by 49 percent, more than any other state in the nation. During this legislative session, the Assembly has moved forward with a broad array of bills to strengthen Megan’s Law, more effectively prosecute sex crimes and pass a range of additional measures to enhance public safety. Additionally, I as Assembly Correction Committee Chair, along with Assembly Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol and Assembly Mental Health Committee Chair Peter Rivera, expect to conduct legislative roundtables in the next few months regarding civil commitment legislation. For specific information on amendments to Megan’s Law that passed in the Assembly, please click here.

Sex Offenders Banned from Using Medicaid to Obtain Viagara
The Assembly introduced new legislation, which I supported, aimed at banning the use of public funds to cover Viagra and other prescriptions or medical procedures intended to enhance sexual performance for registered sex offenders (A.8833). The legislation would prohibit public funding of drugs, such as Viagra, or procedures intended to enhance sexual performance for registered sex offenders through state-funded health insurance programs, including: Medicaid, Family Health Plus, Child Health Plus (which covers teenagers up to age 19), Healthy NY, and EPIC. The bill also requires the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, which maintains the sex offender registry, to work with relevant state agencies to identify registered sex offenders.

Assembly Extends and Improves Kendra’s Law
After holding two public hearings on Kendra’s Law, The Assembly passed legislation, which I co-sponsored, to improve care for those suffering from a mental illness by extending Kendra’s Law to 2010. The 1999 statute, named for Kendra Webdale, who was killed after being pushed in front of a New York City subway train by a diagnosed schizophrenic, is aimed at ensuring individuals with mental illness follow prescribed medical treatment plans. The statute was set to expire on June 30, 2005. Kendra’s Law links court-ordered treatment with a system of comprehensive care in which state and local authorities work together to ensure access to assisted outpatient services for certain mentally ill patients (A.8954/S.5876; Delivered to Governor).

Assembly Passes VaSean’s Law
VaSean’s Law was named in memory of 11-year-old VaSean Alleyne, the victim of a drunk driver who could not be charged with a felony under current law. VaSean’s Law would strengthen provisions of the current law to make it easier for District Attorneys to prosecute drivers for vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter when serious physical injury or death is caused by a person driving a vehicle while intoxicated or impaired by the use of a drug. Under terms of the legislation, which I support, existing state law would be tightened by removing the element of criminal negligence now required to prosecute crimes of vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter. The measure would provide that a person who drives while intoxicated and kills or seriously injures another person because of that intoxication would be guilty of vehicular manslaughter or vehicular assault. The bill would also create a statutory presumption that any driver who kills or injures another while drunk is guilty of a felony (A.6285-B/S.1872-B; Delivered to the Governor).

photo Assemblyman Aubry speaks to the Coalition for Women Prisoners on their lobby day in Albany on March 8, 2005.

Assembly Passess Bill to Address Excessive Costs of Collect Phone Calls from Inmates to their Families
I introduced legislation, which the Assembly has passed, to address the excessive costs of collect phone calls from inmates to their families. This has been a persistent problem since MCI was awarded a contract to operate the Department of Correctional Services’ (DOCS) Inmate Call Home Program in 1996. The legislation amends Correction Law to provide inmates who make collect calls with fair market telephone rates. (The average inmate collect call, under the current phone system costs 630% more than if the call was made outside the prison phone system.) Under the bill, DOCS shall offer inmates either a debit or collect call system for telephone service to which funds may be deposited into the inmate’s account in order to pay for station to station calls. The collect call system shall also provide the lowest market rates available to the receiver of collect calls from inmates (A.7231 – Passed Assembly; S.5299).


The Assembly passed legislation, which I supported, that would increase income eligibility for the “Over 65” property tax exemption (A.8696) and the real property tax exemption for people with disabilities to $29,000 (A.8697). The bill would allow local municipalities to increase the maximum income for both exemptions from $24,000 to $25,000, effective July 1, rising incrementally to $29,000 over the next five years. Under the measure, eligible seniors could receive a 50 percent exemption on their property taxes. Localities may also grant an exemption of less than 50 percent to senior citizens and people with disabilities whose incomes exceed the local income limit. For example, in a community that has taken this “sliding-scale” option and adopts the $29,000 income maximum, an eligible resident earning up to $33,400 on July 1 or up to $37,400 in 2009 may be eligible to receive an exemption of between 45 and 5 percent based on the sliding scale. I also supported legislation which ensures that seniors enrolled in the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program (EPIC) continue to have access to benefits when they reside in a nursing home (Passed Assembly 5/23/05).


The Assembly passed legislation which I supported that provides permanent guardianship status for suitable relatives of children when parental rights of the children have been terminated or the children are otherwise freed for adoption and living with the relative or relatives (A.348; Passed Assembly 4/18/05). I also supported legislation that: provides an unlisted telephone number at no additional charge to victims of domestic violence with an order of protection (A.617; Passed Assembly 2/1/05); protects children from child abuse by expanding the list of mandated reporters of such abuse to include clergy and the types of child abuse which must be reported (A.912-A Passed Assembly 5/23/05); and that allows a parent seeking an out-of-home placement for a severely disabled child to retain custody rather than be required to relinquish custody to the county (A.2650; Passed Assembly 4/18/05).


The Assembly passed legislation which I supported that: ensures that the opinions and determinations of a public assistance applicant’s treating health care practitioner are given sufficient weight when making disability determinations (A.5402; Passed Assembly 5/17/05); protects certain Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients from being placed in work assignments that could potentially jeopardize their health (A.5445; Passed Assembly 5/31/05); and extends the Food Assistance Program (FAP) until September 30, 2007, ensuring that all those immigrants who are either elderly or victims of domestic violence eligible for FAP but not elgible for federal food stamps continue to receive food assistance (A.7486; Passed Assembly 5/25/05).


Timothy’s Law
The Assembly passed “Timothy’s Law,” a bill that ends discrimination against people who need mental health and chemical dependency care (A.2912). The legislation is named for Timothy O’Clair, a 12-year-old boy who took his own life after years of battling mental illness. Timothy’s parents were unable to get their son the mental health services he needed to recover from depression after they exhausted the 30 inpatient days and 20 outpatient visits provided by their health insurance policy – limits that do not exist for other services. Under current law, health insurance companies may even deny coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of mental health and chemical dependency. “Timothy’s Law” would end the discriminatory practice of limiting coverage for mental health and chemical dependency care, providing coverage comparable to other health care and medical services.

Emergency Contraception Bill Passed
The Assembly and Senate passed legislation, which I co-sponsored, that would allow women needing Emergency Contraception (EC) – or the morning after pill – to access it through a pharmacist or registered nurse without a prescription. Current law requires a prescription from a doctor before a pharmacist can dispense EC – often impeding women from getting treatment in time to prevent pregnancy. EC is often confused with RU-486 – the abortion pill – but works in a completely different manner. EC prevents conception and will not end an established pregnancy as does RU-486 (A.116/S.3661 – Passed Assembly and Senate).


Protecting College Students
A new law, which I supported, to protect college students from the financial ruin that often results from overaggressive credit card marketing will take effect July 1, 2005 (Ch. 694 of 2004). Credit card companies are aggressively targeting college students and the results have been less than positive. This law will help alleviate the danger of a student taking on too much debt. As a means of protecting college students from credit card debt, the law prohibits marketing credit cards on college campuses unless the college adopts an official credit card marketing policy.

Governmental Reform


The Assembly, in its attempt to make State Government more open, accountable, and responsive to the needs of New Yorkers, has made progress on a variety of issues related to reforming and improving the legislative process which includes, but is not limited to: enacting rule changes that ends empty seat voting; instituting Tuesday sessions; clarifying the Rules Committee’s function and making its meetings public; expanding the deadline for bill introductions; and requiring the adoption of budget resolutions in early March to facilitate timely budgets.


A bi-partisan budget reform agreement was also reached by the legislature by overriding the Governor’s veto of this bipartisan legislation, which moves the beginning of New York’s fiscal year to May 1st (formerly April 1st) to allow for better revenue and spending projections. If a budget is not passed by May 1st, a contingency budget that is equivalent to the budget of the previous year would take effect to ensure state funding until a budget agreement is reached. The reforms would also require a two-year appropriation for education aid that will help schools plan ahead by giving them the information they need, when they need it. The reforms will also create a reserve fund in the State Constitution to ensure education aid can be paid in May and June of each year.


Assembly Passes Four-Bill Pay Equity Legislative Package
The Assembly passed a four-bill legislative package, which I supported, aimed at providing pay equity for women in New York State. The approval of the package marks the eighth consecutive year the Assembly has taken legislative action in an effort to end wage discrimination. The legislation would implement a state policy of equal compensation for work of comparable worth for state and public employees (A.305, Grannis); make discriminatory salary practices unlawful, especially in traditionally female-dominated occupations (A.2825, DiNapoli); enact the New York State Fair Pay Act, ensuring pay differentiation is not based on a person’s sex, race or national origin (A.3637, John); and make it a discriminatory practice for public employers to compensate employees of opposite sexes differently for work that is of comparable worth (A.1470, Stringer). The bills were passed in the Assembly and the Senate.

New York State Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry
District Office
98-09 Northern Boulevard
Corona, New York 11368
T: (718) 457-3615
F: (718) 457-3640

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If you have a question, problem or an idea, please do not hesitate to call or drop by and we will do our best to try to assist you.
Legislative Office
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Albany, New York 12248
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