This has been a very difficult year for the citizens of New York. Because of the hard economic times, the Senate and Assembly were unable to resolve the $9.2 billion deficit by April 1st and have continued to wrestle with ways to responsibly cut spending while finding new revenues to reach the goal of a balanced budget for the SFY 2010-11.
The budget and legislative achievements of 2010 will be editorialized for some time. Some will decry in the process, others the outcome. We have tried in the face of severe financial decline to hold the line on spending, preserve vital programs and reduce spending in certain areas.
It is my hope that this year we can begin the climb back to economic good times. We will spend $136 billion dollars this year to support the State of New York. Job creation and positive business growth will help stimulate the economy and allow us to climb back to economic strength.
In addition to information about the State’s SFY 2010-11 budget this newsletter also highlights legislation I sponsored and was signed into law. Despite the hard economic times, we had many legislative accomplishments this year that are described in this newsletter.
Finally, the state’s fiscal commitment to education, both primary and higher education, were challenged in this budget. I believe that the long-term benefits to society are promoted by fairly funding education. Therefore, I fought hard to make sure that the state lived up to its commitment to properly fund education.
The newsletter will give you an overview of the many areas which impact us in the 35th Assembly District.
Jeffrion L. Aubry
Member of Assembly
35th A.D. Queens County
The Assembly and Senate completed the SFY 2010-2011 $135.7 billion state budget on August 3, 2010—closing a $9.2 billion deficit without borrowing or instituting the governor’s broad-based soda tax. With the budget now complete and the $9.2 billion deficit closed, the state can move forward towards true economic recovery after closing an $18 billion deficit—the largest in New York State history.
We recognized that New York was facing unprecedented fiscal challenges and we made the necessary cuts to keep state government running. We also were careful to protect the vital programs and services New York families rely on. While the governor vetoed a large portion of our budget—and in fact has already started with the school aid we restored and paid for—the truth is we did the right thing for the people of New York.
Parts of the Final 2010-2011 State Budget the Governor Vetoed:
Restoration of $600 million—including $186 million for New York City—of the governor’s $1.4 billion in devastating school aid cuts.
The Final 2010-2011 State Budget:
Restores $49 million to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and a $56 million restoration to community colleges, including $40.3 million to restore $285 per FTE for SUNY community colleges;
Creates a new Excelsior Jobs program to attract new businesses, create more jobs and help get the economy back on track. When added to tax credits from the Empire Zones program, New York businesses will receive approximately $5.5 billion in tax benefits over the next 10 years;
Merges and consolidates state agencies and reduces spending, saving taxpayers $9 million;
Cuts the Legislature’s budget by approximately $2 million;
Includes no new member items;
Reopens the 58 state parks and historic sites the governor closed;
Maintains funding for two vital transportation programs at the 2009-10 budget level: the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), and the Marchiselli Program, otherwise known as the Municipal Streets and Highway Program;
Funds a two-year Department of Transportation road and bridge capital plan totaling $6.9 billion;
Allows the full 10 percent public assistance grant increase to take effect July 1;
Restores vital Title XX discretionary funding to local districts to help save New York City senior centers slated for closure;
Includes $25.5 million to fund the MTA Schoolfare program, saving student MetroCards;
Modernizes the Crime Victims Board by restructuring it so that it will become the Office of Victim Services, which will streamline the claims process and provide victims with easier access to support services;
Rejects the governor’s “Sugar Tax,” which would have increased working families’ grocery bills by $450 million;
Covers the costs of the MTA Payroll Tax for public, non-public and parochial schools;
Includes an additional $2.8 billion for unemployment insurance benefits, bringing the total to $10 billion, and restores in total $5.8 million for the Displaced Homemaker Program, the Jobs for Youth program and the NYS AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute; and
Provides $92 million for adult homeless shelters.
The severe, worldwide economic downturn produced unprecedented fiscal challenges for our state. In the face of that storm, we were tasked with crafting a responsible, balanced budget—without placing the burden on New York’s working families. We cut with a scalpel, not an axe. And we stood up for our state’s most vulnerable residents—the unemployed, our children, our seniors and the destitute. The Assembly completed that mission—and New York is a stronger state today because of it.
A.5462-A (Chapter 113 Laws of 2010)
This legislation will make New York law more responsive to the unique circumstances of families separated by incarceration by allowing a foster care agency to delay the filing of a petition to terminate the parental rights of a parent who is incarcerated or participating in a residential substance abuse treatment program. Before this change, New York law required social services agencies to begin proceedings to terminate parental rights when a child has been in foster care for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months, even where such termination may not be in the best interest of the child. Considering that the median sentence for women in New York’s prisons is 36 months, incarcerated mothers were at serious and disproportionate risk of losing their parental rights. Research suggests that the law’s rigid requirements have had a negative effect on incarcerated parents and their children. Providing expanded discretion will empower foster care agencies to meet the special challenges of families involved in the criminal justice system and, in appropriate circumstances, caseworkers will have more time to work toward reunification or other permanent placements that do not involve serving family bonds forever.
A.10061 (Chapter 256 Laws of 2010)
This legislation will allow inmates in state and local correctional facilities to perform work for non-profit corporations. Until now, the New York Constitution only allowed inmates to perform work for governmental entities. In November of 2009, the citizens of New York overwhelming voted in favor of amending the Constitution to allow inmates to work for non-profits. This legislation enacts that Constitutional change and will help fill the gap in funding while providing inmates a sense of “giving back” to the community.
A.11391 (Passed Assembly and Senate—Waiting
for Action by Governor)
This legislation will expand eligibility for the Shock Incarceration Program to certain non-violent offenders. The Shock program provides inmates with an opportunity for early release from prison following a 6-month regimen of intensive treatment and education programs. The program has proven to be effective at reducing recidivism upon release and saving the state money. For the 35,102 releases from Shock through September 30, 2006, the state saved an estimated $1.18 billion in both incarceration-related costs while improving the likelihood that persons released from prison will successfully reintegrate into society.
Part E of A.9706-C (Chapter 56 Laws of 2010) establishes a new and independent Office of Indigent Legal Services to examine, evaluate and monitor public defense services throughout the state. The Office will report to the newly created Indigent Legal Services Board which will be comprised of 9 members, with the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals acting as Chair. Together, the Office and Board will work to improve public defense services around the state
Part LL of A.9706-C (Chapter 56 Laws of 2010) makes conforming changes to various sections of law where only one certificate of rehabilitation is mistakenly listed to ensure that both certificates of relief from disabilities and certificates of good conduct are properly recognized. Certificates of Relief from Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct provide a valuable way for people with criminal records to demonstrate rehabilitation. They restore rights and lift statutory bars to jobs or licenses that result from a conviction history. These certificates, which carry the same weight with regard to the restoration of rights, are essential resources to support the employment of individuals with criminal histories, thereby promoting public safety and saving tax dollars. This legislation will ensure that both certificates are properly recognized and that qualified persons are not arbitrarily bared from employment.
Part OO of A.9706-C (Chapter 56 Laws of 2010) enacts various re-entry related initiatives to improve the ability of persons returning from incarceration and those with criminal records to be successfully integrated into society. Upon return to the community from incarceration, individuals are expected to find and maintain gainful employment. Finding effective ways to promote ex-offenders find such gainful employment is critical to promoting public safety and curbing recidivism rates and the high costs of re-incarceration. The following initiatives included in the budget are aimed at assisting ex-offenders successfully reenter society following incarceration.
Section 1: Removes the prohibition against allowing a person with a criminal conviction to be employed by certain establishments, such as restaurants, that hold a liquor license. The ABC Law’s far-reaching prohibition prevented any employer with a liquor license, except those selling alcohol beverages retail for off-premises consumption, from hiring any individual in any capacity who has been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors. This meant that employers such as restaurants, hotels, sporting arenas and catering establishments that have liquor licenses could not hire busboys, waiters, chefs, maitre d’s, delivery persons or anyone else with criminal histories. This ban unreasonably eliminated thousands of jobs that could safely be made available to qualified people with criminal records. This section of the legislation will allow qualified persons with criminal records to be eligible for these jobs.
Section 4: Requires the Division of Criminal Justice Services to provide an inmate with a free copy of their criminal record to allow such inmate to address any inaccuracies in such record. With the recent explosion in technology and the exponential increase in the availability of inexpensive commercial background checks, NYS employers have easy access to criminal history information. However, criminal records often contain inaccuracies which can lead an employer to deny employment based on erroneous information. It is important that criminal records obtained and viewed by employers are accurate.
Section 6 and 7: Establishes that no fee shall be charged when a state or local correctional facility or a juvenile detention facility requests a birth certificate for a person being released. Persons being released from incarceration face many barriers to a successful reentry to the community. One significant barrier is the inability to obtain proper identification (i.e. driver’s license, social security card). Securing proper identification is vital to an inmate’s ability to find stable employment, housing and secure benefits. Providing each person with a birth certificate upon release will allow them to more easily obtain the necessary identification.
Section 8: Requires DOCS and Parole to notify offenders who have completed their sentence about their right to vote and to provide them with a voter registration form. Election Law § 5-106(2) provides that a person convicted of a felony and incarcerated is not eligible to vote. However, such person’s right to vote is automatically restored once they have served their maximum sentence or been discharged from parole. Unfortunately, there is widespread confusion and misinformation about the rights of people with criminal convictions to vote. This legislation will help to address this misinformation surrounding the voting rights of convicted felons by providing accurate information to persons released from prison and discharged from parole about their eligibility to register to vote. Increasing voter participation by people coming out of the criminal justice system gives them a voice and a stake in the community.
Prisoner Census Legislation (Part XX of A.9710-D) This legislation will require that state inmates be counted as residents of the address they lived at prior to incarceration rather than being counted as residents of the prison in which they are incarcerated for the purpose of drawing Assembly, Senate and local governmental legislative districts. Currently, the United States Bureau of the Census counts everyone housed in federal, state, and local correctional facilities as residents of the county in which the correctional facility is located. The state’s reliance on the Census Bureau’s flawed prison counts when drawing legislative districts violates federal law in two ways: it dilutes minority voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and it violates the one person, one vote principle of the Equal Prisoner Census Legislation (Part XX of A.9710-D) This legislation will require that state inmates be counted as residents of the address they lived at prior to incarceration rather than being counted as residents of the prison in which they are incarcerated for the purpose of drawing Assembly, Senate and local governmental legislative districts. Currently, the United States Bureau of the Census counts everyone housed in federal, state, and local correctional facilities as residents of the county in which the correctional facility is located. The state’s reliance on the Census Bureau’s flawed prison counts when drawing legislative districts violates federal law in two ways: it dilutes minority voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and it violates the one person, one vote principle of the Equal protection Clause, which requires voting districts to have equal numbers of residents (because people in prison are not residents of the districts where they are incarcerated and counted). Crediting the population of prisoners to the county where they are temporarily and involuntarily held creates electoral inequities. These electoral inequities occur because more than 75% of people in prison are people of color and over 70% are from urban communities. Thus, inmates from urban communities such as Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, and Syracuse are being counted for the purposes of redistricting in rural communities, leading to vote dilution for urban communities of color across the state. This legislation will remedy these inequities to ensure that urban communities are fairly represented.
The passage of the SFY 2010-11 budget will enhance criminal justice initiatives and streamline support services for crime victims and underserved New Yorkers—and also take vital steps to improve community safety (A.9700-D Chapter 50 Laws of 2010/ A.9706-C Chapter 56 Laws of 2010).
Victims of crime and violence may be too often forgotten in the criminal justice system, and they’re left to struggle to rebuild their lives and to regain a sense of normalcy and security without adequate guidance or support. This year’s budget builds on existing measures to provide crime victims with the tools and support they need to heal.
Supporting Crime Victims—Conversion of Crime Victims Board to the Office of Victims Services
The 2010-2011 budget includes a measure that will modernize the Crime Victims Board by reconstructing the board to an Office of Victim Services, which will streamline the claims process and provide victims with easier access to support services. A director would oversee the office, recommend and institute policy changes, preside over appeals and offer final compensation determinations.
It’s critical that crime victims’ needs are immediately met, and this calls for swift decisions and strong organization. Crime victims have been through enough; they suffer varying degrees of trauma. Establishing an office that exists to serve them without red tape is a necessary step in ensuring victims can begin to get their lives back on track.
Additionally, the budget maintains the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) as a stand-alone agency, funds it at $4.6 million and restores $210,000 for the domestic violence hotline.
Enhancing Criminal Justice Initiatives—Continued Support for Edward Byrne Memorial/JAG funding and ATI programs, Establishment of an Office of Indigent Legal Services
Several measures in this year’s budget will enhance or continue existing criminal justice initiatives.
Edward Byrne Memorial/Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funds provided under the federal stimulus package continue to support Rockefeller Drug Law Reform, as a means of cracking down on drug abuse and preventing drug-related crime in our communities. The budget also includes support for alternatives to incarceration (ATI) programs, such as drug and alcohol, mental illness and community service programs.
The Rockefeller Drug Laws failed to curb drug abuse and drug-related crime and only succeeded in jamming our prisons with low-level offenders who could have been better served by alternatives to incarceration, like mandatory drug treatment. Byrne/JAG grants fund our efforts to pursue a smarter approach to combat drug use and abuse. These funds give local governments the resources to support programs to keep kids out of trouble, and to provide needed equipment and training for law enforcement.
Improving Community Safety—Establishment of a Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
The 2010-2011 budget establishes a new Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, which merges emergency preparedness and public safety communications functions into one streamlined entity, including the State Emergency Management Office. The plan:
Consolidates three fire-related advisory boards into a new Advisory Council for Fire Prevention and Control;
Establishes an intrastate mutual aid program to allow municipalities to share resources and personnel in the event of a natural or man-made disaster; and
Establishes a new not-for-profit Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center to be staffed by former employees of the Office of Cyber Security.
The theme to this year’s budget is to learn to do more with less, to make belt-tightening changes while continuing to serve our communities effectively and efficiently. Streamlining services and systems is the responsible thing to do, and the public protection aspects of this budget fully embrace that concept in common-sense ways that will benefit New Yorkers as a whole.
Governor Paterson signed legislation that would limit New York City law enforcement officials from placing personal information in computerized databases—such as name, address, or Social Security Number—of individuals who have been stopped, questioned, or frisked but not charged with a crime (A.11177-A Chapter 176 Laws of 2010).
While stopping and questioning people on the street based on reasonable suspicion is permissible, if no legal action is taken against the person, his or her personal information should not be databanked and stored in the same manner as if he or she had committed a crime. Collection of that information into a broad, electronic database creates a threat to the right of privacy and, potentially, the unfortunate and incorrect perception that the person is suspected of committing a crime. That’s inappropriate and should not continue.
The Assembly’s legislation would not prohibit an officer from entering generic characteristics, such as race and gender, into a database. Additionally, nothing would prevent law enforcement agencies from maintaining records of stops, frisks and questioning in traditional formats, such as reports, forms and similar records.
A strong democracy demands a proper balance between effective law enforcement and individual rights. New Yorkers who obey the law should not be subjected to a lifetime of suspicion. The Assembly’s legislation would help ensure that stop-and-frisk records may be maintained but cannot be used to create a secret database of persons momentarily suspected but quickly exonerated.
The 2010-2011 state budget restores $25.5 million to fund the MTA Schoolfare program, an increase of $18.9 million over last year. In addition, the budget restores vital Title XX funding to local districts to help save senior centers slated for closure, including local senior centers.
The reduced-fare program helps schoolchildren and working families by lowering the cost of the burdensome daily commute many students endure. Providing these necessary funds will allow kids to focus on what’s really important—their education—not whether they can afford to get to school and back.
The senior centers provide meals, programs and companionship right here in our community to seniors who might otherwise live in isolation. They must remain open.
Additionally, all riders will benefit in the state budget because of a $160.6 million increase for the MTA over last year’s budget—for a total of $3.93 billion—as well as addressing the first two years of the MTA’s capital plan. The city taxpayers will also benefit from fiscal relief to the city through a reinstatement of Aid and Incentives to Municipalities next year and $150 million from new accounting rules on capital projects.
Governor Paterson signed legislation to promote minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) to help provide them with fair and equal opportunities.
Minority- and women-owned businesses are part of the lifeblood of small communities as well as urban centers, and they are playing a significant role in helping our economy get back on track. “It’s important to have diverse business owners who bring different perspectives and experiences to the marketplace. This bill will help more MWBEs succeed, in turn creating more jobs and boosting the economy.
Four bills were signed this week, including measures to:
raise the limit for making purchases from small businesses and MWBEs without a formal competitive process from $100,000 to $200,000 (A.11525 Chapter 173 Laws of 2010);
enhance the commitment of public authorities to include minority- and women-owned businesses in their procurement processes and direct them to consider issues of diversity when making appointments to their boards (A.11526 Chapter 174 Laws of 2010);
expand opportunities for MWBEs to participate in state procurements and establish policies to increase competition and diversity in state procurements (A.11527 Chapter 175 Laws of 2010); and
create MWBE regional advocates (A.5458).
A.11525 (Chapter 173 Laws of 2010) would provide state agencies with the flexibility they need to meet MWBE goals, and would ensure more opportunities for state contracting with small businesses. A.11526 (Chapter 174 Laws of 2010) expands opportunities for MWBEs in many ways, including:
having the boards of state public authorities consider the diversity of prospective nominees to those boards;
allowing the purchase of goods or services from small businesses and certified MWBEs in amounts of $200,000 or less without competitive bidding; and
strengthening the procurement guidelines for state public authorities.
It’s essential for MWBEs to be competitive, and that starts with their ability to get assistance from the state. This legislation achieves that goal.
The 2010-2011 state budget provides $3.4 million for the Minority and Women-owned Business Development Program, including:
$25 million for the Small Business Revolving Loan Fund targeting MWBEs;
$1.4 million for the Community Development Financial Institutions program;
$1.2 million for Entrepreneurial Assistance Centers; and
$635,000 for the Minority and Women-owned Business Development and Lending program.
The signing of budget measures will fund road and infrastructure projects statewide and support mass transit (A.9705-D Chapter 55 Laws of 2010/A.9709-C Chapter 59 Laws of 2010). The 2010-2011 budget appropriates $8.8 billion to the Department of Transportation, despite the tough economic times.
Legislation was signed that funded two vital programs at the 2009-10 budget level: the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), which assists local governments in financing construction, reconstruction or improvement of their highways and bridges, as well as the Marchiselli Program, known as the Municipal Streets and Highway Program, to provide municipalities with state funds to draw federal matching grants for local highway and bridge projects.
Combined with $3.65 billion in federal funding, this legislation will begin to put New Yorkers back to work and jumpstart our local economies. At a time when our families are struggling, creating and protecting jobs is a must.
In addition, the 2010-2011 budget:
Funds the two-year DOT capital program totaling $6.9 billion, in which $3.4 billion will be spent in 2010-11 and $3.5 billion will be spent in 2011-12;
Transfers $763 million from the General Fund into the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund for transportation related projects;
Restores $101 million in Multi-Modal reappropriations; and
Provides $500,000 to keep rest areas along state highways open.
The budget will shield New York City’s mass transit system from devastating cuts by funding the MTA at $3.93 billion, an increase of $160.6 million over last year. The budget also includes $25.5 million to fund the MTA Schoolfare program, an increase of $18.9 million over last year.
In addition, the transportation budget includes amortization for the MTA’s rapid bus transit program to install bus lane cameras. This pilot program will ensure that the best system is found for New York City’s unique traffic needs with the goal of reducing bus service travel time—getting riders to their destinations in a reliable, speedy manner.
Even though times are tough, we must fund transportation projects to keep New Yorkers safe on the roads. This money will be put to good use on our infrastructure and transit systems, while helping to provide jobs to many struggling New Yorkers.
My offices are here to serve you. 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.
District Office: 98-09 Northern Blvd., Corona, NY 11368 • 718-457-3615, FAX: 718-457-3640
Albany Office: Room 526, LOB , Albany, NY 12248 • 518-455-4561, FAX: 518-455-4565