As the 2009 legislative session came to a close this spring, new challenges and obstacles face our state. This year the Assembly has worked successfully to pass important legislation to secure and improve the lives of New Yorkers. From school governance to public transportation, from rent regulation to job programs, and despite the Senate, I have worked diligently to make sure that state government serves our community.
In 2009, the Assembly tackled many important issues relating to our struggling economy, our schools, and equal rights for all New Yorkers. I will continue to work to make New York’s economy thrive and make our state a safer and more prosperous place to live and work.
Please know that I am always ready to help you. If you have a question, a problem or concern, please do not hesitate to contact me or visit one of my district offices in Western Queens. I and my staff will do our very best to assist you. I am proud to serve the great people of Queens and look forward to working with you.
The Assembly completed its schedule for the 2009 Legislative Session on time this year. Passing 1,252 bills since January, holding weekly committee meetings and community hearings, the Assembly worked across party lines to meet the challenges of the difficult economy.
“There are always new challenges and disagreements in government, but what’s important is meeting the needs of New York’s hardworking families,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “The legislation passed by the Assembly increases government transparency and gives New Yorkers access to more information, allowing them to make better-informed decisions and have more trust in their state government.”
The Assembly passed many key measures to make it easier for governments to consolidate, fight against discrimination and close a record budget gap with an on-time budget. The Assembly’s legislative accomplishments include:
One of the key pieces of legislation that was signed into law was the restructuring of the financially strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Ch. 25 of 2009). The law put an end to the MTA’s proposed severe service eliminations and cuts and instituted reforms of how the authority operates.
“This is a major victory for commuters and our regional economy,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “The MTA’s plan would eliminate subway and bus lines and drastically scale back services. In the end the Assembly saved the transit system, saved the fare and kept subways and buses running for the long haul.”
The Assembly has passed legislation which I sponsored about the school governance in New York City. This bill will give parents a greater and more meaningful role in their children’s education – at their local schools, the community school district and the board of education. In addition, the bill preserves accountability, promotes transparency and serves the best interests of our children and their schools.
“During the many hours listening to over 250 parents, teachers and community members at our hearings in all five boroughs, we heard time and time again about the need for more parental participation,” said Nolan. “This bill addresses this concern and makes the system more accountable to the public by providing for greater transparency of the school district’s data and finances.”
The Assembly also passed a package of bills to protect tenants and strengthen New York’s rent laws. “We need to support tenants, especially in large buildings in Long Island City and Sunnyside, and also support our small landlords and NYCHA residents,” said Assemblywoman Nolan.
Rockefeller Drug Laws
As part of the 2009-2010 state budget, the Assembly passed long-overdue reform of the 35-year-old Rockefeller Drug Laws.
“It’s been a long time, but we finally passed significant reforms,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “In a careful and prudent manner, the Assembly, led by Assemblymember Aubry, took a big step forward at last. These reforms restore judicial discretion to mandate treatment for lower-level drug offenders as a potential alternative to a lengthy state prison sentence.”
The Assembly Majority and Minority worked in a bipartisan manner to pass ethics reform legislation that shines even greater light on state government. The bill increases financial disclosure and creates several independent entities to oversee ethics and lobbying in New York (A.9032).
“The Assembly is building on its commitment to ethics reform and the 2007 law that was passed to improve the way government does business,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “This bipartisan legislation improves oversight and continues our efforts to make state government more open and accountable.”
The Assembly passed a responsible state budget this year that closed a record budget gap.
Noting the extraordinary economic challenges facing the nation, Assemblywoman Nolan said this year’s spending plan closed a projected $17.6 billion gap by implementing $6 billion in necessary spending cuts, raising $5.2 billion in revenue, utilizing $1.1 billion in non-recurring revenues and maximizing $6.2 billion in federal stimulus dollars.
Nolan added that the budget prevented the deepest cuts to schools, reversed some damaging cuts proposed for health care, and started implementation of permanent health care spending reforms that will lead to $1.6 billion in savings this year and billions more in future years.
The Assembly passed bipartisan legislation authorizing the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to create and administer the “green jobs, green New York” program, which provides financing to communities, homes, small businesses and not-for-profits to help revitalize the economy in an energy-independent and environmentally responsible way (A.8901).
“This program will simultaneously help revive New York’s struggling economy and protect our environment,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “We’ll be tackling our economic and environmental problems head-on by investing in green energy sources, while creating the jobs to support this new industry. Clean, energy-efficient communities are the key to our future, and New York needs to take positive, proactive steps to make it happen.”
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will provide $112 million in funding for residential and small business energy efficiency projects. A revolving loan fund will help commit resources – with no less than 50 percent of the capital going to “retrofit” residential homes with green technology.
The Assembly also passed legislation to extend the Power for Jobs program through May 15, 2010. Power for Jobs provides low-cost energy to job-creating businesses and not-for-profit organizations across New York State (A.8825-A).
“Low-cost power helps businesses and not-for-profits compete in today’s marketplace by providing them relief from the high energy costs that plague our state,” Assemblywoman Nolan said. “This extender would ensure that businesses participating in this program will continue to receive the benefits they need to protect and create more jobs.”
The Assembly passed legislation to help give students a safe learning environment free of harassment and discrimination (A.3661-B). The Dignity for All Students Act promotes civility among students and between students and teachers; it will also help create an atmosphere where the focus is on learning and distractions are minimized.
“Students should feel safe when at school so they can concentrate on their academic and personal growth. They should never have to worry about threats or bullying, harassment, or discrimination,” Nolan said. “It’s our job to ensure that every learning environment is safe, supportive and welcoming to all students. The Dignity for All Students Act is a solid step in the right direction and will help create a positive environment for our children to learn in.”
Summer Meal Programs
New York City Department of Education is once again offering free breakfast and lunch during Summer 2009. Children will be able to enjoy a free breakfast and lunch at any open site in the city, even if they do not attend public schools or live in NYC. No payment, registration, documentation or ID is required. “This program helps to ensure that all children are able to eat well during the summer holidays,” said Nolan. For a list of participating schools in Western Queens or more information please call 311 or my office.
Hunters Point South
Recently Mayor Bloomberg announced that Hunters Point South will include middle-income affordable housing, open space, a community facility, retail and a school. The first phase of $175 million infrastructure improvements will begin this fall at Hunters Point South and it will create 4,600 jobs. “I have long been a supporter of this project and am happy to see this new community here at Hunters Point South,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. “I am hopeful that the long-time residents of Vernon Boulevard area and the new residents of Hunters Point South can all benefit from a vibrant arts community, a new middle and high school, adequate police and fire protection facilities, a library and accessible bus
Live at the Gantries
I am thrilled to be able to help provide funding for the Long Island City Live at the Gantries outdoor performance series. These performances not only highlight the talent of Queens residents, but also give everyone a chance to experience a wide range of music, dance and theatrical performances. I encourage all Queens residents to take advantage of these free and very impressive performances. Shows are currently running now until mid August. For more information please check out www.liveatthegantries.com.