Reports to the People
Spring 2004

In this issue…

Assembly passes resolution urging more homeland security funds

The Assembly passed a resolution urging the governor to advocate for a threat-based formula for awarding federal homeland security funding.

When it comes to federal anti-terrorism funding, New York State’s share per capita typically ranks near the bottom among the 50 states. Important factors such as population, potential targets and threat levels are not being taken into consideration in the current formula for disbursing homeland security funding. That must change.

It is clear that we need more federal funding. Our many high-profile landmarks such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, extensive transportation network, and our 500-mile international border with Canada make us a major target for more terrorist attacks.

New York is also financially penalized by an arbitrary cap on the federal FIRE (Firefighter Improvement and Response Enhancement) Act grants, which provide money for municipal preparedness efforts. While Montana is budgeted for $9.07 per capita in FIRE grants, New York gets only $1.79. Under the High Threat Urban Area Grant Program, New York City receives a mere $5.87 per capita, while Miami and Orlando receive $52.82 and $47.14, respectively. New York State ranks 40th in the nation under the program, with a per capita allocation of $8.84, compared to Vermont’s $31.96.

The president and Congress must stop shortchanging New York and start getting realistic about the threat from terrorism our state faces. It is imperative that New York is adequately protected from terrorist attacks.

Identity theft law protects New Yorkers’ bank accounts

Assemblyman Abbate discusses legislation with New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
A bill I supported last year and became law will help prevent the growing crime of identity theft. The new law requires merchants to remove expiration dates of debit and credit cards from electronically created printed receipts. It also requires that no more than the last five digits of the account number appear on receipts.

Our society increasingly relies on debit and credit cards that create receipts with our personal information every time we make a transaction. This system is convenient, but it is also an easy target for thieves to obtain account numbers and rack-up illegal charges. This new law helps to protect consumers from this kind of theft.

The Federal Trade Commission reported that in the past five years over 27 million Americans have been victims of identity theft. In the past year, close to 10 million people were victims of this crime, and paid $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses. Businesses and financial institutions faced $48 billion in expenses.

All new credit and debit card machines must comply if they were placed into service after January 1, 2004. Machines in use before then have until January 1, 2007 to meet the new standards. The maximum civil penalty for not complying with the law is $4,500.

This new law creates better protection from identity theft for the people of New York. The number of Americans who are faced with this violation every year is skyrocketing, and it is essential that we do more to curb this trend.

To report a violation, call the New York State Consumer Protection Board at 1-800-697-1220 or visit
Supporting tougher fines for "Do Not Call" violators

New legislation that I support would more than double fines for violating the "Do Not Call" law from $5,000 to $11,000. The law protects consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls.

We’re sending a message loud and clear that families do not want their homes invaded by calls from telemarketers. When someone has made the effort to place their number on the "Do Not Call" registry, they deserve some assurance they will not be called — it’s that simple.

Since the creation of the state registry in 2001, over three million households across the state have signed up, and an estimated half-billion unwanted calls have been blocked from New York homes.

Last year, New York became one of 15 states to merge the state’s registry with the federal registry – a move that saved taxpayers over $1 million in operating costs. The "Do Not Call" registry is available to personal numbers including cell phones, but not business numbers. Registration lasts five years.

"Do Not Call" means do not call. Creating stiffer penalties for violating New York’s law will better protect our families. Having a telephone line should not be an invitation for endless annoying calls from telemarketers. New York has been a leader in preventing this kind of harassment, and this bill gives some teeth to the protection measures we’ve put in place.

Technology upgrade for life-saving system

"Up to half of 911 calls are made from wireless phones, and most people wrongfully assume that in an emergency, an operator will be able to trace their location. It’s time to put life-saving technology to work for New Yorkers."
Members of the Assembly majority successfully fought to get New York City awarded $23,116,275 to enable local dispatch centers to pinpoint emergency calls from wireless phones. Since people are increasingly relying on wireless phones in their daily lives, it’s imperative that our city’s E-911 system be able to trace the location of calls from these phones. The approval of funding for this system upgrade is a crucial step toward ensuring the safety of our residents.

One of the system’s weaknesses is that emergency dispatchers are not able to trace wireless 911 calls to the location of the caller, sometimes leading to a fatal situation like the one that took the lives of four teenagers in a boating accident off City Island when their 911 cell phone call was mishandled and couldn’t be traced. The state funding will be provided to local public safety dispatch centers so they can upgrade their technology.

It’s time for New York to join other states in implementing an enhanced wireless 911 system so that emergency personnel can quickly locate people in distress. I’ll continue to help New Yorkers receive the life-saving services they need in an emergency.

West Nile Virus:
Fight the Bite!

To help protect your family and yourself when mosquito season arrives, I’ve outlined below some information about the West Nile virus and how to take steps to reduce mosquitoes around your home.

What is West Nile virus?
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness and in some cases, death. Most mosquitoes do not transmit disease. Although chances of a person getting sick are small, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.

What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?
Mild cases of West Nile infections may include a slight fever and/or headache. More severe infections are marked by a rapid onset of a high fever with head and body aches, disorientation, tremors, convulsions and, in most severe cases, paralysis or death. Usually symptoms occur from 3 to 14 days after exposure. There is no specific treatment for viral infections, other than to treat the symptoms.

Who is most at risk for becoming seriously ill?
Persons who are a highest risk for serious illness are persons over the age of 50. Healthy children and adults are at a low risk for serious illness.

To reduce the mosquitoes around your home and property:

  • Reduce or eliminate all standing water
  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers
  • Remove all discarded tires on your property. Used tires are common mosquito breeding sites
  • Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers
  • Remove leaf debris
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use
  • Change the water in birdbaths
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs
  • Drain water from pool covers
  • Use landscaping to eliminate any areas of standing water around your property
  • Keep roof gutters clean

Ensuring that our schools receive the resources needed to provide a quality education

A recent study conducted by nearly 60 principals, superintendents, school business officials, and special education directors from communities across the state found that the current formula for distributing resources to school districts is below the level needed to ensure students receive a quality education.

In addition to educators, the study, hosted by the Campaign for Fiscal Equality (CFE), also solicited and integrated the input of hundreds of other "stakeholders," including school board members, parents, business leaders, policy makers, representatives from the state legislature, and from the governor’s staff. They specified precise conditions such as class sizes, teacher-pupil ratios, and levels of extended day/extended year programming to ensure every student has a full chance to meet the Regents’ standards.

The CFE study further supports the June 2003 Court of Appeals decision which gave the state until July 2004 to make major reforms to ensure that all students are afforded their right to a sound basic education. This decision supported a prior decision that found the state formula for funding schools shortchanged New York City schools.

The Assembly majority is committed to ensuring that every school district in the state receives the resources it needs to provide quality education. My colleagues and I in the Assembly majority have stood up for reduced class sizes, pre-K and full-day kindergarten, teacher training and school repairs — programs that work. I’ll continue to fight to see that our city schools get the funding they need and are owed to ensure our children get a sound education.

Fighting for quality affordable health care

Last year, the Legislature enacted a budget that restored more than $1 billion in funds for Medicaid, public health, and Health Care Reform Act programs — protecting the hospitals, nursing homes and caregivers providing quality health care.

The Assembly has continually worked to reduce Medicaid costs, while standing up for the best possible care for working families — because we can’t continue to let the fiscal burden fall on local taxpayers. In 1994, the Assembly supported a plan for the state to assume a larger portion of Medicaid costs from counties – targeting two of the fastest growing components: long-term care and managed- care costs. But then in 1995 the governor eliminated the second phase of the plan. More recently, he demanded that counties cover part of the cost of Family Health Plus, despite the Assembly’s stipulation that the state pay the entire non-federal share. These actions alone have cost county property taxpayers $754 million.

Just this past October, I supported legislation to relieve counties across New York of $172 million in previously owed Medicaid debt. The Assembly has worked hard to protect our families. The governor must stop cutting corners when it comes to the health care our families depend on.


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