It is with great pleasure that I report to you about this past legislative session. As you may have read, this was one of the most productive sessions in legislative history and truly was a "Year of Reform." For the first time in 21 years, the budget was passed on time. Most importantly, it is a good budget, giving more money to our schools and municipalities. In particular, I secured a $10,000 grant for the Scarsdale Teen Center and am continuing to seek capital opportunities for the Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
"Year of Reform"
Reforming the way the two houses of the Legislature conduct business was a major step forward for the Legislature. Now, lawmakers must be present to have their votes counted and, as of early this January, we are proud to be on cable television. The Legislature also agreed to require lobbyists seeking state contracts to disclose their fees and clients, closed a loophole that allowed state workers to evade ethics fines by quitting their jobs, and moved to increase oversight of the state’s many public authorities. These important reforms make our government more open and more responsible.
Appointed Chair of Task Force on People with Disabilities
I am honored to have been appointed Chair of the Task Force on People with Disabilities. As chair, I launched a strong campaign to extend both the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program (EPIC) and the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program (SCRIE) to people with disabilities, the latter of which was successfully signed into law.
Because the protections of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are in danger due to the frequent scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Assembly also passed three bills that reinforce the ADA on the state level.
Emergency Contraception – "The Morning After Pill"
After much hard work, my Emergency Contraception Bill passed both houses of the Legislature. This legislation would make emergency contraception more accessible by allowing licensed pharmacists to dispense it. Women would be able to obtain emergency contraception from pharmacies on weekends and holidays when many doctors’ offices are closed. Though Governor Pataki vetoed the bill, I will continue to fight to make it law this year.
As former director of My Sisters’ Place, I remain committed to eradicating domestic violence. This year I organized "Walk With Me," the first ever march in Westchester County to raise awareness of domestic violence. Students, community leaders, concerned citizens and victims all participated in this march at Concordia College.
I have also been working in the Assembly to extend the length of Orders of Protection for battered women. This year I am hoping to obtain the support of my colleagues and pass meaningful legislation.
In terms of legislation, 2005 was a banner year; nine of my bills became law. Highlights include:
- Gun Trafficking
My bill increases the penalties for both the sale and possession of illegal firearms and closes a loophole by aggregating the number of illegal firearms sold over the course of one year so that gun traffickers face stiffer penalties.
- Crime Victims
Arising from a Westchester criminal case involving a child witness, this new law allows the Crime Victims Board to grant compensation to victims whose pre-existing condition was made worse by their unintentional involvement with a crime.
Prior to my legislation, post graduate podiatry residency programs were out of compliance with New York State law. The law had to be changed if these podiatry residency programs were to remain open. It was estimated that without this new law, forty-two podiatry residency programs in New York State would have been forced to close.
- Animal Cruelty
It is well documented that cruelty to animals is often a precursor to subsequent crimes against humans. My law requires those convicted of cruelty to animals to be fingerprinted and photographed. This new law addresses a gap that previously allowed such abusers to go unnoticed, but now provides law enforcement and the courts with more complete information, placing perpetrators more concretely within the justice system.
As the new year begins, I have been pleased to reflect on last year’s victories and lessons learned with an eye toward the challenges that lie ahead. There is still much to do and I look forward to serving Scarsdale in 2006. As always, feel free to contact me any time I can be of assistance. If you would like to be added to our e-mail list, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.