Much has been said about the end of the legislative session that concluded Wednesday of this past week. As I noted earlier in the week, this was truly one of the oddest end of sessions as there was no sign of an agreement on some issues that are important to the residents of our state. Ultimately, Ethics Reform, sports wagering, the Child's Victims act, and teacher evaluations are examples of issues that were left on the table. A bill that I personally championed and worked to move forward in the process would have helped to remove blight from communities; this bill did not make it across the goal line in the Senate which was disappointing as the need is significant. Anyone who looks around in their communities and sees boarded up buildings with red X signs knows this too well. Sadly, despite the many accomplishments achieved in the State Budget this year, these issues resonate in my mind as I start to evaluate the end of the legislative session. Additionally, there were key local items affecting other parts of the state that lapsed, which is problematic.
I hold out hope that the Governor will negotiate a three-way agreement and call back the Legislature for a special session to resolve the more urgent matters. The speed camera program in New York City is set to expire on July 25 and in my opinion is the most pressing matter. Although the items I mention above are overdue for action and there is understandable frustration among those who wish to move forward, what truly concerns me is the unresolved speed camera measure. Although I do not represent NYC, I do understand the importance of safety for children and the importance of monitoring speeding, especially in school zones. The NYC speed camera program has been successful in protecting children and must continue. The Assembly passed a measure to renew the speed camera program, allows the City of Buffalo to add the option, and allows for side arm cameras on school buses statewide. Side arm cameras for school buses are important to our Capital Region and throughout the state in light of the statistic that over 50,000 vehicles illegally pass stopped school buses daily (according to the NYS Association of Pupil Transportation). The number of illegal passes is far too high and dramatically increases the risks to children and their safety. This is dangerous and cannot be ignored any longer. There is a unique dynamic in the Senate with the absence of a Senator who is on military duty and a Democratic Senator who is caucusing and voting with the Republican conference while seeking to make the speed camera issue contingent on passing another measure he supports, resulting in a 31-31 split in the Senate. The Senate dynamic has led to a very complicated end to the regular legislative session.
Some have said that the extension can wait until September. I totally disagree as the NYC camera authorization expires in July and although children are out of school until September, this is not the time to kick the can down the road and have a sudden awakening around the time school starts. We must be proactive. Additionally, summer school starts up in another week and those children deserve the benefit of the cameras. In reality, now is the time to bring the Legislature back, take action, and allow NYC to continue to their program and give Buffalo and other school districts the ability to ramp up safety programs that I truly believe will save lives. For the children's sake, I hope we are back in Albany next week. I will be in my office waiting for the call!