E-Mail Newsletter – December 7, 2015

Here are a few legislative and community highlights over the past week that I’d like to share with you.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has signed two pieces of legislation that I sponsored in the 2015 legislative session that relate to municipal streetlight replacements and the protection of children from child abuse.

Streetlight Replacement and Savings Act (A.6912-C/S.5205-B). The Streetlight Replacement and Savings Act empowers a municipality to acquire ownership of its streetlights and upgrade them with energy efficient and cost-saving LED lighting technology.

The legislation, also sponsored by Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-Rome), was in response to NYSERDA’s recent report (“Street Lighting in New York State: Opportunities and Challenges”), which said if municipalities across the state owned and then upgraded their streetlights with LED technology, municipalities could achieve a savings of millions of taxpayer dollars on annual street lighting costs. According to the NYSERDA report, outside of New York City, approximately 74 percent of streetlights are utility owned and the report identified lack of municipal ownership of streetlights as a major impediment to upgrading streetlights with LED technology.

Senator Joseph Griffo noted, “As Chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, I recognize that many municipalities across the state are always looking for ways to save taxpayer dollars by becoming more energy efficient. This legislation would give municipalities a little more leverage to accomplish that goal, either by acquiring streetlights and supporting infrastructure, or by making other arrangements with the utility company, such as phasing in more energy efficient lighting equipment while the company continues to own and maintain the streetlights and wires."

Outdoor lighting typically represents one of the largest categories of energy use and costs for municipalities, but utility ownership of streetlight equipment often prevents municipalities from making cost effective investments in efficient lighting technologies, like LEDs, that would cut back on energy waste and unnecessary spending, helping to ease the burden on local taxpayers.

Only 31 percent of the state's municipalities own their own streetlights, dropping to 26 percent when New York City is excluded, according to NYSERDA. In Clarkstown in the mid-Hudson Valley, the town is expected to save $500,000 of their $1.4 million annual energy bill. The City of Yonkers is estimated to save $1.85 million a year due to transitioning to energy-efficient streetlights, according to Lumen Light Solutions. Locally, the City of Albany could save approximately $646,000 in energy savings, should the City exercise the option to purchase its streetlights.

As municipalities struggle to find ways to save money while retaining adequate services for taxpayers, this legislation will make a significant difference in reducing the utility bill of localities, in which the cost savings can be truly substantial. Through owning their own streetlights, villages, towns, and cities can now pave their way to an energy-efficient and taxpayer-friendly future. I thank Senator Griffo for his partnership on this bill and Governor Cuomo for signing this bill on behalf of the localities it will no doubt help.

Protecting Children through Order of Protection Amendments (A.7644/S.5044). This legislation (A.7644/S.5044), also sponsored by Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), came at the request of the Chief Administrative Judge at the recommendation of the Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee. The law will protect children from child abusers in the household and amends the Family Court Law to expand the statewide registry to include all orders of protection in family and intimate partner violence cases.

A child’s safety and the importance to keep a household a safe, secure place are critical in protecting victims of abuse. This law now corrects a deficiency in the statewide Family Court registry to include orders of protection and I applaud Governor Cuomo for recognizing its importance.

Two serious limitations hamper Family Court's ability to fulfill its statutory mandate to ‘help protect children from injury and maltreatment and to help safeguard their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.’ A series of amendments to statutory provisions regarding severe and repeated child abuse have left one significant gap in law unaddressed, that is, the lack of authorization for Family Court to render an enhanced finding with respect to a respondent in a child abuse case who is not a parent of the child.

Moreover, current state law specifically excludes orders of protection issued in child abuse and neglect cases from entry onto the statewide automated registry of orders of protection and warrants. This legislation rectifies these gaps in the law.

All too often, reports of violations of orders of protection are not taken seriously if the orders are not included on the registry, thus leaving victims and their families, even in cases of serious child abuse, without the shield of protection that the order should provide. Further, if a court, in determining whether an individual is suitable as a placement or custodial resource for a child or should be able to visit with a child in a neglect, abuse, and custody or visitation case is not alerted to orders of protection issued against the individual in child protective proceedings, the child could suffer serious harm.

All orders, including those in child protective proceedings, must be entered onto the registry in order for it to provide the protection necessary for all victims of family violence.

Mandating vapor pressure in crude oil shipments to be lowered. I join Attorney General Schneiderman's call to mandate vapor pressure of 9.0 psi or lower for crude oil transported by rail. A higher than 9.0 psi was the case for the tragic Lac-Megantic accident. Oil travel through our state and my district remains a serious concern for me and I continue to look for increase safety regulations for these transporters and container companies.

Statement on former Assembly Speaker Silver's conviction. As I stated earlier last week, corruption in state government must be rooted out, and Monday's conviction is another unfortunate chapter on why the influence of money in politics must be quashed, while ethics in public service is given utmost priority. Recent reforms have increased transparency and financial disclosures, but more work remains including in the closure of LLC campaign loopholes and overdue need for campaign finance reform. This is indeed a troubling finding given the former Speaker’s many years of public service.

Small Business Saturday.I joined U.S. Representative Paul Tonko, Albany city officials, and the Lark Street Business Improvement District in walking down Albany's Lark Street corridor Saturday morning, stopping into locally-owned enterprises. More than half of our country's workforce comes from small businesses and I will continue to advocate to provide them the support Main Street deserves.

Community Conversations. Please join me for a series of community conversations at a library near you. These events provide an opportunity for you to find out more about my work in the New York State Assembly, the state budget, and legislative priorities for the next session. I welcome question and comments on issues of importance to you, such as the environment, public transportation, economic development, education, jobs, and more.

The following dates and locations have been scheduled.

+ Wednesday, Dec. 9 – 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Guilderland Library with theme of renewable energy)

+ Thursday, Dec. 17 – 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Bethlehem Library)

Constituent Survey. As we approach the upcoming legislative session, I value your input on issues of importance to you and your family. Please rate the following policy issues in this survey based upon your preference and support.

Job Opportunities: New York State has setup a new job portal entitled Jobs Express, where thousands of private and public sector jobs are listed. Visit jobs.ny.gov for more information on how to apply for these opportunities.

As always, for the latest news or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter, or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note.

Sincerely ---