End of Session Wrap Up

Last week marked the end of the legislative session — in which both houses went into the early hours of Saturday morning to wrap up a number of legislative priorities.

While a tremendous amount has been accomplished this year – see below for highlights – a number of legislative battles will continue through the end of the year and into next (such as ride sharing, teacher evaluations and funding for receivership schools).

Here are a few of the highlights:

Indigent Legal Services legislation passed. The Assembly and Senate passed a bill that I sponsored with Senator DeFrancisco to provide state funding and oversight of criminal defense for those accused of a crime, while relieving a huge unfunded constitutional mandate for Upstate counties!

Under the proposal, the state would gradually assume full funding of indigent legal services by 2023 relieving counties of their financial obligation. The legislation aims to ensure access to quality legal representation for all New Yorkers and lift an expensive unfunded mandate off the counties.

Currently, New York is one of a few states where each county is responsible for funding legal services for persons charged with a crime and unable to afford counsel, resulting in uneven quality and effectiveness of the representation provided.

The editorial boards for both the Albany Times Union and the New York Times have urged the Governor to sign this into law.

Parking permit system for Albany renewed. The legislature passed legislation I sponsored with Senator Breslin to renew the residential parking system for the City of Albany to alleviate parking problems for residents who live within a one-mile radius of the Empire State Plaza.

Archived records funding sweep protection passed. The legislature passed my bill (sponsored with Senator Ritchie) to ensure local governments have the resources they need to preserve and protect access to vital and archival records. Historically, the funding has been swept into the state general fund for other purposes. Under this legislation, the money would be distributed as local government grants for use as intended to preserve the Empire State’s rich history.

CDTA to create regulations, standards for Capital Region taxi / cab system. Important local legislation introduced by Assemblymember McDonald and Senator Breslin was passed to grant the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) the ability to regulate and standardize taxi and livery service across the Capital Region. This will lead to a modernization of standards across municipalities in the region and improve service by taxi and livery operators.

Ethics reform and pension forfeiture passed. The legislature passed an amendment l cosponsored to provide for the stripping of pensions for public officials convicted of a felony related to their official duties.

For this state constitutional amendment to become law, it must pass in both chambers again next legislative session. At that point, it will be placed on the ballot as a public referendum for voters to amend the New York State Constitution.

Additionally, the legislature overwhelmingly adopted a measure that will require 501(c)(4) organizations, which are entities that can engage in unlimited lobbying, to disclose financial support and in-kind donations from 501(c)(3) organizations, which are organizations that are not permitted to engage in political activity. This reform prevents organizations from corrupting the political process and utilizing funds that are not intended for political purposes, as well as requiring 501(c)(4) organizations to disclose their sources of funding if they engage in activities to influence electoral politics using “issue advocacy.”

Campaign finance reforms: In addition, the Assembly passed a series of one house measures, which did not move in the Senate, to close the LLC loophole (to evade legal campaign contribution limits) and to increase voter access and turnout.

Zombie Homes reform adopted: The legislature passed a significant and needed three-way agreement to combat the rising problem of abandoned residential properties by creating new obligations for mortgage owners and lenders to maintain property rendered vacant and abandoned.

The measure will address the problem of vacant and abandoned properties by codifying the obligation of eleven major banks, mortgage companies and credit unions under a best practices agreement with the Department of Financial Services. This important legislation will expand these obligations to a majority of lenders or owners of mortgages statewide.

Breast cancer prevention adopted. New York State is taking the most aggressive action in the nation to improve access to breast cancer screening. The legislature passed measures to help more women across the state gain access to the health care and services they need and deserve. Legislation will extend hours for screening at mammography facilities across the state and to eliminate insurance hurdles for mammograms and other screening and diagnostic imaging procedures to detect breast cancer.

Testing for lead in water at public schools: Legislation I co-sponsored to require school districts to test drinking water for lead contamination passed. Costs associated with testing and remediation will be eligible for reimbursement by the state.

Currently, some school districts have voluntarily tested for lead, however it is not required. Additionally, safe drinking water must be provided and parents need to be notified of the test results in a timely manner.

Fantasy sports regulation adopted: A comprehensive regulatory package passed to allow fantasy sports (Draft Kings, Fan Duel) to operate in New York State. This bill offers important consumer protections to ensure that all contests are safe and fair. Requirements such as limiting players to one active and continuously used account, offering introductory procedures for players, identifying highly experienced players, and depicting accurate representations concerning the chances of winning in all advertisements will help to provide transparency and fairness across all platforms.

By taxing interactive fantasy sports contests, and directing such funds to the State Lottery Fund, this bill will also bring tens of millions in new revenue dedicated to education.

Alcoholic beverage reforms: The legislature passed a bill to allow restaurants and bars to serve alcohol on Sundays starting at 10 a.m.(“brunch”), in addition to allowing for establishments to open at 8 a.m. up to 12 times a year (should they apply for a new permit). Earlier in June, my bill to allow for farm cideries to serve beer, wine, and spirits on premises passed the legislature as well.

Ridesharing legislation stalled: Ridesharing legislation to allow for services such as Uber and Lyft to operate in Upstate New York did not pass this session. As an original co-sponsor of legislation to enable these services, I recognize and value the economic development impact expected for the Capital Region. While this was an unexpected disappointment, there are a handful of differences that must be addressed (to protect drivers and passengers). I remain optimistic that a compromise will be reached by the end of the year if not by early next year to adopt protections and safeguards for drivers and passengers (such as the indemnification clause, multi-app coverage, and workers' compensation).

Heroin and opioid treatment and prevention: Landmark legislation to combat the heroin and opioid crisis in New York State passed the legislature and is already signed by Governor Cuomo. The package of bills was passed as part of this year's session and marks a major step forward in the fight to increase access to treatment, expand prevention, while limiting the over-prescription of opioids in New York. The legislation includes several best practices and recommendations identified by the Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force, and builds on the state’s aggressive efforts to break the cycle of heroin and opioid addiction.

APPR waiver extended until December 31st: The legislature also approved a measure that will allow for a delay for teacher evaluations or APPR. School districts will have until December 31st (and hopefully beyond if the legislature reconvenes in December).

Here is a list of end-of-session issues and legislation that either passed or have been discussed via the Governor’s office.

And here are highlights from across the 109th:

USS Slater Destroyer Escort Commemoration Day: I visited the USS Slater for their Destroyer Escort Commemoration Day this past weekend. The third Saturday in June is traditionally recognized as DE Day, the day DE veterans set aside to honor their lost shipmates. Ten destroyer escorts were lost while in US service in World War II, and another five were damaged beyond economical repair. Over 1,300 U.S. Navy and Coast Guardsmen gave their lives on these small ships. We honored their memory.

Recognizing Albany High Track Athletes and Tuskegee Airmen. I was pleased to , who were at the State Assembly Chamber for their 75th anniversary. Included in the photo are Interns from my office, Molly Ketterer and Zack Malitz, and my accomplished daughter, Eileen Bequette.

The renowned Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black Air Force squadrons who served with distinction during World War II and helped lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, were a highly decorated unit of 996 pilots and 15,000 ground personnel. These brave men defied racist stereotypes and earned 14 Bronze Stars, 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 744 Air Medals.

Alive at Five: The City of Albany’s annual summer concert series, Alive at Five, begins this week. Each Thursday starting at 5 p.m. through early August, the City hosts free concerts featuring local and well-known recording acts. This year, the location of the concerts has been moved to Tricentennial Park due to improvements being made to the Corning Preserve. For more information, visit albanyevents.org.

Job Opportunities: New York State has setup a 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 —