Assemblyman David Koon 2008 Update from the New York State Assembly Rural Resources Commission

Dear Friends:

This year there were a lot of changes in Albany. We welcomed a new Governor, David Paterson, who I believe will be a friend to those in upstate New York. He worked with us in the Assembly to achieve a balanced, on-time budget which provided significant increases in school funding and health care coverage, while helping us to enact important legislation to protect home owners and prevent foreclosures, keep guns out of the hands of criminals, end mandatory overtime for nurses, and reform the state’s brownfields program in an effort to help upstate job creation.

In addition, the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources sponsored several laws and bills that passed the Assembly that will be of help to residents of small towns and villages across New York. Despite an extremely tight budget that required modest reductions in many programs, we were able to increase or add new funding for agricultural economic development, broadband access, and Medicaid funding for rural hospitals. There were two significant Commission priorities that received new funding: Doctors Across New York ($9.4 million), which will help attract and retain physicians to underserved communities, and the Upstate Economic Development fund ($40 million).

In this newsletter you will also learn about the Green Collar Jobs Roundtable that we co-sponsored, and a forum on timber theft. In addition, we participated in a Rural Aging Summit which brought together experts from rural counties to strategize how to best deliver services to seniors under the unique circumstances that rural communities must endure. A Summit report is available at

Our legislative program, as well as events and informational sessions, provide a voice for rural New Yorkers in the Legislature. As Vice-Chair of the Commission, it is my responsibility and pleasure to advocate for all of upstate New York, especially rural communities and interests. We cannot be successful without your support and guidance, and welcome your input. Please contact us with any questions, concerns, ideas or recommendations. Thank you.

David Koon, Vice-Chair
Legislative Commission on Rural Resources

268 Fairport Village Landing, Fairport, NY 14450 • 585.223.9130
Room 643 LOB, Albany, NY 12248 • 518.455.5784

Green Collar Jobs
For New York
The Commission, and the Legislative Commission on Skills Development and Career Education, co-sponsored a roundtable in January to examine the potential of developing green collar jobs in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region and in rural New York communities. The roundtable brought together representatives from the labor, business, education, workforce and economic development communities to discuss various strategies for cultivating and growing a green economy. For example, Kodak is trying to utilize its thin film technology to create solar panels; General Motors, working in collaboration with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the University of Rochester, and Delphi, is developing more advanced fuel cells; and, agribusiness, particularly dealing with biofuel, is a viable and key component of New York State’s emerging green economy. The roundtable explored whether the current workforce development infrastructure can accommodate the training requirements of green collar jobs and examined the types of specific training, qualifications, skills sets, and certification requirements for such jobs.

There were several key points brought out by program participants.

Many of the jobs in the green economy will require technical training and trade skills, yet students, parents, and the general workforce population don’t know how well jobs such as electricians, auto mechanics, and plumbers pay:

  • There is a commonly held misconception that careers in the trade industries don’t provide adequate wages and benefits. Trade jobs provide high quality wages to workers and their families.

  • Workforce and economic development officials must work with the entire K-12 system so that the focus is not just on sending children to 4-year schools because there are high-paying quality green jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

  • Career and Technical Education programs should use new green industries to develop interest among students — for instance, young people interested in global warming will be drawn to tech jobs in the green economy.

There is a shortage of skilled green collar employees.

  • Local municipalities need to have some critical analysis with respect to regional skills assessment and employee skills gaps in order to develop appropriate job training programs and to determine growth areas in the green economy.

  • There is a need to develop more public-private partnerships that encourage academic achievement and skills training in high-demand green collar industries in order to develop more green tech curricula.

  • Monroe Community College, in Rochester, is currently developing a comprehensive educational and training curriculum for green workforce development.

Looking forward, the roundtable participants anticipated the February release of the Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and its roadmap for greening New York’s energy supply and our economy and workforce. The Task Force issued seven recommendations, which included the following strategies:

  • Re-commit to meeting the state’s renewable energy goal and evaluate raising the renewable energy target.

  • Enhance and expand New York’s existing Net-Metering Law to allow residential and non-residential customers to sell renewable power back to utilities.

  • Invest in clean energy businesses for economic growth.

  • Build a sustainable market for solar energy in New York State.

  • Develop a strategy to reap the benefits of New York’s wind energy potential.

  • Expand training programs to sustain a green collar workforce.

  • Build on public and private renewable energy educational programs for schools and the public.

Rural Resources
Commission Legislation

2007 Legislation Signed into Law

Chapter 297 A.7125/S.3234 (Koon) Cluster Based Industry Matching Grants.
This law authorized matching grants for cluster-based industry and agribusiness development in rural areas of the State. The grants would be provided on a competitive basis through the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) subject to available appropriations and guidelines established by the Corporation. This legislation adds these purposes to the existing Rural Revitalization Program in UDC law and provides for its funding by the Economic Development Fund. The grants would be administered by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). This measure was funded in the 2008-2009 budget at $250,000. Cluster based industry and agribusiness development grants are economically beneficial to rural New York by facilitating local economic development strategies oriented toward local resources in rural areas.

2008 Legislation Signed into Law

Chapter 87 A.6645/S.3228 (Koon) Election of a Single Town Justice.
This law provides for the election of a single town justice to be shared by the justice courts in two or more adjacent towns, at their discretion. The bill provides for the adoption of a resolution by two or more towns calling for a study to consider the sharing of a single town justice. Upon completion of the study, the towns shall each hold a public hearing, and may approve a joint resolution providing for the election of one at-large town justice to be shared by each of the participating towns’ justice courts. In some rural towns, it is difficult to find qualified persons willing to serve in the capacity of an elected town justice. In addition, in some communities, justice courts may meet only once or twice a month because of small caseloads, have no or small staffs, operate without computers, have relatively little activity and generate little government revenue. The sharing of justices could reduce costs, but more importantly improve the delivery of justice.

Chapter 165 A.4683/S.3236 (Koon)
State Department of Transportation Equipment Management Fund.

This bill authorizes the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) to deposit revenues received for the rental of machinery and equipment to a municipality, or for services provided to a municipality, in the dedicated highway and bridge trust fund. It also authorizes municipalities to contract with the state for fuel, supplies, maintenance and repair services, and equipment. Although current law authorizes this type of sharing, there is a significant disincentive for agencies to participate because of the requirement that any revenue received by a contracting state agency must be returned to the State General Fund and may not be available to that agency despite the costs they may incur in providing equipment and services to a municipality. This legislation would allow NYS DOT to help offset their costs when assisting local governments with equipment and services, while at the same time providing needed assistance to those governments and reducing the need for purchases of expensive equipment that is rarely used.

2008 Legislation Passed Senate and Assembly

A.10201-B/S.7124-B (Lifton/Koon) New York State Center for Rural Schools.
This law would amend Article 24 of the Education Law to create the New York State Center for Rural Schools and to expand upon the size, scope and responsibilities of the current Rural Education Advisory Committee. The Center would be housed at Cornell University and would work to address such issues as making schools the center of rural communities, using schools to help provide a bridge out of poverty, improving the quality of a rural education, addressing teacher retention issues, promoting active learning and adult learning, using improved rural education to address “brain drain” and out-migration from rural areas, and tackling issues such as local school district tax concerns and the need for flexible and efficient funding for rural schools. (Waiting to be sent to governor)

2008 Legislation Passed by the Assembly

A.10169-A (Koon) Agriculture District Notification.
This bill would require sellers of real property that lies within 500 feet of the boundary of an agricultural district to provide notification to prospective purchasers of their proximity to farm operations and associated impacts. This bill would extend the current law that requires advance notice that some or all of the property being purchased lies within such a district. The notice also urges the purchasers to contact the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets for additional information about farm operations conducted in agricultural districts and the State’s Right to Farm policy. As more non-farm residents move into rural areas they may encounter unfamiliar agricultural practices that create odors or noise or slow traffic. The information provided by this bill would prevent potential conflicts and frustration for farmers and their neighbors.

A.10465-A (Lifton/Koon) Long Term Care Worker Training Program.
This bill amends the elder law by adding a new section 218-a, under which the Director of the Office for the Aging would establish the long term care worker training pilot program for the purpose of improving the quality of services provided to New York’s elderly persons in communities where a lack of access to training opportunities exist, by providing education and training on aging and geriatrics for health care, social service and other providers of long term care services. Colleges or universities having an institute on gerontology would assist the Director in the implementation of the long term care worker training pilot program.

Timber Theft In
New York

New York’s timber resources provide employment for over 50,000 people statewide and the value of harvested wood is over $300 million annually. As the price of wood products increase the temptation to illegally steal timber from isolated woodlots also rises. In 2007, sixteen organizations, including the New York Society of American Foresters, New York Forest Owners Association, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Audubon New York, New York Timber Producers, and the Empire State Forest Producers Association issued a report which documented that timber theft continues to be a significant problem. The report explored the cost to timber landowners and offered suggestions to curb timber theft, with a focus on shared responsibility between the landowners, the wood products industry and law enforcement. Moreover, several recent high profile news media accounts of timber theft from New York State and all over the country also point to a continued problem.


The Rural Resources Commission has sponsored state timber theft laws that have been beneficial and well received by the public, industry and government officials, but the thefts are still occurring. In April, in response to requests from the leaders of several different organizations, the Commission sponsored a forum on fighting timber theft with a focus on potential updates to previous efforts to combat this problem in New York.

The forum participants put forth recommendations for further action and responsibilities from the different groups who share responsibility for helping combat timber theft, including landowners, loggers, mill operators, law enforcement and the judiciary.

Suggested landowner responsibilities centered on proper boundary identification, use of sound contracts, guidance from professional foresters and knowing what is happening on surrounding lands. Suggested logger responsibilities included knowing the boundaries of the land they are logging, keeping good records of the timber they logged and working to eliminate those in the industry who steal timber. It was also suggested that mills should know the source of any logs purchased while refusing to deal with known thieves, and that law enforcement and judicial personnel need a far better understanding of the wood products industry and must make enforcement of existing timber theft laws a much higher priority.

The Commission plans to continue this dialogue with the timber industry and law enforcement to identify specific proposals that the state could take to reduce this problem. We are exploring other states’ initiatives such as licensing loggers, requiring paperwork or affidavits from both sellers and purchasers, and better publicizing both the problem and what can be done when timber is stolen.

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