"Excelsior," Latin for "ever upward," was adopted as New York State’s motto in 1778. In that same spirit, the Assembly Minority Conference now offers its legislative agenda for the coming year, designed to make the Empire State grow and excel. Excelsior 2005 is a comprehensive set of proposals that create opportunities for work and prosperity, reform state government, provide a good education for all, make our communities safe and increase the overall quality of life of all New Yorkers.
This latest installment of our vision for the Empire State builds upon both 2003’s NY First and last year’s Roadmap to Renewal. It redefines and underscores the Assembly Republican philosophy that state government should be efficient and inclusive, rather than wasteful and intrusive.
The first step toward implementing that philosophy is to change the way business is done in the Capitol. We are proposing reforms that would restore the Assembly’s reputation as "the People’s House," and guarantee an on-time budget for the first time in a generation. We’ve also included proposals to create good paying jobs, protect our citizens and build a better life for New Yorkers.
Each initiative contained herein is based on ideas and suggestions advanced by members of our conference and other leading citizens of the state. They have been put forth with one common goal: to fulfill the vision of our forefathers by taking New York "ever upward." We will work tirelessly toward their enactment.
CHARLES H. NESBITT
Assembly Minority Leader
Members of the New York State Assembly Minority Conference
|AD 1||Patricia L. Acampora||AD 110||James N. Tedisco|
|AD 2||Fred W. Thiele, Jr.||AD 112||Roy McDonald|
|AD 7||Michael Fitzpatrick||AD 113||Teresa Sayward|
|AD 8||Thomas F. Barraga||AD 114||Chris Ortloff|
|AD 9||Andrew Raia||AD 115||David R. Townsend, Jr.|
|AD 10||James Conte||AD 117||Marc W. Butler|
|AD 12||Joseph S. Saladino||AD 121||Jeff Brown|
|AD 14||Robert D. Barra||AD 122||Dede Scozzafava|
|AD 15||Donna Ferrara||AD 123||Gary D. Finch|
|AD 17||Maureen O’Connell||AD 124||Will Barclay|
|AD 19||David G. McDonough||AD 127||Daniel Hooker|
|AD 21||Thomas Alfano||AD 128||Robert C. Oaks|
|AD 60||Matthew Mirones||AD 129||Brian M. Kolb|
|AD 62||Vincent M. Ignizio||AD 130||Joseph A. Errigo|
|AD 93||Louis A. Mosiello||AD 134||Bill Reilich|
|AD 96||Nancy Calhoun||AD 136||Jim Bacalles|
|AD 97||Annie Rabbitt||AD 137||Thomas O’Mara|
|AD 99||Willis H. Stephens, Jr.||AD 139||Leader Charles H. Nesbitt|
|AD 100||Tom Kirwan||AD 142||Sandra Lee Wirth|
|AD 102||Joel M. Miller||AD 146||Jack Quinn|
|AD 103||Pat Manning||AD 147||Daniel J. Burling|
|AD 107||Cliff Crouch||AD 148||Jim Hayes|
|AD 108||Pat M. Casale||AD 149||Catharine M. Young|
What they’re saying about the Assembly Minority Excelsior 2005 plan...
Business Council of New York President Daniel B. Walsh:
"These are important ideas that can improve the security of our economy, and how all state legislators act on ideas like these will be reflected in our 2005 legislative report card."
National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) New York State Director Mark Alesse:
"Excelsior 2005 illustrates the depth and breadth of the problems facing New York and proposes solutions. Recognizing that the most important thing to every New Yorker is a job, this plan includes a whole section on lowering the costs of running a small business so they can create jobs."
Manufacturers Association of Central New York President Randy Wolken:
"The Assembly Minority Conference acknowledges the important place that manufacturing plays in New York State’s economic future. The Conference has placed real workers compensation reform, tax relief for manufacturers, and energy cost reduction at the top of their agenda. We need these reforms to improve the business climate for manufacturers and all businesses."
New York Farm Bureau President John Lincoln:
"New York Farm Bureau is extremely pleased with the Assembly Minority focus on agriculture and the Upstate economy. The Assembly Minority Task Force on Agriculture met with farmers throughout the state in the last year, and the Excelsior 2005 Agenda clearly reflects the Task Force’s recognition of the need to keep farmers and small businesses in New York competitive."
Less Intrusive, More Efficient Government = Reform
For several years, Assembly Minority members from every corner of New York have called for reform in state government. Gradually, but inexorably, that sentiment has gained public support. Now, at long last, the calls have begun to echo through the corridors of the Capitol. This past year even saw the welcome addition of several new voices to the chorus. As a result, we are optimistic that 2005 could finally bring real changes to the way business is done in Albany - including much-needed budget reform.
Late budgets are only the most obvious of many factors that have conspired to erode the public’s trust and confidence in state government. It is only through a concerted bipartisan effort at real reform that those virtues can be restored. In that spirit, we now put forth a series of reforms aimed at establishing fairness in a less intrusive, more efficient government. In addition to the budget process, our proposals encompass such areas as tax relief, New York’s enormous debt, public authorities, redistricting, mandates, and government ethics, among others. Assembly Minority members call for the immediate passage of these reforms, and will support any reasonable additional proposals to open up the legislative process.
Key Provisions of the Assembly Minority Rules Reform package include:
Assembly Minority members have long been a leading voice in the fight for budget reform, proposing a series of sensible reforms that would ensure a budget that is on-time, every-time. In recent months, Governor Pataki, the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader have made strides to come to an agreement on budget reform. Assembly Minority members remain hopeful that a number of the following proposals will be included in a final agreement.
The Assembly Minority budget reform plan would enact statutory and Constitutional legislation that would establish consequences for missing the less-publicized stepping stone deadlines that lead up to the April 1st deadline and other reforms, including:
Public Authority Reform
Medicaid Reform and Mandate Relief
Encouraging Civic Participation
· Creation of a program that would allow young people under the age of 18 (but over 16) to be trained as Election Day poll workers.
Assembly Minority members also believe that an accurate voter registration list is vital to maintaining the integrity of the election process and discourages vote fraud, and it is required by The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). That’s why the Conference proposes:
· Establishment of a centralized, state-wide voter registration system that would maintain an on-line, real-time registered voter list.
Ethics and Government Credibility
Providing Opportunities for Work and Prosperity
With our state’s abundant natural resources, world class educational facilities and dedicated workforce, New York has all the tools necessary for businesses to thrive. Despite all these positive characteristics, however, the Assembly Minority Manufacturing Task Force and the Task Force on the State of New York Agriculture found that many of our state’s businesses are suffering under burdensome taxes, regulations and energy costs. The business-friendly initiatives in Excelsior 2005 will work towards creating a New York that can live up to its nickname as the "Empire State" by strengthening the bedrock of our economy - manufacturing, small business, tourism and agriculture.
Manufacturing - Key to the State’s Economy
Quarterly Manufacturing Roundtables - Based on feedback from participants in the 2004 Manufacturing Task Force meetings, Assembly Minority members propose hosting such forums on a quarterly basis in several regions of the state. The forums would focus on how state policies affect manufacturers and what legislators can do to provide a better business environment, as well as prepare New York State for future manufacturing jobs in both current and new high-technology applications. These regional meetings would provide an environment for manufacturing executives to share ideas, concerns and solutions with their state legislators.
Community College Workforce Development Expansion - Provide funding for new equipment for Community Colleges so that students can be trained in the latest technology. New York’s Community Colleges already have well-established training programs, but there is currently no assistance for the purchase of new manufacturing equipment.
Increase Utilization of Workforce Investment Board/Workforce Training Funds - Call upon Congress to allow Workforce Investment Boards to provide training funds to New York Community Colleges on behalf of participating manufacturers in exchange for processing paperwork and administrating programs. With the assistance of local Community Colleges, more manufacturers can take advantage of these valuable training funds to improve their businesses.
Manufacturer’s State Tax Credit - Create a tax credit for manufacturers equal to 2.5 percent of a new employee’s salary for each new job created. The credit would last for the first five years of employment.
Manufacturing Incentive Pilot Program - This program would couple tax incentives with new levels of accountability for companies which prove that jobs created are long-term positions.
Implement Single Sales Factor - New York businesses are taxed based on three factors: sales, payroll and real property owned within the state. Simplifying the tax code to focus solely on sales would encourage companies to locate and remain in New York State.
Support for Small Businesses
Establish the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform in statute -- Establish, by statute, this useful resource for fostering accessible and responsive government and reducing bureaucratic-"red tape."
Increase Main Street Revitalization (EZ Main Street) - Small businesses are the lifeblood of a community's "main street" or downtown. This program will provide grants to upgrade and renovate downtown and main street façades, encouraging a rebirth of these important economic centers.
Restore the One Percent Lower Tax Rate for Small Businesses - Prior to 1999 the corporate tax was one percent lower for corporations that had an earned net income (ENI) of less than $290,000. The 1998-99 enacted budget set the corporate tax rate on a sliding scale, thereby removing the full one percent reduction. This proposal would lower the corporate tax by one percent for corporations with an ENI of less than $290,000.
Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit - Provide business income tax credits equal to 10 percent of health insurance premiums to small business owners who provide health insurance to their employees.
Small Business Training Tax Credit - Provide a tax credit equal to the amount expended by businesses that provide job training to upgrade, retain or improve the productivity or skill level of their employees.
Small Business Energy Tax Reduction - Currently, counties in New York State have the ability to lower or eliminate the tax on energy sources imposed on residences. This measure enables counties to offer the same benefits to local businesses, by lowering or eliminating the tax on energy sources.
Small Businesses and NYS Contracts - Enact a prompt payment law for state contracts with small businesses and require that at least 15% of state contracts are with businesses employing 100 or fewer employees.
NYS Rules Tracker - Direct the Department of State (DOS) to establish an Internet listserve on which any individual can sign-up on-line to receive an electronic notice of any new, revised or emergency rule or regulation proposed in New York.
State Register Internet Links - Direct state agencies to provide a link to the on-line State Register from their agency Internet home page, providing an easy way for companies to access the regulations that affect their business.
Provide Information on Potential Rule Changes to Legislative Minorities - Because current law does not require state agencies to send proposed rule or regulation changes to the legislative Minorities, members cannot effectively represent the businesses and individuals in their districts who may be affected by such changes. Requiring agencies to also send proposed rule changes to Assembly and Senate Minorities would ensure that everyone in the Legislature is informed.
Increase Empire State Development Corporation’s Flexibility For Small Businesses - Require that the Empire State Development Corporation conduct a study and provide recommendations on how the current law could be amended to make ESD programs more accessible to small businesses by requiring different standards for businesses employing 100 or fewer employees.
Workers’ Compensation Reform
Increase Penalties For Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud - Currently, Workers’ Compensation fraud is a Class E Felony. New measures will crack down on fraud by incorporating a range of felony levels depending upon the severity of the crime.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance Policy Rebates - Ensure that employers who maintain safe work environments receive rebates on their Workers’ Compensation insurance policy.
Increase Benefits For Disabled Workers - Workers who are injured at the workplace currently receive benefits equal to two-thirds of their average weekly wage up to a maximum benefit of $400 per week. Under this proposal, benefits would increase annually over the next four years in $50 increments to a maximum benefit level of $600 per week. Funding for this increase will be made possible through savings achieved by adopting other Assembly Minority Workers’ Compensation reforms.
Reduce Employer Assessments For The Second Injury Fund - This measure would adjust the calculation used to determine the annual assessments from 150% of the previous year’s disbursements to 125%.
Establish Bipartisan Benefits Commission - Establish a commission to study the sufficiency of benefits levels and the overall costs to employers, commencing one year following last increase.
Increase Threshold for Requiring Prior Authorization For Specialist Consultations and Special Diagnostic Laboratory Tests - Increase from $500 to $1,000 the cap over which Workers’ Compensation claimant’s doctors or medical providers must obtain prior authorization from the claimant’s employer or the Board for specialist consultations, surgery, therapy, x-ray examinations or special diagnostic laboratory tests. Authorize the Board to prescribe regulations to preauthorize certain types of tests costing more than $1000 for certain types of injuries.
Workers’ Compensation and Prescription Drugs - Authorize nominal co-payments for prescription drugs for those individuals receiving Workers’ Compensation.
Adopt a Pharmaceutical Fee Schedule for Workers’ Compensation’- Establish maximum allowable fees for prescription drugs provided to Workers’ Compensation claimants. Such schedules would be determined by the Workers’ Compensation Board. Pharmacists would be able to charge a reasonable dispensing fee.
Adopt Objective Medical Guidelines to Evaluate Impairment in Workers’ Compensation Claims - Reduce costs to employers through adoption of objective medical guidelines for the evaluation of permanent impairment and limit benefits received for permanent partial disabilities to a maximum of 500 weeks.
Promote Free Energy Markets - Support creation of energy cooperatives organized by regional Chambers of Commerce or other groups to purchase bulk supplies of lower-priced energy for their members. Such cooperatives save members thousands of dollars each year in energy costs.
Power to Grow - New York faces an energy crisis resulting from increasing electricity consumption and a lack of new power plants. This legislation would renew Article X, which expired at the end of 2002.
Improving Electricity Transmission - Improve electric transmission lines and authorize the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to form a subsidiary corporation for the purpose of financing electric transmission and generation facilities.
Brownfields Incentives for Power Plant Siting - New York can build on its recent reauthorization of the state Superfund for contaminated former industrial sites and speed the reuse of these properties by encouraging construction of new power plant facilities on abandoned brownfields located in industrial areas throughout the state.
An Empire Zone For Every County - Expand EZ benefits to every county in the state. Currently, 11 New York counties do not have an EZ designation - Delaware, Greene, Hamilton, Livingston, Yates, Nassau, Putnam, Rockland, Schoharie, Tompkins and Wyoming - resulting in those localities not being able to compete for jobs and new investment on an equal footing with surrounding communities.
EZ Statewide-"Superzone"- In addition to county-based zones, there is a clear need for a "Superzone" that provides the state with the flexibility of offering EZ incentives to job-creating companies that wish to build in New York, wherever they wish to locate. The EZ "Superzone" would give the state the ability to offer similar incentives to other companies without having to reduce the benefits available in an already designated zone.
Agriculture - New York’s Number One Industry The Assembly Minority Task Force on the State of New York Agriculture will begin its third year of soliciting ideas from farmers at task force forums and farm tours throughout the state, hearing about ways to improve the vitality of the agriculture industry. The Task Force has developed proposals to encourage growth in the industry, protect the rights of farmers, and assist farmers with the preservation of open space.
Continue the work of the Assembly Republican Task Force on the State of New York Agriculture --During 2005, the Task Force will focus on agri-tourism issues by hosting a series of statewide forums attended by farmers, Chambers of Commerce members, tourism boards and other interested parties, focusing on ways to foster economic growth and increase agri-tourism in New York. The Task Force will also continue to host farm tours and public forums on the health of the agriculture industry as a whole in areas not yet visited.
The New York Farmer Recruitment and Retention Act of 2005 -- New York’s farm community is aging, with fewer members of the younger generation taking over family farms. Assembly Minority members propose an agricultural scholarship program for students who agree to become full-time farm producers in New York State and a loan forgiveness program for farm operators who agree to farm in New York on a full-time basis.
Value-Added Production and Marketing Grant Program -- Family farms are the backbone of New York’s agriculture industry, yet the state is losing these small farms at an alarming rate. The future of agriculture is in value-added products and Assembly Minority members support establishing a matching grant program and revolving loan fund that would allow family farms to expand their facilities for on-site production of value-added products, such as specialty cheeses, juices and jams, and other products. The program would also create new regional processing hubs and provide funding for regional direct marketing liaisons to connect producers with existing processors and distributors.
"Day of Rest" Legislation - Allows every person employed on a farm to accrue one and one-half hours credit for each hour of work exceeding eight hours a day. This measure would be mandatory for farmers to implement, but voluntary for workers to accept.
The Discover Series: New York State has an infinite number of natural resources, a proud history and numerous tourism opportunities that warrant further exploration. Assembly Minority members recommend the creation of a series of Discover New York programs designed to introduce visitors and New Yorkers to the state’s many wonders:
Discover New York’s History -- Market New York’s role in the building of our nation, and promote our patriotic heroes and historic places of interest;
Discover New York’s Bicycling -- Promote touring New York via bicycle and provide technical assistance and incentives to towns and counties to make roads and highways "bicycle friendly;"
Discover the "Fish New York" Tourism Program -- Develop a book listing the many varieties of fish that can be caught in New York and the locations where they can be found; Discover New York Through Agri-Tourism -- Provide matching grants to build infrastructure for agri-tourism endeavors, such as bed and breakfasts, horse trails, petting zoos and other agriculture-related activities and provide funds to promote agri-tourism events and attractions;
Discover New York Tourism Website - Feature information about the four "Discover New York" programs (History, Bicycling, Fish New York, and Agri-Tourism) on the Internet for 24-hour access.
Liability and Insurance Reform for farmers, forest owners and land trusts --Remove the disincentives for landowners to open their land to free and fee-based recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing and U-pick agriculture operations, etc., due to liability costs and concerns.
Private ATV Trail Development --Increase the number of ATV trails by changing the direction of trail construction and development from public to private trail systems.
Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) for Critical Fishing Watershed --Increase the matching funds for AEM programs from 75 percent to 80-90 percent for farms located in watersheds determined to be critical to the fishing industry.
Hunting and Fishing
Hunting and Fishing Task Force - The Task Force would solicit ideas and input from anglers and hunters at statewide public forums, then develop legislation and recommendations to strengthen and expand this industry.
Ensuring a Quality Education for Our Children
Assembly Minority members stand firm in their commitment to ensure that all children receive a quality education in a safe learning environment in New York. While our state continues to have one of the best school systems in the country, there is always room for improvement.
Assembly Minority members support a number of reform measures enumerated below that will help to provide the necessary operating funds while also increasing oversight, alleviating burdensome mandates on school districts and providing additional resources for both students and teachers.
Restoration Aid to School Districts - Comprehensive Operating Aid (COA) is vital to school districts because it helps them fund expenses related to the general operation and maintenance of schools. All of New York’s school districts suffered cuts in COA in the 2003-04 state budget (ranging between 2.25 and 6.3 percent). Although the 2004-05 budget increased COA by 1.75 percent, no school district in the state saw their level rise to 2002-03 funding levels. The result is that most districts are attempting to function today on less operating aid than they received three years ago.
Had the 2003-04 state budget applied a "save-harmless" provision to COA, all districts would have, at least, been granted level funding. Statewide, the two-year deficit for all districts is slightly more than $446.45 million.
Assembly Minority members believe that before a new school aid formula is devised, either in response to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision or in fulfillment of the annual budget, these deficits must be restored. To achieve this, the Conference proposes including "Restoration Aid" in the 2005-06 budget consisting of:
Fiscal Oversight of Schools --Property taxpayers throughout New York State have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent, including by their local school districts. Assembly Minority members propose increasing transparency in fiscal oversight of schools by creating a new Office of Financial Oversight and Accountability within the State Comptrollers office, charged with conducting audits of school districts statewide. Under the proposal, all school districts would also be required to post budgets, expenditure reports, compensation packages, union contracts and board minutes on-line within seven days of voter approval.
Maintenance of Effort in the Big Five City School Districts - In recent years, the state has substantially increased funding to high need urban school districts, however, financial support from many city governments has not kept pace. The state already imposes a Maintenance of Effort provision on New York City, allowing the city to reduce its portion of school expenditures only in proportion to any reductions in the city’s entire budget. Assembly Minority members propose a similar Maintenance of Effort provision be imposed on all of the state’s Big Five City School Districts (New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) to ensure they contribute their "fair share" of educational expenses.
The Internet Gradebook Pilot Program - Parental involvement in their child’s education is an important element of academic success, however, work and recreational schedules often make it difficult to keep up. Assembly Minority members propose a pilot program that will make it easier for parents to track their child’s grades, attendance and upcoming homework assignments, by providing 24-hour access on the Internet. The program would also provide teachers with a flexible system for tracking of individual and class grades, the development of academic reports, and the presentation of individual student academic performance records on the Internet.
Task Force on Educational Standards --In order to ensure that New York provides the best possible educational environment for our children, Assembly Minority members propose creation of a Task Force on Educational Standards charged with studying whether schools have all the necessary tools and resources to fully implement the tough standards set for students as well as ensuring that students are taught the proper curriculum to perform successfully on the Regents examinations.
Task Force on Successful New York Schools --New York has an abundance of schools that have achieved a level of excellence in academics and other disciplines. These schools could serve as role models for other educational institutions in the state as well as aid the Legislature in crafting legislation related to education. The Task Force on Successful New York Schools would travel to schools that have implemented successful and creative programs that encourage parental involvement, high graduation rates, community partnerships and anti-bullying, hazing and binge drinking programs.
Mandate Relief - Assembly Minority members favor prohibition of new mandates that impose costs on school districts unless they are first approved by the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform as necessary for public health and safety.
Paperwork Reduction Act of 2005 - Currently, 75 reporting requirements are imposed on school districts by New York State. Assembly Minority members support requiring the Commissioner of Education to consolidate needed reporting requirements and eliminate unnecessary ones.
Board of Regents Reform --Assembly Minority members propose restructuring the Board of Regents to better represent communities throughout New York State. Board membership would increase from 16 to 18, with 12 members appointed by the Governor, two each by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Temporary President of the Senate and one each by the Minority Leaders of the Assembly and Senate. In addition, Regents would be required to comply with all New York ethics, disclosure and business prohibition laws and Board meetings would have to comply with the Open Meetings Law.
Enriching the Educational Experience
Computer Laptop Pilot Program --Assembly Minority members support the creation of a computer laptop pilot program that integrates wireless technology into New York schools. Participating schools would receive wireless computer technology and software for students and teachers grades six through eight along with operating instructions. Schools across the nation have successfully implemented similar programs.
Private School Eligibility for Computer Hardware Aid --Currently, only public schools are eligible to receive Instructional Computer Hardware and Technology Equipment Aid. Assembly Minority members propose opening up eligibility to private, religious and independent schools so that students at those institutions can also benefit from the funding that supports purchase and limited repair of computer hardware.
Computer and School Supply Sales Tax Free Week --To assist parents with the growing burden of school supply costs, Assembly Minority members propose a sales tax free week for all education-related purchases and computer hardware and software. The program would run in conjunction with the semi-annual sales tax free weeks on clothing that occur in January and September.
Teacher Tax Credit - Assembly Minority members favor a $500 tax credit for teachers in recognition of the countless educators in New York State who generously contribute their own funds to improve the classroom setting by purchasing supplies, paying for field trip costs and helping out students.
Higher Education- the First Step to a Bright Future
Self-Managing New York’s 529 College Savings Program --Assembly Minority members believe families should be able to invest their money with the financial institution of their choice. Therefore, this proposal mandates that the state Comptroller allow all qualified financial institutions to manage the College Choice Savings Program.
Community College and BOCES Partnership Program - Assembly Minority members support legislation to create a partnership between community colleges and BOCES, establishing a High-Tech Manufacturing Job Training Program that gives students vital hands-on experience. Participating community colleges would be eligible for state capital grants to support the purchase of necessary manufacturing equipment.
Community College Workforce Development Program --In addition to training the workers of tomorrow, Assembly Minority members are committed to keeping longtime, dedicated workers in New York State. Under this program, community colleges would develop a high-tech manufacturing job training program to re-train displaced workers. In partnership with the High-Tech Research and Development Corridor, the state would provide 50 percent tuition reimbursement to employees participating in the program.
Recognizing Exceptional Students Students of Excellence Summit Day in the State Legislature --One of the best ways to learn about New York State government is to visit the Capitol in Albany. This program creates an annual essay contest for high school juniors and seniors, with "winners" invited to travel to the state Capitol, meet with their state representatives, and learn about the functions of their office as well as about career opportunities in state government.
Keeping Schools Safe Reducing Hazing and Bullying in Schools --To provide further protections for students, teachers and school personnel, Assembly Minority members favor harsher penalties for bullying and hazing, especially on and around school property. The proposal includes creation of a State Hotline to report bullying and hazing.
New York is currently the safest large state in the nation, but there is more to be done. Assembly Minority members stand committed to further reducing violent crime and other illegal activity by supporting the following initiatives designed to ensure the utmost safety of every New Yorker, both at home and in the communities we share.
SAFETY FIRST ACT OF 2005
Hardcore Drunk Drivers: The vast majority of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes either have a BAC of at least 0.15 or are repeat DWI offenders. To combat these most dangerous motorists, Assembly Minority members propose to:
Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle: This new legislation would hold deadly drivers accountable for their actions by imposing a criminal penalty for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle which results in the death of another person.
Excessive Speed: Excessive speed is frequently a factor in crashes with other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and other collisions, often increasing the severity of the accident. Because penalties for infractions that involve driving at excessive speed are often easily circumvented by simply pleading to a lesser offense, the problem needs to be specifically addressed. Assembly Minority members propose to:
Hit, Run and Hide -- Under current law, a driver may be compelled to flee a fatal accident scene, particularly if alcohol or drugs are involved, because the legal consequences for driving off are less severe than if they stayed and accepted responsibility for their actions. To rectify this loophole, Assembly Minority members propose stiffer penalties for those who flee the scene of a fatal auto accident, nearly doubling the current sentencing provisions.
Mobile Infrared Transmitters (MIRT): These devices, which are commonly used by police and emergency personnel, enable drivers to change traffic lights from red to green immediately. They can be purchased relatively easily on the Internet and can be extremely dangerous if used by the general public. This Assembly Minority proposal would outlaw their use by unauthorized drivers.
Cyberterrorism: Create a crime for using the Internet, or other electronic means, to commit acts of terrorism;
Agri-bioterrorism: The food we eat is a fundamental resource, one that can too easily be threatened. This legislation would punish individuals who attack our food supply for the purpose of intimidating either civilians or our government;
Committee on Homeland Security: Such a body should be created within the Assembly to deal with issues that pertain specifically to terrorist activities;
Roving Wiretap: Authorize the use of roving wiretaps in certain circumstances to make it easier for law enforcement officials to track those suspected of terrorist activities;
Freight Rail Security: Another unfortunate consideration in our post 9/11 world is tre legitimacy of freight rail shipments along the New York-Canadian border, especially those that contain hazardous materials. Although security has been stepped up in recent years, gaps still exist - particularly in rural, remote or sparsely-staffed areas of the border. Secure rail policies that target screening and examination of freight rail shipments (especially those containing hazardous materials) into the United States, and particularly those coming over the New York-Canadian border is a top Assembly Republican priority.
Reducing Urban Crime
Combating the Growing Meth Problem
Experts say that the drug could soon rival "crack cocaine" in New York State unless preventative measures are taken immediately. It is easily and cheaply produced from a variety of "run of the mill" ingredients and highly addictive. Additional resources, stricter laws, and increased public awareness are crucial to combating this potential epidemic in New York. The Assembly Minority proposals include:
"Zero Tolerance" for Sex Crimes
Phase I - Combating Sexual Violence Against Children
Phase II - Violence Against Women Prevention Act of 2005
Additional Anti-Crime Measures
Death Penalty -- In the summer of 2004, the Court of Appeals ruled that New York’s death penalty law was unconstitutional based on its jury deadlock instruction. As a result, capital punishment has been left in limbo. Shortly after the Court’s decision, both Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Bruno expressed a desire to correct this flaw. The Senate subsequently passed a Governor’s Program bill, while the Assembly failed to act. Assembly Minority members favor legislation similar to the Senate’s, which instructs juries in death penalty cases that they must be unanimous in the sentence they impose. In the absence of unanimity, the alternative sentence would be life without parole.
Commencement of a Criminal Action -- Under current law, in order to obtain an arrest warrant, the officer must file a local criminal court accusatory instrument. This filing commences a criminal action and at the same time triggers substantial collateral rights for the defendant. The defendant’s right to counsel is then deemed to have attached and the defendant cannot waive his/her right to counsel in the absence of counsel. In some instances, defendants want to speak with law enforcement, but are unable to do so as their rights have already been triggered. By changing the commencement of a criminal action to the time of arraignment, this will allow law enforcement to more effectively investigate and interview defendants who want to waive their own rights and speak with law enforcement.
Prescription Drug Diversion -- The abuse of prescription drugs poses many risks to society, including ingestion of unlabeled and unidentified medications, addictions and related street crimes that placed increased demands on law enforcement sources. In addition, prescription drug diversion results in misappropriation of health care system funds, often from government reimbursement programs. Assembly Minority members propose strengthening the ability to prosecute pharmacists and others involved in criminally diverting drugs.
Protecting Our Quality of Life
Commitment to Military
Child care cost relief for NYS National Guard Families -- Provide financial relief to the families of NYS National Guard members in which one or both parents have been called to federal active duty other than training purposes.
Adopt the recommendations of the New York State Veterans’ Cemetery Committee - Assembly Minority members applaud the creation of the New York State Veterans Cemetery Committee and advocate the immediate implementation of the committee’s recommendations, due on June 30, 2005.
Housing Initiative Package
Low-income Housing Tax Credit - Would create a $4 million state tax credit for the rehabilitation and construction of single-family homes in low-income neighborhoods, rural areas, and areas of chronic economic stress.
Homeownership Rehabilitation Tax Credit -- Create a tax credit of 15 percent of the qualified rehabilitation expenses incurred by the taxpayer.
Historic House Tax Credit -- Create a two-tiered state tax credit for rehabilitation of owner occupied homes located on the national or state historic registers or in historic districts.
Create a program that provides tax exemptions and tax abatements to owners of multiple dwellings and provide rehabilitation work on those properties.
Allow any municipality in the state to make loans, in conjunction with private lenders, for the reconstruction or rehabilitation of residential housing in areas in danger of deteriorating.
Create an anti-abandonment initiative allowing localities to convey distressed residential property that is foreclosed upon for non-payment of taxes.
Assembly Minority Task Force on New Americans will work with various interest groups involved in improving the lives of New Americans. The Task Force defines "New Americans" as those individuals born in a country other than the United States. The mission of the Task Force is to gather and examine information and engage in a multi-pronged analysis of the needs of New Americans and their communities in order to determine and develop ways in which New York State can better improve the quality of life for these individuals and their families. In a social and political climate that includes varying opinions and philosophies on immigration issues, we hope this task force will provide a stimulus for state-wide discussion and action.
Day Care Clearing House Website --Expand upon the existing Office of Children and Family Services on-line database to provide specific information regarding the license status and violations of day care facilities across the state.
Tax Credit for Low Child Care Worker Wages -- Create a tax credit to provide a more streamlined wage supplement to workers playing a direct role in the education and development of a child based on the worker’s education and experience.
Tax Incentives for Employer-Based Child Care -- Create tax incentives for businesses that develop child care facilities for their employees.
EPIC Extra -- Allow every senior with an income of less than $60,000 to claim an annual income tax deduction of up to $1,000 to defray the cost of prescription drugs.
Hospital Technology Modernization Program --Provide hospitals with incentives such as low interest loans to modernize their information processes to reduce paperwork, expedite payments to providers, reduce errors and maintain reimbursement rates for hospitals and providers.
Health Insurance Tax Credit -- Provide young adults who are paying their own health insurance premiums with a tax credit for three years after graduation from high school, college or graduate school.
Expand Appeal of Federal Health Savings Accounts (HSA) -- New York’s health insurance statutes predate the availability of HSA’s, making them difficult to obtain. Assembly Republicans propose to ease state requirements so more New York families might take advantage of this federal program.