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Assemblyman
Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
Assembly District 71
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Chair, Ways and Means Committee
January 28, 2016
Environmental Protection, Conservation Part of Cuomo's Budget Plan
Budget Proposal for 2016-2017 Doubles Environmental Protection Fund

Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget proposal for State Fiscal Year 2016-2017 proposes to earmark $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, double the amount allocated during the current fiscal year, State Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos testified before members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees during an Albany hearing.

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Acting State DEC Commissioner Seggos testifies in Albany, January 28 2016.

During recent years, as the State has worked to recover from the effects of the recession of 2008, diligent efforts have been made to restore the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF); invest resources in parks and open spaces; and adequately fund and extend brownfield cleanup programs, Seggos testified. Since 2011, the State has acquired significant amounts of wildlands including the nearly complete acquisition of the Finch Pruyn property in the Adirondacks, which is one of the largest public land purchases in recent history, he added.

DEC Commissioner: Cuomo Proposes Doubling Environmental Fund

For State Fiscal year 2016-2017 the Governor has proposed doubling the Environmental protection Fund to $300 million, Seggos said. These funds will be used to promote municipal recycling programs, parks operations, eradication of invasive species and land acquisition programs.

The budget also includes significant investments in public water infrastructure, including an additional $100 million allocation in clean drinking water, Seggos said. Overall, DEC's proposed budget includes $462.5 million and a Capital budget totaling $858.6 million, Seggos testified.

Parks Commissioner: Look For Improvement Groundbreakings This year

Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, testified that during the coming year funds allocated during previous years will be used to begin construction on numerous parks improvement projects throughout the State, and the Governor has proposed an additional $90 million for capital improvements in State parks.

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State Parks Commissioner Harvey testifies in Albany.

<> During the last year, the State Historic Preservation Office recommended nearly 100 historic locations be added to the National registers of Historic Places, Commissioner Harvey testified.

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Assemblyman Farrell questions Commissioner Harvey on the status of recent and planned improvements in Riverbank State Park.

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January 27, 2016
State Education Commissioner Testifies to Legislative Budget Committeesl
Pre-K expansion, increased school funding discussed

"Children and schools are the most infrastructure in our State," New York State Department of Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia testified during a Joint Legislative Budget Hearing in Albany on education components of Governor Cuomo's budget proposal for State Fiscal year 2016-2017.

The hearing, held before members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, was the fourth in a series of 13 hearings required by the Constitution as part of the process of passing a budget by April 1, the first day of the new fiscal year.

Regents Propose $2.4 Billion School Aid Increase

According to Commissioner Elia's testimony, the State's Board of Regents has proposed a $2.4 billion increase in public education funding next year. These funds would include $2.1 billion in additional formula aids and elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a cost-cutting measure that was a reaction to the drop in revenue caused by the recession of 2008; and a $345 million investment in programs including an expansion of pre-Kindergarten, support for struggling schools and professional development of educators.

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State Education Commissioner Elia testifies before members of the Assembly and Senate, January 27 2016.

Specialized Programs for Young Men of Color and English Language Learners

The Regents' recommendations also include $7 million for comprehensive cradle-to-college programs to incentivize young men of color to stay in school; $6.5 million for a program designed to expand these young men's participation in technology programs; and $5.5 million to expand and develop programs that serve the cultural and linguistic needs of these students.

Commissioner Elia testified that the Regents' recommendations also include a $10 million budget request to fund programs designed to meet the needs of students who are English language learners, whose numbers have increased by 20 percent over the last decade and who now make up eight percent of New York's student population.

Farina: NYC Schools Making Historic Gains

Carmen Farina, Chancellor of New York City's Department of Education, began her testimony by thanking the Legislature for its' leadership in helping establish free pre-Kindergarten programs that now serve 70,000 young students, new and expanded bilingual education programs and other recent investments in public education.

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NYC Education Commissioner Farina testifies in Albany about recent gains to graduation rates and college readiness, January 27 2016.

Graduation Rate Tops 70 Percent, Commissioner Testifies

The Chancellor cited the results of a study released earlier in January that showed the City's graduation rates was over 70 percent for the first time in history, and which also showed that these students are more prepared for higher education than were their predecessors. She held these findings up as evidence that the State's investment in education is paying off.

The de Blasio administration has set a goal of 80 percent graduation rates and 66 percent college-readiness, Commissioner Farina testified. To achieve this goal, every student has been provided the opportunity to take computer science classes in elementary, middle and high school to give them hands-on training to learn in the classroom m of tomorrow; ensuring all students are reading at an appropriate level by second grade, and taking Algebra in ninth grade, she testified.

Adopting "Community Schools" Model for Better Outcomes

New York City is also seeking to better serve students by adopting the "community schools" model, Commissioner Farina said. Community schools are customized to a community's unique needs and create opportunities for students, families and communities including expanded learning time; school based health clinics; mental health programs; drop-out prevention strategies; and adult education n programs, Commissioner Farina testified.


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January 26, 2016
Mayor de Blasio Responds to 2016-2017 Executive Budget Proposal
Promises Farrell City Hall will investigate polling place changes

On Tuesday, January 26, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and other local government leaders from around the State traveled to Albany for a hearing on local government components of the Executive Budget proposal for State Fiscal year 2016-2017. The hearing was the third in a series of 13 required by the Constitution as part of the budget process.

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Assemblyman Farrell discusses the needs of the City with Mayor de Blasio, January 26 2016.

Mayor: Economic Inequality an Ongoing Challenge

Mayor de Blasio began his testimony by pointing out that economic inequality, a problem that has been a central theme of his administration, continues to be a problem in the City. Pointing to a recent study, the Mayor testified that worldwide, the richest 62 people hold as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest combined. Mayor de Blasio reflected on the achievements and investments made to improve that inequality including improving the quality of life by putting 2,000 more police on the beat; making progress on building or preserving 200,000 affordable homes (so far, 41,000 have been preserved or built, or are under contract to be built according to the Mayor); improving mental health care; improving schools and addressing homelessness.

Farrell and Mayor Discuss Reopening School Polling Places

During a discussion of another important issue, a recent report that found many New York City schools do not comply with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act and ongoing efforts to fix that problem, I pointed out a related issue affecting Northern Manhattan. In mid-2015, the courts forced the City's Board of Elections to change a number of polling places including PS 187 because these schools and other buildings are not ADA-compliant. In so doing, they created another problem for voters who must now travel up and down hills in order to vote. The Mayor thanked me for raising this important issue, and pledged to look into the problem.

de Blasio: NYC Is Its' Own Safety Net

Turning to fiscal matters, the Mayor noted that the City essentially acts as its' own safety net and will stand or fall based on its' own resources especially in the case of another economic downturn. To that end, he said, careful stewardship of financial resources is crucial. The Mayor testified that the City has been building up reserve funds as does the State, and City officials have sought to eliminate economic uncertainties such as allowing workers' union contracts to lapse. The Mayor praised many of the Governor's plans written into the Executive Budget.

Paid Family Leave, $15 Minimum Wage Will Help Working New Yorkers, Mayor Says

The Mayor praised the Governor's support for proposals to create a Paid Family Leave program which he called "profoundly important" to working people who should not have to choose between their family's needs and a paycheck. He also praised the Governor's support of a $15 minimum wage, and noted that the City will invest $115 million to raise the pay of 50,000 City employees and human service workers who are employed under contract by the City.

Mayor de Blasio also expressed gratitude that other key priorities are receiving support in Albany, including passage of the DREAM Act, ending the practice of treating juvenile offenders like adults (New York State is one of only two states to do so) and other elements of the budget.

Comptroller Stringer Praises Governor's Budget Plans

As did the Mayor who preceded him during the hearing, Comptroller Stringer praised many elements of the Governor's budget plan including raising the minimum wage, paid family leave and extending mayoral control of City schools by three years. Comptroller Stringer supported making the Earned Income Tax Credit permanent for low-income New Yorkers, and suggested this important program be expanded so that the quality of life may continue to improve.

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Assemblyman Farrell and Comptroller Stringer discuss details of the City and State budgets.

The Comptroller's testimony also touched on the possibility of a future economic slowdown, and how previous economic problems were addressed through City and State government teamwork.


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…and this month in Albany
January 26, 2016

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 12

Mayor de Blasio Responds to 2016-2017 Executive Budget Proposal
Promises Farrell City Hall Will Investigate Polling Place Changes

On Tuesday, January 26, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and other local government leaders from around the State traveled to Albany for a hearing on local government components of the Executive Budget proposal for State Fiscal year 2016-2017. The hearing was the third in a series of 13 required by the Constitution as part of the budget process.

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Assemblyman Farrell discusses the needs of the City with Mayor de Blasio, January 26 2016.

Mayor: Economic Inequality an Ongoing Challenge

Mayor de Blasio began his testimony by pointing out that economic inequality, a problem that has been a central theme of his administration, continues to be a problem in the City. Pointing to a recent study, the Mayor testified that worldwide, the richest 62 people hold as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest combined. Mayor de Blasio reflected on the achievements and investments made to improve that inequality including improving the quality of life by putting 2,000 more police on the beat; making progress on building or preserving 200,000 affordable homes (so far, 41,000 have been preserved or built, or are under contract to be built according to the Mayor); improving mental health care; improving schools and addressing homelessness.

Farrell and Mayor Discuss Reopening School Polling Places

During a discussion of another important issue, a recent report that found many New York City schools do not comply with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act and ongoing efforts to fix that problem, I pointed out a related issue affecting Northern Manhattan. In mid-2015, the courts forced the City's Board of Elections to change a number of polling places including PS 187 because these schools and other buildings are not ADA-compliant. In so doing, they created another problem for voters who must now travel up and down hills in order to vote. The Mayor thanked me for raising this important issue, and pledged to look into the problem.

de Blasio: NYC Is Its' Own Safety Net

Turning to fiscal matters, the Mayor noted that the City essentially acts as its' own safety net and will stand or fall based on its' own resources especially in the case of another economic downturn. To that end, he said, careful stewardship of financial resources is crucial. The Mayor testified that the City has been building up reserve funds as does the State, and City officials have sought to eliminate economic uncertainties such as allowing workers' union contracts to lapse. The Mayor praised many of the Governor's plans written into the Executive Budget.

Paid Family Leave, $15 Minimum Wage Will Help Working New Yorkers, Mayor Says

The Mayor praised the Governor's support for proposals to create a Paid Family Leave program which he called "profoundly important" to working people who should not have to choose between their family's needs and a paycheck. He also praised the Governor's support of a $15 minimum wage, and noted that the City will invest $115 million to raise the pay of 50,000 City employees and human service workers who are employed under contract by the City.

Mayor de Blasio also expressed gratitude that other key priorities are receiving support in Albany, including passage of the DREAM Act, ending the practice of treating juvenile offenders like adults (New York State is one of only two states to do so) and other elements of the budget.

Comptroller Stringer Praises Governor's Budget Plans

As did the Mayor who preceded him during the hearing, Comptroller Stringer praised many elements of the Governor's budget plan including raising the minimum wage, paid family leave and extending mayoral control of City schools by three years. Comptroller Stringer supported making the Earned Income Tax Credit permanent for low-income New Yorkers, and suggested this important program be expanded so that the quality of life may continue to improve.

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Assemblyman Farrell and Comptroller Stringer discuss details of the City and State budgets.

The Comptroller's testimony also touched on the possibility of a future economic slowdown, and how previous economic problems were addressed through City and State government teamwork.

State Health Commissioner Details Medicaid Redesign Efforts

Dr. Howard M. Zucker, Commissioner of the State Health Department, testified on January 25 in regard to ongoing efforts to control the rate of growth in the State's Medicaid costs, the need to support struggling "safety net" hospitals, plans in the budget to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and to reduce the number of New Yorkers who die due to cancer, plus other budget plans.

Legislative Hearing on Transportation Components of 2015-2016 Budget
State DOT Commissioner Describes Investments in Infrastructure

Matthew J. Driscoll, Commissioner of the State Department of Transportation, described during a January 20 hearing the Governor's plans to invest heavily in the State's network of roads and bridges in 2016 and later years. Beginning his testimony with a recap of his agency's mission to protect travelers, the Commissioner testified about the Governor's "bold and comprehensive" $22.1 billion investment in New York's roads and bridges.

State DOT Commissioner: Invest in Infrastructure to Create Jobs

Specific to State DOT, the Commissioner testified that the Governor's plan includes $20.1 billion to be spent over five years that is intended to enhance the State transportation system's resiliency while creating jobs and delivering record-high levels of resources for transit systems. The Governor's plan also includes $438 million in new funding for local highway and bridge projects; $500 million to help local governments maintain local bridges with another $500 million for State-owned bridges; an equal $1 billion investment in State and local roads; $500 million to improve and "harden" infrastructure threatened by flooding and other extreme weather and $200 million for Upstate commercial and passenger air travel upgrades.

State Motor Vehicles Commissioner: Technology Has Improved Operations

Theresa L. Egan, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the State Department of Motor Vehicles, testified that recent investments in technology have improved the experiences of New Yorkers who are customers of the DMV. The Executive Budget provides $325 million for DMV operations, Commissioner Egan testified.

DMV Commissioner Testifies That Investments in Modernization Have Paid Off

In response to a question I asked about technology investments made by the Legislature in DMV, Commissioner Egan said that funds intended for programs to improve and modernize DMV have been fully implemented or are nearing full implementation. DMV is continuing to improve its' appointment reservation system, she said, and 900,000 reservations have been made to date. The Commissioner described funds invested in this program as "well-spent and well-used."

Replying to a follow-up question that I asked, the Commissioner acknowledged a 24 percent reduction in DMV's workforce during the last 10 years but testified that due to an increased reliance on technology DMV customer service has not suffered as a result of staffing cuts.

Governor Cuomo Proposes $145 Billion Budget for 2016-2017
Pitches $100 Billion Infrastructure, Economic Development Program

On Wednesday, January 13 during the sixth State of the State and annual budget address of his tenure, Governor Cuomo proposed a $145 billion budget for the State Fiscal Year 2016-2017 beginning April 1 and also an ambitious $100 billion program of infrastructure improvements and economic development initiatives throughout the State. The Governor's Executive Budget constitutes a 1.7 percent ($1.6 billion) increase over the budget for State Fiscal year 2015-2016 and therefore remains within his voluntary 2 percent spending increase cap.

Nearly $1 Billion Increase to School Aid in 2016-2017

The Governor's proposal includes building on recent executive actions he took regarding problems in our public education system, moving further toward a new concept in education called "community schools," and building parental trust by fixing Common Core. Community schools offer health and eye exams, limited social services, adult literacy classes and other special programs that are intended to help students develop the ability to learn and achieve and allow their families to support them.

The Governor's Executive Budget proposal includes a $2.1 billion increase to school aid over a two-year cycle, with a $991 million increase proposed for State Fiscal Year 2016-2017, a 4.3 percent increase in funding over 2015-2016 levels. The Governor also called for an end to the Gap Elimination Adjustment program over two years. The GEA was a reduction in school aid forced by the massive reduction in revenue caused by the Wall Street crash of 2008.

Cuomo's Infrastructure Plan Would Build on NY's Proud Legacy

The Governor opened his speech with a look back at the daring men and women who built our State into what it is today, and urged members of the Legislature to join him in continuing that proud legacy to construct the infrastructure that will help carry us through the next century.

A New Airport, the First in Twenty Years

The Governor said that his plans include building a new LaGuardia Airport with a new world-class terminal and demolishing the old facility, the first new airport to be built in the US in 20 years. He also called for significant improvements to other airports throughout the State, which he believes will not only make life easier and more pleasant for travelers but will also provide a benefit to the economy by making it easier to move people and goods from region to region.

A Myriad of Reform Proposals for a Better New York

The Governor's proposal also includes a large number of reforms intended to improve the quality of life in New York State. These include bringing solar power capability to 150,000 homes and businesses within five years (I was an early supporter of expanded solar power, and passed two bills in 2007 and 2008 establishing State tax credit programs for solar panel buyers); public financing of elections; eliminating the "LLC Loophole" through which large donors may give limitless sums of money to campaigns through nameless, faceless corporations; automatic voter registration; and limiting lawmakers' outside income, a position the Assembly is considering; and a three-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools among other proposals.

Parity for Struggling Upstate Communities

Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget proposal also calls for a $20 billion investment in struggling Upstate communities untouched by New York City's economic recovery. As he noted in his address, while the bonds used to construct the Thruway in the 1960s had been paid off by 1996, the tolls that were collected to repay that debt remain, and for years people have asked for this to change. The Governor's economic development plan includes setting aside $1 billion of the $2.3 billion recently paid as settlements by Wall Street banks to cover Thruway maintenance costs and to freeze tolls until 2020, to provide a State income tax credit for frequent Thruway travelers, and to eliminate tolls for agricultural Thruway users who are bringing their products to market. Also included in the Upstate relief plan is a $250 million fund for improvements to municipal water and sewer systems, which are old and failing in many communities.

The fourth Legislative budget hearing in the series, which centers on elementary and secondary education components of the budget, is scheduled for tomorrow, January 27. Please look forward to my report on these and other important budget issues during your February meeting.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.


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January 25, 2016
Health Commissioner Testifies on Executive Budget for 2016-2017
Reports Progress on Medicaid Redesign, Cost Savings Efforts

New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, M.D., J.D. appeared to testify before members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees during a hearing in Albany on Health and Medicaid components of Governor Cuomo's proposed Executive Budget for State Fiscal year 2016-2017.

The hearing was the second in a series of 13 required by the Constitution as part of the process of crafting and passing a budget, which by law must take place by April 1, the first day of the new fiscal year.

Zucker: Medicaid Cost Growth Slowed to 1.4 Percent in 2015

Commissioner Zucker began his testimony by reviewing the work to date of the State's Medicaid Redesign Team, which has slowed the health care program's annual rate of growth from 4.3 percent to 1.4 percent while increasing enrollment by 6.3 million people and improving the quality of care.

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Assemblyman Farrell greets Health Commissioner Zucker, January 25 2016.

Support for Safety Net Hospitals

According to the Commissioner, a key part of the Governor's health-related budget plan is supporting "safety net" hospitals in a manner that allows these important facilities to survive ongoing financial difficulties. In 2015-2016 the State provided $325 million in assistance to 28 safety net hospitals; for 2016-2017 the Governor has proposed increasing that support to $450 million, Commissioner Zucker said.

The Executive Budget also includes $2.5 billion in capital resources to improve, modernize and strengthen the State's health care infrastructure, the Commissioner said.

Increasing Commitments to Fight HIV/AIDS and Cancer Deaths

Another key policy plan is fighting HIV/AIDS and cancer, which continue to cause the deaths of many New Yorkers, Commissioner Zucker said. Every year, 15,000 breast cancer diagnoses are made in our State and 2,700 women succumb to this disease; similarly, 15,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 1,700 die due to their illness, the Commissioner said.

Governor Cuomo has proposed funds to purchase and operate mobile mammography vehicles to be used in areas where high numbers of unscreened women live, as well as hiring additional health care workers to serve in communities where they are needed, Commissioner Zucker said. Should this come to pass, more than 212,000 women and 25,000 men will be screened by 2020.

Fighting Medicaid Fraud, Abuse and Waste

Dennis Rosen, Commissioner of the State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, testified that due to his agency's work, in the first nine months of 2015 taxpayers saved $1.4 billion due to cost-savings measures and are on track to match or exceed the $1.8 billion in efficiencies achieved during 2014.

Preliminary audits of 2015 health care costs led to 725 finalized audits and the recovery of $250 million, the Commissioner said. Other actions of note during 2015 included the indictment of suspects accused of running a $7 million Medicaid fraud ring that led to charges against 23 persons including nine doctors on 199 counts of fraud, Commissioner Rosen said.

Nearly 1,000 Cases Referred to Law Enforcement: Medicaid Inspector

OMIG officials are also involved in the fight against prescription drug abuse, including an investigation against a Suffolk County nurse accused of writing 1,200 illegal prescriptions for Oxycodone, which were given to patients who had no medical need for the highly addictive painkiller, Commissioner Rosen said.


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January 21, 2016
Intercession Town Hall Meeting on January 23 Cancelled Due to Weather

This morning, I received a call from management at The Church of Intercession informing me that they had decided to close their building where I had been scheduled to hold a Town Hall Meeting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, January 23 due to the expected snowstorm. I apologize for any inconvenience.



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January 20, 2016
Legislative Hearing on Transportation Components of 2015-2016 Budget
First in Series of 13 Hearings Required by Constitution

Members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees sat Wednesday, January 20 for a public hearing in Albany on transportation components of Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget for State Fiscal Year 2015-2016. The hearing was the first in a series of 13 required by the State Constitution as part of the process of passing a budget by April 1.

State DOT Commissioner Describes Investments in Infrastructure

Matthew J. Driscoll, Commissioner of the State Department of Transportation, described the Governor's plans to invest heavily in the State's network of roads and bridges in 2016 and later years. Beginning his testimony with a recap of his agency's mission to protect travelers, the Commissioner testified about the Governor's "bold and comprehensive" $22.1 billion investment in New York's roads and bridges.

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Assemblyman Farrell and State DOT Commissioner Driscoll discuss Governor Cuomo's plans to invest in State infrastructure during the 2016-2020 funding cycle.

Investing in Infrastructure to Create Jobs

Specific to State DOT, the Commissioner testified that the Governor's plan includes $20.1 billion to be spent over five years that is intended to enhance the State transportation system's resiliency while creating jobs and delivering record-high levels of resources for transit systems. The Governor's plan also includes $438 million in new funding for local highway and bridge projects; $500 million to help local governments maintain local bridges with another $500 million for State-owned bridges; an equal $1 billion investment in State and local roads; $500 million to improve and "harden" infrastructure threatened by flooding and other extreme weather and $200 million for Upstate commercial and passenger air travel upgrades.

State Motor Vehicles Commissioner: Technology Has Improved Operations

Theresa L. Egan, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the State Department of Motor Vehicles, testified that recent investments in technology have improved the experiences of New Yorkers who are customers of the DMV. The Executive Budget provides $325 million for DMV operations, Commissioner Egan testified.

DMV Commissioner Testifies That Investments in Modernization Have Paid Off

In response to a question I asked about technology investments made by the Legislature in DMV, Commissioner Egan said that funds intended for programs to improve and modernize DMV have been fully implemented or are nearing full implementation. DMV is continuing to improve its' appointment reservation system, she said, and 900,000 reservations have been made to date. The Commissioner described funds invested in this program as "well-spent and well-used."

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DMV Commissioner Egan responds to a question about recent investments in technology.

Replying to a follow-up question that I asked, the Commissioner acknowledged a 24 percent reduction in DMV's workforce during the last 10 years but testified that due to an increased reliance on technology DMV customer service has not suffered as a result of staffing cuts.



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…and this month in Albany
January 6, 2016

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 10

Happy New Year!

I regret that I am not able to join you this evening, as today was the first day of the 2016 Legislative Session and I have business to attend to in Albany. On January 13, Governor Cuomo will deliver his State of the State and budget addresses, so in my next report to you I expect to deliver a great deal of information about what to expect before we pass a budget by April 1.

Education Reform in Washington, DC and Albany

In December 2015, President Obama signed into law important reforms to the Federal No Child Left Behind education law, which was passed in 2001 during the administration of his predecessor. No Child Left Behind had long been criticized for forcing educators to "teach to the test" in order to meet stringent, Federally-imposed standards that not only deprived individual states of the opportunity to set their own education policies, but also threatened state governments with financial penalties if the Federal standards were not met.

Every Student Succeeds Act Returns Powers to States

Under the new law, called The Every Child Succeeds Act, the landscape is much different. States again have the power to determine their own systems of public education, and control the standards they decide students must meet in order to graduate. It also appears to release teachers from many of the burdensome testing requirements educators had complained about for years.

The new law is expansive and complex, and skeptics have already begun to warn that it may carry unintended consequences that could be harmful to public education. However, it is worth noting that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came together and crafted new and hopefully better legislation to guide how our young people are educated. It is also worth noting that these new policies will be implemented by the incoming Federal Secretary of Education, former State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr.

State-Level Education Changes Are Coming

Specific to New York State, we have seen a wave of resistance to student-achievement tests related to the Common Core learning standards. Though states are at risk of losing Federal education funding if fewer than 95 percent of students take these standardized tests, in some communities the parents of more than half of the student body refused to allow their children to take these tests and instead chose to "opt out" of Common Core testing. Change is coming to these policies as well.

Education Panel Recommends Common Core Overhaul

In 2013, New York State instituted Common Core learning standards in order to comply with a Federal mandate that increased the likelihood of much-needed Federal funding. Problems occurred as these standards were put into place and an outcry began among parents, students and teachers. Many were concerned that these new standards would lead to increased over-testing of students that would come at the expense of enriching instruction that fell outside the scope of core subjects.

Last month, one day after President Obama signed Federal education reforms into law, Governor Cuomo adopted the recommendations of an education panel he had created months earlier. The Governor directed this panel to examine State education policies and recommend ways to make these policies better. Among their recommendations were holding off on using test scores as a metric by which teacher effectiveness could be measured. This could have led to bad teachers being excused from their jobs, but the new law may change this.

The panel's recommendations also included changing Common Core tests so that they took less time for students to complete, encouraging input from the local level as the tests are being developed, and a greater emphasis on subject matter that falls outside the core subjects.

Millionaires' Tax Set to Expire in 2017

As of December 31, 2017 the State's "Millionaires' Tax" will expire. The Millionaires' Tax was enacted in 2011 and extended in 2013 through the end of the 2017 tax year. Historically, the revenue generated by the Millionaires' Tax has been used to pay for education, health care and other important services provided by the State.

Currently, taxpayers who file as "Married Filing Jointly" and whose household income is $2 million or more pay State taxes at a rate of 8.82 percent. If this tax is allowed to expire at the end of 2017, the richest New Yorkers will pay income tax at the same rate as people who will make $50,000 and pay State income tax at a rate of 6.85 percent. Should the Millionaires' Tax expire, it is likely to cost the State several billion dollars in lost revenue after 2018.

While the State is currently running a surplus, it is important to remember that most of these funds come from settlements paid by financial institutions, and are not recurring sources of revenue (which are called "one-shots" in Albany slang).

I will continue to report to you on this important topic as more information becomes available.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.


…and this month in Albany
November 19, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 9

Legislature Returns to Albany in Preparation for 2016 Session

Earlier in the week, along with my colleagues in the Assembly's Majority Conference I traveled to Albany to take part in a Conference during which we discussed our plans for the coming Legislative Session, which will begin when the Governor delivers the State of the State address in January. In my capacity as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, I briefed my fellow members on the state of the economy as we reach the halfway mark of our fiscal year and how that will affect our revenue stream and shape the budget for State Fiscal Year 2016-2017. The good news is that as of now, we are anticipating a $2 billion dollar surplus from the Wall Street banks who have been penalized for some of their actions (which is called a "one-shot"). But the bad news is that this extra money probably may not come again

Nationally, the economy continues on a path of slow but steady recovery, with growth of 2.6 percent expected during 2016 and 2.3 percent during 2017, and the national unemployment rate is now down to 5 percent. However, long-term unemployment remains a problem, with only 62.4 percent of the workforce now holding full-time jobs, the lowest rate in 38 years.

In terms of the State economy, declines in unemployment (as of October which was just below 5 percent) have generally matched the job gains that have come with the national recovery, though job losses elsewhere were much more severe than in our State. New York City's job market took a major hit during the recession, but has recovered quicker than the rest of the State. This job market has led to stronger wages. Including the Wall Street settlement, we have seen a 12 percent growth in revenues during this Fiscal Year.

Assembly Hearing Examines Struggling Schools

During our November 17 conference in Albany my Assembly colleague Catherine Nolan, who chairs the Education Committee, briefed us on a recent hearing she held on the subject of struggling schools which are being offered special assistance by the State to improve their performance and better educate our young people. At the present time, of the 674 major school districts in New York State, there are 22 schools classified as "persistently struggling" and 122 classified as "struggling." While some schools in Northern Manhattan are having problems, none of these persistently struggling schools are in our community.

Persistently struggling schools are among those whose students have shown the weakest test scores in language arts and math skills during the last decade. $75 million has been made available for these schools as they try to improve themselves from within during the next two years. Struggling schools' students have shown weak test scores during the last three years, and have been given one year to begin to turn themselves around on their own.

Extra Resources, Special Powers to Improve Education

During their period of rehabilitation, school superintendents have been given special powers similar to the powers that will be granted to independent outside authorities called receivers, who will be brought in to turn these schools around if they cannot accomplish required improvements on their own. During this rehabilitation period, extra funding from the State can be spent to help schools become what are called "community schools," which offer health and eye exams, limited social services, adult literacy classes and other special programs that are intended to help students develop the ability to learn and achieve and allow their families to support them.

As a Last Resort, Receivership

If no progress is made, independent receivers will be brought in and given powers including the authority to make hiring decisions over teachers and administrators, to make decisions that supersede the authority of local school boards, authority to reallocate resources within the school budget, or convert the school into a charter school.

Farrell Fighting for Improved Polling Place Accessibility

As you may know, longstanding accessibility problems in polling places came to a head earlier this year when the courts forced the Board of Elections to make last-minute changes to polling places that created problems for voters this year and may create major problems during the Presidential election and three other elections scheduled to be held during 2016.

Court-Ordered Polling Changes Have Created New Problems

In Central Harlem, several polling places were moved by the courts. This was done because the old polling places did not conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Board of Elections did not act quickly enough (in the courts' opinion) to comply with this important Federal law. However, as is often the case when these changes are forced through, the change may create as many problems as it solves.

Central Harlem Hills Could Prove Troublesome for Voters

Northern Manhattan is not alone in facing these new problems, but our hills and valleys present a unique problem for seniors and voters with disabilities who may now be forced to walk long distances or travel up and down steep hills and steps in order to vote. Voters who are not living with a disability could also be greatly inconvenienced by having to go to new and unfamiliar poll sites. As we all know, while on a map these changes may make sense, when you know the lay of the land here it is clear that a new hardship has been created, and many New Yorkers may choose not to vote because of these changes.

Many people including myself are concerned that any problems experienced by voters in the recent off-year election will only become worse in 2016 when voters will decide primary and general elections for Presidential and Congress elections, State offices, the general election for State offices. In a potential worst-case scenario, large numbers of voters could turn out for the Presidential election if former Secretary of State Clinton, who is a resident of New York State, is on the ballot.

I am working closely with the Board of Elections, court advocates for voters and the disabled community as well as other interested parties to come to an agreement on a better plan. I will try and keep you informed on this important effort as warranted.

Honoring Mayor David N. Dinkins
City's Quality-of-Life Improvements Began Under Dinkins

photo

I was pleased to join Mayor de Blasio, former Mayor David N. Dinkins and other current and former elected officials and members of the public at One Centre Street for an October 15, 2015 ceremony during which the building was officially renamed the David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building. This honor was richly deserved, as many longtime New Yorkers know, because the City they love so much began to change for the better when Mayor Dinkins initiated the Safe Cities Safe Streets initiative and other programs that allowed the City to hire more police officers and helped bring about the improved quality of life which continues today.

Safe Cities Program Helped End the "Bad Old Days"

Beginning in 1991, as our city's first and only African-American mayor, Mayor Dinkins fought tirelessly to pass and fund a program which dramatically expanded the New York Police Department and put thousands of additional police on our streets. Though Mayor Dinkins' successor is often credited with "turning New York City around" by instituting the "broken windows" policy of policing, which relates quality of life issues and major crimes, in truth it was Mayor Dinkins' decision to put more police on the streets that began to beat back what many of us who have lived here for many decades not-so-fondly recall as "the bad old days."

Under Dinkins, Crime Plummeted

As a result of this important program, crime began to fall in the first year. In succeeding years crime fell further and faster than at any time in recent memory, across all categories, and continued to drop as later mayors claimed credit for themselves. It is a shame that Mayor Dinkins has not received the credit he deserves for this achievement. However, those of us who are lifelong New Yorkers know the truth, and we remember Mayor Dinkins fondly and greatly appreciate what he did for us all.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.

2016 Voting Dates

  • Presidential Primary April 19, 2016 (petitioning begins Dec. 29, 2015, ends Feb. 1-4, 2016).
  • Congressional Primary June 28, 2016 (petitioning begins March 8, ends April 11-14).
  • State Primary Election Sept. 13, 2016 (petitioning begins June 7, ends July 11-14).
  • State and Federal General Election Nov. 8, 2016.

(Back to Top)
…and this month in Albany
November 4, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 10

Upgrades Coming to NYCHA Buildings in the District and Throughout NYC
Gov. Cuomo Considering Funds for Improvements at Public Housing

As you may have heard, changes may be coming to several New York City Housing Authority buildings here in the District plus others located throughout the City. During the Spring, Assembly members who represent districts within the five boroughs which contain NYCHA housing were asked to identify needed security and quality of life improvements that could possibly be paid for by the State budget which includes settlements with Wall Street banks.

Those of us in whose districts NYCHA buildings are located recently received word that Governor Cuomo's Division of Budget had signed off on improvement projects that had been nominated by myself and my colleagues in the Assembly's Majority Conference. These projects are now being reviewed by the Dormitory Authority pending final approval. In total, nearly $42 million in State-funded improvements to 76 NYCHA buildings are being considered.

In our community, three of the six projects my staff and I nominated for security upgrades have been advanced toward final approval, and I am told that three other projects are still under review and may be approved at a later date. Those projects which have received preliminary approval from the Governor, which are still under review and their status may change at a later date. The three projects that have received preliminary approval are as follows:

  • Harlem River Houses: The Tenants' Association has requested 55 new security cameras be installed, and I have asked for additional monies to repair nearby sidewalks to make them safer for seniors to walk on and for children to play on. The Governor has instructed his staff to consider a $500,000 grant to address these problems.
  • Bethune Gardens: The building is in need of security cameras in the lobby and elevators, and the entrance door and intercom are not functioning. The Governor has instructed his staff to consider a grant of $500,000 to correct these problems.
  • Fort Washington Houses/99 Fort Washington: According to the Tenants' Association, the entire front door assembly is in desperate need of replacement, as are the windows in all of the 226 apartments in the building. The Governor has instructed his staff to consider a grant of $500,000 to correct these deficiencies.
photo

I would like to thank the Tenants' Associations of these buildings for quickly drawing up their requests, as well as my staff member Earnestine Bell-Temple (shown at right) for acting as our go-between during this complicated process to relay the tenants' requests. I will update you on this program's progress as information becomes available.

As you may have heard, longstanding accessibility problems in polling places came to a head earlier this year when the courts forced the Board of Elections to make last-minute changes to polling places that created problems for voters this year and may create major problems during the Presidential election and three other elections scheduled to be held during 2016.

Court-Ordered Polling Changes Could Create New Problems

In Central Harlem, several polling places were moved by the courts to a new polling place on Harlem River Drive. This was done because the old polling places did not conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Board of Elections did not act quickly enough (in the courts' opinion) to comply with this important Federal law. However, as is often the case when these changes are forced through, this change may create as many problems as it solves.

Central Harlem Hills Could Prove Troublesome for Voters

Northern Manhattan is not alone in facing these new problems, but our hills and valleys present a unique problem for seniors and voters with disabilities who may now be forced to walk long distances or travel up and down steep hills in order to vote. Voters who are not living with a disability could also be greatly inconvenienced by having to go to new and unfamiliar poll sites. As we all know, while on a map these changes may make sense, when you know the lay of the land here it is clear that a new hardship has been created, and many New Yorkers may choose not to vote because of these changes.

Though this report was written on the day before yesterday's November 2015 election, as you read it tonight any problems with the court-ordered changes will have become clear. Myself and others are concerned that any problems experienced by voters in this off-year election will only become worse in 2016 when voters will decide primary elections for State offices, the general election for State offices, Congressional elections and the upcoming Presidential election. In a potential worst-case scenario, large numbers of voters could turn out for the Presidential election if former Secretary of State Clinton, who is a resident of New York State, is on the ballot.

I am working closely with the Board of Elections, the courts, advocates for voters and the disabled as well as other interested parties to come to an agreement on a better plan. Please look forward to the latest news on this important effort in a future report.

Honoring Mayor David N. Dinkins
City's Quality-of-Life Improvements Began Under Dinkins

photo

I was pleased to join Mayor de Blasio, former Mayor David N. Dinkins and other current and former elected officials and members of the public at One Centre Street for an October 15, 2015 ceremony during which the building was officially renamed the David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building. This honor was richly deserved, as many longtime New Yorkers know, because the City they love so much began to change for the better when Mayor Dinkins initiated the Safe Cities crime-fighting initiative and other programs that allowed the City to hire more police officers and helped bring about the improved quality of life which continues today.

Safe Cities Program Helped End the "Bad Old Days"

Beginning in 1991, as our city's first and only African-American mayor, Mayor Dinkins fought tirelessly to pass and fund a program which dramatically expanded the New York Police Department and put thousands of additional police on our streets. Though Mayor Dinkins' successor is often credited with "turning New York City around" by instituting the "broken windows" policy of policing, which relates quality of life issues and major crimes, in truth it was Mayor Dinkins' decision to put more police on the streets that began to beat back what many of us who have lived here for many decades not-so-fondly recall as "the bad old days."

Under Dinkins, Crime Plummeted

As a result of this important program, crime began to fall in the first year. In succeeding years crime fell further and faster than at any time in recent memory, across all categories, and continued to drop as later mayors claimed credit for themselves. It is a shame that Mayor Dinkins has not received the credit he deserves for this achievement. However, those of us who are lifelong New Yorkers know the truth, and we remember Mayor Dinkins fondly and greatly appreciate what he did for us all.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.

2016 Voting Dates

  • Presidential Primary April 19, 2016 (petitioning begins Dec. 29, 2015, ends Feb. 1-4, 2016).
  • Congressional Primary June 28, 2016 (petitioning begins March 8, ends April 11-14).
  • State Primary Election Sept. 13, 2016 (petitioning begins June 7, ends July 11-14).
  • State and Federal General Election Nov. 8, 2016.

Video Clips:

March 12, 2015
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Farrell addresses questions relating to changes in the Gap Elimination in the Assembly Budget Proposal. E.203
 
 




Photo Slide Show:



Contact Information:

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Powell Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
212-234-1430
District Office Directions
Albany Office
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Albany, NY 12248
518-455-5491
Albany Office Directions