Assemblywoman Millman
Assemblywoman
Joan L.
Millman
reports to
the people
September 2005



Dear Neighbor,

This past legislative session I was part of a historic effort which achieved an on-time budget for the first time in twenty years. This is particularly important to all New Yorkers as it permits localities to allocate resources based on real numbers, not just simply estimates, and early passage allowed the legislature to focus on issues of importance to our state (see stories inside about a variety of bills). For the past three months I have been in the district full-time helping constituents, speaking out on important issues including the future uses of the House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue, the Public Place site in Carroll Gardens, and the MTA capital program which fails to include needed improvements at our subway stops. I have sponsored several successful events in the district including the senior Metrocard Bus, the ASPCA van which provided services for eligible pet owners, and a summer reading program. Working with the District Attorney’s office, I continue to collect used cell phones for distribution to victims of domestic violence. If you have a cell phone you are no longer using, please drop it off at my office.

Sincerely,
signature
Joan L. Millman
Member of Assembly



Millman’s "Billy’s Law" Finally Signed by Governor

I am proud to announce the passage of "Billy’s Law," which I sponsored to ensure direct oversight and quality care for the more than 1,400 developmentally disabled New York State children placed in out-of-state facilities. Billy’s Law was passed by the Assembly and the Senate on June 24, 2005, and was signed into law by the Governor on August 2.

Billy’s Law, inspired by Vito Albanese, is named for his son, Billy, who was mistreated at a New Jersey facility for mentally disabled youth. After hearing his story, I drafted Billy’s Law to make sure that New York State evaluates and monitors residence facilities before sending our children outside of New York to receive specialized care.

An interagency study was conducted by a newly established Work Group on Out-of-State Residential Placements convened by the Governor. What the Work Group discovered was that "concerns about out-of-state residential placements include the quality of care a NYS child receives when he or she is in an out-of-state residential facility. Currently, New York State agencies have limited control and only limited oversight or resource capacity to monitor an out-of-state residential institution."

Billy’s Law addresses exactly that problem. The new law will ensure that the New York State Education Department conducts a thorough investigation, including regular inspections and evaluations, before placing any facilities on the registry of "qualified facilities." Even in an approved facility, if an incident of abuse or neglect is reported, that facility must be immediately reevaluated. While Billy’s Law will help the children we send away now, my ultimate goal is to have enough facilities here in New York so we can bring our children home.

To view the Inter-Agency Work Group Report on Out-of-State Residential Placements please visit the New York State Council on Children and Families website at http://www.ccf.state.ny.us.

photo Assemblywoman Millman presents the Inter-Agency Report on Out-of-State Placements on the floor of the Assembly chambers.



Reforming Our Public Authorities

This past session I sponsored the Public Authorities Reform Act (PARA) authored by Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, which passed both the Assembly and the Senate. The PARA will add comprehensive oversight to public authorities that operate with no direct accountability to the public.

Currently, New Yorkers fund public authority operations using our tolls, fees, and our taxes. Yet, there is very little transparency when it comes to where and how our money and resources are spent. Public authorities act as unchecked institutions that are minimally regulated through special hearings and investigations.

Locally we have witnessed the important role public authorities play in governing City and State resources. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, both in the case of the Hudson Rail Yards and the Atlantic Rail Yards, proposed the divestment of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public land without oversight. In both instances there were few competitive bids and the public was allowed little say in the decision-making process. This is because under current law, public authorities have no rules governing the disposal of assets. In order to fix this abuse of power the PARA would require public authorities to receive full market value for the disposal of any asset, thus eliminating the potential for government give-aways.

Other important measures of the bill include the creation of a Public Authorities Inspector General to investigate questionable practices of public authorities, as well as the creation of a Public Authorities Independent Budget Office, to review the financial practices of public authorities and issue reports annually. The passage of this bill will help restore accountability to the way our public authorities operate.




The Voting Systems Standard Act

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is a federal mandate for all states to update and improve their voting systems in the wake of the 2000 presidential election controversy. In New York, improving our voting capabilities to comply with HAVA includes updating our voting machines and registration processes.

My colleagues and I in the Assembly passed the Voting Systems Standards Act of 2005, legislation to provide a reliable, accessible voting system for all New Yorkers. The Act would ensure that at each polling location, at least one machine is fully accessible to disabled voters. The Voting Systems Standard Act bans the use of punch card ballots, and instead requires each voting machine to produce and retain a paper, voter verifiable record. I fully support the idea of voting machines that produce paper receipts so that all voters can be assured that their ballot has been accurately recorded, just as banks issue receipts so that customers can verify their transactions.

I voted for this important legislation not just so that New York’s voting system will be in compliance with HAVA, but because all New York voters have the right to participate in elections without the risk of complicated and unreliable voting systems that may misrepresent their votes. This bill is a necessary step towards ensuring that each vote in New York is cast and counted the way the voter intends. Although the Assembly passed the Voting Systems Standard Act unanimously this past winter, the Senate has not yet agreed to all the details of the bill. I hope to see this important legislation passed into law during our next session.




Eminent Domain Reform Act

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that eminent domain can be used as justification to acquire private property from homeowners for use in economic development projects. The importance of this decision extends to our own Assembly District, where plans for the development of Atlantic Yards, including the new Nets basketball arena, involve the use of eminent domain to acquire private property.

While the Supreme Court decision legitimizes the use of eminent domain, it leaves the process by which such projects are authorized up to the states. Because of the potential power that this decision gives to the government over private property, it is critical that we set very specific rules and limitations in New York to ensure that eminent domain is only used when it is truly necessary and when it is proven to be in the best interest of the community.

I am a sponsor of a new bill, the Eminent Domain Reform Act, which, if passed into law, will establish stringent requirements that developers must meet before using eminent domain to acquire private homes for economic development projects. The Eminent Domain Reform Act requires developers to prepare a comprehensive economic development plan that must include benefits of the project to the affected area, the types of businesses that will use the property, and alternatives to the plan. The Act also requires the developer to hold at least one public hearing to allow for public input, an essential element that is not part of the process under current eminent domain law. The Eminent Domain Reform Act would then require the developer to complete a final economic impact statement to be voted on by the local legislative body and approved by the local executive officer.

I support this important legislation because I believe it sets necessary restrictions to limit the use of eminent domain as a justification to take private property from homeowners, residents, and businesses for economic development projects. The Eminent Domain Reform Act is an important step toward ensuring that developers do not usurp private property unless the proposed project benefits the community as a whole.




photo Assemblywoman Millman hosted the ASPCA Cares mobile animal clinic at the Gowanus Houses. The clinic provided spay and neuter surgeries to over twenty cats and dogs. photo Assemblywoman Millman with Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, and Darlyne Lawson of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 calling on the MTA to restore funding for station renovations at the Lawrence Street subway station in Downtown Brooklyn.


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