As part of their commitment to increase public participation and awareness about the legislative process in Albany, the bi-partisan New York State Senate Temporary Committee on Rules and Administration Reform today announced the launch of a new website: http://www.senate.state.ny.us/sws/reform/index.html
SENATE RULES AND ADMINISTRATION REFORM COMMITTEE GATHERS TESTIMONY FROM REFORM ADVOCATES, INCLUDING A FORMER SENATOR The State Senate’s Temporary Committee on Rules and Administration Reform held its first public hearing of four planned across the state, and heard from several good government groups, regional reform advocates and a former state senator. The hearing was hosted at Syracuse City Hall by Reform Committee Co-Chairs State Sen. David Valesky and State Sen. John Bonacic.
These days, many people often refer to Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer -- and we hear it mentioned in passing as the beginning of the summer travel season, or barbecue season, or some other season. But, all of us should take a moment to remember that it is so much more.
As this Memorial Day arrives, it is important for us to take a moment to collectively recall and honor the men and women who, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "gave their last full measure of devotion" to our country.
In recognition of Earth Day last week, I had the pleasure of visiting a new home that has within it a furnace that may hold the key to reducing energy costs and carbon emissions. But to understand the concept, it might be best to start by considering the makeup of a typical car.
When you are driving down the road, your car is burning gas to run the engine. But it is also using the engine’s energy to create electricity. That electricity powers your radio and other devices in your car.
This year’s state budget season included economic forecasts and unforeseen events that certainly presented unprecedented challenges for members of the Legislature and the new Governor. In the end we adopted a budget that was nine days late, and that had a share of restraint and many strong initiatives for Central New York. Still, I believe the final product, and the process, left much to be desired.
With the Holidays upon us, another year is quickly drawing to a close. For me, it is a time when I like to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and consider lessons to be learned. When it comes to the Legislature, it has been a difficult year to summarize, for it was a year full of both promising accomplishments and disappointing distractions. The year began with great hope, as the new Governor and the Legislature tackled challenges that had gone unresolved for years, if not decades.
With the holiday shopping season upon us, we will all be tempted to purchase gift cards for family and friends. These cards can be a practical way to get something for that special person. And, it seems that everywhere you look, from the checkout aisle to newspaper ads, the virtue of these cards is being promoted by top retailers. Because of their ease and promotion, gift cards have become increasingly popular, with the number issued up more then 34 percent over the last two shopping seasons.
State Sen. David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) expressed frustration with the New York State Thruway Authority’s plan to increase tolls and renewed his calls for legislation that would require Senate and Assembly approval of any future toll increases. "Decisions affecting so many travelers and commuters, and potentially impacting the Upstate economy, should not be made without legislative input and public oversight," said Sen. Valesky.
The political season is finally behind us, and now it is time to focus on the coming holidays as we prepare for the end of this year and the beginning of the next. While most of us are happy to view the landscape without lawn signs, there is at least one important subject matter talked about a great deal this campaign season that I hope we can continue to focus on in the coming year. It is a subject that I and others have promoted for some time, and that I believe holds great promise for our region.
Corn, two ears for one dollar or $5.50 a dozen. Peppers, beans, and cabbage, all with premium prices. To top it off, in the little park surrounded by skyscrapers there were hundreds of people mulling about buying bags of these farm fresh products. This was the scene on the first Monday in October at the Union Square Green Market in Manhattan, where four days a week twenty-five to seventy-five farmers from across the state set up shop to sell produce and farm products to the residents of New York City.
We all know someone who has moved away to find work, whether they are our friends, our children or our grandkids. Over the past decade, far too many young people have had to leave Central New York after college to find work and start their careers. This symptom of prolonged economic stagnation is also one of the greatest challenges we face as we work to reinvigorate the Upstate Economy. By now, we all know what this exodus is called: the Brain Drain. And we all agree it must be stopped. The question is how.
There are more than 400,000 children in New York state that do not have health insurance. To put that number in perspective, that is equal to the entire population of Onondaga County, including the City of Syracuse and the well populated suburban towns of Cicero, Manlius and Clay. It is an astounding number. These uninsured children live in all regions of the state and come from diverse backgrounds. Many of these children are urban poor. Others are from rural communities, including farming families that have few places to turn for health coverage.
When I talk to farmers in Central New York about the prospects of selling more of their products to consumers downstate, many tell me how hard it is to break into those markets. It is true, and there are many reasons for this, not the least of which being the lack of a distribution infrastructure. Yet, when I speak to my Senate colleagues from the New York City area, they tell me their constituents are eager to buy New York grown food and farm products. These consumers want New York products for health and environmental reasons, among others.
It was said recently that few residents of New York go to bed thinking about the need to fix our campaign finance system. This may be true. I imagine that with property taxes as high as they are and with most families grappling with ever-escalating health costs, few people outside of government reform advocacy groups and editorial boards place campaign finance on their list of top priorities in Albany.
New York State Sen. David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) today announced more than $1 million in funding for Onondaga County’s Operation IIMPACT program. The $1,183,189 in funding comes from a pool of funds included in the State Budget for Operation IMPACT programs across the state. The statewide Operation IMPACT program bolsters crime-prevention operations in the 17 counties outside New York City. Total funding for Operation IMPACT in all 17 counties will be $17 million in 2007, up from $14.9 million in 2006.
Despite all the talk of unfinished business in Albany, there is one thing that is certain about the 2007 legislative session: when it comes to issues related to Agriculture, it has been an especially productive year. The most notable accomplishment was the Dairy Assistance Program, which directed $30 million in cash direct to the dairy farmers who were hit hard by unstable milk prices last year. The state reimbursed eligible dairy farmers for milk produced in 2006, up to 4.8 million pounds.
As the end of session nears, progress is being made daily on a host of issue important to Central New Yorkers.
Just last week I was involved in a leaders’ meeting, which included the Governor, the four legislative leaders and rank-and-file legislators, to discuss an extension of the power for jobs program.
The program, which helps deliver low cost power to manufacturers across our region, was scheduled to expire on June 30th of this year. I heard from many upstate manufacturers about the need to continue the program, and spoke about that at the leaders meeting.
There are very few among us that have not felt the terrible effects of cancer. That is why I and others make sure each year we participate in the local Relay for Life event, which is being held again this year at Oneida High School on June 9th and 10th.
Now there is something more we can do to help fight back against this terrible disease. The American Cancer Society’s Department of Epidemiology & Surveillance Research is looking to recruit 500,000 adults across the US and Puerto Rico for a Cancer Prevention Study 3 (CPS-3).