Hugh T. Farley, Republican - Conservative - Independence, was born in Watertown, New York. He grew up in Indian Lake in Hamilton County and graduated from high school in Watertown. Senator Farley received a Bachelor of Science with honors from the University at Albany, and is a graduate of Mohawk Valley Community College, which honored him with its Alumni Merit Award. He obtained a Juris Doctor degree from the American University School of Law in Washington, D.C.
Senator Farley served in the U.S. Army in Germany. He taught high school in Syracuse and in Maryland. In 1965, Dr. Farley was appointed to the faculty of the School of Business of the University at Albany where he advanced to Full Professor and Law Area Coordinator. In 2000, he was named Professor Emeritus of Business Law. He was nominated several times for the Outstanding Teacher Award at that institution, and was Past President of the Northeastern Business Law Association. In 1983, Dr. Farley received the University Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of his service to the University and to public higher education.
First elected to public office in 1970, Senator Farley served as a Councilmember and, later, Town Council Majority Leader, in the Town of Niskayuna. In his first run for State office, he soundly defeated an incumbent in the race for State Senate in 1976, and has been subsequently reelected every two years with overwhelming margins.
Named in 1979 as the first Chair of the Senate Aging Committee, Senator Farley authored many significant laws benefiting senior citizens, including the nation's first hospice law, the law creating a program of respite care for the elderly, the prohibition of mandatory retirement policies, and elimination of the State income tax on the first $20,000 of pensions and annuities. He was the Senate sponsor of the Community Services for the Elderly Law, which has been a model for other states. He also played a leading role in the development of the EPIC (Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage) Program to assist seniors with the cost of their prescription drugs.
In January 1985, Senator Farley was appointed Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. In his first year, he was successful in revitalizing the State Superfund Program. He subsequently sponsored the 1986 Environmental Quality Bond Act, which provided $1.45 billion for hazardous waste site cleanup, land acquisition, historic preservation, and urban cultural parks.
As Chair, he sponsored major laws to establish strong criminal penalties for the illegal release of hazardous substances, to regulate the bulk storage of hazardous substances, and to strengthen the State's water pollution control program. He also led the Committee in addressing issues concerning solid and infectious waste, groundwater, the protection of rivers and lakes, and the wise management of the State's natural, wildlife, and marine resources. He was named Legislator of the Year in 1986 by the New York State Conservation Council.
In 1989, Senator Farley became Chair of the Senate Banks Committee. He quickly established a national reputation in supporting the innovations and responsiveness of the dual banking system. He later sponsored the 1997 "wild card" law to help maintain the viability of the state banking system in an era of rapid change and innovation. He also gained national media attention for his efforts to attack the financing of the criminal drug trade by addressing the problem of money laundering and the illegal transmission of money.
Senator Farley developed significant laws to protect homeowners against problems with mortgage escrow accounts, and to require banks to implement safety measures at automated teller machine facilities. He joined with advocates for the elderly and consumer groups in enacting laws to protect homeowners from "predatory lending" and from home equity and deed theft scams. In 2008, he sponsored a law to strengthen the regulation of subprime mortgages, to establish judicial procedures to help prevent home foreclosures, and to crack down on fraudulent mortgage practices. He has also sponsored laws to strengthen the regulation of several types of non-bank financial companies, including budget planners, investment advisers, commercial check cashers, mortgage bankers and mortgage brokers.
As Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Libraries, Senator Farley has sponsored virtually every piece of major library legislation since 1978. He was a member of the Governor's Commission on Libraries and served as an elected delegate to the White House Conferences on Libraries in 1979 and 1991. He has worked to secure increased state support for libraries, including support for new forms of library services, such as school library systems and hospital library programs. In 2012, Senator Farley was selected to be Chairman of a reconstituted Senate Select Committee on Libraries.
In 1995, Senator Farley was appointed Majority Whip. In 2011, he was advanced to the Conference leadership position of Chair of the Senate Majority Program Development Committee, and in 2015 he was appointed Vice President Pro Tempore. For several years, he has also served as Senate Chair of the General Government / Local Assistance budget conference committee.
Among other initiatives, he has worked to guard personal privacy rights. In response to concerns raised by his college students, he sponsored a 2000 law which prohibited schools and colleges from using Social Security numbers as student identification numbers. He was a member of the Senate Majority Task Force on Privacy Invasion, which proposed several other legislative protections. In an effort to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of government services, he developed an omnibus law to eliminate redundancy and reduce costs in the production of government documents, and sponsored another law enhancing the ability of citizens to use electronic mail when submitting formal comments on proposed rules and regulations. He helped create an innovative health care program in the City of Schenectady which utilized volunteer medical professionals to provide free basic medical care to uninsured citizens, including providing free pre-employment physical examinations which were needed by job seekers.
As a former local government official, Senator Farley has been particularly sensitive to local needs. He developed and sponsored the Schenectady Metroplex law, acclaimed as model legislation offering declining industrial cities new life through a unique mix of public and private cooperation. He also helped bring needed state jobs into downtown Schenectady, including the construction of a new state office building, which has made Schenectady the headquarters to several state agencies. He also helped bring a law enforcement academy into downtown, which was renamed The Senator Hugh T. Farley Zone Five Regional Law Enforcement Academy in recognition of his efforts. He was named a "Patroon," the City of Schenectady's highest award for public service and civic contributions, in 1998.
Senator Farley gained a national reputation through his position from 1980 to 2008 as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Interstate Cooperation and his representation of New York State in a number of national organizations, including the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Council of State Governments (CSG). He served as Chairman of CSG, Chairman of the CSG Eastern Region, President of the National Republican Legislators Association, and Vice Chairman of the State-Federal Assembly of the NCSL. He was named 1989 Legislator of the Year by the National Republican Legislators Association.
The Senator and his wife Sharon have three children and several grandchildren.