James L. Seward's Blog entries

Renewed Call for Property Tax Relief Needed

One of my highest priorities since first being elected to office has been to help individuals and families realize the dream of home ownership.  The only way to maintain that dream is by providing meaningful property tax relief.  Sadly, some Albany politicians fail to share my vision.

One of the most advantageous property tax relief initiatives in New York is the historic School Tax Relief (STAR) program.  I fought hard for this plan and helped win passage of legislation in 1997 clearing the way for the key savings program.

July 15, 2010
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New York Parks Offer Summer Time Fun

As families and individuals look for ways to enjoy the wonderful summer weather, people need to look no further than our local state parks.  July is Park and Recreation Month across the nation and here in New York we have many great reasons to celebrate. 

Our public parks and state lands are among our greatest resources, particularly in upstate, and they fulfill a number of roles.  They are a strong source of tourist dollars, drawing people from other parts of New York, neighboring states, and across the nation.  Along with generating money for the state, our parks also help support many other businesses, from small grocery stores, to souvenir shops selling locally produced keepsakes, to farm stands offering homegrown fruits and vegetables.

July 8, 2010
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Gun Control Legislation Derailed

Legislation brought before the state senate recently, known as the microstamping bill, has generated quite a bit of publicity.  The measure is gun control under the guise of crime prevention.  I voted against the bill and am pleased to say it was pulled from the senate floor after failing to garner enough support for passage.   

July 1, 2010
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Business Fix Needed Now

The 2010-2011 state budget, being approved bit by bit through weekly budget extender bills, is continuing to come together.  The process is like crumbling up your medicine into tiny pieces and taking a little at a time rather than swallowing the pill whole.  Even worse, it is a prescription for failure for New York.

June 24, 2010
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Make Your Vote Count

Our great nation has evolved in many ways since our founding fathers first ratified the United States Constitution in 1787.  Cultural shifts, economic changes and technological transformations have all helped shape our country, creating the land we live in and love.

While so many of the tenets this country was founded on continue to serve us well there is one that is currently being reexamined – the Electoral College.  As outlined under Article II of the Constitution, the manner in which the president and vice president of the United States are elected, utilizing what has become known as the Electoral College, is ready for an overhaul.

June 17, 2010
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Cut It Out!

As Albany leaders continue to hold up the state budget, the frustration level grows daily.  Taxpayers from across the state are sick and tired of the ongoing stalemate and the serious consequences the late state budget has created.  I too am disturbed by the disregard to obey the law and convene public, bipartisan conference committees that would allow rank and file lawmakers to negotiate the budget in full view of the public.

June 10, 2010
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Budget Clock Keeps Ticking

A couple of weeks ago, through this column, I voiced my concerns with the ongoing state budget stalemate.  It is now June, and the budget is more than two months overdue, yet the political leaders in Albany still seem to lack a real sense of urgency. 

June 3, 2010
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Reform Needed At New York Juvenile Prisons

As New York continues to deal with an unprecedented fiscal crisis, every dollar expended by the state should come under careful scrutiny.  We must ensure funds are being spent wisely for needed programs that are widely beneficial.  It is also vital that we examine the policymakers, and make certain they are of superior character as well.  Case in point – New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Commissioner Gladys Carrion. 

May 27, 2010
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Struggle Continues For Dairy Farmers

Over the past year I have met with dairy farmers and agribusiness officials on several occasions to discuss the ongoing milk price crisis.  Low milk prices have hurt famers across the nation, but the problem is particularly acute in New York because the cost of production is extremely high in comparison to other states.  The combination of low milk prices, high taxes, rising energy costs, along with other rising costs of production have forced many upstate farmers out of business.  It is a disturbing problem that shows no sign of lessening. 

File: 
Letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack

May 20, 2010
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Budget Fiasco Persists

As the calendar pages continue to turn and a state budget remains in limbo, the level of concern continues to rise. Individuals from all walks of life call my office, send letters and e-mails, or simply stop me on the street to ask about the status of the state’s fiscal plan.  Their concern is warranted.   As the budget stalemate extends from days to weeks to months, the negative effects extend to more and more families and business across the state. 

May 13, 2010
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Our Seniors Make Great Showing

I was recently afforded the great honor of meeting with a number of senior citizens from the 51st senatorial district who were visiting the Capitol to take part in the annual “New York State Senior Citizens’ Day Celebration.”

Extra Images: 

May 6, 2010
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Lyme Disease Awareness Month

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and with the high number of reported cases in New York, it is important to arm yourself and your family with the tools to avoid the disease when possible, and detect and treat when necessary.

Lyme disease is an infection, caused by bacteria, that is spread by the bite of an infected tick.  Lyme disease can affect the skin, joints, nervous system and/or heart.  Over 77,000 cases of Lyme disease have been reported to the New York State Department of Health since reporting was first required in 1986.  When detected early, it usually can be treated with oral antibiotics.  If left untreated, it often causes serious health problems.

April 29, 2010
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Albany Scofflaws Skirt Budget Process

The state budget impasse continues in Albany and unfortunately, the log jam doesn’t look like it will break anytime soon.

One reason the budget is late is because political leaders have failed to open up the process and begin public, bipartisan conference committees as required by law.  For a number of years, informal conference committees, made up of rank and file lawmakers, met in full view of the public and the media to hammer out a final budget agreement.  The process worked so well that in 2007, the process was formalized and adopted into law. 

April 22, 2010
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Health Care Freedom Act

Over the past several years, health care and health insurance have been topics dominating the headlines.  The issue was a major focus during the 2008 presidential race and has been a major point of discussion in almost every election since.  Certainly, the health care conversation trickles down to the dinner table, as families struggle with a multitude of complex options and agonize over how to pay for costly coverage.

April 15, 2010
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Census - Count Me In

In case you haven’t heard, we are in the midst of counting everyone who lives in the United States, and your participation is needed and encouraged.  The census includes citizens and non-citizens – people of all ages, races and ethnic groups.  It is vital that everyone take part.

April 12, 2010
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Crack Down on Sex Offenders

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.  The goal is to raise public awareness about sexual violence, focusing on sexual assault and rape, while at the same time, educating communities and individuals about how to prevent such horrific acts.

April 1, 2010
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Two-Wheel Safety

The snow has melted (for the most part) and Spring has finally arrived.  One of the best ways to celebrate the change in season is by pulling the bicycle out of the garage and taking a ride.  Whether on your own, or with family or friends, a bike ride is a great way to get out and explore the neighborhood, and at the same time, improve your fitness.

One of the first things to take into account before hitting the road is your equipment.  If your bike has been stored away for the last few months it is essential that you perform some routine maintenance.  Here is a short check list to help get you started:

March 25, 2010
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Medicaid Reform Equals Substantial Savings

Several weeks ago I detailed the need for Medicaid reform with a renewed focus on fraud and abuse of the system.  At the time, a special task force set to work searching for real savings.  The task force held hearings around the state and solicited expert opinion from those on the front line, district attorneys, county executives and other experts.  Now an initial report has been released.

File: 
Combating Medicaid Fraud in New York State

March 19, 2010
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Property Tax Relief is Overdue

For many people the great American dream is to own a home.  Unfortunately, once you achieve that dream in New York, the nightmare known as property taxes can keep you up at night.  According to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C., New York routinely leads the nation when it comes to high property taxes.  In fact, between 1977 and 2008, the Empire State ranked first of second in the country for its state-local tax burden compared to the U.S. average. 

March 11, 2010
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Strengthen Domestic Violence Laws

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 out of every 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and there are more than 400,000 domestic violence incidents in New York state each year.  In addition, fifty percent of all women murdered in New York State are killed as a result of domestic violence.

March 4, 2010
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