End Of Session Brings Progress On Several Fronts

David J. Valesky

June 14, 2007

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. The simple fact is that we need to make sure these manufacturers have access to affordable power so they can stay competitive with businesses from other states.

One of the results of that meeting was an agreement to extend the program for another year, as the benefits of the program are more closely considered. A few days later, the full Senate adopted legislation extending the program.

As someone who served on the Temporary Commission on New York State Power Programs and, thus, looked at this program quite closely, I had advocated for a longer extension of the program. But I was pleased, nonetheless, that Power for Jobs has been extended and that low-cost power remains a priority.

Not only have there been repeated leaders meetings, where differences on other legislative issues are aired and often resolved, there have also been joint-legislative conference committees meeting. These joint conference meetings have been held to iron out differences between the Senate and Assembly ranging from the Healthy Schools Act, which will set new nutritional guidelines for food served in schools, to a new Article 10, which is a state law that will allow for the development of more efficient and environmentally sound power plants that can help ease energy costs.

Because of all this cooperation, in the past few weeks the Senate has been passing and the Governor signing major bills, some of which had been stalled for years. For example, this week we passed a Human Trafficking Law that had languished in the Legislature for three years. Often referred to as modern day slavery, the trafficking of humans for sexual exploitation and labor abuses has become a major problem across the globe, with our state far from immune to its effects. The new law signed last week has been called the strongest anti-trafficking law in the country by the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition.

Other bills have been moving on the floor of the Senate, offering legislative solutions to important issues, including legislative reform. This week I was pleased to vote for a bill I cosponsored that would impose term limits on Legislative leaders, including the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the Assembly. This bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly.

It has been a productive few weeks, and frankly a productive session, with the adoption of additional property tax relief, health care reforms and a better school aid formula earlier in the year. We have two more weeks to go before the legislature adjourns for the year, and I hope to be able to report even more progress then.