Albany, N.Y.-- Key elements of a "Rural New York Agenda" advanced by State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) earlier this year, including a proposal to expand broadband services in rural regions, have been approved by both houses of the Legislature and will be delivered to Governor George E. Pataki to be signed into law.
"One of the real bright spots of this legislative session is that we’ve heightened important bipartisan recognition of key short- and long-term challenges facing rural communities in the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region and across upstate New York," said Winner, chairman of the 10-member, bipartisan Legislative Commission on the Development of Rural Resources. Winner noted that local legislators Assemblyman Jim Bacalles (R-C, Corning) and Assemblywoman Barbara S. Lifton (D-Ithaca) serve on the Rural Resources Commission.
Winner announced today that both houses of the Legislature have approved legislation to:
> require, by January 1, 2007, the state’s lead economic development agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, to recommend to the governor and the Legislature new programs and initiatives that will lead to an expanded deployment of advanced telecommunications services in under served rural areas. Empire State Development, together with other state agencies and private industry representatives, will evaluate and recommend specific state and local strategies for the deployment of a broadband infrastructure in rural regions (S.2747-B).
"This action represents the beginning of a concrete economic development strategy to help bring the excitement and prosperity of a high tech future to rural New York,¨ Winner said. "Rural communities must find a niche in the continued emergence of New York State's high technology industry. We have to focus on building the necessary infrastructure and work force to cement rural New York's place in that future.¨;
> establish minimum training requirements for municipal planning and zoning officials (S.6316). The legislation proposes a minimum training standard of four hours annually for members of local planning boards, zoning boards of appeal and county planning boards. Municipalities would be authorized to offer a wide range of training opportunities.
"The challenges facing local planning and zoning officials have enormous implications for rural communities and localities across New York State," said Winner. "Training in modern land use tools and strategies can help these officials better address land use decisions that have become increasingly complex and decisive to the future quality of our communities. So many of these decisions impact the traditional foundations of rural communities, especially agriculture, natural resources and open space. We need to try to ensure that local land use decisions are made with as much effectiveness, foresight and wisdom as possible.¨;
> extend the provisions of a successful 10-year pilot program, set to expire on July 1, 2006, that provides an alternative recertification process for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and advanced emergency medical technicians (AEMTs). The program, which will be extended for another five years under Winner’s legislation (S.6976), allows EMTs and AEMTs, who have completed their necessary continuing education requirements, to renew their certifications without completing a written examination.
"Burdensome and unnecessary training requirements contribute to an ongoing and alarming decline in the ranks of our emergency services volunteers. This alternative recertification process has helped ease the regulatory burden on EMTs, and it needs to be extended," Winner said.
Winner said that legislation (S.6767-A) he sponsors to promote agritourism opportunities statewide has alsobeen approved. He added that he will continue to use the bipartisan structure of the Rural Resources Commission to promote awareness of a Rural New York Agenda throughout state government. The Commission is currently planning a statewide Future of Rural New York symposium in Syracuse from July 19-21.
"These are opening initiatives in a more comprehensive Rural New York agenda,¨ said Winner. "I'm encouraged by the interest that's expressed by many colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both houses of the Legislature. I hope we can continue to successfully build on this spirit of cooperation and enact meaningful new programs and services for rural New York.¨