Governor George E. Pataki kicked off 2006 with a State of the State Address that contained many goals similar to that of the New York State Senate.
My colleagues and I are all energized to tackle the issues before us such as toughening sex offender laws, providing energy relief and working on a solution for property tax relief.
As in past years, the Senate will work on legislation updating and expanding Megan's Law. Megan's Law requires incarcerated sex offenders, as well as those on probation or parole, to register with a Statewide registry. Convicted sex offenders must register annually for at least 10 years.
As the Governor pointed out in his State of the State address, it has been 10 years since Megan's Law was enacted, which means numerous sex offenders will soon be eligible to come off the registry. It has been documented that sex offenders typically are repeat offenders and we want to prevent them from possibly striking again. The Senate is proposing that sex offenders will have to register for life, not just 10 years. We are also considering proposals for global positioning system (GPS) tracking of sexual predators.
Another proposal is to create mandatory community notification to help ensure that parents know when a sex offender is living in their neighborhood. Currently, the flow of information down to parents is not very good unless a parent knows specifically where to look. The current Megan's Law only has three procedures for community notification: 1) the local law enforcement agency is notified whenever a sex offender moves into the community and that agency may notify schools and other entities with vulnerable populations of the offender's presence if the offender poses a threat to public safety; 2) the public can call a toll-free number, (800) 262-3257, or log onto website http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/index.htm to inquire if a person is listed in the registry; 3) an annual subdirectory of high-risk offenders is distributed to law enforcement agencies throughout the State for public viewing. The Senate will work on revising these laws to better inform parents as to who is living near their children.
The Governor also discussed providing tax incentives for renewable energy such as wind and solar power, and for promoting the use of ethanol in automobiles. The Senate also wants to encourage alternative energy sources as well as provide relief from skyrocketing home heating costs for seniors. We have also proposed a State sales tax cap on gasoline.
Property taxes were a major issue last year and continue to be this year. We hope to formulate a plan to reduce property taxes by $2.4 billion in three years. This plan would strongly encourage shared local services.
Last year, the Senate, Assembly and Governor all worked together to get a budget done on time. We are all committed to working together again this year for an on-time budget. This process will begin in mid-January, when the Governor submits his proposed budget to the Legislature.