Five minutes and three bills later, state Sen. John Mannion finished his first meeting as chair of the state Senate Disabilities Committee.
Mannion, D-Geddes, was named chair of the committee in January. Before this year, one panel provided oversight of developmental disabilities and mental health-related issues in the Senate. But with the Democratic supermajority in the Senate, the committee was split into two.
At the initial meeting Monday, the committee considered three bills, two of which are sponsored by Mannion. One bill he introduced would require legislative approval and notification one year before the closure of any state-run developmental disability, mental health or group home facility.
"It's just to make sure that we don't allow for some rapid decisions to try to save a few dollars in the budget that would greatly disrupt people who need stability and care," Mannion told The Citizen in January.
The bill received bipartisan support at the committee meeting. State Sen. Mike Martucci, a freshman Republican, is the ranking member of the committee and cosponsored Mannion's bill. He noted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget proposal includes the closure of four state Office of Children and Family Services facilities, including one in his district where more than 100 people are employed.
Martucci praised Mannion for introducing the bill to ensure the state Legislature has a say in the closure of any facilities.
"In the midst of the pandemic, the last thing we should be doing is looking to close facilities and eliminate the good-paying jobs from places like the Hudson Valley," he said.
State Sen. Fred Akshar, a Binghamton-area Republican, also lauded Mannion's bill. He added that he's looking forward to working with Mannion on the committee.
"There are often times, I think, in state government politics comes into play in much of what we do," he said. "But in this space, I think that there is much that we can accomplish regardless of our political persuasion."
The committee advanced the bill, which now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
A second bill introduced by Mannion was also advanced by the committee. He proposed the creation of an independent intellectual and developmental disability ombudsman program.
According to the bill's summary, the program would assist individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities "to ensure that they receive coverage from managed care organizations that is appropriate in meeting their individual service needs and uses a request for proposals process to determine who shall be responsible for such program."
With the committee's endorsement, it now heads to the Senate Finance Committee for review.
Mannion's panel approved one other bill on Monday. Legislation introduced by state Sen. John Brooks would create uniform guidelines for the handling of cash accounts belonging to residents at state Office of People With Developmental Disabilities facilities. That bill is heading to the Senate floor for consideration.