Session is in full swing. There are many pressing items that need to be addressed. Here are my legislative priorities for 2014:
We need to clean up Albany and pass ethics reforms. I’m tired of the misconduct and unethical behavior. We started the session off with yet another Assembly resignation over sexual harassment claims. Assemblyman Gabryszak from Western New York resigned this month, after many members of the Assembly called for his resignation if sexual harassment claims made against him were true. His resignation has left a vacancy in Cheektowaga, DePew and other Western New York municipalities. Not only has the vacancy left the residents without representation, a special election could be called by the Governor which also has a price tag for the taxpayers.
I introduced ethics legislation last year (A7621) that would institute fair procedures for ethical complaints—something the Assembly currently lacks. We need an Assembly ethics committee that is truly independent of the Speaker. The bi-partisan committee will have the power to investigate the claim or defer the complaint to another appropriate investigative entity. The committee also will be able to impose various penalties or, in certain cases, recommend penalties be imposed by vote of the full Assembly. We also need to increase the penalties for lawmakers who are convicted of criminal activities. It is outrageous that those elected officials that are convicted of corruption are currently allowed to keep their state pension. I sponsor legislation that if a state official is convicted of a felony he or she automatically forfeits their state pension.
Lastly, let’s institute member-item reform—the area from where much of the recent corruption has sprung. I propose that we prohibit any appropriation be made when a conflict of interest exists—including appropriations to an organization that employs or compensates the legislator who is providing the member item or a family member or any person sharing a home with such legislator.
Tax Break for Middle Class Earners
We need to cut taxes for the middle class and make the ones we do have permanent. I sponsor legislation (A9404) that would make the income tax cuts passed in 2011 permanent for the middle class and cut income taxes for higher income earners so we don’t continue to drive them out of this state. We also need to work to make living in this state easier by passing commonsense legislation to further reduce the tax burden. We can do this with such measures such as eliminating the state’s sales tax on gas, reducing energy taxes, and providing more personal income tax deductions for higher education expenses.
Increase Penalties for Endangering Children
Too often we hear cases of violence or maltreatment of children. We need to pass legislation that creates the new class D violent felony offense of endangering the welfare of a child (A3725). Under current law, only misdemeanor penalties are imposed in many cases for those who endanger a child. For example, many sexual abuse offenses or assault offenses are not felonies under current law. We need to toughen penalties to protect our young children.
Other important priorities:
- Quickly eliminate 18-a—the energy tax on utilities that gets passed down to all consumers.
- Slow down Common Core so students and teachers have time to adjust. I'm proposing a three-year, phase-in period.
- Toughen synthetic drug laws and combat narcotic abuse that exists in our communities. We made it more difficult to obtain prescription drugs two years ago but we need to, again, go further with controlled substances.
- Better promote New York State Agricultural products. The Governor mentioned linking Upstate producers to Downstate consumers. This is long overdue and more needs to be done to ensure markets for Upstate producers in downstate.
- Remove unfunded mandates for localities and unnecessary regulations for businesses. I sponsor legislation that would establish the Division of Regulatory Review & Economic Growth (D-RREG) to review and make binding recommendations for the elimination of burdensome regulations (A5044).
- Eliminate corporate franchise tax and personal income tax for manufacturers (A4568). If we are to bring jobs back to our region, we need to entice new businesses and keep the ones we have by providing meaningful tax breaks.
If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (315) 598-5185.