Assemblymember Cahill’s Statement On the 2013 Legislative Session

June 25, 2013
Albany, New York – During this year’s session, we succeeded in passing crucial legislation including a budget which focuses on a fairer minimum wage, mandate relief, education, and local infrastructure. The Assembly made progress on important matters by taking action on unfair insurance practices in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, allowing citizens to be heard on casino gambling, and by aiding underdeveloped areas with meaningful economic programs.

“Unfortunately, because of the unwillingness on the part of some to go beyond political rhetoric and actually engage in constructive negotiations on legislative initiatives important to New Yorkers, we missed out on other significant opportunities. The influence and interests of a select few forced serious issues to the wayside, like campaign finance, fair elections, the Women’s Equality Agenda, easing our draconian drug laws and the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

“Although our regular legislative session is complete, my work is not finished. I will be spending the coming months focusing on the communities of the Hudson Valley. Additionally, I will be working to craft much needed insurance legislation, including modernizing New York’s no-fault auto insurance law to reflect advancements in medical technology and to align life, health, property and casualty coverage more with consumer interests,” said Cahill.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2013 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Budget

The 2013-14 Budget gave local governments and property taxpayers much-needed relief with increases in the state’s share of aid to education and Medicaid and other measures easing the burden on localities. Locally, Assemblymember Cahill was successful in helping to secure funding for Belleayre, Catskill Mountain Rail Trail and The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretative Center, all of which will improve access to affordable, family-friendly leisure activities while providing an economic boost to the region through increased tourism revenue.

“Investments in our aging infrastructure, state parks and flood-damaged communities are putting people to work and making New York a more attractive place to live. Increases in State Aid to our school districts make certain that the future - our children - are receiving the best possible education and that it is available to all,” said Cahill.

This year, Assemblyman Cahill also led the Assembly’s efforts to make New York’s transition to compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act as seamless as possible by updating laws on the books to abide by the 2010 act.

Protecting Consumers in the Event of a Disaster

One of Assemblymember Cahill’s first challenges as the newly appointed Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee was to conduct a hearing and series of roundtables on the practices of insurance companies in the wake of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Those discussions resulted in a comprehensive package of bills designed to strengthen consumer protections. The Assembly advanced legislation to help consumers understand their policies, standardize language across the industry, and streamline the claims administration process.

“My goal in hosting a hearing and roundtables was to hear directly from homeowners, independent businesses, agents and brokers, public and independent adjusters and the insurance industry, and to use that information to advance legislation that was not reactionary, but responsive. I’m proud to say that we crafted a package that works toward addressing the concerns raised in our extensive conversations.”

A resolution memorializing the New York State Congressional delegation to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act was also passed by the Insurance Committee and adopted by the Assembly this year. This measure is particularly important to New York State as we are a more likely target of terrorist attacks than perhaps anywhere else in the United States. In the absence of this extension, businesses susceptible to chemical, biological, and physical attacks could be forced to choose between receiving inadequate coverage or moving to where such insurance can be obtained.

“Protecting consumers who need this type of insurance creates stability in the in the broader national and state economy. I expect that Congress will heed our resolution and act accordingly.”

In addition, measures to streamline insurance coverage supported by Assemblyman Cahill are headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Ending deceptive practices with Certificates of Insurance and eliminating the unnecessary requirement that cars be photographed for insurance coverage to take hold are but two such measurements. Good advice from experts, consumer groups and others has helped us modernize and eliminate these antiquated and questionable practices.

Levon Helm Memorial Boulevard

The legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Cahill designating New York Route 375 in Woodstock as “Levon Helm Memorial Boulevard” was signed into law by Governor Cuomo on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. Levon Helm Boulevard spans from New York State Route 28 in West Hurley to New York State Route 212 in Woodstock. This legislation enjoyed wide public support from those who knew and loved Levon, as well as people locally and everywhere who were inspired by his music.

“Levon Helm was a worldwide musical talent and a pillar of the Woodstock community. The naming of this iconic road is a testament to Levon’s life and work. Route 375 travels from farmland in the heart of the Catskills in Hurley right into the Village of Woodstock. This beautiful, productive countryside has long been the backdrop for Levon’s amazing lyrics. I’m pleased that this designation has been made,” said Cahill.

The Mountain Cloves Scenic Byway Act was also passed this year. The byway snakes though parts of Shandaken and will help bring tourism, community services, increased stewardship, and potential federal grants to the area. These measures, together with our Route 28 initiatives, will boost recognition, pride and our abiding sense of place here in this beautiful region.

Strengthening Net-Metering Laws

In order to reinforce the 2009 Green Jobs/ Green New York Program, Assemblyman Cahill, who was formerly chair of the Energy Committee, introduced A. 1245 which has passed both the Assembly and the Senate. Should it be signed by the Governor, solar electric, wind, farm digesters, fuel cells, micro-combined heat and power and micro-hydro electric will be added to the technologies approved for net-metering that may be financed through the GJ/GNY program. GJ/GNY is the pioneering energy efficiency and economic development program Assemblyman Cahill shepparded during his tenure as Energy Chair.

“Making clean energy systems eligible for low interest loans or on-bill recovery through the program will eliminate the front-end costs that may otherwise prevent consumers from investing in these cost effective energy saving installations.”

Working for Municipalities

This year Assemblymember Cahill worked to pass legislation to aid local governments in his district. A bill to authorize the Towns of Rosendale, Marbletown and Rochester to move certain town related services to the now-vacant Rosendale Elementary School will help these three communities save by sharing a single unused physical location.

The Town of Ulster was granted the authority to extend the rollover period for bond anticipation notes issued during 2009 and 2010 so that they may renew the notes at a later date and shop around for a better rate for the long-term, thereby lowering costs to the municipality.

Cahill also voted to pass a bill allowing certain cities to increase the number of City Court judgeships. A part time City Court position in The City of Kingston will become full time if the Governor signs this legislation.

“The actions of municipal government often impact people the most, and I am always ready to work with localities to better meet the needs of their citizens.”

Clarifying Move-Over Laws

This measure added additional safety provisions to the 2011 Move-Over sponsored by Assemblyman Cahill law to include all emergency vehicles displaying certain flashing light combinations. “Everyone who answers the call to assist in an emergency roadway situation should be afforded the same respect and consideration for safety under the law,”

Standing Up for Working Families

This year’s budget also included important and long awaited action to increase the minimum wage. The legislation called for it to rise to $9.00 by December of 2015. Unfortunately, this final agreement did not include an indexing provision which would have removed politics from the wage debate once and for all.

“Minimum wage is not the cure all of society’s ills but it is important to working families in our state. This is about government setting a policy that no one should sell their labor for less than a certain amount,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “This better wage will improve the lives of New Yorkers and will allow more people to live with dignity.”

Medical Marijuana

In June, the Assembly passed A. 6357 which would allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana to alleviate some of the pain caused by debilitating and life-threatening illnesses. A licensed physician, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner would determine if a patient is likely to benefit from medical marijuana treatments. Those patients would then register with the state Department of Health and have their use of medical marijuana monitored to help prevent abuse. Additionally, the bill would impose an excise tax on the manufacturing and dispensing of medical marijuana. Part of the revenue raised from the tax would be shared with the locality where it is manufactured or dispensed.

“This carefully crafted proposal reflects our compassion for those who need to alleviate their chronic pain and suffering. Medical studies have proven that the drug can offer relief to HIV/AIDS and cancer patients and others suffering from life-threatening conditions. It can be beneficial and effective for people who don’t respond well to other medications. Many controlled substances that are legal for medical use are otherwise illegal. I hope that in the near future the Senate will see fit to make this compassionate bill into the law of New York.”

Constitutional Amendment to Allow Non-Tribal Casinos

Assemblymember Cahill voted in favor of placing a constitutional amendment to allow non-tribal casinos to operate in New York State (A. 8068) on the ballot. The measure would allow up to seven full casinos. However, in separate legislation, lawmakers limited the number of casinos that can be authorized to four. Other conditions and revenue distribution rules, including a generous sharing for localities, have been approved. The separate constitutional amendment must still win the support of New York voters in November.

“This will give the public the opportunity to have their voices heard on this important matter. If the amendment to allow more casinos is approved by the voters, we already have assurances in place that communities will have a meaningful role in deciding whether to host any new gaming facilities.”

Reforming State Elections

The Assembly acted on measures to reduce corruption in politics and ensure that voters have a full chance to vote. The Fair Elections Act, A.4980 (Silver), would allow public financing for campaigns and expands contribution disclosure requirements, providing increased opportunities for residents to participate in the electoral process. A.689 (Silver) establishes a process for early voting in primary, general and special elections, making voting easier and more convenient for residents across the state.

“The participation of New York’s citizens is invaluable to our democracy. By providing for early voting, limiting campaign fundraising and allowing public financing, we can provide increased access to the legislative process and ensure that everyone has a chance to cast their ballot and have it count,” said Cahill.

START-UP New York

Previously known as Tax-Free New York, START-UP New York was passed by the Assembly and works to create tax-free and reduced tax zones in order to steer new businesses to our state. Each SUNY community will develop a plan for the types of compatible and complementary businesses it intends to attract and the locations that will be tax-free. Businesses will apply directly to the participating college. Modifications were made to the original proposal based upon input by Assemblyman Cahill and some of his colleagues to include sites like Tech City in the Town of Ulster as a potential magnet location.

“Education has always been the key to economic success in New York. Bringing economic development resources to our college campuses may help turn SUNY and private college campuses into economic powerhouses which attract students and professionals nationwide. Expanded application of the program to underused, existing industrial sites makes sense. This legislation will have a significant economic impact by providing unique job opportunities at thriving businesses right in our own communities and help a new generation of New Yorkers achieve their academic and professional goals.”

Women’s Equality Agenda

The Assembly passed the Women’s Equality Act (A.8070) that contains ten sweeping reforms, bringing fairness to women in New York, including women’s health and reproductive rights, equal pay, stronger penalties for human trafficking, and increased protections for victims of domestic violence. This vital piece of legislation, unfortunately, was not approved by the Senate.

“This is one of the most important measures passed this decade and it shouldn’t be broken up into pieces so parts are left undone. For many years, the goals set forth within this legislation have been top priorities of the Assembly Majority. In fact, we have passed bills mirroring many aspects of the Women’s Equality Act annually that faced opposition from most of the members of the Assembly Minority and the Senate Majority. This year the Senate blocked legislation over a provision which simply updates New York’s laws to comply with the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. This outcome is an insult to women and I’m proud that the Assembly has resisted passing individual bills which do not protect women’s reproductive health.”

Conclusion

“This year, the legislature saw many accomplishments while staying true to our commitment to women’s equality, economic prosperity, and consumer protections. Unfortunately, we had missed opportunities and could not reach agreements on all issues. I look forward to working over the next few months to build strong support for these unfinished initiatives and returning later this year to continue to put measures in place for the benefit of all New York residents.”