E-Mail Newsletter – March 1, 2015

The Legislature returned this week, wrapping up joint budget hearings and discussing the next steps with the budget. That being said, it’s been a busy week here in Albany and the rest of the 109th District. Here are a few highlights:

Education Forum. Colonie Central High School hosted stakeholders from dozens of area school districts in what has become an annual regional call to action to support public schools. The forum, entitled “SAVE OUR SCHOOLS: Quality Opportunities for Public School Children,” brought hundreds of students, parents, teachers, taxpayers and school leaders together (photo) to talk about what is at stake if state leaders do not reverse course and adequately fund schools.

Local Governments Joint Budget Hearing. Mayors and municipal leaders of New York State’s cities testified at a joint budget hearing on local governments. In their remarks, leaders talked about the challenges facing municipal governments and where state assistance would be welcome. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan provided thoughtful and compelling testimony (photo) on the serious financial needs of the Capital City (video).

Library Advocacy. Terrific turnout of librarians to meet with me and Assemblymember John McDonald regarding the importance of libraries (photo) on increasing library funding with members of the Upper Hudson Library System including members from the ‪Albany Public Library, the ‪‎Guilderland Public Library, the ‪Altamont Public Library, and the ‪Bethlehem Public Library, among many others.

Modernizing streetlights. I joined Assemblymember James Brennan in announcing legislation to empower municipalities to acquire ownership of its streetlights and upgrade them with energy efficient and cost-saving LED lighting technology. The “Streetlight Replacement And Savings Act” is a response to NYSERDA’s recent report (“Street Lighting in New York State: Opportunities and Challenges”), which said if municipalities across the state owned and then upgraded their streetlights with LED technology, municipalities could achieve a savings of nearly $100 million on annual street lighting costs.

‘Why She Ran’ forum. Schenectady City Council Member Marian Porterfield, Albany Common Council Members Leah Golby and Vivien Kornegay, and I participated in a forum on electing women into public office that was hosted by SEIU 1199 and Citizen Action. We joined Liz Benjamin, another woman who broke barriers in the Albany press corps, on ‘Capital Tonight’ to discuss the forum.

Assembly passes New York State DREAM Act. The Assembly this week passed the New York State DREAM Act, allowing the children of immigrants to apply for state scholarships and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to help with the cost of college, as well as establish a private scholarship fund. I believe that every student in New York State deserves the opportunities a college education can give them, regardless of their immigration status. It is important to give them equal access to higher education and enable them to contribute productively to the economy of New York State.

The DREAM Act would increase TAP funding by about $27 million and would make New York one of six states to offer state financial aid to undocumented students and the children of undocumented immigrants. New York State has always been the embodiment of the American Dream and it is time for equal access to higher education.

Crude oil shipments. Another derailment of a crude oil train - this time in West Virginia last week - is a reminder that more rigorous safety regulations proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation must be expedited and implemented. A tremendous number of oil trains travel through Albany County each day. I commend and support the efforts to push for the new strict safety standards for crude oil rail shipments, with a special thanks to the community activists who have kept this issue at the forefront. I am working with the new committee chair on next steps to protect our community from disaster.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance available. I was delighted to join Mayor Sheehan, Assemblymember McDonald and others at a press conference (photo) regarding VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) to encourage eligible residents to take advantage of free tax filing services. Simply dial #211 to find free tax services near you or visit CashGreaterCapitalRegion.org for more information.

Hiring Our Veterans Job Fair. The New York National Guard in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is holding a Hiring Our Heroes Veterans Job Fair at the Division of Military and Veterans Affairs Headquarters (330 Old Niskayuna Road, Latham) on March 5 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The job fair is free and open to all of our currently serving service members (both Active, Guard, and Reserve), Veterans and their Spouses. About 75 employers will be present at the fair.

Submit to regional film festival. The Knickerbocker Film Festival will be marking its sixth year here in Albany. Short films up to twenty minutes in length will be accepted through March 6. For more information, visit their website.

Job Opportunities: New York State has setup a new job portal entitled Jobs Express, where thousands of private and public sector jobs are listed. Visit jobs.ny.gov for more information on how to apply for these opportunities.

As always, for the latest news or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter, or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note.

Sincerely ---