E-Mail Newsletter – June 5, 2015

With now just two weeks left in this year’s legislative session, a wide variety of issues still remain well in flux – from housing, to the environment, to education, tax credits, and many important priorities – I continue to advocate on behalf of the needs of the 109th District and the Capital Region overall.

Education Tax Credit. In a recent Albany Times Union commentary I wrote, as a product of a Catholic primary school education, I value the importance of a parochial education and recognize the role that Catholic schools have played to enrich the community throughout my district and across New York State.

Some parts of the proposed Education Tax Credit raise troubling financial and constitutional concerns. Although the Education Tax Credit promoted by the Governor and passed in the state Senate would “increase the current tax incentive” to private schools, the funding mechanisms may further the divide between wealthy and poor schools.

The latest version of this legislation provides upward of $450 million in tax credits over three years — money that would otherwise be paid to the state’s general revenue fund while authorizing the transfer of public money to religious school foundations, in violation of the long-held NYS constitutional principle that bars the government from endorsing religion.

The most controversial aspect of the proposed Education Tax Credit, however, is not the $500 tax credit for those families making under $60,000 per year. It’s the $50 million annual scholarship program providing an unprecedented 75 to 90 percent (in the Senate bill) reduction in taxes owed up to $1 million — a tax credit to education “investors” to redirect their tax liability. In effect, it is underwriting the transfer of tax dollars from private individuals and corporations to non-public schools, thereby allowing investors to almost fully avoid their tax liability by receiving nearly a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations up to $1 million.

As with every proposal, I will continue to evaluate alternatives that do not rely on unprecedented tax credits to the wealthy.

Read more via the Albany Times Union.

Racial Profiling. The Assembly has passed legislation prohibiting law enforcement officers from engaging in racial or ethnic profiling. The legislation would also create a private right of action against law enforcement agencies for individuals who have been the subject of racial profiling, allowing courts to award damages, costs and reasonable attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff.

The bill would require every New York law enforcement agency to adopt procedures for reviewing complaints of racial or ethnic profiling and for taking corrective measures to prevent future incidents. It would also require law enforcement agencies to collect and maintain data on traffic stops, pat downs and searches which would be compiled in an annual report by the Division of Criminal Justice Services. The collected data would likewise be included in a statewide public database to promote transparency and integrity, as well as to inform both law enforcement and the community.

GENDA. The Assembly passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) to protect transgender New Yorkers from being discriminated against in many areas of everyday life including employment, education, consumer credit, public accommodation and housing.

The GENDA legislation, which the Assembly has passed annually since 2008, would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression. The measure also expands the state's hate crime protections to explicitly include crimes against people due to their gender identity or expression.

I had the opportunity to speak in the Assembly this week on a privileged resolution adopted unanimously in honor Sgt. Henry Johnson. It was a deep honor for all of Albany when President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Sgt. Johnson with the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for his extraordinary valor in battle during World War I (here is the the resolution on the floor). Senator Schumer should be commended for his years of hard work in successfully championing Sgt .Henry Johnson's case.

Events and Highlights from the 109th:

PRIDE Weekend and PRIDE 5K. The Capital PRIDE Parade steps off from Washington Park at 12 Noon on Saturday June 13 with some of the best viewing spots on Lark Street. The Capital PRIDE Festival opens in Washington Park at 12 noon on the same day.

I, along with many others, will be running in the 8th Annual PRIDE 5k takes place on Sunday, June 7, 2015 at the Corning Preserve in Downtown Albany. More information can be found via the Capital Pride Center’s website.

Distinguished Alumnus Award. Thanks to Moraine Valley Community College for selecting me as this year's Distinguished Alumnus Award winner. The affordability and accessibility of Moraine Valley was my ticket to independence. In the mid-1970s, college seemed like a foreign concept, but in my junior year, I realized I wanted to see and do more in the world. MVCC provided that opportunity since a four-year college seemed financially out of reach. Community college was affordable then and needs to remain so now.

Funding announced for sites within Hudson Valley Regional Heritage Area. Good to have joined ‪Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Congressman Paul D. Tonko, and Assemblyman McDonald at Ten Broeck Mansion to announce new funding for regional institutions within the Hudson Valley Regional Heritage Area.

Over $28,000 will be awarded to cultural and historic organizations, including, the Albany County Historical Society, the Albany Institute of History & Art, and the Shaker Heritage Society. The funded projects feature a range of engaging programming initiatives aimed at connecting people with the region’s history and historic resources.

Albany Pine Bush Lupine Fest Block Party. Wonderful turnout at the Albany Pine Bush 2015 Lupine Fest Block Party this past week. Thanks to Chris Hawver and all of those that helped put this wonderful event together highlighting the preserve.

Hudson River Family Day. Join Historic Cherry Hill this Saturday, June 6 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for Hudson River Family Day. Step into the 1700s and experience the life of a Hudson River merchant. Family-based activities include The Hudson River Trading Game, where players sail their sloops on a 34-foot game board, colonial games, re-enactors, an exhibition of student projects, 18th century dress up, house tours, crafts, display of 18th century artifacts, and ice cream.

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 ---