Norris: Some Bright Spots In A Tough Year

A Column from Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C-Lockport)

With the holidays in full swing and the year shortly coming to a close, I would like to share some good news with you from our state Capitol. Unfortunately, there has been so much negative news this year with scandals from the previous administration, COVID-19 uncertainty and fatigue, and the adverse effects of so called “bail reform,” but it’s important to share some bipartisan results with you because there are several positive changes that will benefit Western New York.

First and foremost, I am proud to have pushed for the Commission to Prevent Childhood Drowning. This bill (A.7734) will study how more children can have access to swimming lessons and help our state find more ways to prevent childhood drownings, making our beaches, pools and even bathtubs safer. This was an idea I had early this year, initially sponsoring the original bill (A.6141) and then I worked with Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato from Queens on revisions for her to introduce this new bipartisan legislation. It passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously and will ultimately save lives for decades to come. 

Next, the Erie Canal Recreationway Commission is a statutory body made up of key stakeholders in economic, tourism and historical preservation to protect and enhance the Erie Canal. The law allowed meetings to be called by the chairperson and the commission has not met since 2017. It was frustrating to these stakeholders that meetings were not being held. So, I co-sponsored legislation which will require that these meetings must be held on a quarterly basis and this bill passed both houses and has been signed into law by Gov. Hochul. This is good news for all our canal communities so a collaborative approach can continue for our historic gem.

There is also good news for our agriculture community. As many farmers know, I have been working hard to protect against the overtime wage threshold reduction, but I also am pleased to see the proposed expansion of the Nourish New York program happen this year (A.5781) and co-sponsor legislation that was recently enacted into law to provide tax breaks for historic barns (A.6947). Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy, and quite literally the landscape of our state. Protecting this landscape and this industry remains a top priority for me.

Some other key bills I supported include the creation of a women veterans’ advisory board (A.1140), better protecting against household fires started by unsafe flame retardants through passage in both houses of the Family and Firefighter Protection Act (A.5418-B) and allowing for a compassionate caregiver at nursing homes (A.1052). We also enacted safe-staffing measures at both hospitals and nursing homes (A.108 and A.7119).

This year, we also saw some key state investment projects completed, including the Olcott Breakwall and Wilson Pier as part of the Resiliency Economic Development Initiative along Lake Ontario, the first step toward cleaning up the North Adam Street Lift Bridge and the beautiful restoration of the Palace in Lockport

Our community also pulled together for another successful Winter Clothing Drive and a special Peanut Butter and Jelly summer drive that I proudly sponsored. Thank you so much to all those who participated. This effort will help so many in need.

Finally, the highlight of 2021 as your Assembly representative was the opportunity to honor and recognize over 50 hometown heroes who stepped up in so many ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. These volunteers, nurses, essential workers and businesses represent the very best of Western New York and truly left a lasting impression that goodness will always shine through difficult times.

There is so much more, but these are just some of the efforts I have made this year to represent you to make our state and region a better place.As your voice in state government, I am working for you and here to help. Please do not hesitate to reach out if I can be of assistance, and please accept my best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.