E-Mail Newsletter – January 31, 2014

The balance between protecting our environment and the growth of economic development can be a fine line. The recent Global Partners’ proposal to expand operations at the Port of Albany raises several safety concerns in terms of the transportation and management of crude oil in our region. The public and local elected officials have been speaking out and contacting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on these concerns (and Commissioner Joe Martens responded to my questions at a recent budget hearing). While our concerns are locally focused, the multiple rail and transport safety issues being raised are regional and national in scope.

Re-examining transportation policies: At the same budget hearing, we were pleased to hear that Governor Cuomo issued an executive order petitioning multiple federal agencies to re-examine transportation policies relating to petroleum-based products and to require state agencies to strengthen the state’s oversight of shipments of petroleum-based products. Additionally, the public comment on the Global Partners' proposal has been extended, and DEC has agreed to host a public forum on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. at Giffen Elementary School in Albany.

Local government testimony: On Monday, mayors from across New York State testified at the joint legislative hearing on local government and municipal affairs. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced that the City of Albany will seek assistance from the state’s financial restructuring board to address the city’s $16 million-plus deficit. In addition, she renewed calls for the legislature to either approve a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) plan for the Harriman State Office Campus (a bill that Assemblyman McDonald, Senator Breslin, and I introduced last year) or provide additional state aid.

Allowing for community service in place of suspension in schools: This week, I introduced legislation with Senator Hugh Farley that would allow for community service to be an option in place of suspension of students in public schools. Giving districts and school officials flexibility from state mandates to remedy violations that take place within schools is critical in providing students an alternate path in becoming contributing members of society. Community service, when used appropriately, can be a more constructive and productive option than suspension. It would allow the student to give back to the community and hopefully learn something in the process.

Women’s Equality Act passes: I'm proud to stand united with the Assembly in passing all ten points of the Women's Equality Act, as this house has done last year. We cannot be on the sidelines as reproductive rights and choice are being challenged across the country and it is important for us to recognize, as much as the WEA is a significant step forward, there is much to do. Last week, I was honored to have received the Advocate for Change award from Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. Thank you to President/CEO Chelly Hegan, board chairperson Christa Christakis, and team at UHPP for their incredible work in advocacy, education and reproductive health care services in the Capital Region.

New environmental legislators caucus: This week, I joined 30 state legislators to create the New York State Caucus of Environmental Legislators, chaired by Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh. Protecting and preserving our state's natural resources for future generations is nothing short of essential. I'm proud to be one of the founding members of this caucus and look forward to collaborating with fellow state legislators to increase advocacy for critical environmental and energy issues facing the New York State.

Job Opportunities: I’ve set up a page on my Assembly website for job announcements and listings that we’ll update periodically. If you know of any job listings, send my office a note.

Capital District Assembly Update: Tune in every Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Channel 17 (for Time Warner Cable subscribers) for the next episode of Capital District Assembly Update, co-hosted by Assemblymember McDonald and me. You can also previous episodes and clips on my Assembly website.

As always, for the latest about my office’s happenings 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 ---