E-Mail Newsletter – July 3, 2014

Summer is here and I wish all a safe and relaxing weekend as we celebrate Independence Day. With legislative session behind us, I wanted to brief you on some of the highlights from this year. I’m incredibly pleased that we were able to accomplish a number of objectives though there is always more work to be done!

Here are the highlights:

Conservation easements for the Town of Bethlehem. Both the Assembly and Senate a bill I introduced with Senator Breslin to allow for the Town of Bethlehem to provide for a property tax exemptions for landowners who agree to conserve open space, either for a significant period of years or in perpetuity. This legislation will go a long way toward relieving development pressure on large land owners and encourage smart growth.

Use of technology to improve transportation safety. With solid bi-partisan support, the Legislature passed a bill that I sponsored with Senator Breslin to allow for the City of Albany to adopt and install traffic-control signals - or red light cameras - at up to twenty intersections. The research on these cameras - now used in over 600 cities across the country - is compelling in decreasing the number of accidents. The use of this type of technology will also free up police resources to focus on more serious crimes.

Teacher evaluations. Legislation was adopted with near unanimous support to remove individual Common Core test results out of teacher evaluations for the next two years. More time will now be provided to improve the seriously flawed implementation of these new standards. Teacher evaluations and accountability remain important in our educational system. If a teacher is still rated as ineffective or developing with Common Core test results out of the mix, there will be real consequences. The bottom line is we need to ensure our kids are receiving a quality education that prepares them for today’s economy.

Tougher penalties to combat public lewdness. The Legislature has passed - and now awaits the Governor's signature – a bill I sponsored to increase penalties and charges for those who commit acts of public lewdness in front of minors and repeat offenders. With this legislation, penalties will be elevated for indecent exposure to a Class A misdemeanor for those who commit these heinous acts in front of minors or are repeated offenders. The legislation came as a result of recent incidents by a repeat offender in September 2013 who had been arrested for committing multiple acts of public lewdness, including the final incident in the presence of two Albany middle school children. The individual was repeatedly arrested for re-offending and released on his own recognizance – only to recommit lewd acts upon release.

Albany’s residential parking system extended. A bill I introduced along with Senator Breslin extends the popular residential parking system for the City of Albany for an additional two years. This is a significant economic development issue for homeowners and business to alleviate parking problems within a one-mile radius of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza.

Medical marijuana. The Legislature approved a bill that allows for seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana to treat debilitating and life-threatening illnesses. The legislation would allow licensed physicians to determine if a patient suffering from a very limited list of debilitating or life-threatening illnesses may benefit from the use of medical marijuana. The bill would impose penalties on anyone attempting to defraud the program, and would make it a felony for a practitioner to prescribe marijuana when there is no medical need.

Furthermore, the bill would cap the number of licensed medicinal marijuana growers at five and the number of locations where the drug could be dispensed at 20 statewide. Additionally, the bill would prevent the marketing of medical marijuana to teenagers and limit the forms of the drug that could be prescribed to oil-based extracts, pills, edibles and vaporized forms. Patients would not be able to receive prescriptions to smoke medical marijuana.

Under the bill, the medical marijuana program would begin 18 months after enactment and expire after 7 years.

Combating heroin and opioid abuse. The Legislature passed a series of bills to address the growing and alarming heroin and opioid abuse epidemic. This package of legislation includes improved measures to support addiction treatment, new penalties to help crack down on illegal drug distribution, information in Naloxone anti-overdose kits to help save lives, and expanded public education to prevent opioid and heroin use.

Highlights from the 109th:

1609 Fitness Challenge. From June 16 through August 22, 2014, City of Albany residents are encouraged to participate in the 1609 Fitness Challenge. Residents of all ages are invited to participate and compete to win medals and prizes at the Allympics on August 23, 2014. The City will provide several activities that are worth points. Participants are also welcome to do physical activities on their own for points. Score cards and a complete list of rules and guidelines can be downloaded on the City’s website. (http://www.albanyny.org/NewsandEvents/News/14-06-16/The_Department_of_Recreation_-_1609_Fitness_Challenge.aspx)

Events in and around the 109th:

Celebrate Summer Reading in the 109th. Public libraries, through their summer reading programs, are the best antidote for the ‘summer slide’ in children’s reading achievement. It is estimated that school summer breaks will cause the average student to lose up to one month of instruction, with disadvantaged students being disproportionately affected. I’ll be visiting Albany, Bethlehem, and Altamont throughout the summer to promote summer reading - and joined the Voorheesville Public Library last week to kick off their program. Please join me at any of the following:

+ Tuesday, July 8 at 10:30 a.m. (Albany Public Library Pine Hills Branch) – Toddler Story Time

+ Wednesday, July 16 at 1:30 p.m. (Bethlehem Public Library) – Reading with Little Ones

+ Wednesday, July 30 at 10:30 p.m. (Altamont Free Library) – Story Time

Free performances outside of the Egg.The Egg will be hosting free performances outside of the main entrance to its facility each Wednesday at noon throughout the summer. For more information, visit their Web site.

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 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 ---