E-Mail Newsletter – May 14, 2015

With five weeks left of session, the pace of work in the Assembly has intensified in an effort to move legislation on a host of bills I have sponsored relating to economic development, environmental protection, and education.

Readability levels of state tests. I have introduced legislation to amend the education law to ensure all future New York State standardized tests from Grades 3 to 8 are provided at a readability level appropriate to the grade level being tested.

Students are unfairly disadvantaged when given standardized tests with questions written above their designated grade level. This bill requires the questions on future standardized assessments be readable at the appropriate grade level of the student. In other words, a third grade math test should not have questions written at a fifth grade readability level. Repeated concerns have been raised by parents, teachers, and education stakeholders about the grade appropriate reading level of questions on Grades 3 to 8 standardized state tests.

The bill (A.7460) is co-sponsored by almost two dozen Assemblymembers.

Update on streetlights cost-saving legislation. Encouraging news on my bill to enable municipalities to acquire ownership of its streetlights and upgrade them with energy efficient and cost-saving LED lighting technology – Senator Joseph Griffo (R-Utica) has agreed to sponsor this bill in the Senate.

The “Streetlight Replacement And Savings Act” is a response to NYSERDA’s recent report (“Street Lighting in New York State: Opportunities and Challenges”), which stated 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.

As noted in a recent Syracuse Post-Standard article, the City of Yonkers is saving $1 million since converting to LED technology, yet other Upstate cities have been unable to do so – and are burdened with the additional cost of using outdated technology.

LLC Loophole. The Assembly has passed legislation (A.6975-B) with strong bipartisan support to strengthen rules on political contributions by closing the so-called LLC loophole and bring much-needed campaign finance reform to New York State. Unfortunately, this reform bill is awaiting action in the Senate.

This legislation would clarify election law and impose on LLCs the same spending limits that currently exist for corporations. The existing law treats each LLC as an individual person, with corresponding contribution limits that may easily be avoided where one person or corporation may own multiple LLCs through which contributions are funneled, thereby creating a serious loophole to spend more than the legal limit on a single candidate or committee.

This legislation would close this loophole and create a uniform law that subjects LLCs to the same $5,000 aggregate contribution limit as corporations.

Petroleum Storage Surety bill reintroduced. I reintroduced my Petroleum Storage Surety bill which ensures that the storage of crude oil must meet certain financial requirements to prevent taxpayers from being financially responsible should any accidents or spills occur when transferring or storing crude oil, such as at the Port of Albany.

The exponential rise of crude oil transportation can come with devastating consequences as we’ve seen in some communities across North America. This bill ensures that crude oil operators and storage facilities are responsible for their actions, not taxpayers or the public at large. The Petroleum Storage Surety bill would apply to crude oil stored at all bulk storage facilities in New York State and require financial security to meet all responsibilities for cleanup and decontamination costs associated with the release of such oil.

There is a heightened awareness of safety issues related to the transportation and storage of crude oil and the Petroleum Storage Surety bill is one attempt to address the negative impacts of mishandling and improper storage of crude oil.

The Albany Times Union recently wrote an editorial about why this legislation is vitally important to the safety of our region. Rail transportation of crude oil is regulated by federal law whereas bulk storage of crude oil is governed by state law.

This bill passed with strong bipartisan support in the Assembly last year, but stalled in the Senate, though I am urging the Senate to take up this important legislation this year.

Minimum wage. The Assembly recently passed a package of legislation that increases the minimum wage, but this measure awaits action in the Senate. Nearly 60 percent of minimum wage workers in New York State are women, while nearly 40 percent of families with a female head of household in New York live in poverty.

And the percentage of households with children that have mothers as either the sole or primary source of income has risen substantially in recent decades, now reaching 40 percent.

In an effort to boost household incomes, the Assembly has passed legislation to increase the state minimum wage to $10.50 per hour beginning Dec. 31, 2016, and to $12.60 per hour on Dec. 31, 2018. The state tipped wage would increase to $8.75 per hour beginning Dec. 31, 2016. It would then increase again to $10.50 per hour on Dec. 31, 2018. Further, the state minimum wage and tipped wage would be indexed to the rate of inflation beginning in 2019 (A.7257).

Consolidated funding applications now available for state grants. The next round (Round 5) of the Regional Economic Development Council grants have been announced by Gov. Cuomo. The Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) is now available via the REDC website. There are a series of workshops available to assist with the CFA process.

The deadline for the CFA is July 31, 2015. These grants have gone to assisting many projects not only here in the Capital Region, but across the state.

Named Chair for Subcommittee of Oversight for the Department of Environmental Conservation. I am grateful to Speaker Carl E. Heastie for appointing me to chair of the Subcommittee for Oversight for the Department of Environmental Conservation, overseeing the activities of the department on behalf the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the advocates to aggressively protect our environment and natural resources while strengthening our sustainability efforts

Events and Highlights from the 109th:

Join Me in Biking to Work This Friday. Please join me this Friday, May 15th, to mark the annual “Bike to Work” celebration. At 8 a.m., I'll joined Mayor Kathy Sheehan and city leaders to kick off at Bethany Reformed Church before heading to Bethlehem. At 8:30 a.m., meet at the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy (425 Kenwood Avenue, Delmar). We'll have coffee and bagels before heading off to ride along Delaware Avenue into Downtown Albany at 9:30 a.m.

This is the third year I’ve participated in this event and each year, the number of riders grows. Join the cyclists!

Summer Youth Activities Fair. A Summer Youth Activities Fair is being held this Friday, May 15, 2015, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Capital South Campus Center to provide parents and caregivers information about free and low-cost summer programs and activities available to children and teens. Program providers will be on hand to register youth or begin the registration process.

Information will also be available about the locations of free summer meals for children age 18 and younger. At the event, the Capital South Campus Center will host an Instant Admissions Day for area college courses and training programs for adults offered through the Center.

Champagne on the Park and Tulip Festival. This past weekend marked the 67th annual Tulip Festival in the City of Albany, marking a celebration of Albany’s official flower, the tulip. Ahead of the weekend, I attended the Lark Street Business Improvement District’s annual fundraiser, Champagne in the Park, at Washington Park. The BID honored Mark Brogna and Yaw Boateng for their commitment to the corridor.

Sunflower 5K Run. Join me in the second annual Sunflower Run to benefit the Hanlon MacDonald Scholarship Fund at Albany High School will be held Saturday, June 13 at The Crossings in Colonie. The event, a 5K walk and run, will begin at 9 a.m. The entry fee is $25 and includes a t-shirt for the first 450 registrants. The registration deadline is June 8. MacDonald, a 2011 Albany High graduate and champion swimmer, died tragically in 2013 from cardiomyelitis entering her junior year at Lehigh University. The scholarship benefits an Albany High graduate attending a two-year college. Visit their Web site to download a registration form, or send an e-mail to sunflowerrunhm@gmail.com for more information.

Learn to Swim classes. The City of Albany’s Department of Recreation will be offering Learn to Swim classes at the Arbor Hill Community Center Pool. The first session will be from 3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m., followed by a second session from 4:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. Classes take place at the Arbor Hill Pool (50 Lark Street, Albany).

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 ---