By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)
January provides us with the opportunity to plan and hope for a Happy New Year as we’ve learned from the past year. Here are some of the highlights from 2010 in the New York State, its government and our lives.
· Fort Ontario was saved. Thanks to a grassroots effort to save Fort Ontario, which included an online survey with more than 1,000 participants expressing their wishes, the fort was saved from closure. Originally, the fort was on a list of parks and state historic sites to close, due to lack of funds. Fortunately, compromises were made in time for the Memorial Day holiday and leaders listened to the swelling grassroots support for Fort Ontario that came from Oswego and surrounding communities.
· The budget passed on Aug. 3—125 days late. I did not vote for this poorly constructed budget. Joint conference committee meetings, which were legally supposed to be held to include rank and file members in the budget process, were not held. The $137 billion budget included $1 billion in new taxes and fees, including taxes on clothing and businesses and not only did we not cut spending in an historic deficit year, but the Legislature increased spending by 2.4 percent.
· New Yorkers elected 17, possibly 18, new minority Republican members to the State Assembly. For the first time since 1994, incumbent Democratic Assembly members lost their seats. Regardless of big Republican gains, Democrats still are in the majority in the Assembly. Republicans took back control of the Senate.
· The state began to implement Obama Care with federal funding and state agencies. A significant change has been the introduction of NY Bridge which came about earlier this year. It overlays other health insurance options that are offered by the state and there is not an income limit for applicants. For information, visit www.nybridgeplan.com or call 1800-693-9277.
· New Ballot System. This year we all casted our votes electronically with optical scanning devices. Gone are the machines that cloaked us in curtains and moved with the lever inside. Instead, we stand at what looks like a pulpit to fill out the ballot with a pen. We’re protected with small visors on the sides of the stand, to try and keep our votes private. Then, we feed the ballot into the scanning device.
· New York lost two Congressional seats after results of the Census were tallied. This will bring the congressional representation from 29 to 27.
· We saw bi-partisan agreements on an ethics reform package that would have brought our state a step closer towards having stronger ethics laws, however, the package was vetoed by Governor Paterson.
· The Assembly Republican Conference hosted Albany’s first-ever “Sportsmen and Outdoor Recreation Legislative Awareness Day,” an event which was attended by over 3,000 sportsmen and Second Amendment supporters, and featured a keynote speech by the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre. Our Conference is again holding this Second Amendment event in Albany on Tuesday, January 25, 2011.
· State law changed to improve voting opportunity and procedures for the military. I was pleased to support this legislation in the Assembly. The new law allows military to be able to cast their vote in a time frame which allows their ballot to be counted. State laws changed due to federal law changes when Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. I’d have to say this impacted several close races this year.
I can’t let this column pass without talking in general about technology. The impact it has had on our lives has been dramatic, especially in the area of handheld devices. I found this interesting fact from Time Magazine: In 1983, Motorola’s DynaTAC (Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage) 8000X was the world’s first commercially-released mobile phone, with a price tag of $3,995 equivalent to $8,772.59 in today’s dollars. Motorola spent 15 years and over $100 million developing the technology. The DynaTAC 8000X allowed 30 minutes of talk time, took 10 hours to charge, weighed 1.75 lb., and stood 13 in. high Now: The DynaTAC has long been forgotten, with pocket-size touch phones like the Blackberry Torch, Droid X, and iPhone 4 dominating the market. They cost anywhere from $50 to $300.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.