Autism, Domestic Violence, Grants for Small Businesses, Fishing Clinics Among Bills Passed this Session

A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay

This session was a productive one. The Legislature worked well together and though tough decisions were made during budget time, negotiations included rank and file members and went beyond the sanctimonious three men in a room, at least more than in previous years. Apart from the budget, we passed many bills this session that I thought you would find interesting to read about.

Fishing Clinics for Veterans:

This bill was signed into law this month by the Governor. It authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation to designate fishing rehabilitation events for veterans and active duty members. I was pleased to be a prime sponsor of this legislation. Those participating do not need to obtain a license. It is my hope that active duty members and veterans can enjoy each other’s company and possibly build friendships with people who have undergone similar experiences. Providing a free clinic is the least our state can do for our service members.

Provide Small Business with Grants:

The Assembly passed this bill of which I am a co-sponsor. It would provide competitive capital grants of up to $100,000 to small businesses to encourage and support alternative energy. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate. In times when energy prices continue to be high and our economy has yet to restore itself fully from the recession, small businesses would benefit from competitive grant monies to help save money on energy costs in the long run and expand their businesses.

Coverage for Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment of Autism:

The Assembly and the Senate both passed legislation that expands insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders. Current law does not provide sufficient language that obligates health insurance companies to cover costs relating to autism. This bill takes care of those shortfalls. With more than 1 in 110 children affected, the number of families affected is significant. Those out-of-pocket costs are often unaffordable. It is my hope the Governor signs this legislation so that families with children with autism can receive adequate coverage. It remains to be seen if he will, since there are considerable costs involved for insurance companies.

Parks Get Fair Hearing:

This bill requires the state to conduct public hearings at least four months prior to closing a park or historic site. This measure passed the Assembly but did not pass the Senate, and is in the Senate’s Parks and Recreation Committee. I’m pleased this measure passed the Assembly because we can help save places like Fort Ontario from the threat of state budget catastrophes, as was the case in spring 2010 when the state proposed to shut down Fort Ontario due to budget shortfalls.

Increasing Penalties for Domestic Violence:

Currently, a family abuser can be arrested and prosecuted for dozens of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, with very little consequence. By creating the crime of Aggravated Family Offense, a class E felony, an abuser who commits a specified misdemeanor who was also convicted of a specified offense within the last five years, can receive the enhanced felony penalty of up to four years in state prison. The threat of considerable prison time should serve as a deterrent in hopes of preventing the cycle of violence from repeating. This bill addresses the repeat offenders, in hopes to prevent the violence from escalating. This passed the Assembly and was delivered to the Senate.

Coverage for Oral Cancer Treatments

Currently, insurance companies classify oral chemotherapy as prescription drug treatment. By classifying it as such, the co-pay and coverage for treatment is limited. This leads to higher out-of-pocket costs for many patients, causing patient access to oral chemotherapy to be limited. A bill which passed the Assembly and I was pleased to support would amend current insurance law so that oral chemotherapy treatments would be covered the same as other intravenous treatments.

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. You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.