Bringing Common Sense To Albany’s Bureaucrats

Senator Ritchie’s Weekly Column

Last week government bureaucrats in New York’s Agriculture and Markets Department backed off from their campaign to force specialty cheese makers out of farmers markets after I threatened to pass legislation to exempt artisans from a “rule” that requires them to only slice cheese inside a permanent building with a three basin sink.

On Friday, Canadian bureaucrats announced they would refund $1,000 they forced an American boater to pay for fishing off the Ontario shore, shortly after I asked Lt. Governor Thomas Duffy and Governor Andrew Cuomo to join my efforts to protest the treatment of U.S. tourists. We joined Ontario Senator Robert Runciman who objected to the Canadian Border Services Agency changing a long standing policy that allowed U.S. citizens who purchase fishing licenses to fish in Ontario waters without checking with Customs as long as they didn’t land or anchor.

On Thursday, I visited with the Mayor of Pulaski on the banks of the Salmon River after I convinced state Division of the Budget bureaucrats to approve a $500,000 grant I helped preserve for his community to repair a shoreline retaining wall.

On Monday, I met with the Mayor of Black River to present him with the pen Governor Andrew Cuomo presented me after he signed the first law I passed that cut through red tape that was costing taxpayers in the southern Jefferson County towns of Champion, LeRay, Pamelia and Rutland over $100 a day—hundreds of thousands of dollars in total—in extra, unnecessary interest payments.

Since I took office in January, I’ve devoted a lot of attention to cutting government red tape for people, businesses and municipalities. New York State has so many wasteful regulations and overzealous bureaucrats that we have the dubious distinction of being ranked as the worst place to do business in the nation. That’s hurting our ability to convince businesses to expand and create new jobs. It’s also the major reason why so many companies are closing and moving operations elsewhere.

That’s why I’m spending a lot of time trying to bring common sense to Albany’s bureaucrats.

I worked with the new state Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine on a bill (S.4718) that boosts local soil and water conservation districts, and simplifies oversight of pollution control programs. The bill’s benefits would extend to Fort Drum, and help keep the post a viable and growing part of the North Country economy.

As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I sponsored a new law to repeal an outdated requirement for grocery stores to install a multitude of scales for customers to verify package weights (Chapter 43), providing real cost savings to businesses.

I also introduced a bill (S.5498) to ease county jail overcrowding that requires the state to move parole violators out of county jails within 10 days to ease overcrowding in local facilities and cut expenses for county taxpayers.

Another bill I introduced that I passed removes an arcane requirement that made it harder for the Jefferson County District Attorney to find qualified stenographers for legally required court work.

While I realize a lot more needs to be done, I’m working to help our great state change its image so businesses will consider locating and expanding here. By working together, we can help New York State become a place where families will want to live and businesses will want to locate and expand.