End of Session Focuses on Downstate Needs, Leaves Upstate Out

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
The 2015 Legislative Session has ended.  There were many accomplishments but the list of what did not get done for Upstate is longer.

Instead, the end of session was dominated by New York City issues like rent control, property tax exemptions for NYC (421a) and discussions on the control of New York City schools.

Once again, the Safe Act repeal was not advanced by the Assembly Majority.

This law continues to penalize law-abiding citizens.

Recently a sportsman in Onondaga County shared the differences between what is allowed under the Safe Act and what isn’t in an informative video.

The video shows how many of the changes have to do with cosmetics and not the lethality of the weapon.

It highlights again how overreaching and nonsensical the law is.

To watch the video, go to http://bit.ly/1C9Rzsj

Brittany’s Law – an act that would create a registry of violent offenders and that would protect future victims – did not pass either.  The Assembly Democratic Majority continues to support criminal rights over victim protection with their decision not to bring this common sense bill to the floor for a vote.  I was sorry too that the Legislature chose not to enhance criminal penalties for those who use and sell synthetic drugs.  Poison control and law enforcement continue to see these dangerous chemicals targeting our young adults and teenagers.

We missed an opportunity to bring mixed martial arts to New York. We remain the only state in the nation that bans professional mixed martial arts despite strong bi-partisan support to legalize the sport. With this, we missed the chance to draw in more tourists and revenues to our state that isn’t derived from property taxes.

The Assembly Democrats also failed to complete a deal on stripping corrupt officials of their pensions and pass meaningful ethics reforms.  Just last week, another former State Senator was sentenced to 7 years in prison for bribery.  Multiple charges and indictments were filed again this year against Legislative leaders.  Instead of rooting out corruption, the Assembly Democratic Majority maintained the status quo.  This was one of the biggest disappointments this session and I’d hoped with new leadership, this would have been made a priority.

Property tax rebate checks will come again in 2016-17.  While I supported this, there are better ways to return dollars to taxpayers, such as, cutting taxes in the first place. The rebate is convoluted and there is a cost to taxpayers in administering the rebate. However, given the choice, it’s better than nothing so I voted in favor.

On education, student test scores are still being linked to teacher evaluations, which is problematic. There were some changes to education policy that passed in the final bill of session, including requiring more test questions to be reviewed so they are more appropriate for grade levels.

I was pleased we passed the property tax cap extension for four more years.  While mandate relief for school districts and localities still needs to be included as part of the tax cap, it is hard to argue that the cap has not played a role in stabilizing property taxes in the state.

I was also pleased that as part of the property tax renewal legislation, the legislature passed a property tax cap exemption for BOCES capital improvements. I have carried this legislation for several years and I am happy it will now become law.

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 by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.

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