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Last Weeks include Push for Tax Breaks for Farmers, Active Military; Harsher Penalties for Synthetic Drugs; Improved Ethics Laws

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
These last weeks of session include a push by lawmakers to get several priority bills passed.

My end-of-session priorities include getting tax breaks for farmers and active military.

We need harsher laws for synthetic drug users and dealers on par with our current controlled substance penalties. We need to create laws that establish a protocol for inappropriate and unethical behavior for lawmakers, instead of leaving ethics up to the powers that be.

Tax Breaks for Active Military

Earlier this session, I stood with my colleague from across the aisle, Assemblyman Colton (D-Brooklyn), as well as Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse), in an effort to draw attention to a change we need to make to our tax laws for the military. New York residents who purchase a vehicle outside of the state are required to pay sales and use tax upon registering the vehicle in New York. This law was created to discourage out-of-state sales. It should not, however, apply to active military service members. Unfortunately, these taxes do apply with our current law. We want our service members exempt.

Often, active military personnel purchase vehicles when serving their country where they are stationed. Upon return, they should not be subject to sales and use tax on that vehicle. I’m urging my colleagues to take this measure up in the Assembly’s final weeks. It is currently in the Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly and in the Senate’s Finance Committee. I’m hopeful we can pass this measure this session. Transitioning from military life to civilian life is difficult. We should welcome these individuals and their families back to New York State after their service, not slap them with a tax when they register their vehicles.

Agricultural Assessments Need to be Capped

There is good news that consumers and land buyers are placing a better value on good farm land. What farmers do not need, however, are the assessments that increase property values by thousands of dollars per acre over the course of a decade. In some cases, that is precisely what’s happening. I am in support of legislation that would cap property tax assessment increases to 2% of the property value from the preceding year for agricultural land. Currently, state law caps this increase at 10% from the preceding year. This is too high for family farms and puts increased burdens on farmers who see extreme fluctuations in commodities prices and growing conditions from year to year. This legislation passed the Senate. I’m urging my colleagues to put this up for a vote on the Assembly floor so we can also pass this important assessment cap for farmers this year.

Albany Needs an Independent Ethics Committee

Few weeks go by without a scandal out of Albany. Outrageously, what our Legislature does not have in place are proper protocols to handle unethical behavior. The latest scandal in Albany involved former Assemblyman Vito Lopez. A report released by the Joint Committee on Public Ethics (JCOPE) summarized the investigation of sexual harassment claims. He has since resigned, thankfully. The report was critical of the Assembly Speaker’s involvement and apparently, complaints were confidentially settled with quiet payments made to staffers who lodged the sexual harassment claims.

In its report, JCOPE referred penalties to the Legislative Ethics Commission. On June 4, the commission responded and charged the former Assembly member with a fine of $330,000. I was glad to see he would face a penalty for his actions, however, too much of this process was left up to the Speaker of the Assembly. I have since put forth legislation to create an independent committee to investigate complaints made against Assembly members and staff.  Currently, the Speaker and his staff decide how complaints are to be handled. This needs to change.

My legislation establishes an Assembly ethics committee that is independent of the Speaker.  It requires that any complaints made against an Assembly member or a staff member be referred to the committee.  We deserve better laws and should demand a better process for these types of complaints because, if history is any teacher, they will undoubtedly arise again.

Synthetic Drug Laws Need Improvements

I recently stood with several community members and local elected officials to announce new legislation addressing synthetic drugs in New York. Senator Patty Ritchie (R–Oswegatchie) and I, as well as Assemblyman Bob Oaks (R,C,I–Macedon) are sponsors of the legislation. While the state health department banned certain chemical compounds, illegal drug makers are finding their way around our current laws. My legislation would empower the State Health Commissioner to add synthetic drugs to the controlled substance list. This bill would also increase penalties for drug users and dealers and create penalties for mislabeling substances. It also defines a synthetic cannabinoid as a chemical that affects a “cannabinoid receptor” – pinpointing the affect the drug has on a person rather than trying to name actual substances.

Unfortunately, an Oswego County boy died under the influence of synthetic drugs last year. He became addicted and sought treatment but relapsed. He drowned while under the influence of synthetics.

I am hopeful by passing this legislation and drawing more attention to this matter, we can prevent others from facing drug problems and other families from facing tragedies. I’ve had a lot of encouragement and support at the local level.
Now it’s time to make other lawmakers across the state aware of this ongoing and new drug problem facing our public, and pass laws that law enforcement can use to help keep the public safe.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other 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 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069 or by calling (315) 598-5185.
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