Schenectady County

Raising Metroplex bond cap backed

The three state legislators representing Schenectady County agreed Friday to support a bill that wou

The three state legislators representing Schenectady County agreed Friday to support a bill that would raise the bonding authority of the Metroplex Development Authority from $50 million to $75 million.

But at the same time they proposed conditions that put them, all Republican legislators, into conflict with the Democrat-controlled county Legislature.

Assembly Minority leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, last week opposed raising the bonding cap and raised other objections. The bill was proposed by the county Legislature and introduced into the state Legislature by Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna.

On Friday, Farley, Tedisco and Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, issued a joint statement saying they would propose a bill accepting the bonding increase but also making other changes to the Metroplex operation. The legislation would bar political party chairpersons from serving on the Metroplex board, along with county elected officials and managers.

“Our reforms will help take the politics out of Metroplex,” the statement said, and “would be prospective and not change the content of the present board. We believe these necessary reforms will increase the accountability of Metroplex.”

Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, accused the Republicans of trying to oust Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen, who is also the county’s top economic development official. Republicans denied this, and later Friday provided the bill language, which bars county managers from the board “except for the Schenectady County commissioner of economic development,” who is Gillen.

County Attorney Chris Gardner noted that Gillen, like other board members, is periodically up for reappointment. Gardner said there may be legal problems with this legislative language for Gillen. But Michael Cuevas, the Assembly minority counsel, denied that. Savage said she thinks Tedisco changed his position Friday when people objected to it.

The bill language also raises Metroplex’s bonding authority to $75 million.

Gillen said in a statement, “I am pleased that the Schenectady delegation has agreed to support an increase in the bond cap. … As far as my future and whether this new legislation would have an impact, I have no comment other than to say that I have not decided whether or not to seek reappointment as chair of Metroplex when my current term expires.”

Farley said there was no intention to target Gillen.

While the county Legislature requested the original legislation introduced by Farley (S-7721), it has not yet passed the formal home rule message that the state Legislature requires. A special county meeting is set for Wednesday. Gardner at first said the county would likely insist on the original bill, and a statement issued by Savage implied the same. But Savage later declined to say exactly how the county would proceed.

Similarly, David Smingler, Farley’s spokesman, declined to say what the senator would do if the county Legislature passes a home-rule message supporting the original bill. “I can’t predict the future. Wednesday’s a long way,” he said.

The amended legislation, which Savage had not seen Friday evening, does not yet have a bill number.

Farley’s original bill was approved Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. But it has no Assembly sponsor because Tedisco and Amedore did not take it up.

Any local measure with Farley’s support is likely to pass the Senate. In the Assembly, Savage could appeal to her fellow Democrats who control that chamber, and seek to bypass the two local Republican assemblymen.

While the normal procedure is for local measures such as this to be introduced by local members, it is not required. Assembly rules permit bills to be introduced by report of a standing committee, and Democrats control all committees in that house.

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