State legislators consider session productive

Retiring Assemblyman Bob Reilly’s eighth and final legislative session was a good one to go out on,

Retiring Assemblyman Bob Reilly’s eighth and final legislative session was a good one to go out on, even though he thinks it’s not quite over yet.

“I have my little frustrations on the big things that aren’t done, and I have my frustrations on the things I personally sponsored that weren’t done,” said Reilly, D-Colonie, about the regular session that ended Thursday. “But we did a lot of statewide structural things, and I got a number of the bills that I wanted passed.”

His own bills included legislation affecting libraries, like removing a disincentive for library consolidation, approval for a wireless cell tower on state land in Clifton Park and authority for Colonie police officials to send late-night prisoners right to the Albany County jail without waiting for an arraignment.

He regretted that the Legislature failed to pass his livestock standards bill or an exception from state law that would have allowed the Latham Price Chopper store to sell wine in a small restaurant on the premise.

But Reilly said he was pleased with the reforms that were instituted with the state takeover of the New York Racing Association and the creation of justice centers for people with special needs.

He thinks their work isn’t done, though, and predicted the Legislature will be called back. Aside from passing legislation pertinent to New York City, which is basically a sure thing, he was very confident he would be called away from his farm at some point this year to vote for a legislative pay raise.

“I am quite sure that will happen,” Reilly said.

In the state Senate, longtime Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, remarked on the high functioning nature of this year’s session. “I felt we got a lot accomplished,” he said.

He was also happy with the passage of all the library legislation, which he said received his “major thrust” during the session.

“It’s been a great year for libraries,” he said.

Farley and Reilly agreed that a major shortcoming in the session was the lack of mandate relief for local governments and school districts.

Farley even predicted that the Legislature would be called back to the Capitol to address the issue.

“If there is anything that needs to be addressed, it’s mandate relief,” he said.

Reilly said the failure to pass meaningful mandate relief is a problem that has plagued the last two legislative sessions, characterizing the package passed last year as a “couple little tweaks.”

State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, wasn’t so quick to write off the Legislature’s work on mandate relief. He noted a phased-in state takeover of the growth in Medicaid costs that counties are forced to deal with.

“Counties will save $1.2 billion over five years through a phased-in state takeover,” he said in a statement.

Seward contended that the session was filled with plenty of “notable” accomplishments, including a budget without any new taxes or fees, billions in funding to fix the state’s aging infrastructure and help for people affected by last summer’s flooding.

Seward was pleased with the Senate’s focus on economic development, but added, “I was disappointed that the Assembly failed to take up several other job-creating measures, including my bill to eliminate business taxes on manufacturers, which passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, who focused a lot of his energy this session advocating for relief measures for people affected by last summer’s flooding, said a lot was done to help people, but more can be done.

“There are still unmet needs, especially in housing,” he said.

The Legislature also failed to move his Whole Communities Recovery Act of 2012, which was introduced late in the session and deals with future emergency responses to aid homeowners, businesses and farms.

One of the final big proposals to pass was the creation of the justice centers, which was shepherded along in the Senate by Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga.

The centers will be an oversight body designed to improve the state’s response to allegations of abuse and neglect of people under the care of the state.

“We’ve come a long way since learning about the atrocities that occurred to individuals placed in our care from a New York Times investigative report last year,” McDonald said in a statement. “As a grandfather to two boys who might someday be institutionalized themselves, it gives me great confidence to know that there are protections in place for them and all our vulnerable citizens, so if abuse happens it can be reported, investigated and prosecuted.”

Some legislation has yet to be signed by the governor, but he is expected to do so.

Categories: Schenectady County

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