Predictability in tourism funding, simpler environmental review processes for construction and help ending a standoff between the state Department of Transportation and Amtrak over bicycles on trains were some of the requests made to state senators hosting a regulatory reform hearing on Wednesday morning in Saratoga Springs.
The forum was the fifth of 10 similar functions hosted by the state Senate to identify rules and regulations that could be reformed or eradicated to help businesses, with relief for the tourism industry being the focus on Wednesday at the Quad Graphics auditorium. To highlight the number of potential regulations that could be cut, state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, one of the senators leading this statewide show, said there are 22 miles of regulations, rules and requirements that affect businesses.
New environmental assessment forms are the latest burden on businesses, said Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, the first speaker at the forum. He said developers in Saratoga County are dealing with more paperwork because of this change, which also means more work for local oversight boards and a lengthier approval time for projects.
Simplifying this process was an issue raised at a recent forum in Long Island, added Sen. Patrick Gallivan, a Republican from western New York.
While not dealing with a regulation, Shimkus said there was one thing the state Senate could do to potentially attract millions of tourists to upstate: “We need New York state DOT and Amtrak to allow bikes on trains,” he said. “Whatever you have to do [to make that happen], do it.”
This issue has been a focus of his for a while now, joining U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, to highlight the problem and launching a petition on the chamber’s website, which Marchione signed. He argued that much emphasis has been put on finding an ideal solution to retrofitting the aging trains not equipped to hold bikes. “We just have to find a way to do this,” he said.
Shimkus also warned of the impact of intrusive state oversight at the Saratoga Race Course, which he said has led some groups to give up on hosting events there. He asked the state legislators to proceed carefully with the expansion of gambling in the state, as some decisions could affect a thriving sector of the economy in the Capital Region.