A simpler environmental review process for construction projects 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 Wednesday in Saratoga Springs.
The forum was the fifth of 10 such 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 Wednesday in 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 series, said there are a massive number of regulations, rules and requirements that impact 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. He has joined by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to highlight the delay and launched a petition on the chamber’s website, which Marchione signed.
He argued too much emphasis has been 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 Saratoga Race Course, which he said has led some groups to give up on hosting events there, and asked the state legislators to proceed carefully with the expansion of gambling in the state, as one wrong move could impact a thriving sector of the economy in the Capital Region.
The next speaker was Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau President Todd Garafano, who focused his remarks on state efforts to promote tourism, like the “I Love New York” program, a competition for tourism aid and the way tourist-based businesses could be helped by a revolving loan fund. He said the “I Love New York” program needed stable multiyear funding so it would be a predictable source of revenue, argued that tourism groups were better at collaborating than competing and called for the creation of a statewide revolving loan fund based on regional models in the state.
State Sen. David Valesky, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference from Syracuse, said a lot of the issues raised by Garafano would be considered during the state’s budget process, which begins in January.
Following the forum, Marchione said she will use the stories and insights shared to identify ways to foster business in the state.
“We heard compelling, sometimes emotional testimony,” she said. “The stories of small business owners ... and the endless paperwork and regulatory roadblocks they must endure on a daily basis is something I will take with me.”