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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Beginning the new year, legislatively"
ALBANY, Jan. 5 -- This year’s legislative session officially gets underway on Wednesday, January 8th, when Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers his fourth State of the State message to a joint session of the Senate and Assembly. While it’s largely a day of pomp and circumstance in and around the Capitol, the governor’s address itself and the subsequent legislative responses traditionally deliver strong signals of the debates and the issues that will dominate the agenda of New York government in the coming year.
In other words, it’s a day when legislative game plans – from the governor, from individual legislative conferences, and from myriad advocacy groups -- start getting put in motion. I’ll be doing that too. For example, there are a number of initiatives that I’m either sponsoring or co-sponsoring that I’ll keep pushing in 2014. These include measures to:
-- Further outlaw and seek to deter the operation of clandestine methamphetamine labs. Local meth lab discoveries remain alarming. These labs put police officers, first responders and local residents in harm’s way. We better pay attention. Our laws need to keep pace with the goal of putting meth manufacturers out of business. My legislation would further outlaw the operation of meth labs by increasing the criminal penalties for the possession of meth manufacturing material and the unlawful manufacture of meth, implementing a series of increasingly severe felony offenses. It would also enhance the ability of local police and district attorneys to track and prosecute violations of restrictions on over-the-counter sales of cold medications that are key ingredients used to cook meth.
As well, I’ll be joining a renewed legislative effort to enact legislation that would require sellers of homes that were previously the site of an illegal meth lab –and therefore contaminated with the hazardous chemicals left behind by meth labs – to disclose the information to potential homebuyers;
-- Put an end to the unfunded state mandates that impose unfair and unreasonable fiscal burdens on counties, cities, towns, villages and school districts. The legislation would ban the imposition of any future state mandates on local governments and school districts that are not accompanied by state funding to localities to pay for delivering the required programs and services. In short, this legislation delivers a clear, commonsense message: If the state mandates it, the state should pay for it;
-- Enhance the identification and prosecution of Medicaid fraud. For example, current state law limits reimbursements to local governments for successfully prosecuting Medicaid fraud cases. Under proposed legislation, local governments would keep 100% of the local share of any successful Medicaid fraud prosecution or settlement, or 10% of the total recovery, whichever amount is greater. We keep reading story after story that Medicaid fraud still costs taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars. It’s a mismanaged system. Something needs to change. Huge amounts of upstate tax dollars go to support vast Medicaid spending statewide, especially in New York City, and we can’t keep footing the bill for mismanagement, misspending, fraud and waste;
-- Eliminate the franchise tax on manufacturers across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide. Manufacturing has always been the economic engine of many upstate communities. It remains our best hope for long-term revitalization.
We know that tax cuts will headline this year’s legislative negotiations. A number of tax-cut strategies have already been advanced that could produce a more competitive business climate that invites private-sector job growth, welcomes businesses and industries, and helps individual workers and their families—if we finally act.
Over the past several years of economic struggle, New York and states across the nation have been forced to make decisions that have been painful across the board. That’s been especially true in areas like education. In 2014 we have to continue our efforts to put in place a more equitable and fair distribution of state education aid to low wealth, high needs school districts, particularly rural upstate and small city school districts.
Finally, we will continue the fight to convince the Cuomo administration to reverse its plan to close the Monterey Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility this year. I continue to believe, very strongly, that we’ve made a case on the merits for keeping Monterey open. It makes sense fiscally. It’s critical to the regional economy and community services. It’s consequential for the quality and strength of criminal justice in New York State. Monterey has turned lives around. It remains impossible, in my view, to justify its closing. We’ll keep making this case to Governor Cuomo.
Throughout the year ahead, keep in mind my Senate website (omara.nysenate.gov) as a steady source of legislative news and other updates. For example, my “2014 Community, Jobs and Economy Survey” is currently online as one convenient way for all of you to keep sharing your thoughts, opinions and suggestions for better government.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869