The just completed legislative session may have filled headlines with the drama of arrests and changing leadership, but for me and most of my colleagues the focus remained on fighting for our districts and passing good laws to benefit the people of New York State. Advocating for our students and schools, protecting our rich farmland, supporting the growing agricultural sector, standing up for our veterans, and pushing for meaningful ethics reform were among my priorities and we made some real strides over the six month session.
On the education front, we elected an outstanding new Regent, Judith Johnson, to represent Dutchess County on the re-energized Board of Regents and brought more than $245 million to our local schools–a $9.6 million increase over last year. We delivered mandate relief to private and parochial schools in the district and passed legislation I co-sponsored (A.7303-A) that addresses concerns over teacher evaluations and high-stakes testing; extends the deadline for the Regents to adopt and implement a new teacher evaluation system; delinks increases in school aid from implementation; creates a new content review committee to ensure standardized test questions are fair and grade-level appropriate; and gives teachers access to materials to better prepare.
I’m proud that three bills I authored that support local agriculture passed both houses and now await the governor’s signature. These establish a toll tax credit for small to mid-sized farms transporting goods on the Thruway to markets (A.2414); help new farmers gain access to prime farmland (A.2369); and evaluate the needs of aging farmers (A.5153). We secured $20 million specifically to protect farmland in the Hudson Valley, as well as funding for the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, Beginning Farmers NY Fund and Taste NY program.
To make sure all veterans are recognized equally, I authored and passed legislation that ensures veterans of more recent conflicts in the Middle East and the Global War on Terror receive all appropriate property tax exemptions (A.2368-A). Additionally, I co-sponsored the Veterans Equality Act to expand the New York State public pension credit for all veterans (A.8174-A), and secured $350,000 for the Veterans Entrepreneurial Assistance Program.
I am frankly very disappointed that more wasn’t accomplished in the area of meaningful ethics and campaign finance reform. Since I first ran, I have pushed to substantively address the distrust that current policies foment. This year alone was reason to start breaking down the ethical cloud hanging over us and restore public confidence in state government. The LLC loophole legislation, which I co-sponsored, passed in the Assembly (A.6975-B) but was never brought to a vote in the Senate. This bill, which addressed the aggregate amount of political contributions a limited liability company can make in a year, would help curb the corrupting influence of money in elections and dismantle the power of special interests. The pension forfeiture amendment, keeping elected officials convicted of a felony from collecting their taxpayer funded pension (A.4643-A), was passed in both houses, but in different versions that will need to be reconciled next year, and then passed in a subsequent session before being brought to the public for a November vote.
Clearly, there’s more work to be done in Albany. As your full-time legislator, I am committed to advocating for issues important to the Hudson Valley. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and concerns. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact our office in Poughkeepsie (845-454-1703), Hudson (518-828-1961) or via e-mail at email@example.com, if we can be helpful to you.