Helping Our Community
Work For Our Community
Senator Breslin has been Making Government Work for Our Community for the past fourteen years. Neil has passed more bills in the Senate than any other Democratic Senator since his election in 1998. Senator Breslin serves all people of Albany County, irrespective of community or political point-of-view. Below is some the legislation passed in 2009 to help people throughout Albany County, the Capital Region and in some instances the entire state, especially in this trying economic time.
Albany County Accomplishments: 2010
Parking Permit Bill S.396A/A.1039A (McEneny) Authorizes the city of Albany to provide for a residential parking permit system (*passed Senate 6/22; passed Assembly 6/29) First Passage since 1994
St. Margaret's Facility S.6858/A.9944 (McEneny) Makes technical corrections to provisions of law relating to rates of payment for residential health care facilities (passed Assembly 6/15; *passed Senate 6/17)
Boght Fire Dept S.7872/A.11023 (Reilly) Relates to the residency requirement for the Boght Community fire district in Albany county (passed Assembly 6/2/10; passed Senate 6/22)
HR-BR Transfer of Funds S.6918-A/A.10785-A (Russell) Authorizes the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District to temporarily advance moneys held in any fund to another fund of the district (passed Senate 6/24)
NanoCollege Land Lease S.8221-A/A.11471-A (McEneny) Authorizes the lease of lands located at the State University of New York at Albany (*passed Senate 6/25; passed Assembly 6/29)
Furlough resolution “It is not reasonable or fiscally necessary to impose furloughs on unionized state employees in order to address the budget crisis. Today, I submitted a resolution on the floor requesting that the Governor resubmit the emergency legislation for the period of April 1, 2010 through May 19, 2010 without including language that authorizes him to impose furloughs. Unfortunately, in order to avoid shutting down many of the state's essential services, the Legislature has little choice but to vote for the provisions in the current emergency bill.”
Restored funding to state parks "Restoring funding to our Parks will save the recreational environment that many New Yorker's depend on. Thacher Park in particular, is one of the most precious resources in my district. It provides trails for summer hiking, mountain biking and fields for children to play. I am delighted that families will be able to enjoy the upcoming Memorial Day weekend at our beautiful state parks. It is important that we protect and preserve our parks for current and future generations."
Governors Record keeping S.6846/A9928 (Hoyt)- Establishes recordkeeping policies and procedures relating to preservation of records of the governor and the executive chamber (passed both houses)
Lieutenant Governor S.7682/A. 10952 (Hoyt)- Authorizes the governor to fill vacancy in the office of lieutenant-governor on confirmation of both houses of the legislature; allows the governor to leave the state without transmitting power to lieutenant-governor and establishes the process for lieutenant-governor to act as governor during incapacitation of the governor. (Passed Senate 6/15)
Blind Vendors S 3430/A.6420 (Weisenberg) Relates to the commission for the blind and the operation of vending facilities (passed Assembly 6/24; Passed Senate 6/29)
Income Tax Extension S.5789/A.7162B (Reilly)- Grants an automatic extension of time for filing a personal income tax return and paying a personal income tax when a spouse dies within 30 days of the April 15th deadline (passed the Assembly; *passed Senate 6/17)
Prior Approval: S.8088/A.11369 Requires that insurers receive approval from the New York State Insurance Department before increasing or decreasing health insurance premium rates. The bill also establishes a process and time frame for DOI to prior approve changes in health insurance premiums before they become effective (passed Senate 6/7; passed Assembly: 6/7; Governor signed: 6/8)
Autism: S.7000-B/A.10372 (Morelle) Mandates that health insurers provide coverage for the screening diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (passed Senate 6/9/; passed Assembly: 6/21)
Ian's Law: Enacts Ian's Law, which provides enhanced consumer protections in the event of an insurer's discontinuance of coverage, including requiring approval of the superintendent and notice to policyholders (**COPRIME SPONSOR; passed Senate 6/15)
Affordable dialysis: S. 1803-b/A.213 (Markey) Provides that insured persons receiving dialysis treatment may go out of network to receive their treatment. Individuals with kidney failure need regular dialysis treatment, often several times a week, in order to survive. Although many health insurance plans allow these patients to travel and receive dialysis treatment while they are away from home, this coverage is not granted by all insurance providers (passed both houses)
Independent contractor insurance: S. 8358/A.11555 Independent workers such as part-time workers, temps, freelancers and independent contractors have a particularly difficult time finding affordable health insurance because they cannot get coverage on a group basis through their employer. This bill would amend Insurance Law §1123, where this insurance demonstration program was enacted, to clarify the definition of "independent worker" to include (1) individuals who work full-time for a single employer on a temporary basis and (2) domestic workers such as nannies. This would insure that all independent workers have access to uninterrupted and affordable health insurance (passed both houses)
Emergency volunteer insurance S. 5111/A.8215 > Helps provide more affordable health insurance to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers by giving them the option of purchasing their health insurance through their local municipality (signed into law)
Public Vessel Requires public vessels operating in New York State to carry marine protection and indemnity insurance. On October 2, 2005, the ship, the Ethan Allen, capsized on Lake George resulting in the deaths of twenty individuals. This tragedy brought to light the fact that there is no requirement that public vessels carry liability insurance. This bill will enhance the safety and security of the public who utilize commercial watercraft for recreational and business purposes (passed Senate)
2009-2010 Majority Conference
- We transformed the rules of the Senate to make the legislative process more open, accountable, and inclusive.
- We gave all members an opportunity to advance legislation and equalized resources.
- We opened the books on Senate expenditures and used new technology to make every legislative action public.
- We reformed New York City school governance, dragged Public Authorities into the light, consolidated local governments, and created a new tier in the state pension system to save billions.
- We took on ethics reform, passing the toughest ethics and campaign finance law in a generation.
- We passed the Bigger Better Bottle bill, E-waste and BPA environmental protections for a cleaner, greener New York.
- We passed Green Markets legislation to create economic relationships between our agriculture industry and urban centers, and the Historic Preservation Tax Credit to strengthen the State program first launched in 2006 by allowing the state to target reinvestment to distressed communities.
- We passed the Family Health Care Decision Act, the Child Health Plus and School Meals Enrollment Act, and expanded the number of seniors eligible for EPIC to protect our most vulnerable New Yorkers.
- We passed the MTA Financing and Reform Package to save straphangers from costly fare hikes, crippling service cuts and enacted much-needed oversight, transparency, and accountability.
- We expanded Unemployment Insurance Benefits to provide an additional 13 weeks of extended benefits to nearly 120,000 currently unemployed New Yorkers.
- We expanded Cobra Health Care Coverage to protect the health and well being of thousands of New Yorkers who recently lost their jobs due to the national economic downturn.
- We passed the HIV Rent Cap and the Loft Law expanding protections for tenants.
- We brought Marriage Equality to the floor for the first time in our State’s history, and passed the Dignity for all Students Act.
- We passed Rockefeller Drug Reform, increased IOLA funding, and expanded MWBEs to ensure fair and equal access to justice for all New Yorkers and increased access to economic opportunities for women and minority business owners.
- We passed Leandra’s Law, Kendra’s Law, and Ian’s Law to protect children and the disabled.
- We passed Property Tax and Mandate Relief, to put money back into taxpayers’ hands and lower costs for local government.
- We were the first in the nation to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, and ended New York’s status as the only state without No-Fault Divorce.
- Recognizing that New York works best when New Yorkers are working, Senate Democrats helped create and save over 400,000 jobs in our first term in the Majority.
- From Power for Jobs, to Green Jobs program, to targeting federal stimulus dollars for welfare to work and creating the Excelsior Jobs Program, we are working our way out of financial disaster by putting New Yorkers back to work.
NDB Awards Received 2009/2010
- October 12, 2010 — Received the 2010 William Hoyt Advocacy Award, at the New York State Archives Annual Awards Luncheon
- June 9, 2009 — Honored by Capital District Area Labor Federation for years of service to the labor movement and working families
- September 29, 2009 — Honored by the Capital Area Council of Churches
- October 15, 2009 — Pathways of Hope Award by the Clearview Center
- October 15, 2009 — Community Service Award from Centro Civico Hispanoamericano
- October 16, 2009 — Recognized by the Homeless Action Committee at 10th annual dinner
- October 22, 2009 — Honored by the Legal Project
- November 18, 2009 — The Advocacy Award from the International Center of the Cap Region
- April 9, 2010- 2010 — Special Citation Award from the NYS Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- April 16, 2010 — Honored by Hispanic Outreach Services
- June 3, 2010 — Honored by Trinity Institute
- June 5, 2010 — Community Service Award from New Visions
2009 Budget Accomplishments:
Town Clerk Position Conversion: Legislature rejected the Governor's proposal to convert the office of the Town Clerk from an elected position to an appointed position. (letters urging opposition from Guilderland [Rosemary Centi], Rensselearville and other out of district towns)
Youth Program Block Grant: The programs included in the proposed block grant will be discreetly appropriated at their 2008-2009 funding levels less than 10% reduction with the exception of Detention Services, which will be fully resorted. (letter in opposition from County Legislator and Social Service Committee Chair, Lucille McKnight)
Displaced Homemaker Program: received $2,200,000
- restored $2 million for Adult Literacy Programs
- restored $225,000 for CWE Workplace Literacy
Albany Pine Bush Commission:
- Requested 1.8 million and received $2 million (level funding from last year; Chris Hawver says Thank You!)
Albany City Schools:
- $1 million line item +$150,000
- Charter school tuition calculation freeze (no increase for 2 years)
- Rejects proposal to: require 15 credits in order to receive full TAP (remains at 12), discontinue TAP for those loan default, eliminate TAP for graduate students, eliminating TAP for those with multiple dependent family members. (concern from SUNY Albany, Sage, Stonybrook, Binghamton)
Preschool Special Education Cost Shift (+132 million):
- The Legislature rejects the Executive's proposal to create a 15% school district share for the costs associated with preschool special education (calls opposing this from Bethlehem District mainly)
19-29 Young Adult Coverage:
- Uninsured young adults b/w the age of 19 and 29 represent 31 percent of New York State's total uninsured population.
- This law expands access to health insurance by making a COBRA like benefit available to young adults through their parent's policy
- It also extends a make available option to individuals and employers to permit them to buy family coverage which includes coverage for young adults through the age of 29 —The young adult must NOT be eligible for any other employer-sponsored health insurance coverage
- The young adults must live, work or reside in New York State or the service area of the insurer
- Ultimately this bill will make available more affordable health insurance to young adults if they choose.
COBRA 18-36 months:
- Increases the time period one can receive a COBRA benefit from 18 up to 36 months.
- All of the same eligibility requirements as before remain the same
- Individuals also may be eligible for a 65% federal subsidy of their COBRA benefit provided they meet certain income limitations. ($125, 000 single / $250,000 family)
- People can apply for this subsidy through the end of the year.
- Freelancers Bill: Provide more affordable health insurance options to independent contractors, part-time workers, temporary workers and other individuals.
- $3 million to the district through member item allocations
Upstate Caucus Accomplishments
The Upstate Caucus is charged with the mission to identify policy priorities and positions to protect the interests of Upstate New York. In response to such a call, the Caucus has worked to make Upstate issues a priority for the Senate and have worked collectively to achieve results benefiting the region.
A. Blueprint Funding
In May of 2009, the entire Upstate Caucus, along with Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, authored a letter to the Governor urging him to release the $120 million set aside for the Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund. The funds were promised in the 08-09 enacted budget but had been left dormant, with no RFP announcement or follow up. In response to the letter and resulting press coverage, Governor Paterson released the funds to be used for job creation and to help further the Upstate economy.
The Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund is a long term strategic plan to spur businesses and attract residents in Upstate. The initiative was begun by the Empire State Development Corporation had had two focus areas: (1) infrastructure development to drive the marketplace and regional economics and (2) the downtown strategic redevelopment to provide capital for real estate projects and revitalization efforts.
In addition, the Caucus also highlighted other funds that had gone unused in the enacted budget: $40 million for Upstate Agribusinesses and $30 million for the Upstate City by City Initiative. The Caucus called for the release of these funds as well. The Agribusiness fund is intended to allow for capital farm investment and to expand food processing sectors in Upstate. The City by City Initiative allocated funds for one time investments in economic development projects throughout the region.
The release of the Blueprint Fund was a critical component to the Upstate economic development this year as the funds allowed for job creation, infrastructure development, and capital investments that might have otherwise stalled in the difficult economic climate of 2009.
B. Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit
One of the most important focal points of the Upstate agenda is the development of blighted or underutilized properties in its urban centers,. The national economy over the past year has weakened private investment for such development projects. To combat the lack of funds and the limitations of the market, Senator David Valesky sponsored the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HRTC), which was passed by both houses and signed into law by the Governor. The HRTC was strongly championed by all members of the Upstate Caucus as a key to incentivizing private investment in Upstate metropolitan areas.
New York has had a HRTC program since 2006 allowing for tax credits associated with rehabilitating historic homes and depreciated properties. The initial program was insufficient in catalyzing any significant use and rehabilitation in areas as the credits limited expenses and expansions and did not allow new construction projects to qualify for the credits.
The changes incurred by the 2009 legislation increased the cap on commercial and residential credit values (from $100,000 to $5 million and $25,000 to $50,000, respectively). It also increased the percent of rehabilitation costs that could be applied for the credit, from 6 percent to 20 percent. Additionally, the credit is now assignable or transferable between business partnerships and the credit can be offered as a rebate for homeowners with lower tax liability.
These changes increase the viability of the program for use by developers and allow for stronger, larger projects to find opportunity in the market. The legislation was strongly supported by economic development groups, banks, smart growth organizations, and county executive throughout the Upstate region. It has been a beneficial way to make use of existing assets throughout Upstate communities. The passage of the HRTC was a big win for Upstate as it helps to enhance the tax base growth, increase property values, and attract new businesses and investments. Without the support and work of the Upstate Caucus the changes to this legislation would not have been passed.C. Empire Zone Legislation
The Empire Zone Program is New York's main economic development initiative, which provides tax credits to companies based on their creation of capital investments, jobs and their geographic location. These credits have been based on the number of employees and jobs created as well as the amount of capital investment made by the company.
In recent years, many loopholes in the program have been closed by legislation, preventing companies from accumulating more credits than deserved. Recent reforms have helped to contain costs of the program by closing the tax ID loophole and limiting property tax credits. However, due to inconsistent regulation of the program and the difficulty presented by current statute to decertify noncompliant businesses, the legacy costs of the program have continued to rise, prompting the expiration of the program one year earlier than originally anticipated.
In the spring the Upstate Caucus led by Senator Stachowski, proposed two bills that would initiate the reform process of the Empire Zone Program.
Senate bill 5598 made technical amendments to the program allowing certification and recertification processes to move quickly, allowing benefits to reach companies in an expedited manner. This bill assisted companies by shortening the time between confirmation of meeting program requirements and being able to claim the tax benefits. ESDC previously had until the end of the calendar year to recertify firms under the new guidelines. This legislation moved that date up to June 30, and requires certification or recertification. This bill passed the Senate and has gained a sponsor in the Assembly, Assemblyman Schimminger, but has not passed.
The second bill (S.5575A) proposed the creation of a task force comprised of 29 diverse individuals to develop reform proposals to the Empire Zone program as whole. This bill passed the Senate, but has no Assembly sponsor.
These bills, and the efforts of the Upstate Caucus were supported by every major Upstate economic development association or organization across the State . The Business Council of NY stated they looked forward to working with the legislature to "develop new and effective economic development tools" and supported the creation of a task force. Unshackle Upstate has called for more clarity in language of the program and is supportive of the task force being created. In a recent letter, the NY State Economic Development Council applauded the Senate for acting quickly to replace the program and also put forth additional suggestions for reform.
Reform of the Empire Zone Program has, and will continue to be, a priority for the Upstate Caucus as such a program draws much needed jobs and investment to the Upstate region.D. Green Jobs/Green New York
The Green Jobs/Green New York legislation (A.89011/S.5888), sponsored by Senator Aubertine, was signed into law in October 2009. This legislation was achieved through the influence and continual efforts of the Upstate Caucus members. The program is essential for the Upstate region as it helps to reduce energy costs for residents and businesses and, at the same time, creates jobs during a tough economic climate. The members of the Caucus worked to develop and pass this legislation in order to help the region grow in jobs and to lessen the, already high, energy costs present in New York.
The Green Jobs/Green New York act aims to weatherize one million homes and businesses. Homes and businesses are eligible to apply for a loan of $13,000 or $26,000 respectively, for energy efficient improvements.
Additionally, the legislation creates jobs in green construction areas and provides job skills training for green industries. The program is funded through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative's carbon credit auction and therefore does not result in any additional cost to taxpayers.
From the carbon credit sale, $112 million will be allocated to the Green Jobs/Green New York program. This piece of legislation was vital to the economies and residents of the Upstate region and the Caucus members came together collectively supporting and passing this act.E. Power for Jobs Extension
The Power for Jobs program authorizes the New York Power Authority to offer electricity at rates below market value to businesses creating jobs in New York.
The program currently supports 250,000 jobs, primarily in manufacturing, across New York State, with an overwhelming majority of those jobs in Upstate New York.
In June of 2009 the Senate, following pressure by the Upstate Caucus, passed an extension of the Power for Jobs program allowing the program to run until May 2010 and committed, through the leadership of Senator Aubertine as the Chairman of the Energy Committee, to designing a new, more sustainable program better suited to the State's economic needs.
A series of hearings and roundtable discussions have been held across the state to gather public opinion for a replacement program or changes to the current program. The caucus will continue to prioritize work on a long term solution to promote economic development in the State.F. Deficit Reduction Plan
The Upstate Caucus members played a key role throughout the special session and deficit reduction negotiations in November 2009. Their collaboration and solidarity as a seven member voting bloc with the addition of the two Long Island Democratic Senators, Craig Johnson and Brian Foley, made the Caucus an important group for consultation on budget proposals. Daily meetings and conference calls between the Senate Finance staff, Majority Conference staff and the Caucus members resulted in important dialogue, suggestions and comments related to school aid cuts and healthcare spending were particularly important facets of the Senate's negotiations.
The Caucus remained firm throughout the entire process on the refusal to accept any mid-year cuts to education or large cuts to health care.. Education cuts would have resulted in a larger loss in aid to schools in Upstate New York, verses NYC schools, because of current formulas. The disproportionate loss in aid would have meant layoffs, increased class sizes and property tax increases. Additionally, the members were concerned about reducing spending on healthcare and advocated for limited and carefully placed cuts to that area.
Ultimately, the $2.7 billion reduction in the budget that passed the legislature contained no school aid cuts and minimal reductions in healthcare spending. The Caucus members, were instrumental in shaping the negotiations and ensuring that decreased spending did not trickle down and result in higher property taxes for Upstate and Long Island residents.
G. 18A Assessment
In the spring, the Governor announced a temporary increase in the 18A assessments, from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2014, on electric, gas and steam utilities and municipal electric and gas utilities. This increase would result in a maximum of a 2% rise on customer's utility bills. Utility companies were required to file tariff amendments to recover the assessment from their customers.
The practical result of this assessment was almost a 20% increase in some customer's utility bills. Many were not made aware of the increase in a clear and understandable way. Additionally, it was discovered Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation treated the tariff disproportionally, as their larger customers were impacted more by an over allocation of the tariff. This was because NMPC used a state wide average commodity price in determining the tariffs rather than a class specific price.
In response to business and constituent opinions in the upstate region, the members of the Upstate Caucus authored a letter to Garry A. Brown, Chairman of the New York State Public Service Commission, highlighting problems that resulted from the increased assessment. This letter spoke on behalf of customers throughout Upstate and requested that the Commission require clearly stated bills and address of the mis-designed tariffs of some companies.
On November 6, the Public Service Commission released an order agreeing with the position of the Upstate Caucus. The Commission ordered that NMPC modify their methods of applying tariffs so that each class of customers was treated appropriately. This redesign will result in relief for larger customers in the service area. Additionally, it was recommended that NMPC refund any over payments by applying a credit to those customers.
This assessment made utility costs higher throughout New York, at a time when we have one of the highest utility costs in the country, oft-cited as one of the strongest detriments to businesses location or expansion in the Upstate region. The Caucus members while continuing to advocate for its full repeal, played a vital role in addressing the execution of this assessment and ensuring it is properly documented and applied. The fight to eliminate the assessment will carry into 2010 State Budget negotiations.
- Welfare Grant: increase (10% to begin Summer 2009)
- Heath Care Reform: $2.3 billion health care savings plan, largest in state's history
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