“It has become a cliche to say that ‘Albany does nothing,’ ” stated New York State Assemblyman George Latimer. “But it simply isn’t true. There were a large number of key bills that passed the Assembly and the Senate which deserve attention from the public as important, positive actions.” Mr. Latimer highlighted the following actions taken in session in November:
Toughest DWI law passed. The Assembly and the Senate both passed Leandra’s law, which creates the toughest first-time DWI offense in the nation: drive while intoxicated with a child in the car, get charged with a felony. The legislation was strongly endorsed by MADD ( Mothers Against Drunk Driving), by law enforcement officials and district attorneys statewide. (Extraordinary Session Assembly Bill A.8)
Major incentives for solar and renewable energy. Both houses passed legislation allowing local governments to establish the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, opening the door to over $400 million in federal funds for homeowners and businesses to install energy efficient retrofits and renewable energy systems such as solar and geothermal technologies. (Extraordinary Session Assembly bill A.4004)
New Tier V pension reform. Local governments and school districts have lobbied for a new Tier V pension system for new hires that is less generous than the current Tier IV program. The new provisions could save local and state governments nearly $50 billion over the next 3 decades – raising the minimum retirement age, requiring longer service to vest into the system, limiting the amount of overtime that can be calculated into final salary averages. (Extraordinary Session Assembly Bill A.26)
Local government mandate relief package. The bill passed allows for greater municipal flexibility in a host of areas from health insurance cooperatives to highway maintenance shared services and pooled municipal bonding to help governments restrain costs. (Extraordinary Session Assembly Bill A.2)
Consecutive sentencing loophole closed. Legislation was adopted that closed a loophole allowing violent A-1 felony criminals easier access to parole consideration. Such criminals – those convicted of murder, kidnapping, etc. – face greater surety of serving their full terms in prison. (Extraordinary Session Assembly bill A.5)
Public Authority accountability and transparency. New legislation passed governs debt limitation plans, whistle-blower protections, board performance evaluations, more independent audits, requires pre-approval of major contracts, impacts transfers of property below market value, and more. (Extraordinary Session Assembly Bill A.12)
The bills can be viewed on line at www.assembly.state.ny.us.