An informal update on New York State issues from Assemblyman George Latimer August 2009
For most of us, August is a time of rest and vacation. While the Assembly is not expected to be in session in Albany this month, I have plenty to do to regarding local funding and legislative issues, to handle individual constituent issues and advocacy, to prepare new legislation and modify existing bills for our next legislative session, and to review in detail the status of state finances. I expect to be “around” the district in August, and this is a good month to meet in person as issues arise.
Assemblyman, 91st A.D.
Selecting a Lt. Governor
During the recent State Senate leadership standoff, Governor David Paterson announced that he had named Richard Ravitch to serve as Lt. Governor to fill his unexpired term in the position Paterson held before being elevated to Governor. The appointment is based on an interpretation of Public Officers Law Section 43 that allows a Governor to fill a vacancy in a public post when there is no other method provided to do so. The State Constitution specifies filling vacancies in other statewide elected posts such as Attorney General and Comptroller, but is ambiguous on the L.G. post process, which is why I authored legislation in 2007 one full year BEFORE this vacancy occurred, bill A.208-A – a Constitutional Amendment – to allow the Governor to make such an appointment, with the confirmation of each house of the legislature. Some, including A.G. Andrew Cuomo, think the Governor does not have the power to appoint Ravitch under the Section 43 statute. The Governor’s legal advisors think otherwise. The Senate Republicans have taken the matter to court, and after trial and all appeals, we’ll know whether we have Ravitch in place or not. If not, I will vigorously push my bill, which I think will solve the matter, once the proposal goes through the long, arduous path to enactment as a constitutional amendment.
New York State may owe you money. Hard to believe, but true. The State Comptroller’s Office has set up a website that you can search to determine if you have unclaimed funds that are due you from any number of sources: an unreturned utility deposit for your telephone or cable TV; a dividend check or old closed bank account balance, etc. You can check for yourself and your family members by logging on to: www.osc.state.ny.us and clicking on the Unclaimed Funds icon on the left-hand side. You’ll be asked to put in your name (last name first) and city of residence (which may mean a location in New York State you used to live in) and searching the database. If you have a claim to file, you can print out the form, sign it and notarize your signature, and send it in to the Comptroller’s Office in Albany, and you’re on your way. It costs you nothing except an envelope and 44-cents stamp. THIS IS NO SCAM.
Call our office at 777-3832 if you have any questions.
CDL Licenses for Firefighters
Amidst all the frustrations evident in Albany these last few months, there was one bit of good news, for volunteer firefighters, with the state’s passage of legislation that does not require all volunteers to have a CDL license in order to drive a fire truck. This rule was imposed as part of Federal policy, and it had the effect of freezing many of the activities of those communities with all-volunteer fire forces, such as Mamaroneck Village, as well as those with combination departments (paid professionals and volunteers) such as Larchmont, Port Chester, Rye City and Mamaroneck Town. The bill made it through the legislative labyrinth during May, showing that Albany can respond to a problem when it is so motivated to do so.
Each month, I’ll reference some of the local grants that were OK’d for community purposes in this year’s budget. Some will consider this unnecessary “pork”, others will call it “bringing home the bacon”. Every grant has been vetted by the Assembly Ways and Means team, the State Comptroller and the State Attorney General to insure the validity of the receiving organization, the lack of conflicts of interest, and the appropriateness of the use of the funds for a public purpose. This month, I will highlight grants to Port Chester and Rye Brook:
$10,000 – Port Chester Fire Department – fire communications/equipment
$10,000 – Port Chester Carver Center – community programs
$15,000 – Rye Brook Village – ball fields and parks
$ 8,000 – Port Chester Village – hotline services
$ 5,000 – Port Chester Village Recreation Department – summer programs
$ 5,000 – Don Bosco Center, Port Chester – soup kitchen
$ 3,000 – Rye Town Youth Football Program
In past years other recipients in these communities included: Council of Community Services; Rye Brook Senior Center; Reverse 9-1-1 program; live streaming of Rye Brook Village Board meetings on-line; Port Chester/Rye Brook/Rye Town Chamber of Commerce; Town of Rye defibrillators at Crawford Park; Port Chester-Rye Brook Public Library; Port Chester Schools, among other groups.
A full list of local initiative grants can be found on-line under Project Sunlight at www.sunlightny.com . Call me if there are any questions; in future editions, I’ll list what has been provided in the other 5 communities of the 91st Assembly District.
Truthfully, I support a full restructuring of the process, eliminating legislators as the discretionary “giver” of such funds; it would eliminate one of the abuses of incumbency and the fight for spoils that so motivates some. But while the current system is intact, I will do my best to help appropriate local entities on legitimate community needs.
1-2-3 Red Lights
Red-light cameras – targeted to catch cars that proceed through red traffic lights illegally – have been in effect in New York City for a number of years. Many other communities have been asking for the authority to do so (believe it or not, local governments must seek state OK to put these in place), but until this year, that local request has been denied by those state legislators who believe red light cameras are ineffective and/or unfair. Since I don’t agree with those legislators, it’s hard to defend their point of view; however, the gridlock was broken a bit this year, as requests from Yonkers, Buffalo and Nassau County were approved by the state.
In addition to the enforcement of laws, and general safety, many jurisdictions view these cameras as generating money in fines – although there is a healthy start-up cost to buying equipment.
Know the symptoms and circumstances surrounding Lyme Disease – call our office at 777-3832, and we’ll mail you a brochure to tell you how to prevent this tick-borne disease from affecting you and your family when you take a hike in the woods – or stay in your own backyard – this summer and fall.
I’m based back home on the Sound Shore throughout the summer and fall seasons. Feel free to call me at 777-3832 anytime to discuss any issue you’d like.
See you soon….. GEORGE