Lots of Work Needed Before Session Ends

May 9, 2005

Though the 2005 legislative session has been one of the most successful sessions in recent years, there is still more work to be done. We implemented major changes in the Assembly this year, including rules reforms and an on-time state budget for the first time in 21 years. These accomplishments are due largely to the work and ideas that my Assembly minority colleagues and I championed to make the legislative process more efficient.

But we still have lots to do. We must focus in the time remaining on passing important legislation that has not been considered by the full house.

Civil confinement is a priority. This practice would allow judges to order the most dangerous sexual predators held in secure mental facilities following their prison sentences if, after an extensive review process, it’s determined they still pose a threat to the public. The concept has been ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and is already law in 16 states and the District of Columbia. It was first proposed in New York by the Assembly minority in 1993, the state Senate has repeatedly adopted the measure, and Gov. George Pataki has pledged his support. But, the Assembly majority has consistently refused to consider the issue.

In January, I welcomed several Assembly rules changes long advocated by myself and other minority conference members, and gave credit to the Assembly majority for working together to make these changes a reality. The progress resulted from both sides of the aisle working together in a bipartisan manner to change the way the Assembly conducts its business.

While the changes helped open some of the legislative processes, my colleagues and I were especially disappointed that one reform in particular – the motion to discharge rule – yielded the same, old results when it was tested: rejection by the majority.

The Legislature this year established budget reform measures that led to the first on-time state budget in 21 years. I advocated for several proposals which were key to achieving a timely budget, yet much more needs to be done. We must ensure the steps to this year’s budget success are followed each year, and that more substantial changes take place so on-time budgets become the rule, rather than the exception.

In our battle against illegal drugs, experts tell us methamphetamine could soon rival crack cocaine in New York unless preventive measures are immediately taken. Meth can be easily and cheaply produced from a variety of "run-of-the-mill" ingredients, and it’s highly addictive. Additional resources, stricter laws and increased public awareness are crucial to combating this potential epidemic in New York.

As many motorists in our state know, the outdated Vicarious Liability Law has made it virtually impossible for individuals to lease a car in New York. Vicarious liability holds lease companies responsible for damages caused by drivers of leased vehicles; as a result, leasing companies have all but ceased doing business in New York. I believe this law must be repealed so this valuable consumer option flourishes once again. The state Senate has passed legislation eliminating the provision and there are several proposals being considered in the Assembly; however, at this time the majority has not called the bill to the floor for a vote.

As for the election process, my minority colleagues and I believe implementation of the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, should be a priority. We support the legislative conference committee process, which includes one of our members, and urge the committee to reach a swift and thorough agreement.

We’ve taken some good steps to reform and progress this year, but we know there is much more to do. As always, if you would like to discuss any of these issues or other concerns, contact me at my district office by calling (315) 781-2030.