Assemblymember Cahill Highlights 2018 Legislative Session
Albany, NY – Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill (D- Kingston) released the following statement highlighting the 2018 legislative session:
“The conclusion of the Legislative Session brings mixed results after a year mired by uncertainty due to both changes at the Federal level and more often than not, an adversarial and sometimes uncertain partner in the upper chamber. While the Legislature was successful in closing a $4.4 billion budget deficit without significant cuts to our critical human services programs, there were a number of missed opportunities to be a beacon of progress in New York, while Washington continues their efforts to set us back.
Although the Assembly passed measures that would achieve real gun violence prevention while still respecting Constitutional rights; correct the inequalities of our State’s cash bail system while keeping our homes and streets safe; bring about long overdue campaign finance reform, ensure access to healthcare for all New Yorkers and strengthen our role as a national leader on climate change, the State Senate failed to match us.
For the Hudson Valley, the end of the legislative session also marks a changing of the guard in some respects. With the impending retirement of Senators John Bonacic and Bill Larkin, together with the departure of Assemblymember Peter Lopez and the untimely loss of Frank Skartados, we are at a turning point for our communities. These individuals from both parties served our communities well. Our region has a unique set of needs. Regressive property taxes have stretched our families too thin and the preservation of our environment is not only essential to our health and our local economies but part of our very fabric. Though seniority has shifted we will also be joined by new partners and with a strong and united progressive regional caucus can we ensure that our values remain a priority in statewide policy,” stated Assemblymember Cahill.
Legislature Recognizes Local Leaders and Needs
Session allowed for the passage of initiatives of local significance. At the request of the Town of Marbletown, Assemblymember Cahill and Senator George Amedore passed legislation to name the Rondout Creek bridge along Route 213 in High Falls as the Kathy Cairo Davis Memorial Bridge (A.9916). Ms. Davis is the longest tenured public servant in the Town of Marbletown history and one of the longest in Ulster County, serving 35 years as a Town Clerk, Tax Collector and Registrar before her passing in June of 2017. The Legislature also approved a measure (A.11005/Cahill) that would permit the sale of a small swath of unused state property in New Paltz to the operators of Shop-Rite to improve access for trucks in the plaza, improving safety for both drivers and customers in the area.
During the Session, the Legislature paused its deliberations to pass a resolution honoring local individuals, including Rondout Valley Superintendent Rosario Agostaro who is retiring this year after nearly a decade of service to the District. The Legislature also recognized local historian and civic leader Ed Ford who celebrated his 100th birthday this past April.
Cahill Sponsored Legislation Drives Debate on Statewide Priorities
Legislation carried by Assemblymember Cahill played an important role in driving discussions on a number of priorities during this Session.
In 2017, a moratorium was placed on a New York City law poised to go into effect to ban the use of single-use plastic bags. Lawmakers cited the need for a statewide approach to address the vast pollution and environmental damage caused by this litter. Since 2012, Assemblymember Cahill has carried other legislation entitled “Pennies for Parks” (A.46D) that would place a five cent fee on single-use carryout bags, with the funds to be directed to the State Parks and Historic Sites. In April, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a separate proposal that would purport to ban plastic bags, creating renewed interest in the debate. Environmental groups, such as Parks and Trails New York and Open Space Institute came out strongly in favor of Assemblymember Cahill’s alternative as a measured approach to reduce wasteful bags while encouraging a change in consumer behavior. The bill was recently amended to eliminate the use of plastic bags after five years creating a “ban with transition”, allowing for individuals to change habits before a prohibition takes effect.
Assemblyman Cahill also introduced legislation (A.1376) that would direct the Department of Health to develop and release a report on the impact of legally authorized Medical Aid in Dying, a law that would allow an individual to self-administer life ending medication in specific cases of terminal illness. The Assembly Committee on Health held two public hearings on the topic this Session with both proponents and opponents speaking on the subject. Assemblymember Cahill’s legislation will offer New York State specific data and analysis that will be necessary for continued discussions and deliberations on the matter. Lawmakers quickly signed on to support the Assemblymember’s measure that will ensure changes to the law if any, are in the interest preserving individual autonomy in these sensitive decisions and comfort at the end of life.
Cahill and Assembly Stand for Family Planning
For the third consecutive year, the Assembly passed the “Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act” (A.9957/Cahill), codifying provisions of the Affordable Care Act to provide access to family planning health care without cost sharing by the insured individual. The Assembly also approved the Reproductive Health Act (A.1748/Glick) that will move the protections offered by the United States Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade in New York State from the criminal code to public health law. Despite the Assembly’s continued leadership on women’s health issues, the State Senate failed to take action on both measures.
Assembly Majority and Cahill Lead on Environment
Assemblymember Cahill was proud to co-sponsor and vote in favor of several strong environmental protections this session including a measure that would amend the New York State Constitution to ensure that clean air and water are treated as fundamental rights (A.6279/Englebright). Assemblymember Cahill also helped lead efforts to pass the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) (A.8270B/Englebright), a comprehensive approach to positioning New York to address climate change that requires the Department of Environmental Conservation to develop statewide greenhouse gas emission limits. The bill also require fifty percent of electrical generation be produced by renewable energy systems by 2030. Throughout the Session renewed focus was put on Assemblymember Cahill’s bill that would implement a carbon tax for New York (A.107) and his recently introduced legislation that brings transparency to subsidies offered by the State to fossil fuel companies. Such a tax could replace or supplement money currently raised through state income and sales taxes while making polluters pay for their environment damage.
Assembly Approves Long Needed Criminal Justice Reform
The Assembly majority demonstrated their dedication to modernizing the State’s criminal justice system by passing a number of proposals during the 2018 session which built off of last year’s “Raise the Age” law. This included passing a bill that would eliminate the use of cash bail in instances when an individual is charged with a traffic infraction, violation, misdemeanor or non-violent felony (A.10137A/Walker). Assemblymember Cahill once again also voted in favor of limiting solitary confinement rules (A.3080B/Aubry). Recognizing the need to create more confidence in our criminal justice system, the Assemblymember also supported legislation that would establish an Office of Special Investigation in the State Attorney General to investigate deaths while in police custody or during an encounter with law enforcement (A.5617/Perry). Unfortunately, none of these measures were considered by the State Senate although progress was made as both house passed legislation to develop a commission to review prosecutorial misconduct (A.5285C/Perry).
FY 2019 State Budget Avoids Harmful Cuts and Enacts Meaningful Reform
Although the year began with a $4.4 billion deficit, the Legislature enacted a fiscally sound road map that maintained critical programs in a year when economic security was not always certain. The final agreement prioritized public education, allocating $1 billion more in School Aid for a total of $26.7 billion and included $17.8 billion in Foundation Aid, critical unrestricted financial support for districts on a need basis. Locally, Ulster Community College will receive $2.3 million in funding for the development of a fire training center only after public support is demonstrated. The commitment to sustained investments for important capital improvements insisted by Assemblyman Cahill at Belleayre Mountain was honored once again. The FY2019 State Budget also included important first steps at ending the scourge of hostile work environments by placing significant limits on taxpayer funded settlements, banning mandatory arbitration clauses and preventing non-disclosure agreements in settled cases, unless specifically requested by the victim.
Assembly Insurance Committee Prioritizes Consumer Protections and Robust Markets
As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Insurance, Assemblymember Cahill supported the passage of a number of initiatives that would promote New York’s robust insurance markets.
At the close of Session, both houses passed a measure that would implement principle based reserves (PBR) for life insurance in New York State (A.11116A/Cahill). “PBR” will allow companies to incorporate their experiences and certain delineated assumptions regarding insurance and annuity products into the calculations of the funds required to back life insurance policies. This modernization of reserves is expected to benefit consumers by lowering the costs of life insurance, while allowing the investments that back up policies to grow along with the economy. Assemblymember Cahill was successful in negotiating first-in-the-nation public protections for PBR that will create reporting requirements and a sunset to the legislation, ensuring that the Legislature will have an appropriate and timely opportunity to examine the impact that this change has had on consumer’s policies and respond accordingly.
The Department of Financial Services issued guidance in February 2018 that Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) such as Woodland Pond in New Paltz, would be held to the same stringent cybersecurity regulations as would be required of large multinational insurance companies. Assemblyman Cahill was committed to finding a solution that would ensure the protection of sensitive consumer data, while adjusting requirements that could not otherwise be reasonably met, including massive technologic infrastructure improvements, by these small facilities. This measure (A.10486/Cahill) will ensure that seniors residing at CCRCs, including Woodland Pond, will not have to bear the high costs associated with implementing cyber security regulations, while still assuring that their private personal information will be protected from cyber-attacks.
The committee also continued its work to bring continuing education programs for the insurance industry to the 21st Century. Measures passed the Legislature that will allow agents who seek to be licensed to sell personal line insurance to take coursework required for licensure online (A.9527A/Woerner). Both houses also approved legislation that allow for six credit hours of continuing education credits for active participation in a professional organization through which individuals receive various training and educational opportunities, (A.7012B/Hunter). Another proposal (A.8484A/Cahill) will simplify the renewal process for insurance producers licensed in New York State. Currently many individuals are licensed to be agents and brokers for life, property and casualty insurance products. The expiration for each licensure falls at different times and years, creating uncertainty and inconvenience in renewal, the legislation consolidates the expiration into one day, June 30th of odd numbered years.
Cahill Led Hearings Hold Regulators and Industry to Account
The Assembly Standing Committee on Insurance held two public hearings during the 2018 session. The first reviewed whether recent rules adopted by the Department of Financial Services (DFS) strike the balance necessary to protect homebuyers from exorbitant costs while providing a healthy and competitive marketplace for the title insurance industry. The second proceeding sought to determine what the potential impact would be on health care delivery in New York State should the merge between CVS Health and Aetna be approved at the Federal level. These hearings allowed the Committee to call upon state agencies, industry and public advocates to ensure that current actions serve the best interest of New York State markets and adequately protect consumers.
“2018 turned out to be a transitional year in many ways. Some of the makeup of our local delegation changed due to death and retirement. The leadership of the State Senate shifted and ended the session in a state of flux. The impact of the policies set forth by the President and the Republican led Congress had significant detrimental effects on New Yorkers. Even with those changes, we moved the agenda forward in a significant and positive way. Though some aspects of the future remain uncertain, it is clear that the work ahead must be focused on making New York strong, prosperous, safe and filled with opportunity,” concluded Assemblymember Cahill.