Assemblyman Robert Smullen (R,C-Mohawk Valley and the Adirondacks) is organizing multiple rural equity forums led by his fellow Minority Assembly members over the next several weeks. Those hosting rural equity forums include Assemblyman Anil Beephan, Jr. (R,C-East Fishkill), Assemblyman Scott Gray (R-Watertown), Assemblyman Scott Bendett (R,C-Sand Lake), Assemblyman John Lemondes (R,C-LaFayette) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning).
The purpose of these rural equity forums is to allow Assembly members as well as state and local representatives to meet to discuss what the state could do differently to improve our rural communities. The Assembly members will be introducing legislation and finding solutions to direct funding and resources to rural areas and municipalities that need them.
“I am very excited these forums are getting off the ground,” said Smullen. “Our rural communities need a strong voice so much-needed funding and resources from the state are not continuously directed to New York City over rural areas. Educators, firefighters, EMS personnel, farmers and hard-working families need our support—these forums will be the catalysts that spark necessary changes in state legislation and planning.”
The seven main goals of the rural equity forums include:
- Creating the Rural Equity Assistance Program, which will connect rural communities with available economic and community development grants and assist in the technical aspects of applying for those grants;
- Increasing support for first responders and those serving our communities;
- Connecting rural resources to reduce poverty;
- Improving rural school transportation services for students;
- Expanding access to broadband and increasing cell coverage;
- Allowing counties to opt out of the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA); and
- Establishing the "EmpowerED" Act to provide opportunities for students to cross-enroll in classes offered by local schools outside of their home district and expand BOCES services.
“This comprehensive strategy and legislation will lay the groundwork to build and strengthen our rural communities. As a lifelong resident of New York, I understand the concerns of upstate residents about keeping our rural communities alive and well for future generations. Our small businesses, fire departments, police stations and schools require attention, but in recent years they have been neglected by our state budget, which has been directed to more urban areas in an unbalanced and irresponsible manner. It’s time we put our rural communities first and tend to their needs, so they have the funding and resources to remain vibrant for years to come.”