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Art Lawless Rewarded

And Lives Endangered?

At this time of year, I normally review positive policies and new laws that have been adopted in Albany.  Unfortunately, there was more bad news than good coming from the state Capitol during 2019.

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, represents the 51st District, which includes his native Otsego County.

One item that will benefit homeowners is a permanent 2-percent property tax cap.  I have long supported this tax relief measure and have helped pass Senate legislation on a number of previous occasions to guarantee this savings tool.   However, as I have said in the past, for the property tax cap to truly deliver we need to end unfunded state mandates that tie the hands of local government officials.

Unfortunately, no mandate relief measures were adopted this year. And, in fact, local governments will now have to prepare for plenty of new costs thanks to the state budget and other Albany missteps.  If state officials believe a program is important, than funding must be part of the package.  Forcing the costs on to local governments (and ultimately taxpayers) and then boasting about doing something good, is disingenuous.

New laws to “reform” New York State’s criminal justice system are also going to be costly – increasing expenses for local governments and putting public safety at risk.  These measures, that are set to take effect at the start of the year, have received a great deal of attention in recent weeks as more and more people voice their concerns.  The measures, which I opposed, include:

  • Bail changes that will allow 90 percent of individuals arrested to walk free without posting bail;
  • New discovery laws that put increased demands on local prosecutors and could put crime victims and witnesses in danger.

A letter I just received from the state Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials (NYCOM) states, “The dramatic acceleration in the timing of discovery and the expansion of the matters to which it applies will have significant cost and compliance implications for cities and villages with police departments and/or local justice courts.”

Recently, the state Sheriffs’ Association, the District Attorneys Association of New York, and the state Association of Chiefs of Police held press conferences around the state to voice their concerns and opposition to the new laws.

As I have said previously, I am open to discussing changes that could better address the way bail is utilized, but judges should still be afforded some discretion.  Starting on Jan. 1, judges will have no opportunity to consider an individual’s criminal history or flight risk when it comes to a bevy of crimes including manslaughter, assault, criminal possession of a gun, and a number of drug sale offenses.  Instead, these perpetrators will be released immediately without bail.

Another new law I opposed, which has already taken effect, allows illegal immigrants to receive a driver’s license.  Providing a driver’s license, a secure identification document, to someone who is intentionally breaking the law is inconceivable.  This measure is bad public policy that could put lives in danger, rewards lawbreakers, and sends the wrong message to those who take the legal path to citizenship.

Supporters of the measure like to mention that other states already allow illegal immigrants to drive.  However, those states require substantially tighter proof of identification and may impose limitations on driving to incentivize naturalization.  None of those states relies solely on foreign documents for identification purposes, which is the case in New York.

One other new law that will have a major impact is the new farm labor bill.  The mandates associated with the law will hurt our upstate farmers and drive up the cost of farm goods that we all purchase.

At the start of the 2019 legislative session, I pledged to advance policies to improve New York’s economy, help reduce the crushing tax burden, and combat population loss.  I will continue to advocate for those priorities in 2020 and am hopeful that the mistakes of this past year will not be repeated.


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