From February 1st through 3rd a number of Allegany County Legislators and officials attended the NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) Legislative Conference in Albany. It takes a lot of time but provides valuable information and contacts that would be difficult (or impossible) to obtain in any other way. This article will summarize some of the meetings and workshops that I attended and participated in.
- On Monday morning (2/1/16) I participated in the NYSAC Standing Committee meeting on Public Employee Relations. We considered and approved several resolutions that were sent to the NYSAC Board of Directors for consideration. The members then shared common concerns and ideas.
- I attended part of the Medicaid and Human Services Standing Committee meeting. This addressed issues related to State changes in the Medicaid Program that negatively impact counties.
- US Senator Chuck Schumer addressed the Conference over Monday’s lunch. He basically described how he uses his office to assist local communities that face the loss of businesses, or helps them attract such businesses. I guess it is good, but it still is using our taxpayer dollars.
- On Monday afternoon I attended a workshop about the new State rural Broadband program. I had hoped that this program would address the needs of rural areas, like Allegany County. However, it appears that only large Broadband companies that focus on larger suburban communities will be able to qualify for this program. I will report again as I learn more about this.
- The last Monday workshop provided information on the use and licensing of drones. I learned a great deal about what can/cannot be done legally with drones. This field that is growing rapidly and I wanted to obtain reliable information to share with local residents.
- On Tuesday morning I attended a workshop entitled “Leadership for the Energy Future.” Several state officials explained how state regulation of electric and gas utilities is changing those industries. These changes could have dramatic impact upon our county and municipalities. I am undecided on whether I think Allegany County should pursue any of these options. However, it is important that we be aware of what is going on.
- I also attended a workshop providing an overview of the proposed State Constitutional Convention. In many ways I found this to be the highlight of the Conference. The existing State Constitution requires that a ballot proposition be submitted to the voters every 20 years to determine whether a Constitutional Convention should be held. This referendum will be conducted in November 2017. Since 1894 several Conventions have been held and new Constitutions have been drafted,. However, none of the “new” Constitutions have been approved. There are strong arguments both “pro and con” about such a Constitutional Convention. I plan on sharing more about that in coming months about this enormously important issue.
- The speaker at the Tuesday Luncheon was a member of the State Public Service Commission. She provided more details on the changes in regulation of the electric and gas industries.
- On Tuesday afternoon I attended a workshop addressing the heroin crisis. Experts shared how heroin abuse is increasing dramatically. Unlike earlier crises, heroin usage is increasing primarily among adults, not children or teenagers. Many have become addicted through use of prescription drugs, but continue to use heroin because it is inexpensive and readily obtainable. Various proposals were shared and discussed.
- The last workshop I attended was entitled “Feed People Not Landfills.” It discussed ways that surplus food could be re-routed to food pantries, soup kitchens and non-profit organizations. Food and organic products that cannot be served can be diverted from landfills to facilities where it can be composted and processed for use. This reduces landfill costs and produces valuable products.
On Wednesday our group visited the State Capitol to see State Senator Cathy Young, and State Assemblyman Joseph Giglio. We then headed back to Allegany County. I received lots of information and ideas, but came back with more questions than answers.