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October 26, 2009 - 7:33pm

The Genesee County Sheriff supports a proposed state constitutional amendment to permit inmates to work for nonprofit agencies.

Sheriff Gary Maha is asking voters to approve this as well come November.

According to the Sheriff's press release today, it was never intended that the state Constitution prevent a Sheriff from assigning inmates to a work crew at a nonprofit agency or organization. The current law prohibits the practice when an inmate is "contracted, given or sold" and dates back to at least 1898. It was probably intended to prohibit the sale of inmate labor to contractors or private parties.

Nowadays, the Sheriff's Office typically assigns inmates to work at cemeteries, libraries, service organizations, parks, playgrounds and other locations operated by nonprofits. The inmates aren't paid and are always supervised.

Current provisions in state law do not prevent inmates from working for the state or other municipality. Therefore, most people thought that inmates who volunteered for work detail could also work for nonprofits. The labor is considered part of their rehabilitation program, not a form of required or compensated labor.

But a few years ago, the state Commission of Correction -- the agency which oversees all correctional facilities in New York -- began questioning the practice of inmate labor for nonprofits and suggested that the state Constitution be clarified in this regard.

So the state Legislature passed a bill to allow county jail inmates to work for charitable organizations. Having passed the Legislature in 2007 and 2009, this issue will be on the November ballot for voter consideration.

Sheriff Maha is asking voters to approve the proposed New York constitutional amendment permitting inmates to work for nonprofits.

September 10, 2009 - 2:41pm
posted by Steve Hawley in taxes, steve hawley, legislation, utilities.

 

HAWLEY’S BILL TO REPEAL NEW UTILITY TAX GAINS STEAM IN ALBANY

 

As the original author of legislation to repeal the new two percent tax on utilities, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) is pleased to report that his legislation has now gained the support of over two dozen, bipartisan members of the State Assembly.

 

“I am pleased that so many of my colleagues have already signed on to support this important bill in such a quick period of time,” said Hawley.  “It is good to know that members, from both sides of the aisle, can still come together over common-sense measures that benefit the people of our state and I look forward to their continued support when we return to Albany.”

 

Assembly Bill 9098, authored by Hawley, will repeal in full the increased tax on utilities, which now totals 2 percent of a consumer’s bill.  The tax increase was made as part of the enacted 2009-10 State Budget, which Hawley opposed.  The newly increased tax went into effect on July 1, 2009 and will cost average homeowners an increase of $40 to over $200 annually.

 

Hawley’s bill, A.9098, has been introduced and referred to the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions for their review.  With four members of this committee signed on to support this bill so far, and the growing support for the initiative with the public, Hawley is hopeful that the bill will be addressed when the Assembly is called back into session. 

 

“This winter is going to be tough for many New Yorkers, especially seniors here in Western New York, to afford their utilities.  Already, in previous years, we have seen seniors forced to choose between food, prescriptions and heat.  This increased tax compounds that problem and that’s why, before this winter, I hope that we can repeal this excessive tax,” said Hawley.

 

The Assemblyman is not only working across the aisle to garner support for this bill; he is looking at both houses.  As previously announced, State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer has agreed to carry the bill in the Senate and together he and Hawley are working to encourage more senators to support the bill as well.

 

            Members of the public who would like to see the 2 percent utility tax repealed should contact Assemblyman Hawley’s office to sign his petition, which will be delivered to the Governor.  Residents should also write to the Chair of the Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, Richard Brodksy and ask that he immediately take action on the bill.  You can contact Assemblyman Brodsky by writing, calling or emailing at the following:

 

The Honorable Richard Brodsky

Chair, Assembly Corporations, Authorities & Commissions Committee

5 West Main Street, Suite 205

Elmsford, NY 10523

Phone: (914) 345-0432

E-mail: [email protected]

 

###

 

September 1, 2009 - 5:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, elba, Oakfield, courts, legislation.

Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley today announced a new law that allows court proceedings for the towns of Elba, Oakfield and Batavia to be held at a single location, which will help save money.

Ranzenhofer says in a press release: “With the passage of the Shared Court Services legislation, the towns of Batavia, Elba and Oakfield have the opportunity to consolidate facilities to provide upgraded services and decrease costs. Residents ... will see savings on their tax bills by sharing one court facility. (This) reflects the willingness of the Elba, Batavia and Oakfield town supervisors to restructure local government to save money for taxpayers."

Hawley says: “We were pleased to facilitate the towns of Batavia, Elba and Oakfield’s request for this legislation. Helping localities streamline and consolidate their efforts -- resulting in more efficient operations while saving taxpayer dollars -- is indeed a positive reflection on the supervisors of the three towns."

All three adjoining towns expressed a need for upgraded court facilities. The new law amends the Uniform Justice Court Act to allow the court proceedings to be held either in the towns of Elba, Oakfield, Batavia or the city of Batavia. The facility must be approved by all three town boards. The law takes effect immediately.

“This is a good example of how a determined effort by community leaders and their respective staffs can provide a much needed and desirable benefit for the people they serve," said Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post.

"This partnership demonstrates efficiency in government with unlimited potential to expand benefits to local members of our population, as well as those who visit our VA campus or other attractions our area offers. The fact that so many elected entities can come together and set aside traditional boundaries to save tax dollars (holds) promise that our future here is bright."

Elba Town Supervisor Lucine Kauffman said: "The Town of Elba sees this proposed shared courthouse facility as an innovative way to meet our courtroom safety and functional needs while saving the taxpayers' money. This bill allows us to pursue the shared facility project and improve service to our communities."

August 25, 2009 - 10:51am
posted by Steve Hawley in steve hawley, legislation, Senator George Maziarz.

 

MAZIARZ & HAWLEY CALL TO FILL VACANCIES WITH OPEN ELECTIONS

With 4 of the State’s Leaders Appointed, Hawley & Maziarz Work to Ensure “Participatory Government”

 

State Senator George Maziarz and Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) called on the Governor to hold open elections when filling vacant high-level elected offices.  With the Governor, one of the state’s two United States Senators, Comptroller and now the Lieutenant Governor, all appointed or filled without public input, the legislators are concerned at the lack of “participatory government.”

 

“One of the greatest freedoms our nation has, and one of the greatest actions our citizenry has is a voice in choosing who represents them.  For the last three years, however, high-level state and federal leaders from our state have been ‘specially’ appointed rather than elected into office.  This severely undermines the public’s ability to exercise their right to vote and their voice in government, and further diminishes an already damaged sense of trust in government,” said Hawley, who is the original author of legislation that would address this issue.  “Had this bill to amend the constitution of our state been addressed and enacted after I first introduced it in March 2008, some of this year’s dysfunction could have been avoided and the people would have been able to elect their own Comptroller, Governor and Lieutenant Governor.” 

Senator Maziarz, who introduced the bill in the State Senate, stated, "Elections should determine who our state leaders are, not appointments.  We are a demoncracy and that means that power ultimately rests with the people.  That power is best exercised in the voting booth.  So, in my view, when we have to fill a vacancy in a major office, the best thing to do is empower the people and let them decide."

 Bills S.6127/A.1140 and S.6126/A.1141 would provide a process of open, public election for filling high-level state positions, such as Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller and Attorney General.  Specifically, the legislation would change current law by automatically calling for an open election for any vacated top elected offices in the next scheduled general election.  This would prevent appointments for 3- or 4-year terms without the public having had the opportunity to voice their opinion.  The bill would go into effect after it is passed by both houses in two consecutive legislative sessions.

 

By initially filling vacancies through appointment until the next general election, the bills would not burden the state with the additional cost of holding a special election.  Under current law, only one person, Governor Paterson, who was appointed himself, has the power to name his successor. 

 

            While this initiative gained bi-partisan support in the State Legislature, as well as popular support among New Yorkers, the bills were held in the Assembly Judiciary Committee and have not been addressed in the Senate.  Both legislators are again circulating the legislation to their colleagues in the Assembly and Senate for their support and sponsorship.

 

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June 27, 2009 - 1:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, legislation.

hawley_dairyday.jpgAssemblyman Steve Hawley says he's pleased with what he was able to get done during the recently completed legislative session, despite all the chaos in Albany recent.

Fifteen pieces of legislation sponsored by Hawley were approved by the Assembly, including five aimed at helping local communities.

"Despite all the chaos, changes in leadership and gridlock, I was able to get some common-sense and important pieces of legislation passed that will greatly help the communities in Western New York, as well as the rest of the state," said Hawley in a statement.

Among Hawley's locally targeted legislation is a bill to help town court proceedings in the towns of Elba, Oakfield and Batavia as well as the City of Batavia.  The measure will pave the way for these communities to build a shared court facility, which, according to Hawley, will help save taxpayer money.

Full press release after the jump:

June 8, 2009 - 10:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, steve hawley, legislation.

A bill sponsored by a New York City Democrat that could cost the state's farmers $200 million a year, or drive many farmers out of business, and many farm workers out of state, as well as increase the cost of New York-produced food, today passed the state Assembly 85 to 57.

The Farmworkers Omnibus Labor Standards Bill, AB 1867, or as its opponents call it, "The Farm Death Bill," will require farmers to pay time-and-a-half for over time, allow farm workers to join labor unions, require a day off during harvest season, will require farmers to pay into the unemployment system, among other provisions.

The bill is sponsored by Catherine Nolan, who represents Queens.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley voted against the bill.

I spoke with Hawley about the bill Friday in his Main Street insurance office, and Steve noted that a farm worker who might, under current law, work 60 hours a week at $16 or $17 an hour and would therefore earn $1,000 is likely to see his earnings cut in half by the bill, because a farmer would find it more economical to hire a second worker rather than pay time-and-a-half to the original worker.

In a press release this evening, Hawley noted that the bill passed rather ironically the day before is slated to honor the state's dairy farmers with its annual "Dairy Day."

"Dairy farmers and agribusinesses come from all over the state to be lauded by legislators as the ‘pride of New York,’" Hawley said. "How hypocritical for lawmakers to, on the eve of this day, pass the bill that will kill these businesses.  Once our farms close up shop, they will be closed forever.”

Hawley's full press release after the jump:

June 5, 2009 - 1:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in New York State Senate, legislation.

The Senate has passed legislation designed to make it easier for people like you and me to get into the packaged food business.

S3594 is supposed to promote small business start ups, such as maybe somebody looking to can an old family sauce recipe or gourmet cookies.

Glich: You or I can't benefit unless there's already a government or non-profit production facility available in your neck of the woods.

Know of any of those in Genesee County?

It's nice that the Senate wants to throw some money in the direction of start-up businesses, but would lowering taxes have the same stimulating, and maybe more, effect?  Or how about a state program to off-set the inescapable self-employment tax that makes starting a small business so difficult and risky?

We need more small businesses, more entrepreneurs getting a start in New York. It's the best long-term solution for economic growth, but maybe Malcolm Smith could start at the taking end rather than the giving end.

June 4, 2009 - 8:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in consolidation, Mike Ranzenhofer, legislation.

Press Release:

Albany, N.Y. – State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer voted today for legislation that would allow citizens and government bodies to initiate the process of consolidating or dissolving local governments more easily, a measure that would save taxpayer dollars.   
 
“New York State’s 10,521 government entities have led to Western New Yorkers paying among the highest property taxes in the nation.  Citizens across Western New York deserve the opportunity to consolidate or dissolve local governments if they chose to in an effort to reduce the size of government, decrease costs, and ultimately pass much needed property-tax relief along to homeowners,” said Senator Ranzenhofer. 
 
The New New York Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act (S5661) allows local government bodies and citizens to initiate local government consolidation or dissolution.  Under the recently passed legislation, government bodies may develop a plan for consolidation/dissolution and after approval, the legislation must be approved by a referendum among the voters in towns and villages.  Additionally, citizens may propose consolidation/dissolution efforts by filing petitions that have been signed by ten percent of registered voters.
 
“I have faith in citizens to give them the ability to accept or reject consolidation and efficiency measures as they see fit,” said Senator Ranzenhofer.
 
Senator Ranzenhofer supported an amendment on the Senate floor to prevent any negative effects of the legislation on local fire departments.  Senate Democrats defeated the amendment.
 
“I am concerned this legislation could have a negative effects on fire departments that already save taxpayer dollars for local governments through the brave men and women who serve our communities.  Our volunteer firefighters are an integral part of our community that we cannot afford to consolidate or dissolve,” said Senator Ranzenhofer.
 
Additionally, Senator Ranzenhofer expressed his continued commitment to reforming State government.
 
“This Citizen Empowerment Act represents only a first step in the movement to change the way Albany does business.  For once this legislation does not dictate to local government entities, instead it empowers citizens to have their voices heard.  However, there is still much more work to be done.  Albany must cut spending across the board, end unfunded State mandates that increase costs on existing local governments and create a more open, transparent State government because New Yorkers deserve better,” he added.

June 2, 2009 - 1:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in consolidation, legislation.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley announced today that he supported legislation pushed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo  that could make local government consolidation easier.

"New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act" is supposed to save taxpayer's money by streamlining the consolidation process.

The bill passed the assembly yesterday without opposition.

Hawley's full press release after the jump:

May 29, 2009 - 10:45am
posted by Steve Hawley in agriculture, legislation.

As a former hog and crop farmer and Genesee County Farm Bureau President and a current member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I work very hard to ensure that our farms, agriculturalists and rural quality of life are protected.  Newly introduced legislation, Assembly Bill 1867, seriously threatens our farmers and farm workers and I would like to take a moment to share with the public the provisions of this bill.

I have already received many letters, calls and e-mails from residents of the 139th Assembly District expressing their opposition to this bill, which is known as the Farmworkers Omnibus Labor Standards Bill.  While this legislation attempts to establish benefits and bargaining rights for farm workers, the bill threatens the very existence of farm workers by imposing expensive labor mandates which will force more farms, many of which are struggling in this tough economy, to go out of business.

To explicitly outline our concerns with this legislation the entire Assembly Agriculture Committee and I drafted, signed and sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.  Paramount among our concerns is the fact that for the last 30 years, both state and federal laws have been strengthened to protect farmworkers from injustices and unfair treatment, with most farms undergoing a review or inspection on an annual basis.  Any problems that occur on farms are quickly caught by the authorities, making this new legislation redundant and an unnecessary expense to place on farmers and our agricultural community as a whole.

I urge all members of the public to write Speaker Silver as well as the legislation's sponsor, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan to express your concerns with this measure.  You can write to Speaker Silver at LOB 932, Albany, NY 12248 or e-mail him at [email protected]; or contact Assemblywoman Nolan at LOB 836, Albany, NY 12248 or e-mail her [email protected] to express your opposition to this bill.

May 12, 2009 - 12:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee, legislation, trade.

Rep. Chris Lee issued a statement today expressing support for bi-partisan legislation that supporters say will fix problems with currency exchange with China and help protect WNY jobs.

Lee called Chinese trade practices illegal.

The legislation is aimed at stopping Chinese manipulation of currency exchange, which may be leading to the yuan being undervalued by as much as 40 percent.

Full press release after the jump:

 

April 22, 2009 - 12:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in IDA, steve hawley, legislation.

Republicans are lining up in opposition to a provision in a bill that would reform IDA regulations, calling it the "IDA Death Bill."

The provision would require businesses moving into an IDA project to pay union-scale wages, known as the prevailing wage.

We received a press release this morning from Assemblyman Steve Hawley expressing his displeasure with the bill.

"If this bill is enacted, Albany might as well hang a sign on
the Thruway to tell everyone entering our state that New York is closed for
business," Hawley said.

Other coverage: 

Hawley's press release following the jump:

 

April 15, 2009 - 4:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Barrett's, legislation, guns.

Mike Barrett, owner of Barrett's Marine and Sporting Supply, says he's seeing more first-time gun buyers in his store these days, and County Clerk Don Read reports that the most recent gun permit class had 42 people in it.

The increase in local gun ownership matches a national trend.

"I don't think it's one element that is behind the increase," Read said. "It's everything put together."

And everything means fears of new federal and state legislation restricting gun and ammo sales, the recession and increases in crime, and the usual reason -- newfound interest in hunting and target shooting.

Whatever the cause, Barrett said distributors' warehouses are bare and it's more difficult to get inventory.

Barrett and his staff where a little upset with Read this afternoon, after hearing that Read blamed the increase of permits on "scare tactics" by the NRA and other gun advocates. Conservative commentators have been raising concerns about President Obama's anti-gun positions and legislation being introduced at both the state and federal levels.

"I heard that (Read's comments) today and almost blew a gasket," Barrett said. "A lot of people are down playing what's going on and it's nothing to be played down. I don't say that just because I'm a business man  There is a train coming down."

Barrett handed over information on five state bills that would limit gun ownership, make it harder if not impossible to buy certain kind of guns and obtain ammunition.

Anti-gun legislation has been introduced before and didn't pass. Read said he thinks this round of legislation isn't likely to pass either.

"I don't attribute it to scare tactics, but there is an aspect that people are afraid there will be more restrictions," Read said. "Personally, I don't see that happening, but often perception of an issue is more important than reality."

The surge in gun permits goes beyond the specter of stricter legislation, Barrett said. The recession is also driving concerns about a rise in crime and the need for self protection.

A member of his staff, Jack Taylor, said a 70-year-old woman walked out of the store 20 minutes earlier with her first rifle.

"She bought it for target practice and to keep around the house," Taylor said.

Read tells a similar story: "We just had a lady in, a well-known lady, who is retired now and her husband enjoys target practice and she wanted to be able to enjoy it with him."

Asked about more gun ownership in Genesee County, Sheriff Gary Maha responded:

"Those persons obtaining gun permits are law-abiding citizens and are not
a concern to law enforcement.  I believe in the Second Amendment -- 'the right to bear arms.' It is the illegal guns and illegally obtained guns that I am concerned about."

For more information on the proposed legislation in New York, visit the SCOPE Web site.

March 16, 2009 - 4:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, Mike Ranzenhofer, legislation.

We received the following press release from Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer's office. 

The proposal to give extra days off to state workers with children strikes me a rather tone-deaf move by Sen. Antoine Thompson. At a time when the budget squeeze has never been tighter, when unemployement is at its highest in more than a decade, and everybody is feeling the pinch, Mr. Thompson wants to throw more benefits to state employees (who already have pretty cush jobs by private sector standards). 

Here's a Buffalo News article on the same topic.

But the most generous, proposed by Sen. Antoine Thompson, D-Buffalo, offers state workers two days off for every child to, in the words of his three-paragraph bill, “participate in child’s education.” While that would mean a state worker with four kids could take eight extra days off a year, the bill states that it would have no fiscal impact on the governments.

Anybody who as ever run a business understands that paid time off does in fact have a fiscal impact on the business, either in terms of lost productivity or the need to hire more workers or hire contract workers.

No matter how well-intentioned the measure, how does the state ensure the time off is used as intended? Furthermore, isn't it discriminating against childless workers, asking them to pick up the slack for co-workers who are getting a benefit unavailable to them?

I'm just a little flabbergasted at the proposal. I would have found it hard to believe on Ranzenhofer's say-so alone if I hadn't read the same thing in the News.

Press Release:

Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer today expressed his disbelief at a bill being offered by Sen. Antoine Thompson that would offer two additional paid days off per child to all 332,000 state workers to “participate in child’s education”.  This bill would be in addition to an excused leave program that already allows state and local government workers to take paid time off in addition to their sick and personal leave and vacation time for specific reasons. All of these leave programs amount to a massive unfunded mandate on localities and a waste of taxpayer money at both the local and state level.

“Government workers already receive more paid time off then anyone working in the private sector. The idea that we should spend more taxpayer money to allow them more time off should be called what it is-an abuse of the taxpayer and a giveaway,” Senator Ranzenhofer said. “We are in the midst of a very real fiscal crisis and what Senator Thompson and the democrats are proposing demonstrates that they really do not understand what the average New York resident or business is facing each and every day.”  

Senator Ranzenhofer remains committed to finding ways to reduce both unfunded mandates and the burden of high taxes “The people of the 61st Senate District sent me to Albany to enact policies that are in their best interests, not to cater to any special interest group, “ Ranzenhofer continued “taxpayers can count on me as an advocate and a friend, I will never leave them holding the bag.”  

Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer was elected to the New York State Senate in 2008. He represents the 61st Senate District which includes part of the city of Tonawanda, the Towns of Amherst, Clarence, Newstead and Tonawanda in Erie County and all of Genesee County.

March 13, 2009 - 11:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, Chris Lee, legislation.

Press Release:

AMHERST – Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) was joined by community leaders at the Amherst Main Library today to unveil major legislation to protect students from sexual abuse in schools.

Lee and others were spurred to act after a national investigation conducted by the Associated Press uncovered thousands of cases in which incidents of sexual misconduct by school employees were not reported to the public.

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