Skip to main content

Mike Ranzenhofer

Ranzenhofer asks residents to share their views on legislative issues

By Billie Owens

Press release:

As the final two months of the 2019 Legislative Session begin, Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer is asking for constituents’ opinions on issues affecting New York State and the Western New York community.

“From paper bag fees to driver licenses for undocumented immigrants and legalizing marijuana, your opinions on issues affecting New York State and the Western New York community are very important to me," Ranzenhofer said. "With the new majority in the Senate, there have been many new topics arising this year. With your help, I will continue to represent the views of my constituents."

Residents can complete the 2019 Legislative Questionnaire survey here that's on Senator Ranzenhofer’s website. The 13-question questionnaire covers a wide variety of legislative issues that have been in the forefront this Legislative Session.

Ranzenhofer and Hawley call on governor to fund Ag Academy

By Billie Owens

Press release from Senator Mike Ranzenhofer:

State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley have called on the Governor to restore funding for local Ag Academy, through a program of targeted education funding, referred to as “Bullet Aid.”

“I was very disappointed to see cuts to various agriculture programs," Ranzenhofer said. "The Genesee County Ag Academy provides a unique opportunity to students who are looking for a hands-on experience in agriculture education.

"I am hopeful that the Governor realizes how crucial these programs are and allocates the necessary funding. We are respectfully requesting $100,000 for the Genesee County Agriculture Academy, through the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership."

“New York’s agricultural industry is one of the strongest in the nation, having been realized through a robust and consistent investment in young aspiring farmers and producers in our state budget," said Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia). "To cut funding that empowers future generations of young people interested in farming would devastate the industry and hinder our labor pool. Genesee County is undoubtedly a production hub in our state and the Genesee County Agricultural Academy is the centerpiece of teaching and innovation.

"The $100,000 we are seeking for this institution is readily available through discretionary bullet aid and I implore Gov. Cuomo to make the right decision for New York agriculture.”

This agribusiness program began through funding that Senator Ranzenhofer secured in 2013. Since then, the program has received funding in the budget through local agriculture assistance. For the first time in recent history, the Governor has $5 million to be given out at his discretion, for local education programs.

The 2019-20 budget was passed on April 1st.

Ranzenhofer announces $54K for local libraries

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has announced today $54,000 in state funding for public libraries throughout Genesee County.  

“From summer reading programs to job searching tools, public libraries enrich our communities by providing invaluable services to residents. Local libraries operate with a limited budget, and this state funding will help to offer more services to their patrons,” Ranzenhofer said.

The total funding will be distributed among Genesee County’s six public libraries:

• Byron-Bergen Library, $9,000;
• Corfu Free Library, $9,000;
• Haxton Memorial Library; $9,000;
• Hollwedel Memorial Library, $9,000;
• Richmond Memorial Library, $9,000; and
• Woodward Memorial Library, $9,000.

The funding can be used for a variety of purposes, including capital improvements, new books, learning materials, software, programming and computers. The funding is part of the 2017-18 State Budget. The funding is administered by the New York State Education Department.

State to provide aid to libraries in Pavilion and Byron-Bergen

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer announced today that Pavilion Public Library has been awarded $283,877, while Byron-Bergen Public Library has been awarded $65,355, in public library construction funds.

The funds are from $14 million in capital funds for public library construction provided in the 2014 State Budget. Pavilion Public Library’s grant is for a new 1,790-square-foot children’s addition to the library’s existing building. Byron-Bergen Public Library’s grant is for fixing drainage issues in the parking lot, replacing an emergency exit door, and installing energy-efficient windows.  

“Whether for Internet access or to promote reading among children, our local public libraries provide invaluable resources to so many residents in our community,” Ranzenhofer said. “These two grants for Pavilion and Byron-Bergen public libraries will ensure that many of their important services are secured for future generations.”

New York’s public libraries are in urgent need of renovation and upgrading. A recent survey showed a documented need for public library construction and renovation projects totaling more than $2.2 billion. More than 48 percent of the more than 1,000 public library buildings in communities across New York are over 60 years old. Another 30 percent are more than three decades old.  

Many of New York’s local public libraries are: unable to accommodate users with disabilities; are energy inefficient; cannot provide Internet, computer and other electronic technologies to users because of outdated and inadequate electrical wiring; and do not have sufficient space to house the library’s expanding collection; cannot address the need for adequate meeting room, or provide for public access computers.

Project activities and expenditures eligible for grants from the $14 million State Aid for Library Construction Program include: financing construction of new library buildings; construction of additions to existing buildings; and the renovation and/or rehabilitation of existing space. The latter includes: roof replacement; purchase and installation of alternative energy resources and new HVAC systems, windows, doors and lighting systems; electrical upgrades; and construction of new or replacement of old walkways and parking lots, among other things. Renovations designed to provide accessibility for patrons with disabilities are a high priority.

Ranzenhofer announces funding for local road and bridge projects

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has announced today that the 2015-16 State Budget makes a record level of investment to support local highway, road and bridge repair projects.

The new State Budget allocates a total of $488 million in statewide funding, including $438 million for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and $50 million for Extreme Winter Recovery.

“Municipalities all across Genesee County will receive more funding than ever before to help repair our local infrastructure. The final budget maintains a record level of funding as part of the CHIPS program for a third consecutive year, while allocating extra dollars for a second year to address potholes and road surface damage from the harsh winter,” said Ranzenhofer.

Municipality Breakdown: CHIPS + Extreme Winter Recovery


2014-15 Budget ($)

2015-16 Budget ($)

Year-over-year Change ($)

Percent Change

City of Batavia





Town of Alabama





Town of Alexander





Town of Batavia





Town of Bergen





Town of Bethany





Town of Byron





Town of Darien





Town of Elba





Town of LeRoy





Town of Oakfield





Town of Pavilion





Town of Pembroke





Town of Stafford





Village of Alexander





Village of Bergen





Village of Corfu





Village of Elba





Village of Le Roy





Village of Oakfield





In addition to these initiatives, the State Budget designates $7.2 billion in capital funds over two years for the State Department of Transportation to support state-of-the-art infrastructure and an additional $1 billion in funds to repair and replace roads and bridges.

“For far too long, New York’s crumbling infrastructure has been put on the back burner. The new budget makes a substantial down payment on addressing this issue. These critical investments are important to keeping motorists and their passengers safe and to moving our economy forward,” Ranzenhofer said.

The New York State Legislature started the CHIPS program in 1981. The CHIPS program provides funding for the repair of highways, bridges and roads operated by local governments.

Hawley, Ranzenhofer introduce bill to allow big game hunting with rifles in Genesee County

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley have introduced special legislation, S.1292/A.4367, in the New York State Legislature to allow the use of rifles for big game hunting in Genesee County.

“In several areas of New York State, sportsmen are allowed to hunt deer with rifles and this change in law would allow the use of rifles in Genesee County,” Ranzenhofer said. “As the this year’s session progresses, Assemblyman Hawley and I will be working together to get this bill signed into law.”

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley is sponsoring the bill in the State Assembly.

“Hunting is very popular in Western New York, and this legislation is being requested on behalf of the Genesee County Legislature. I am pleased to address concerns of local governing bodies from my district and will work with members of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” Hawley said.

Last fall, the Genesee County Legislature and the Genesee County Federation of Sportsman Club requested the special legislation to be introduced at the beginning of the 2015 Legislative Session.

Existing environmental conservation law only authorizes the use of pistols, shotguns, crossbows, muzzle-loading firearms or long bows when hunting deer from the first Saturday after Nov. 15 through the first Sunday after Dec. 7.

The bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation in the Senate. If enacted into law, the bill would take effect immediately.

Ranzenhofer responds to ham-handed mailer from teachers union

By Howard B. Owens

Perhaps you've seen this campaign mailer attacking Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer. 

The Ranzenhofer campaign issued a statement about it today:

Albany's special interests are at it again. This time, a powerful teachers union is attacking a legislative idea suggested by a group of fourth-grade students and their teacher. It's ironic that the union representing teachers is attacking a legislator for getting a law passed to make yogurt the official state snack when students at Byron-Bergen Elementary School first requested it. What is even more bizarre is that the political mailing is filled with a myriad of spelling errors. It misspells loses ("looses"), Ranzenhofer ("Razenhofer"), the Town of Batavia ("Batvia") and the yogurt manufacturer, Alpina ("Aplina"). If the union handed in this political attack to be graded, it would be returned with red ink all over it with a note to keep practicing spelling. Teachers union candidate Elaine Altman should give it a failing grade.

Assembly passes yogurt bill

By Howard B. Owens

Statement from Senator Micheal Ranzenhofer:

The New York State Assembly has passed legislation, S.6695, to designating yogurt as the official snack for the State of New York.
State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has issued the following statement:
“I commend the New York State Assembly for passing my legislation to name yogurt the official snack of New York State although fourth-graders at Byron-Bergen Elementary School deserve all of the credit. From initially suggesting the idea to traveling to the State Capitol this morning, these students deserve high marks for their efforts to get this legislation passed by both houses of the State Legislature. I am hopeful that the bill will be signed into law when it is delivered to the Governor’s desk.”

Ranzenhofer says Senate passes comprehensive package of bills on opiates

By Howard B. Owens

Related to our previous story: 'This is the face of addiction'

Press release:

Senator Mike Ranzenhofer has announced that the State Senate has passed 23 bills to address issues surrounding the increase in heroin and opioid abuse, addiction, and related crimes in New York.

The bills are part of a comprehensive legislative package proposed in a report by the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. Senator Ranzenhofer hosted a public forum last month at Batavia City Hall, along with Task Force Chairman Senator Phil Boyle (R-C-I, Suffolk County).

“Heroin and opioid addiction is a very serious issue facing communities all across the State. This legislative package will help to combat the rise in heroin and opioid addiction and its negative effects on our communities,” Ranzenhofer said. “I encourage the State Assembly to act on each and every one of these bills immediately.”

“As a Heroin Task Force, we hosted 18 forums across the state, heard from 276 panelists, had over 2,300 attendees, and listened to over 60 hours of testimony. The information and insights we have gained as a result of these forums, and the added input from countless New Yorkers affected by this epidemic, has helped us craft these 23 pieces of legislation. These bills supported by Republicans and Democrats will encourage prevention, enhance treatment options  and strengthen law enforcement as we combat this unprecedented epidemic. By working together, across party lines, we will save lives and prevent tragedies,” Boyle said.

The passage of the bill package begins the legislative response laid out in the report to prevent drug abuse and overdoses; increase the availability and efficacy of addiction treatment; and enhance the tools provided to law enforcement to keep heroin off the streets.

The task force bills passed yesterday include:

Preventing Opioid Abuse and Overdoses

• Preventing opioid overdoses in schools (S7661): Clarifies that school districts, Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) programs, charter schools, and other educational entities may possess and administer naloxone to treat opioid overdoses, and will be protected by Good Samaritan laws.

• Increasing the effectiveness of overdose prevention (S7649A): Provides that naloxone kits distributed through an opioid overdose prevention program must include an informational card with instructions on steps to take following administration, as well as information on how to access addiction treatment and support services. Opioid overdose prevention programs provide those at risk of an overdose, their family members and their friends with naloxone kits and training on proper administration.

• Limiting prescriptions for acute pain (S2949A): Limits the number of Schedule II and III controlled substances prescribed for acute pain to a 10-day supply to prevent excess pharmaceuticals from being dispensed, and therefore reduce the risk of diversion. This restriction would not apply to the treatment of cancer pain, chronic pain or palliative care. Further, the bill provides that only one copayment may be charged for a 30-day supply.

• Increasing public awareness (S7654): Requires the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the Department of Health (DOH) to establish the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Pain Medication Addiction Awareness and Education Program. The program would utilize social and mass media to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction, while increasing public’s knowledge about the dangers of opioid and heroin abuse, the signs of addiction, and relevant programs and resources.

• Establishing school drug prevention programs (S7653): Adds age-appropriate information about the dangers of illegal drug use to junior high school and high school health class curricula.

• Promoting pharmaceutical take-back events (S6691): Requires OASAS to post guidelines and requirements for conducting a pharmaceutical collection event on its Web site. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 70 percent of those who first abuse prescription drugs get the pills from a friend or relative. Facilitating proper and timely disposal of unused narcotics helps to reduce the danger of diversion.

• Ensuring prescribing practitioners stay abreast of best practices (S7660): Creates a continuing medical education program for practitioners with prescribing privileges. DOH and the State Education Department (SED) would establish standards for three hours of biennial instruction on topics including Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) requirements, pain management, appropriate prescribing, acute pain management, palliative medicine, addiction screening and treatment, and end-of-life care.

Increasing the Availability and Efficacy of Addiction Treatment

• Creating a new model of detoxification and transitional services (S2948): Establishes the Opioid Treatment and Hospital Diversion Demonstration Program, requiring the development of a new model of detoxification and transitional services for individuals seeking to recover from opioid addiction that reduces reliance on emergency room services.

• Establishing a relapse prevention demonstration program (S7650): Creates a Wraparound Services Demonstration Program through which OASAS would provide case management or referral services for nine months to individuals who successfully complete substance abuse treatment programs. These community supports-access to which is intended to prevent a relapse – include educational resources, peer-to-peer support groups, social services and family services and counseling, employment support and counseling transportation assistance, medical services, legal services, financial services, and child care services.

• Enabling parents to require children to undergo treatment (S7652A): Provides that a parent or guardian may petition to have a minor child designated as a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS) due to a substance use disorder, and that a court may require a PINS child to undergo substance abuse treatment.

• Establishing assisted outpatient treatment for substance use disorders (S7651A): Enables a court to order Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) for an individual with a substance use disorder who, due to his or her addiction, poses a threat to him or herself or others.

• Promoting the affordability of substance abuse services (S7662A): Improves the utilization review process for determining insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment disorders, and requires insurers to continue to provide coverage throughout the appeals process.

Providing Additional Resources to Law Enforcement

• Studying the conversion of correctional facilities to treatment centers (S7655A): Directs OASAS and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to study the feasibility of converting closed correctional facilities to provide treatment for substance use disorders. Agencies would examine the feasibility of such centers providing both inpatient residential and outpatient care.

• Establishing the crime of homicide by sale of an opioid controlled substance (S7657): Creates an A-I felony for the unlawful transportation or sale of an opioid that causes the death of another.

• Restricting drug dealers from participating in the SHOCK incarceration program (S7656): Holds drug dealers accountable by preventing participation in the SHOCK incarceration program – under which young adults receive substance abuse treatment, academic education, and other services to promote reintegration – by individuals convicted of a A-II felony drug offense, except if he or she tests positive for a controlled substance upon arraignment.

• Creating Drug-Free Zones around treatment facilities (S1388): Establishes a B felony for the sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a drug or alcohol treatment center or methadone clinic.

• Improving safety at judicial diversion programs (S1879A): Requires a court, in determining a defendant's eligibility for a judicial diversion program for alcohol or substance abuse treatment, to consider the underlying charges and the defendant's propensity for violent conduct. The bill also requires the facility treating a defendant under this diversion program to notify the local law enforcement of the defendant's placement and arrest record, and to submit a security plan to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to provide for the safety of staff, residents and the community. Finally, this bill allows a defendant to appear via video conference, and makes unauthorized departure from a rehabilitation facility a D felony.

• Reallocating funds from asset forfeitures (S7658): Reduces the state share of certain asset forfeitures to increase allocations for the reimbursement of expenses incurred by localities for investigation and prosecution, and provides additional monies for the Chemical Dependence Service Fund.

• Expanding the crime of operating as a major trafficker (S7663): Facilitates convictions for operating as a major trafficker by reducing the number of people that must have participated from four to three, and lowering the minimum required proceeds from the sale of controlled substances during a 12-month period from $75,000 to $25,000.

• Establishing the crime of transporting an opioid controlled substance (S7659): Allows prosecution for a new crime when an individual unlawfully transports an opioid any distance greater than five miles within the state, or from one county to another county within the state, to address diversion and distribution of heroin and prescription drugs.

• Facilitating the conviction of drug dealers (S7169): Provides that possession of 50 or more packages of a Schedule I opium derivative, or possession of $300 or more worth of such drugs, is presumptive evidence of a person’s intent to sell.

• Establishing criminal penalties for the theft of blank official New York State prescription forms (S2940): Expands grand larceny in the fourth degree to include the theft of a blank official New York State prescription form. This bill would also redefine criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree to include the possession of a stolen New York State prescription form, and create an A misdemeanor of criminal possession of a prescription form.

• Prosecuting acts by street gangs (S4444A): Creates the Criminal Street Gang Enforcement and Prevention Act to provide a comprehensive approach to protecting the public from gang-related crimes and violence, including those that relate to drug trafficking, and establishing the criminal street gang prevention fund. The bills have been sent to the Assembly.

'This is the face of addiction'

By Howard B. Owens

Daniel Placek seemed to have everything going for him. After graduating from Niagara Falls High School, he joined the Navy, served in Japan and came home, taking a job as a plumber five days after his discharge. By age 23, he owned his own home.

As the only child of Dan and Cheryl Placek, he was given every middle-class advantage in life. He was involved in sports, made lots of friends, worked hard, and he could always count on his parents when he needed help.

What they couldn't help him with, though, despite their best efforts, was drug addiction.

Five years into his career as a plumber, Daniel hurt his back. His doctor prescribed opiate-based pain medication.

"We could see a change in him over the last year of his life," Cheryl said. "We didn't know what it was. He was anxious. We couldn't figure it out. His friends were concerned. His employer called me a few months before he died and said what's up with Dan and we didn't know either."

Finally, Daniel confessed to his parents. He couldn't stop taking the pain medication he was prescribed.

Cheryl went with him to see his doctor. The doctor's solution: prescribe suboxone.

Suboxone is an opiate-based narcotic. It's often used to treat heroin addicts and others addicted to opiate-based pain medications, but suboxone is itself habit forming.

"Within days of withdrawing, Daniel became paranoid," Cheryl said. "He was talking about not wanting to live. We took him to ECMC, but we couldn't get a bed. We were there for 17 hours on Christmas Day in 2011."

Finally, they were referred to Lakeshore Hospital and Lakeshore agreed to admit him for seven days. On the fifth day, he was released to an outpatient clinic.

"They said he wasn't talking about taking his life so he was OK," Cheryl said. "It's like they were only listening to what he was saying and not what we were telling them, and here's my son who wasn't thinking straight."

They family tried getting Daniel into another program and hit roadblock after roadblock.

"He said, 'mom, don't you see, people don't want to help me anyway.' " 

Sheriff Gary Maha

Against their original doctor's advice, Cheryl finally called the VA and begged the VA to take Daniel as a drug-treatment patient. It took two weeks, but the VA finally admitted Daniel to an inpatient program.

"He went in with full family support," Cheryl said. "We were there, his best friend was there, his girlfriend was there. That night at 1:15, the nurse called me and said, 'your son's passed away.' I asked her what happened. She was reluctant to tell me, but finally she told me. He took is own life."

The story of Daniel Placek is not very different from a half-dozen other stories that came out this morning during a two-hour State Senate Hearing at Batavia City Hall on the state's growing opiate-based drug problems.

When Cheryl Placek spoke, she held the picture of her son, pointed to him, and said, "This is the face of addiction."

She wasn't the first mother Friday to use that phrase during the hearing, and the faces being pointed to weren't burned-out crank heads living in the squalor of urban blight, but healthy, well-scrubbed faces of young men and women who grew up in rural communities, went to good schools, got good grades, came from strong nuclear families.

"In 2001, the Sisters Hospital wanted to open a methadone clinic here so we took a look at our opiate addictions and we had three active patients," said John Bennett, director of GCASA. "Roll the clock ahead, we now have 175 active admissions at any given time. We've treated 483 people since 2008 for opiate addiction. None of them look like, for lack of a better term, the traditional junkie.

"It used to be nobody wanted to be a junkie, that was leper of the addicts," Bennett added. "You roll the clock ahead and it's young kids using opiates and heroin."

The hearing was led by State Senator Phil Boyle, chairman of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, who arranged for the hearing in Batavia. On the panel where members of the local criminal justice community as well as leaders in drug-treatment programs. In the audience were those who deal with drug addicts, their parents and a few recovering addicts themselves.

The themes heard in Placek's story were repeated by both the professionals, those who have been through treatment, and the parents of addicts.

  • It's too hard to get into treatment;
  • Treatment is often over too soon;
  • There's little or no follow up, and if you're off drugs, you can't get treatment even if you still feel you need it;
  • Opiate-based drugs are easier than ever to get and more widespread in the community than ever before.

It was the same story for Mary Flippi, a mother of five. Two of her sons are addicts.

For one son, his first experience with drugs was at age 11. A friend introduced him to marijuana. She said by the time he was 15, he was addicted to heroin. By the time he was 22, he had overdosed three times.

To get him into rehab one time, she called every facility in Western New York she could find. Then she drove around Pennsylvania trying to find a facility to admit him. Finally, he found treatment for her boy in Louisiana.

"He was there for seven months, but within the first hour of him leaving, he relapsed," Flippi said. "He was at the airport waiting for his plane and the anxiety got to him. He went to the bar and spent the $10 they had given him for the trip home."

Flippi observed, "drugs are not the problem for the addict. Reality is the problem for the addict."

As he continued down the path of renewed drug use, Flippi again tried to find a treatment facility that would take him.

John Bennett, director of GCASA

Eventually, she became so desperate that after he stole a dirt bike from his own family, she had him arrested just so he could go to jail while she continued to work on getting him into treatment.

Later, Boyle would recall this statement and remark, "It's a story we've heard repeatedly around the state. A parent is put in a position where she must have her child arrested to get him into treatment. That is a system that truly needs reform and that's what we're doing here."

After jail, Flippi's son was placed in a 28-day treatment program, but within a week of his release, he was drinking again. Four days ago, he tested positive for heroin and cocaine.

"I'm at my wit's end," Flippi said. "I don't know where to go from here, because there is no place. There are placed to go, but they are no help. Twenty-eight days doesn't work, and just to get to 28 days, you have to fail in outpatient first before you even get 28 days."

Sheriff Gary Maha said heroin and opiate use is a significant and growing problem in Genesee County.

Most of the drugs sold here come out of Rochester.

Heroin is a growing problem because it's cheaper than pain pills. He said he's heard of people selling their pills for $25 and more per pill so they could buy heroin at $10 to $20 a bag.

"A few years ago, heroin was unheard of in Genesee County," Maha said. "Now it's very prevalent and very available. Half the buys by our Local Drug Task Force now involve heroin."

After the meeting, Maha said he thought it was an important discussion.

"What I heard today was very enlightening, even for me as somebody who has been in the business a long time," Maha said. "When you hear from the families of the addicted persons, even the recovering addicts, it kind of opens your eyes. We look sometimes strictly from a law enforcement perspective, not even thinking about the treatment and the education parts, but it's going to take a concerted effort by everybody to fight this thing. It's a difficult and complex issue."

Where heroin used to the drug of last resort for the most addicted junkies, said Bennett, it's now part of the potential mix for first time and novice drug users.

Teens use heroin, but more commonly, they raid grandma's medicine cabinet and swipe her pain pills.

"They're getting together on Friday nights and they think they're just having fun, but what we know about opiates is, if you use them for two or three weeks -- and some of these kids are popping them every day thinking that's just what grandma is taking -- that when they try to stop, they find they are getting sick, so they start taking pills before going to school just so they don't get sick."

Augusta Welsh, director of community services, Genesee County Mental Health Services, said she's a big fan of drug take-back days hosted by local police agencies.

"One thing we see kids doing is they will take anything and everything just to try it," Welsh said. "They call it fishing They will put all of the pills they got from their grandmothers' and put them in a bowl and say, 'look at all the pretty colors,' then they'll pull something out. If they take it with alcohol, then it delivers the effect much quicker."

With the rise of heroin and opiate-based drugs in Genesee County, UMMC's emergency room has been much busier, said Mary Beth Bowen, chief nursing officer.

She said in 2013, ER admitted 62 overdose patients. There have been 130 so far this year. Now that number includes all brands of ODs, including alcohol, but the underlying root cause is heroin and pain medications, she said.

What UMMC is also starting to see is more use of e-cigarettes as a drug delivery method, and several panelists and audience members expressed concern about e-cigs as a kind of gateway into drug use or tobacco cigarettes.

Audience member Nicholas Burk, a resource officer at Batavia High School, said he one time he witnessed a BHS student beg her mother for an e-cigarette. This was a girl, he said, who was a athlete-scholar, a straight-A student who never received a referral in her life.

All of her friends had e-cigs, she said, so she wanted to be part of the crowd.

"She thinks it's OK," he said.

There was a lot of back and forth about whether marijuana is a gateway drug. Some in the audience are convinced it is.

Rose Mary Christian expressed shock and dismay that the Legislature would even consider medical marijuana. Ranzenhofer said it's a complex issue. It's hard to turn down a parent who says marijuana is the only drug that will stop her child's seizures and prevent almost certain death.

Boyle said there's a lot of discussion in Albany about medical marijuana, but he promised that recreational marijuana will never be legal in New York.

Dr. Bruce Baker, medical director for GCASA, said the data doesn't support the notion of marijuana as a gateway drug, but it does lower inhibitions and many young people have been introduced to harder drugs just because marijuana brought them into closer contact with people already using harder drugs.

Two recovering addicts also spoke. One was a woman currently living in Batavia who said she got into prostitution to support her drug habit and has seen other young women fall into the same trap. She wants to warn young women away from drugs for that reason. She was among the speakers who complained about how difficult it is to get into drug treatment.

One speaker challenged the panel to look at the people in the room talking about addiction and how it affected their lives personally. It was largely a white, rural and middle-class audience.

"This is the face of addiction," She said. "We are very typical people and I hope we can give it a voice and get more help in our community because it's here and it's big."

Boyle said the message was heard loud and clear, and with modern technology being what it is today, changes are already in the works.

"As we've been talking, I've been texting with my staff in Albany about what some of you have been saying," Boyle said. "They've already done the research and sent back some draft legislation that we could introduce as soon as next week to address some of the concerns raised here."

Jim Neider named to State Senate's Veterans Hall of Fame

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

United States Army Specialist 5th Class James B. Neider has been selected – by State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer – as a New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame Honoree for the 61st District for his gallantry in the U.S. Armed Forces and service to the community.

Neider volunteered to serve in 1968 after receiving a bachelor's degree in Education. He served in Germany with the 3rd Armored Division’s 503rd Military Police Company.

“While Jim first enlisted decades ago, he remains committed to serving his country to this day. As a founder of the Joint Veterans’ Honor Guard of Genesee County and with his efforts to locate a National Military Cemetery to the region, Jim’s service to his fellow veterans and their families is unwavering,” Ranzenhofer said. “Jim exemplifies compassion, advocacy and dedication to our local veterans.”

“It has been such an honor to travel to the State Capitol and join so many distinguished veterans as a member of the State Senate’s Veterans’ Hall of Fame. Thank you to Senator Ranzenhofer for nominating me. Working with veterans is all that I do, and this honor serves as inspiration to continue advocating for veterans in Genesee County,” Neider said.

Neider earned Master of Science degree in Education on the G.I. Bill upon completing his military service, then started teaching at an elementary school in Alexander. He retired in 2000 with 30 years of service. He also served as Batavia Town Justice for 14 years. Today, he is an instructor for the American Legion’s Flags for First-Graders program and a coordinator for the annual Four Chaplains’ Sunday. 

Neider has received numerous awards for his distinguished service: the National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Expert M-14 Badge. He has also served in numerous leadership positions, including: chairman, Genesee County Joint Veterans’ Council; president, Genesee Veterans’ Club; board member, Genesee Veterans’ Support Network; chairman, Batavia Memorial Day Committee; and treasurer, Genesee County War Memorial Fund.

Jim and his wife, Mary Ann, live in the Town of Stafford.

Photos: Dedication of Route 98 as Veterans Memorial Highway

By Howard B. Owens

Assemblyman Steve Hawley and State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer held a dedication ceremony in Attica this morning for the designation of Route 98 as the Genesee and Orleans Veterans Memorial Highway. The designation, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, covers the portion of Route 98 bisecting Hawley's 139th Assembly District, from the Genesee County/Wyoming County line to Point Breeze.

State Senate passes Byron-Bergen students' yogurt bill

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

The New York State Senate has passed legislation, sponsored by State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer, to name yogurt as the official snack for the State of New York. The bill, S.6695, passed by a 52 to 8 vote.   

“Yogurt is not only a delicious, healthy treat; it is also an economic driver for many communities in New York, with yogurt manufacturers located all across the State – from Western New York to Long Island. That is why yogurt is such a suitable choice to be New York’s State snack,” Ranzenhofer said. “I am pleased that the State Senate has approved this bill, and I encourage the State Assembly to pass it.” 

A Byron-Bergen fourth-grade class, while studying the history and government of New York State, wrote to Senator Ranzenhofer to suggest the idea for the bill.

“The idea for this legislation started in a Genesee County classroom, not at the State Capitol. A lot of credit goes to Craig Schroth and his fourth-grade class at Byron-Bergen Central School District for all of their hard work, research and study that went into proposing this bill,” Ranzenhofer said. “Today’s vote to designate yogurt as the State snack is an example of democracy in action.”

New York is the number one processor of yogurt in the United States. Increasing demand for milk, the primary component in yogurt, has helped to support and grow the State’s dairy industry. New York is now fifth in the nation in milk production, producing over 13 billion pounds in 2012, in part fueled by the demand from yogurt processors.

Assemblyman William Magee has introduced the bill in the New York State Assembly. Assemblyman Stephen Hawley is a co-sponsor of the legislation. The bill has been sent to the State Assembly.  

New York State has many other official state symbols, including a beverage, milk; a muffin, apple muffin; a fruit, apple; a tree, sugar maple; a flower, rose; a shell, bay scallop; a fish, brook trout; a bird, bluebird; an animal, beaver; a gem, wine-red garnet; and an insect, ladybug.

UPDATE: The New York TimesAnimated Debate in New York State Capital? It’s About Yogurt

One senator, Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, suggested the designation might be inconsiderate to people who are lactose intolerant. Another, Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat, wondered if yogurt could count as a snack if it were consumed at breakfast time.

Ranzenhofer announces state funds for road and street repair

By Howard B. Owens

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer announced today that the 2014-15 State Budget will provide an additional $40 million to help municipalities repair potholes and road surface damage caused by the harsh winter weather.

“While spring has finally arrived, the aftermath of a brutal winter still remains. There are still a significant number of potholes and surface damage all over the roadways. At the same time, the harsh winter has depleted municipalities’ budgets to repair roads,” Ranzenhofer said. “These investments will benefit towns and villages throughout Genesee County so that new infrastructure repair projects can be undertaken.”

The 2014-15 State Budget includes $40 million in Extreme Winter Weather Assistance Capital and $438 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS). The new budget maintains a record level of funding for the CHIPS program for a second consecutive year. The 2012-13 State Budget first increased CHIPS funding by $75 million.

Breakdown: CHIPS/Extreme Winter Weather Assistance by Municipality


2013-14 State Budget ($)

2014-15 State Budget ($)

Year-over-year Change ($)

Percent Change

Genesee County





City of Batavia





Town of Alabama





Town of Alexander





Town of Batavia





Town of Bergen





Town of Bethany





Town of Byron





Town of Darien





Town of Elba





Town of LeRoy





Town of Oakfield





Town of Pavilion





Town of Pembroke





Town of Stafford





Village of Alexander





Village of Bergen





Village of Corfu





Village of Elba





Village of Le Roy





Village of Oakfield





In addition to these initiatives, the State Budget provides ways to keep roads and drivers safe. More funding has been allocated toward curtailing dangerous texting-while-driving. Young and new drivers convicted of texting-while-driving will have their licenses suspended for 120 days for a first-time offense and one year for a second-time offense.

The New York State Legislature started the CHIPS program in 1981. The CHIPS program provides funding for the repair of highways, bridges and roads operated by local governments.


Ranzenhofer secures $10 million funding for GCC capital projects

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer announced today that he has secured more than $10 million in matching grants for strategic initiative projects at Genesee Community College as part of the 2014-15 New York State Budget.

Senator Ranzenhofer requested that the funding be added to the Executive Budget proposal.

“I am pleased to announce that I have been able to secure over $10 million in funding for critically needed capital projects at Genesee Community College,” Ranzenhofer said. “Many of these projects will enhance student experience and success. The Student Success Center will upgrade the college’s instructional space with new labs, tutoring areas, and more classrooms for new academic programs, such as health, technology and agribusiness.”

The State Budget provides $6,924,150 for the Genesee Community College Event Center; $2,593,350 for the Genesee Community College Success Center; and $575,303 for conversion and retrofitting of space for new academic program instructional needs.

Genesee Community College President James Sunser started working with Senator Ranzenhofer in early February to secure funding for these projects.

Sunser said:

“The projects funded in the New York State budget for Genesee Community College are among the most important initiatives in the College’s history. The two new Batavia Campus buildings will continue Genesee’s 47-year record of innovation, and transform our College and our region. The new College and Community Event Center will enrich campus life, and will eventually bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to business, professional and community events held there. The Student Success Center will be one of the most unique “one-stop” student service centers in the nation. It will bring together in one place all the services students and community residents need for their academic and career success.

“Together, these two new buildings will free up space in the existing Batavia Campus buildings for new academic programs that will help shape our future, such as agribusiness and emerging high-tech fields. These new programs mean new opportunities for students and new jobs for the region. From the outset, Senator Ranzenhofer understood how these projects would make a powerful difference in the lives of our students and the economic vitality of our communities. We appreciate Senator Ranzenhofer’s commitment to Genesee Community College, his commitment to the long-term growth of jobs and businesses that these projects represent, and his willingness to advocate for inclusion of these projects in a very tight state budget. Senator Ranzenhofer’s efforts will touch future generations.”

The funding is part of $81 million in matching grants in the State Budget for strategic initiative projects on community college campuses across New York.

Ranzenhofer announces increase in VTL funds for local governments

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has announced today that the 2014-15 New York State Budget will increase Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) aid by more than 27 percent to the host communities of Batavia Downs.

Throughout the budget process, Senator Ranzenhofer and his colleagues in the State Senate have been working to secure additional VLT aid.

“I am pleased to announce that I was able to secure more VLT aid – for the Town of Batavia, the City of Batavia, and Genesee County – to help offset expenses for hosting Batavia Downs. This is a huge win for our community. Local governments and taxpayers will now receive a $171,700 funding boost,” Ranzenhofer said.

The 2014 Executive Budget proposed VLT aid remain at the prior year’s funding level. The 2014-15 State Budget will increase VLT aid among the three host communities of Batavia Downs by approximately $171,765.

Breakdown: VLT Aid to Batavia Downs Casino Host Communities


2014-15 Executive Budget Proposal

2014-15 Enacted Budget

Change from Executive Budget Proposal

City of Batavia




Town of Batavia




Genesee County




In 2006, State Finance Law authorized payment of aid to municipalities with video lottery terminal facilities. Funding for host communities was eliminated by Senate and Assembly Democrats in 2009 and 2010. Currently, host communities receive 55 percent of the aid received in 2008-09; the 2014-15 State Budget will restore aid to 70 percent of 2008-09 levels.

Senator Ranzenhofer is a cosponsor of legislation, S2120A, to resore VLT aid to 2008 levels.

Ranzenhofer announces Earth Day Poster Contest

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Senator Mike Ranzenhofer today encouraged local student entries for the New York State Senate’s Earth Day Poster Contest, a statewide competition that raises student awareness of recycling and waste reduction.

“The New York State Senate takes this opportunity to celebrate the great strides New York has made in helping to improve our environment. By educating students about the importance of recycling, they can be a part of the many New Yorkers who are already helping to make a difference,” Ranzenhofer said.

The Earth Day Competition is for schoolchildren in grades K-6. Students are encouraged not only to be creative, but also to convey a real commitment to making the environment a better place. Entries should be photographed and submitted electronically, preferably in jpeg or pdf format, via Senator Ranzenhofer’s Web site, All submissions must be uploaded by April 11, 2014.

“The Earth Day competition encourages the exchange of ideas among schools, children and adults and inspires creative thinking about solutions to the environmental challenges we face in the 21st Century. Teaching children about the importance of recycling and waste reduction is critical, and I encourage children to submit their own poster,” Ranzenhofer said.

The theme of this year’s competition is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” The winning posters will be displayed at Senator Ranzenhofer’s Web site. All participants will receive a certificate acknowledging their participation.

The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. Since then, more than 20 million Americans have participated in the annual day, helping to improve the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. In addition, landmark legislation has been passed to help support this effort, such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Hawley's response to Cuomo's State of the State: More tax cuts, please

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) is responding to the governor’s 2014 State of the State address by challenging him to deliver the tax relief he has promised. Hawley wants to see the governor actually deliver on his rhetoric to bring significant tax relief to upstate New York families.

“It is normal for politicians to talk about tax relief in an election year, but usually, the so-called relief that is delivered is not enough to give our middle-class families the help they need,” Hawley said. “If the governor is the leader he claims to be, he will pass a tax-relief package that takes money from Albany’s special interests and puts it in the pockets of Upstate New York’s families. Also, the governor needs to deliver on an unfulfilled promise to pass mandate relief for our counties and municipalities, which would help lower property taxes.”

In addition to calling for tax relief, Hawley renewed his pledge to fight for the Second Amendment rights of Upstate New Yorkers. He hopes the courts will find the NY SAFE Act unconstitutional and has also introduced legislation to repeal the SAFE Act in order to hold those who passed it accountable for their actions.

“We are approaching the one-year anniversary of the passage of the SAFE Act. This should renew all Second Amendment advocates’ deep resolve to get this unconstitutional law repealed. I have been working for the past year with Second Amendment advocates to organize our opposition to the law, and I will continue that fight in the coming year,” Hawley said.

Hawley is also pushing for a vote on his “Two New Yorks” bill. This legislation would allow counties to place an initiative on the ballot on whether the citizens want New York to be split into two states due to the divergent interests of Upstate and Downstate New York.

“Since the SAFE Act was rammed down the throats of the people of Upstate New York under the cover of darkness, the frustration with Downstate special interests has grown exponentially. When combined with the highest in the nation taxes and unending regulations imposed by Downstate bureaucrats, Upstate New Yorkers deserve to have their voices heard on whether or not they want to continue to be linked with Downstate New York,” Hawley said.

Here's Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer's response:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has issued the following statement in response to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address:

“Today’s State of the State message made it clear that tax relief will be at the top of the to-do list. Enacting a property tax cap and reducing income tax rates has started the process of chipping away at New York’s high tax burden. Yet, New York State still finishes near last place when ranked by tax climate.

“That is why I am pleased that the Governor followed the lead of the report released by my colleagues in the State Senate to reduce, simplify and eliminate taxes across the board. Eliminating the tax rate for manufacturers in Upstate New York will enhance firms’ ability to invest, expand and create jobs. Accelerating the phase-out of the 18-A surcharge will put more money back in households’ wallets, while helping to keep energy costs down for businesses. I have been an advocate of these tax-relief initiatives for several years now.

“One of my major legislative priorities will be cutting taxes for all New Yorkers – small businesses, manufacturers, families, retirees, young professionals, property owners and seniors – at every level. Overall, tax relief with the farthest reach, and to as many New Yorkers as possible, will help to ensure a brighter, stronger and more prosperous economy for Western New York.”

Ranzenhofer launches petition drive against benefit cards being used to buy booze, lottery tickets

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has started a new campaign to protect taxpayer dollars by launching a petition drive to encourage the State Assembly to pass a bill that would prohibit Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards from being used by welfare recipients to purchase alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets and other non-essential items.

“While New Yorkers have always been willing to lend a helping hand to those in need, we don’t like seeing taxpayer money being wasted,” Ranzenhofer said. “There is no law to prevent public assistance from being used to purchase beer, cigarettes or lottery tickets.  It’s time to close this loophole in State law.”

The Public Assistance Integrity Act (S.966) would prohibit using EBT cards for tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets, and ATM cash withdrawals at liquor stores and casinos. Senator Ranzenhofer is a cosponsor of the legislation. The bill passed the State Senate on June 18th. The State Assembly has not taken action on the bill.

“I was proud to vote for this measure in the Senate, but our job is not yet done. That’s why I am launching a new petition drive to encourage the State Assembly to take action on this bill,” Ranzenhofer said. “I encourage residents to join my campaign to protect your dollars by signing my petition.”

Residents can sign the petition by visiting

EBT cards work like a debit card for welfare recipients, containing both a Food Stamp and Cash Assistance component. Strict regulations guide what can be purchased for Food Stamps. Cash assistance is intended to pay for items not covered by Food Stamps, such as soap, toothpaste, school supplies and toiletries. Currently, there are no restrictions on the use of Cash Assistance.

Federal aid received by New York may be at risk if the State Assembly does not pass the bill. The federal government has mandated states implement a fraud prevention system by Feb. 2014. If New York State does not act accordingly, the Federal government will penalize the State by cutting federal funding for Cash Assistance by 5 percent or $120 million.

Photo provided by The Batavian's news partner, WBTA.

Authentically Local