January In Review

Our year started off with Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb laying out our conference’s agenda.

“Once again, the Assembly Republican Conference will put forward the strongest and most effective anti-corruption proposals in the Legislature, and we will demand changes to Albany’s “business as usual” approach that will include:
Ending the secretive, dysfunctional practice of “three men in a room” budget negotiations;
Pension forfeiture legislation that strips convicted officials of taxpayer-funded retirements;
Implementing term limits for legislative leaders and committee chairs;
Banning outside income for legislative leaders and limiting outside income for committee chairs; and
Rules reforms that empower individual members and put a greater emphasis on serving constituents, rather than serving political parties.”

In Leader Kolb’s address to the Assembly he continued to lay out our agenda. Here are some excerpts from our official Twitter account.

Our first press conference of the year was the unveiling of our new education reform agenda The Next Step.

Ranking Minority Member of the Assembly Committee on Education Ed Ra, laid out The Next Step in an editorial featured in the Times Union.

Our plan will revitalize educational standards and ensure an appropriate and high-quality education for New York students. It begins by fully restoring the education cuts of 2010 and eliminating the Gap Elimination Adjustment, while also ensuring fair and robust education funding for our schools.
Next, we want to make sure that important decisions are left up to the education professionals who know what’s best for students to thrive, not Albany’s bureaucrats. That’s why our plan is advocating for a repeal of the current teacher evaluation system and empowering the Board of Regents to establish a statewide teacher evaluation system based on input from experts and local stakeholders.
Our plan will establish a new set of state learning standards, and with the help and guidance of unique perspectives from teachers, students and individual districts, we will develop a fair and appropriate curriculum. We must increase the transparency of the state’s testing program and protect teachers and students from any negative effects presented by current assessments.
Our plan includes important measures that will ensure all state assessments are age- and developmentally appropriate and of the highest quality, providing increased flexibility for our students by opening up multiple pathways to success and to our local school districts by giving them the freedom and resources necessary to develop a curriculum that fits their specific needs.

All six points of The Next Step can be found here:

Following The Next Step press conference, we held one showcasing our commitment to ethics reform both in our chamber and in our state.

It was at this press conference where Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb laid out the 13 proposals encompassing 17 reform measures designed to drastically reform the Assembly.

A brief list of which appear in his press release.

Some of the changes advocated by members of the Assembly Minority include: an end to the “three-men-in-a-room” budget negotiations, rules reforms to chamber operations, pension forfeiture legislation for those who abuse their public positions for personal benefit, advancing the Public Officers Accountability Act, and the Spirit of ’76 bill that would require legislation go to the floor for a vote when sponsored by a majority of the members.

The entire list of reforms can be found here.

A few highlights from the speech:

The posters from the Restoring Trust in Government press conference listing the good government reforms our conference has put forth in recent years, and how the Assembly Majority blocked them.

This year, as in years past, the Majority blocked each of our reforms.

We had several of our members respond to the governor’s State of the State Address.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb’s press release reminded lawmakers that these tax dollars come from hardworking New Yorkers.

The governor has labeled his budget proposal ‘Built To Lead,’ but we must remember that anything we build is on the backs of hard-working taxpayers. 
 
The Executive Budget begins the process of policy discussions and developing a prudent spending plan for the next fiscal year. The governor has proposed an agenda that comes with a price tag attached. We need to see specific details and dollar figures, and over the next several weeks, lawmakers must ensure that spending remains in check.

He also outlined proposals that mirrored the conference’s goals and those he’d like seen added to the final state budget.

As Assembly Minority Leader, I was encouraged to hear the governor put forward priorities that fall in line with a number of Conference proposals, including: pension forfeitures for convicted officials, a Constitutional Convention, greater resources for our State Police and focus on public safety, tax relief for small businesses, tax credits for teachers, and a substantial investment in education.
 
However, over the coming months any final state budget agreement should include several measures that were not referenced today, including:
An end to the ‘three-men-in-a-room’ budget negotiations, which have enabled Albany’s culture of corruption;
A specific plan to reform Common Core, which has gone ignored for too long as frustration mounts for students, teachers and parents;
A clear commitment to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment in 2016;
Equity in the amount of infrastructure dollars spent upstate and downstate;
Acknowledgement that New York’s heroin epidemic must be addressed through stronger prevention and treatment efforts; and
Immediate, common-sense relief to localities from unfunded mandates. Competitions and consolidation will not provide the solution property taxpayers need.

An expansive list of reactions can be found on our official YouTube channel. (Be sure to subscribe!)

We marked the enactment of the Women’s Equality Agenda with our #WeSaidYes campaign. Albany politics and gridlock held up the legislation for years, and each step of the way the Assembly Minority Conference fought to end the stalemate and bring these bills to the floor for a vote.

We held a press conference on Assembly Bill 8658. Better known as the ‘Spirit of ’76' would allow legislation with 76 sponsors in the Assembly, a simple majority of members regardless of political affiliation, to come to the floor for a debate and vote.

January came to a close with our Task Force on Heroin Addiction and Community Response releasing their findings.

The full report, The Heroin Epidemic — A Report on Heroin Use, Treatment, Prevention & Education Efforts in NYS, can be found here.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb discussed how important this task force and the work it accomplished has been.

“People in communities in every corner of the state are desperate for solutions to the heroin epidemic that is tearing apart families and taking lives too soon,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua). “Heroin addiction affects people from every demographic, in every community, and it is our responsibility to fix it. As lawmakers we need to work together to create solutions that will prevent people from getting addicted by coming up with a comprehensive plan that focuses on prevention and treatment of opioid and heroin addiction.”

Task Force Chairman, Assemblyman Joseph Giglio and Assemblyman Al Graf, who served on the task force, discussed their work as well.

“It is our duty to work for our constituents, and right now communities all over the state are struggling to fight a growing heroin epidemic,” said Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda), task force chairman. “This goes beyond duty. Individuals who have lost a loved one to addiction, those currently battling addiction, and professionals working in rehab centers are frustrated. Using a multi-faceted approach as outlined in this report, we can begin to provide the necessary help to overcome the issue.”
“The forums provided us the opportunity to hear from those who have been hit the hardest by heroin’s devastation and know firsthand how heroin addiction shatters lives,” said Assemblyman Al Graf (R,C,I-Holbrook), task force member. “We heard from so many people, from every walk of life. From those fighting addiction, to those who want to help them, it is more obvious than ever that we must bring about common-sense changes to deal with the heroin epidemic. Detoxification, rehabilitation and recovery must work hand-in-hand to treat addiction.”

The HELP (Heroin ELimination & Prevention) Plan, suggests the following recommendations:

  • Provide Drug and Heroin Education
  • Create Support Tools and Advocacy Programs
  • Increase Funding and Improve Methods for Treatment and Recovery
  • Reevaluate Insurance Parity Laws and Reimbursement Rates
  • Criminal Justice and Judicial Improvements
  • Improve Connections Between Correctional System and Addiction Services

Several of our members addressed the media at the press conference discussing our findings.

Make sure to follow our Twitter, Medium, and Instagram accounts to stay up-to-date on everything our conference does in February and throughout the rest of the year!

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