Albany Update: Back in Session
The end of Session is approaching with only seven legislative days remaining. Mayoral Control, Education Funding and Ethics Reform are among the top priorities for the remainder of session.
NYSAC continues to track all measures that may impact counties. Our Legislative Team is focused on issues that will assist county operations and relieve county property taxpayers.
In the final days of the session, we encourage you and members of your county board to contact your Assembly and Senate representatives to urge support for these measures.
Reimburse Counties for Increases in DA salaries (memo attached)
Historically, when the State passed laws requiring counties to increase in DA salaries, they have included State Budget funding to reimburse this local cost. Unfortunately, the recently enacted state budget does not cover the latest salary increase. NYSAC and the District Attorneys Association are advocating for legislation (S7408A, Young/A10152A, Gunther) that would reimburse counties for the DA salary increase in 2016 and cover any related state mandated increase going forward. Download NYSAC's memo.
Indigent Defense Reform and State Fiscal Takeover (memo attached)
Last week, Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco and Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy negotiated the terms of a two house bill (S6341B, DeFrancisco/A6202B, Fahy) that would create an improved, uniform statewide indigent defense system that includes a phased in state takeover of county indigent legal defense costs.
Please ask your state Assembly and Senate representatives to support the passage of the DA salary increase reimbursement bill and the Indigent Defense Reform legislation, and encourage them to pass these bills before the end of session. Contact information for each Senator and Assembly Member is available at www.nysenate.govand assembly.state.ny.us.
Download NYSAC's memo.
New York State Assembly Unanimously Passes Indigent Defense Expansion and Local Mandate Relief Bill
On June 2, 2016 the New York State Assembly unanimously passed an indigent defense expansion and local mandate relief bill. This bill, 6341B (DeFrancisco) /A.6202C (Fahy), would provide counties with meaningful mandate relief by providing a full state fiscal takeover of indigent defense services while at the same time increasing the quality of legal services for the poor.
The state fiscal takeover would be incremental over a seven year period, providing counties with full reimbursement to this program thereafter. The service expansion would include providing a uniform statewide indigent defense system where all eligible individuals would receive counsel at first arraignment and case-cap workloads would be required for public defender. Currently only 5 counties, by way of a State settled lawsuit, and NYC provide these extended services coupled with State reimbursement.
The passing of this historic bill in the Assembly is a major step toward positive system changes along with true and meaningful mandate relief for counties. With the dedication and understanding Senator DeFrancisco has shown on the Senate version of this bill, optimistically before this year's session ends this needed change can become a reality.
Public Hearing Today On Solid Waste Management Facilities (Part 360) Proposed Regulations
NYSAC and our member counties have reviewed the proposed changes and NYSAC testified today (Monday, June 6) before the Department of Environmental Conservation on behalf of our member counties.
These changes are comprehensive. We have found areas of agreement and some areas of great concern. Solid waste management needs within each community vary. Among our particular concerns are proposed changes to part 366 pertaining to solid waste planning and part 363 related to active gas collection system requirements.
You can submit public comments on proposed rules until July 15, 2016. Comments must be submitted to: SolidWasteRegulations@dec.ny.gov or to Melissa Treers, P.E., New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Materials Management, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7260. You can also contact Melissa directly at (518) 402-8678.
Upcoming Public Hearings:
June 6, 2016, 1:00 PM: NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233
June 7, 2016, 1:00 PM: RIT Inn and Conference Center, Henrietta Ballroom, 5257 West Henrietta Rd., Rochester, NY 14467
June 9, 2016, 1:00 PM: NYSDEC Region 2 Office, 1 Hunter's Point Plaza, 47-40 21st Street, Long Island City, NY 11101
Governor Signs Legislation Benefiting Veterans Employed in Public Service
On June 1, 2016 Governor Cuomo signed S.7160 (Larkin) /A.9531 (Paulin) into law. The new law allows for all honorably discharged veterans ability to purchase up to three years of service credit toward New York State ERS and PFRS pensions. In order to qualify for the credit purchase employees must be in the New York State pension system for at least 5 years.
Current state law allows veterans who served in only certain conflicts, including World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to purchase pension credits. The new law strikes out the specific conflicts to expand eligibility to all veterans who work in the public sector. If eligible, Tier 1-5 members would be required to make a payment of 3 percent of their most recent compensation per year of additional service credit granted by this bill. Tier 6 members would be required to make a payment of six percent of their most recent compensation per year of additional service credit.
The law requires the State to pick up all costs associated with this bill to the State and Local Employees' Retirement System (ERS). However this law requires local governments to pay for the costs associated to their New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) increases.
SUNY Chancellor Announces Retirement
On Tuesday, May 31 the State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced she will step down from her position on June 30, 2017. Chancellor Zimpher has served as chancellor since 2009.
Chancellor Zimpher is SUNY's longest-serving chancellor since the mid-1980s. She said in an interview that she would not be retiring but would continue to be active in various state and national initiatives, including teacher preparation.
The SUNY Board of Trustees has more than a year to conduct a national search for a new chancellor and is said to have begun looking.
New York is a Leader in Lowering its Uninsured Rate
According to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 4.9 percent of New Yorkers surveyed said they did not have health insurance coverage in 2015. This is down from 12.6 percent in 2o13 which marked the first year open enrollment began for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). New York ranks 7th nationally for the lowest uninsured rate in 2015. For the working population (typically individuals between 18 and 64) health insurance coverage broke down as follows:
It is interesting to note that even with the implementation of the ACA the percentage of New Yorkers covered by private insurance increased between 2013 and 2015 (rising from 63 percent to 70 percent), while the percentage covered by public insurance remained the same.
- 7 percent were uninsured
- 24.6 percent had publicly provided insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, etc.)
- 70.1 percent had private health insurance coverage (a handful of people had both public and private coverage)
The uninsured rate for children in New York State in 2015 was 1.7 percent - this was the lowest in the nation among states for which statistically comparable data was available.
County by county coverage rates will be available in the summer when the New York State of Health provides its' annual update on the implementation of the ACA. For more information on the federal government's announcement please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/insur201605.pdf
NYS Attorney General Scores a Legal Victory in a Sales Tax Avoidance Case
Last week the U.S Supreme Court declined to hear a petition brought by Sprint in a legal battle between the State of New York and the cellular service provider. Under the litigation, New York is suing Sprint for more than $100 million in uncollected and unpaid state and local sales taxes covering 2005 through 2012 (when the Attorney General filed the suit against Sprint. The failure of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case means that a lower court ruling will stand and that the lawsuit against Sprint can move forward. The total amount of sales tax and penalties payable remains in question as Sprint continued its sales tax collection practices during the litigation and the State is seeking treble damages based on multiple False Claims Act causes of action. If the State ultimately wins the case, or there is a settlement, a portion of the unpaid taxes and penalties should be payable to counties and New York City for the local sales tax not collected or paid.
State and Local Governments Nationwide Report Workforce Recruitment and Retention Challenges
Does this sound familiar? "Recruiting and retaining qualified personnel (92 percent), succession planning (80 percent), and staff development (79 percent) are ranked as the most important issues for the second year in a row by state and local government human resources managers. Governments continue to have difficulty recruiting for a range of positions, including finance, IT, skilled trades, and public safety. The skill sets they most need in new hires are interpersonal, technology, and written communication skills." This is pulled directly from the most recent survey from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence regarding workforce trends. The survey also indicates that many local governments nationwide are experiencing higher than normal applications for retirement (which generally paused during and shortly after the Great Recession). State and local governments also report that after many years of cutting their workforces they are now working to replenish the ranks with 77 percent saying they are hiring, this is up from 27 percent that said they were hiring in 2013.
For more information on this workforce survey please visit: http://slge.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/State-and-Local-Government-Workforce-2016-Trends.pdf
State Adopts New Rules to Protect Waterways from Invasive Species
Governor Cuomo announced the adoption of new regulations that will help protect New York State's waters from the spread of aquatic invasive species and preserve local ecosystems. Originally signed into law by Governor Cuomo in September 2014, the regulations prohibit the launch of watercraft prior to taking 'reasonable precautions,' including the removal of visible plant or animal matter, proper material disposal in a receptacle or upland location, and treatment by operators launching watercraft or floating docks into public waters.
With over 7,600 freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs and 70,000 miles of rivers, brooks and streams, New York State is particularly vulnerable to the introduction of invasive species. Once established, aquatic invasive species, such as spiny waterflea and Eurasian water milfoil, can rapidly spread through connecting waterbodies or by "hitchhiking" on the vessels of recreational boaters and anglers. These regulations are an important step to preserve New York's vast waterways from the danger aquatic invasive species can cause to the environment, human health and the economy of a region.
To learn more about aquatic invasive species and the threat they pose to New York State, please visit the following link.
To view the new regulations please visit the Department of Environmental Conservations website, here.
Expansion of Organ Donation Registration
On Wednesday, May 25 the Governor singed S6952A Hannon/A9667A Gunther, allowing applications for health care coverage throughout the health benefit exchange to include registration for organ donation.
New York has the third highest need for organ donors in the country, yet the second lowest percentage of registered donors. Out of the 10,000 New Yorkers on the national transplant waiting list, over 1,700 have been waiting for life saving and improving transplants for more than five years. Each year, approximately 500 men, women and children in the state die because to the shortage of donors.
The New York State of Health Benefit Exchange is an ideal venue for offering individuals the option of documenting their decision to save a life and enroll as an organ and tissue donor, as they are already considering healthcare options and choices. By allowing New Yorkers to enroll in the registry through the New York State of Health, New York State can increase enrollment on the registry and make significant progress toward saving lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
NYS DEC Secures Agreement on Water Contamination in Rensselaer County
The DEC agreement holds Saint Gobain & Honeywell responsible for PFOA contamination in the Hoosick Falls area. The agreement orders companies to investigate contamination, pay for village water system and reimburse the state for costs incurred.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that the state has executed two Consent Orders; McCaffrey Street Order (PDF) (2.44 MB) and River Road Order (PDF) (2.17 MB) that will hold Saint Gobain and Honeywell responsible for the PFOA contamination in the Hoosick Falls area. Under the Consent Orders the State will require the companies to:
In addition, the State will rehabilitate Well 3 on the municipal water system to improve effectiveness of the Village's carbon treatment system. The State is also transferring payment to the Village for rebates to residents for past water bills for water that was determined to be unsafe for use.
- Investigate the source and determine the full scope and extent of contamination at four Honeywell and two St. Gobain plants;
- Investigate feasibility of an alternate water supply which may include a new well field, a surface water supply source, or an interconnection with an existing municipal water supply system, among others;
- Fund the installation and maintenance of temporary and full capacity filtration systems for the Village municipal water supply;
- Reimburse State for costs incurred for response and investigation into the contamination, and well sampling; and
- Continue to pay for bottled water for Village and Town residents until successful installation of the full capacity filtration system.
"The State is taking aggressive action to hold all parties accountable for the costs associated with the full remediation of the contamination in the Hoosick Falls area," DEC Acting Commissioner Seggos said. "These orders send a strong message to industries operating in New York that they have an ethical and legal obligation to protect public health, safety and the environment. We will continue to ensure all communities across the state have access to clean, drinkable water."