Weekly Wire July 12, 2016
Weekly Wire Week Ending July 7, 2016
NYSAC UpdateFall Seminar Registration Open
The 2016 NYSAC Fall Seminar will be held on September 19-21 in Niagara Falls at the Conference & Event Center of Niagara Falls. Hotel accommodations will be at the Sheraton at the Falls Hotel across the street from the Conference Center.
Early Bird registration rates are available until August 12th. For more information and to registration, click here.
A full slate of workshops, standing committee meetings, and presentations are being planned for the three day training program. Among the slate of workshop topics are the heroin epidemic, volunteer fire recruitment, 9-1-1 funding, new jail construction, safe drinking water, new apps for county communication, automobile fleet management, meeting new compliance demands, succession planning, and international economic development.
NYS Releases End of Session Report
On Monday, NYSAC released a tentative report on the county impact of the State's Legislative Session. The report includes a snapshot of the bills that passed both the Senate and Assembly that will have a direct or indirect impact on county government and other local governments.
From January 1, 2016 through June 17, 2016, the Legislature passed a total of 2,793 bills. The Senate passed 1,752 and the Assembly passed 1,041. Of these bills, 718 were approved by both houses, with 613 being approved in the last two weeks of the legislative session.
In general, the 2016 New York State Legislative Session provided some important wins for counties, beginning with the State Budget. A significant increase in state fiscal assistance to support local infrastructure needs was a key victory for counties. The advent of the property tax cap and a slow economic recovery in many parts of the state has made it difficult for most counties to maintain and improve local public infrastructure.
Counties also secured an important mandate relief victory at the close of the legislative session with the passage of a multi-year state takeover of county indigent defense costs. This bill has passed both houses but still needs to be delivered to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his approval and enactment into law.
Indigent Defense Reform Bill Getting Increased Support
Public support is growing for enacting legislation that will improve counsel for the poor and provide a multi-year state takeover of county indigent defense costs.
At the end of the State Legislative Session, the State Senate and Assembly unanimously adopted legislation sponsored by Senator John DeFrancisco and Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (S.8114/A.10706), which provides expanded and uniform indigent defense services and mandate relief for counties and local property taxpayers. The bill provides for the state to fully reimburse county costs for indigent defense services. The State fiscal takeover would be incremental as follows: 25% of county costs by 2017, 35% by 2018, 45% by 2019, 55% in 2020, 65% in 2021, 75% in 2022, and 100% thereafter. This bill also increases indigent defense services, such as first arraignment and case caps for indigent defense providers.
Counties support the legislation passed by the Assembly and Senate. The next step is for Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill into law, and create a more just New York State. As the Albany Times Union editorial board wrote on June 23, 2016, “It's not every day that an elected official gets a chance to end an injustice that has gone on nearly his entire lifetime. Mr. Cuomo should join the Legislature, and not delay justice one more year.”
Several other newspapers have voiced their support for enacting this bill into law. Visit www.nysac.org/indigentdefense to read more editorials and information on the measure.
Confronting Heroin in Our Counties
NYSAC has released a new report, A Primer on NY's Heroin Epidemic, which examines the challenges of addressing the heroin crisis in our counties.
Heroin and opioid use is a major health and safety crisis around the world. Heroin and opioid use is a problem across demographic, economic, and geographic limitations. It effects individuals of every age, race and gender. The connection between prescription drugs and heroin stems from the abuse of prescription opiate paint killers, and is directly related to heroin's growth and popularity with young people. In order to combat this growing epidemic, local leaders must improve prevention, increase access to treatment, expand recovery options, and expand resources to law enforcement.
View the NYSAC report: A Primer on NY's Heroin Epidemic
SNAP (Food Stamp) Eligibility Expansion Goes into Effect
Effective July 1, 2016, the State of New York expanded income eligibility thresholds for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits from 130 percent of the federal poverty level to 150 percent.
According to a press release from the Governor's Office, the expansion could make 750,000 more households in New York eligible for SNAP benefits at a potential cost of $688 million annually. The federal government covers the entire cost of the SNAP food assistance benefit, and counties and the federal government split the administrative costs of reviewing applications, determining eligibility and monitoring the compliance of beneficiaries (the state no longer provides direct fiscal assistance for the administrative costs of this program). The full impact of the administrative change will not be known for some time as the expanded program ramps up. Currently there are about 1.6 million households in New York State receiving SNAP benefits.
From NACo: Zika Prevention in County Parks
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has issued interim guidance for protecting outdoor workers from occupational exposure to Zika virus where it exists. Because the virus poses the greatest risk to pregnant women, the agency recommends that employers, if requested by an employee, consider reassigning anyone who is or may become pregnant, or who is male and has a sexual partner who is or may become pregnant, to indoor tasks to reduce their risk of mosquito bites.
The agency also suggests that employers provide insect repellents to outdoor workers and encourage their use.
Two county park officials— from Mecklenburg County, N.C. and Montgomery County, Md. — have detailed plans in place, should Zika-infected mosquitos be found in their communities.
In many jurisdictions, parks departments are the largest single landholder or manager. Their facilities often include natural and artificial bodies of water such as lakes, ponds and streams.
Jai Cole, a natural resource manager for Montgomery County (MD) parks said aerial spraying for mosquitos is not recommended because it can kill “beneficial” insects like honeybees. Plus, spraying “in some instances [only] results in about 10 percent kill” of the disease-carrying mosquitos.
Were one to occur, Jai Cole, natural resource manager for the county's parks, anticipates a barrage of inquiries from the public.
One county's Zika preparations
Montgomery County, Md.'s parks department has mounted an extensive informational campaign to address the possibility of a locally acquired Zika virus infection.
“In my experience, you can't fight hysteria with science,” she said. “You have to get the facts out first before the hysteria hits, or you're a bit dead in the water.”
The county has a task force with representatives from every county agency that could be affected by Zika, including health and human services, environmental protection, permitting services and the state's department of agriculture. Zika information is posted on the county's mosquito website, along with information about other mosquito issues.
Waiting in the wings, the county has created a “dark” website, not yet online, that can be activated immediately in the event of confirmed local Zika transmission. “We don't want to be fumbling around with responses or creating a site if it happens, so we want to be prepared.”
The county's Zika information can be found at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mosquito.
Apple Rolls Out iPhone Organ Donation Registration
On Tuesday, Apple announced that the version of its Health app set to be released with iOS 10 this fall will let users sign up for the National Donate Life Registry directly within the app.
The move is geared at alleviating a massive medical shortfall. Over 120 million Americans are registered as organ donors, but more than 120,000 people across the country are waiting for lifesaving transplants.
“By working with Apple to bring the National Donate Life Registry to the Health app on iPhone, we're making it easier for people to find out about organ, eye and tissue donation and quickly register,” said David Fleming, president and chief executive of Donate Life America, which operates the registry, in a press release. "This is a huge step forward that will ultimately help save lives."
Learn more about NYSAC's partnership with NY Alliance for Donation.