County Perspective for November 28, 2018
Legislative Conference, Election Update, Policy Positions, and more.Conference Registration is Open!
NYSAC's 2019 Legislative Conference is New York's premiere training event for county officials, with over 25 county specific workshops that address the pressing educational needs of county officials, emerging policy concerns, and updates on the issues impacting counties.
The conference workshops fit into a variety of tracks, including:
- Pre-K/Early Intervention
- Public Safety
- Energy/Environment & Economic Development
- County Administrators
- County Board Chairs and County Executives
- Newly Elected Officials
Register today to network with hundreds of your county colleagues from across New York State for three days of insightful keynote sessions, diverse workshops, advanced essential training programs, and dynamic networking events.
Details and registration available now at www.nysac.org/legsilativeconference.
NYS Counties, Coroners Recognized for Opioid PSA
NYSAC was honored earlier this month at the 2018 Capital Region MARCOM Awards competition. This annual event recognizes excellence in marketing and communications through outstanding work in several categories.
The See the Signs, Save a Life campaign an award in the video category. After years of seeing opioid abuse devastate families and their communities, NYSAC and the New York State County Coroners and Medical Examiners Association came together in the spring of 2018 with a common goal: educating the public about the signs of opioid abuse, and getting help to those who need it before it's too late. The associations sought to do this through a powerful video public service advertisement that didn't shy away from the reality of the situation: opioid addiction leads to death.
View the video and related resources at www.nysac.org/opioids. We encourage county leaders to share this video far and wide.
Read the full press release here.
Fall 2018 NYSAC News Magazine: Innovative Counties
The latest issue of NYSAC News is arriving in mailboxes this week, and focuses on ways counties are finding innovative approaches to support their communities and provide efficient government services.
Statewide elections were held on November 6th across New York State. The balance of power in Albany, particularly the State Senate has shifted control from the Republican majority under the leadership of Sen. John Flanagan to the Democrats under the leadership of Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Senator Stewart-Cousins is a former Westchester County Legislator and will become the leader of the Senate on January 1st, with a 39-seat majority (potentially 40 depending on Senator Simcha Felder). The Republicans will have 24/25 seats depending on which party Senator Felder caucuses with.
27% (17 members) of the NYS Senate have previously served in county government (either elected or staff positions).
There are 16 new members, representing 24% of the total NYS Senate.
In the Assembly, the Democrats remain in control, Speaker Heastie will be leading a conference of 106 Democrats and 1 Independent whom caucuses with the Democrats. The Republican minority will have 43 seats.
36 members of the NYS Assembly have previously served in county government (either elected or staff positions).
There are 21 new members of the NYS Assembly this year.
On the national level, New York's House of Representative delegation will be comprised of 21 Democrats out of 27 seats. 11% of the NY congressional delegation are new members, four of which have served in some capacity in county government. Overall, Congress will be split with Democrats controlling the House of Representatives and the Republicans controlling the Senate.
This represents a significant shift in the balance of power in Albany, and thus the legislative priorities introduced by both state houses. NYSAC will continue to monitor and engage our state elected leaders to advance our 2019 Legislative Platform and policy agenda.
2018 Newly Elected County Officials
There were 53 newly elected county officials that will become members of NYSAC in January of 2019. This was an off-year election at the county level, so there were not many county board members up for election. Highlights of the election results are included below.
County Executives (1 elected; 1 appointed)
Chemung County, Chris Moss
Onondaga County, Ryan McMahon (appointed to replace Joannie Mahoney)
County Legislators (27 in 10 counties)
St. Lawrence 6
Representatives and Supervisors (2 in 2 counties)
District Attorneys (1)
Counties Seek State Partnership on Rising Coroner and Medical Examiner Costs
By the end of 2018, counties across the state expect to have spent over $121 million on coroner and medical examiner services. This is an increase of 7.7% over 2017.
Prior to 2011, county coroners and medical examiners were reimbursed up to 36% with state aid from Article 6 funding to local health departments. In 2011, the State Budget shifted reimbursement for medical examiners from the NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) to the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the funding was no longer available.
"This is a quintessential state mandate. Counties across the state are responsible for administering a coroner or medical examiner program. These costs used to be eligible for partial state reimbursement, but that funding has since gone away, leaving counties to make up the difference," said Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Counties (NYSAC).
Autopsy services are triggered when a death is unattended, the result of a car accident, suspected overdose, or suicide. While the state and counties continue to battle the opioid epidemic, costs such as autopsy and toxicology services as well as cold body storage have been on the rise. A shortage of service providers and forensic pathologists has exacerbated the problem.
Based on these factors, NYSAC is urging the Governor and state leaders to include a 50% state funding match for autopsy services as part of the 2019-2020 state budget. While autopsy costs are a fraction of the net total spent by counties on coroner and medical examiner services, state assistance will go a long way toward easing this fiscal burden on counties.
"The opioid epidemic continues to plague our communities. Every level of government needs to work together on this crisis, on all fronts - from first responders to last responders," said Acquario.
NYS Volunteer Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program
At the end of October, NYSAC helped officially launch the NYS Volunteer Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program. The program is in response to enacted 2017 legislation that provides volunteer firefighters supplemental benefits following a cancer diagnosis.
The program used Hartford Insurance and was created by the Fire Service Associations and is sponsored by NYSAC, NYCOM, AOT, PERMA, and the Comp Alliance. It directly follows the requirements of the new law, while keeping the costs low for taxpayers. It offers three types of benefit coverage for volunteer firefighters:
- A lump sum benefit that would be paid based on diagnosis,
- A disability benefit that would pay in the event that the firefighter was unable to serve, and
- A life benefit in the event that the firefighter passes away.
Eligible firefighters include those who have:
1) five or more years of service in the protection of life and property from;
2) successfully passed a physical examination prior service; and
3) submitted proof of five years of interior firefighting service.
This definition does not include any firefighter who is provided paid firefighter benefits under the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Enhanced Cancer Disability Benefits Act.
Over the past several months NYSAC has been working with other statewide municipal associations (the Association of Towns and the Conference of Mayors) and fire service associations (FASNY, AFDSNY, and the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs) to develop and sponsor the program.
More information can be found at www.thehartford.com/resources/gb/ny-firefighters.
Court of Appeals Defines When a Town or a Village Has the Duty to Control and Maintain a Bridge
On November 20, 2018 the State of New York Court of Appeals defined when a village, and not a town, assumes the duty to control, supervise, and maintain a bridge. This holding states the only time a village assumes this bridge duty is when any of the following is present:
- If a village had “control and supervision” of the bridge prior to 1897 (Note: control here is grandfathered in due to State legislation enacted that same year); or
- If the village passes a resolution, subject to permissive referendum, declaring such intent; or
- When a village and town enter into an agreement which is also subject to permissive referendum.
“[i]f the board of trustees of a village has the supervision and control of a bridge therein, it shall continue to exercise such control under this chapter. In any other case, every public bridge within a village shall be under the control of the … town in which the bridge is wholly or partly situated, … and the expense of constructing and repairing such bridge and the approaches thereto is a town charge, unless the village assumes the whole or part of such expense” (emphasis added).
In the present case, the Town of Aurora sought a judgment to declare the Village of East Aurora is solely responsible for supervision, control and care of the Brooklea Drive Bridge. The argument the Town made, in part, was control established and maintained because in 1971 the Village financed and constructed the bridge and the Village had “uninterrupted exclusive supervision and control…and failure to properly relinquish control to the Town…”
Ultimately, the Court determined that even with the fact that the Village financed and constructed the bridge, they did not assume the duty to control and maintain the bridge because none of the three factors (listed above) to establish this duty were present in this case.
To read this case in its entirety visit: https://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2018/Nov18/116opn18-Decision.pdf