High Hopes For 2015

It’s hard to believe 2014 has come and gone. But with January upon us, it is time to close the book on the past year and look forward to 2015. The beginning of a new year brings with it optimism for what I hope is an active, productive and effective legislative session. Lawmakers will once again convene in Albany next week, signaling the start of session and new opportunities to develop and implement measures that improve New York State.
 
A NEW YEAR BRINGS NEW OPPORTUNITIES
 
On Tuesday, the Assembly Minority will formally welcome four new members. As Leader of the Conference, few events are more personally enjoyable than seeing new representatives take the oath of office and commit to working on behalf of their constituents. The swearing-in ceremony is a celebration of public service and a renewed dedication to making New York a better place for the constituents we represent.     
 
The Governor will outline new goals in his State of the State Address next week. I sincerely hope high priorities are placed upon important policies that have not yet materialized in New York State. There is no shortage of issues that demand our immediate attention.
 
HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
 
During the 2015 session there are a number of critical areas that need to be addressed. I hope that in the 2015 legislative session we will:
 
Put A Greater Focus On The Upstate Economy – The Governor’s recent ban on fracking hurt the Southern Tier and necessitates that Upstate New York is provided meaningful programs to generate jobs, grow businesses and get a struggling economy back on track. Casinos are not the answer, and New York’s “Tax, Fine, Harass” mentality has driven businesses, jobs and families out of the state. It’s time for initiatives that invest in emerging businesses, lower costs and regulations on companies, and provide greater training opportunities to a 21st century workforce.
 
Get Our Infrastructure House in Order – The state Thruway Authority just adopted a budget with a $25 million shortfall. The Administration has yet to disclose a spending plan for the $4 billion Tappan Zee Bridge project. These are unacceptable practices that will almost certainly lead to toll hikes and more money coming out of our pockets. With New York’s aging infrastructure, we need greater transparency and accountability from the Thruway Authority and on all major capital projects. The state has a $5 billion windfall generated by legal settlements with banks – money that should be directed to improving our deteriorating roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructure needs.
 
Find A Cure for Common Core – The state’s education system has been in disarray since the disastrous implementation of Common Core testing standards. With the departure of the State Education Commissioner, and the Governor’s recent veto of his own teacher-evaluation bill, more confusion exists than ever. My colleagues and I have proposed sweeping education reforms, and are the only conference to call for a delay to Common Core tests so the program can be fixed.
 
Finally Enact Women’s Equality Reforms – Assembly Democrats played politics with critical women’s equality legislation, and as a result New York still waits for new laws that would curtail workplace discrimination, enable pay equity, strengthen human trafficking laws, protect women from discrimination and a host of other reforms. By not introducing individual bills on women’s equality, like was done in the Senate, Assembly Majority members hijacked meaningful reform. Let’s hope in 2015 they’ve learned from their mistake.
                                                                                                             
Enact Ethics Reform – The endless string of arrests, investigations and allegations of corruption in Albany has not resulted in meaningful ethics reform. I am proud that the Assembly Minority has led the charge and offered the most stringent proposals to curtail the abuse of public office that has eroded trust in government. Had the Public Officers Accountability Act passed in 2013, we would have new laws and a new culture in Albany. But inaction by Assembly Democrats and the Governor’s abbreviated Moreland Commission has taken ethics reform in the wrong direction. The public deserves better, and it’s our responsibility to provide them with that in the new year.
 
What do you think?  I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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