2017 Legislative Session: New Yorkers Deserve Better Than Than They’re Getting

The 2017 session was an exercise in dysfunction, where political agendas impeded the public’s work. From the bizarre rollouts of the State of the State and Executive Budget, to an inexcusably late budget, and finally a special session to finish work that wasn’t done on time, government efficiency and transparency took giant steps backwards.
If Albany was a private-sector company, it would have gone belly-up long ago. We wait until the last possible minute to act on measures, fail to address our most important issues, resist change at all costs, and operate almost entirely out of public view. New Yorkers deserve better than what they’re getting, and they should demand systemic reform.
As with every legislative session, there were positive measures that advanced that will result in tangible benefits to New Yorkers. This year we saw: 

  • ride-sharing made available statewide;
  • significant investments in clean water infrastructure;
  • workers compensation reforms that begin to chip away at onerous regulations;
  • expansion of health benefits to volunteer firefighters; and
  • the extension of Kendra’s Law, providing greater access to critical mental health services. 

But far too many opportunities were missed. The conviction of two legislative leaders still hasn’t moved the needle on anti-corruption reforms. Upcoming corruption trials of Gov. Cuomo’s top aides did not result in increased oversight of economic development programs. Embarrassing national rankings on taxes and business climate haven’t inspired meaningful policies to make New York more affordable.  
During this week’s “extraordinary session” legislators sat idly waiting for hours while the governor and majority leaders huddled behind closed doors and negotiated business that should have been completed weeks ago. In a microcosm of Albany’s misguided process and priorities, legislation to rename the Tappan Zee Bridge after Gov. Mario Cuomo was included in the final package of bills – one of the Legislature’s last orders of duty for 2017.
There is something inherently wrong when the governor has yet to provide a spending plan for the $4 billion construction of the new bridge, but he is allowed to advance emergency legislation to rename it after his father. It is the most glaring example of Albany’s personal politics being placed far ahead of the people’s priorities.

If there is a silver lining to the 2017 session, it’s that solutions are not far away. The major problems we face have been identified, and reasonable, practical answers have been proposed. What New York needs now is an engaged public that continues to demand change, and more representatives with the courage to make it a reality.
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, e-mail me at kolbb@nyassembly.gov, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

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