Category Archives: View from the Assembly

View from the Assembly: Stronger penalties needed for human trafficking

By State Assemblyman Will Barclay

There are a number of measures I sponsor that would expand women’s rights and protections, as well as serve to better protect children. 

I wanted to highlight a few this week that would help the punishment fit the crime and also, make it easier for women and children to access services when in need.

Increase penalties for human trafficking. Human trafficking exploits vulnerable individuals. Victims of sex and labor trafficking are made to act against their will and, in many cases, are forced or coerced into committing crimes.  Continue reading

View from the Assembly: Honoring Our Veterans

By state Assemblyman Will Barclay 

Memorial Day is a time for family picnics and parades.

More importantly however, it’s also a time we honor our veterans and pay homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country. As a state, we can always do more for those who have fought for our freedoms.  To that end, I sponsor and support a number of bills that will improve the lives of our  veterans. Continue reading

View from the Assembly

By state Assemblyman Will Barclay

I receive a lot of questions about how schools are funded and how that money is spent. 

There is good reason for these questions because a lot of money is involved.  State aid to schools comprises $21.8 billion — roughly 24 percent — of our $92.3 billion state operating budget. 

In addition, it is estimated local school taxes raised about $20.3 billion in 2013. The New York state lottery also funds education and provided $3.04 billion in 2012, according to the latest data available. 

This amount represents all of the proceeds received by the lottery after paying prizes and administrative costs. Continue reading

View from the State Assembly

By state Assemblyman Will Barclay

New York is home to more than 900,000 veterans, and some estimates indicate that as many as 72 percent have seen combat.

Additionally, New York is home to about 30,000 active duty military personnel, as well as 30,000 National Guard and Reservists.

Many returning vets choose to start up their own small businesses upon return. In fact, New York has the fourth highest number of veteran-owned small businesses in the country.

The state Legislature recently passed the “Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act” and it was signed by the governor. The goal is to increase participation of service-disabled veteran-owned business and award up to 6 percent of all state contracts to such businesses.

I was pleased to vote in support, and in fact, I co-sponsor a similar measure called NY Jobs for Heroes. I was pleased many aspects of that measure were integrated into the governor’s program bill and signed into law.

This law contains one of the more meaningful reforms New York has made to help veterans in recent years.

The new state law is similar to legislation passed in more than 40 other states. It also mirrors federal legislation that includes a goal to award up to 3% of federal contracts to veteran-owned businesses.

Every year, the state procures billions of dollars in goods and services which benefit New Yorkers. Each state agency does its own contracting.

The new law creates a division of service-disabled veterans’ business development within the Office of General Services. In order to qualify, the businesses will have to go through a certification process and the division will create and maintain a directory of qualified service-disabled veteran-owned businesses and assist state agencies in promoting the use of these businesses.

I was pleased this measure passed. This dovetails on some of the improvements that were signed into law last year, including a tax credit for employers who hire veterans.

Beginning in 2015, those who hire a veteran who has been discharged on or after Sept. 11, 2001 will receive a tax credit equal to 10 percent of each veteran’s salary or $5,000, whichever is less.

The credit increases to 15 percent for the employer if the veteran is disabled. A Veteran’s Employment Portal was added recently as well. This offers a one-stop career priority service to veterans and their eligible spouses, which can be accessed at http://www.veterans.ny.gov/.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

View from the Assembly

By state Assemblyman Will Barclay

New York state has the unfortunate distinction of being a high cost-of-living state, and when it comes to auto insurance, New York lives up to its reputation.

Our auto insurance rates are among the highest in the nation. Although there are several reasons for our high rates, fraud plays a large part.

According to the state Department of Financial Services, the agency that oversees insurance in our state, about 36 percent of all auto insurance claims contain some element of fraud, resulting in higher e premiums for everyone.

New York state requires motorists carry a minimum of auto insurance that covers bodily injury and property damage and provides for no-fault coverage.

Because this insurance is mandatory, I believe the state has a special interest in ensuring state motorists’ rates accurately reflect an insurance company’s underlying costs.

When fraud is added into the formula however, it perverts this calculation and creates higher insurance costs for all motorists.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, no-fault fraud and abuse in New York state cost consumers and insurers about $229 million in 2009. The Institute further reports that when this extra cost of fraud is calculated on a per claim basis, it adds $1,644 per claim, or 22.4 percent of the cost.

According to the state Department of Financial Services, no-fault insurance fraud takes many forms. It occurs when (i) a driver and a body shop worker agree to inflate the auto damage claim and share the “profit,” (ii) a doctor bills an insurer for services that were not provided, or (iii) a driver stages a fake accident, and unscrupulous doctors and lawyers help “handle” the medical claims and lawsuits.

To combat this fraud and, hopefully as a result, reduce auto insurance premiums for policyholders, I have introduced the New York Automobile Insurance Fraud and Premium Reduction Act.

This legislation provides a comprehensive solution to no-fault auto fraud by addressing the issue from all sides. While there are many facets of this legislation, four of the legislation’s major provisions are as follows.

First, in effort to combat fictitious or unnecessary medical treatment usually emanating from a staged accident, my legislation would direct the establishment of medical guidelines to be employed in the evaluation and treatment of injuries sustained in any auto accident. It also requires pre-certification for certain treatments and equipment to curb fraudulent over-utilization of medical treatments.

Second, the legislation creates a monetary incentive of between 15 percent and 25 percent of an amount recovered (up to $25,000) for persons who report suspected insurance fraud to law enforcement authorities.

Third, to make people think twice before committing no-fault fraud, my legislation expands the definition of insurance fraud and increases penalties for insurance fraud violations.

Finally, to ensure that whatever reduced costs insurers receive as a result of the enactment of this legislation are passed on to the policyholders, my legislation requires the Superintendent of Insurance to recommend an appropriate one-time no-fault premium reduction for every insurer, by rating territory, equivalent to the insurers’ cost savings. This recommendation would be binding on insurers unless the insurer can show that such a reduction would result in an underwriting loss.

I recently participated in an Assembly Insurance Committee hearing in Albany regarding auto insurance in New York. Many who testified, including those from the insurance industry and from consumer groups, complained about the high costs of auto insurance.

It is my hope they will get on board with my legislation and together we can work to get it passed so New Yorkers can at last begin to see a decrease in their auto insurance premiums.

If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

View from the Assembly

By state Assemblyman Will Barclay

Library use has increased across the state.

According to some of New York State Library’s latest statistics, visits to public libraries increased by seven million from 113 million to 120 million from 2007 to 2009.

The number of items borrowed — books, ebooks, movies, magazines and more — has increased by more than 11 percent.

National Library Week is celebrated in April. This year’s theme is “Lives Change @ Your Library.”

The Assembly commemorated the week (April 13-19) with a resolution, which I was happy to sponsor. I’m an advocate for libraries and believe their presence is an important component to any community.

This year’s enacted state budget provided $86.6 million for libraries across the state. Thankfully, we were able to prevent cuts to libraries as the governor had proposed and instead, the Legislature slightly increased funding from last year by $1 million.

Libraries are an important part of both urban and rural communities and I was pleased funding was increased even if by a relatively small amount.

Historically, libraries have always been important to literacy, but they are also the leading digital literacy educators in New York and are the number one point of Internet access for those who do not have Internet access at home.

To meet the demand of New Yorkers seeking Internet access, including job seekers, libraries have responded by increasing the number of publicly-available Internet-connected computers by more than 28 percent, to more than 17,000 computers.

There are a number of resources available through libraries. I wanted to highlight one in particular that is provided by New York State Library called NOVELny.

It’s an electronic resource access project that enables residents across New York State to have online access to the full text of journals, newspapers and other references for free. It’s funded in part from federal dollars to libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) of 2013.

Users can access databases that maintain a warehouse of business highlights and journals, encyclopedias, elementary level periodicals, general periodicals, health references, and newspaper articles.

For example, a subject search in the eLibrary Elementary, one of the many searchable databases accessible through NOVELny, retrieves child-safe articles published in encyclopedias or magazines that are age appropriate.

Articles can be read in their entirety by the user. Users may also opt to have the article read aloud with a computer-enabled reader called ReadSpeaker.

Users can create and save a list of articles they like or may want to reference for research as well. Genealogy may also be researched through NOVELny.

To find out more, visit http://novelnewyork.org/databases.php.

According to the New York State Library, NOVELny provides a minimum of $35 in resources for every $1 of LSTA funding through statewide purchase of electronic information, now freely available. It’s a vast database but even more will be added beginning in July.

We need to continue to invest in our libraries, especially considering how much library use has increased in recent years.

I sponsor legislation that would amend the education law and enable libraries to utilize state aid to install broadband services. Given recent statistics of how much Internet use has increased at libraries, this is important, and especially important to Upstate and rural communities.

Currently, under the Public Library Construction Grant Program, $14 million is appropriated annually for construction, acquisition, renovation or rehabilitation of public libraries.

Excluded from this grant is aid for the purpose of installing broadband services. My bill would allow for libraries to access these funds for broadband installation.

I will continue to advocate for this legislation, A7680, moving forward.

If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

View from the Assembly

By state Assemblyman Will Barclay

The 2014-15 New York state budget passed again on time for the fourth year in a row and we kept state operating spending at under 2 percent growth.

The $137.9 billion spending plan contains some good news for New Yorkers, but did fall short on other aspects.

The budget restores $602 million of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) for school districts. I was glad to see this in the final budget bill, as this allocation directly benefits our local schools.

A $2.7 billion funding cut to schools took place in 2011 when our state spending continued to be higher than  revenues following the recession. Since then, the funding has gradually increased but this year, we made a big step towards getting more funds to schools and increased school aid by $1.12 billion.

In addition, I was pleased libraries saw an increase of $1 million more than last year and the  proposed funding cut that was in the Executive’s budget was rejected. Instead, libraries are funded at $86.6 million.

This budget enacted tax cuts for manufacturers. We also raised the estate tax exemption amount from $1 million to be $5.25 million by 2017; by 2019, New York will be in line with the federal level.

Though I would have liked to have seen these changes be effective immediately, I’m glad we’re making these significant policy changes with this budget and will eventually subject fewer people to the estate tax.

Estate tax cuts are especially significant for farmers, as this reduction makes inheriting property easier.

Manufacturing tax cuts will make our state more competitive when attracting and keeping business in our region as businesses consider taxes as part of their overall cost of doing business; if these are lower, it makes it New York more attractive.

We also were  able to phase out 18-A, the energy assessment utilities pay, which is passed down to all consumers. Though this wasn’t eradicated entirely this year, it is on schedule to be in 2017.

Localities in Central and Northern New York will directly benefit from a $40 million winter recovery fund. This is a new allocation created in this budget to help localities cover expenses related to pothole repair. This is on top of a $75 million increase we saw last year to (Consolidated Highway Improvement Program) CHIPs.

This budget provides $27 million for local agricultural assistance programs. This too was welcome news, as the Governor’s proposed budget contained cuts to many agricultural programs.

Through negotiations, we were  able to not only restore that funding but also to increase it from  $21 million that was allocated year. Funding for apple growers, maple producers, berry growers and dairy groups was restored.

Changes to Common Core were also codified in the budget. While we were not able to pass a moratorium on Common Core as I and many had hoped, we were able to put into law many of the changes proposed by the Regents and prohibit standardized testing for grades K-2.

The legislature also passed student data protection measures and required the Commissioner of Education to put in place standards and regulations that would limit time devoted to state testing in the classroom.

Finally, this budget enacts much-needed reforms to public assistance. I have pressed for these sensible measures for years and this budget finally puts limitations on how electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards are used.

Recipients will no longer be allowed to use them at liquor stores, casinos or adult-entertainment establishments. Penalties were instituted for such businesses who accept the cards.

Unfortunately, however, no penalties were instituted for recipients.

The spending plan passed in 10 separate budget bills. I voted “yes” on 8 out of the 10 bills, but could not support any form of publicly-financed campaigns or commitment to funding the Affordable Care Act, which was supposed to be self-sustainable.

Although the budget did not contain the governor’s outrageous proposal to publicly finance all state races, it did contain a compromise: This year, the State Comptroller’s race will involve public dollars.

I oppose publicly-financed campaigns in any form. I fear too that this concession will pave the way for others.

I also voted against an allocation of $24 million for the Affordable Care Act. This was supposed to be self-sustainable.

Unfortunately, the budget passed with this measure included and now New Yorkers will be paying for the botched federal mandate.

The budget also fails to provide mandate relief. At the same time that the state required localities to stick to a 2 percent tax cap, which was a good measure, we have not given them the tools to do so by cutting state mandates such as Medicaid, costs associated with early intervention, public assistance, and indigent defense.

If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or call 598-5185.

View from the Assembly

By Assemblyman Will Barclay

This year marks the 50th anniversary  of the first Surgeon General’s report on Smoking and Health.

That report, issued in 1964, was the first federal government report linking smoking to ill health, including lung cancer and heart disease.

The news was a wake-up call to America.

Following the landmark report, government began its tobacco control efforts. Since 1964,  the smoking rate in the nation has been reduced by 58 percent. Fifty years ago, about 42 percent of adults smoked. Today’s rate is 18 percent.

The lower smoking rate has saved numerous lives. According to a report issued by the Journal of the American Medical Association last month, researchers estimate 8 million lives have been saved since 1964 when the public became more aware of the dangers of smoking.

Our state rate — 17 percent — is still a high rate when you consider the known health costs associated with smoking. Unfortunately,  our regional smoking rate is estimated to be even higher.

A state report indicates Oswego County’s smoking rate is 27.4 percent, based on data from the state Health Department from 2010.

Local health officials more recently estimate the rate to be as high as 32 percent. In Jefferson County, the smoking rate is 23.7 percent and in Onondaga County, the smoking rate is 20 percent.

I recently met with local health officials to discuss some of the health care challenges unique to our region. Presentations on tobacco use, among other health issues, were given at the local Rural Health Network’s meeting.

Data presented there showed as many as 26 percent of pregnant women smoked during their pregnancy in Oswego County in 2011. Health officials also reported Oswego County has a high death rate from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory diseases.

Research shows obesity and smoking contribute to all of the above.

Local data also indicates smoking rates of pregnant women on Medicaid was as high as 42 percent compared to 8 percent of pregnant women with private insurance. While the numbers are alarming, it’s beneficial to have this data so we can work to reduce these rates, specifically in Oswego County.

The good news, health officials say, is the physician to population ratio will hopefully help our region reduce these rates and prevent premature death and illness.

At the state level, I’m pushing for reforms that would make those on cash assistance unable to purchase cigarettes using EBT cards. In fact, the state is in jeopardy of losing federal dollars if it does not reform its policies as well, so I’m hopeful this will change soon.

Though incidents of tobacco use may be higher regionally, tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death in New York, and lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in the state.

Other health issues such as high blood pressure, stroke and other ailments are also caused by smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that those who smoke are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease and two to four times more likely to have a stroke. Men and women who smoke are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

Tobacco use is also responsible for diminished health, increased absenteeism from work and increased health care costs. The CDC also reports that tobacco use costs at least $133 billion in direct medical care of adults and more than $156 billion lost in productivity.

Secondhand smoke is also estimated to cost the country $5.6 billion in lost productivity each year, according to the CDC. Last year the state Assembly unanimously passed a bill that banned smoking at on the grounds of 100 hospitals. I was pleased to support this in the Assembly.

To access cessation resources, visit http://www.nysmokefree.com/ or call NY Quits at 1-866-NY-QUITS.

If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St.,Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling  598-5185.