Category Archives: View from the Assembly

View from the Assembly, Will Barclay

According to the State Health Department, breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in New York state.

Each year in New York, more than 14,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and almost 2,700 women die from the disease. It is estimated that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her life.

There has been a lot of awareness centered on educating women who are busy taking care of families, managing careers and households, to take time out for regular check ups for early detection. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons indicate awareness and local fundraisers and walks have been held–all in honor of loved ones who succumbed to breast cancer and help prevent deaths to cancer.

These are all positive steps toward raising awareness and decreasing cancer deaths. Early detection saves lives. The cause of breast cancer is still not well understood. Scientists agree there are factors that increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer, such as personal history, age, family history, hormonal factors, not breastfeeding and personal behavior among others.

Another risk may be environmental and scientists are still studying environmental risks.

This year,the state Legislature passed a bill that will enable state funding to support breast cancer mapping. I voted for this in the Assembly.

State funds can now be used to investigate geographic variations in breast cancer incidents. The state has a Breast Cancer Research and Education Fund, which is used to conduct research, seek causes of breast cancer and screen and treat breast cancer. The latest law, A1935A, signed by the governor, will enable those funds also to be utilized for breast cancer mapping as well.

Dense Breast Tissue
Last year, I was pleased to support a bill in the Assembly that is helping to improve breast cancer detection and prevent late-stage diagnoses.  This was signed into law last summer.

It concerns “dense breast tissue.” Those performing mammograms are required to inform patients if they have dense breast tissue, to explain what this means, and to encourage the patient to check with their doctor for additional screenings.

Studies show that cancer is more likely to occur in women who have dense breast tissue. Mammograms often miss early signs when dense breast tissue is a factor. One study shows 71 percent of all breast cancer occurs in women with dense breast tissue.

With this law, if a patient has dense breast tissue, the physician can require additional testing with sonograms and other diagnosing methods. Technology and research has advanced to develop better tools to detect cancer. Our laws should reflect these advancements. I was happy to support this legislation in the Assembly.

A similar law passed in Connecticut in 2009 and reports there indicate that, with a follow-up ultrasound, nearly double the amount of cancers were found after further screening.

Free cancer screenings are still available. In Oswego County, residents without health insurance may call 592-0830. In Onondaga County, residents may call 435-3653. In Jefferson County, residents may call (877) 449-6626.

Those who have been recently diagnosed and need emotional support may call the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline at (800) 877-8077. Treatment options and information about referrals is also available.

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, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, by email atbarclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.  You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

Barclay discusses state referenda to be voted on Nov. 5

When voters go to the polls Nov. 5, they will be asked whether to support a number of amendments to the State Constitution.

Recently, I talked about the casino referendum and the implications its passage will have on New York.

This week, I want to let readers know about five other referendums that will appear on the ballot.

All of these passed the State Legislature in order to be put in front of the public for a vote. Some matters I supported in the Legislature, while others I did not.

Civil Service Credits for Disabled Veterans

Our State Constitution allows veterans to receive additional credits on a civil service exam.

This is a one-time credit, according to our constitution. This amendment would enable veterans to receive additional credits if they become disabled.

For example, if a veteran was employed as a police officer, decided to return to military service in Afghanistan, and became disabled as a result of his or her service, the employee would be eligible to receive an additional credit as a disabled vet. I supported this in the Legislature and plan to do so at the polls.

Land Exchanges

Title disputes have a chance to be put to rest if the public supports the amendment to resolve claims between the state and private parties that own land in Hamilton County.

This constitutional amendment would allow the Legislature to settle 100-year-old disputes between the state and private parties over land in a state forest reserve. Owners of land in the Forest Preserve would receive clear title to the lands where they live and pay property taxes if this passes. I supported this in the Legislature as well.

Another land exchange amendment would enable NYCO Minerals, Inc., a private company, to continue its mining operations in Essex County. The company currently mines wollastonite, a rare white mineral used in ceramics, paints, plastics and other building products.

The Lewis Mine, which NYCO Minerals, Inc. uses, produces 60,000 tons of wollastoniate annually — 8 percent of the annual worldwide production.

The mine is approaching the end of its life cycle and its closure would mean the loss of nearly 100 full-time workers as well as tax revenue for the local economy.

Debt Limit Exclusion/Sewage Facilities

This amendment would enable municipalities to extend their debt limit for sewage treatment and related facilities until Jan. 1, 2024. I supported this in the Legislature.

Increasing Age Judges Can Serve

Currently, state Supreme Court judges must retire at 76. This amendment would increase the mandatory retirement age to 80. It would also increase the retirement age for judges of the Court of Appeals from 70 to 80. Also, it would prohibit the appointment of any person over the age of 70 to the Court of Appeals. I voted against this bill in the Legislature and plan to do so at the polls.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, New York, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

Assemblyman Will Barclay: Cell phone fees high in NY

Recently, the Tax Foundation released a map showing the combined local, state, and federal cell phone rates.

The map showed, not surprisingly, that New York residents pay the third highest cell phone tax rate in the country.  Our state and local cell phone tax is 17.85 percent.  When those taxes are combined with the federal tax rate, New Yorker’s cell tax rate is 23.67 percent.

Most cell phone customers get a breakdown of costs.  Service providers often line-item out these taxes on your bill.  In New York, cell phone users are charged $1.20 every month.  This surcharge is known as the “New York Public Safety Commission Surcharge.”

In addition to this state surcharge, many of state’s 62 counties charge an additional 30 cents a month.  (Fourteen counties, Bronx, Delaware, Hamilton, Jefferson, Kings, Lewis, New York, Niagara, Oneida, Oswego, Queens, Richmond, Schoharie and St. Lawrence counties, do not charge the additional $.30.) Some of this $1.20 surcharge is earmarked for sensible emergency spending through the Public Service Commission while other dollars are placed, unfortunately, in the state’s general fund.

Here is a cost breakdown with some history.  In 1991, the state began charging the New York Public Safety Commission Surcharge, which was set at 70 cents a month.  This 70 cents was used to establish the federally-mandated Emergency 911 Centers with the state Public Service Commission.  These centers save lives.  This was a sensible way to raise revenue to enable our state to implement new technology and connect emergency services so that New York residents would be able to call 911. These call centers dispatch local units and police, ambulance or fire personnel to respond to emergencies.

However, as New York has faced several budgetary challenges since 1991, that surcharge has been increased and not all of it goes to the E911 or emergency responders.  As mentioned, the state surcharge is now $1.20.  Out of that $1.20 collected, 50 cents gets placed in the state’s general fund.  That means that New York collected $84 million from cell phone users to put into the general fund.  This does not include the 4 percent sales tax. Sales tax paid on an $80 monthly “smart phone” bill is $1.80 or $21.60 a year. New York also imposes gross receipt taxes on wireless companies. That is passed down to the consumer as well.

As can been seen, when government (especially in NYS) gets a tax stream, it is never temporary and inevitably over the years it increases.  For illustration, one simply has to look at the tolls on the New York thruway.  The number of cell phone users has grown significantly.  In 1997, there were 48.7 million cell phones in the United States.  In 2012, there were 321.7 million nationwide, according to the Tax Foundation.

Because of additional users, revenues from these taxes continues to increase.  For government, this revenue is addicting.  While establishing a dedicated funding source for projects very often makes sense, too often these taxes are diverted to the general fund and the taxes never seem to go away even after the original project for which the tax was initially established is completed. Our state should use taxes for their dedicated purpose. If that purpose no longer exists, it should give the public back its money.

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, 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.

 

Views from the Assembly: State working to eliminate suicide

 By Assemblyman Will Barclay

According to the most recent statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, death by suicide surpassed death by motor vehicle crashes in 2010.

Suicide rates for adults, ages 35-64, increased 28 percent since 1999. A report issued by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that suicidal behaviors led to 1.1 million suicide attempts, many of which required hospitalizations or medical attention.

In 2010, there were 38,364 suicides in the U.S — an average of 105 each day.

The good news is New York state has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country. However, New York still had 1,514 reported suicides in 2010.

Rates in Upstate and rural areas are generally higher, statistics show.

Suicide is a concern to many. In September, local groups organized to raise awareness about its many effects and provide support to families. Out of the Darkness walks took place as part of Suicide Awareness Month which is in September.

These events help survivors cope with losing a loved one to suicide by letting them connect with others in a similar situation and remember their family and friends together. Several walks took place throughout the region.

There have been some changes at the state level to help lower suicide rates. I wanted use this column to let readers know about these efforts. Raising awareness and being proactive in treating the signs can save lives, and therefore, many efforts center around education.

In June, the governor signed a bill into law that requires the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs to maintain mental health, substance abuse, and physical disabilities portals on its website. This made phone numbers and resources easier to access online.

I was pleased to support this bill in the Assembly. Since the legislation was enacted, crisis information is displayed at the bottom of all web pages within the Division of Veterans’ Affairs website.

One in three Iraq veterans will face depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. Having access to peer outreach, as well as treatment options is easier now thanks to this legislation.

The state Office of Mental Health announced this month it has developed an iPhone app titled “Safety Plan.” It’s a free app designed to enable quick access if someone feels they are at risk.

It’s customizable as well, and reminds people to select different coping methods before they find themselves in a crisis. It gives users, for example, a reminder to go for a walk, or listen to music, or go to the gym, to help users change their mood. This can be accesses through the iTunes store.

Other measures I support in the Assembly include legislation that would improve awareness and education. One bill (A2497) would require suicide prevention as part of the health education curriculum in secondary education schools.

Another bill I support (A2496), would require colleges and universities to provide incoming and current students with information about depression and suicide prevention.

This literature also would list resources on campus students can go to for help. Many local colleges and universities do so already, but codifying this would ensure that less students fall through the cracks when young adults are making the adjustment to life away from home for the first time. These bills have not passed the Legislature.

The state Office of Mental Health funds the Suicide Prevention Center of New York. Their efforts center around education and training to reduce suicide attempts. They maintain a 24-hour hotline in partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-877-273-TALK.

The public may also contact the agency to be connected with the right services locally at (518) 402-9122 or visit http://www.preventsuicideny.org.

The state also offers many educational resources at http://omh.ny.gov/omhweb/suicide_prevention/resources/. Some readings address the aftermath of a suicide, or living with someone who attempted suicide.

In Oswego County, residents may also call the Oswego Hospital Behavioral Services Division’s 24-hour hotline at 343-8162 for mental health help.

You may also contact your doctor’s office for advice or help accessing local services.

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.

View from the Assembly: Basic STAR applicants must reapply

By Rep. Will Barclay

In this year’s state budget, changes were made to the STAR program that requires Basic STAR recipients to re-register.

It became clear that the state needed to make changes to the program after a comptroller’s audit found some property owners were abusing the system. By requiring people to reapply, the state can weed out any duplicate applications and stop people from trying to double dip.

STAR stands for School Tax Relief program. It was first enacted in 1999 by then-Gov. George Pataki.

Here is how it works: The first $30,000 of an owner-occupied residence is tax exempt for those who qualify. The state then reimburses school districts the equivalent of the property tax exemption. These funds are paid annually in the form of school aid through the state budget. This year’s budget provided $3.4 billion for the program.

STAR is a direct property tax savings for homeowners. It’s a great program and saves people anywhere between $300 and $800 per year, according to the New York State Tax and Finance website’s data.

To qualify, homeowners need to make less than $500,000 and live in the home. The reason the state is requiring homeowners to reapply is due  fraud that occurred within the system.

In some cases, people with two properties in two municipalities were receiving the STAR exemption twice. In order to prevent this type of fraud, the state is requiring applicants to re-register in order to cross reference all owner-occupied properties that qualify.

None of these changes applies to recipients of Enhanced STAR.  Enhanced STAR is essentially the STAR program for seniors.  It differs in that it provides approximately double the savings compared to Basic STAR.

Homeowners who are 65 and older and whose income does not exceed $81,900 are eligible for Enhanced STAR. Those who participate in Enhanced STAR do not need to reapply because the state uses a different application for Enhanced STAR and recipients under this program already verify their information with the state annually.

The fastest way for homeowners to re-register for Basic STAR is through the Tax Department’s website at tax.ny.gov.

All you need is the property owner(s) social security number(s), and the STAR code. If you don’t know your STAR code, there is a convenient “look up” page that will provide visitors with their unique STAR code.

Once completed, applicants can print their application, which contains a confirmation code, and file with their records.

Residents may also call the tax department at 518-457-2036 and an operator will assist callers.

The state is expected to send out a mailing with instructions as well. At this time, the state is not providing a paper option to re-register.

This is a one-time requirement and will not need to be repeated each year. Those who have further questions about the program, also may contact their local assessor.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other 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, N.Y. 13069, by email at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185. You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.