Every year recently, State Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano spend a couple of hours with Yates County Legislators to banter about statewide issues that have local impact. The conversations tend to follow a familiar pattern, with the state lawmakers briefing local officials on their perspectives, and local officials sharing their own concerns.
In recent years, O’Mara could rely on the Republican party majority in the Senate to give the county officials some hope, but the shift in power to a Democratic majority puts him in a different position.
When Vice Chair Leslie Church spoke out against the Red Flag law, which strengthens the state’s gun laws, O’Mara said he and all Republican senators voted against the bill. “There’s not much more we can do. That’s what this new majority is all about,” he added.
“It seems a lot of legislation coming out of Albany is not well thought-out, and it just passes, and then we’re left to deal with it,” said Legislative Chairman Douglas Paddock.
Mental Health Services: Legislator Ed Bronson asked if O’Mara and Palmesano could offer additional support for mental health services in Yates County. O’Mara said the state Office of Mental Health is responsive to concerns that have been brought to its attention. Palmesano said an April round table meeting will involve officials from schools, the hospital, and the state agencies. “We want an action plan,” he said.
Broadband: Neither state official had much hope to offer for expanding broadband services in rural areas like Yates County. “We’re continuing to see the deployment of broadband is not going the way it should,” said Palmesano.
AIM funding: Local officials raised alerts last month about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plans to use additional sales tax revenue from the Internet Fairness Act to replace the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) that was cut from the state budget. Cuomo’s plan eliminates the AIM funding that local municipalities count on, but replaces it with a plan for counties to share the additional sales tax revenue with towns and villages. Yates County does not have a process for sharing sales tax revenue with other municipalities.
Legislative Chairman Douglas Paddock said, “It shouldn’t be delegated to the county. Anything you can do to make the state pay for the things it has traditionally done would be greatly appreciated.”
Incinerator: O’Mara and Palmesano share the local sentiment that a large incinerator does not belong in the Finger Lakes. O’Mara said in the process of writing legislation opposing the proposed incinerator, he and Sen. Pamela Helming discovered there doesn’t appear to be a legal definition of the Finger Lakes region. He and Palmesano encouraged the Yates County officials to continue adopting resolutions responding to regional and statewide issues.