Kolb: A special season doesn’t need a special session

Across the world, we enter the most festive time of year. This weekend, New Yorkers will take time to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah alongside families and loved ones. Meanwhile in Albany, rumors that the Legislature may reconvene before the end of the year add some dysfunctional intrigue into holiday conversations.

Lawmakers are scheduled to begin the 2017 legislative session on January 4. Holding a “Special Session” prior to that simply undermines the legislative process and eliminates public review or discussion of any bills being voted on. Without time-sensitive or emergency legislation to consider, our work should be done thoughtfully, deliberately and openly.

CHECK THIS LEGISLATIVE WISH LIST TWICE

Whether or not a “Special Session” materializes, we have critical work ahead of us. Like most people this time of year, I have a wish list of my own, and certain items I hope will become a reality in the near future. Among the important polices on my personal wish list for 2017:

  • Fair Pay for Direct Care Workers: The men and women who care for individuals with disabilities are among the most dedicated people in any profession. However, last year, Governor Cuomo and his Wage Board unilaterally decided that teenagers working drive-thrus deserve more money than professionals who provide life-saving care to our most vulnerable population. Patients coping with autism, brain injury, or Down syndrome can live without a Big Mac. They cannot live without Direct Care workers. We need to right this wrong as soon as possible.
  • Ride-Sharing in Upstate New York: Thirty-seven states and New York City are allowed to enjoy the convenience of Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services. But not Upstate New York. Legislation was introduced last session, but in typical fashion, Assembly Democrats changed the original ride-sharing bill to make it so costly and onerous that even Uber and Lyft opposed it. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. It’s time to get a common-sense, overdue bill passed.
  • Brittany’s Law: Domestic violence is a scourge on our society. As lawmakers, we have a core responsibility to do everything in our power to combat it. A registry of violent felony offenders as proposed in “Brittany’s Law” provides another tool to fight domestic violence and prevent crimes and abuse. New York City has a registry of people who have abused animals. Yet, New York City Assembly members continue to obstruct a registry of people who have abused women and children.
  • An Upstate Legislative Caucus: Former Lt. Governor Bob Duffy suggested this months ago, and he’s right on the money. Downstate interests dominate Albany. Budget proposals and high-priority bills are negotiated exclusively by representatives from New York City and Long Island. As the only conference leader from Upstate New York, I know that we need more voices from both sides of the political aisle to come together and push the Upstate agenda.
  • Constitutional Convention: New Yorkers will vote on a Constitutional Convention this fall. This gives the public an opportunity to change a broken system and directly participate in government. Through multiple arrests, convictions and corruption scandals, Albany is still searching for meaningful ethics reform. If Albany won’t police itself, the public needs to do it. A Constitutional Convention is a mechanism by which meaningful change can take place.

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY HOLIDAY

I know that members of the Assembly Minority Conference will do everything in their power to advocate for these and other policies that make our state a better place. As we celebrate a season of giving, I hope we can give all our constituents something to enjoy and appreciate in 2017. I wish you and your family a safe and enjoyable holiday season.