2007-07-06 / Columnists

Smith Speaks From Albany

Though Session Ends, The People's Work Continues
Commentary From The Desk Of Senator Malcolm Smith Minority Leader New York State Senate

Smith Speaks From Albany
Though Session Ends, The People's Work Continues

MALCOMNSMITH Commentary From The Desk Of Senator Malcolm Smith

Minority Leader New York State Senate

When we began the recent legislative session, my colleagues and I in the Senate Democratic Conference decided to concentrate our efforts on helping New York's 9-to-5 families - those who work hard, play by the rules, but nonetheless find themselves struggling to get ahead.

Certainly we made real progress on some 9-to-5 issues, like reforming our education funding formulas and providing schools with the resources they need.

We also made important strides towards reaching several goals common to both houses of the Legislature and Governor Spitzer. These included such issues as worker's compensation reform, anti-human-trafficking legislation and civil confinement of sexual predators, many of which are important to 9-to-5 families. Such achievements made it clear to me that Albany works best when we come together to hammer out agreements on shared priorities, as was clearly the case during the Governor's six-way meetings of legislative leaders in which I participated, providing input on matters of significance to all New Yorkers.

I have found that the best way to accomplish the people's business is through cooperative efforts like these. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work this way, as a whole series of issues ended up getting stuck in Albany's notorious legislative gridlock.

This is why, in the waning days of the session, I urged my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to extend our duties until we resolved such matters as the Paid Family Leave Act, which would allow workers paid leave to care for a sick relative or a newborn child, among other priorities for New York's hard working 9-to-5 families.

Unfortunately, those calls went unheeded, the Senate chamber went dark and legislators returned home with a pile of unfinished business left behind, including many proposals made by Senate Democrats to provide relief for New York's hard working families. These include:

Legislation to protect families from the growing crisis of home foreclosure;

A plan for redeveloping unused industrial properties in urban communities in order to put them back on the tax rolls and create much-needed jobs for local economies;

Increases to the state's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) so that more students can afford a college education without having to wield the burden of excessive loans; and

A proposal to expand affordable on-campus childcare at CUNY.

Though I would have liked for us to continue the people's work by extending the session and seeing these matters through to completion, I am optimistic that when we return to Albany, we can build upon this blueprint. The session may be over, but the job of making New York better never ends.

I hope that my colleagues will join me in making the most of our time away from Albany by bringing our work directly to the people - hearing your views on important matters and finding ways of turning them into sound public policy for the benefit of all New Yorkers.

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