Lifton provides rundown on the legislative session

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D/WFP-125th District), last week announced several accomplishments of the recently concluded legislative session in Albany.
 
The legislature made progress, she said, in a number of areas: ethics reform, support for affordable housing, lead testing in schools, measures to combat heroin and opioid addiction, state takeover of indigent legal defense, among others. The bills passed by the legislature will now go to the Governor’s desk for approval, she said.
 
“This has been a troubling year in Albany, with the high-profile convictions of the former Assembly Speaker and the former Majority Leader, and an ever-expanding investigation into the Executive Chamber,” said Lifton. “But in the midst of all this, members of the legislature did come together and make significant progress on a number of issues that are of vital concern to our constituents.”
 
A top priortity for the legislature this session, said Lifton, was ethics refom. The legislature and the Governor agreed to a five-point ethics reform plan that will toughen election, lobbying and ethics enforcement laws, curb the power of independent expenditure campaigns unleashed by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and strip elected officials of their pensions if convicted of a felony in relation to their public duties.
 
“I understand this is a difficult time for our state, and I’m pleased we were able to make some progress on ethics reform this session,” said Lifton. “Elected officials are not above the law. New Yorkers should hold their elected officials to a very high standard of probity, and it’s of the utmost importance that the people who elect us to higher office have faith in our ability to serve the public with honesty and integrity. The agreement we reached at the end of this legislative session should help to limit the undue influence of money in our political system. However, I believe we need to do more. I have voted several times now for bills to close the LLC loophole and for campaign finance reform, two changes that could go a long way towards restoring trust in government. In the Assembly, I will continue to fight for these goals.”
 
There was also progress on housing issues, Lifton said. Lifton introduced and ensured the passage of Assembly bill A9678, which will allow Tompkins County to create a property tax exemption to ensure a robust stock of affordable housing. The legislature also reached an agreement with the Governor to direct more than $570 million towards supportive housing, an important effort in the fight against homelessness. This funding will be used to ensure timely completion of the first 1,200 units of the state’s plan to create 6,000 units of supportive housing over the next five years.
 
“As housing prices continue to increase across my Assembly district, we are seeing more and more people being pushed to the margins of our community, disrupting social networks and creating transportation challenges to and from jobs,” said Lifton. “We must fight against these trends by increasing our stock of safe, quality, affordable housing. Our efforts in the Assembly this session are a step in the right direction.”
 
The Assembly also passed legislation requiring that drinking water in schools be tested for lead, as a part of an end-of-session, three-way agreement with Governor Cuomo and the Senate. The agreed upon bill (A10740) would mandate testing of drinking water at buildings belonging to every school district and the state’s 37 Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) that have not been deemed lead free in accordance with the federal SAFE Drinking Water Act.
 
“I was very happy to support this legislation in the Assembly,” said Lifton. “In light of recent findings of high lead levels in some schools in Tompkins County, and concerns raised statewide about aging infrastructure, it’s clear that action must be taken to fix our monitoring and reporting system for lead in water supplies. Old water pipes leaching lead into our water is a statewide and national concern, and it must be dealt with expeditiously as we move towards a real solution to benefit all New Yorkers, especially our children, who are most susceptible to lead poisoning.”
 
The Assembly also took action to address the heroin and opioid epidemic, passing a series of bills, which have the support of the Senate and the Governor, to improve the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction, which has reached catastrophic levels in New York and across the nation.
 
The legislation takes steps to combat the heroin crisis by educating doctors and patients about the risk of opioid addiction, restricting opioid prescriptions, requiring insurance coverage for in-patient care, and expanding addiction treatment. This legislation builds on previous efforts by the Assembly, which included $189 million in this year’s state budget for treatment and prevention initiatives, as well as safe drug-disposal programs.
 
“Heroin addiction is ravaging communities across the state,” said Lifton, “and it’s clear that we need to take action now in order to save lives. These new laws will limit initial painkiller prescriptions and ensure people can get the treatment they need to beat addiction.”
In addition, both the Assembly and Senate passed legislation that would gradually have the state take over funding of indigent legal services by 2023.