Legislature bans the box

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Legislator Sam I. Fein speaks Monday about the Ban the Box law he introduced. 
ALBANY (Feb. 13, 2017) – A groundbreaking law passed Monday by the Albany County Legislature will ensure that people who apply for Albany County jobs are judged by their qualifications, not prior indiscretions.
Led by its Democratic Majority, the Legislature voted 32-3 to adopt the Albany County Fair Chance Act, or ‘Ban the Box’ bill. Introduced by Legislator Samuel I. Fein of Albany’s South End, the law prohibits county officials from asking job applicants about their criminal record until after the county makes them a conditional offer of employment.
The law is known as Ban the Box because it strikes the conviction history questions on the county’s employment application (see picture below). Legislators said removing the boxes and delaying a criminal record check until after an offer is made will give all job seekers a fair shot at obtaining work.
“Too many people are left out of the job market because they are judged by a mistake made earlier in their lives,” Fein said. “This legislation demonstrates that Albany County is a leader in ensuring that all people are treated fairly.”
The law does not stop Albany County from undertaking required background checks for jobs or reviewing a person’s criminal record after a job offer is made. The county may rescind a job offer, but the applicant would have an opportunity to appeal the decision.
On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo recognized the Legislature for adopting Ban the Box. “I applaud Albany County for adopting this job-hiring policy,” Cuomo said on Twitter.
Twenty-two Democrats – a majority of the Legislature – co-sponsored the measure, including Chairman Sean Ward of Green Island (District 16), Majority Leader Frank Commisso of Albany (District 11) and members of the Majority Minority District Caucus. Legislators said Monday that banning the box would have a direct and positive impact. The issue is critical for African-Americans, who are incarcerated at higher rates, Legislator Norma Chapman of Albany (District 4) has said.
Deputy Majority Leader Lucille McKnight of Albany (District 1) said the law breaks new ground in the Capital Region. While a growing number of municipalities and private companies do not allow questions about a person’s criminal past during the hiring process to protect against potential discrimination, Albany County is the first county in the Capital Region to Ban the Box, McKnight said.
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Legislators Wanda Willingham, Norma Chapman and Samuel I. Fein. 
The law received the support of civil rights defenders across Albany County. Fein noted that it was passed during African-American History Month. “Our goal is to protect the people we serve and, at the same time, implement robust, fair-chance employment practices,” said the Democrat from District 6.
Banning the box will expand job opportunities for those who need them, Legislator Wanda Willingham of Albany (District 3) said. “Many people who have been previously incarcerated are working to make a better life for themselves and we need to give them that second chance,” Willingham said.
For more information, call Fein at (518) 362-8380, or Dennis Yusko, communications director for the Albany County Legislature, at (518) 447-5527.
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2016: Legislature invested in Albany County and its people

leg-grants-ceremonyIt was a very good year for the Albany County Legislature’s Democratic Majority.

Albany County in 2016 continued delivering crucial services and competent government to its more than 305,000 residents without increasing taxes.

In December, Albany County legislators and the county executive agreed on a $652 million budget for 2017 that does not raise the tax rate and slightly decreases taxes for the average taxpayer. Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature voted to pass the budget unopposed for the first time in memory.

The Albany County Legislature’s Democratic Majority invested in Albany County’s future in 2016. Members voted to break ground on a $20 million project to enclose and modernize the county’s nearly 27-year-old Times Union Center arena in downtown Albany. The Legislature this year also conveyed dozens more parcels to the Albany County Land Bank Corp., which works to overcome neighborhood blight, and committed $250,000 more to the land bank, bringing the county’s total commitment to the non-profit agency to $1.75 million.

The Legislature invested in Albany County’s people. Four years after Majority Leader Frank Commisso and other Democrats successfully fought against selling the Albany County Nursing Home to a private company, the county’s financial share for operations at the facility has dropped by half and revenues are increasing. Legislators credit the hiring of a seasoned director, the introduction of cost-savings measures and changes in billing.

In May, after years of planning and saving, lawmakers formally opened the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail, a miles-long, paved path that takes walkers, joggers and bikers to and from the Port of Albany and Voorheesville. The Legislature’s Democrats also voted to support a major health initiative introduced by Leg. Paul Miller (D-District 32) that raised the age to buy tobacco and nicotine products in the county to 21 from 18.

Later in the year, legislators authorized County Executive Daniel P. McCoy to enter into a lease agreement with Soldier On for the organization to build housing for homeless military veterans at the former Ann Lee Nursing Home. They also approved a law sponsored by Leg. Gary Domalewicz (D-District 10), strengthening the county’s notification requirements for residential lawn pesticide applications.

Fourteen newly elected legislators joined the body in January, including 10 Democrats. In January, members elected Sean Ward, a Democrat from Green Island, to the leadership post of chairman of the Albany County Legislature.

The Legislature in 2016 introduced 643 pieces of legislation, including 620 resolutions and 23 local laws. On a month-to-month basis, members authorized spending for public safety, social services, health care and recreation, made significant personnel appointments, applied for and accepted several grant opportunities and entered into agreements with various organizations to promote public good.

Talks between the county executive and Legislature produced the third consecutive annual county budget without a tax rate increase, and the fourth consecutive budget to fall under the state’s property tax cap. Citizens and taxpayers benefit when the Legislature works with the county executive, while also providing checks and balances, the Legislature’s Democratic leadership noted during the successful 2017 budget negotiations.

The Albany County Legislature in 2016 became the most transparent legislature in the Capital Region. It started videotaping/live-streaming all of its meetings and posting them on the county website, and voted to appoint five members to the reconstituted Albany County Ethics Commission.

The Albany County Legislature passed several local laws in 2016. A law introduced by Leg. Bryan Clenahan (D-District 30) and Leg. Alison McLean-Lane (D-District 14) allowed the sale of non-dangerous fireworks, such as sparklers, within Albany County. Clenahan also led a successful charge to incorporate the Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center into the Albany County Charter. Legislation introduced by Leg. Doug Bullock (D-District 7) established a sustainable energy loan program in Albany County.

The Legislature also passed a local law allowing Albany County to impose a six percent tax on the occupancy of hotel rooms for at least two more years. The revenue will help fund Times Union Center improvements, the convention center opening in downtown Albany and more.

In November, 67 percent of Albany County voters voted to incorporate the Albany County Probation Department and Board of Elections into the County Charter.

The Legislature’s Majority Office wish you all a very happy New Year. Have fun and be safe.

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Albany County Legislature Passes 2017 Budget

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Legislators inspect the 2017 Albany County Budget during an Audit and Finance Committee meeting at 112 State St., Albany. 

ALBANY (Dec. 5, 2016) – The Albany County Legislature Monday unanimously approved a 2017 County Budget that slightly decreases taxes for the average taxpayer and holds the line on spending.

Weeks after Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy presented a $652 million Proposed Budget with flat taxes, legislators voted to pass a plan with minor changes and no increase to the bottom line.

The revised 2017 Albany County Budget is the fourth consecutive county budget to fall under the state’s property tax cap. It does not cut programs or employees, and continues to deliver vital services to communities and our most vulnerable citizens in the Albany County Nursing Home. The budget also includes $250,000 for the Albany County Land Bank Corp., bringing the county’s total commitment to the non-profit agency to $1.75 million. In sending the budget back to McCoy for signing, leaders of the Legislature praised the county executive’s plan, and hailed the budget process as fully transparent.

“I found the budget presented by the county executive to be one of the better budgets I have worked on in my many years in government,” Democratic Majority Leader Frank Commisso said.

Over the past several weeks, members of the Legislature attended several meetings of the Audit and Finance Committee to review the executive’s Proposed Budget and vote to enact additions and deletions. The changes made by the Legislature were balanced in the budget.

All legislators were invited to attend the meetings and provide input. For the first time, the Legislature videotaped its budget sessions and published the videos on YouTube and the county website. The Legislature also posted its proposed additions and deletions to the executive’s budget on its website and social media.

“Albany County continues to deliver services to the most needy without a property tax increase and under the tax cap while other municipalities are struggling,” said Legislator Gary Domalewicz, chairman of the Audit and Finance Committee. “Albany County continues to watch how we spend taxpayers’ money.”

Legislature Chairman Sean Ward said cooperation was the key to passing the first county budget in memory by a unanimous vote.

“I want to thank Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy for giving us a good budget to work with, congratulate Chairman Gary Domalewicz and the Audit and Finance Committee, and legislative leaders on both sides,” Ward said. “In the end, the taxpayers benefit from our cooperation.”

Dennis.Yusko@albanycounty.com

Phone: 518-447-5527; Cell: 518-330-7544; Twitter: @DemMajority

Fundraiser for Albany’s Gold Star Family monument

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Source: Tri-County Council Vietnam Era 

WATERVLIET (Dec. 2, 2016) – The Albany County Legislature is pleased to announce its support of a fundraiser for a Gold Star Family Memorial monument that will be dedicated in the City of Albany on April 29, 2017.

Charlie Diamond of Watervliet organized a Dec. 11 dinner/reception at the Watervliet Elks Lodge to raise funds for the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument Committee and its new monument at Lafayette Park, located next to the State Capitol in Albany.

The event is 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 11. Tickets are $20 for dinner, drinks, live music and more. There will be raffle prizes.

The Gold Star Family Memorial monument will honor the relatives of military service members who were killed while defending our nation. The Gold Star Family Monument Committee recently placed a deposit down on a chunk of stone that will serve as the monument. The carved, nameless stone will face Washington Avenue, said Carrie Farley of Nassau, Rensselaer County, the mother of Army Staff Sgt. Derek Farley, 24, who was killed Aug. 17, 2010, trying to defuse a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Carrie Farley is president of the Department of New York American Gold Star Mothers and started the drive for the memorial in Albany in her role as secretary of the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument Committee.

“We’re doing very well with fundraising, and have been able now to put a down payment on the stone for the monument,” Farley said Friday. She’s received important assistance from the Tri-county Council Vietnam Era Veterans, citizens such as Diamond and others.

The Albany County Legislature will announce its support for the monument at the Dec. 11 fundraiser in Watervliet.“I am very grateful to the Albany County Legislature for their generous support,” Diamond said. Legislator Robert Beston, who represents Watervliet, is expecting a big crowd.

Albany County Legislature Chairman Sean Ward said he was proud to be part of a project that honors families who sacrificed so much so we can enjoy the freedoms we do.

“We should never forget the men and women who put on the uniform and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Majority Leader Frank Commisso said. “We should also remember their families.”

You can mail contributions to: The Gold Star Families Memorial Fund, c/o the Tri-County Council Vietnam Era Veterans, P.O. Box 11100, Albany, NY 12211.

The Legislature’s support of the Gold Star project is a bipartisan effort.

“Our donation to the Gold Star Family’s monument is a small gesture of our great gratitude to the mothers of the men and women who volunteer to serve our country in the Armed Forces,” Minority Leader Frank Mauriello said.

Audit & Finance Committee vote Wednesday on 2017 County Budget

The Albany County Legislature’s Audit and Finance Committee will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday to consider adopting the 2017 County Budget and sending it to the full Legislature for a Dec. 5 vote.

Over the past month, members of the County Legislature’s Audit and Finance Committee conducted an exhaustive review of County Executive Daniel P. McCoy’s $652 million Tentative Budget. For the first time, the Legislature videotaped the budget sessions and published the videos on YouTube and the county website. It also posted the Legislature’s proposed additions and subtractions to the executive’s budget on its website and social media.

“After an extensive review, the Legislature found the County Executive’s budget to be an acceptable document,” Majority Leader Frank Commisso said. “Our budget process this year has been completely transparent, thanks to changes we enacted over the last several months.”

The 2017 County Budget does not increase the county’s tax rate for the third consecutive year. On behalf of Audit and Finance Chairman Gary Domalewicz, please find the agenda for Wednesday’s committee meeting here.

Public hearings tonight

Legislative Public Hearings

Public Hearings will be held:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 | 7:15 p.m.

Legislative Chambers
Albany County Courthouse, 2nd Floor
Eagle Street, Albany

NOTE: There will be no Public Hearing held on Proposed Local Law “V” for 2016 on this date

The Albany County Legislature meets at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday to accept public comment on minor changes made to the 2017 County Budget, and a local law requiring food establishments to use biodegradable containers, bowls, plates and cups.

The Legislature’s Audit and Finance Committee reviewed revenues and approved subtractions and additions to the county executive’s proposed budget over five meetings held since October. The net changes are small and balanced within the budget. In some cases, the Legislature granted two percent salary increases for non-union employees who may have been overlooked in the proposed spending plan.

You can see the increases and decreases in this document here. You may review videos from the budget hearings and hear rationale for the changes by going to the county website and checking under the Audit & Finance Committee here: http://www.albanycounty.com/legislature/meetingagendas.aspx.

“We took into account the requests made by department heads and others, but worked to stay within the county executive’s budget guidelines,” Chairman Sean Ward said.

The Audit and Finance Committee will meet again Nov. 30 to review the budget, with a possible vote to take place on Dec. 5. When negotiations are complete, there will be no increase to the county tax rate for the third year in a row, Majority Leader Frank Commisso said.

Also up for discussion this evening is Local Law “S” for 2016, or the “Food Service Waste Reduction Act.” Introduced in August by Albany County Legislator Christopher Higgins (D-District 5), the legislation eliminates the use of Polystyrene Foam Disposable food service ware by chain food service establishments within Albany County to reduce hazardous waste and costs.

06-higgins1-1Albany County Legislator Christopher Higgins

 

Send a smile this holiday season

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We at the Albany County Legislature’s Majority Office have started stocking up on new coats, blankets, clothes and toys to give to local families this holiday season.

Helping children and eating pasta makes us happy.

That’s why we – the staff at the Albany County Democratic Majority Office – thought we’d invite you to learn more about our long-running Adopt-A-Family Program and attend the upcoming Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser.

For more than three decades, Albany County has brightened the holiday season for disadvantaged children through its Adopt-A-Family Program. Chairman Sean Ward, Majority Leader Frank Commisso and several other Democrats in the Legislature are working extra hard this year to bring joy to dozens of families in Albany County. We recently received our first load of presents – coats, clothes, blankets and some toys. Albany County Legislator Robert Beston (D-Watervliet) delivered them in his truck.

The Majority Office recently started selling tickets to its annual Spaghetti Dinner, being held this year on Dec. 9. All proceeds from the event benefit the Adopt-A-Family Program, families throughout Albany County and residents of the Albany County Nursing Home, some of who have little or no contact with families.

Beston and his crew will prepare a delicious meal at the annual fundraising dinner, to be held from 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 9 in the Watervliet Elks Lodge, 501 Fourth Ave., Watervliet. Dinner features spaghetti, meatballs, sausage, salad, bread, coffee, tea, soda and homemade desserts. Legislators and staff will serve you. Tickets are $10. Kids under 12 eat free. Tickets are available by contacting your County Legislator, or us here at the Majority Office at 447-7117.

Majority Leader Commisso (D-Albany) has worked this program since its inception.

“I find it gratifying to be able to see the smiles on the children as they receive their gifts,” Commisso said. “Without this program, these children and families would feel a void.”

Legislators and staff are also selling $1 raffle tickets and holding an auction at the Dec. 9 dinner. If you cannot attend the dinner but would still like to help, you can call the Majority Office to sponsor a family or make a donation. The families participating in the Albany County Adopt-a-Family program have been identified by the Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families as needing assistance.

“The Adopt-A-Family Program is a fine example of what makes Albany County the caring community it is,” Chairman Ward said.