Young Turns Political Savvy Into A Position Of Power In Senate
State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, has turned her longevity and political savvy into a position of political power.
In January 2016, Young took the reins as chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, becoming the first woman to hold that position. As Finance chair, Young is responsible for reviewing fiscal and other matters related to state revenues, spending and taxation. She oversees the Senate’s role in passage of the annual New York state budget by presiding over joint legislative hearings on the governor’s proposal, taking part in revenue forecasting, and ensuring that budget resolutions and bills are passed.
Young sponsored 10 bills that were approved by the Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In addition to the aforementioned legislation creating a property rehabilitation tax credit in the city of Jamestown, Young sponsored an extension of Kendra’s Law in the state Senate that establishing a statewide court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment program to improve outcomes for persons with severe mental illness who, in view of their treatment history and present circumstances, are likely to have difficulty living safely in the community.
The other bill of statewide importance signed into law this session is S. 870A, which establishes a private right of action for owners and tenants of residential premises against persons video taping recreational activities in the backyard of such premises.
Three of Young’s bills that were signed by Cuomo were ceremonial: one installs a plaque in the state Capitol honoring a night watchman killed in the 1911 state Capitol fire; another renames a bridge in honor of Gerard “Jess” Fitzpatrick, longtime chairman of the Cattaraugus County Legislature; and another lengthens the section of Route 275 in Allegany County in memory of Private First Class Duane C. Scott Memorial Highway.
Other legislation approved by the governor allows boards of elections inspectors to split their shifts on election day; extends the real estate transfer tax rate reduction for conveyances of real property to existing real estate investment funds; creates distinctive license plates for AMVETS members; authorizes the town of Livonia to sell the Jack Evans Community Center;
Young has proposed 174 pieces of legislation during the first year of this two-year legislative session, with 69 (39.6 percent) approved by her fellow senators haven’t been approved in the Assembly.
Among them are Brittany’s Law, which would define domestic violence offenses and offenders, require them to register with the division of criminal justice services and establish the crimes of failure to register or verify as a domestic violence offender.
Another piece of legislation to garner little traction in the Assembly is S. 446, which would allow for the emergency or involuntary admission of persons with mental illness when there is a risk of serious physical harm or serious psychiatric harm.
S. 449, a piece of legislation that would benefit the Chautauqua County Jail, was shepherded through the Senate by Young but has had little luck thus far in the state Assembly. The bill would limit the temporary detention of defendants in violation of their release in a local correctional facility to 72 hours before transfer to state custody. The current law doesn’t include a time limit, and some state parole offenders who haven’t committed a crime against Chautauqua County spend weeks or months in the Chautauqua County Jail at the expense of local tax dollars.
“Unfortunately, courts have ruled that the sheriff must hold them until a parole hearing can be conducted by the (state) Division of Parole,” Sheriff Joe Gerace told The Post-Journal earlier this year.“For sheriffs across the state, this is extremely frustrating. They do not in our opinion belong in (county) jail.”
Given the prevalence of babies born with drug and alcohol addiction in Chautauqua County, Young sponsored S. 520, which would require healthcare facilities to screen newborns for neonatal abstinence syndrome, which results from a fetus being exposed to opiates or narcotics while in the womb, through toxicological screening.
The number of newborns that are diagnosed with NAS has increased each year between 2010 and 2012, a rate of 83.8 per 10,000 births. In Western New York, the birthrate for babies born with a drug-related diagnosis is more than twice the statewide average. Per 10,000 babies born, there are 179 diagnosed with drug related symptoms in Western New York, the highest rate in the state.
Donna Barber, Maternity Care Center nurse manager, said she does see cases of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Depending on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, it is determined by a doctor whether the infant can be treated at WCA Hospital or whether the infant needs to be transported to another facility.
“There are cases throughout the community where babies are affected,” Barber told The Post-Journal’s Katrina Fuller in November 2016. “Anytime a mother has a drug addiction, the infant is impacted. We have many (cases) we would know ahead of time because the mother may be in a treatment program.”
Young also introduced S. 830, legislation to increase penalties for the violent sex offenses of rape, criminal sexual act and aggravated sexual abuse when committed in a forcible manner where an actor or accomplice is armed with or displays a deadly weapon, uses or threatens the use of a dangerous instrument or inflicts physical injury upon the victim.
LEADERSHIP HELPS, BUT IS NO GUARANTEE
Young’s standing among her peers doesn’t help some legislation, no matter how much common sense it makes.
For instance, senators haven’t yet voted out of committee S. 836, legislation that would require completion of annual training by persons and officials required to report cases of suspected child abuse or maltreatment; such training shall be offered online free of charge and address the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment. Young also proposed S. 541, which requires municipalities receiving four or more emergency medical calls in a 30-day period for an individual to report those calls to the local Social Services Department.
Another bill would seem to help public health. S. 3569 would require medical professionals to report patients diagnosed with conditions which cause unconsciousness or unawareness to the department of motor vehicles for determining driving privileges. That bill is still in committee.
As has been the case for the past several years, regional high school legislation has been a tough sell, with the latest attempt — S. 3938 — languishing in the Senate Education Committee. Another tough sell is legislation Young proposed that would limit the number of judges in the Eighth Judicial District that can come from Erie County. S. 3947 would limit one county’s stranglehold on judges to 22 of the 26 judges. It is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Another bill local gun owners would likely be interested in is S. 451, which would require a written determination on each application for issuance or renewal of a license to carry or possess a pistol or revolver, within 180 days of receipt.
Finally, a bill that could spur additional tuitioning of students from one district to another has yet to be acted on by the Senate’s Education Committee. Young’s legislation, S. 528, would provide additional aid for districts like Chautauqua Lake and Ripley that have tuitioning agreements.
Schools would also likely be in favor of S. 564, which Young sponsored to provide financial support in the first year when a new high-cost student with a disability moves into a school district during the school year with an individualized education program. Often, additional aid for such students isn’t given to the new school district until the second year.
S. 826 would help school districts that have been cited by recent state Comptroller’s Office audits for having too much money in their fund balances. Young proposes allowing school districts with low wealth ratios to establish reserve funds that they can then use to balance their budgets in years when the tax cap comes with a low allowable tax increase.
Finally, Young has proposed S. 843, which would change the way school consolidations or annexations can be approved by making the vote subject to a majority of voters in both districts, rather than the current practice of needing a majority of both districts taken separately.