County Impact

Lack Of Representation ‘A Real Issue’

Crews pictured in Burtis Bay in May during annual lake maintenance. Funding that has been used for similar projects has routinely been secured by the county's two representatives in the state Legislature. With no one representing the county in the state Senate, funding such projects is currently in doubt, State Assemblyman Andy Goodell said. P-J photos by Eric Zavinski

“It’s been a real problem,” is how state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, responded to how the vacancy in the 57th state Senate District has impacted Chautauqua County for most of the current legislative session.

The 2019 state Legislative session will end Wednesday. Since March 11, the state Senate seat has been vacant following the resignation of former state Sen. Cathy Young, who left to lead the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech.

“In order for a bill to become law, it has to be sponsored and passed in both houses,” Goodell said. “A number (of bills) have passed in the Assembly, but, obviously, there is no one in the Senate to champion the bill. It has been a real issue for us. Some Senate members have agreed to co-sponsor bills, but they’re also dealing with everything they have sponsored in their own district.”

For an example of how the vacancy has impacted the district, Goodell said in the 2018-19 state budget there was $245,000 for Chautauqua Lake management that was removed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but was restored by Young, who was the Senate Finance Committee chairwoman.

“This year it was removed again and we couldn’t get it back in the budget because there was no Senate representation,” Goodell said. “I placed multiple calls to different state agencies to seek alternative funding, and those calls would have been more effective with a Senate partner. In the past, Sen. Young and I would routinely put together conference calls so state agencies would know the importance for both the Senate and Assembly. A conference call with a senator and assemblyman is going to get more attention than either one of us alone.”

Goodell said on the positive side, Senate officials kept the 57th Senate District offices opened in Jamestown and Olean and kept the same staff, who work full-time to support constituents.

“That has been a tremendous benefit,” he said. “The staff members have personal relationships with their counterparts and others in state government, and can be helpful and effective. I have a full-time person in my office in Jamestown and we work closely with Senate staff on constituent issues.”

Goodell said Young was a tremendous advocate for the 57th District, which covers Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua counties, and portions of Livingston County. He said having a legislative partner was very important for the 150th Assembly District, which covers Chautauqua County, because they could taylor bills to pass both houses. For example, he said by working with Young they were able to increase the county sales tax rate, which led to Vince Horrigan, former county executive, cutting the property tax rate in the county.

“That was done to provide property tax relief,” he said. “That type of cooperation and partnership was invaluable.”

Goodell said he hopes to start a new legislative partnership with Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello, who is running for the vacant 57th Senate District seat.

Goodell, a former county executive himself, said he already has a strong working relationship with Borrello, who has been county executive for the last 18 months and Chautauqua County legislator for eight years.

“We’ve lost that advocacy during (Young’s) absence, but I’ll continue that with George Borrello and we will continue that legacy of advocacy. I’m looking forward to having that seat filled to continue an effective partnership.”

Before Borrello can be state Senator, he will first be running in a Republican primary election against Curtis Crandall, Allegany County Board of Legislators chairman, Tuesday, June 25. No matter the outcome of the Republican primary election, Borrello will still be a part of the Nov. 5 general election because he has received the endorsement of the Conservative and Independence parties as well. Democratic candidate Austin Morgan of Cattaraugus County will also be involved in the general election.