Assemblyman Andy Goodell (left) with Vince Horrigan
 
Vince Horrigan introduced today's speaker, Assemblyman Andy Goodell. Vince noted that Andy is well known to Jamestown Rotarians, since he is a member. Andy graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Cornell Law School after receiving a degree in Political Economics and Mathematics from Williams College. He is a respected attorney and a founding member of the Chautauqua Leadership Network. He has served in many organizations, assisting in many ways.
 
At Cockaigne, he was a ski instructor and he has been influential in the reopening of that resort. Vince noted that he was the “2nd best county executive” from January 1990 to December 1997.
 
Vince continued that, in 2010 Andy was elected as NYS assemblyman, where he currently serves as Minority Floor Leader. Speaking from personal experience, Vince noted that Andy has been extremely helpful with Chautauqua Lake. Last year he helped secure $245,000 for the Lake with Frank Borello. Finally, Vince noted, “He represents us and is involved with us.” He is a husband, father and grandfather.
 
Andy gave a nod to Vince, noting that some people cannot retire, but continue to serve their community. He has led the Red Cross, served as County Executive, and is currently leading the Watershed Alliance.
 
Mr. Goodell appreciates being able to represent us. Right now he is minority leader pro tem which means he is floor leader. He and his staff review every bill before it is put on the calendar for consideration. Non-controversial bills go directly to the floor. However if a bill has language or policy issues, Andy will recommend language changes or revisions to the bills that might make them more acceptable or reduce unintended consequences. He schedules bills for debate, and may block or “lay aside” bills. Sometimes even the authors of the bills do not want them to be considered. These bills are said to “die on the calendar”. There are around 500 bills that never are considered each year. In general, Andy says he experiences  “Tremendous bi-partisan communication and cooperation” in the Assembly.
 
New York State right now is in crisis. Legislators are trying to deal with this crisis. However, they aren’t always thinking about the ramifications of their actions. Bills currently under consideration will have long term consequences. Andy is running again for the Assembly, so he can use his economic and business background and his leadership position to move the State forward, supporting long term solutions, and minimizing unintended consequences.
 
The first issue facing the state is the drastic reduction of governmental revenues. In the 1st quarter. revenues were down 42.2%. That’s a $10 BILLION reduction. Income tax revenue was down 49%, sales tax down 25%, business tax down 32%.
 
In response, state has frozen all the discretionary spending it can. It has held back $5.7 billion. These are not formal cuts, but the impact of the freeze is about 20% cut in state aid. The State is hoping there will be some assistance from the federal level, and Andy expects there will be some assistance this year.
 
The impact for Chautauqua County to date has seen a 20% cut in state aid and 25-30% cut in sales tax revenue. Sales tax represents 2/3 of the local tax budget. 
 
Some ways to counter the governmental losses:
  1. look at our welfare spending to bring it in line with the national average.
  2. Medicaid cuts so that it more closely mirrors private coverage while maintaining bad-debt and charity pool funding.
  3. Freeze funding for medical education. This is $2 billion that could be transitioned into a forgivable loan program.
  4. Make the tax structure more competitive with other states rather than depending so heavily on the personal income tax.
The second critical issue is the condition of the business sector.  Last year tourism was a driving force for the economy. Now, we are requiring that visitors quarantine if they come into the state. The impact of COVID is astounding, and in Chautauqua County its impact to tourism, the hospitality industry, gyms, banking and the rental market far exceed the actual risk in the area.
 
To counter the impact, the Assemblyman recommends:
  1. Governor Cuomo should terminate his emergency power. This can be done while retaining the authority to reimpose it if necessary.
  2. Allow local authorities such as the Board of Health to decide what is best for its citizens.
  3. Lift restriction on travel, which Andy says is unconstitutional.
  4. Generally, allow a more flexible approach.
Third, there have been some very reactionary policies and emergency actions that will have consequences in the long term that will drag the State and the society down. Examples include:
  1. Moratorium on rent and utility payments. Since property owners will not have income, they will not be able to pay their taxes or do maintenance. Rental properties, especially those for low income, will be adversely impacted. The unintended consequence is to increase homelessness. Solution: sliding rent payment for those who have lost income.
  2. Immigration reform. The issuing of licenses regardless of legal status has the unintended consequence of handcuffing law enforcement when they need to provide DMV information to federal law enforcement.  
  3. Increasing the minimum wage rate. This actually increases unemployment, which is at a record high rate due to COVID 19.
  4. Court reform. Bail and discovery system reform has gone too far. 
  5. Voting integrity. Andy supports automatic voter registration, but with checks to make sure the person is in fact eligible to vote.  Automatic registration should be extended to additional transactions, including those paying taxes as well as those requesting assistance.
There were several other examples. Today’s Rotarily author recommends that Rotarians listen to the Zoom recording of the meeting when it becomes available on the website.
 
Recommendations.
  1. Expand COVID rental assistance program to offset income losses without hurting landlords.
  2. Expand loan assistance based on COVID income loss and borrower’s ability to pay, rather than across-the-board payment moratorium.
  3. Make DMV data readily available to the FBI and other law enforcement personnel.
  4. Apply standard workers compensation no-fault provisions to scaffold accidents.
  5. Restore judicial discretion in setting bail, including consideration of prior arrests, seriousness of crime, and danger to the public.
  6. Prohibit public disclosure of false and unfounded police complaints.
  7. Allow Board of Elections to request citizenship verification upon registration in the same manner as DMV previously requested such documentation- birth certificate/naturalization, utility bills, driver’s license from another state, etc.
Question: To expand on what you mentioned with rents, locally landlords are selling property. Out of town, out of country landlords are increasing. Your comments? I am worried about taxes going arrears and maintenance falling off. Tax and mortgage foreclosure will increase causing a decline in quality and quantity of units.
 
Question: Polarization is the issue. The good news here is that Andy has found an incredible amount of bi-partisan discussion. On controversial bills there is negotiation before they go to the floor. Debate generally remains on topic, discussing what is the issue and not getting into personal attacks. The exception might be newcomers, who want to get their position recognized. What should we do? Andy reports that voters should speak to their representatives and tell them what they expect and what they see are the germane issues on bills where they have an interest.
 
Question: Why are there so many bills? Because the State has so many regulations, every exception must be legislated. Most pass without any discussion. One example—the legislature has to give Jamestown permission to hire a plumbing inspector if he doesn’t live in the City. One might wonder why the original legislation is not struck down.
 
Question: If health decisions are decided at the local level, how do you protect health administrators who take an unpopular stand? The State Health Department should give general guidance for the county boards of health to follow. PJ Wendel has a health background-30 years’ experience. Most people should be treated with respect. Businesses have been doing their part. The State should recognize the knowledge and expertise of the local health department.
 
Question: There is a concern whether the State will pay nonprofits for executed contracts. Also, what is the impact of unpaid utilities on BPU? The law right now effects those who lost their income. It doesn’t give relief for fixed income individuals. There could be some relief similar to hospitals.  Right now there is no guidance from the State. Andy believes there should be transparency-say how much is being held back and pay the rest in a timely manner.
 
Question: If you were a parent of a high school or junior high school student-would you send them to school today? Yes. If the school board finds it appropriate, they have the expertise that is needed more than I do. Let the Boards of Education and Regents decide pursuant to the guidance of the state board. Right now, about ½ the school districts have no active cases in their district. It is the students who have a challenging time in school who are losing out. 
 
Question: Is there intelligent discussion about voting for the fall elections? Not yet. Right now the automatic registration is only for those seeking State assistance. Those who are signing up for vehicle registration or having other interactions with the State are not included.
 
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