A Op-Ed from Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac)
This June marked the end of this year’s legislative session in Albany. Throughout my time in the Assembly, I have made it a priority to advocate for a more responsible, effective, limited government that respects taxpayers’ wallets and protects their liberties. Our government needs to first focus on fundamentals such as taking care of our roads, public health and safety. Instead of focusing on the fundamentals, we saw a one-party-controlled legislature and executive office venture away from these core tenets and instead focus on controversial social and fiscal policy changes that, in many cases, will do New York more harm than good.
Many of the so-called “criminal justice reforms” and other controversial policy changes that came out of Albany did more to protect criminals and people who reside in this country illegally, at the expense of lawful residents. These changes ranged from “free college” and drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants to “cashless bail” for criminals and tax increases on everyday New Yorkers, as well as the passage of laws that devalued human life and chipped away at our constitutional rights as law-abiding Americans. Some officials have gone so far as to nickname this year’s legislative session as the “Year of the Criminal.”
Regardless of their efforts, the extreme left hasn’t stopped me from pushing back and voting against many of these dangerous policies in the Assembly. It also has not and will not prevent me from staying focused on the many other needs of our state.
So what were some of our more positive accomplishments?
Over the course of the session, the Assembly did pass several important pieces of legislation that benefits everyday New Yorkers. We passed the Child Victims Act to protect victims of child sex abuse, passed a permanent property tax cap, closed the LLC loophole, and banned the medically debunked and abusive practice of conversion “therapy” for minors. Additionally, I worked with colleagues from across the aisle to help pass legislation that protected youth shooting and safety programs in our state.
Building off of our work in past sessions, I continued to serve as a staunch defender of our local taxpayers, fighting against wasteful spending and onerous tax increases. I’m proud that we were once again successful in advocating for our local roadways, public libraries, first responders and veterans. As I mentioned earlier, these are the fundamentals that need to be protected and made a priority- not treated as an afterthought.
Through a very active public advocacy campaign, our Assembly Republican Conference successfully pressured the executive chamber and assisted in the expansion of a college tuition assistance program for Gold Star families who suffered the loss of a loved one who was killed or severely disabled from his/her military service.
Towards the end of session. I’m pleased to report I helped restore significant state funding for our local infrastructure, including $65 million in state-wide Extreme Winter Recovery funding. As the co-chair of last fall’s Assembly Minority Task Force on Critical Infrastructure and Transportation, I’m all too familiar with the numerous factors threatening our state’s transportation system. This additional funding from the state will support our local highway departments, boost our local economy, and limit additional burdens on property taxpayers.
Over the course of the legislative session, I also stood up for our local libraries, ensuring that they have the necessary funding to continue providing valuable services to all residents of the 94th Assembly District. Within the budget clean-up bill passed at the end of the session, we successfully restored the $20 million cut, initially made by the governor, for library construction grants. This funding is vital for many libraries seeking to complete needed renovations to comply with various Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
In addition to supporting the aforementioned state-wide legislation, I also spent much of this session introducing and sponsoring my own legislation that would benefit our local area. To that end, I was able to get four new pieces of legislation passed in the Assembly in 2019. This includes designating Junior and Sparkles Lakes in Yorktown as inland waterways so that they will be eligible for waterfront revitalization grants from the New York State Department of State and Environmental Protection Fund. With this valuable source of funding, local municipalities can improve the water quality of these waterways, as well as preserve the nearby habitat, expand eco-tourism, and combat pollution and the proliferation of endangered species. In less than three weeks, Sen. Pete Harkham and I worked together to pass legislation that will help allow a new international multi-million dollar distillery to move forward with its plans to manufacture and sell alcoholic beverages in Carmel. Lastly, by working with colleagues from across the aisle, we passed legislation that would save the Mahopac School District millions of dollars by granting forgiveness for ministerial errors made by a previous administration in filing paperwork for capital improvement projects in 2012. Each of these bills also passed the Senate and now awaits Gov. Cuomo’s signature.
Now that the legislative session has formally ended, hard-working New Yorkers fearing additional costly mandates and taxes from Albany can rest and breathe a little easier. I will have the opportunity to spend even more time in the district, meeting with our neighbors and gaining a greater awareness of the issues that matter most to you. While still making periodic visits to Albany and other parts of the state to fulfill my other legislative duties, I will ensure that my Assembly staff and I are accessible to you so that we remain prepared for the upcoming legislative session.
There is still much to do and I’m eager to do it. Thank you for your continued faith and trust in me.