As the legislative session nears an end (knock on wood), I'm sitting here wondering: What's next?
This is my first go-around covering politics and state government, so I'm really at a loss as to what, exactly, I'm going to write about if and when this thing wraps up.
Luckily for me, many of the decisions that lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have made over the past six months have deferred much of the decision-making to later.
Prisons is the most glaring example of this. Which prisons will be closed? Well, after the budget deal that was struck in April, that'll be up to Mr. Cuomo to decide. Despite assurances that we'd find out in the coming weeks after, and that officials would not wait until the end of the legislative session, we're at the end here and we still don't know what communities will be affected.
When they do, it'll be a straight-forward mothball approach. Any protest will be symbolic. Petition drives will make for great kindling, but that's about it. We'll be there to cover the aftermath.
It'll also be awhile before we find out how Mr. Cuomo's efforts to consolidate government could affect the north country. Could the Tug Hill Commission — a north country insider's favorite — fall by the wayside?
The governor's regional economic development councils will also start to convene sometime in the near future. It's the flagship of his economic development efforts, but we don't know who will sit on them or what they'll do, or what shape they'll take. (Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush's weekly column sparked my interest in this topic. I've posted it below.)
Mr. Blankenbush's column:
"With legislative session wrapping up this week, much of the focus and attention by the governor, Legislature and the media has been paid to the property tax cap, mandate relief, rent control and same-sex marriage. However, now that session is coming to a close, it is time to turn our attention to what really drives New York state – jobs.
During his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo promised to create Regional Economic Development Councils that would work with state agencies on economic development and the allocation of state resources on a more parochial level. However, the councils have yet to be formed, let alone meet and get down to “business.”
While I do have my concerns with the proposed “regions”, as the 122nd Assembly District is lumped in with more than a dozen other counties, stretching from Jefferson County to the border of Albany County, and excluding Oswego County, I am optimistic about the concept and the mission of the regional councils. New York state is made up of very diverse areas with unique assets and needs. Taking a local approach to economic development ensures a more level playing field when it comes to obtaining assistance and allows areas to take better advantage of their innate resources.
Here in the 122nd Assembly District, we are somewhat protected from the rest of the state’s economic woes thanks to Fort Drum. However, unemployment still remains high, especially in St. Lawrence and Lewis counties (10.4 % and 9.8 % in April, respectively). While initiatives like the property tax cap will be helpful for businesses, there is so much more that we, as your elected representatives, can and should do – from working with our large agricultural community here in the North County to help create more valued added opportunities, to providing incentives to attract more manufactures to locate their companies here. These things, and more, can spur job creation and make New York “the job capital of the nation”, as the governor promised.
I am hopeful that with legislative session ending, the governor will once again focus on the state economy and job creation by getting the ball rolling on the Regional Economic Development Councils. I look forward to working with the northern New York council to help expand investments here in the North Country and create more private industry jobs."