''New York will come back ... we will be stronger,'' says New York State Senator Michael Balboni, a resident of East Williston. Although a great deal of the senator's time during this post-9/11 period has been devoted to his enormous responsibilities regarding emergency management, he is equally proud of the long list of diverse legislation he has developed these past few years. Balboni is running for his fourth term in the 7th Senate District.
NYS Senator Michael Balboni
Appointed to the Senate Majority Task Force on Local Emergency Preparedness a year ago, in January 2002 the senator was appointed by the National Conference of State Legislatures to the Task Force on Protecting Democracy, a position that has kept him in regular contact with Homeland Security Director Thomas Ridge. Working closely with his constituents and local officials, Balboni keeps his district abreast of events, all the while working towards ''regionalization'' goals.
Balboni has been instrumental in developing 26 pieces of legislation dealing with various aspects of this post-9/11 era. Included are anti-terrorism bills (bills he sponsored and authored) and the senator's water security bill. Six of these bills passed the senate this year.
Along these lines, Balboni has also worked to provide extra funding to area hospitals to help with the capability to respond to mass casualties. Such funding goes toward increased stockpiles of drugs and supplies, buying portable decontamination centers, and the design and operation of isolation wings.
Telecommunications is another important area: ''We need command control ... one person in control,'' he said.
This post-9/11 work is an ''ongoing process that needs to be re-evaluated each year,'' according to Balboni. Again he stressed, ''We need a regional response team.''
Turning the focus to other areas where he has also been instrumental in developing legislation, Balboni said that ''family is a top priority.'' With four young children of his own, the senator is sensitive to education issues and he has been able to bring healthy sums of state money to local school districts. ''We must keep school aid up and limit mandates,'' he stated. The senator has worked hard to ''put back record amounts of school aid ... to help build up infrastructure.''
College education is a concern too. He wants to see education ''continue to be affordable in New York State.'' He also emphasized the need to increase aid for students. His ideas involve some ''cutting edge scholarships,'' such as for the cyberforensics field and for other fields related to the war on terrorism.
As for the youngest members of the family, Balboni lists day care high among his priorities. ''There is a huge need,'' he said. ''We need affordable, accessible, reliable day care ... and I feel we can do it.'' The senator has just secured a $50,000 state grant for capital improvements for a proposed day care center for the Great Neck Public Schools.
Other laws has been instrumental in developing include the New York State Anti-Stalking Law (which he authored and sponsored); a law he wrote to eliminate the tax on textbooks; restoring funding to the poison control center; and passing a bill that resulted in Kathy's Law, significantly increasing penalties for caregivers who abuse their elderly patients.
Balboni was also the ''principal architect'' for new laws to help protect women and their children against domestic violence. He has worked for laws to allow children to testify in judges chambers and for laws dealing with witness protection. A bill just passed allowing group life insurance for children up from $7,000 to $25,000, and such insurance is now available for a domestic partner.
The senator also wants to look at health insurance and the ''profound ramifications of a one provider system,'' and he wants to address high malpractice costs and the problem of prescription drug costs.
The environment is ever a major point with Balboni, as he stressed the need to refund the Superfund and to work for funding increases for the shoreline.
Revitalization and economic development have received a boost from the senator, in the form of revitalized downtowns and train stations. And for the last five years he has been working on attracting new businesses and creating new jobs.
Acknowledging that he has been able to do much working with his colleague in the state assembly, Tom DiNapoli, Senator Balboni is "amazed at the average day-to-day heroism we have right here,'' and he said his intent is to continue to provide his district with guidance and help to assure the quality of life for all.