Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 13 August 2010 00:00“I love my job,” New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel told Anton Community Newspapers, “but I wish people would understand that there is a lot more to it than just headline-grabbing stories.” Assemblywoman Schimel said that this year alone she sponsored 40 bills that were signed into law and 225 bills that she sponsored have already passed the Assembly. Many of these bills involve local issues, such as a bill passed in to law for an easement for a well for the Manhasset-Lakeville Water District.
A full-time job that is “billed” as a part-time position, the Assembly work, both up in Albany and here in her home district, keep the assemblywoman busy 24/7. Most important, she emphasized, is reaching out to her constituents. Two staff members are available at her district office in Great Neck. “Their job is to be sure they are accessible and available to constituents,” Schimel said. “People need a lot in these times, with canceled flood insurance, people needing jobs … we get calls on anything related to government.” And they are there to help.
Very locally, the assemblywoman has been working on plans, and providing a grant, for a revitalization of the Village of Great Neck’s business district. She has also provided funding for a veterans’ memorial park in Albertson, to name just two.
Before even touching on the budget issues, Assemblywoman Schimel discussed a long list of legislation. She said she is “going forward with the environmental tote bag bill.” The concept is to put a 10,000 square foot sign in parking lots to remind customers to take their own tote bag.
And even if the budget has been problematic, “there have been many successes in Albany,” according to Assemblywoman Schimel. “In any other time, if the national economy was zooming along, people would have said, ‘Wow, what a great legislative year’ … but you can’t get away from the United States and the state economy … and the result is people cannot look beyond what hasn’t been accomplished … but a lot has.”
For starters, Schimel is proud to report that, “The toughest DWI law in the country, the Leandra’s Law (named for a little girl killed in such an accident) was passed. This law states that anyone who is drinking and drives with child in the car will receive an automatic jail sentence, as this is now considered a felony. Part of this too is that, automatically, if someone is convicted of DWI, they must have an interlock device in their car, where before driving they would have to blow into the device on the steering wheel before they start the car. New York is now one of 10 states with this.”
The Rockefeller Drug Law was also reformed this year. Before a judge had no discretion in drug convictions, even if it was a low level drug crime; there was mandatory sentencing. The law now gives discretion back to the judges.
The last state in the country to have “no fault divorce,” New York State will now have such legislation. “It’s absolutely imperative,” said Schimel, adding, “It just passed both houses and is going to the governor to sign.”
An electronic waste law is now a statewide law, Ms. Schimel explained: “One of the things I ran on.” She explained that, “This is going to save taxpayers a lot of money … because manufacturers will pick up the tab.” She explained that this electronic waste law will relieve property taxes.
A “bigger, better bottle bill” is also important. This bill mandates that bottled water bottles be recyclable.
Along similar lines, this year they were also able to pass a law against BPH in plastics in products for children under three years of age. “It’s a start,” she said, a start to ban use of this “known carcinogen.”
A big issue for Assemblywoman Schimel is microstamping and she reports that this law came within two votes. But she is not giving up on this: “We’re on the run,” she said.
She is also proud that they are “stopping some bad things.” For example, awaiting the governor’s signature is a ban on texting while driving. This, she said, is now a primary offense, you can be pulled over if seen texting or using a mobile phone in any way while operating a vehicle.
Tier five pension reform is another success. Schimel explained that there has not been any other pension reform for a very long time.
Yet another legislative success is the over-sight of any type of state or public authority. The New York State comptroller may look over any of these books.
There is also a bill that asks to amend the current empowerment act; this law would ask for an informed public vote before dissolving a municipality.
And, Assemblywoman Schimel stated: “We need a permanent solution of Power for Jobs. This involves low cost energy for companies.
As Michelle Schimel discussed legislation and then the state budget last week, at the request of the governor, she and her fellow state legislators in the State Senate and in the Assembly were due to return to Albany. The Assembly, she explained, had passed the budget, but the Senate had not.
Schimel is proud to be “the mouth … the canary in the coal mine.” “We have a lot of doctors,” she noted, “and I single-handedly stopped a surcharge on outpatient cancer screenings.” She said that the governor wanted to put it in and the Assembly had originally given the okay for this, but she was able to stop this.
She also worked hard to see that budget subsidies to consolidate (“to the tune of millions of dollars”) was taken out of the budget. “I’m a local government girl,” she said, speaking of “Schimel’s Amendment.”
The assemblywoman also opposed the sale of wine in grocery stores. This, she said, will hurt the local stores and it’s “just a one-shot revenue deal.” Additionally, since this is a license, the supermarkets could more easily sell to minors, as if such a sale is discovered and the supermarket loses its liquor license, they still can sell all of the groceries. Schimel said that both houses are against this.
As for a revenue-producing soda tax, she said that since the Senate rejected this, the Assembly did not tackle the issue.
Turning to education, Assemblywoman Schimel spoke of working on a bill for the future that looks at how to fund education “if we started all over again.” She said that such a bill would “force the state to pick up 50 percent of the tab for costs such has health care, pensions, special education and transportation.” She stressed that “you can’t cap without mandate relief … for schools, for villages …”
And she noted that the Assembly and Senate passed legislation restoring $600 million in school aid, but that the governor had vetoed this.
Pre-school special education was an issue too. The assemblywoman explained that there had been a proposal to shift this cost from the state and the county to the school districts, but this was not accomplished.
Along the lines of education, Schimel also reported that they were able to restore the TAP cuts, the tuition assistance program for colleges and higher education.
With a lot on her plate, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel was off to Albany once again!