Guest Column

Byrne Reflects on First Legislative Session

In late June, I finished my first legislative session in the New York State Assembly. Despite its many challenges, it is always a privilege to serve on behalf of the many hardworking men and women in the 94th Assembly District.

The familiar frustrations many of us observed during the legislature’s budgeting process continued when the legislature and governor failed to complete session on time. This was due to an impasse on mayoral control for New York City schools and local sales tax extenders—two unrelated issues. As a result, the legislature was called back by the governor for an “extraordinary session.” Instead of working on these issues one bill at a time, the governor maneuvered for a sloppy omnibus bill that included a provision re-naming the new Tappan Zee Bridge after his father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo. This bill was delivered to us near midnight and we were forced to vote on it at 1 a.m. I refused to accept the status quo and could not vote in favor of this type of legislation while the rest of the state was fast asleep.

Despite the aforementioned challenges and disappointments, I am pleased to report I still found ways to effectively deliver for the people of the 94th Assembly District. We were able to secure several major victories, including passing a constitutional amendment that, pending voter approval, will strip taxpayer funded pensions from corrupt politicians. In addition, we secured a record $2.5 billion for clean water infrastructure, invested $200 million to fund the fight against the ever present opioid epidemic, protected state funding for the Joseph P. Dwyer Vet to Vet Program in Putnam County, restored CHIPS funding to support local infrastructure and, of course, legalized ride-sharing across the Empire State.

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On a personal note, as an EMT and firefighter, public health and safety continue to be issues of great importance to me. This year, we had several important legislative victories that will help on this front. I was extremely proud to play an important role in passing legislation I co-sponsored to significantly expand cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters, a measure that has been in talks for several years, but had always failed to pass the Assembly. In addition, I co-sponsored and passed life-saving legislation empowering municipal contractors, like school bus drivers, to use epinephrine auto-injectors in the event of a medical emergency. I was also pleased to see the passage of measures I co-sponsored increasing access to Automated External Defibrillators, and strengthening the Clean Indoor Air Act.

Locally, we were able to pass several meaningful pieces of legislation. Altogether, in my first six months of taking office, I personally introduced and successfully passed five pieces of legislation, including measures to designate multiple local waterbodies as inland waterways, renaming the Major Clayton Carpenter Memorial Highway to reflect the true rank of a local hero, and other measures that honor home rule and address local needs for the 94th Assembly District. All these measures successfully passed in the Assembly and the Senate, and are expected to be signed into law by the governor. That’s more than any other freshmen Republican Assembly member this year, and more than most freshmen Democrat Assembly members, as well.

While this year’s session has come to an end, my work in support of your best interests has only just begun. Moving forward, I will remain committed to our values and beliefs, and as always, I thank you all for your continued support.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

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