Earl Named Chair, Low-Hogan Gets Nod As Vice Chair
Paul Elected Majority Leader; Wolfe Appointed Deputy Majority Leader
Hofstein Elected Minority Leader; Tyer Appointed Deputy Majority Leader
Earl Highlights Legislature’s 2018 Accomplishments; Looks Ahead to 2019
New City, NY (Jan. 4, 2019) – The Rockland County Legislature voted unanimously Thursday to designate Legislator Toney L. Earl as Chair and Legislator Nancy Low-Hogan as Vice Chair for its 2019 session.
It is the third consecutive year both legislators were chosen for the leadership positions.
“I want to thank my colleagues on the board for placing their confidence in me and designating me as chair for an additional year,” Legislator Earl said. “As a board, we have come far and even though we still have our squabbles, we have worked to improve our interactions so we may carry out the business of the people.”
Legislator Low-Hogan also thanked her colleagues.
“I’m thrilled to return as Vice Chair and I look forward to working on the issues that matter most to our residents as we continue to provide the vital services they rely upon, from public safety to social services, and I look forward to standing with them when called upon – for everything from the environmental protection of the Hudson River to improved transportation services,” Legislator Low-Hogan said.
Also Thursday, the board’s 10 Democrats voted to elect Legislator Aney Paul as Majority Leader and Legislator Alden Wolfe was appointed Deputy Majority Leader.
The board’s six Republicans voted to elect Legislator Lon Hofstein as Minority Leader and Legislator Vince Tyer was appointed Deputy Minority Leader.
The East Ramapo Band performed and the invocation was made by Rev. Dr. Weldon McWilliams of the First Baptist Church in Spring Valley.
A LOOK AT SOME OF THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 2018:
NEW LAWS PASSED
- The Timely Co-op Application Decision Law requires housing cooperatives to make a timely decision on applications by prospective buyers.
- The Cold War Veterans Exemption indefinitely extends the property tax exemption available to veterans of the Cold War.
- The Alternative Veterans Exemption increases the maximum allowable tax exemption for wartime, combat and disabled veterans.
Legislator Wolfe was the main sponsor for all three of these laws.
- The Tobacco 21 Act bans the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, electronic cigarettes, rolling papers and other smoking paraphernalia. This law has the potential to save countless lives going forward, according to the public health advocates who strongly supported its passage. The main sponsor was Legislator Aney Paul.
- A fifth law, The Jerry Donnellan Theft of Valor Prevention Act, penalizes those who pass themselves off as veterans or decorated veterans for personal gain. This was also sponsored by Legislator Wolfe and named in honor of Jerry Donnellan, who worked tirelessly for our veterans.
- In a similar vein, the Legislature also acknowledged the contributions of our late former county Sheriff, Jim Kralik, by designating the James F. Kralik Public Safety Complex in his honor.
RESPONDING TO PUBLIC REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION
Oftentimes, the public reaches out to the Legislature with concerns, seeking answers on a variety of issues. In response, in 2018, the Legislature held public information sessions:
- Legislator Harriet Cornell led a session on a proposed and controversial garbage-burning facility in Stony Point that has since been pulled.
- Legislator Cornell and Legislator Nancy Low-Hogan also focused on the decline of one local bus service and the arrival of a new company for commuter service to and from Westchester, as well as a follow-up with the new company after significant service problems were reported.
- In the Environmental Committee, Legislator Cornell started to assess the potential devastating impact, on the Hudson River and Hudson Valley, of a project being developed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to create barriers in the New York Harbor to protect the City of New York.
- Legislator Wolfe led a session on animal shelter services after problems at Hi Tor earlier this year because the public wanted clarification and information on the county’s role concerning the shelter.
LAUNCHING CREATION OF WATER MANAGEMENT PLAN
Additionally, the Water Task Force, which is chaired by Legislator Cornell, and of which the Legislature is a key member, hired a highly-reputable company to create a truly comprehensive water resources management plan for Rockland County.
HONORING LOCAL HEROES
The Legislature also took time to highlight the many significant contributions our residents make – from successful minority and women owned business leaders during a program held by Legislators Paul and Cornell to a local teen who risked his own safety to find a lost hiker on South Mountain in the dark and in the rain during a presentation by Legislator Lon Hofstein.
STANDING UP FOR NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
One of the Legislature’s greatest accomplishments in 2018 was assisting a contract agency that was being asked to sign a document that would have placed a lien on its property for a loan it never asked for and it never received. The Legislature voted unanimously to award this agency the $90,000 it was earmarked to receive in 2018 – funding that was being held over its head unless it signed this wrongful lien.
PROTECTING RETIREE HEALTH INSURANCE
Perhaps the Legislature’s greatest accomplishment in 2018 was preserving the health insurance program for our retired county government employees. It’s important to note that the Legislature voted in support of the measure unanimously.
“I’m proud to have preserved this coverage,” Legislator Earl said. “When you look into the crowd before you and you see people in their 60s, 70, 80s who put in 20, 25, 30 or more years to provide services to our county residents, who are now afraid they are having their coverage pulled out from under them, well, you simply have to act. In 2019, I remain committed to protecting those health insurance rights.”
The efforts surrounding the County budget continued to pay off, as we learned in 2018 that the County recorded its second consecutive budget surplus, bringing in $6.3 million above expected revenues for 2017 (there is always a lag between the end of the year and when the fiscal books are closed out). Our credit score also continued to rise.
The Legislature previously passed an annual Multi-Year Financial Plan requirement to give a more accurate picture of the county’s financial situation and to avoid sudden tax increases or dramatic budget cuts. Additionally, the County must provide to the State Comptroller updates on its financial condition throughout the year so long as it continues to pay down a deficit reduction bond. These and other tools have improved the County’s ability to continually monitor its finances for any changes and to react sooner rather than later to address the problems.
“We’ll be relying on all of these tools throughout the year to make sure this budget is performing as it needs to be,” Legislator Earl said. “It is a collaborative effort between the Legislature and the Executive.”
Legislator Earl said many legislators were still identifying their goals for 2019, as most of the board’s time was taken up by the 2019 budget review process that ran from September through December.
He identified the following as some of his priorities:
- Passage of a new Human Rights Law that would expand civil rights protections, penalize those who commit acts of bias, and empower the Human Rights Commission, among other actions.
- Amendments to the Fair Housing Law to prohibit discrimination in housing for additional protected classes of people, including transgendered individuals, immigrants, veterans, senior citizens on a fixed income.
- Working to come to a consensus on the future of the Sain property.
“It is my hope that we can work together to determine an outcome for the property,” Legislator Earl said.
- CSEA contracts expired in July 2016 and during the budget process, numerous union members told legislators that while their workloads had increased, their pay had not; one worker said she held three jobs to make ends meet. “As a union person myself, I understand what they’re going through and the uncertainty of an expired contract is just unfair,” Legislator Earl said. “I really want this issue to be addressed and for these hardworking County employees to receive their proper compensation.” (The CSEA represents the largest number of county government workers.)