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Legislative flurry in Albany

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ALBANY, NY — It’s still not clear if the New York State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo will agree on a state budget by the end of this month. But, in the meantime, the Senate is moving forward with multiple initiatives.

On March 8, the Senate passed a measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Jen Metzger (SD-42), that would allow public school districts to express a regional preference in their bidding system, making it easier for schools to buy local products, including food from local farmers. The legislation passed unanimously.

 “Making it easier for schools to purchase fresh, local produce benefits everyone,” says Metzger, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “It will provide a greater variety of the very freshest, local produce for our students while expanding markets and providing a direct financial benefit to local agricultural producers and distributors. As we look to bolster New York’s agricultural sector, programs like these that link the agricultural sector to other parts of the economy are critical.”

Another bill passed recently by the Senate and co-sponsored by Metzger would allow small businesses to set up tax-deferred savings accounts to help fund future investments and plan for economic downturns.

Metzger said, “Our small businesses are the backbone of our rural economies, and this legislation enables prudent planning to weather lean times and natural disasters. Building a rainy-day fund supports their long-term success, protecting local jobs, maintaining a diverse upstate economy, and providing economic stability.”

A third bill passed by the Senate and co-sponsored by Metzger would prohibit companies seeking state contracts from making campaign contributions to officials with authority over the procurement process within six months both before and after such contracts are awarded. 
 “New York’s system of campaign finance reform has had an incredibly corrosive effect on our state’s democratic institutions,” said Metzger, during the legislative session. “The legislation we pass today is an important step forward in ending this pay-to-play system. We have more work to do, but we are well on our way.” Metzger has legislation that would ban corporate donations entirely from the state election and campaign process.

A fourth bill passed by the Senate, and carried by Metzger, addresses suicide, especially in rural areas. The bill would create a 12-person Rural Suicide Prevention Council to examine the causes and conditions of rural suicide and access to mental health care. Within a year, the council will create a plan to identify persons at risk and to increase suicide prevention efforts.

 “Since 1999, suicide rates in New York State have increased by 30%, almost all in upstate and rural communities, including 10 counties that have suicide rates higher than the national average,” said Metzger, who represents parts of Delaware County, which is currently experiencing the third highest suicide rate in the state. “We must develop a plan to address the root causes of this terrible trend, including lack of access to mental health resources and care, social isolation and high-stress financial pressures in farming communities.”

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