Martz wants to pass bills Little hasn’t

Coming Wednesday: Interview with incumbent Sen. Betty Little

Democratic state Senate candidate Emily Martz talks with the Enterprise editorial board in the its Saranac Lake offices in October. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Democratic state Senate candidate Emily Martz wants to bring “fresh ideas” to Albany regarding BOCES and asbestos cleanup, and says she is also focused on improving jobs, health care and broadband in New York’s 45th Senate District.

Martz, a former primary candidate for New York’s 21st Congressional District, started her state Senate campaign almost immediately after the Democratic primary in June, making her the first major-party challenger to incumbent Sen. Betty Little since 2006.

“I don’t think of this in terms of me versus my opponent; I think of this in terms of what I can bring to the table,” Martz said. “What we need is that fresh energy. What we need is someone that thinks outside the box.”

Martz has two main objectives: to make the North Country thrive through using its innate resources and protecting the rights of the district’s residents.

Jobs

Martz said her work as a deputy director for the Adirondack North Country Association made her in tune with the resources the North Country has and how to capitalize on them.

She said it is common for students to graduate and move away from the area, and that with a low rate of people moving in, this creates “employment gaps.” She said these gaps especially hit contractors such as electricians, plumbers and drywallers. She noted that while BOCES is placing people trained in these fields in jobs for unions and large companies outside the district, small business owners who want to retire have no one to hand their businesses off to.

She said BOCES should place graduates in local businesses where they can apprentice and learn the details on running a business in the Adirondacks.

Martz said stringent regulations hold back progress and that she would like to deregulate portions of the wood pellet and asbestos abatement industries to make them more viable.

Wood pellets are required to be stored outside to avoid combustion, which Martz said stems from an incident where a ship with tons of the material caught fire. It is not a problem in smaller amounts, she said.

“It’s an obstacle,” Martz said. “When you’re all ready to pull the trigger and decide to put in a pellet boiler or pellet stove and then you have this one last hurdle, that can really be a stumbling block.”

After a visit to the town of Whitehall in Washington County, Martz said she wants to streamline the asbestos abatement process to make it easier for municipalities to get the required work done. She said it should take one permit to clear all buildings in project and that villages should be able to join projects and get discounted rates from the companies they hire.

Bills not passed

Martz said Little has not voted to pass several acts that she would support if she was elected to the state Senate. One is the Child Victims Act, which would raise the age an adolescent victim of sexual assault could criminally prosecute their attacker from 23 to 28 and raise the age to 50 for civil prosecution, plus offer a one-year suspension of the statute of limitations. Versions of it have been tossed around in the state Legislature for 10 years.

In May 2016 Little voted against a version of the act as an amendment to another bill. Little now says she has further researched the “look back” provision, which allowed a one-year window for past victims to file lawsuits, and supports the bill. (Editor’s note: This paragraph has been clarified.)

Martz said the current age does not leave enough time for a victim to come forward and that Little should have supported the act from the beginning.

“It’s the right thing to do, to vote for it,” Martz said. “To have waited until a strong opponent comes into the race, I think that the definition of a leader is someone who stands up from the beginning to say what’s right, as opposed to when an election’s on the line.”

Martz also said she would support the Reproductive Health Act, which among other things would move abortion from the state criminal code to the health code. Little has voted against this act in the Senate Health Committee.

Martz said if the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is chipped away, “It puts women back into the status of second-class citizen” because state law does not have provision for the choice of abortion in cases regarding the viability of the fetus or the woman’s health.

Martz also supports opening up the law to allow people who are not doctors perform abortions and extending it to cover abortions after 24 weeks in case of viability and health.

“The majority of Americans, the majority of people in the North Country do believe that it is a choice for the woman,” Martz said. “It is a choice between her, herself, her god, her partner, her doctor — it is her choice.”

Martz also said Little, in her position on the Health Committee, has kept the New York Health Act from being passed, though Little does not have direct power to dictate if the bill is voted on.

The universal health care bill has passed the Assembly and is in committee in the Senate. Little has not had a chance to vote on the bill but has said she believes universal health care should be passed at the federal level to not create undue burden on the state.

“Yes, the federal government should do it, but they’re not,” Martz said. “New York state is the 11th largest economy in the whole world. We can figure this out.”

Martz said Little could push the committee chair to bring the bill to a vote but that she does not.

“It’s a burden on everybody,” Martz said of the current health care system.

In talking with residents around the district, Martz said she has heard senior citizens talk about the challenges of affording prescriptions. Working families with insurance talk about premiums and deductibles preventing them from going to the doctor. Health care providers say this causes people to come to them when it is too late or costs more. Business owners talk about having to let go of good employees because they can’t afford paying their health care and local government officials say a third of their budget goes toward health care.

Martz also took issue with how Little voted on a bill allowing individual schools to decide how to assess teachers, removing the mandated linking of test scores and a teacher’s assessment and pay. Martz said the current system is a major obstacle to more teachers entering New York.

Though Little co-sponsored the initial act that was passed by the Assembly, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan introduced a bill in the last few days, which Martz called “messy” and which put more state money toward charter schools. Little voted for the alternative bill, which did not pass.

“When the going got tough, when we really needed somebody to stand up for our public schools, for our children, for our teachers, she turned her back,” Martz said.

Martz said she respects Little’s service to her constituents but said the Republican from Queensbury helps individuals without providing “bold ideas” to change the process.

“When you do anything for a long period of time, you get stale. And I’m not saying she’s stale,” Martz said. “It’s your senator’s responsibility to find out the needs of the region. It’s not the constituent’s responsibility to go to the senator to get things done.”

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