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Sen. Little hopes bureaucracy-cutting bills pass

February 23, 2011
By NATHAN BROWN, Enterprise Staff Writer

In 2009, the town of Newcomb had to pay a $1,000 fine to the state because the town didn't notify the town 30 days before the town applied to renew the liquor license for the town golf course.

State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, sponsored a bill last year to get rid of the requirement that a license holder needs to notify the municipality 30 days before applying to the state for a renewal. The bill made it to a third reading but was never voted on. She said Tuesday she plans to reintroduce it this year.

"I'm really hoping we're going to be able to get that one passed soon," Little said.

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Little has introduced 43 bills so far this year, according to her website. Many of them were introduced last year as well and don't look all that controversial. They still didn't make it out of committee last year, when the Democrats held a narrow majority in the Senate.

"They didn't put a lot of our bills on the floor," Little said of the Democrats.

The Republicans lost the Senate majority after the November 2008 elections and regained it this year. That, Little said, will improve her bills' chances for passage "because we control the agenda."

Little said the Senate is being run differently than it was in the past and that several Democratic-sponsored bills have already been passed. She said the Senate leadership is at least allowing minority-sponsored bills to come to the floor for a vote now.

"I think it's a lesson that was learned," Little said. "When we were in the majority before, the leadership didn't allow minority bills to come to the floor. When we were in the minority, then it happened to us. We're just trying to do it differently."

Little is on the mandate relief committee that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appointed, which is supposed to come out with a report next week. One of the bills Little reintroduced - one that would have BOCES districts draw up the schedules for the school districts within them - came up during the committee's discussions.

"It would be so much easier to share services and work together if you shared the same calendar," Little said, giving examples such as coordination of athletic events, transportation and distance-learning programs. She argued it would save money and said she has talked to students who have had problems signing up for distance-learning classes due to schedule differences.

The Lake Placid, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake schools are all in the same Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES district, but have different break schedules this year. Tupper Lake takes this week off and another week in April. Lake Placid and Saranac Lake take two weeks off in April, but only one of the two weeks is the same for both.

Little said she has talked to school superintendents and school board members about the idea.

"They've said they've worked on it, (and) it's difficult to achieve," Little said. "I think, with the leadership of BOCES programs, they should be able to make it happen. It's one of those things that's talked about but not acted upon."

Little has also reintroduced two bills that would give towns authority they don't have now: one to allow them to set speed limits on town roads without getting state approval and one to let them run fire departments.

"I think those are two things that would make dissolution of a village easier," Little said.

The fire department has been one of the sticking points in past talks about dissolving the village of Tupper Lake. Under current law, since a town can't run a fire department, it would have to either contract with an independent fire department or create a fire district with an elected board of commissioners that would set its own budget and levy its own taxes. Little has introduced the bill before, but it has never come to a vote.

"The people opposed to it are the fire districts and commissioners," Little said. "They don't want to see that go away."

The second bill, allowing towns with fewer than 50,000 people to set speed limits, has been introduced several times. It passed the Senate in 2007 but never made it through the transportation committee in the Assembly.



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