State lawmakers weigh in on issues

As the state’s legislative session winds down, North Country lawmakers remain busy.

Legislation sponsored by State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, and Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, was approved in their respective houses, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, let his feelings be known on a plan to pay inmates and on issuing licenses to illegals.

The legislative session in Albany is scheduled to end on June 19.

Outdoor Rx Act

Jones sponsored legislation to create more outdoor-based recreation opportunities for veterans, and it was approved in the Assembly’s Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The Outdoor Rx Act would facilitate collaboration between state agencies, veterans organizations and nonprofits to coordinate the use of lands to benefit veterans.

Outdoor and nature-based activities can have an invaluable therapeutic effect on those struggling with service-related traumas, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or substance-abuse disorder, according to a news release from Jones.

Inmate pay raise

Stec was vocal this week about a bill that came up in the Assembly Committee on Correction that would grant New York’s inmates a pay raise.

The legislation would also give inmates a cost-of-living adjustment every five years.

“New York ranks among the worst states in the country when it comes to tax burden,” Stec said.

“Our infrastructure throughout rural upstate New York is in desperate need of repair. Over the last few years, residents have been voting with their feet and fleeing oppressive taxes and an overburdened business climate, and these are the issues the Assembly Majority wants to focus on with just three weeks left in this year’s legislative session?

“This should not be a priority, and granting a pay raise and cost- of-living adjustment to inmates is not what we should be addressing.

“When did we decide to focus on inmates and criminals rather than the average New Yorker?”

“Green Light Bill”

Stec and Jones also voiced their opposition to a bill that was voted on in the Assembly Committee on Transportation known as the “Green Light Bill,” which aims to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in New York state.

“We should be enforcing our laws, not rewarding and encouraging people to break them,” Stec said. “This is a dangerous precedent that not only legitimizes illegal immigration but encourages it. What message does that send to people who came here legally and are waiting patiently, going through the naturalization process? Or for future immigrants who plan on making the move?

“Why would they follow the law when they can come here illegally and still reap the benefits of someone who went through the proper channels?

“I fully support immigration and encouraging immigrants to come to this country, but it must be in a lawful manner.”

Jones called the bill a “distraction.”

“I’ve heard from people all over my district who are opposed to this bill,” he said. “Extending driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers won’t solve the problems our communities face — that’s why I’m voting no on this bill.”

The Enterprise staff contributed to this report.