FAYETTE — Although puzzled by how long it’s taking, all three state legislators representing Seneca County are confident that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign the Finger Lakes Community Preservation Act of 2019.
The bill would prohibit a trash-burning incinerator from being built on the former Seneca Army Depot in the town of Romulus.
Speaking at Thursday’s Seneca County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon at Ventosa Vineyards, State Sen. Pam Helming, R-54 of Canandaigua and Assemblymen Brian Kolb, R-131 of Canandaigua, and Phil Palmesano, R-132 of Corning, spoke on a variety of state issues affecting the county.
“There was almost universal opposition to a trash-burning incinerator in Romulus from business owners and others. This was a bipartisan bill that got it right. Businesses and environmental activists were in agreement,” Helming said.
“The Assembly has not sent it to the governor for signing yet. I’m not sure why, but I’m confident they will and it will be signed,” she said. Helming was a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, along with Syracuse Democrat Rachel May.
In response to a question, Helming said she’s not aware of any “hangup or holdup” that would prevent Cuomo from signing the bill, which he has voiced support for in the past. “The Assembly sends these bills to the governor, although he could also ask for it to come to his desk. He may be focused on other issues right now, but I’m positive he will sign it,” Helming said. “If not, I will be raising the red flag.”
Palmesano also said there is no reason for the governor not to sign the bill, especially in llght of the strong support from the community and the bipartisan support in the legislature and his own statements in opposition to the incinerator.
“But another reason to get it signed is the town of Romulus is incurring legal expenses in defending a lawsuit against the town by Circular enerG, the company behind the incinerator. “Every day it is not signed is costing town taxpayers money,’’ Palmesano said. He represents Romulus, along with Ovid, Lodi and Covert.
“If he supports the bill like he says, then he should just sign it and not delay,’’ he added.
Helming noted that even with the bill being signed, the lawsuits against the town of Romulus will not go away.
Kolb has been in the Assembly since 2000 and is Republican Minority Leader. He represents the northern six towns of Seneca County.
He said he’s a little more “cynical’’ about the governor signing the bill than Helming and Palmesano. “I’m hearing that the Assembly sponsor, Michael Cusack of Long Island, is not answering media questions about the status of the anti-incinerator bill. The governor is also not saying much about the bill and his intentions.
If the bill gets to the governor’s desk, he has 10 days to either sign it, veto it or let it pass without taking any action.
“I’ve sent a a letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie asking him to get the bill to the governor. Hopefully, he will do that soon,’’ Kolb said.
The Circular enerG proposal is to build a state-of-the-art incinerator to accept trash from all over the state, including New York City, and burn it to produce electricity to provide power to new businesses and industries that would locate on the 10,600-acre former depot.
The three GOP legislators acknowleged that being the minority party in both houses of the legislature and not having the governor’s office makes it hard to convert their ideas for the Finger Lakes into legislation.
All three railed against actions taken by Democrats in the legislature and Cuomo, suggesting that they are more oriented toward downstate and New York City issues than rural upstate issues. Palmesano, in particular, listed a string of actions taken or proposed in the 2019 session that he feels were wrong or unfair to upstate.
“The governor brags about how many prisons he’s closing, but doesn’t address the powder keg environment of violence in the prisons, both among inmates and between inmates and staff. The number of assaults in both cases are up, and the rampant drug use is not addressed, not even by drug dogs for each prison,’’ Palmesano said.
Kolb praised Palmesano for his passion. He said he has his own disagreements with Cuomo and the majority party, he insisted it is not political. “It’s about what to do and not do for my district and the state. I will praise him when he does something I feel is right, such as using an executive order to expand free college tuition for families of veterans who died while serving, not just during combat,’ Kolb said.
“But one party rule makes it a difficult environment. The Democrats seem to be focused on a host of social issues, but less so on the economy, taxes and infrastructure. As the minority party, we have to fight harder and establish a relationship with the other side to get things done, such as the incinerator bill,’’ Kolb said.
Kolb is disappointed that Brittany’s Law, named after the daughter of Dale Driscoll of Geneva who was murdered by a violent felon, has not been enacted. He said it would establish a registry of violent felons in the state, much like the registry of sex offenders.
“We have failed her,’’ he said.
All three predicted that sports betting would soon be approved, saying that will help the del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, which, in turn, will help local governments.
They also said legalization of recreational use of marijuana appears dead “for now.”