Lawmakers returned to Albany for the 2017 legislative session. Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo represents the 123rd district, which includes the city of Binghamton and the towns of Vestal and Union. She joined us to discuss the session and her new role as Chair of the Committee on Aging.
What do you want to get done in your new role?
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo: Being someone who is over 60 myself and having gone throw the death of my parents, I’m sensitive to a couple of big things: making sure that those individuals who need services and programs have those available, but also, as people are living longer and healthier lives and want to stay more active, that we’re paying attention to that, too. Homes can be more adaptable, neighborhoods can be more walkable and livable, and communities can be sustainable for people over 60 who want to stay in places like Broome County.
Governor Cuomo vetoed a bill that would mandate safety inspections of parking garages every five years. What do you have to do to get this passed?
DL: [Cuomo’s] big issue is that the state Fire Prevention and Building Code Council generally issues these rules and regulations. [Senator O’Mara and I] are going to meet with them in a couple of weeks and explain to them that there are no requirements for structural inspections. There are requirements for fire and safety inspections to make sure there’s not debris around, to make sure someone [doesn’t] create a fire hazard, but no one is looking at these structures every five years to see if there’s something that really needs to be addressed.
As these are getting older, we’re seeing more problems. We’re going to go to the council. We’re going to find out what their time frame is to put this together. If we’re not satisfied with their response, we’re probably going to file another bill calling upon them to put these regulations in place.
You helped pass a bill that required schools to test drinking water sources for lead. The Department of Health has yet to release the statewide data. What are you expecting?
DL: In our bill, we made sure that whatever improvements needed would be paid for through the Building Aid Formula. The formula associated with that school district will dictate how much they will get from the state. Wealthier schools will get less, schools like mine would get a lot more.
Governor Cuomo is proposing expanding an existing tax credit to help middle class families pay for childcare. What do you want to see happen for childcare?
DL: What concerns me about this particular initiative is—not that I don’t appreciate the effort—it’s that the entire childcare industry has suffered so much so that a lot of childcare options aren’t even available. We’re getting the credit, but when you turn around a lot of places have gone out of business. Now, with the minimum wage increase, a lot of places are having a very difficult time paying their workers what they’re worth. They were already being dramatically underpaid and now they’re struggling even more.
I liken this to throwing a party but forgetting to go shopping to buy what you need to serve to your guests. We can set up the incentive for childcare, but if we don’t have the childcare industry developed—supporting professional staff, making sure these places are vibrant and sustainable—there won’t be any place for these children to be placed.