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O'Mara, Friend here calls for reform

    MONTOUR FALLS—Around 25 residents and local politicians spoke to Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) and Assemblyman Chris Friend (R-Big Flats) at an open meeting in Montour Falls, Friday, Jan. 20.
    Jim Seafuse expressed several concerns that have impacted his business.  He explained he owns a grocery store in Trumansburg.  First, he said the way the unemployment insurance laws are implemented need to change.  He gave two instances where he as an employer had to pay unemployment to former employees.
    O’Mara said enforcement of the rules is the problem.  He added, he as a senator is tasked with creating laws while the executive branch (the governor’s office) is in charge of enforcing them.  O’Mara added when it comes to benefits, “the employer is usually on the short end of the stick.”
    Seafuse’s other concern was having to install a sprinkler system as part of an expansion to his store, but not having access to municipal water.  He said he has applied for a variance, but has not heard anything back yet.
    Montour board member Jim Howell later suggested the state have an ombudsman in the region again.  He said the governor’s office had one stationed in Montour Falls in the past and it made working with that office much easier.
    One member of the audience asked about hydrofracking in the state and seismic problems in other states.  O’Mara said that concerning fracking overall, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is handling the review of the new laws.  He added that he understood the problems some companies have experienced with earthquakes actually had to do with injection wells and not drilling.  O’Mara said he would like to see the drilling process done without water.
    Schuyler County Legislator Phil Barnes asked about term limits for state representatives.  Friend said it would probably be easier to get limits instated for the leadership positions than for all representatives.  He added he would support limits on both.
    Jeannette Frank, Schuyler County Arc executive director, said agencies like hers are being affected by more and more regulations and administrative burdens.  O’Mara said there seems to be a tendency to over regulate with “knee-jerk reactions.”  Friend said it sounded like something Gov. Andrew Cuomo talked about addressing.
    Both representatives had positive things to say about the governor and his recently proposed budget.  O’Mara said the budget proposes less spending for the second consecutive year.  Friend said Cuomo also addressed unfunded mandates.




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