Applications now available for Excelsior Scholarship

Applications are now being accepted for the first year of New York’s Excelsior Scholarship program at state colleges and universities. The online application process runs until July 21st. If accepted, no tuition will be charged at New York state’s two or four year colleges. Applicants must be state residents. attend a state school, take 30 credits per year and be on track to graduate with an Associate’s Degree in two years or a Bachelor’s Degree in four years. Recipients must also plan to live in New York State for the length of time they received the award. State officials estimate 940,000 individuals are families who earn up to $125,000 per year would meet the financial guidelines when the program is in full operation in a couple of years. You can apply by going to New York state’s website and look for the link for tuition-free application. State data reports 81 percent of the 25,500 families in the Southern Tier with college aged students are eligible to apply.

NY Senate passes bills to train workforce

The New York Senate passed a package of bills yesterday that are designed to boost the state economy by training job seekers and existing employees for the employment opportunities that are currently in demand. The legislation aims to eliminate the skills gap through education investments and the creation of new networks between workers and job creators. State Senator Fred Akshar supported the measures, saying that the 52nd Senate District has more than 2,000 open jobs and has to develop the workforce to fill the needs of local employers. The package includes bills encouraging statewide participation in apprenticeships, giving job opportunities to veterans, making information about state work programs more accessible, establishing a program to retrain unemployed workers, investments in technology pathway programs at schools, and providing higher teacher salaries at BOCES to attract more talented professionals. The legislation will now head to the Assembly for consideration.

NY lawmakers considering “textalyzer” bill

New York lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow police to check a driver’s phone at the scene of an accident to determine if the driver had been talking or texting on their mobile device before the crash. While police say it would help stop texting and driving, opponents of the bill say it’s an invasion of privacy. The company says the “textalyzer” would be able to determine if a person had been tapping, swiping, or clicking the screen before the accident. Similar legislation is being considered in other states like Tennessee and New Jersey.

Volunteers descend on NYS parks for I Love My Park Day

Saturday was a day to honor nature’s beauty. “I Love My Park Day” was celebrated throughout New York State Saturday. In Waverly, more than 40 volunteers painted birdhouses, worked on digital mapping and cleared trails at Two Rivers State Park. “I Love My Park Day” was planned to improve and enhance New York’s state parks and historic sites. The event at Twin Rivers was one of more than 100 held across the state Saturday.

Cuomo signs legislation for $200M to fight drug epidemic

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially signed legislation yesterday that will invest over $200 million to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic across the state.

“This is a matter of life and death,” he said after signing the legislation. “You have parents that are struggling, and providers that are struggling. What we did in this budget is that we basically doubled the state’s commitment in terms of resources.”

The funds were provided in this year’s state budget. They will be used to support prevention, treatment and recovery programs targeted toward chemical dependency, residential service opportunities, and public awareness and education activities in New York. It will also provide $6 million for Naloxone kits and training. The recommendations were made by the state’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force, which is co-chaired by Senator Fred Akshar.

Open Burn Ban in NY until May 14

After a large brush fire was reported in northern Tioga County last weekend and other areas around the state, all New Yorkers are reminded that an outdoor burn ban remains in effect until May 14. The DEC says there is moderate fire danger for most areas around the state, as warmer-than-average temperatures have melted snow and left behind dry grass and brush. State residents are reminded to fully extinguish any camp or cooking fires, and burn only charcoal or clean, untreated wood. More information about the burn ban is available on the DEC website.

NY passes state budget

New York lawmakers have agreed to a budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The $153 billion spending plan will increase education aid by $1.1 billion – a 4.4 percent increase to public school districts – up the tax rate on millionaires, begin a middle class tax cut, and provide free college tuition at SUNY schools for students of families that make less than $145,000 per year. Tuition will go up for students who don’t qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship program. In other initiatives, the budget includes comprehensive workers compensation reform, forces counties to come up with and vote on a shared services plan, and raises the criminal age of responsibility to 18 – meaning 16 and 17-year-old crime suspects will no longer be treated as adults. It also includes $200 million to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic through treatment and prevention services.

Cuomo halts budget process

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put a halt to the budget process, saying he wants the state to wait until the federal government finalizes their spending plan. Cuomo believes the federal budget will end up costing the state money, especially in terms of health care.

” I don’t want to do a budget where we have a) either overcommitted financially and then when the federal cuts come to New York, inevitable, we have overcommitted or b) where we don’t have the ability to adjust to cuts.”

In the meantime, the state government will continue operating under the budget extender passed Monday. Cuomo says they have reached agreement on many issues, but one of those issues still up for debate is education funding. To help school districts, which have to send a budget proposal for next school year to voters on May 16, Cuomo says they will be setting the overall aid increase at 3.9 percent, and the final number will be that or more for school districts.