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Legislature Takes Firm Stands on State Legislation

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Legislature Takes Firm Stands on State Legislation

Tuesday, April 20, 2010
In four separate actions, the Legislature made its position known on issues currently pending in the State, three of them that potentially could affect county spending.

Changes to the Medicaid Cap:
The Legislature, by unanimous vote, registered strong opposition to provisions in the Governor's budget that it maintains would "alter the Medicaid cap agreement in a fundamental way." The provision would empower the State Commissioner of Health to force local social services to fully fund any Federal disallowances under certain circumstances, even when the local district followed State-mandated guidelines. The Medicaid cap legislation enacted five years ago, which caps the local share of Medicaid, committed the State as responsible for Federal disallowances in exchange for receiving all recoveries. The change, the Legislature maintains, would undermine the State's commitment to fund the cost of Medicaid mandates and would "expose local taxpayers to increased costs and cuts in essential services."

Autism Services:
The Legislature, without dissent, strongly opposed proposed legislation to amend State and Public Health Laws that, in its language relating to screening, diagnosis, and treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder, indicates such children would not receive insurance coverage for services and precluding counties from billing insurance companies for such services. Children with autism spectrum disorders routinely receive therapeutic services through Early Intervention or school-based services, administered and co-funded by counties. The resolution maintains the proposed change sets a "dangerous public policy precedent" and produces no cost-savings, except for the insurance industry.

Motor Vehicle Revenues:
Legislators, again by unanimous vote, supported legislation in the Assembly, which would permit County Clerks to retain a share of the motor vehicles fees collected through the State Department of Motor Vehicles web site. Local Clerks presented retain 12.7% of DMV fees for in-person services and, it is noted, often times must issue no-fee renewals when customers renew on-line but fail to receive their stickers. Government Operations Chair Mike Lane called the situation "a trickle effect" on the part of the State, which has taken more and more revenue from local clerk's offices, a situation that has become even worse now that the State allows internet renewals.

Sustainable Energy Financing Programs:
The Legislature by unanimous vote, asked the State to adopt pending legislation to "amend, strengthen, and correct technical deficiencies" within enabling legislation authorizing Sustainable Energy Financing Programs, which would allow the use of bonds and other sources of public and private financing to establish and implement such programs. The Tompkins County legislature last year supported the enabling legislation to establish such "green loan" programs for property owners for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements, but indicates that broader sources of funding are needed than are permitted in the current legislation.