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Michelle Schimel: This Year In Albany

A good year, with a budget right on time

With the legislative year just ending, New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel told local officials that this, her fifth year, was the best ever. “I really felt effective this year,” the assemblywoman said as she addressed the Great Neck Village Officials Association meeting on June 27.

For Michelle Schimel, “This year was the best of times and the worst of times.” On a very positive note, the assemblywoman is proud of the fact that nine of her laws passed, with only one, microstamping, not having made the cut. “I had fun this year,” she said.

On the downside, “the worst of times,” she spoke very briefly about the “traumatic” experience of having her estranged husband opposing her in her bid for re-election. Though Mark Schimel’s challenge was short-lived, the surrounding commotion and constant publicity was difficult for Ms. Schimel and for her family. And while she had to use the services of a guard while in Albany, and had to fight through hordes of reporters, she admitted that “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

Then again turning to the good news, Assemblywoman Schimel was delighted with the fact that the state budget passed on time. She explained that, normally, the legislators work on several bills even as they address the budget —- but this year there was very little work on bills during the time they concentrated on the budget. “So there was little done (on bills) prior to March.”

As an interesting aside, Assemblywoman Schimel touched on the problem that many legislators really do not understand each bill they face. “You have to explain to the legislators what’s going on (with each bill).”

Turning to other issues, the assemblywoman noted work on pension reform. And she said that from the window in her new office in Albany, she can see the front of the building, where people often picket. Picketing, she said, is a good thing, showing that people care. “And there was a lot of picketing over pension reform,” she added.

Next, Assemblywoman Schimel focused on SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act), “a serious bill.” Actually, she said that this is not a bill yet, but a “bully pulpit,” to alert the public to this issues. “This smacks of home rule,” she said, explaining that if proposals were to go into effect, the state would take the lead issue in certain environmental cases. And, although she said that “you can’t regulate what isn’t law yet,” the possibility would greatly impact counties, towns and villages.

Mid-point in the discussions, Assemblywoman Schimel brought a “big” issue, the voting machine issue, to the forefront. Working with New York State Senator Jack Martins, the bill was pushed through both the Senate and the Assembly and now awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature. The issue involves the right for villages, school districts and special districts to use the old lever voting machines as the new machines, if available, would cost each municipality a great deal more than the old machines. The assemblywoman said that two years ago it was extremely difficult to get permission to use the old machines and this further two-year extension was equally difficult to push through. This time, though, she was quite firm that the municipalities must get together to develop a permanent solution. She was definite that roundtables and/or public hearings will be crucial and must be planned immediately. And as she worked with Senator Martins and with local officials who lobbied. Assemblywoman Schimel found that she “learned a lot.”

As she broached the subject of hydrofracking, the assemblywoman said that it will be interesting to see how this plays out, interesting to see how local governments and members of the public react to this issue.

As she ended her discussion, Assemblywoman Schimel noted a future “fight” that must begin now. She spoke of New York City’s imminent plan to work on the city’s wells, a plan that includes the city turning to old western Queens wells that have not been used for long periods of time. City use of these wells could well adversely impact western Nassau County water supplies, especially in Great Neck. GNVOA President Susan Lopatkin, a director of the Water Authority of Great Neck North, said that the Water Authority is already addressing this issue, and she asked for help from Assemblywoman Schimel and Senator Martins.

For every issue of concern to her constituents, Michelle Schimel is ready to listen and become involved. For now, she is in her home district, meeting with those who need her, always alert to issues, ready to jump in.