Highlights of the July 1, 2003 meeting of the
Tompkins County Legislature
A vote of seven to six in favor still wasn't enough to set a date for a public hearing on a local smoking ban. The 15-member Legislature needs eight votes to pass any resolution; with only 13 members present, majority support was lacking for a local version of the newly passed state law banning smoking in workplaces, bars, and restaurants. The local law, initiated by Michael Lane, mirrors the intent of the state legislation to eliminate second-hand smoke exposure in most workplaces. Lane feels the local law is needed in case the state law is weakened down the road. Those in favor of setting a hearing date were Tim Joseph, Dooley Kiefer, Michael Lane, Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Martha Robertson, Nancy Schuler, and Daniel Winch. Opposed were Barbara Blanchard, Kathy Luz Herrera, Leslyn McBean, Frank Proto, George Totman, and Thomas Todd. Some legislators voted no because they oppose the intent of the law; others voted no because they believe a local law is redundant and unnecessary. Lane said he will bring the issue back to the Legislature when more members are present. Contacts: Michael Lane, 844-8440; 844-8313; Martha Robinson, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 272-0584.

The Legislature gave unanimous approval to the 2003-2004 operating budget and $3.4 million in local support for Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3). Although the $22,580,000 annual budget is 10 percent higher than the previous year, the college asked for no increase in funding from its two local sponsors, Tompkins and Cortland counties. The college's budget includes $1.2 million in increased tuition revenues. Tompkins County's share, which is calculated according to the number of county residents attending the college, is estimated at $2,127,192. Contact: Peter Penniman, Chair, Budget & Capital Committee, 387-3928, 387-5897.

The Legislature unanimously approved $1.5 in capital funds for communications equipment and a microwave link at the new Emergency Response Center currently under construction on Brown Road in the Village of Lansing. The funds will be used for specialized furniture, 911 dispatch equipment and installation, and a transmission site to link the center into the existing emergency communications network. The funds were previously approved for use in 2003. The project is part of the first phase of an upgrade to the entire countywide emergency communications network. Contact: Barbara Blanchard, Chair, Communications Capital Projects Committee, 277-1374.

New York State has invited counties to join it in granting a sales tax exemption on purchases of shoes and clothing for one week in August and another next January. On June 24, the Budget and Capital Committee failed to approve Tompkins County's participation, but committee chair Peter Penniman said then that the tax-free weeks might be reconsidered if the City of Ithaca decided to participate. Finance Director David Squires reported that the City has also declined participation. The Legislature must opt for the holidays by July 16, if it wishes to participate.  Legislator Michael Lane said he will bring the issue forward as a member resolution at the next meeting of the Legislature. Contacts: David Squires, Finance Director, 274-5544; Michael Lane, 844-8440..

The County Department of Social Services has received a $103,500 New York State Department of Labor grant that will help current and former public assistance clients get to work and back. The grant is part of the state's Wheels 2 Work program and allows local lending institutions to underwrite no-interest car loans. Lack of reliable transportation is a major hurdle in shifting individuals from welfare to work; the Wheels 2 Work loans help increase self sufficiency by allowing individuals to buy and/or repair their own cars. The recipients are able to get to jobs that otherwise are inaccessible to them, and they can begin to build up a credit history. Contact: Martha Robertson, Chair, Health & Human Services Committee, 844-8440.

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