Highlights of the September 7, 2004 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
The Legislature agreed by a vote of 12 - 1 (13 Legislators were present) to approve a shortened version of a five-page resolution that addresses the Patriot Act and a possible expansion of the federal law. The original resolution was put forward by Legislator Dooley Kiefer and approved by the Consumer and Community Affairs Committee. Kiefer alone opposed the shortened version, which affirms the Legislature's belief in the protection of civil liberties and urges delay of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, also known as Patriot II, until the full repercussions of the original Patriot Act are known. The resolution recognizes the need for anti-terrorism measures while acknowledging the threat to civil liberties by policies included in the Patriot Act. The longer resolution included many particularized recommendations, such as calling on libraries to post warnings that library patron records can be obtained by federal agents, urging schools and colleges to provide written notice to anyone whose records have been obtained, and encouraging local law enforcement to continue its anti-profiling policies. A majority of the Legislators felt the details in the resolution were not needed to convey the core message or would require lengthy discussion and favored the shorter version written by Legislators Barbara Blanchard and Dick Booth. An amendment to the resolution that urged repeal of the Patriot Act and defeat of Patriot II failed by a 7 to 6 vote. Contacts: Dooley Kiefer, Chair, Consumer and Community Affairs Committee, 257-7453; Legislators Dick Booth, 272-6573, and Barbara Blanchard, 272-7664.

The Legislature voted unanimously to forgive a $248,852 deficit in the 2003 County Health Department budget. A policy of the Legislature allows for absolving deficits that are considered beyond the control of a department. The Health Department deficit came about due to unexpected changes in federal billing regulations, fewer referrals for service, and an unanticipated reduction in revenues. The Legislature determined to recover any appropriate surplus funds from the Health Department that become available in the next year. Contact: Martha Robertson, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 272-0584.

The County Legislature passed by unanimous consent a resolution urging the New York State Legislature to override a veto by Governor George Pataki that removed funding for statewide affordable housing programs. Pataki vetoed $57 million in capital for housing programs in 2005, including $7.3 million in programs that support community-based housing organizations. Locally, Better Housing for Tompkins County and Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, two agencies that assist low- and moderate-income residents with housing, would lose a total of $130,000, affecting their ability to operate effectively. The loss of the funding is made more significant by the fact that, according to the agencies, the money leverages almost $10 million in other funds, a 75:1 ratio. Contact: Martha Robertson, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 272-0584.

On the advice of the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council (EMC), the Legislature agreed by unanimous consent to purchase a small amount of renewable energy over the next few years. The County will purchase at least 5 percent of its annual electricity from renewable energy sources by 2008. This step complements the County's earlier pledge to achieve by 2008 a 20 percent reduction in the total of greenhouse gases emitted by County-owned buildings and vehicles. Contacts: Dick Booth, Chair, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee, 272-6573; Kenny Christianson, Chair, EMC Energy Committee.