Livable Communities Plan Advances To 16 Counties/Municipalities in New York

The grassroots livable communities movement continues to grow in New York State with 16 counties and municipalities adopting the World Health Organization (WHO) Age Friendly communities agenda including Albany County.    AARP sponsored a  two-day statewide livability conference in mid-April at Albany’s brand new Capital Center that brought together aging leaders with leaders in design and planning to focus on community issues including universal design housing, transportation, aging in place and using technology.   New York City has been a major international leader in the Age Friendly movement and many of the speakers discussed the initiatives in the city and its neighborhoods.

Governor Andrew Cuomo included in his State of the State message a plan to become the first state to adopt the WHO Age Friendly approach.   One of first steps will be to have state agencies analyze how their departments are addressing the aging of the population. This approach was actually used a decade ago when the State Office for the Aging under Governor Pataki had Project 2015 which at that time, was asking the agencies to plan for the changes expected by 2015.  Now, those plans need to be updated for the coming decades.

During my time as Director of the State Office for the Aging, Project 2015 was followed up with the Livable Communities initiative and the major 2009 conference “Empowering Communities for Successful Aging” which drew over 500 persons to Saratoga Springs and two follow-up regional conferences in 2010.  This initiative produced a manual that is available on the NYSOFA website  www.aging.ny.gov

Albany County is embarking on its Age Friendly plans which will begin to go public in the coming months when stakeholders will be asked to participate in discussions about the eight domains of interest in the WHO/AARP plan.  County Executive Daniel McCoy recently sent a letter to all Town Supervisors and the five mayors of the cities of Albany County asking for their participation.  The City of Albany’s Mayor Kathy Sheehan welcomed the AARP conference to Albany on April 12 and she has committed to join the county effort.

Michael Burgess

State Legislature Returns after Budget Sets Process to Adjust Federal Cuts

The State Legislature returns today from a two week break to begin its final two months of the session.  The final budget came together after ongoing difficult negotiations that included another temporary extension of the “millionaires tax” which made balancing the budget much easier.  Initially the Legislature approved a stopgap budget until late May but both houses wanted to complete the budget.  They were concerned that the extension was a flat budget extension that didn’t address increased needs.  They were especially concerned about school budget votes in May with voters not knowing what state aid would be provided.

The Legislature also responded to the possibility of major federal budget cuts later in the year.  The Governor’s office is concerned that Congress will approve budget plans this week and in October that will include major spending cuts.  The Governor had wanted his administration to be given power to make cuts later without the Legislature. However, the Legislature was adamantly against giving him that power.  They did agree in the budget language to allow the Governor’s Budget office to propose a budget plan after any federal cuts are made.  The Legislature would have 90 days to act on the proposed cuts or they would go into effect as proposed by the Governor.

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As the Legislature returns, advocacy groups are ramping up their campaigns to enact bills.  StateWide Senior Action Council plans an advocacy day on May 9 to push for universal health care, NY Health, and for safe staffing in health care facilities as well as addressing the home aide crisis.

Advocates for assisted suicide plan a lobby day in early May.  They have been hoping to advance their legislation further than last year when it passed the Assembly Health Committee by a one vote margin.  The bill has not come up for a vote there yet and its passage in the committee is uncertain.   There are new members on the committee and an informal vote count shows 13 in favor and 13 opposed.  If it passes the Health Committee it faces an even tougher battle in the Codes Committee where there are even more opponents.