As 2019 begins, I would like to wish all Erie County residents a happy and healthy New Year. January provides an opportunity to look back at the events of last year while planning for the year ahead, building on successes and facing challenges as we have in the past. 2018 had many accomplishments but still there is more to do this year, so this month we will review a few of the high notes of the past year.
In 2018 my administration enacted several new laws to bring transparency to county government, fight discrimination, and protect public health and safety.
In March I was proud to sign two new laws. Our new Erie County Ethics Law, something I had sought since 2015, amended the former Code of Ethics for elected officials, officers, and employees of the county by increasing transparency and incorporating consistent language to clearly define conflicts of interest, improper acts, and other violations of public employment. It’s important for the public to trust their elected officials and for those officials to honorably serve residents, and this law makes that possible. In March we also acted to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of minors in Erie County by passing a local law prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy in Erie County.
In May I signed another important law, the Erie County Fair Housing Law, which we had worked on for two years to expand existing state and federal ant-discrimination housing laws. In addition to those already-existing protections our Fair Housing Law also prohibits discrimination based on disability, gender, identity, immigration and citizenship status, and source of income. That month I also signed an amended Apprenticeship Law that requires construction contractors with the county to have a NYS Certified Worker Training Program in place.
The year wrapped up in December with the signing of the Public Health Protection Act, a three-pronged initiative that prohibits smoking in a motor vehicle with a child under the age of 18 present; bans the marketing and sale of tobacco or nicotine-containing products, including e-cigarettes, in pharmacies and other healthcare institutions; and prohibits smoking in or adjacent to NFTA bus shelters. Protecting public health, especially the health of our youth, is one of the most important responsibilities we have.
We also paved the way for a good 2019 with the approval of a prudent but robust Budget in December. Despite the mendacities being loudly spread by some legislators and others who claim the budget raises taxes, the truth is that the budget contains real tax relief, additional funding for extra road projects, and expanded investments in our libraries and cultural organizations. I was pleased to be joined by responsible and reasonable legislators from both parties, real public servants who put people over politics, to craft the budget and put in place a solid foundation for the coming year. Serving the people of Erie County, not selfish political goals, is an honor that we will always take seriously.