One of the principle responsibilities of being county executive is working with our legislature to draft new and amend older county laws. The summer of 2016 has been a busy one in this regard as amendments to our county’s charter have been proposed and a new law was passed to better protect children from concussions in youth sports. This month I would like to share some perspectives on how new laws are crafted as well as the work that goes into devising rules that protect and represent the interests of the public while still balancing the powers of government.
The Charter Review Commission, an all-volunteer citizen’s commission, is empanelled every ten years and charged with reviewing the Erie County Charter and recommending amendments to that document to facilitate better governance for county residents. Every branch of county government is scrutinized and assessed for potential changes by the Commission. Public hearings are an important part of the Commission’s work as well. Sadly, these public hearings were sparsely attended but the voices of residents who did participate were heard and considered with equal weight.
After the Commission issued its final recommendations the legislature passed proposed amendments to our Charter, which were then presented for my consideration. As County Executive it is my responsibility to ensure that any changes to our Charter are consistent with existing local, state and federal law and do not alter the checks and balances required for government to function effectively. While I agreed with many aspects of the Commission’s final product, there were others that were illegal under NYS law or that unnecessarily transferred powers from one branch of government to another. Therefore I was compelled to veto the package because of these concerns. However, actions are now being taken to move the beneficial parts of the Commission’s work forward while the troublesome parts are removed.
This cooperative attitude between the executive and legislative branches underscores the importance of the work done by the Commission and reaffirms our collective desire to act on the will of the public. Another example of this cooperation can be seen in the work that’s gone into crafting a new local law aimed at reducing head trauma from concussions in youth sports. This effort had input from the public and private sectors, the executive branch, and both sides of the aisle in the legislature.
However, the proposed law did not take into account its effects on out-of-town sports leagues or organizations that come to Erie County to participate in competitions. Despite my reservations, I approved the law because it is undeniable we need to do as much as possible to address this issue and the legislature’s sponsors of the law, Legislators Patrick Burke and Joseph Lorigo, agreed to introduce amendments to the law to address these unforeseen concerns.
As such, by using the powers of our offices we are working together to create effective laws for our community and implement laws that are fair for residents and visitors alike.