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Thursday, September 18, 2014

One man can move legislative mountains
(Page 2 of 2)
There are so many voiceless citizens in our state, and, regrettably, they don’t have many elected officials to speak up for them. Harvey was so upset that he introduced his own bill to restore all of the funds that had been cut out of the budget. To add clout to his effort, he managed to get almost all the members of the Assembly to add their names as sponsors, and got Senate members to do the same.

I know of no other time when so many members were sponsors of a single legislator’s budget-restoration bill. And Harvey wasn’t content with just introducing a bill. He was determined to pass it and have it sent to Governor Cuomo for his signature. A bill of this kind might be considered a challenge to the governor because, after all, the budget had been passed. It had been signed into law. I met Weisenberg during the closing days of the session, and he said he had told the governor and his staff that he wouldn’t back down.

The happy ending of this story is that Harvey prevailed, and got the $90 million fully restored. He went toe to toe and face to face with a very powerful governor and won his battle, which is unheard of in Albany.

In the end, this isn’t about winners and losers. No one, including the governor, is the loser. The winners are the thousands of disabled people who are being cared for by hundreds of nonprofit agencies all over the state.

According to a Chinese proverb, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Harvey Weisenberg has done nothing less than start a bonfire.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.

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