tc_leg120County Smoking Law Amended to Include E-Cigarettes
Following a public hearing, the Legislature voted to amend the County law restricting smoking in places of employment, restaurants, and taverns to also include electronic nicotine delivery systems, such as “e-cigarettes.”  The vote was unanimous (with Legislator Brian Robison excused).  The action amends Chapter 72 of the County Code, to include prohibition of such delivery systems anywhere smoking tobacco is currently prohibited.  The amendment notes that the as-yet-unregulated devices pose a potential public health risk.  At the public hearing before the vote, two spoke in support of the amendment, two people (former smokers who said the devices have been crucial in enabling them to quite) spoke against.  Health and Human Services Chair Peter Stein said that, while he believes that “real cigarettes” are a whole lot worse than e-cigarettes, that in considering situations like this, it’s most important the effect on those in workspaces and public spaces who don’t have a choice of being exposed to such substances, over those who have the choice of whether or not to use them.

Legislature Requests Revision of Property Tax Freeze Look-Back Period
The Legislature, without dissent, asked New York State to revise the “look-back” period associated with the State’s property tax freeze legislation.  (Legislator Brian Robison was excused.)  The Property Tax Freeze Credit reimburses qualified homeowners for increases in local property taxes on their primary residence and, after the first year, requires that taxing jurisdictions, as well as complying with the State property tax cap, also document how they proposes to sustain savings equal to at least 1% of its property tax levy.

The measure notes  that, while the property tax freeze legislation requires consideration of past efficiencies and does not specify a limit, the State Division of Budget “has chosen to exercise latitude in “an extremely narrow and limited manner,” allowing only measures put in place since 2012 to be considered, a restrictive “look-back” period that “ignores the substantial and sustained property tax savings” associated with the many consolidations and shared services programs that Tompkins County, as a leader in shared services, has enacted before that time—such the Greater Tompkins municipal health benefits consortium, countywide assessment, the community college, TCAT, and other programs.

Concurring with the Tompkins Council of Governments that the longer period will afford more municipalities the opportunity to show that savings have been achieved through collaborations such as those sought by the State, the Legislature requests the State to move the “look-back” date to at least the beginning of 2000, so that local governments be rewarded, rather than punished, for initiating consolidations, shared services, and reforms in the past.

Legislature Urges FCC to Preserve a Neutral Internet
The Legislature, acting on the recommendation of the Government Operations Committee and its Broadband Subcommittee, by unanimous vote (with Brian Robison excused), urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “establish a strong set of rules that provide for a neutral Internet”—coming out against proposed rules that could allow for a tiered Internet and provide telecommunications companies the ability to control the market for Internet bandwidth and maintaining that Internet customers have the right to an Internet that is non-discriminating, or neutral, according to source or destination, and calling a “neutral” Internet vital to those in rural areas such as Tompkins County.   More information on the issue can be found at, which details discussion before the Government Operations Committee last week.

Among other actions, the Legislature
  • Approved more than $170,000 in certified “rollover” funding, unspent by County departments in the 2012 budget, to support current-year spending.
  • Adopted two new policies—regarding acceptable use of County information technology resources and policy regarding the County’s response to any suspected breach of confidential information, in compliance with State and Federal law.
  • Authorized acceptance of two Federal grants for Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport--$2.5 million for the terminal apron expansion and deicing pad project and nearly $700,000 for purchase of snow removal equipment.
  • Accepted a nearly $150,000 shared-services grant from the State Archives to the County Clerk’s Office, to support further extension of the County’s digital records management program.