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North Country Chamber hosts state legislators for annual forum

From left: Assemblyman Matt Simpson, Senator Dan Stec and Assemblyman D. Billy Jones attend 2022 North Country Chamber Legislative Forum
Pat Bradley
From left: Assemblyman Matt Simpson, Senator Dan Stec and Assemblyman D. Billy Jones attend 2022 North Country Chamber Legislative Forum

Nearly 80 North Country business and political leaders braved the snow and ice early Friday morning to hear from the region’s state legislators on key issues.

The North Country Chamber’s annual state legislative breakfast was held virtually last year and people were enthusiastic to meet the region’s state Senator and two Assemblymembers in person this time.

The state representatives discussed three main issues: the U.S. Canadian border, broadband and workforce development.

Republican Senator Dan Stec of the 45th district outlined the issues he believes must be addressed in Governor Hochul’s budget proposal.

“This budget says yes to a lot of things, says no to very few things. And there are parts of the budget of course that need improvement and need room to grow. We need more infrastructure investment. We need more education investment, our health care system. But the reality is that we spend more than Texas and Florida combined. So that’s the kind of problem that we need to roll up our sleeves and try to get under control." Senator Stec continues, "And another one, I think a very real one, is criminal justice-public safety. The bail reform laws: point to this as a bad law that is making people feel less safe. Broadband and specifically the fiber tax. This fiber tax is adding to the cost of expanding the broadband network. It’s a deal breaker that is holding up expanding it where it’s most needed in the rural areas of the state.”

Assembly Democrat D. Billy Jones of the 115th district echoed the need to address broadband. He also said it’s time to end border restrictions.

“We need to open that damn border up. Plain and simple. I know we all want to be safe. I want to be safe. We have ebb and flows with the variants going on but we can deal with that. And I know the major frustration with a lot of people is, we have had no roadmap. We keep trying for a phased in approach. If we get a variant like the Omicron variant came in in December, OK, let’s ease it back a little bit. We understand that," asserts Jones, "but there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. They just say no and then well maybe next month we’ll deal with it. We have many businesses here in the area that depend on our friends and neighbors to the north. We need some answers.”

Republican Matt Simpson is serving his first term representing the 114th Assembly district comprising Essex and Warren Counties, and parts of Saratoga and Washington counties. Simpson reported on three intertwined issues being discussed in Albany.

“Meeting the goals of the Climate Leadership Community Protection Act that’s something that’s really being talked about, pushed in Albany right now. So we’re pushing for solutions of how we’re going to get people to move in that direction when we’re seeing people leave because of the high cost of living here. But it’s tied to the lack of, and investment into, our infrastructure also," notes Simpson. "We have existing deficits in clean water, wastewater infrastructure that businesses, homeowners, all of us are paying for while we’re putting a lot of effort in a plan that we really haven’t figured out how we’re going to make this happen. Also tied to that lack of investment in infrastructure is the affordable housing issue.”

The North Country Chamber will host the leaders of the city and town of Plattsburgh and the Clinton County Legislature for a similar regional forum on March 3rd.

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