New York State Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, a Democrat who represents portions of Washington and Saratoga Counties, invited residents to a town hall meeting in Saratoga Springs Thursday night.
Marijuana, healthcare, property taxes, and more. 113th District Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner discussed a slew of issues at a town hall meeting at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
Woerner went over the major items that were passed in the state legislature during the last session, which top Democrats who control the legislature have called the most productive in history. A politician who often casts herself as a moderate, Woerner spent time explaining her votes on major topics.
She also revealed non-scientific polling data that shows a shift in thinking in her district.
Respondents within the district are becoming more receptive to single-payer healthcare. Four months ago, Woerner said 60 percent of respondents were in favor of a single-payer system. Today, that’s increased to 70 percent.
“I hear more people being in favor of this than I certainly did five years ago when I started.”
Woerner still has concerns about a single-payer model and the so-called New York Health Act, however. In a district where rural healthcare has become a primary concern, and in communities with older populations that rely on Medicare, Woerner says she is wary about how reimbursement rates for a single-payer system would affected local healthcare providers.
“But some of the studies have suggested, the RAND study has suggested, that the reimbursement rates could be cut by 40 percent. Which is a significant cut. And like I said, we’re seeing that where you’ve got high Medicare in the payer mix, it’s not sustainable. So that to me is a concern.”
On legalizing adult-use marijuana in New York, Woerner said support has risen from 55 percent within the district to 65 percent over the last four months.
“I’m not opposed to legalizing marijuana. I think it’s important that we deal with some of the real concerns that people have legitimately raised around public safety.”
Woerner said she wants to look at data in locations where marijuana has been legalized, such as Colorado, to craft a marijuana bill. A legalization effort failed in the last legislative session, though Woerner did vote in favor of a measure to decriminalize the drug.
Woerner voted against the so-called Green Light Bill, along with several of her upstate colleagues. The measure that allows undocumented immigrants the ability to seek a driver’s license got mixed reaction in her office’s polling: 53 percent of respondents opposed the act, while 46 percent supported it. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it; lawsuits against the bill followed soon after.
In a largely rural district with a significant agricultural economy, Woerner also voted against the Farm Workers Bill, which among its provisions allows farm workers the right to unionize and collective bargaining. It also sets a 60-hour work week and mandates that farm workers receive overtime pay.
Woerner, who is in her third term, said she could not support the bill at a time when dairy farmers are struggling with low milk prices and other challenges.
“I am concerned that for farms that are already struggling that having to adapt to this and the uncertainty of knowing what’s coming down the pike in terms of additional changes is going to put them out of business.”
In the months ahead, Woerner said she will continue to back legislation that would assist family farms. She has advocated for hemp production in New York state, which was legalized in the last federal farm bill. She also is looking to explore how robotics and automation can benefit farmers. She also is interested in expanding biogas production in New York, allowing farmers to convert manure and waste into natural gas.
“That would provide an additional revenue stream for farmers or cooperatives of farmers that would help them turn what is an expense, manure management, into a revenue.”
Other priorities discussed include addressing rural poverty, expanding broadband, mandate and property tax relief.