Would you believe me if I told you there were many “influential” and “in-the-know” people who told me I’d never get the bill through the state Assembly?
Assembly bill A10514 amends the uniform city court act and the state judiciary law, in relation to the number of judges in Watertown City Court.
In 2013, state law was amended to increase the number of city court judges statewide. It included a change from one full-time and one part-time judge in the city of Watertown to two full-time positions. The city never asked for the alteration, and nobody told them it would trigger a costly, $3 million expansion of their court space.
We petitioned the Office of Court Administration to make an exception, talked with local partners about making accommodations and worked every layer of government to cooperate and find a commonsense solution to no avail. Then state Sen. Patty Ritchie and I got to work changing the law back to one full-time and one part-time judge (crime statistics show this is an appropriate level for the workload of the city’s court).
The naysayers said that because I was a freshmen, because I was a Republican and because we were up against a giant bureaucratic system, it couldn’t be done. I’m fueled by adversity. And when Mayor Jeff Smith pushed for the passage of a resolution supporting the legislation, I was validated and motivated to get the job done for the taxpayers.
Together, we built bipartisan support; we educated a coalition of legislators; and we worked to build shared understanding of the problem behind the scenes. And with Sen. Patty Ritchie’s great work in the Senate, the bill will go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature.
This is what fighting back against unfunded mandates looks like. It may seem a little boring or policy wonkish to some, but I absolutely love my job and I’m proud of the work our team did here. And who doesn’t love proving the “in-the-know” naysayers wrong?
Mark C. Walczyk
The author represents the 116th District in the state Assembly.