DENISE A. RAYMO and KIM SMITH DEDAM Press-Republican
MALONE — It seemed unlikely on Friday that Franklin County would win state permission this session to create a 5 percent occupancy fee.
And a measure that would allow Adirondack Medical Center/Lake Placid to reduce its hours to part time was likely left hanging as well.
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Bill A07966 in the Assembly and S05742 in the Senate seek to add 5 percent to the bills of overnight guests and to use the money exclusively for tourism initiatives in Franklin County.
Estimates are that $350,000 to $400,000 a year would be collected initially.
The Assembly version of the bill was read on the floor and moved for action Thursday but was not voted upon.
The Senate version was referred to the Investigations and Government Operations Committee on June 11 and had not budged as of Friday afternoon.
“The leadership of the State Senate will not pass anything that has the word ‘tax’ in it,” said Franklin County Legislature Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay).
Ironically, he was attending a meeting Friday morning of the county’s new Tourism Advisory Committee when he received a call from Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) with an update on progress at the State Legislature session.
The committee was created to not only figure out a marketing plan to increase tourism with the money it receives from Franklin County but to prioritize how any bed-tax money would be spent if the bill were to become law.
“There’s still time, but it looks like it’s not going to go,” Jones said of the bed-tax effort this session.
“The Senate and some others in the Assembly are getting political pressure.”
Jones’s frustration was evident as he spoke.
“I’ve said it a million times — it’s not a tax. It’s a marketing tool for economic development,” he said.
Legislators were hopeful the measure would pass since Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Potsdam in February and hinted he would sign a bill in favor of Municipal Home Rule if the bed tax successfully passed the Assembly and Senate.
Jones said the county will try to get the tax passed at the next session of the State Legislature.
The additional fee would be charged on some vacation-rental properties, bed-and-breakfasts, cottages, condominiums, hotels and motels.
The money would tracked, collected and the law enforced by the County Treasurer’s Office.
With a tally of 62-1 late Thursday night, the Senate passed the bill that would allow Adirondack Health to reduce the hours of its hospital in Lake Placid to at least 12 hours daily.
But it wasn’t likely the corresponding legislation would make it to the Assembly floor before the session’s end. Duprey said on Friday afternoon that it was not on the calendar.
“It appears we’re not going to bring it up in the Assembly. We just ran out of time. The Senate passed it pretty late last night.
“Things just didn’t fall into place,” she said by phone from Albany.
Lawmakers had been working 15-hour days to act upon pending legislation before their recess, which begins today, the assemblywoman said.
The bill would amend Public Health Law to provide a single exemption specific to the Adirondack Medical Center campus in Lake Placid.
If the Assembly does not take up the measure, Duprey said, there may be other recourse.
“I think we’ll work with Adirondack Health to make it happen,” she said. “I think there are other ways.”
The change to Public Health requirements that currently require around-the-clock operations at a hospital would be the first of its kind in New York.
It was proposed by lawmakers as Adirondack Health studies options for ways to cut costs at the Lake Placid facility and throughout its health-care system.
With two hospitals about 9 miles apart, Adirondack Health is working toward a fiscal recovery plan that responds to immense financial loss it sustained this year from federal-aid cuts and sequestration.
Officials have discussed a plan to convert the Emergency Department at the Lake Placid hospital into an immediate-care center.
The hospital in Lake Placid has two inpatient beds. But the Emergency Department is open and staffed 24/7.
And that resource is something that many people, including elected officials, have said they do not want to lose.
Concerning state-wide bills of local interest, the START-UP NY legislation was approved by the State Assembly Friday afternoon. North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the Senate was expected to pass the bill later Friday night.
The measure would mainly allow for creation of tax-free zones at SUNY campuses to attract new, out-of-state or existing businesses that plan to expand.
Douglas said the legislation is a historic connection between the power of the state’s higher-education system and economic development.
“It creates a very powerful tool which can really be used in the North Country to pursue some of our region’s strategic economic opportunities,” he said via email. “It is already energizing curiosity and interest from Canada and elsewhere.”
Douglas said the measure is an opportunity for the SUNY campuses in the tri-county area — SUNY Plattsburgh and Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh and North Country Community College, which has a presence in Saranac Lake, Malone and Ticonderoga.
“Working in collaboration with other SUNY campuses in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties and with the advanced manufacturing program at Clarkson, which is already a regional innovation center, one can see an extremely attractive network of academic, research and training assets to bring to bear,” he said.
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