2006-06-28 / Political Page

Agreement In Albany On Tougher DWI Penalties Is Agreeable To Vallone

Word last week that the Assembly and state senate had agreed on legislation to toughen penalties for DWI convictions was welcomed by City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. who had called for such action two years ago in a council resolution he introduced.

Vallone, chairman of the Public Safety Committee and a leading advocate for tougher DWI laws, said that under the Albany agreement, "The law sets terms for permanently revoking the licenses of drivers with three or more DWI convictions or chemical test refusals in a four-year period, raising the fines for refusing a Breathalyzer test, higher felony penalties for drivers who kill while driving drunk and creating a new offense called aggravating driving while intoxicated for people with blood alcohol levels of .18 percent or higher."

The Astoria lawmaker added: "We must never again allow drunk drivers to go unpunished. For too long we have treated these deadly drivers like turnstile jumpers and petty thieves."

Previously, Queens lawmakers- state Senators Frank Padavan (R-C, Bellerose), Serphin Maltese (R-C, Middle Village), and Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Assemblymembers Brian McLaughlin and Nettie Mayersohn, both Flushing Democrats-were successful in passing major changes in the DWI statute following the death of VaSean Alleyne and the serious injury of a friend who were struck by a drunk driver in Kew Garden Hills.

AQUIET BUDGETYEAR SO FAR: The City Council is meeting today and may announce agreement with the Bloomberg mayoral administration on the 2006-2007 city budget which must be in place by July 1. It's estimated the spending plan will come in at about $55 billion.

As far as we can recall, this has been one of the calmest and quietest budget negotiating periods in many years. Hardly any threats have been issued by either side and neither have Council Speaker Christine Quinn or her chief budget negotiator, Finance Committee Chairman David Weprin, issued any bellicose headlines about the council standing ready to reject the administration's budget and join through its own plan.

B o t h the mayor and Quinn have created the businesslike tone t h a t applies to this negotiation, and it has been helped along by the city finding itself with a $4 billion or $5 billion budget surplus which neither side is seeking to spend foolishly.

FIREWORKS WARNING: With the annual July 4 fireworks season upon us, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta have put out their traditional warning to the public to refrain from transporting, buying, selling or using illegal fireworks anywhere in the city.

They reminded one and all that all consumer fireworks are illegal in the city and individuals caught buying, selling or using fireworks will be promptly arrested.

An even tougher tone has been set this year: those caught transporting fireworks into the city will have their vehicles seized by the Police Department. As of early this month, 31 vehicles had been seized.

According to the mayor, fireworks are great to celebrate the nation's birthday, "but it's critical we leave it to the professionals", he said.

Bloomberg pointed out, "Fireworks are not only illegal, they are dangerous, and in the hands of an untrained individual, fireworks can have deadly consequences."

MALONEY GETS TOP RATING: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens/Manhattan) has received the highest possible rating from the Drum Major Institute, a nonpartisan think tank which gave the veteran lawmaker an "A" rating for her pro middle class votes in the last congressional session.

Accepting the accolade, Maloney stated: "Five years into the Bush presidency, middleclass Americans are being squeezed like never before. The president keeps saying that we're having great economic growth, but a decisive majority of the American public feel otherwise. I'm proud to stand with my Democratic colleagues in defending the interests of working Americans, and I thank the Drum Major Institute for their support of middle-class values."

The institute tallied each congressmember's vote on nine bills, such as the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 and the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, that undermined the interests of working Americans.

CONSERVATIVE ENCYCLOPEDIA: American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, a compendium of the American conservative political movement containing 626 entries on the movement's history, leaders and ideas has been published by ISI Books, a conservative press in Wilmington, Delaware.

The 997-page, four-pound tome was 16 years in the making and includes incumbent President George W. Bush (but not his father), former Vice President J. Danforth Quayle (but not Dick Cheney), and C.S. Lewis, a best-selling novelist who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia.

Jeffrey O. Nelson, publisher of ISI Books, commented: "We've gone from history's adversary to destiny's child, but governing has brought a whole new level of challenge."

It sells for $35.

STRENGTHENING CITY'S LOBBY LAWS: Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently signed into law a package of bills which, he said, seek to reform the city's lobbying laws. When fully implemented, he said, the legislation will "strengthen the accessibility, transparency and integrity of city government and will make our city a leader in lobbying reform".

The new laws create a mandatory electronic filing system for lobbyists; require full lobbyist disclosure of all fundraising and consulting activities; strengthen enforcement and penalties for violation of the laws, and ban all gifts from lobbyists to public officials.

The mayor said many citizens believe that lobbyists get preferential treatment. Recent scandals in Washington, D.C. have only reinforced public skepticism about government.

"To counter this trend," he stated, "we must strengthen the integrity of government by raising the standards by which we are bound. This package of groundbreaking bills will do just that, and perhaps most importantly, will increase the city's capacity to enforce these new standards."

The mayor thanked Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the council for their efforts on the package.

Among the bills' sponsors were Councilmembers Tony Avella, David Weprin, James Gennaro and John Liu.

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