GOV. SIGNS NYSSBA PRIORITY BILL – ADVOCACY ALERT
August 12, 2014
GOVERNOR SIGNS “LAST” LEVER VOTING MACHINE EXTENSION FOR SCHOOLS
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo signed Chapter 273 of 2014, which is legislation to extend school districts’ authority to continue the use of lever voting machines for one final year. The bill was one of NYSSBA’s highest legislative priorities and its passage came after an intensive advocacy effort. It is the first time in a generation that legislation has been passed and signed into law following notice by a governor that he would veto any such legislation, signaling recognition of newly presented information provided by your association.
While some school districts have made arrangements with their county boards of elections to use new optical scan voting machines, many districts have been denied the use of county owned machines. Counties purchased the optical scan machines with federal funds provided after passage of a law requiring their use. The result of the county purchases was that school districts had no such federal funds available to purchase the optical scan machines and NYSSBA was initially successful in securing an extension of time to use the old, lever voting machines. The estimated cost of using the new machines for school districts is estimated at over $80 million.
Unfortunately, when signing a previous extension, Governor Cuomo indicated that it would be the last extension he would sign, pledging to veto future efforts. Organizations advocating for the interests of physically challenged voters argued that their constituents should be able to use the same equipment as the general electorate. NYSSBA, working with Senator Jack Martins and Member of Assembly Michelle Schimel, argued that the additional expense would drive already finalized school district budgets over the tax cap, that physically challenged voters could currently vote by absentee ballot or with help at the polls and finally, that even where counties were willing to loan their machines, they could not logistically program those machines to cover the many spring elections required for schools, towns and federal primaries.
The newly signed legislation calls for a one year extension, to allow school districts to make arrangements for obtaining the new machines. In addition, a state study will be conducted to determine how the state can facilitate school district purchases of the new optical scanning devices. School districts should take note that legislative leaders provided a clear indication that future extensions would not be forthcoming and while the state study may call for state aid for usage of the machines, school districts should plan on being required to use the optical scanners after next year. NYSSBA would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Assembly Member Schimel and Senator Martins for their leadership on this important issue.
APPROACHING APPLICATION DEADLINE FOR SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY FUNDS
The deadline for eligible school districts to apply for the School Technology Voucher Program (STVP) funds is quickly approaching. All applications must be received by the State Education Department by September 1, 2014. STVP is the result of an $87 million legal settlement between the Microsoft Corporation and the State of New York. The funds reimburse districts for eligible technology purchases. Despite these funds having been available beginning with the 2012-13 school year, many eligible school districts have yet to apply. It is important to note that these funds are completely separate from the proposed Smart Schools Technology Bond program.