BUDGET, CYBER LAW GET AIRING

Proposed cuts for Albany County attract several emotional speakers

CAROL DEMARE STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B9

Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ALBANY -- Twenty eight speakers, many of them emotional, pleaded with Albany County legislators Tuesday night, to keep the nursing home as a publicly operated facility, to restore cuts to rape crisis and mental health units and to find ways to save the 500 jobs County Executive Mike Breslin proposed cutting in the 2011 budget.


Lawmakers now begin a line-by-line review of Breslin's proposed $549.5 million budget that includes a nearly 15 percent property tax hike, layoffs and selling the nursing home.


In other action, a cyber-bullying law, whose primary sponsor is Albany Democrat Brian Scavo, was expected to pass but was sent back to the Law Committee for further review after questions were raised about whether some of the language could clash with the First Amendment right of free speech.


Loudonville Democrat Phil Steck, an attorney, said he supports such a law but had problems with the legislation before the body. His research showed that similar bills that came before the state legislation did not pass because the bullying fell under the existing state law of aggravated harassment.


On the First Amendment issue, Steck said, too often he has seen people spend a lot of money in litigation on harassment issues only to find the case thrown out in court on First Amendment grounds.


Steck asked that the measure be sent back to the Law Committee and offered to work on it.


Cohoes Democrat Gil Ethier was the first to agree with Steck. He was followed by several others, including Colonie Republican Patrice Lockart and Guilderland Democrat Mary Lou Connolly, who suggested it be fine-tuned.