Publisher’s Note: The Inside Press has offered forums to many of our political representatives over the years. For our June Father’s Day edition, we hoped to gain a sense of our new state Senator Pete Harckham*. We sent him a number of key questions to answer. And here are his responses! – Grace
1. What were your two or three (or more!) most important goals during your campaign and how are you working to meet them?
My most important goals were:
1) Codifying Roe v Wade into NY law by passing the Reproductive Health Act
2) Enacting common sense gun safety measures such as the Red Flag Bill
3) Passing the Child Victim’s Act
4) Making the Property Tax Cap Permanent
With the support of the Democratic conference, I was able to meet the first three within the first 30 days of my term. Permanent property tax cap relief was passed as part of the state budget on April 1st.
Although election reform was a longer-term goal, we accomplished much of it in February including merging two primary dates into one, saving taxpayers money and early voting, which was fully funded in the state budget.
2. What new goals/agendas have emerged since your campaign and why?
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse, fighting opioid addiction and other forms of substance abuse are major goals. Like many states, New York is currently suffering from an epidemic of opioid abuse which is devastating individual lives, families and communities.
I fought for and won $100 million in substance abuse funding in the state budget, as well as an increase from 14 to 28 days, the minimum stay in an inpatient substance abuse facility before an insurance company review. We also eliminated multiple co-pays at outpatient substance abuse care visits. Now, patients will pay only a single co-pay every time they go for outpatient treatment, regardless of the number of doctors or providers they meet with.
Another major goal I have is saving as many jobs of current Indian Point workers during the decommissioning as possible.
3. What has surprised you the most since beginning your service as state Senator? Can you describe an event that moved you or an interaction with a constituent that enlightened you?
The most surprising thing thus far has been the frenetic pace in Albany. Everyone wants a piece of you at the same time and walking from my office to the Senate chamber can be like walking through a crowded market where everyone is calling out to get your attention. Fortunately we have a terrific team to share the load.
I’ve been deeply moved by the veterans I’ve met with across the district. One group of veterans I met has made it their mission to seek out homeless veterans, provide them with housing and connect them with services they need. It’s how they help each other rebuild their lives. Veterans’ personal stories and their determination to assist each other continue to inspire me. That is why we increased funding to expand the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer to Peer PTSD program.
I’ve also been moved by the courage of parents who have lost sons and daughters to the scourge of opioid abuse and who now serve as community prevention and treatment advocates. Their personal stories of loss are heartbreaking yet they have dedicated their lives to ending this tragic epidemic and helping others who are suffering. Their selflessness and determination is deeply moving.
4. What are the biggest challenges facing the district? How do you plan to meet them?
The biggest challenges are:
1) Indian Point closure, which will greatly impact the workers and the economic well-being of the surrounding communities. I have introduced legislation to require the decommissioning entity to hire existing workers first.
2) High property taxes. We need to reform the way we fund education in New York to take the burden off of property tax payers.
3) Metro-North capital upgrades and service improvements. We must insure that capital investments from congestion pricing are spent expeditiously and wisely.
5. Our June theme is ‘Play and Explore!’ Can you tell us a little about how you spend your downtime?
I do not really have much downtime in this job but when I do, I spend it with my partner Jin-Hee and my daughters Emma and Kate, as well as hiking with our dogs.
*State Sen. Pete Harckham represents some 308,000 constituents in New York State Senate District 40, which includes parts of Northern Westchester (Buchanan, Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, Mount Pleasant, New Castle, North Salem, Peekskill, Pleasantville, Pound Ridge, Sleepy Hollow, Somers, Yorktown), Putnam (Brewster, Carmel, Patterson, Southeast) and Dutchess (Beekman, Pawling).