Attending (16): April Dowd, Bill Dowd, Murray Forth, Terry Brewer, Pat Bailey, Jim Leyhane, Doris Calamaras, Dean Calamaras, Carol Orvis, Dick Drumm, Debbie Rodriguez, Rommel Tolentino, Patrick Ciraulo, Stewart Wagner, Bob Horan, Carole Spencer.
Guests (7): Maggie Forth, Jeremy Forth, Diane Leyhane, Mary Drumm, Betty Brewer, Schodack Town Supervisor Dennis Dowds, Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin.
Program: Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin
Dick Drumm introduced Assemblyman McLaughlin (R-C, 107th District) with a brief bio — including his evolving careers as a commercial airline pilot, in the solar energy field, and in political office.
Steve said he worked his way up from small planes to 747s over the course of his career, but was part of a mass layoff of pilots after 9/11. He moved on to other endeavors, using an MBA he earned from the University of Phoenix.
In discussing the situation in the State Legislature, Steve said he made his first run for election during a period of dysfunction, then was reelected last year. He said his principal focus is on job creation, government spending, and fighting government corruption.
He strongly emphasized that the state spends too much money, and overtaxes private individuals and businesses, resulting in being last or next-to-last nationally on lists of business-friendly states.
He gave as an example of corruption Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver’s use of taxpayer money to provide himself with a car, driver, fuel and insurance while flying on taxpayer money from New York City to Albany. Meanwhile, he has his driver take his empty car from NYC to Albany International Airport to pick him up and deliver him to the State Capitol.
He noted that due to weak government efforts, New York State continues to hemorrhage population, with people leaving for lower-tax states with more job opportunities.
Steve touched on several other topics:
• He believes education is critical, but that we may be placing too much emphasis on insisting so many people go to college. He cited the needs for skilled technicians and tradespeople, saying he would like to see more students on a vocational tract if that is their desire.
• He predicted that taxes may be trimmed a bit because a major election year is coming up.
• He spoke about the Safe Act gun control legislation that was rammed through the Legislature with virtually no discussion in the State Senate and only five hours in the Assembly. His stance is that he was against the act, but noted that no matter which side of the issue one stands on, the process was wrong and the act should be changed or rescinded. He said he was optimistic pending lawsuits would accomplish that.
• In response to a question from Bill Dowd about term limits, Steve said he could go along with it. Entrenched politicians seek only to perpetuate their time in office. He said much legislation never gets out of committee and onto the legislative floors for debate because the legislative leaders control all such efforts and often put up roadblocks for things they don’t like. He said if overall term limits aren’t created, there should at least be term limits for leadership positions. Too many are more interested in their paycheck than doing what is best for the public.
• Terry Brewer asked about giving education back to teachers. Steve said he believes standardized tests are not the answer and classroom teachers, who know the students best, should have more say in how they are taught.
• Dick Drumm asked for Steve’s take on the state economy. He said our economy is shaky in most places and will remain so, while the Capital Region remains relatively insulated with no real highs or lows. He said the question we should ask candidates for office is not necessarily how they would cut spending but rather how they would increase revenues.
• Stewart Wagner asked about fracking. Steve says he feels it can and will be done safely, citing its use for natural gas extraction in 29 other states. He pointed out that there already are 13,000 gas wells in the state, although they are not operating in the same method as fracking. He cites Governor Cuomo’s preference for fracking will assure it eventually is approved.
• Dean Calamaras asked about economic development. Steve explained that we remain low on that scale because of the anti-business tax structure and certain laws — such as the “Scaffold Law,” which holds employers liable for workplace accidents even if the worker comes to work drunk or high — are deterrents.
President April Dowd welcomed members and guests, noting that this was the largest dinner meeting attendance so far in the 2013-14 Rotary Year.
DONATION PROJECTS: President April reminded us about two projects — “Pocket Change for Autism,” which will run through June, and “Cans In a Box” which began this week. Please remember to drop your loose change (paper currency also accepted) into the jug each Thursday. And, please, remember to bring non-perishable foods in cans, boxes or envelopes through mid-December for eventual distribution to local food pantries. Looking for suggestions of what to donate? Scroll down to see a posting listing them. NO glass containers, please.
RYLA: We are sponsoring five Maple Hill High School students for the 2013-14 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program, one more than usual. They are Peter Aitken, Lexie Keenan, Max Jenkins, Eleanor Haase, and Jacob Long.
ROTARY HOME COOKING: The first such fundraiser for this Rotary Year, to be held on Saturday, October 26, at the Dowd residence, was quickly sold out. The theme will be “A Salute to The Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room, circa 1955.”
For newcomers and visitors, Bill explained how the series works — hosts’ contribution is the cost of food, guests have a per-person price with all proceeds going to the club’s general treasury.
FLOWERS: Get-well bouquets were sent to Jim and Diane Leyhane and to Doris Calamaras. April read a thank-you note from Doris to the club.
NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, October 10, at Quigley’s Restaurant. The speaker will be Bethany Potter, manager of the P.F. Chang’s chain restaurant in Colonie Center.