NYS 2016 Geospatial Legislation: The Beat Goes On

Have been a little remiss in the blog content space of late and now trying to play catch up with a couple articles and stories in the works albeit nothing finalized.  With August typically being one of the slower months across the board, it’s always a good time to take a step back and see how the geospatial/GIS profession is growing across the state in context of making its presence known  or at least recognized and referenced in the legislative arena.   This year’s summary provides a little more fodder for discussion and content than in the past couple years – even to the point of dulling the urge to write in that very special way about one of my other favorite New York summertime geospatial topics:  The Geospatial Advisory Committee. The GAC.

State of the State

Always appropriate to start at the beginning of the year with the Governor’s State of the State “Built to Lead” themed speech (January 13th) which did offer some optimism – albeit indirectly – for investment and growth opportunities in geospatial technologies across the state.  Most notably with references in the areas of infrastructure development.  Even though many of the investments itemized in the speech are for major public facilities such as LaGuardia, the Jacob Javitz Center, and Penn Station – btw to the tune of $100 billion –  there is still room for enthusiasm in the GIS community hoping that even small portions of the $100 billion investment can trickle down to local government geospatial  programs to  support bridge and road management initiatives, public water/storm/sanitary systems rehabilitation projects, evolving resiliency projects, and many other infrastructure related efforts.  And best of all, providing funding opportunities for the many deserving GIS and civil engineering businesses which continue to support and help build statewide geospatial capacity. While it’s almost certain that the $100B funding is spread out over many appropriation bills, one can see the magnitude of the statewide infrastructure focus and priority by performing a keyword search on “infrastructure” in the New York State Bill Search form. Results? Fifty-seven bills match the search criteria.  Granted, not every bill is specific to geospatial & infrastructure – but it’s a damn good starting point for the statewide geospatial community.  And you can be well assured our brethren in the engineering, surveying, public works and aligned disciplines are already well engaged in tracking down the funding.  And btw, if you’re really interested and by comparison, do a similar search on keywords such as geospatial, mapping, geography, or GIS – and make note of the search results.  I’m by no means an expert in using the form, but by using it only casually, one can get a sense of the potential funding sources.

As in past State of State speech agendas, the governor makes reference to other should be GIS staple disciplines such as economic development (REDCs: Regional Economic Development Councils) and tourism – two very high level and visible government programs which the statewide GIS community has yet to make broad and sustaining inroads with.  Granted the current state administration’s REDC organizational chart is problematic in that these boundaries do not coincide with the existing NYS Association of Regional Councils boundaries, GIS-based economic development and tourism websites should continue to be a top priority for every county and/or regional planning commission across the state.

 2016 Bill Search

Certainly not an exhaustive list, but the following does provide a general flavor of the types of  geospatial/GIS-related bills which were either newly introduced or carried over from previous years.  Search results included:

S04208 is an uber appropriations bill filled with geospatial implications that enacts into law major components of legislation necessary to implement the state fiscal plan relating to transportation, environmental conservation and economic development.  A09004D is somewhat similar in its scale and complexity though coming through the Capital Projects budget.   Other mapping-related bills of note include  S07476 which provides for the designation of geologically significant areas, territories and sites throughout the state, and for the establishment of a state geological trail,   A02455 that authorizes commissioner of housing and community renewal to maintain housing registry called “Access-New York”, A08458 proposes to authorize the division of homeland security and emergency services to establish a statewide planning and mapping system of educational institutions across the state, while bills on   autism (S00550) and Alzheimer’s research (A03136) are also included. There are mapping elements in A09007 which includes components of legislation necessary to implement the state health and mental hygiene budget for the 2016-2017 state fiscal year.  The Surveying Legislation (A06716 &S00493) which” relates to the practice of land surveying” is still around though through the hard work of the NYGIS Association leadership and members of the Legislative Committee, much progress continues to be made with the NYSAPLS membership in finding common ground and purpose  in this bill.

Finally, S06275 was introduced in early January under the radar screen and without much fanfare by Senator Neil Breslin  (D, IP, WF ) 44TH Senate District.  My prayers have been answered as this bill hasn’t gone anywhere – yet – as it is essentially a means by which Office of Information Technology could be called upon to provide geographic information system mapping technology for strategic planning and municipal study assistance at the local level.  What?  Just what municipal and county governments need:    State government GIS staff providing support to local/county planning commissions.   I reached out to Senator Breslin’s office for some background on development of the bill though my inquiries have gone unanswered.  If ITS starts receiving funding to do this work, the statewide GIS and planning consultant communities as well as the Regional Councils should  start screaming.

With the 2016 legislative session now behind us, here’s the comprehensive summary.

Looking Ahead

As I have made reference in this blog before, the statewide geospatial profession will not become institutionalized and adopted across the government landscape until there is broad – and documented – acceptance from elected officials and members of the state legislature.  Baby steps first, but in the long run, the end game must seek to establish the systematic funding of geospatial programs  at all levels of government.  Particularly at the municipal, county, and regional level.  Funding which these governmental units can use internally or in concert with their consultants and the GIS business community.

The good news is that the NYS GIS Association’s Legislation Committee is active and working towards building a visible presence in the legislative arena with outreach efforts planned in 2017.  Including communication with other professional associations – most notably New York State Association of Professional Land Surveyors (NYAPLS) – on how collaborative efforts in this space can benefit both professional disciplines. Legislative efforts which are no longer considered “nice to have” but now a “must have” if the Association is to mature and grow. Individuals interested in joining the efforts of the Legislative Committee are encouraged to contact the Association leadership for more information.

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