Friday, March 16, 2012

Mandate Relief – Another opportunity for success, or failure

New York State’s new Mandate Relief Council is holding a public hearing here in Rochester today, Friday, March 16, 3:00 PM, at City Hall.  They are seeking information about how changes in state regulations and laws would enable local government and school resources to be used more efficiently and productively.

This Mandate Relief Council is the newest group designated to address the problem of unfunded and under funded mandates.  Convening a group to study mandates and make recommendations is not a new idea in New York.  Commissions for this purpose have come and gone with virtually nothing to show for the hours of testimony and preparing reports; it is easy to understand why many people are skeptical of this new effort.

Yet, despite the frustrating history of past commissions, it is important to participate fully in this effort.  This year this process is being organized in a way that may make it more likely mandate issues get public attention.  If every school district and local government flags the same few issues for Council review, perhaps the pollsters will notice and ask the kind of questions that creates buzz around issues, perhaps the public will embrace the message, and perhaps the legislators will discover they are compelled to vote with the public will. 

This Mandate Relief Council is made up of seven members of the Governor’s staff and four legislators.  The Commission has established a procedure on their website (
can formally submit requests for changes for the Council’s review. 

The Commission will review the mandates submitted for consideration and also seek public comment on the proposals.  If at the end of their review the Council votes to support a change, they can direct the Governor to change regulations or, in the case of laws, prepare a program bill for the Legislature to vote on.  With regard to changing laws, nothing about the process compels the Legislature to vote to approve a change.

The burden created by costly mandates has been detailed in numerous reports over many years.  MCSBA annually updates and circulates our position papers on mandate relief as do other school board groups.

As to formal reports, in my office is a 4-inch stack documenting the need for mandate relief.  It includes numerous efforts done during the past decade by both state agencies and state organizations.  Although the Mandate Relief Council is requesting new information, there is no shortage of information identifying the specific problems created by unfunded mandates or proposed solutions.  In reverse chronological order here are some of the major reports along with links to most of them.

2012 –
Let NY Work, A Common Agenda for the Common Good, by a consortium of 11 statewide organizations

2011 –
NYSSBA Essential Fiscal Reform Playbook

Mandate Relief Redesign Team Report, commissioned by Governor

Special Education – New York State Law, Regulations, and Policy Not required by Federal Law/Regulation/Policy; an annual update from the NYSED

2010 –
You Can’t Cap What You Can’t Control, Recommendations from the Mayoral Task Force on Mandate and Property Tax Relief

Property Tax Cap: Pass or Fail for School Districts, NYSSBA

List of Mandates Frequently Raised in Discussions with School Administrators, Board Members and the Public, NYSED

2009 –
Memorandum from the Conference of Big 5 School districts – Mandate Relief Recommendations

2008 –
New York State Commission on Property Tax relief, commissioned by Governor Paterson

21st Century Government, Report of the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, commissioned by Governor Paterson

Report of the Task Force on Maximizing School District Resources, NYSSBA; Excelsior! Key Drivers Behind New York’s ‘Ever Upward” Property Tax Burden

Testimony by Thomas Rogers, Executive Director of NYSCOSS to the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief, Helping School Leaders Control Costs

The State of New York Schools: Addressing the Burden of Unfunded Mandates Real Solutions, Real Relief, Assembly Republican Conference

2002 -
A Compilation of Mandatory School District Planning & Reporting Requirements, Drowning in a Sea of Paperwork, NYSCOSS