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With creativity, leaders can defuse harmful laws

Last year during my campaign, one of the most critical issues I believed that Erie County faced was suspending or repealing the Apprenticeship Law.

The law prevented contractors without apprenticeship programs from competing for county construction work and, as a result, harmed local business, drove up the cost of county projects on average by 20 percent and wasted taxpayer dollars. Simply put, it was the most anti-business, anti-taxpayer law on Erie County's books and I vowed to get rid of it during my tenure as Erie County executive.

Recently, I was proud to announce that we fulfilled that key campaign pledge just nine months into this term. Because we recognized early on that our county legislators lacked the political will to stand up to the special interests that had donated to their campaigns and funded their re-election efforts, I decided we had to get creative.

In July, the administration submitted new rules and regulations regarding the Apprenticeship Law to the Legislature. These new rules were effective July 21, and allowed non-apprenticeship law contractors to compete for county work given New York State's moratorium on new apprenticeship programs. The Legislature majority had 60 days to vote and block this change, and it failed to do so.

Our rules waive the apprenticeship requirement for contractors who cannot obtain an apprenticeship program because of Albany's moratorium. Moreover, we have waived the requirement for contractors who determine that the size of a project makes utilizing an apprenticeship program burdensome. We are introducing fair and competitive bidding to the process and letting the nation know that Erie County is open for business.

I am proud of what we have accomplished here in Erie County, but this is symptomatic of a larger problem crippling us across New York State. Albany continues to pass anti-business, anti-taxpayer laws that strangle development, sabotage job creation and keep the special interests firmly entrenched.

Instead, Albany should be fighting for the hardworking taxpayers and creating economic opportunity for their children and grandchildren.
I know Albany faces a major crisis. But in crisis can come unique opportunity. The leadership in Albany needs to seize this opportunity and pass real reform for our counties and our local economies. It starts with cutting unfunded state mandates and eliminating burdensome laws like the Wicks Law, Scaffolding Law and the Taylor Law, which drive up the cost of work and prevent real economic development.

If we can be creative here in Erie County, we can do the same thing in Albany. Over the coming months, my administration will continue to creatively look for ways to challenge bad laws that our legislatures -- both here and in Albany -- continue to pass. The taxpayers have had enough, and they deserve real change.

Chris Collins is Erie County executive.

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