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Western New York lawmakers satisfied with Senate posts

Lawmakers outside Western New York received the highest-profile committee posts in the State Senate, but the region's newest members said they are satisfied with their new jobs.

"I'm very happy with the committees I've been given," said Sen. Patrick Gallivan, an Erie County Republican who was tapped Tuesday to be the chairman of the Senate Social Services Committee.

The committee has jurisdiction over a wide array of social welfare programs, and Gallivan said his first priority will be to restore anti-fraud measures -- fingerprinting, face-to-face interviews and asset background checks -- for recipients of social services benefits in New York.

Gallivan also was named chairman of the Senate's Children and Families Committee and a member of several other committees, including Energy, Labor, Tourism, Banks, Insurance and Investigations.

Sen. Mark Grisanti, the other freshman Republican from Erie County, was named chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee -- a post held by former Sen. Antoine Thompson, whom Grisanti defeated in November.

Grisanti said the position will put him into the debate over natural gas hydraulic fracturing.

"I'm open-minded with regard to that issue, but it has to be safe," Grisanti said of the drilling method opposed by many environmentalists but supported by job-creation advocates.

Grisanti also will serve on the Tourism, Higher Education, Labor and Cities committees.

The high-profile committee leadership positions -- including Finance, Transportation, Economic Development, Rules, Education and Higher Education -- went to Republicans from Long Island, Syracuse and Rochester.

Sen. George Maziarz, a Newfane Republican, got his old job back as Energy Committee chairman, a post he said will be helpful in upcoming talks over the state's Power for Jobs program and what he said have been efforts in Albany to redirect Western New York-generated hydropower to downstate.

Sen. Catharine Young, an Olean Republican, was named Housing Committee chairwoman, as well as the Senate head of a two-house commission on rural resources.

And Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, an Erie County Republican, was given the chairman's job on the Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, which oversees an array of state entities such as the Thruway Authority.

Committee chairmanships often pay less than leadership titles, which serve as extra rewards for lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos makes an extra $41,500 as majority leader, while Grisanti and Gallivan -- assuming they do not get any leadership titles -- would make an extra $12,500 apiece for their committee jobs.

Senate Democrats picked Sen. Tim Kennedy, a South Buffalo Democrat, as the ranking Democrat on the Economic Development and Agriculture committees, as well as being appointed to the Higher Education, Transportation, Insurance and Tourism panels. He said the positions will help with the delegation's priority to back new job-creation efforts by the state and a renewed push for the UB 2020 program for downtown redevelopment.

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com