Brindisi willing to sponsor Oneida Nation Agreement in Assembly
VERONA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica says the agreement Governor Andrew Cuomo has made with Oneida Indian Nation C.E.O. Ray Halbritter is great for both sides and he would be willing to be the sponsor of such a bill in the Assembly once it is presented by the Governor. Monday morning, before heading to Albany for the current legislative session, Brindisi told News Channel 2 he has already had a discussion with the Governor's staff. "I've told them I support the agreement. If they need me to sponsor it in the Assembly, I'd be happy to do so." The historic agreement was signed by Cuomo and Halbritter in Albany on May 16th and since then it has moved like a high speed rail train through Oneida County and Madison County and is now back in Albany. Brindisi says it's just a matter of time before the Governor submits a bill to both the Assembly and the Senate, "There are three weeks left in this session calendar, so we can approve it if the Governor sends it down this session, or if need be, he can call us back into a special session over the summer or into the fall to approve the agreement." Brindisi says this agreement with the Oneida Indian Nation may actually be rolled into a larger package of legislation, "It's unclear at this point whether it will be a separate bill, or part of a wider casino gambling package the Governor is pushing. Ao right now there's no bill language in the Assembly and we'll have to wait and see what the Governor sends down." Just as many of the legislators in Madison County voted 'yes' to the agreement on Thursday, Brindisi also feels like this is a done deal, but he feels so because of what happened in Madison and Oneida Counties, "Of course the vote hasn't happened yet, but because both counties approved it, I would think the legislature would approve it as well." When asked if both counties had voted 'no', would that have swayed the way the legislature would have voted, Brindisi says it could have, "It certainly could have had an effect on the way the legislature looked at the issue, but since both counties have approved the issue...you never count your votes before your done, but since both counties approved it, I think the legislature would approve the wishes of both counties." It's the same question NEWSChannel 2 asked Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Madison County, John Becker after he voted 'yes' on Thursday. He said he didn't know if it would have made a difference, it was his view that this was a done deal no matter what. Becker told NEWSChannel 2 after his vote, "The train has left the station in Albany, you are either on the train, or you're standing at the station." Becker said he felt like he had no choice in his decision, and his deciding 'yes' vote was the ultimate deciding vote in Madison County. Brindisi says Becker definitely had a choice, "I would disagree with him. He was certainly in on the negotiations. He met with the Governor and met with out county executive, met with representatives from the Oneida Indian Nation, so he certainly had a hand in crafting the deal, that deal was agreed upon, he signed it, sent it back to their board to approve , they approved it, and now it will come to the legislature for approval." Now, it's just a matter of how soon, and exactly what will be included in that legislation. Residents in both Oneida and Madison counties brought up a number of issues regarding the agreement over the past two weeks. One of those, what would happen if the Oneida Indian Nation decided to hyrdrofrack for natural gas. Brindisi says that not an issue at all, "Well my understanding is that you can't hydrofrack on Federal Lands, this would fall under that. I don't think they're looking at going forward with hydrofracking. You know, they've spent over a billion dollars in that casino, that's the business that they're in, and I would have no reason to believe they would go into another business, gaming is the industry that they've chosen." Another issue brought up was that area residents and legislators weren't given enough time to digest this agreement and discuss issues such as hydrofracking, but Brindisi doesn't agree. "I don't think so, this issue has been going on for over 20 years now, all these issues have been debated in public," Brindisi said. "A couple years ago when the county executive (Anthony Picente) put forward a deal, two issues that everyone was unhappy about was, there was no re-occurring revenue and there was no cap on the land in trust. This time you have reoccurring revenue and you have a cap on the land in trust. I think a lot of issues have been satisfied and how we can work with the Oneidas to further economic development in our area." One other issue area residents brought up was the trustworthiness of the Oneida Indian Nation when it comes to reporting the actual amount of money they take in from their slot machines, which is what will be used to determine the amount the send to New York State under the agreement. Brindisi says he has no reason to believe the Oneida Indian Nation would hide money, and the state actually would audit the issue, "They have to open their books to the Gaming Commission. The Gaming Commission will audit their books to show that they are paying what they're suppose to be paying under the agreement and if they don't, then they could be in violation of this agreement." Finally Brindisi says there are many benefits to this agreement and it's time the state moved on, "You have a cap on the land in trust, you have recurring revenue to the county, you have a partner now in the Oneida Indian Nation, they are an employer, the biggest in our area, so we can start partnering with them, working with them to grow tourism, and the economy in this area, and work together to further economic development in Oneida County."