James W. Wright, Republican, Conservative, Independent, is serving his seventh term in the New York State Senate, representing the state's 48th Senate District which includes all of Jefferson and Oswego counties and a portion of St. Lawrence County. The Senator was first elected in 1992, and has been reelected by large margins ever since. He serves in the leadership position of Deputy Majority Leader for Policy.
Senator Wright has been a leading advocate for improving the state's business climate. He has worked diligently to improve economic development throughout the state by sponsoring legislation to extend the Empire Zone program. He has accomplished this by working for laws which cuts taxes and red tape for New York's small business community.
In 2004, the Business Council of New York State, the state’s leading business organization, released its first ever legislative "report card" ranking state legislators on a "Vote for Jobs Index." Senator Wright achieved the highest score among the state’s legislators, earning the grade of "A." He received this distinction again in 2005 and 2006.
In his district, the Senator has been recognized for his work with small businesses, and has received awards such as the Economic Developer Merit Award. He has also been instrumental in negotiations to keep large manufacturers in his district, and to attract new employers to existing facilities. A strong supporter of agriculture, the Senator has repeatedly been honored by the New York State Farm Bureau as a member of their "Circle of Friends."
In recognition of his work on state and local energy issues, Senator Wright has been Chairman of the Senate's Committee on Energy and Telecommunication since 1998.
As Chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, he has been a key player in the energy arena and will continue to help navigate New York's progression during the transition to deregulation and addressing the need to increase generating capacity. Senator Wright led the fight to reduce energy taxes, specifically the Gross Receipt Tax and repeal of the Gas Importation Privilege Tax. He was an important member of the conference committee that created Power for Jobs and has worked with members of the Legislature and Administration to expand the program and extend the program, most recently in 2006. This program provides incentives in the form of low-cost power for the private sector to retain and create jobs.
In 2006, Senator Wright was a leading advocate for capping the state sales tax on gasoline at 8 cents per gallon.
The Senator is also an advocate for the use of alternative energy by extending net metering laws to include wind and methane digesters, which will be a significant help to New York’s farm families. He has championed consumer protections for customers of ESCOs passing a law to afford them the same benefits as traditional utility customers.
The Senator successfully championed for the expansion of broad band fiber optics into rural areas, improving telecommunications capabilities. Senator Wright sponsored a law that called for the NYS Public Service Commission to conduct a Rural Access Study of Advanced Telecommunication Services -- showing where investments need to be made. Also under the Senator’s leadership, penalties for slamming and violating the state’s Do Not Call law have been increased.
Senator Wright sponsored several telecommunications and consumer protection bills in 2006, including two laws that protect online users from computer fraud and identity theft. He also sponsored legislation that permits telephone companies to offer discount packages and promotions, which enables the companies to better compete with cellular and cable phone services.
Senator Wright is the chair of a bipartisan Senate Task Force to study and introduce new technology to the legislative process, making it more open and accessible to the public. The Senator is also a member of the bipartisan Rural Resources Commission, dedicated to the advancement of rural New York.
Senator Wright has dedicated his career to public service, having started as a child protective services caseworker in Oswego County. The Senator quickly ascended through the ranks of county government, and in 1979 was appointed as the first County Administrator of Oswego County. He served in that capacity until 1987, when he was then appointed as the first County Administrator of Jefferson County. He was successful in implementing various public safety, environmental, economic development and infrastructure projects in both counties, receiving several honors for his achievements.
He graduated from the State University of New York at Oswego in 1971, and attended the Maxwell School of Public Administration at Syracuse University. He was selected for participation in the Local Government Public Administration Internship, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Executives, and the United States Army War College, National Security Seminar. He has also served as an adjunct faculty member and a private consultant. He was honored in 2000 by Oswego State with the Lifetime Award of Merit.
Standing Committee Assignments: Energy and Telecommunications (Chair); Finance; Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business; Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections; Labor; Tourism, Recreation and Sports Development; Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, Housing and Community Development.
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