Week Ahead: Prop 8 and DOMA Supreme Court hearings, RCSD budget, city budget forum, keeping an eye on pawn shops


The US Supreme Court will hear a legal challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act beginning on March 27. In anticipation, a local collaborative group that includes representatives of the LGBT, religious, and labor communities will hold a couple of events this week.

Under DOMA, marriage is limited to one man and one woman in the eyes of the federal government. DOMA affects everything from veterans’ benefits and Social Security survivor benefits to the estate tax.

Light the Way to Justice — Rochester will host a panel discussion from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 25, at the Gay Alliance Community Center, 875 East Main Street. The title of the discussion is "The DOMA Decisions — Equality on the Line." According to a press release, legal experts and LGBT advocates will offer background on DOMA and Prop 8 (California's law that says only marriage between a man and a woman is valid. The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to Prop 8 beginning on March 26) and "explore potential impacts of the decisions on taxation, health and aging, veteran spousal benefits, immigration equality, and other areas."

The second event is a candlelight vigil from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, outside the Federal Office Building, 100 State Street. According to the press release, "speakers will explore the theme of Remembering Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall."

The second of four Voice of the Citizen budget forums is on Wednesday, March 27. The 2013 to 2014 budget has a gap of about $28 million. At the meeting, Mayor Tom Richards will describe the city’s fiscal situation and share some proposed cutbacks. Your job is to tell him how you feel about those proposals.

Primary areas for discussion will include: taxes, fees, and new revenues; police and fire services; pensions; youth and library neighborhood services: infrastructure, public facilities, and neighborhood real estate; federal funding reductions and sequestration; and organizational efficiencies.

The meeting is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at School 1, 85 Hillside Avenue in the gymnasium. Park in the lot on the side of the building. The entrance is on the side of the building facing the parking lot. Christine Carrie Fien

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas will make two presentations of his $728 million budget proposal for the 2013 to 2014 school year.

The first is tonight, Monday, March 25, to school board members. The second is on Tuesday, March 26, to the general public. Parents, teachers, and residents will be able to ask questions at the latter meeting. Both meetings are at the school district’s central office, 131 West Broad Street, at 5:30 p.m.

Vargas’s budget calls for increasing the district’s reading teachers, increasing the number of schools with longer hours, and offering more sports and athletic programs.

The budget has a $50.2 million gap, which Vargas says will be closed mostly through attrition in teaching and non-teaching positions, with few layoffs. Tim Louis Macaluso

When it meets Monday afternoon, the Monroe County Legislature’s Agenda/Charter Committee will take up legislation regarding pawn shops and some secondhand stores.

The legislation was introduced by Republican Carmen Gumina of Webster, and would require dealers to hold any secondhand merchandise “coming into their business” for 14 days, says Gumina’s letter introducing the legislation.

The legislation would also require pawnbrokers, secondhand dealers, and jewelry and coin exchanges to get a renewable license from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. And it would require the shops to upload photos of all secondhand merchandise into the electronic records database kept by the sheriff’s office. They’d have to upload the photos within 48 hours of receiving an item.

In his introductory letter, Gumina says that several local communities already have similar laws on the books. And the legislation says that the county law, if passed, would not supersede those local laws.

The Agenda/Charter Committee meets at 6 p.m. in the Legislature chambers at the County Office Building, 39 West Main Street.

Sometime this week, New York State legislators should finalize New York’s 2013 to 2014 budget.

The State Senate passed several bills this weekend, though it’ll have to return to session to pass more. The Assembly plans to hold session on Thursday, after leaders postponed a planned Sunday session.

Last week, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders outlined their budget agreement. The agreement includes an increase in education aid, a provision to raise the minimum wage, several education initiatives, and a property tax rebate checks for some homeowners.

At 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, state Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Fisher will hear arguments in a lawsuit against the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

Attorney Eileen Buholtz is suing to invalidate the RPO board’s January 23 annual meeting, including the results of board member elections. Buholtz ran for a board seat as a write-in candidate, and in her lawsuit she argues that RPO officials didn’t properly notify all of the organization's members who would have been eligible to vote.

In the lawsuit, Buholtz also alleges that RPO officials didn’t recognize write-in ballots submitted at the annual meeting.
Buholtz filed a previous legal challenge against the RPO, but Fisher ruled against her. Jeremy Moule