Gregory Ball is also a member of the Election Law; Energy; Housing; and Social Services Committees. He represents New York's 99th assembly district which comprises the towns Patterson, Mahopac, Carmel, Southeast, Putnam Lake and Brewster, in Putnam County; Yorktown, Mohegan Lake, Somers, and North Salem in Westchester County; and both Pawling and Pawling Village in Duchess County.
Beginning his political career in 2005, he defeated six-term incumbent Willis Stephens in a primary in September of 2006, running of a platform of reforming the legislature in Albany. Since being elected, Ball has been active in issues involving school and property tax reform, second amendment rights, animal protection, the environment, renewable energy and conservation, veteran's affairs, and illegal immigration. He is often mentioned as a possible candidate for higher office, and has called himself "Albany’s loudest advocate for reform.
Ball was born in Pawling, New York, and grew up on the Kennedy estate of Stephen and Jean Kennedy-Smith, sister of President John F. Kennedy, where his parents were both caretakers. In 1996, he was awarded the Falcon Foundation Scholarship and attended the Valley Forge Military Academy before receiving an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy from Congresswoman Sue Kelly. He was the first member of his family to attend college. While at Valley Forge, Ball interned in the White House Drug Policy Office during the term of President Bill Clinton.
Ball received a Bachelors of Arts in Government in 2001, graduating with the highest GPA in his major. He is currently completing a Masters thesis in International Affairs at Georgetown University, and was a fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency from 2002 to 2003. Ball is a board member of the Valley Forge Military Academy & College Association of Graduates, and is a member of several area Chambers of Commerce and business associations.
|"Learning about Hispanic-Americans year-round is important to truly understand the history and future of this country. As citizens of a global community we find ourselves engaging others across borders without the constraints of distance as in years past. Indeed, our national family is benefiting greatly from the cultural infusion of many Hispanic practices that include a strong and committed work ethic, an undying appreciation and commitment to family, sincere patriotism and respect for others. Today, Hispanic culture continues to be a growing and essential facet of the American experience. There are more than 30 million Americans of Hispanic origin and they contribute to every facet of American life. Food, art, religion, government, language, music, science, business, agriculture, education and the military are just some of the examples of how Hispanic Americans contribute to the progress of America. As citizens of an increasingly diverse national community, we knowingly and unknowingly celebrate Hispanic heritage each and every day through our growing appreciation of Hispanic art, music, food and custom. Let us all take this blessed time to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of Hispanic heritage–a shared American treasure!"|
|1LT Gregory R. Ball in the Bolling AFB post newspaper, October 11, 2002.|
Ball was then assigned to the 11th Wing at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C. as protocol officer, a newly created services career field. The Ceremonies & Protocol office was responsible for planning, organizing and devolping projects for the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff, as well as coordinating honor guard burial services at Arlington National Cemetery.
During his time in the Ceremonies & Protocol Office, Ball was a Project Officer for numerous events. The largest may have been the 2003 Global Air Chief's Conference, the first since 1997, which he coordinated for 90 air power leaders from around the world, as well members of Congress, national dignitaries, industry leaders and diplomats on the 100th anniversary of powered flight.
The young lieutenant was charged with directing National Hispanic Heritage Month in 2002, 2003, and 2004. He organized special exhibits and demonstrations to recognize the many contributions made by Hispanic countries and cultures, and hosted Alberto Gonzales, then White House Counsel, in 2003. Along with a volunteer committee, Ball washed cars in the base parking lot to raise donations for wing wide events to celebrate and recognize Hispanic-American service members and their contributions through out history.
In 2003, Ball was nominated as "Military Volunteer of the Year" for the 11th Wing. He was awarded an achievement medal for outstanding service by General John P. Jumper and was honorably discharged from active duty in January of 2005 at the rank of Captain. Ball remains in the U.S. Air Force Ready Reserve.
Upon his separation from active duty, Ball was recruited by the Antioch, Illinois based Exceed International, a commercial development corporation with a presence in India, Turkey and Tunisia. Placed in charge of the marketing department, he served as a team member with the Company President on a 38-company executive mission to an economic summit in New Delhi, which included representatives from companies such as Amex, Cargill, New York Life, Dow Chemical, General Electric, Bechtel, and Cognizant. Later, Exceed invested $11.1 million in India to expand operations. Construction began on six projects in Chennai, which included the ESPEE IT Park, and the Bascon Technology Park, which helped Exceed establish a foothold in India. The company also invested as a joint venture partner in mixed use residential projects such as a water treatment facility.
Eventually, Ball was elevated to Vice President of Exceed's Northeastern United States division and returned to New York. The Illinois based developer employs nearly 400 people in various fields such as project management, development, architecture, engineering, construction, government relations, finance, and technology. In 2006, Exceed proposed a $75 million urban renewal project for the village of Brewster which would generate some $2 million a year in tax revenue for the town. The village's Mayor noted that "All of the infrastructure work recently completed by defining our identity within the watershed has paid off. Brewster finds itself in a situation where people are eagerly interested in working with the village in partnership to see our village revitalized".
In early 2005, Ball announced his candidacy for State Assembly as a Republican and stated he would attempt to unseat the incumbent Assemblyman Will Stephens in a primary. Stephens' family had held the seat nearly continuously for eighty years: his grandfather, D. Mallory Stephens, represented the district from 1926 to 1952; his father, Willis Stephens Sr., held the seat from 1952 to 1982; and Stephens himself served from 1994 to 2006. Ball received over $110,000 in campaign contributions for the race. He was placed on the primary ballot by the signature of over 1800 petitioners.
At times Ball's campaign was noted for its unorthodoxy, including hiring a man in a chicken suit to follow around the incumbent after Stephens refused to debate him. Ball again garnered attention at an event in August 2006 where he carried trash bags to a press conference and drew attention to Stephens, who also served as the legal counsel to the town of Southeast, New York, for having accepted $9,355 from Waste Hauling CEO, convicted felon and reputed mob boss James Galante, who was later awarded a $1.5 million no-bid garbage contract by the town board on Stephens' recommendation. He was joined at this event by his eventual opponent in the general election, Democrat Ken Harper. Both Ball and Harper referred to the State Legislature as "dysfunctional" during their campaigns.
On September 12, 2006, in the Republican Primary for New York's 99th District, Ball defeated Stephens in a landslide with 70.4% (5,165 votes) to 29.6% (2,176 votes) for Stephens, the lowest vote total for any incumbent running for reelection to the State Assembly that day. Stephens was the victim of a negative campaign, and cited mailings that were distributed calling him a 'country-club liberal' and highlighting his close relationship with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. However, Stephens himself drew criticism when he refused to repudiate a letter about challenger Greg Ball which falsely claimed Mr. Ball had received a dishonorable discharge from the United States Air Force. Ball did not dispute that he ran hard for his seat, knocking on 10,000 doors prior to the primary.
Due to New York's electoral fusion system, the Assemblyman had vowed to remain in the race on the Conservative and Independence lines. Ultimately, Stephens decided to withdraw from the race altogether, instead taking a nomination for a Judgeship on the New York State Supreme Court in Queens, in order to allow Ball ballot access on the Independence and Conservative lines. Although Stephens attempted to have his name removed from the ballot, Ken Harper, the Democratic nominee, sued the State Board of Elections claiming that Stephens had filed a certificate declining his nomination eight days too late. The New York Court of Appeals eventually ruled that Stephens name should remain on the ballot.
Despite Stephens name remaining on the ballot, Ball went on to win a plurality of votes in the general election on November 6, 2006. He was also buoyed by endorsements from the Poughkeepsie Journal, Fraternal Order of Police, Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith and Duchess County Sheriff Butch Anderson prior to the election. Inside of the district, Ball received more votes then any other candidate, including candidates running for Governor, Attorney General, Senate, Congress, and State Senate. His upset victory earned him the title of "Newsmaker of the Year" from one local publication and he also shared a front-page cover The Journal News with fellow upset winer John Hall the day after the election.
As the Washington Post would report in 2007, a significant portion of Ball's funds for his 2006 assembly race were raised through a charity polo match in Washington, D.C. called "the Courage Cup" in 2005. Ball had been stationed at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C., when the first Courage Cup was held in 2004, raising money for charities including nearly $8,000 for the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania based Work to Ride program.
The event was created to bring together Washington professionals and the polo community together for a good cause, and a good time, and grew to become one of the largest polo events on the east coast. Ball founded the charity in 2004, prior to his run for office. His former friends resisted his attempt to retake a leadership role in 2007, and Ball countered that he was the Courage Cup's rightful owner and that the two women stole his intellectual property.
A Washington Post article from June 2007 reported that one of the event directors offered tickets at difference price level with proceeds going to a Political Action Committee named Citizens United for Ethical Growth (CUEG), which Ball operated as President in Fall of 2004. Ball's campaign stated it had nothing to do with the fund raising and the destination of profits from the event were clearly stated in one section of an online contribution form.
Several Courage Cup attendees told the Post that what they were unaware their contributions would be used for political purposes. Under a new President, CUEG transferred $18,000 into Assemblyman Ball's campaign fund in 2006, which included $610.09 raised from the 2004 Courage Cup event. The Assemblyman later provided refunds to two of the seven contributors who gave money to CUEG through the courage cup.
Ball stated that "It was not easy getting up as the new guy and standing up to tell a group of people what they don’t want to hear" but his speech became so popular that soon dozens of reporters began calling, he appeared on Fox News, excerpts from the floor speech popped up on numerous political blogs, his campaign web site received so many visits that its server crashed, and, a YouTube video of his remarks was ranked 80th among new videos the day it was uploaded. Although the remarks were contentious, they echoed a fifty-six page study from the nonpartisan New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice, which referred to the legislature as "the least deliberative and most dysfunctional in the nation".
He has voted dozens of times against any bill that proposes tax increases, including opposition a measure to raise the Putnam County sales tax by half a percent from 3.5% to 4% that was supported by State Senator Vincent Leibell, a fellow local legislator. Ball was also dismayed when asked by Putnam county legislators to carry a bill to Albany during the 2007 county "budget crisis", requesting a sales tax increase to 8.375%, which County Executive Robert Bondi, a fellow Republican, claimed was necessary to ward off a projected 66% property tax increase.
Ball felt that the County legislature could have eliminated more "pork" from the county budget. Another state legislator, Sandra Galef, eventually introduced the tax increase bill to the Assembly. Ball later joined with a county legislator in calling on Bondi to resign, citing his "incompetence and stubbornness" in proposing a budget with a 40% increase in the property tax levy. Hundreds of residents of Putnam County demonstrated outside Bondi's office in opposition to the tax increase, which was defeated.
Ball pledged to deliver an Empire Zone to Putnam County during his campaign, and this became a reality in February 2008. Advantages of an Empire Zone include offering up to 100-percent state subsidy of a business' real estate taxes for up to 10 years, state tax credits up to $3,500 for five years for each new employee, a waiver of sales tax on certain business purchases and sales tax credits for contributions to 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. Ball has also delivered dozens of grants for organizations throughout the 99th Assembly District, including the American Red Cross.
The Governor announced his resignation the day after Ball's comments, and left office on March 17, 2008. He was replaced by his Lieutenant Governor, David Paterson. Ball stated that "My heart and prayers go out to Mrs. Spitzer and the Spitzer family. Yet my heart also goes out to the millions of New Yorkers, of all political persuasions, who voted for this man believing that he, Spitzer, would finally champion the cause of the people and work to clean up Albany... Immediately, as a member of the Legislature, I will now welcome the new Governor. I look forward to a new, fresh start." Paterson's replacement as acting Lieutenant Governor, Joe Bruno, had previously faced calls to step down from Ball and others if the federal investigation into his business interests resulted in an indictment.
As ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Ball announced legislation expanding the eligibility for veterans to receive tax exemption benefits, including the exemption of real property owned by certain disabled veterans from property taxation. Ball authored the bill that created the tuition remission program for veterans, offering them free tuition at both SUNY and CUNY undergraduate and graduate institutions. Although the first bill did not make it out of committee in 2007, after Governor Spitzer called on the Assembly to pass such a measure, Ball reintroduced the legislation and garnered thirty-one cosponsors. State Senator Vinnie Leibell, whose Senate district encompasses the 99th Assembly District, announced the Senate would begin working to pass a similar measure. Previously, the State of New York Higher Education Services Corporation offered tuition awards of $1000 per semester for military service.
Ball's legislation was picked up by the entire Assembly Republican Conference through their 2008 legislative package. Numerous members of the New York Veterans of Foreign Wars, including the State Commander, spoke in favor of the bill before the Assembly in February of 2008. Governor Eliot Spitzer included the measure in his 2008 executive budget proposal, and the measure was kept funded in Governor David Paterson's version.
The landmark legislation created a tuition remission program for veterans, and was passed by both houses of the State Legislature as Part N, Article 7 of the $121.7 billion 2008-09 state budget State Budget. The Assemblyman was pleased that the program was fully funded by the budget, but stated "there is much more we can do and I am proud to stand here today to call on my colleagues in both houses, on both sides of the aisle, to honor our veterans and thank them for their service through enactment of legislation that will help improve their quality of life. Ball and the Republican Assembly minority conference eventually voted against the Assembly's version of the budget, citing "funny numbers accounting, out of control spending, and unfunded mandates", and were praised for their fiscal conservatism by Governor Paterson, a Democrat, who did not rule out using his veto pen for member items.
The Assemblyman strongly opposes firearm microstamping, and participated in a discussion of the technology along side second amendment activists and representatives of the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation at a New York State Police shooting range in May 2008. The gun industry representatives were asked to leave by the event's organizers. Ball had been invited by Assembly Democrat Michelle Schimel to the demonstration of microstamping technology. Schimel's bill mandating microstamping was passed through the Assembly, against opposition led by Assemblyman Ball of 47 Assembly members of both parties, although the State Senate took no action on a similar item and it will not become law. Gun control advocates want bullets fired from guns purchased in New York to be marked so they can be more easily traced to their origin, and opposing organizations have responded that the technology is unreliable, and greatly increases production costs for the gun industry, which would be passed on to gun owners. The Assemblyman claims that the legislation unfairly impacts law abiding gun owners, as most homicides are committed with illegal firearms or guns purchased in another state that would not utilize microstamping. As of 2008, only California had passed similar legislation.
As a pet owner, Ball has made animal protection a campaign platform, and he secured grants for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and local humane societies, and has co-sponsored legislation to prohibit the slaughter of horses for the purpose of human consumption, as well as a bill to allow guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs to be allowed in public places during their training. Ball worked closely with the Humane Society of the United States to pass legislation to outlaw puppy mills, which are large commercial kennels that are notorious for substandard conditions and an "assembly line" approach to churning out puppies.
The bill, known both as "Charlemagne's Law" and "The Puppy Mill Act", strengthens a previous measure he had created, and is the product of a constituent who lost a beloved pet due to parasites, ear mites, kennel cough and a corneal ulcer all stemming from the poor environment of the puppy mill. The legislation prohibits pet stores from selling dogs bred in puppy mills, and was introduced alongside another bill which would impose stiffer penalties for those convicted of dog fighting.
The Assemblyman has carried legislation to Albany for other constituents, including a measure in May 2008 known as "Hannah's Law" which ensures a Yorktown couple receives insurance coverage for the formula that keeps their three daughter alive, making it mandatory for insurers to cover formulas for patients with rare eosinophilic disorders, and removes the $2,500 annual caps imposed by insurance plans that pay for formula.
A regional task force created by Ball of families raising children affected by autism, professionals who work with autism, and government representatives met in January 2008 "in order to identify areas of concern and to find better ways to ensure those with autism have the care and services they deserve." Ball has cosponsored several bipartisan bills that impact New York’s children with autism and their families. Ball is also working with organizations such as Autism Speaks to create "a regional warehouse of support and information for families raising children affected by Autism".
He has been involved in the fight to keep Pepsi Bottling Group in his district, after the company, which is Westchester County's second-largest employer announced it was considering relocating out of his district due to the tax burden it faces. He told reporters that "Westchester County has become a nightmare for not only business owners, but property owners, because of the tax burden", but that he was "cautiously optimistic" they would remain in their Somers, New York headquarters.
He was joined by former INS agents in a rally protesting a proposed work shelter for illegal immigrants in the village of Brewster. Ball made illegal immigration a focal point of his bid for office. In October 2007, he strongly criticized Governor Spitzer's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. He was at the forefront of the opposition to the plan, and his Statewide petition to stop it led to the Assembly Minority Conference's decision to sue the Governor to stop the plan.
The Assemblyman introduced a bill that authorizes local police to detain and begin the deportation process immediately for illegal immigrants caught committing a crime known as the New York State Criminal Illegal Alien Deportation and Legal Hiring Act, and also cosponsored a series of immigration bills that passed in the State Assembly to crack down on contractors breaking state labor laws such as prevailing wage and IRS tax form 1099 misclassification. The lawmaker has attempted to avert misconceptions about what he is trying to do, stressing that his bill's provisions require ICE to perform monthly searches of the state's registered sex-offender list to find criminal aliens, stating that "It's sad to watch some people turn a law-enforcement issue into an 'us- versus-them' argument. This is solely about focusing on the most violent criminal illegal aliens and making sure they're deported so they can't strike again in the state of New York.
In February 2008, Ball hosted a summit on the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 287(g) program for law enforcement and elected officials from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, co-hosted by Jim Pendergraph, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Executive Director from the United States Department of Homeland Security Office of State and Local Coordination. He talked at length about the measure during a Fox News interview with Neil Cavuto. The 287(g) partnership, created in 1996 under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), includes a five week training program on how to avoid racial profiling, and allows local law enforcement officers to work as ICE agents and file immigration violation charges, so that an illegal immigrant charged with crime in would have deportation papers filed immediately. Ball believes that correctional officers should receive immigration law enforcement training under the 287(g) program, and has promised to work with the ICE branch of the Department of Homeland Security by signing up counties which have their own correctional facility for the training. Ball held another regional summit in April 2008. He emphasized that deporting nonviolent offenders before their sentence was up would save the state money.
He has noted that illegal immigrants are not always automatically deported despite facing criminal charges. Ball has opposed similar programs enrolling local law enforcement officials in the training, stating that "most local police agencies don't have the resources or the time to dedicate themselves to immigration law enforcement" and that starting a jail house program where names of suspected illegal aliens would be screened by a federal database would be more effective. Ball said that "the key in this is that you need a jail, because you can wait weeks to determine someone's immigration status and then trigger the deportation procedure." The Assemblyman introduced a bill on behalf of 9/11 Families for a Secure America in April 2008 that mandates implementation of the 287(g) program statewide.
Ball has worked to promote businesses that hire legal immigrant laborers, and has begun to create a database for usage on his campaign website. His campaign headquarters in Pawling, New York may have been targeted over the contentious issue, and was vandalized with swastikas in October 2006, although the person or persons responsible misspelled the word "Fascist" twice. An oft-quoted line from his campaign literature was that "Illegal Immigration is Illegal". He was named "Albany's most ardent supporter of legal immigration" when he was appointed State Chairman of the national immigration reform group State Legislators for Legal Immigration. Yet Ball declined to speak at an anti illegal-immigration forum in Danbury, Connecticut sponsored by United States Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement, calling the group's rhetoric "over the top.
In June 2008, Ball's campaign sent out an e-mail piece that quoted from a Government Accountability Office study on illegal aliens and crime, which alleged that 55,322 illegal alien respondents had been arrested a total of 459,614 times. A local journalist noted that the study linked in the e-mail pertained to prison inmates, and stated that 68% of the 46,023 convictions were for immigration-related crimes, followed by 21% for drug-related crimes and 11% for other offenses.
While his campaign has called for the widening of New York State Route 22 and completion of the Bear Mountain State Parkway, Ball has called attention to both the economic and environmental impact of the project, stating that "its a huge concern. It must be expanded. I am willing to work with the environmentalists and regional planners to get this project off the ground once and for all". The Ball campaign has also focused on promoting energy conservation, calling fuel prices "out of control" and vowing to establish tax credits for usage and production of alternative fuels, establish a state energy planning board, and cut fuel costs by eliminating the state sales tax on gasoline and alternative fuels.
The fundamental reality is that with gas prices and oil import costs rising every year, we must chart a new course based on renewable, cleaner energies.|30px|25px|Assemblyman Greg Ball
The Assemblyman supported Greasestock, an yearly event held in Yorktown to showcase clean renewable energy. The event was founded in 2003 by individuals interested in vegetable powered vehicles. The event now includes a number of alternative fuel exhibits, showcasing new green technologies for vehicles and other applications.
On March 17, 2008, Ball announced that he would be a candidate for reelection during an event at an Irish restaurant in Yorktown Heights, flanked by new Westchester GOP Chairman Douglas Colety, Putnam GOP Chairman Anthony Scannapieco, Jr., and Westchester County Executive candidate Rob Astorino. Ball highlighted the fact that his campaign had received the most money and more contributions from individual donors then any other incumbent minority Assemblyman in the last quarter of 2007. In a speech to supporters, Ball stated that "I'm a maverick Republican. I came into this business from outside the political machine. That makes me a target for Albany insiders."
In early May 2008, John Degnan, the former Mayor of Brewster, New York, announced he would be mounting a challenge to the freshman Assemblyman. The Republican Assembly Campaign Committee issued a press release on Degnan's candidacy, stating that "There is no question that, unlike his opponent – who just last year ran with the backing of the Democrat Party – Assemblyman Greg Ball is a true Republican who has kept his promises. Greg Ball has been, and continues to be, a recognized leader in the fight to fix Albany by supporting real property tax relief, fiscal responsibility and the types of comprehensive reforms needed to repair a broken state government.
In the September 9th, 2008 primary, Ball was overwhelmingly reelected by a 3 to 1 margin amongst Republicans. He will face Degnan, who has the Democratic nomination, in the general election.
Following the ruling, Ball contended that the committee was biased, since it contained one registered Republican, one Independent, and eight Democrats, and has made similar rulings against other Repbulicans in the past. Despite the ruling, on July 10, Ball again sent copies of the misleading mailer to voters.
While The Putnam Times, a local partisan paper, incorrectly reported that Ball violated the order of protection by following the woman to Israel on July 20th, News Channel 12, a regional network, pointed out that order of protection was filed six days earlier on July 14th, and court records state Ball traveled to Israel on June 20th. The Poughkeepsie Journal also later pointed out that there was never a criminal restraining order, and the documents printed by the Times was actually a temporary order of protection, which anyone can request.
The previous day, Ball had released e-mails from from his former Chief of Staff, which stated that Perreault was ready to "go forward with a lawsuit and 'embellish' some of the details," calling the letter to Silver into question. Ball said the letter was part of a "smear campaign", and that the ex-Chief of Staff was a "mole" for State Senator Vincent Leibell, who was backing his primary opponent. Ball released a taped phone converstaion between the ex-Chief of Staff and a local political candidate, where his former deputy stated he was working for "the senate" to "neuter" Ball. Although at first, the ex-Chief of Staff denied working for the senate to The Journal News, the next day, he admitted it in another article, but Senator Leibell denied any conspiracy.
After Ball was easily reelected in the September primary, Degnan told News 12 he would consider toning down his negative campaign.