Cuomo Order Blocks Insurance Coverage Of ‘Conversion Therapy’

An executive order released on Saturday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo blocks insurance companies from covering so-called conversion therapy of gays and lesbians.

The move, announced ahead of the governor addressing the LGBT organization the Human Rights Campaign, was cheered by advocates for tackling an issue that has stalled in the state Legislature.

In a statement, Cuomo called conversion therapy — which gay, lesbian or transgender people are counseled to change their orientation or gender identity — a “hatefully and fundamentally flawed practice.”

“New York has been at the forefront of acceptance and equality for the LGBT community for decades – and today we are continuing that legacy and leading by example,” Cuomo said. “We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are.”

Attempts at conversion therapy have been increasingly criticized by medical organizations and has been attributed to depression and suicide in LGBT youth.

The executive order calls on a number of state agencies to issue regulations that would ban insurance companies from covering such therapies for those under the age of 18. The Department of Health will block Medicaid money be spent on conversion therapy, while the Office of Mental Health will issue regulations that would block facilities under their jurisdiction from providing the treatment to minors.

Counseling for minors who are transitioning or seeking to transition from one gender to another that “provides acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual or the facilitation of an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development” would not be banned under the executive order.

The order comes weeks after the administration issued regulations under the state’s human rights law that would prohibit discrimination in housing and the workplace of transgender individuals.

Both limits to conversion therapy as well as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act have languished in the Legislature in recent years.

Cuomo’s executive order addressing conversion therapy was hailed by LGBT advocates.

“Governor Cuomo continues to cement his role as one of the LGBT community’s strongest allies by taking this enormous step to end a practice that is tantamount to child abuse,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “No young person should be coerced or subjected to this dangerous so-called therapy, which has been linked to youth substance abuse, depression, homelessness, and even suicide.”

Manhattan Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman, the Senate’s only openly gay member and sponsor of a bill aimed at banning conversion therapy, praised the effort to curtail one of “the biggest consumer frauds in history.”

“Being the prime sponsor of legislation to ban this practice and the only openly LGBT member of the State Senate,” Hoylman said, “I am extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for using his executive authority to cut off state support and protect LGBT children from destructive and discredited sexual orientation change efforts.”

Silver Seat Race May Come Down to Deal

The Working Families Party has endorsed Yuh-Line Niou to fill the Assembly seat vacated by former Speaker Sheldon Silver who was convicted of federal corruption last year and forced to resign. In a statement, WFP’s Bill Lipton said,

Yuh-Line Niou’s story is the story of New York. While this was a tough decision, a majority of WFP leaders decided this morning that she is the right choice to provide the strong, progressive leadership the working families of the 65th district need. New Yorkers can count on Yuh-Line to be a strong advocate for affordable housing, for immigrants and seniors, and for efforts to clean up our corrupt campaign finance system.We proudly support her.

Tomorrow the 180 or so members of the New York County Democratic Committee for the 65th Assembly District  will gather on East Broadway to pick their candidate for the April 19 special election called by Governor Cuomo last Saturday.

That basically gave the interested candidates 8 days to run one of the shortest campaigns in recent memory to succeed Silver who held the seat since 1977. Not the most democratic of processes, most people would seem to agree. The main candidates are Niou who is Chief of Staff to Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, Chair of Community Board 3 Gigi Lee, District Leader Paul Newell and Shelly hanger-on Alice Cancel.

Because the district is heavily Democratic, whoever gets selected by the Committee tomorrow is likely to win the special. However, there will be a normal September primary no matter what, which means Democrats who lose out tomorrow could get another crack at it in 7 months. According to one prominent Democrat,

The district has changed, but most of the County Committee hasn’t. WFP will be very important in September so their endorsement is crucial now.

This week, insiders began a whisper campaign that Alice Cancel had the most votes from the committee going into tomorrow’s (S)election process in which new votes are taken over and over again until a candidate reaches 50%. But it’s not one committee member one vote ( which would make too much sense ). The vote is weighted to favor Committee members who hail from Assembly Districts that had the highest vote turnout for Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 ( I’m actually not kidding ). So, Cancel was the choice of the vestiges of the old Shelly machine on the Lower East Side. People like Rosa Silver ( Shelly’s wife ) and Judy Rapfogel ( shelly’s former Chief of Staff ) still have votes, and more importantly, control votes within the Lower East Side portion of the district. The 65th also includes Chinatown, Battery Park and the Financial District.

So, a deal needed to be cut between the Shelly people and the current reform minded elected officials. The person they appear to have settled on is Niou, who lives in the Financial District, even though some say may have a residency issue. How anybody could want to deal with Silver’s faction at this point is anybody’s guess, but this is politics after all. And sometimes people hold their noses to make deals for what they consider the greater good. I should also note that the vote is still tomorrow, so nothing is final. I have covered enough of these (S)elections to know that anything can happen when the consummate back-room-deal-people all end up in the same room together. So, we shall see. The good news is that Yuh-Line does seem to be a solid candidate who is young, energetic and committed to moving a district forward that has been ruled by an iron fist for longer than she has been alive.


With just seven dissenters, NYC Council members today went above the recommendations of a salary commission to award themselves a 32 percent raise — from $112,500 to $148,500.

Rep. John Katko will deliver the weekly Republican address Saturday. It’s the first national role the freshman Central New York congressman has been asked to serve by House Republicans.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz thinks KeyCorp’s acquisition of First Niagara Financial Group would be a bad deal for the Buffalo Niagara region.

A 52-year-old Army veteran from Syracuse says he will launch a long-shot bid to challenge U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in the November election. James P. LaSpino, a 1981 graduate of Nottingham High School in Syracuse, said he will file to run as an independent candidate.

Jennifer Cunningham, long one of the state’s most prominent strategic political consultants, has dipped her toe back into the lobbying world in light of new rules passed by the state’s lobbying regulator, JCOPE.

Assemblyman Robert Oaks said he’s seriously considering a run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Michael Nozzolio.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says a multi-agency investigation is underway following a deadly crane collapse this morning at a construction site in Lower Manhattan.

Hillary Clinton’s daughter accidentally called Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, her mom’s rival in the Democratic race for the White House, “President Sanders.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s 10th State of the City address emphasized a stay-the-course approach, putting a freeze on property taxes for a fifth straight year and the goal of pushing the city’s economic development successes further into the East Side neighborhoods.

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg need not bother with an independent bid for the White House, as far as DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is concerned.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele is renewing a call for the governor and lawmakers to allocate money for another Long Island Rail Road track from Sayville to Montauk to deal with demand and reduce summer traffic.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is campaigning for Clinton in advance of the New Hampshire primary.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced a $470 million joint state-federal settlement with mortgage lender and servicer HSBC to address mortgage origination, servicing, and foreclosure abuses.

A 1924 wooden carousel stored for decades in an Ohio warehouse will have a Buffalo waterfront spot to call home in the near future.

De Blasio’s aides struggled with when – and how – to tell him that two NYPD officers had been shot during his State of the State address.

Some 551 New Yorkers have been certified to obtain medical marijuana, nearly one month after the state’s program began.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the longtime champion of medical marijuana in the state Legislature, has introduced a bill that would authorize five new manufacturers in the state by Jan. 1.

Three days after lohud Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson reported on problems with two tourism nonprofits run by Libby Pataki, the AG’s office has launched an investigation into both agencies.

Dean Wish and Dean’s Beans are fighting over who actually has the world’s strongest coffee.

JCOPE Releases FAQ On Grassroots Lobbying Regulation

Amid ongoing concerns being raised over an advisory opinion that would require consultants to inform lobbying regulators when they seek to influence an editorial board’s opinion, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has released a set of frequently asked questions on the regulation.

The FAQ comes amid blowback from consultant firms — and editorial boards — over the advisory opinion that is aimed at having public relations consultants who engage in “grassroots” lobbying campaigns register as lobbyists with the state.

JCOPE has insisted the regulation is not aimed at having journalists register with the government or have PR representatives divulge conversations with reporters.

Rather, JCOPE’s advisory opinion is aimed having consultants reveal when their effort “controls the delivery” of a clients issue through an editorial board.

From the FAQ:

Does a consultant who communicates with the media have to register as a lobbyist?

Generally, no. However, if a paid consultant “controls the delivery” of a message by encouraging an editorial board to support a position on a specific government action favorable to a client, then the consultant may need to register with the Commission and disclose information about the underlying client relationship. Factual communications with reporters are not covered by this opinion.

The full FAQ on grassroots lobbying can be found here:

FAQsLobbying Advisory16-01_CONSULTANTS_GRASSROOTS.pdf by Nick Reisman

Teachout Prioritizes Infrastructure Issues in NY-19

Teachout and MaloneyCongressional hopeful and former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout says she will focus on infrastructure and transportation issues in the Hudson Valley if elected to represent the 19th Congressional District.

Teachout made the remarks following an endorsement from Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the 18th Congressional District to her south.

“I think there’s incredible possibility working with Congressman Maloney on transportation issues, infrastructure,” Teachout said. “He’s actually made infrastructure and transportation a focus and working across the aisle has produced real results for his district.”

Teachout said if she’s chosen by voters in November, she’s planning to work closely with Maloney to push for more infrastructure spending in the region.

“If we can work together on transportation and infrastructure projects that support the whole Hudson Valley,” Teachout said, “that more than doubles the power of New Yorkers in this region in Washington.”

The Democratic hopeful also said she remains committed to widespread campaign finance and ethics reforms, both in Albany and Washington. Those are issues she focused on in 2014 when she, and her runningmate Tim Wu, unsuccesfully sought the Democratic nominatinon for governor.

“The job is a different job and you can look at my record and see what I focused on in the past, which is big money in politics, and fighting to end corruption in Albany and fighting to end corruption in Washington,” Teachout said. “That’s something I’ve always cared about, something I’ve always done.”

Teachout faces at least one serious challenger on the Democratic side in Livingston Deputy Town Supervisor Will Yandik, who has received an endorsement from the Columbia County Democratic Committee. But results from the 2014 gubernatorial primary seem to show Teachout with good standing – she won 10 of the 11 counties that make up NY-19 over Governor Andrew Cuomo in that contest.

Teachout says part of that favorability comes from her strong ground game on the campaign trail.

“I’ve never been a political insider so for me the key is what’s happening at the ground level and the people who really believe it’s possible to get our democracy back,” Teachout said. “The highly local work that you can do in every corner of the district is the essence of the job of being a congressperson.”

So far, that message is paying off. Teachout says she has received over 4,000 contributions since she announced her candidacy more than a week ago with an average of $28 per contribution.

One thing working against Teachout: time. Her opponents on the other side of the aisle have been at work campaigning for months now with plenty of money on hand to show for it.

Business Council: $15 Wage Could Cost $15.7B A Year

The state Business Council on Friday released new concerns over the proposed increase in the state’s minimum wage to $15 as well as the proposal for a 12-week paid family leave program.

The lobby group’s budget analysis singled out the minimum wage proposal backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Democratic lawmakers and wage and labor advocates as the “most significant new business cost” in the spending plan.

“In fact, it may be the single most costly legislative proposal ever considered by the state legislature,” the group said, “with a projected cost of $15.7 billion per year once fully implemented.”

The current minimum wage in New York is $9, having increased from $8.75 on Jan. 1.

The Business Council in 2014 endorsed Cuomo’s re-election bid as did they back his run in 2010. Cuomo has sought to court the business community in the state, but the Business Council has increasingly raised issues with some of his economic proposals, such as the wage hike.

The group was opposed to Cuomo’s use of executive power to raise the wage over the next several years for fast-food workers to $15. Cuomo later moved to increase the minimum wage to $15 for state and SUNY workers.

At the same time, the Business Council has “a number of concerns” with Cumoo’s paid family leave proposal given its potentially broad reach for all employers.

“It represents a significant departure from the federal Family Medical Leave Act by applying to all employers,” the Business Council states. “Congress, when contemplating the FMLA, gave great consideration to the burdens such a law would put on small employers. The reinstatement provisions alone – holding a job for up to 12 weeks – were deemed too burdensome for small employers.”

Cuomo’s paid family leave plan would be paid for with a $1 deduction of an employees’ paycheck, while the Democratic-led Assembly this week approved an alternative bill that would require an expansion of the temporary disability insurance fund.

The Business Council released a memorandum of opposition to the Assembly-backed bill.

Cuomo, City Council Name Portion Of Street After Slain Aide

A portion of Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn will be co-named in honor of Carey Gabay, the attorney in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration who was killed by stray gunfire last October.

“Carey lived by the belief that hard work and public service can make a difference in the world. He could have done anything with his talents, but he chose to give back to New York – and our state is a better place because of it,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito and the members of the City Council for advancing this important tribute to Carey, and I encourage all New Yorkers to join us in following his example of service to one another. We will honor Carey’s life and legacy as we continue his work to build a stronger, safer and more inclusive New York for all.”

The co-naming of the street was announced jointly by Cuomo and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito.

Gabay’s death was followed by Cuomo’s renewed push for strong gun control laws nationally, insisting that weaker laws in other states allow illegal firearms to “come in through the backdoor” in New York.

In addition to the street being co-named after Gabay, Cuomo announced a scholarship program named in the memory of the 43-year-old.

“Carey Gabay’s life was cut tragically short in an act of senseless violence – and the loss of this young life was a loss for our entire city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement also released by Cuomo’s office. “Gabay was a loyal public servant, beloved by his family and his community. We are proud to support this street renaming in honor of Gabay – a fitting tribute for a man who did so much to serve our neighborhoods.”

Moody’s: Lago Presents A ‘Competitive Challenge’ To Existing Rasinos, Turning Stone

The Lago Resort & Casino complex being built in the Finger Lakes community of Tyre will be stiff competition for existing gambling outlets in central New York, a report from Moody’s Investors Service released on Friday found.

The report pointed to advantages Lago will have over its competition, such as the Batavia Downs and Finger Lakes racinos, including location and a favorable tax structure for slot machines and table gaming.

At the same time, Lago is expected to peel of some gamblers who would otherwise go to Turning Stone casino, which is operated by the Oneida Nation of Indians.

“Our expectations for the success of Lago assume that the new casino is able to cannibalize a portion of the Turning Stone’s Syracuse customers with the lure of a new project with many non-gaming amenities,” the report found.

The Oneidas have raised sustained objections and filed a legal challenge to Lago receiving one of the three commercial casino gaming licenses in the first phase of construction.

Turning Stone exists within an exclusivity zone, which Lago does not lie within. Nevertheless, the Oneida Nation has argued Lago’s existence represents a threat to their business in central New York.

“We are excited about and focused on building the best resort and casino in upstate New York to create jobs, increase tourism and generate real economic opportunity and growth for the Finger Lakes region,” said Lago spokesman Steve Greenberg. “We are increasing the pace of construction and look forward to opening early in 2017 as a new regional draw for visitors from near and far.”

Meanwhile, Lago has the advantage of taxes as well: The resort is subject to a 10 percent tax rate on table game revenue and a 37 percent rate on slot machines. At Finger Lakes, the tax rate currently being paid is 70 percent.

Gaming revenue at racinos in New York overall has rebounded last year after declining in 2014, Moody’s found, increasing by 2.3 percent overall. Vernon Downs was the only racino last year to post an overall reduction in revenue.

But that doesn’t mean the gambling industry overall is healthy, given a number of casinos due to open in the northeast market in the coming years.

“This improvement does not suggest any material improvement in sector fundamentals at a time when we are about to see a major increase in gaming supply in the northeast US,” the found.

Arcuri Files To Run For Judgship

Former Rep. Michael Arcuri has filed paperwork with the state Board of Elections to run for a county judge post in Oneida County.

Arcuri, an Oneida County district attorney from 1993 through 2006, is eyeing the post currently held by Judge Barry Donalty, who is retiring at the end of the year.

Arcuri was elected to Congress in 2006, serving two terms after he was defeated by Republican Richard Hanna for the central New York congressional seat. After leaving Congress, Arcuri went into private practice as an attorney in Syracuse.

He announced his plans to run for judge last week, pointing to his time as a prosecutor as well as a lawyer in private practice.

Hanna himself is due to retire at the end of this year after serving three terms.

Heaney Accuses Faso Of ‘Spiking The Ball’ Before Scoring

From the Morning Memo:

Republican Andrew Heaney is accusing his rival for the 19th congressional district nominating of counting his chickens before they hatch.

Or, to use the football analogy Heaney’s campaign came up with for Super Bowl week — spiking the ball before the end zone.

Heaeny’s campaign Thursday afternoon cried foul after the Faso campaign released multiple statements claiming endorsement victories in Otsego, Dutchess and Ulster counties with Republican committees there.

In another instance, Faso claimed to have won the support of GOP officials in Delaware County even as the committee there chose not to issue an endorsement.

The Heaney campaign says those releases were sent out prematurely, given the committees were yet to issue an endorsement in the primary.

“It’s sad that John Faso is so presumptuous about the will of committeemen and women throughout the district that he has press releases lined up claiming victory before they even vote,” Heaney said. “It’s just another example of how the old boy insider network operates and why I decided to forgo a committee process that I never agreed to and take my message directly to the people.”

The Faso campaign declined to comment.

Heaney himself has opted not to go through the candidate screening process in the Hudson Valley congressional district.

He is competing against five other Republicans for the nomination, but has concentrated most of his criticism on Faso, a former minority leader in the state Assembly who has deep ties to local Republican officials.

On the Democratic side, Fordham Law school professor and 2014 candidate for governor Zephyr Teachout is seeking the nomination, as is Will Yandik, the deputy town supervisor in Livingston.

Republican Rep. Chris Gibson is leaving Congress this year as he considers a run for governor in 2018.