WNY Lawmakers Want To Renew Negotiations Between Health Care Provider And Insurance Company

A couple of Western New York lawmakers are getting involved in a contract dispute between a local insurance company and a cancer treatment provider. Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, D-West Seneca, and Assemblyman David DiPietro, R-East Aurora, joined CCS Oncology at a press conference Friday to call Independent Health back to the bargaining table.

Contract talks between the two sides broke down last year. As a result, CCS said 2,600 Stage III and Stage IV cancer patients were no longer covered.

“If this was your mother, if this was your sister, if this was your aunt, you would want the best possible service. You should not have to fight for your doctor when you’re fighting for your life. That is unconscionable. That is unacceptable and that is something that I am not going to take,” Kearns said.

The two assemblymen said they plan to speak to other members of the Western New York delegation about the issue. On Tuesday, they said they’ll request a meeting with the Department of Financial Services, which oversees the Department of Insurance, about the possibility of intervention.

“This is a bipartisan issue which encompasses a vast majority of people, so when we sit down, we’re going to impress upon them – and always remember, they work for us – and we’re going to impress upon them that, very strongly. We’re going to ask them very strongly to work for us and to do what we’re asking them to do,” DiPietro said.

CCS Oncology said a “significant portion” of the 2,600 patients changed insurance companies and were forced to seek out other health care options. Medical Director Dr. Sam Yi said the loss of revenue has affected the financial bottom line of the company and some employees have been laid off.

“I’m reaching out to everyone in this community, not just cancer patients, not just people who are in health care, but I’m asking the whole community to stand up and speak on behalf of 2600 cancer patients and even beyond that. This will have a negative impact on the way health care is delivered in this community,” Yi said.

Erie County representatives including Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw and Legislator Ted Morton also were present. They said their legal options for intervention are limited because it’s a dispute between two private entities in an industry that is regulated at a state level. Mychajliw noted, there is precedent though for county leaders to serve as an independent mediator.

Independent Health said it is not able to comment on the issue because of a lawsuit between the two parties. A judge is currently weighing the insurance companies motion to dismiss the suit.


Have a happy, healthy and safe Memorial Day weekend. Remember to keep in mind those who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We’ll be off on Monday, but will post here if and when news breaks.

New York Magazine is out with the first major profile of Hillary Clinton post-election.

While giving the commencement address at Wellesly, Clinton lambasted Trump’s budget plan as “cruel.”

Former House Speaker John Boehner on why he’s not running for president: “I drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes. I golf. I cut my own grass. I iron my own clothes. And I’m not willing to give all that up to be president.”

The Democratic members of New York’s delegation to the House of Representatives joined the push to have the Independent Democratic Conference re-join the mainline conference.

Read the full letter here.

Gov. Cuomo’s office confirmed he will not attend the Puerto Rican Day Parade amid plans to honor a controversial figure.

The Yankees may be in first place and out-performing expectations, but ticket sales are not exactly red hot in the Bronx.

Albany County has approved a new zero-tolerance policy for those who caught driving drunk more than once.

Residents are calling out Tonawanda Coke again. This time they say the plant will begin to process more toxic materials next month and they’re concerned about their health and safety.

Even as it appears his re-election is a guarantee, Mayor de Blasio remains his own worst enemy, displaying some of those traits during a week-long tour of the Bronx.

About two weeks after the Democratic committee picked their candidate for Syracuse mayor another Democrat suspends his campaign.

Got a good idea for Frontier Town? The state has set a July 28 deadline for requests for proposals for the site.

The National Transportation Safety Board says inadequate manning and crewmember fatigue caused the sinking of the Specialist, following a crash with the TappanZee Bridge construction site.

Updated: Cuomo And Gillibrand: No Plans To March In Puerto Rican Day Parade

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Friday she won’t be marching in the coming Puerto Rican Day Parade.

“I won’t be there for the Puerto Rican Day Parade, but I support the Puerto Rican Day Parade,” she told reporters earlier in the day.

Gillibrand’s non-attendance doesn’t appear to be part of the growing boycott against the parade, stemming from the decision to honor activist Oscar Lopez Rivera, the recently released former leader of a paramilitary group that carried out attacks in the U.S. protesting control of the island.

A number of corporate sponsors have pulled their support for the parade, however New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will march as will Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Updated: The same goes for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who will not attend the parade, either.

“The Governor’s support and long term affection for the Puerto Rican community remains unwavering, unfortunately he will not be marching in this year’s parade,” said spokeswoman Dani Lever.

Bill Would Address Loss Of Federal Property Tax Deductions

Sen. David Carlucci unveiled a bill on Friday that would allow property owners to deduct property taxes from their state income taxes should the federal government approved the end of the state deduction.

The federal policy, also opposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is backed by President Donald Trump and is seen as impacting high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, as well as Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, have also raised concerns with ending the deduction provision.

Carlucci, meanwhile, released a report that assessed the impact of ending the deduction, finding it cost $21 billion more in taxes.

“Donald Trump’s tax plan would rob middle-class New Yorkers and force some residents who already pay the highest property taxes in the nation, to pay even more,” Carlucci said.

“With State taxation rates impacted by federal policy, the elimination of this deduction would amount to a double tax on New Yorkers who struggle to make ends meet as it is. If Washington’s out of touch leadership takes this tax deduction away from New Yorkers, it would cost a shocking $21 billion throughout the State. Taxpayers can’t afford to lose this deduction and New York has to continue to be a safety net to Washington’s destructive direction.”

Taxing Times by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Rick Scott, Lara Trump To Appear At GOP Gala

rickscott Florida Gov. Rick Scott will appear at the New York Republican Committee’s annual fundraising gala, according to an invitation released by the party.

The event, scheduled for June 20 at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York City, will also feature Lara Trump, the wife of President Trump’s son Eric, as a special guest.

Individual guest tickets for the event range from $750 to $1,000.

It could be flush times for the New York GOP, shut out of a statewide victory in New York since 2002, but has seen gains in House seats and has a New Yorker in the White House.

Cornell University To Study Lake Ontario Levels.

Cornell University is conducting a study to determine the impacts high-water levels on Lake Ontario are having on lake-front properties. New York Sea Grant, a state and federally matched research program, awarded the funding for the project.

Researchers are currently trying to get the word out to stakeholders who own coastal property. Anyone who owns property along the south and east coasts of Lake Ontario is asked to take the survey, whether or not they’ve been affected by flooding yet.

“This effort is in response to stakeholder requests for a standardized method to collect data on the impacts of high water levels on waterfront properties,” the flyer reads.

NYSG said the immediate benefits of the survey include identifying the most vulnerable areas to high-water and documenting the current flooding event. In the future, researchers said the study could be used to leverage funds to make communities more adaptable to higher-water levels and be used in community-level flood resistance planning.

Suffolk Shift

With the surprise victory of Christine Pellegrino in the special election for Assembly District 9 on Strong Island earlier this week, the pundits are already pointing to it as an example of dissatisfaction with the presidency of Donald Trump. While there is likely a lot of truth to that, there is also a local backstory than enabled a serious Democratic candidate to emerge in a district where Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by more than 10,000 voters.

Insiders say earlier this year, all eyes were on who Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs and Sufflok County Democratic Chair Richard Schaffer would choose to run for the seat previously held by Republican Assemblyman Joe Saladino, who left to become Oyster Bay Town Supervisor. The district straddles both counties, so both chairs get to play kingmaker. Initially Dems didn’t hold out too much hope for this race, and that didn’t necessarily matter too much to Democratic party leaders, one of whom sniped “there is nothing less powerful than a Republican Assemblyman.”

Jacobs and Schaffer chose Ben Lavender, who was 24 years old and lived with his parents. But according to sources Schaffer was busy behind the scenes working on a deal with Conservative and Republican Party Leaders for various patronage appointments. One of those involved installing Thomas Gargiullo as Tax Receiver for the town of Babylon. Gargiulo was serving as Vice Chair for the Conservative Party of Babylon. The problem was, the town already had a Tax Receiver, Corinne DiSomma, who had been out of the office temporarily caring for a sick relative. Gargiulo, according to sources, walked into the local government office in January and declared himself the new Tax Receiver in front of those who worked there. People familiar with the situation say Schaffer had promised Gargiulo the job behind closed doors, and Gargiulo “wasn’t aware of the fact” that he wasn’t supposed to make it public yet. DiSomma meanwhile, was very unhappy and fired off emails to Schaffer declaring what happened was “criminal” among other things. Needless to say, she had no plans to resign.

With the possible deal falling apart, Gargiulo was approached about running for the open Assembly seat. Sensing opportunity Jacobs, along with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, decided Pellegrino, a lifelong teacher and activist, should get the nod to run instead of Lavender. She was a much better candidate. NYSUT and Working Families quickly came on board and they were able to tap into suburban voter fear over the unsteady leadership in Washington.

But here is the funny thing. Schaffer did nothing. Wouldn’t even endorse Pellegrino. Explained that he couldn’t get involved due to the investigation into the 2014 Senate races that put Mayor Bill de Blasio briefly in the crosshairs. No charges were ever filed in that case by either the Manhattan DA or the US Attorney, and clearance letters were sent out by both offices. But even after that, Schaffer maintained he still couldn’t get involved because the matter was still under investigation by the enforcement division of the State Board of Elections.

This is the same argument the Schaffer camp continues to make, calling any accusation he endorsed Gargiulo “false.” Schaffer doesn’t mince words when he begins, “I’ll say it for the 124th time..” that he is a witness in the Risa Sugarman inquiry and has been instructed by his Attorney not to speak to NYSUT or involve himself in any way with state races. Schaffer maintains he is “thrilled” Pellegrino won, although he acknowledges having a longstanding relationship with Gargiulo, whom he has known for 30 years.

By the same reasoning, Schaffer also failed to endorse John Brooks, the only Democrat to win a new seat on Long Island last Fall after years of promises by State Democrats that Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket would usher in a new era of Democratic dominance in the suburbs that would hold for a generation or more ( in case you missed it, that actually didn’t happen ).

So did Schaffer do more than just sit on his hands in Pellegrino race or was he actively supporting his old friend Gargiulo, the Republican? Hard to say. But one story I was told seems to speak volumes. When NYSUT did screening interviews with both Assembly candidates about a possible endorsement, Gargiulo is alleged to have blurted out to his interviewers, “Schaffer is endorsing me.”

I mean, c’mon, Tom. Didn’t you learn the first time?

I wasn’t in the room where it happened, so I cannot guarantee you it went down exactly like that ( and it was NYSUT, so the fix was likely in for the Democrat anyway ) but you gotta admit; that’s kind of hilarious.


LGBTQ Group Holds ‘Dance Party’ At DiPietro’s Office

From the Morning Memo:

Western New York Assemblyman David DiPietro got the Pence treatment Thursday evening from a group of LGBTQ activists. Members of Queers for Racial Justice held a “dance party” in front of his office.IMG_1362

“I’m just here to show we’re here, visible, and we deserve to be recognized and given the rights everyone else has and he should probably start listening,” Seth Girod said.

The protest was meant to highlight a number of issues the group has with the Republican, who happens to be one of Donald Trump’s earliest and most loyal supporters in the state. Among those issues, they said DiPietro should not have co-hosted the “Spirit of America” rally for Trump in Buffalo last month.

Many activist on the left deemed the event as a white supremacy rally after some attendees turned out with Confederate Flags.

“He lent his name to that and that was a huge concern about his representation of constituents of color,” Jennifer Connor said.

Protesters also criticized DiPietro for voting against the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and they said he refused to meet with an LGBTQ contingent during a recent lobbying day in Albany.

“These are people who are his constituents, who travel a long way to Albany. To be denied a meeting is really harmful, I think. It’s a huge blow to the community,” Teresa Watson said.

The assemblyman did not immediately respond to a Spectrum News request for comment about the event. The dance party protest format has received plenty of attention lately following a large gathering in front of Vice-President Mike Pence’s home in January.

McLaughlin Releases Campaign Poll Showing ‘Insurmountable’ Lead

From the Morning Memo:

Republican Steve McLaughlin is feeling pretty good about his run for Rensselaer County executive as his campaign released on Thursday a poll that shows him leading fellow Republican Chris Meyer 2-to-1.

The poll conducted by McLaughlin’s campaign by Advantage, Inc., showed the Assembly lawmaker leading Meyer 69 percent to 31 percent.

“I’ve represented Rensselaer County with courage and conviction for the last six years, and the results of this poll demonstrate county residents trust me to do the same as their next County Executive,” McLaughlin said in a statement.

McLaughlin and Meyer, the deputy county executive, are vying for the post held by outgoing incumbent Kathy Jimino, who declined to seek another term.

McLaughlin has risen to prominence in Albany for his pugnacious criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His campaign in recent weeks has picked up a stream of endorsements, including nods from Republicans like Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive and 2014 gubernatorial candidate, and former Rep. Chris Collins.

“This insurmountable lead is a reflection of my courage in standing up to the establishment because the people I represent deserve better,” McLaughlin said. “I’m proud to give my constituents a voice and I look forward to continuing as County Executive.”

NY County Executive ID Results %281%29 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Here And Now

Good morning and TGIF. Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent a rare night out of state and heads to Providence, presumably for another of his daughters’ college graduations today. He has nothing public on his schedule.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is wrapping up his week in the Bronx.

Your schedule:

At 11:30 a.m., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks, Bronx House Weinberg Neighborhood Senior Center, 990 Pelham Parkway South, Bronx.

At noon, a memorial service will be held for the late NY Court of Appeals Associate Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be among those attending. Cathedral of St. John the Devine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, New York City.

At 1 p.m., de Blasio delivers remarks at Orchard Beach, Bronx.

At 2 p.m., Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and local elected officials will hold a flag ceremony for a 100 year-old World War II veteran to recognize his service and celebrate his 100th birthday, Chester Volunteer Fire Department at 81 Main Street, Chester.

At 7 p.m., Hochul will attend the re-opening of the Village of Hamburg Playground 107 Prospect Avenue, Hamburg.

At 7:30 p.m., de Blasio will deliver remarks, Riverdale Jewish Center, 3700 Independence Avenue, the Bronx.


Facing a misdemeanor assault charge after an incident with a reporter, Republican Greg Ginaforte won a special election last night to fill the at-large Montana House seat.

While Republicans sweated the race, President Trump actually turned out to be an asset in the race, and not a drag on the GOP candidate.

The “body slam” incident in the race is met with shrug from some conservatives as they seek an apology not from Ginaforte, but the media.

Trump’s son-in-law and White House aide Jared Kushner is said to be the focus of the Russia investigation by the FBI, with officials reviewing his contacts during the campaign.

The meetings with two key Russians Kushner held has drawn the interests of investigators, and he plans to cooperate with the inquiry.

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn faces legal problems that stem in part from his business dealings with foreign entities and how he’s interacted with congressional investigators during the process.

Democrats are frustrated with Trump’s budget proposal, saying the plan offers little clarity and the math does not necessarily add up.

An appeals court declined to reinstate Trump’s travel ban in a party-line ruling, but administration officials insisted the order will eventually be sustained by the courts.

The ruling by the court likely means the fate of the travel ban will likely rest with the U.S. Supreme Court, where Trump has vowed to appeal.

With Congress on a week-long recess, senators will grapple with the details of the health-care bill, though little consensus is yet to emerge as they’ll almost certainly get input from constituents back home.

The FBI is waiting to hand over James Comey’s memos to Congress, with officials saying they need to assess the special counsel’s impact on the investigation.

During his visit to NATO, Trump projected a tough image to allies abroad after he questioned the alliance during the campaign.

A Brooklyn prosecutor has scrapped seven murder convictions stemming from investigations that now-retired Det. Louis Scarcella played a role in, but the DA insisted no laws were actually broken.

Supervisors who had worked with inmates at a Brooklyn prison on efforts to reduce rape have themselves been charged with sexual assault.

An upstate New York developer pleaded guilty Thursday for his role in a voter-fraud scheme designed to elect public officials who would support his real-estate project.

A Muslim group has filed a lawsuit after a zoning ruling denied a permit for the construction of a Mosque in Bayonne.

In a debate over city lawmakers being undercut, state lawmakers are proceeding with their own plan to give letter grades to food carts even though the City Council already passed that legislation Wednesday.

The New York City health department is launching a new campaign to inform New Yorkers about the risks of the Zika Virus as the department says 32 babies in the city tested positive for Zika, half of whom have neurological disorders as a result of the virus.

This year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade loses another sponsor as Univision announces it will drop out, the station announced Thursday night.

In his new role as a civilian, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has not shied from criticizing the Trump administration. But in a law school commencement address Thursday, he also went out of his way to praise ousted FBI Director James Comey.

A rally that included conservative provocateur Pam Geller, Assemblyman Dov Hikind and alt-right bad boy Milo Yiannopoulos opposing Linda Sasour plans to speak at a CUNY commence became violent on Thursday.

New York City has opened five homeless shelters as Mayor de Blasio’s proposal calls to add an additional 85 facilities in the coming years.

Canada has sunk Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to “Buy American” with help from a lobbying firm with links to a Cuomo aide.

As investigators reviewed questionable campaign donations to de Blasio, the mayor’s aide linked to those contributions received a pay increase.

A controversial former corrections official from Washington may be put at the helm of overseeing New York City’s jails.

A judge ruled long-shot mayoral candidate Bo Dietl has failed to properly register for a party, locking him out of participating in a primary this September.

Despite the controversy surrounding the Puerto Rican Day Parade’s plans to honor a controversial independence figure, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz plans to march.

Curtis Silwa’s Guardian Angels organization is getting involved in the fight to combat the growing influence of gangs on Long Island.

Protestors held a ‘Walk of Atonement’ at Rep. John Faso’s office in Kinderhook Thursday, a day after the Congress Budget office released its report on the American Health Care Act.

Despite some dealing with the effects of Lake Ontario flooding for well over a month, it’s still much too early to start the cleanup.

One Oneida County village is on its way to dissolving. Officials from Barneveld held an informational session Thursday to discuss the potential impacts.

Despite his controversies in the past several months, Rep. Chris Collins is yet to draw an official challenger as House races start early in other districts.

The Tonawanda Housing Authority was rapped by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in an audit released Thursday for having bad management and high vaccines.

Another round of rain Thursday didn’t quite bring the waves many in Sodus Point feared, but thanks to teams of reservists and municipal employees, walls of sandbags now surround the saturated village.

Rochester’s AIM Photonics project is one step closer to becoming a reality as the Empire State Development Board approved the $81 million operating budget for the institute’s ‘Testing, Assembly and Packaging Facility’ or TAP, Thursday.

The Newfane Town Board passed a resolution Wednesday asking the Niagara County Legislature to pursue litigation against the International Joint Committee to repeal Plan 2014.

WNY for Grand Island Toll Barrier Removal held a meeting highlighting the bridges’ environmental impacts.

Queers for Racial Justice members stormed the lawn in front of Assemblyman David DiPietro’s office Thursday afternoon to dance as a form of protest.

Officials in western New York want the state to pass a tree removal tax credit aimed at combatting the Emerald Ash Borer.

The Higher Education Services Corp. has approved the details for the state’s Excelsior Scholarship program which will eventually provide free SUNY/CUNY tuition to families earning up to $125,000 per year.

A shakeup in the leadership of the Tuesday Group, a moderate collection of House Republicans, has helped elevate Rep. Elise Stefanik’s role.

Surprisingly low grades for Buffalo’s city parks when compared to large cities.