Archive for April, 2014

Panel Discusses The High Cost Of Infrastructure

The Empire Center for Public Policy hosted a discussion Wednesday on the high cost of infrastructure projects in New York state. A new study found that drivers are losing money because of congested or unsafe roadways – a total of $20 billion in fact. But fixing all the state’s highways and bridges would not be cheap either. Empire Center President EJ McMahon and Julia Vitullo-Martin from Columbia University’s Center for Urban Real Estate joined us to explain.

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Senator And Assemblywoman Push For Wage Increase For Women

Wednesday, a rally was held at the state capitol to urge lawmakers to raise the minimum wage. It’s an issue that has been advocated for for a while, but today’s focus was on the affects the $8 an hour living has on women. Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes joined us to discuss this issue.

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UUP President Testifies Against Teacher Performance Exams

Education has been a major issue this year, from Common Core to universal Pre-K. Wednesday, the President of United University Professions spoke out against the state education department’s teacher performance assessments. An Assembly bill would delay the requirement that prospective teachers achieve a certain grade on the performance exam until July of next year. UUP President Fred Kowal joined us to discuss.

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Advocates Back Legislation To Ban Sex Selection-Based Abortions

Anti-abortion groups are backing legislation to ban sex selection-based abortions in New York state. That was the top priority of Right to Life day Wednesday. But they will also be fighting against the abortion measure included in the Women’s Equality Act, which Governor Cuomo included in his list of post budget priorities. Jessica Rodgers, the legislative director for New York State Right to Life, joined us to talk more about this.

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The state Senate approved a bill that would add 120 speed cameras to New York City, up from the current 20.

Former city Comptroller John Liu is mulling a primary against IDC Sen. Tony Avella.

The state Board of Elections knocked Democrat Stephen Burke off the ballot in the NY-21, along with perennial Green Party candidate Donald Hassig.

Hospitals that were originally due to be included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s medical marijuana plan first announced in December are yet to be contacted about it.

Rep. Michael Grimm may have to use his own money to pay for his legal fees.

The New York Post’s editorial board blasted a pair of Democratic ads taking aim at Rob Astorino’s housing settlement controversy.

The Erie County Democratic chairman remains uncommitted when it comes to which candidate should take on GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti.

Whether they wanted to or not, potential developers for casino resorts met in Albany for a mandatory meeting with state regulators.

Supports of legalizing professional mixed-martial arts in New York highlighted the support from female athletes.

Rep. Paul Ryan is headlining a fundraiser for western New York’s Chris Collins.

New York extended its contract with a firm charged with retaining the Bills football team in Buffalo.

A Republican-backed filibuster in the U.S. Senate killed a minimum wage increase measure.

A Canadian travel blogger is “shocked” by the rebirth of Buffalo.

Cuomo Writes Obama On Stronger Fuel Transport Regulations

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote to President Obama on Wednesday urging him to take federal actions that would tighten regulations for fuel transportation safety.

The issue is an acute one for the city of Albany, which has become a major way station for Bakken crude oil transportation.

In the letter to Obama, Cuomo notes the state has found multiple steps aimed at increasing safety inspections, a report developed by New York officials found the bulk of the heavy lifting on regulating shipments lies with the federal government.

At the same time, Cuomo in a statement said the derailment earlier in the day of a train transporting crude oil shows the need to overhaul regulations on the federal level.

“This is the latest in a series of accidents involving trains transporting crude oil, a startling pattern that underscores the need for action,” Cuomo said. “In addition to steps that states like New York are taking, the federal government must overhaul the safety regulations, starting with taking DOT-111 trains off the rails now. These trains travel through populated communities in Upstate New York and we cannot wait for a tragic disaster in our state to act.”

Crude Letter by Nick Reisman

Lippman Pushes Credit Collection Reform

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman at a Commencement Law Day gathering on Wednesday announced plans to overhaul credit collection lawsuits — a move designed to aid the poor and elderly who are sued by debtors.

Among the changes Lippman is implementing with the state court system include new requirements that creditors must submit affidavits that include detailed proof in support of a default judgment and would ban robosigning.

The affidavits submitted by creditors would also have to become more specific in their allegations.

Lippman wants statewide rules that would end the practice of suing on debt after the statute of limitations has expired. This is meant to stop the so-called “sewer service” in consumer debt cases.

The court system is also requiring “user-friendly” forms that would provide consumers appearing in court to have access to information and resources, which is aimed at allowing them mount an appropriate defense.

“While no one disputes that consumers should pay their debts or that businesses have every right to resort to the courts to collect what is legally owed to them, the Judiciary has an obligation to prevent inequitable debt collection practices in the courts and ensure a fair legal process for all litigants. Dubious consumer debt litigation practices can lead to unwarranted default judgments, often with devastating consequences for the debtor ─ typically a lower-income New Yorker struggling to support a family and find or maintain a job,” Lippman siad in a statement.

Westchester Democrats Want To Boot Astorino From Office (Updated)

Eight Democratic county lawmakers in Westchester County on Wednesday are calling for a special election for county executive, citing a law that requires the post be full time.

The resolution is clearly not a serious one, but designed to make a political point that Rob Astorino, the Republican county executive who won a second term over Democrat Noam Bramson last fall, has spent a good chunk of time campaigning for governor rather than working out of White Plains.

In essence, the lawmakers want Astorino kicked out of office for campaigning:

Resolved that due to his absence from his duties, the County Executive is in violation of Section 110.01 of the Westchester County Charter and is thereby in fact and in law vacating such office; and Resolved that pursuant to Section 110.51 paragraph 2 pertaining to such vacancy of the County Executive, the County shall hold a special election for County Executive within 90 days; and pending such special election and certification of the results thereof the Board of Legislators shall exercise its right to designate the head of a County department or any county elector to serve as Acting County Executive pending such special elections

In the resolution, the Democratic county legislators run through a litany of complaints they have with Astorino, including a downgrade of the county’s credit rating, an uncompleted labor contract with 3,000 county workers and the ongoing and complicated controversy with complying with federal housing regulations which — coincidentally I’m sure! — was the subject two negative ads being aired by the state Democratic Committee.

Indeed, the knocks listed by the Democrats, mainly that Astorino hasn’t been in the county in 2014, line up neatly with the “Astorino Truth Squad” complaints leveled at the candidate.

Update: The state Republican Party responded with a little snark on Twitter.

“Remember how @NYGovCuomo stepped down from being Attorney General when he was running for Governor? Neither do we,” the GOP tweeted.

The text of the resolution is after the jump. More >

Report: Bharara Subpoena Seeks Ethics Complaints

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office has served the state’s top ethics regulatory panel with a subpoena seeking ethics complaints the commission has received over the last three years, according to reports this afternoon in The Daily News and New York Post.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, created in 2011 as part of an ethics overhaul agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers, is charged with regulating both lobbying as well as conducting probes into public officials’ official actions.

A spokesman for the commission would not confirm or deny that the U.S. attorney’s office was seeking the information.

“The Joint Commission on Public Ethics routinely works with other law enforcement agencies on various cases but it will not confirm or comment on any specific investigative matter,” said the spokesman, John Milgrim.

The news comes after Bharara was critical of the decision to shut down the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, a panel Gov. Andrew Cuomo created in 2013 that was charged with investigating lawmakers’ outside business interests and the relationship of money and politics.

The commission is being shuttered, however, after Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed to new anti-corruption laws as well as independent enforcement at the state Board of Elections.

Bharara this month said his office would take possession of the records generated by the Moreland Commission.

JCOPE, unlike the Moreland Commission, has members represented by the governor’s office as well as the different legislative conferences in the Senate and Assembly.

Republicans seized on the news of the subpoena at JCOPE — though there is no indication the commission itself is under a formal investigation.

“Public ethics is of paramount importance to all New Yorkers,” said State GOP Chairman Ed Cox. “Any investigation of ethics committees is a legal, not a partisan issue. We trust the US Attorney and his team will uncover the truth.”

Conservative Group Threatens Lawsuit Over NY Contribution Limits

A national conservative group on Wednesday is threatening to file a lawsuit unless New York repeal its aggregate limits on campaign contributions.

The letter from the Center for Competitive Politics to Gov. Andrew Cuomo cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end caps on donations in a given election cycle.

New York is one of several states that have aggregate limits on campaign spending, though a state-level court ruling tossed the cap and the state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office plans to appeal.

Both the Supreme Court case and the state-level case were brought by the same man, Alabama political donor Shaun McCutcheon.

In essence, the rulings are expected to usher in a new era of super PACs operating in state races, and Republicans have already formed one aimed at impacting Schneiderman’s re-election.

For now, the Center for Competitive Politics believes New York’s own contribution limits should be repealed entirely and “as soon as possible.”

“If New York fails to either amend or repeal this statute to conform to the Court’s ruling, it risks a lawsuit,” wrote the group’s president, David Keating. “CCP has provided pro bono representation in similar situations, and would strongly consider doing so here as well. Such legal action would cost the state money defending the case, and would distract the Attorney General’s office from other important legal work. Additionally, if the state chooses to defend the law in court, it is probable that the state will have to pay substantial legal fees to successful plaintiffs.”

The group also included a memo outlining its legal footing as well, noting that other states are already moving in the direction toward repeal of donor contribution limits.

“Massachusetts and Maryland moved quickly to avoid running afoul of the new decision,” the memo says. “New York needs to follow suit as well, recognizing the important First Amendment rights at stake and reforming its laws accordingly.”

2014 04 30 Legal Memo McCutcheon NY State Aggregate Contribution Limit Statute is Likely Unconstitutional (… by Nick Reisman