Nick Reisman

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Molinaro Files For Gov Run

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has filed papers with the state Board of Elections to run for governor in 2018.

Molinaro, a former state assemblyman, has created the campaign committee “Molinaro For New York” according to a post on Wednesday at the state Board of Elections.

The Citizen in Auburn reported earlier this week Molinaro is planning a potential ticket with Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

The Republican race for the gubernatorial nomination is a potentially crowded one next year: The party’s 2014 nominee Rob Astorino is expected to run and businessman Harry Wilson, a 2010 candidate for state comptroller, is also weighing a campaign for governor.

The party’s 2010 nominee, Carl Paladino, has not ruled out running again, either.

Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo is running for a third term next year.

In County Exec Race, Astorino Seizes On Property Tax Issue

The campaign of Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has for the last several weeks blasted his Democratic opponent George Latimer over $48,000 in unpaid property taxes on a Rye home owned by the lawmaker’s wife.

And on Wednesday, extensive criticism was leveled at Latimer by Astorino himself over the issue, which Latimer has said stems from unsettled issues surrounding the estate of his late mother-in-law, who owned the home.

“George will somehow claim to be the victim of this great big misunderstanding, and make the news media feel badly and want to stop asking questions,” Astorino said. “But this is a serious public policy issue: We’re talking about a sitting state senator and county executive candidate refusing to pay taxes. Are we in the Twilight Zone? Questions need to be asked.”

In his remarks, Astorino pointed to Latimer claiming he owned the home on financial disclosure forms, noting a line of attack for Latimer’s re-election in 2014 was to knock his Republican opponent’s lack of mortgage payments.

“And now the kicker: We found out right after the election, of course, that Senator Latimer’s house was going into foreclosure all the while, and he was being sued by all sorts of creditors,” Astorino said. “Who does that? Really. Who does that?”

Latimer spokesman Jon Greenfield blasted Astorino, calling the claims made in the remarks lies.

“Rob Astorino’s lies about the Senator and his family are a sad reflection of his character, his campaign’s desperate need to distract from his own tax hikes and misspending, and what politics have become under his friend Donald Trump,” Greenfield said. “He really should be ashamed.”

The odd-numbered election year is an otherwise sleepy one in the race of the state, but the outcome in Westchester County could have a wide-ranging impact on the politics of 2018. Astorino is widely considered to be a potential candidate for governor again next year after losing to Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo in 2014.

Latimer on Wednesday, meanwhile, focused on the county’s financial issues, rolling out a shared services plan he said would save taxpayers money.

“Rob Astorino continues to show that he’s more interested in political grandstanding than helping Westchester taxpayers,” Latimer said. “We have some of the highest property taxes in the nation and we continue to suffer the consequences of Astorino’s borrow and spend policies. Sharing municipal services is a pragmatic plan for cost-saving that will help put our county back on sound financial footing.”

Schneiderman Joins Bid To Keep ACA Subsidies

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is backing an effort with fellow state AGs to preserve Affordable Care Act subsidies President Donald Trump’s administration wants to end.

The lawsuit was filed with a coalition of 19 attorneys general.

The subsidies are aimed at keeping insurance affordable as part of the law, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Senate Republicans are working on a compromise measure that would seek to stabilize the marketplace and provide the subsidies, generally aimed at those with qualifying incomes.

“President Trump’s abrupt move to cut these subsidies is reckless, dangerous, – and illegal,” Schneiderman said. “These payments are vital to thousands of New Yorkers and millions of Americans who rely on them to afford their health care. Yet President Trump is using those families as political pawns, putting their lives at risk to advance his own partisan agenda. We won’t stand for it – and we’re moving to block these dangerous cuts before they do any more harm.”

The subsidies have been previously challenged in court by House Republicans, who argue the payments are not legal.

Counties Release Shared Service Plans

County governments could save a combined $208 million in 2018 with the shared services proposals that were unveiled this week in Albany.

All together, 34 counties out of 57 have adopted a plan by Sept. 15. The remaining counties will adopt plans by Sept. 15 of next year, based on legislation approved in the state budget in April.

“The first round of the local shared services program has gotten results with plans across the state projecting reductions in property taxes, finding efficiencies, and achieving better coordination among local governments across the state,” said Jim Malatras, the president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government. “The process has promise for future efforts because it has laid the foundation for better coordination and cooperation among local governments.”

The counties with the highest savings for the first year include Nassau County with $13.5 million and Broome County with $20.3 million. Suffolk County will save $16.5 million and Dtucehss County $15.2 million.

In the out-years, Suffolk County will save $20.9 million, with Dutchess saving $12.5 million.

“It’s critical for New York that counties and other local governments have embraced intergovernmental collaboration and are working together to create economies that will result in savings and improved services for their taxpayers,” said Gerald Benjamin, director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz.

The shared service plans had been pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a means of controlling the local property tax burden. Local government officials have chaffed, though, at the claims that the proliferation of governments and taxing districts has led to high taxes, instead placing the blame on the mandated spending placed on them by Albany.

Feinman Sworn In To Court Of Appeals

Paul Feinman was ceremonially sworn in on Wednesday as the newest judge on the state’s highest court — the first openly gay man to serve on the Court of Appeals.

With his family and husband in attendance in the chambers of the Court of Appeals, Feinman spoke of his late brother, a comic and poet, who was also gay, as an inspiration.

“Were it not for him and all the leaders of the LGBT community and the LGBT judges who preceded me in the judiciary, it was all of them who forged a path before me and without them this day would not have been possible,” Feinman said. ”
From this, I understand I have an obligation for those who come after me.”

Feinman is joining one of the more diverse courts in its history, replacing the late Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who police say committed suicide earlier this year. The entirety of the court, based on mandatory retirements, has been nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat (Cuomo has appointed a Republican, Michael Garcia).

“Compare this court to any other court in the country — extraordinarily diverse,” said Vin Bonventre, an Albany Law School professor. “I don’t care what the category is. We’ve got a diverse court, which is great, because when they go into conference, they’re going in with different backgrounds, different wisdom, different perspectives.”

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins also hailed the moment, and Feinman’s credentials.

“Becoming the Appeals Court’s first open LGBT judge will bring further diversity to our highest court to greater reflect New York’s diverse citizenship,” she said. “Judge Feinman’s qualifications and skills gained throughout his distinguished career will also be a great addition and I wish him well in this great responsibility.”

DeRosa: ‘Course Correction’ Needed On Respecting Women

The top aide in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Wednesday called for a change in how society respects women in professional life and societal life, recalling moments of condescension and harassment from men in politics and the media.

Melissa DeRosa, the first woman to serve as secretary to the governor — the equivalent of the chief of staff post for a president in the executive chamber — recounted that despite her resume as a top official in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office and role in the state campaign for President Barack Obama, she has been defined in the media by her relationship to her lobbyist father and husband, a former Cuomo spokesman who now works for Uber.

She recounted her experiences at a Berkeley College discussion on women in the media.

“When my appointment as secretary to the governor was announced back in April, I was ‘the daughter of’ or the ‘wife of,'” she said.

“Never mind the fact that when I did work with my husband, I was his boss. My entire professional life defined by my father’s chosen profession. To them, perhaps, these words were a distinction without a difference. But for many women, we all too often find ourselves being labeled on the basis of our gender, not our accomplishments.”

DeRosa recalled an exchange on Twitter with Republican Sen. Joe Griffo last year, in which he said her father had taught her better. She responded by calling the tweet “condescending sexism.”

“My response made waves,” she said. “But let’s take a moment on that – no one blinked when a male state senator lectured the governor’s female chief of staff saying that ‘my father taught me better’, but my shot back wasn’t to be tolerated.”

She also discussed how, at 25, a man made a lewd reference to her in a conference call. The unnamed man is now a national leader in progressive politics, she said.

“This kind of behavior has been normalized for decades, with the anomaly being those who call it out,” she said.

And just this weekend, DeRosa returned a phone call to a member of the Assembly who insisted on speaking to the governor “man to man.”

“For the record, I hung up on him; I may not be a member of the Assembly, but I won’t be talked to that way,” DeRosa said.

Her remarks come amid a heightened conversation on harassment and sexual assault of women following the allegations leveled at Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein by multiple women. In Albany, women have been subject to harassment and abuse as well, the most prominent instance involving the late former Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

“That’s why it’s so important that women speak up and speak out,” DeRosa said. “The power of influence and media that is being projected through the ‘MeToo’ campaign on Twitter is exposing how widespread this phenomenon is, and makes clear that it won’t be swept under the rug anymore.”

Fighting For Children PAC Backs Con Con

From the Morning Memo:

The political action committee backed by a Greene County businessman pushing for the passage of the Child Victims Act has endorsed the referendum for a constitutional convention.

The Child Victims Act is a measure that would make it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse and assault to file lawsuits. The measure has stalled in the state Legislature.

“A constitutional convention will allow victims of sexual abuse to run as delegates and propose amendments to take New York from last in reforming sexual abuse laws to first,” said the PAC’s founder, Gary Greenberg.

“The NY Legislature has had decades to bring change and help victims of sexual abuse with updated laws. This body of legislators full of corruption and unethical behavior has the worst reputation in the country. The pay to play mentality must end in Albany.”

The convention referendum, being considered next month by voters, is placed on the ballot every 20 years.

With NY Still Trailing On Taxes, Biz Groups See More Work Needed

From the Morning Memo:

The Tax Foundation once again ranked New York among the states with the worst tax climate in the nation — something that doesn’t surprise the business groups that lobby for changes in Albany.

The group ranked New York 49th in the nation in overall taxes — a spot the state has typically held in recent years, despite a push to cut taxes and cap property tax levy increases on the local level.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration knocked the report and the Tax Foundation (which candidate Cuomo has cited in campaign literature), while also pointing to the strides the state has made on the issue.

“Their obvious ideology aside, the facts are that this administration has been rigorous and effective in constraining State spending growth to the lowest level in modern history – resulting in lower taxes for all New Yorkers,” said Division of Budget spokesman Morris Peters.

“We now have the lowest corporate tax rate since 1968, the lowest manufacturers tax rate since 1917 and, with the new income tax cuts phasing in this year, the lowest middle class tax rates since 1947.”

The Business Council, in a tweet, also noted the gains the state has made.

“We’ve made some decent strides in recent years, but clearly much more can and must be done,” the group said.

And Unshackle Upstate called the ranking part of the “sad status quo.”

“Our leaders in Albany must step up, embrace and enact an aggressive agenda that reduces our tax burden, cuts regulatory red tape and promotes private sector job growth,” said Executive Director Greg Biryla. “Until that happens, we’ll continue to be in the economic basement with New Jersey.”

Proposed Regs Seek More Oversight Solitary Confinement

Regulations backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday would allow for those in solitary confinement to have at least four hours of time outside of their cell.

The regulations would apply to local jails, Cuomo’s office said.

The move also will require new reporting guidelines to the State Commission of Correction, including any decision that puts a person in solitary confinement for more than a month and if any person is placed there who is under the age of 18.

“Amid public reports of misuse and abuse of solitary confinement, these new standards will inject much needed uniformity, accountability and transparency in the process for all local jails,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These new standards will help root out unacceptable behavior and build upon the landmark reforms put into place at state prisons, creating a consistent level of quality and fairness at all facilities across New York.”

The regulations will be published in the State Register, making them subject to public comment.

The regulations will also require the decision to confine a pregnant inmate is reviewed by the chief administrative officer and that any time essential services are denied to an inmate, the commission review the decision.

Cuomo: ‘Chutzpah’ For Pence To Come To NY

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday criticized Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to New York amid proposals in Washington for tax reform the governor says will hurt the state.

“Why would you have a tax cut plan that is actually a tax increase for New Yorkers?” Cuomo said in Plattsburgh. “It take chutzpah they would say for the vice president to come in here and campaign.”

Pence was in western New York on Tuesday, appearing alongside Rep. Chris Collins and attending a fundraiser for the Republican lawmaker.

Cuomo and Collins have traded jabs over the last several months on a variety of health care and tax proposals, including a measure that would have shifted the burden of Medicaid spending from county governments to the state.

Now, Cuomo is knocking Republicans for a proposal that would end the deduction of state and local taxes, a move that would likely impact high-tax states like New York.

Cuomo has argued the state sends back a disproportionate share in taxes to Washington compared to what comes back in federal spending.

“We’ve given plenty,” he said. “For them to be trying to take money from New York to give to other states because it suits their politics is reprehensible.”