Nick Reisman

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Monroe County Clerk: DMV To Issue Refunds To Vets

Veterans who received a special distinction on their license or non-driver’s identification card are eligible for a $12.50 refund, Monroe County Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo announced on Friday.

Dinolfo, the president of the New York State Association of County Clerks, had pushed the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue the reimbursements to veterans who sought the special distinction on their state-issued cards.

“Veterans across New York State have earned the right to proudly display their service and status on their drivers’ licenses and non-driver identification cards at no additional cost. The refund of the State imposed fee is the right decision,” Dinolfo said in a statement. “I am proud that County Clerks throughout New York State worked together and I thank the State Legislature for passing and Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law.”

The reimbursement plan was approved at the end of the legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year. The measure applies to any veteran who paid the fee for the distinctive mark after October 2012.

A previous measure approved last year suspended the fee for veterans to receive the special mark on identification cards or driver’s licenses.

Rand Paul To Be Special Guest At NY GOP Event

New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox will host Kentucky senator and presidential hopeful Rand Paul at GOP fundraiser next month.

The luncheon event with Paul, to be held with The Empire Club, is scheduled for Sept. 28, according to an invitation the Republican Committee blasted out today to supporters.

Tickets to the event cost $500 for guests of Empire Club members.

randpaul

DiNapoli: Settlement Funds Boost State’s Coffers

moneyThe state took in less tax revenue than projected by the Division of Budget, about $17.7 million lower, account to a report released on Friday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Still, the July cash report from the comptroller found the tax revenue is more than $1 billion higher than initially forecasted by budget officials.

The fund balance overall remains at “historical levels” at $9.6 billion — fueled in part by the one-shot settlement funds. All-funds receipts, totaling just under $49.5 billion through July 31, were $1.6 billion higher than initially estimated due to the financial settlements.

“Personal Income Tax collections remain strong, and one-time settlement funds have temporarily boosted available funds,” DiNapoli said. “However, due to increased collections from historically volatile sources and the one-shot nature of billions of dollars in settlement proceeds, it is important to closely monitor results as the year progresses to ensure the state’s fiscal picture stays on track.” More >

U.S. Attorney To Investigate Death At Fishkill Correctional

prisonU.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office will investigate the April death of an inmate at Fishill Correctional Facility, his office said in a statement released on Thursday afternoon.

In the statement, Bharara said his office will be coordinating with the Dutchess County district attorney, William Grady, to investigate the death of Samuel Harrell.

Harrell’s death was ruled a homicide, allegedly at the hands of guards at the state prison.

“My Office has been in communication with the office of Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady, and we will be coordinating and working with his office to investigate the April 21, 2015 death of Samuel Harrell, an inmate at Fishkill Correctional Facility,” Bharara said in the statement.

The federal investigation comes after the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision on Tuesday named a new superintendent at the facility, Robert Cunningham, after the removal of William Connolly.

Hochul Says Opting Out Of Tests Parental Choice Issue

hochulfairLt. Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier on Thursday wouldn’t condemn parents who had their students not take the recent round of state tests, calling the question a matter of parental choice.

“Each parent can make their own choice,” Hochul said during a visit to the Star Fair in Syracuse before sitting down with a group of protesters demonstrating against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education policies.

Cuomo this year successfully pushed a new teacher evaluation system that links teacher performance reviews and tenure to standardized test results as well as in-classroom observation. State lawmakers begrudgling went along with the education policy changes in part because of the linkage to a boost in state aid for schools.

But Hochul told reporters in Syracuse the budget also contained provisions aimed at reducing the reliance on standardized testing in classrooms across the state, even as New York seeks to strengthen standards. More >

What Happens When You Call The Moreland Commission’s Tip Line

morelandhotlineIt still works! Well, sort of.

The defunct anti-corruption panel was shut down in April 2014 following an agreement on ethics and campaign finance reform measures in the state budget.

But the commission’s impact lingers like Albany’s very own phantom menace.

“It’s the political equivalent of the Big Bang. We’re constantly seeing its echoes over time. It for the first time underscored what the word independence meant in modern day Albany, which is not so much,” said Blair Horner, NPIRG’s legislative director.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo convened the panel of district attorneys and law professors to probe legislative wrongdoing. Its work was ended in April 2014 following a package of anti-corruption and ethics measures in the budget. But the circumstances of the commission being closed are part of an ongoing review by the U.S. Attorney’s office. More >

Heastie: Support In Assembly For Privatizing NYRA

heastiehorseFrom the Morning Memo:

There’s “broad support” in the Democratic-led Assembly to return the New York Racing Association back to the private sector, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said on Wednesday during a stop in Rochester.

State as well as federal lawmakers from upstate New York have been eager to move NYRA out of state control and back into a non-profit entity that supports thoroughbred racing.

“There seems to be broad support within our house for NYRA to go back to being a privately run institution, particularly the member who represent the Saratoga region — Carrie Woerner — has been very outspoken on this,” Heastie said. “It’s a discussion we’re having.”

NYRA has been under state control since 2012, when then-CEO Charlie Hayward was ousted after it was revealed the public-benefit corporation had improperly collected more than $7 million fees from exotic bets. More >

Stewart-Cousins Raises Concerns With Pipeline

ascFrom the Morning Memo:

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins this week sent a letter to federal regulators urging them to halt the construction of a pipeline being constructed near the Indian Point nuclear plant.

In the letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Norman Bay, Stewart-Cousins asks for work to cease on the project before an independent risk analysis can be performed.

“I believe that the myriad of questions raised with respect to the project’s potential risks to the public health and safety, as well as its proximity to Indian Point, underscore the need for such a study and analysis to be completed,” she wrote in the letter.

Stewart-Cousins’s Yonkers-area district sits down river the plant. More >

Heastie: ‘Farce’ To Suggest Downstate Doesn’t Care About Upstate

carlheastie

From the Morning Memo:

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo touts himself as the main booster for upstate New York in the region, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie disagrees that downstate residents like him don’t understand the needs of the region north of the city.

“In my 15 years in the Assembly, there’s never been an upstate-downstate divide,” he said. “There’s been plenty of deferring to members.”

Cuomo last week in Utica touted his economic development efforts across upstate New York, including millions of dollars in state investment to encourage job growth.

The governor, a Queens native and resident of Westchester County, told reporters he has had to “put his thumb on the scale” to help upstate, given the domination of downstate interests in the Legislature. More >

Hochul: ‘Several Hundred’ People Seeking WEP Line

hochulThe Women’s Equality Party ballot line is being sought by “several hundred” candidates running in local elections this year, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters on Wednesday in New York City.

“This year, the very first year it’s been assembled and put together, we’re actually going to have several hundred people running on that line in the state of New York,” she said at a rally for Women’s Equality Day, which was attended by prominent former and current officeholders, including Christine Quinn, now an advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Women’s Equality Party ballot line was formed last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a way to promote the 10-point women’s agenda, a package of bills that has largely become law since their introduction, save for a measure designed to enhance abortion rights in the state.

For now, the candidates seeking the WEP line are running in largely local races, but they will have to fill out a questionnaire to qualify for the endorsement. Hochul suggested the current off-year cycle was a chance to gear up before 2016, when all 213 legislative seats are up for re-election in the Senate and Assembly. More >