Nick Reisman

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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.”

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

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.

Manhattan GOP Backs Candidate For Silver Seat

From the Morning Memo:

Republicans in Manhattan on Thursday formally backed the candidacy of Lester Chang to run for the Assembly seat once held by Sheldon Silver.

The endorsement of the 54-year-old businessman comes as multiple Democrats are vying to win the lower Manhattan district Silver vacated in November when he was convicted on corruption charges.

In his remarks to Manhattan GOP members, Chang backed term limits, boosting the number of charter schools, the education tax credit and “fiscal sanity” in Albany.

Chang also criticized the proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 and pledged to fight the proposal if elected.

“Fiscal sanity also means fighting the $15 an hour minimum wage,” Chang said. “Mayor DeBlasio and Governor Cuomo, two professional politicians who have never run a business, met a payroll or had a real private sector job need to understand this will not be a tide that lifts all boats. It will be a Tsunami that wipes out jobs and small businesses across our city and state.”

The district is a heavily Democratic one, giving Chang an uphill battle in the upcoming special election scheduled for April 19.

Hanna Transfers $250K To Old Campaign Account

From the Morning Memo:

Republican former Assemblyman Sean Hanna last month loaned an old campaign account for his state Senate bid $250,000, records with the Board of Elections show.

In a brief phone interview on Friday, Hanna said he wasn’t ruling anything in or out when asked about another run for public office.

In 2012, Hanna ran for the Rochester-area Senate district that was vacated by Sen. Jim Alesi, but lost to Democrat Ted O’Brien.

In turn, O’Brien left the Senate in 2014 when he was unseated by Republican Rich Funke.

The neighboring district of Sen. Michael Nozzolio is opening this year, however, as he leaves office in order to receive heart surgery.

Potential candidates for Nozzolio’s seat include Republican Assemblyman Bob Oaks.

Senate GOP officials expect to keep the Finger Lakes-area district in Republican hands this fall.

State IT Chief: Attempted Data Breaches ‘Vary Widely’

From the Morning Memo:

The state’s top information technology official on Thursday told state lawmakers attempted data breaches “vary widely” and are on par with what businesses have had to deal with in recent years.

“The biggest priority we have is cyber security,” Chief Information Officer Margaret Miller testified to a joint budget committee hearing.

Data breeches in the private sector have led to compromised personal information of tens of thousands of customers falling into the hands of hackers, including credit card and Social Security numbers.

The federal government, too, has been plagued with data breeches.

Miller insisted the attempts to hack New York’s guarded information have not been successful.

“We remain paranoid rather than com placement,” she told lawmakers. “At every occasion we ask ourselves if we have the expert in house to rely on cyber security or do we need a third party.”