Nick Reisman

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Cox: White Supremacists Are Irrelevant

New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox on Wednesday said in a radio interview white supremacists are small in number and largely irrelevant to the national political conversation today.

“They’re very small in number, they’ve been around for a long time,” Cox said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “This is something that does not belong in this country.”

Cox did not comment directly on President Donald Trump’s comments at a news conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday, in which he once again blamed both white supremacist groups and counter demonstrators for the violence on Saturday in Virginia that left one protester opposing the neo-Nazi organizations. Trump also suggested some of the marchers who opposed the removal of a Confederate memorial to Robert E. Lee were good people.

Trump’s comments drew support from fringe figures such as Richard Spencer and former KKK leader David Duke.

“It’s abhorrent to our basic philosophy in our country,” Cox said of white supremacy. “It’s really irrelevant to the politics in our country.”

Asked if Trump’s news conference hurt Republicans, Cox said, “What’s good for the Republican Party is jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Spectrum News/Siena Poll: Miner Popular, But Loses To Cuomo In Syracuse

Democratic voters in Syracuse have a favorable opinion of outgoing Mayor Stephanie Miner, but she would lose in the city to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a hypothetical gubernatorial primary, a Spectrum News/Siena College poll found.

The poll released on Wednesday found Miner holds a strong job performance rating of 58 percent to 41 percent. Her favorability rating is even higher, 69 percent to 26 percent, among Democratic voters in the city.

But Cuomo out polls Miner in the city 47 percent to 38 percent in a potential primary, with 11 percent of voters not holding an opinion.

Miner has said she is interested in running for governor next year. She has been a critic of Cuomo after having a falling out with him over local government and pension policy after briefly serving as the state Democratic Committee co-chair.

In the race to replace Miner as mayor, Juanita Perez Williams, a regional director for the Department of Labor, is locked in a virtual tie with Councilor-at-large Joe Nicoletti, 36 percent to 34 percent. City Auditor Martin Masterpole received support from 8 percent of voters polled.

The poll of 497 likely Democratic primary voters has a 4.6 percent margin of error and was conducted from Aug. 9 through Aug. 13.

AlbanyMayor0817 Crosstabs (1) by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Regulations Aim To Protect Insurance Coverage For Transgender People

State regulators on Wednesday announced plans that seek to safeguard transgender people from being denied insurance coverage.

The move would bar health insurance providers from denying coverage based on gender identity — aimed at ensuring transgender or gender non-conforming people can continue to be covered by their insurance regardless of how they are present as the gender the service is typically provided to.

“In New York, we believe that health care is a right, and we are committed to protecting that right for all New Yorkers, regardless of income, age, race, sexuality or gender identity,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“Now, more than ever, we are leading the nation in furthering protections to all New Yorkers that those in Washington seek to eliminate, and we will continue to work to combat discrimination in all forms and ensure equal treatment for all.”

The actions were announced in a circular letter released by the Department of Financial Services that outlines requirements insurers must take in order to not deny coverage.

“Transgender persons should not be discriminated against and denied health insurance coverage because of their transgender status nor denied treatment simply due to insurance coding issues,” said DFS Superintendent Maria Vullo. “DFS will ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of gender identity, receive the health insurance coverage they need.”

Martins, With Sliwa, Pushes Reform Agenda

Republican Jack Martins in his race for Nassau County executive on Wednesday embraced the platform of the Reform Party and its chairman, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa.

The agenda includes support for term limits in county government and on the state level.

“Nassau County government is in desperate need to reform,” said Martins, a former state senator.

“The first step toward real reform is enacting term limits to make county government more accountable and end the era of career politicians. The New York State Reform Party is focused on making the commonsense changes we need and I’m proud to be the Reform Party’s candidate for County Executive.”

Martins is embracing the party as the Republican he hopes to replace is not running for re-election. Incumbent County Executive Ed Mangano faces corruption charges.

Sliwa wrested away control of the Reform Party, which had initially been founded by supporters of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino during his 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The party was initially founded as a ballot line focused on opposing the Common Core education standards.

Astorino later sought to broaden its appeal by adding ethics and government reform to its platform and re-named it the Reform Party.

Sliwa, along with political activist Frank Morano, were able to gain control of the ballot line, however. One of Astorino’s Democratic opponent in this year’s county executive race, Sen. George Latimer, has the backing of the Reform Party.

Cuomo Responds To Trump

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a brief response to President Donald Trump on Tuesday once again blaming “both sides” for the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.

In a tweet, Cuomo criticized Trump’s assertion at a Trump Tower news conference that some of the people who marched in opposition to taking down a statue honoring Robert E. Lee were good people.

“There are no ‘very fine’ white supremacists, Mr. Trump,” the governor posted to Twitter.

Trump at the news conference once again condemned bigotry and violence in Virginia, but added members of the “alt life” were also to blame for instigating violence in Virginia.

Cuomo has come under fire for the comments made late last week by Dan Loeb, a prolific political donor and supporter of charter schools who wrote on Facebook that Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins had been worse for people of color than the Ku Klux Klan.

Loeb has apologized and Cuomo has condemned the remarks. Activist groups are calling on the governor and others to return the money Loeb has donated to their campaigns.

Felder Responds To Flanagan

From the Morning Memo:

Sen. Simcha Felder, the Democratic Brooklyn lawmaker who conferences with the Senate Republicans, said in a statement he disagreed with Majority Leader John Flanagan’s “statements about me” in an op/ed Flanagan released on Tuesday.

In the op/ed, the Republican majority leader had written the Senate GOP retain control of the chamber because of Felder’s presence in the conference, making the debate over Democratic control and reunification between the mainline conference and the Independent Democratic Conference a “moot point.”

“We have 32 members in our conference who caucus together and work together to improve the lives of the citizens of this state,” he wrote.

“That includes 31 Republicans and Senator Felder, a conservative Democrat who ran on the Republican and Conservative lines in his last election and has conferenced with us since he was first elected to the Senate.”

But Felder, in a statement released to State of Politics on Tuesday afternoon, noted unity among Democrats “will hurt the Republicans.”

“I read Senator Flanagan’s Op-Ed today and I don’t agree with his statements about me,” Felder said. “He is the leader of the Republicans in the New York State Senate and his opinion on future political matters are newsworthy. All I can say is that if Senator Flanagan believes that Democratic in-fighting will help Senate Republicans, then the reverse must also be true — Democratic unity will hurt the Republicans.”

Felder said he has no plans, at the moment, to change conferences.

Felder has been locked in a “you first” exchange with IDC Leader Jeff Klein since the spring. In essence, Felder won’t leave the GOP conference without the IDC backing some sort of a unification effort with the mainline conference.

It’s not clear what it would take for these dominoes to fall, however, and in what order for Democrats to assume a working majority in the Senate.

The IDC is being pressured by left-leaning advocacy groups to form a new alliance with the mainline conference of Democrats in the chamber, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo also coming under scrutiny to broker a deal with members of his own party.

DFS: Insurance Rates To Increase 14.6 Percent

Insurance rates on average will increase by 14.6 percent for individuals and more than 11 percent for group plans for the 3 million people who are enrolled in the state’s health care exchange, the Department of Financial Services on Tuesday announced.

The increase comes as insurance companies had sought a 17.7 percent increase in June, with most of the initial requests revised downard.

State insurance regulators said the increases were needed in order to potentially offset cuts from the federal government if changes to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, are approved.

“DFS has carefully examined the rates requested by health insurers to reduce the burden of excessive health insurance premium increases on New Yorkers while maintaining competitive markets in the face of rising national healthcare and pharmaceutical costs, compounded by ill-conceived Congressional attempts to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act,” said Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo in a statement.

The health exchange has 15 plans that offer individual coverage and 20 plans for those in small group coverage.

Tax credits for those eligible will decrease the rates by up to 5 percent when purchasing low-cost silver plans.

“Many consumers buying plans through the NY State of Health Marketplace will be eligible to receive federal tax credits, reducing the monthly cost of coverage,” said NY State of Health Executive Director, Donna Frescatore. “In many cases, after tax credits, consumers’ costs will be about the same or in some cases lower in 2018. Thousands of NY State of Health Assistors will again be available to help consumers shop the Marketplace for the best value.”

Efforts to repeal parts of the ACA have so far sputtered in Congress.

Silver Receives April 16 Trial Date

A second trial for ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will start April 16 and run through late May, a federal judge on Tuesday ruled.

Judge Valerie Caproni noted in her order the date is subject “to a decision from the Supreme Court” related to the definition of corruption charges.

Silver was convicted in 2016 of fraud and corruption charges stemming from referral fees he received as an attorney at Weitz & Luxenberg. The conviction was tossed earlier this year, however, due to jury instructions that did not comport with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of a “theft of honest services” charge.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York soon indicated they would seek a second trial for Silver, requesting one for the spring of next year.

Silver Trial by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Voter Roll Tick Tock

It took just over a month for President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity to gain access to New York’s voter rolls, according to documents obtained from Board of Elections through the Freedom of Information Law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had declared on June 30 the state would not share voter data with the commission, formed after Trump falsely declared he would have won the popular vote last year had it not been for the millions of illegally cast votes.

The statement came four days after Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity had written to New York Secretary of State Rossanna Rosado to request the voter information. Unlike many states, the secretary of state in New York does not maintain the state’s voter rolls or oversee elections.

The letter, signed by commission vice chair Kris Kobach, included a list of questions including what federal election law changes should be made to “enhance the integrity of federal elections” and if any convictions for “election-related crimes” have occurred in New York since the 2000 election.

On July 10, the federal voter commission sent an email to the state Board of Elections, asking the board to not release any voter information to the commission pending the outcome of a judicial ruling in a case challenging the commission’s work.

The Board of Elections, through spokesman John Conklin, responded with some bewilderment.

“The NY State Board of Elections never received any request for data from your organization as it was sent to the NY Secretary of State. In NY the Secretary of State has very little responsibility for elections,” the email stated. “It would be greatly appreciated if you would submit a letter to the attention of our Commissioners or our Co-executive directors at the below mailing address and this email address.”

Ultimately, the ruling landed in the Trump administration’s favor. The led to a July 26 letter from Kobach making a second, more formal request for information from the Board of Elections.

“I want to assure you that the Commission will not publicly release any personally identifiable information regarding any individual voter or any group of voters from the voter registration records you submit,” he wrote. “Individuals’ voter registration records will be kept confidential and secure throughout the duration of the Commission’s existence. Once the Commission’s analysis is complete, the Commission will dispose of the data as permitted by federal law.”

Two days a later, on July 28, a formal FOIL request by the election integrity commission was made for the state’s voter registration rolls.

On Aug. 2, the board announced at its meeting it would comply with the request.

“It’s going through the normal process, but my understanding is the process is moving forward with complying with it,” said Board of Elections spokesman Thomas Connolly.

July 26%2c 2017 Letter From Vice Chair Kris Kobach to New York by Nick Reisman on Scribd

July 26%2c 2017 Letter From Vice Chair Kris Kobach to New York by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Cuomo Pushes Bill Expanding Hate Crimes Laws

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced Tuesday he will introduce legislation that would add rioting and inciting to riot that target specific protected classes to offenses under the state’s hate crime laws.

The measure comes in response to the violent clashes on Saturday in Virginia that left a counter demonstrator and two state police officers dead.

“The ugly events that took place in Charlottesville must never be repeated, and in New York we’re going to stand united against hate in all of its forms,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“Our diversity is our strength and this legislation will help protect New Yorkers and send a clear signal that violence and discrimination have no place in our society. New York is one community and one family, and we will never stop fighting to ensure the safety and equal treatment of all New Yorkers.”

State law currently provides for charging a person with a hate crime if they commit an offense that is targeting specific victims based on their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

Cuomo’s bill would amend the existing law to add inciting a riot and rioting when directed a specific class.

Penalties would be increased from a class E felony to a D felony for rioting. Inciting a riot would have penalties increased to a class E felony.

Cuomo is also calling on lawmakers to amend the state’s human rights law to add protections for public school students against discrimination. On Monday, he signed legislation that bolster penalties for those who make bomb threats against community centers.