Nick Reisman

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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.”

Heastie: Con Con Not Best ‘Vehicle’ For Change

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday reiterated his opposition to holding a constitutional convention, calling it the wrong “vehicle” to making changes to the state constitution.

“I believe most of the members believe as I do that the constitution is a document we want to protect from the whims of special interest money from outside the state that would like to see partisan changes to the constitution,” he said.

Heastie and the Assembly Democratic conference were in Albany Tuesday for a closed-door meeting, discussing issues ranging from federal budget cuts, the state’s financial concerns and in “generic terms” discussions surrounding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Heastie said the constitutional convention, which voters will determine whether to hold in a referendum next month, was part of the discussion. He said the conversation stemmed from a “refresher” on the convention and the referendum, which is held every 20 years.

Labor unions, environmental groups and some conservative organizations have opposed the convention — called a con con — over concerns it would put at risk legal rights and protections in the existing constituion.

“I believe that most legislators believe as I do that there is a vehicle to change the Constitution and that’s through the Legislature,” Heastie said. “As I’ve said before and to some of the people who support a convention, this just opens up the entire document and you can propose any change you want.”

Assembly Supportive Of Flood Relief Aid, But Non-Committal On Return

Assembly Democrats on Tuesday indicated they’d back a plan to boost flood relief aid in Lake Ontario and the surrounding area — some $35 million.

But it’s not clear when that funding may be given the OK by the full Legislature.

“The quickest that we are all back in here, I believe that will be one of the things that’s on the agenda whether it’s in a special session or if we come back in January, very soon after that,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Assembly Democrats returned Tuesday at the Capitol to meet privately for several hours. The meeting followed multiple comments about a possible special session from Governor Andrew Cuomo over the last several weeks, with flood relief among the items being considered.

“Hopefully whenever we reconvene, we’ll get the money into the hands of people who need it to rebuild their communities,” said Joe Morelle, the Assembly majority leader.

Lawmakers and Cuomo earlier this year approved $45 million for communities hit hard by the rising waters of Lake Ontario. But that was half the amount lawmakers had originally sought.

“It was certainly more art than science because we didn’t know the level of interest would be and the level of damage would be, so we talked about that if the dollars were sufficient, coming back and doing another appropriation,” Heastie said.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has also suggested the Legislature may need to return to contend with federal budget cuts to public welfare hospitals and children’s health insurance unless Congress acts.

“I think we’re fine, but if some severe federal action comes, I think it will be a larger conversation between the Assembly, Senate and the governor. But if nothing else happens, we may not have to come back,” Heastie said.

NYSUT Protests Anti-Latimer Mailer

The statewide teachers union is protesting the use of its logo in a mailer knocking Democratic Westchester County executive candidate George Latimer, saying its use was unauthorized by the labor group.

The mailer criticizes Latimer, a state senator, over school-aid funding. It includes a New York State United Teachers union logo, citing a cut in funding for school districts.

“As senator, George Latimer has been a fearless champion for students and teachers, and a relentless fighter for more funding for public schools in Westchester County and across the state,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “Any suggestion to the contrary is political nonsense.”

Republican Rob Astorino’s campaign responded, blasting Latimer once again over taxes owed on a home owned by his wife that faces estate issues following the death of his mother in law.

“NYSUT should be asking why the Latimers refuse to pay five years worth of school taxes on the second home in Rye,” said Astorino spokesman Bill O’Reilly. “Or do state senators no longer have to pay school taxes?”

Cuomo: Tax Plan Uses NY As A ‘Piggy Bank’

With Vice President Mike Pence in western New York to push the Trump administration’s plans for tax reform, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was also in Buffalo on Tuesday to decry the proposals.

Cuomo at an event signaled out the push to end the deduction of state and local taxes, a move that is expected to impact high-tax states like New York. Subsequent proposals have suggested a compromise that would cap the deductions, but that could still impact areas like the New York City suburbs which have a higher cost of living.

“Why is it worse for New York? Because we have some of the highest taxes in the United States of America,” Cuomo said. “So what it really is is Washington’s attempt to cut taxes in other parts of the country by using New York as a piggy bank and that is something that we cannot allow to happen. It would literally change the competitiveness of this state overnight.”

Cuomo called on members of the state’s House delegation to oppose the end to the deduction.

Republicans in New York have not necessarily embraced the plan, with some lawmakers on the state level expressing opposition. That included Sen. Patrick Gallivan of western New York, who said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom earlier Tuesday he was opposed to plan.

Tax Foundation: NY Ranks Second To Last In Tax Climate

The Tax Foundation on Tuesday released its annual rankings of states’ tax climates, ranking New York 49th overall in the country.

The state lands between New Jersey at 50 and California, ranked 48th.

The state ranks second-to-last in individual taxes and 47th in property taxes. New York is also 43rd in sales tax.

The state does fare better when it comes to its corporate tax ranking at 7th in the country.

New York has typically ranked at the back of the pack when it comes to its tax climate in the group’s survey of U.S. states.

Updated: The Division of Budget, part of the Cuomo administration, pushed back against the ranking.

“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 DOB 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.”

Anti-Scaffold Group: $300M Could Be Saved On Gateway Project

A group that backs changes to the Scaffold Law in New York in a analysis released Tuesday found the law is adding as much as $300 million to the cost of the Gateway tunnel project between New York and New Jersey.

The $13 billion Port Authority project has been a top priority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The group, Common Good, found the insurance costs on the project will add between $180 million and $300 million to the project.

“This is a classic example of an obsolete law that needs to be removed,” said Philip K. Howard, the group’s chairman. “It’s out-of-date, exceptionally expensive, and unique to New York.”

Efforts to make changes to the measure have stalled in the face of opposition from labor groups as well as organizations that represent trial lawyers. A push on the federal level to makes changes to law has been backed by Rep. John Faso.

“Every obsolete law will have special interests dedicated to preserving it, but the public interest should come first” Howard said. “New Yorkers should not be on the hook to pay for these unnecessary costs.”

NY-19: Rhodes Plans RV Tour

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic congressional candidate Gareth Rhodes on Tuesday is kicking of an RV tour — a “Rhodes Trip” he’s dubbed it — of the sprawling 19th congressional district in the Hudson Valley.

Rhodes is among the crowded field of Democratic candidates in the House district seeking to take on Republican Rep. John Faso next year in what is expected to be a battleground race.

Rhodes plans to travel to all 163 towns and cities in the district in a 1999 Ford Winnebago RV.

“I believe anyone who wants to represent this community in Congress owes the respect to look every person here in NY-19 in the eye,” Rhodes said. “Listen to your hopes and concerns. Earn your trust and answer the tough questions,” Gareth Rhodes said. “So I’m hitting the road and am going to all 163 towns and cities in NY-19 to do what our current member of Congress refuses to: have the respect to show up and listen to your hopes, your concerns, your ideas, and share my vision for the future of this community.”

He’s not the first candidate for office to go with the RV approach. Rhdoes’s former boss, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, traveled in an RV to tour upstate New York during his campaign for governor in 2010.

“Between now and Election Day, I’ll be coming to you,” Rhodes said. “And unlike John Faso and the typical politicians that only show up in your mailbox or on your TV, I’ll be there in person. At your door, your local diner, your farm, your firehouse, talking about why I’m so hopeful for our future. And this “Rhodes Trip” isn’t just a one-time effort. Once elected to Congress, I pledge to travel to all 163 towns and cities in NY-19 every year.”

And in a district that has seen its share of Democratic candidates with tenuous ties to the area, Democratic political observer Bruce Gyory said Rhodes’s trip is a good idea.

“The last two cycles Democrats were hurt by the carpetbagger charges ef‎fectively leveled by the GOP against Eldridge and Teachout,” Gyory said. “Rhodes grew up in the district and this tour underscores those roots. What may be dismissed as a stunt by some may appear to voters as a marker for hard work and a dogged campaign style. The enduring impact of the tour will likely be driven by what comes after it is over.”

GOP Advocacy Group Plans $600K Ad Buy

From the Morning Memo:

The Republican-aligned advocacy group American Action Network is launching a $600,000 ad purchase for digital spots aimed at pushing for the GOP-backed tax overhaul efforts in Washington.

The group has been targeting key House districts nationally and in New York. The launch comes as Vice President Mike Pence is in western New York later on Tuesday to push for the tax overhaul efforts with Republican Rep. Chris Collins.

“The tax reform plan put forward by the White House and congressional leaders would provide a tax cut upward of $1,200 for the average, middle-class family. It’s time for Congress to do their part, act on tax reform, and make tax cuts a reality for hardworking Americans across the country,” said the group’s executive director Corry Bliss. “America’s current tax code places a costly and unnecessary burden on middle-class families. Too many working families have had to live paycheck-to-paycheck for too long, struggling to make ends meet.”

Since August, the group has spent $12 million, including ad buys in seven New York congressional districts.