Nick Reisman

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Direct Care Advocates Have Times Square Billboard


As state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo mull funding for a wage increase for direct care workers, a coalition of groups that has pushed for the funding have space on a Times Square billboard pushing the issue.

The 5,000-square-foot advertisement is a digital billboard that will be seen two minutes per hour and was donated by a person active in the push for supporting people with developmental disabilities. It began running Sunday.

The billboard comes as advocates are seeking $45 million a year over six years to pay for a living wage for direct care workers who provide services and support for people with developmental disabilities.

State lawmakers in the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly have included the funding in their budget resolutions.

Flanagan Says He Has ‘Skepticism’ Of Medicaid Takeover

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Tuesday said he is skeptical of the proposal on the federal level to have the state assume Medicaid costs currently carried by county governments.

The measure is backed by Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins and is potentially key to gaining enough votes for the passage of the House GOP’s bill replacing the Affordable Care Act this week.

But Flanagan, speaking with reporters this morning, said he would speak with Faso about the issue as the state prepares a budget plan due to pass at the end of next week.

“I have a certain amount of skepticism. I don’t want to see New York adversely affected and I would go back to some basic questions,” Flanagan said. “Does that mean counties have to go back and reduce their sales tax, reduce their property tax or will they go back and continue to spend. I’m not trying to malign anyone or any shape or form, but this is going to be a focal point of all of our discussions.”

Having the state assume the cost of the Medicaid program in New York is a major touchstone issue for county governments who have often complained about the cost of mandates placed on them by Albany.

The move would have wide-ranging effects on the state’s budget and finances. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has railed against the proposal, saying it would simply shift costs and devastate taxpayers.

Flanagan joined Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in suggesting the Legislature would return to Albany after the regular session is concluded to handle potential changes to health care policy on the federal level.

“It’s the same taxpayer at the end of the day,” Flanagan said. “We’ve done a lot of things on the state of new York to alleviate the burden on county property taxpayers in significantly shifting costs to the state of New York.”

Cuomo Admin Hires, Shuffles Staff

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced a series of hires and staff moves on Tuesday, including a former state assemblyman.

Cuomo announce former Assemblyman John Ceretto, a Republican-turned-Democrat, has joined his administration as a project coordinator for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Ceretto served in the Assembly since 2011, until he was defeated for re-election.

Meanwhile, longtime Cuomo hand Joe Rabito will become the deputy secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, having previously served as deputy director of state operations for programs.

Jon Weinstein, a former vice president at Mercury Public Affairs, will become the deputy communications director for transportation.

Jeffrey Pearlman, a former chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and before that a top aide to the Senate Democrats, will become the acting director of the Authorities Budget Office.

Cuomo also hired Carolyn Pokorny, formerly of the U.S. attorney general’s office, to be chief special counsel for ethics.

“From fighting to achieve social and economic justice, to creating stronger communities in every corner of this state, our administration has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“By bringing in new ideas and new talent, these additions will build on the extraordinary success we have made over the past six years. These men and women are highly respected in their fields and embody the values of public service necessary to continue moving this state forward. I look forward to working with them to create a stronger, fairer and more prosperous New York for all.”

Bharara Joining NYU Law

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will join New York University Law School as a scholar in residence, the school announced on Tuesday morning.

Bharara had been believed to be in line for a range of jobs, including opportunities on television and other prominent law school posts.

He had also been speculated as a possible candidate for elected office.

“I am honored to join the NYU School of Law, one of the great educational institutions in America, and I welcome the chance to contribute in such a thoughtful setting,” Bharara said in a statement. “I am thrilled for this opportunity to continue addressing the issues I so deeply care about—criminal and social justice, honest government, national security, civil rights, and corporate accountability, to name a few.”

Bharara earlier this month announced he had been fired from his post as the top prosecutor in the Southern District of New York after refusing to heed the call of the Department of Justice to step down.

Bharara gained notoriety for his prosecutions of public corruption, including high-profile cases involving state lawmakers as well as white collar crime on Wall Street.

Insurance Firm Once Again At Odds With Assembly Ride Share Bill

From the Morning Memo:

The American Transit Insurance Company in a letter sent Monday to top lawmakers in the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the Assembly’s version of a bill expanding ride hailing in upstate New York, saying the proposal’s coverage requirements are far too expensive.

“The bill imposes insurance coverage requirements of $1.5 million when a driver is on the way to pick up a passenger or there is a passenger in the car,” wrote the company’s general counsel, John Poklemba, in the letter. “That is 20 times higher than current upstate for-hire limits during trips.”

The letter urged lawmakers and Cuomo to also “re-examine” liability minimums and their impact on the industry.

“To make clear the abitrary and excessive coverage being proposed, it is important to note that the requirements that the Assembly is proposing here are substantially higher than is required to transport oil in a tanker,” the letter states. “We wonder how the state could possible assume that more risk is involved in the former to justify requiring $500,000 more coverage.”

The company had previously raised issues last June with ride sharing proposals it said had far too much coverag

The letter comes as lawmakers and Cuomo are sorting out differences in their ride-hailing proposals as the budget talks begin in earnest this week in Albany. The Assembly bill, introduced earlier this month, is yet to be taken up for a vote in the chamber, while the Senate passed its own version last month.

The Assembly’s ride-hail measure was not included in the one-house budget resolution.

“I’d say there’s been positive discourse,” Speaker Carl Heastie said, “but there’s no final decision on where to go in terms of the Uber or ride sharing issues.”

3 20 17 Andrew Cuomo Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Bill Would Require One SLA Member From NYC

From the Morning Memo:

A bill being introduced this week by Manhattan Sen. Brad Hoylman would require at least one member of the State Liquor Authority be a resident of New York City.

The measure is backed by Hoylman and Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, drawing inspiration from the majority of the state’s 3,147 liquor licenses originating in New York City.

In a statement, Hoylman said he wanted to create a “more equitable system” of license distribution in the state, with New York City in mind.

“New York City is responsible for more than half of all the approved alcohol licenses granted across our state,” he said. “Given the overwhelming complexities of granting alcohol licenses in a way that meets the needs of establishments as well as the kaleidoscopic interests of five boroughs, 59 community districts, and hundreds of neighborhoods, New Yorkers deserve a seat at the table when these important decisions are being made.”

The bill comes after Hoylman wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking that he appoint a New York City resident to fill a vacancy on the SLA following the retirement of Commissioner Kevin Kim in August.

“Many neighborhoods have a significantly higher density of licensed premises than anywhere else in New York State, and a New York City resident on the SLA would help inform the regulations of the SLA within NYC so we can continue to promote livable communities,” Glick said.

Cuomo Knocks The ‘Conservative Zealotry’ Of Faso, Collins

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a 472-word statement on Monday evening blasting Reps. Chris Collins and John Faso for supporting the House Republican health care bill and the push to have the state assume county Medicaid costs.

Cuomo, in the statement, even brings back a vintage 2014 attack the Democratic Committee leveled at his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, who had joked in a Capital Tonight interview that “soup is good” when asked about dental care being cut.

“It would be nice if Congressmen Collins and Faso actually tried to help their districts rather than hurt them,” Cuomo said in the statement.

“These health care cuts are on top of a dizzying array of cuts to real New Yorkers. The Republican budget cuts housing assistance, food stamps, heating projects, community development funds – all at the expense of the middle class and working families – while they cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans. They won’t get away with it. They can’t play New Yorkers as fools and New Yorkers will remember. The bill for Congressmen Collins and Faso’s rabid conservative zealotry will be paid by Upstate New York’s hard working families, and those families will know exactly who to thank.”

Previously, the administration had released a statement signed by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul attacking Collins’s amendment. The statement released Monday is the most extensive to date from Cuomo registering his criticism of House Republicans, including two New Yorkers.

Legislative Leaders Give Chilly Reception To Consolidation Plan

The leaders in the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly on Monday indicated they would push to change Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to require local governments to develop ways of sharing services and scale back his efforts to expand his office’s powers over the state budget.

“I think that we are generally in agreement that there should be the prerogative of the Legislature over the Senate and Assembly and I think we have a number of disagreements with the executive over allowing too much power to go to his authority over the budget,” Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said.

Lawmakers met Monday afternoon for the start of the joint budget committee process — a meeting known in Albany as the “mothership” and initially held as a way of enhancing transparency in the opaque state budget process, but also a chance for lawmakers to lay out their public priorities in the talks.

While the Legislature has been loathe to surrender powers over making changes to the budget after its approved to Cuomo, the legislative leaders were also skeptical Cuomo’s consolidation plan would remain intact.

“It wasn’t in our one-house,” Speaker Carl Heastie said. “The governor maintains its one of his priorities. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not something that I’d say, at least in our conference, any of the members were too happy moving forward with that.”

The plan would require local governments to work with county officials to find ways of sharing services and consolidating costs with an effort of finding concrete ways of reducing property taxes. The plan would be considered by voters in a referendum this November.

Cuomo has long sought to consolidate and scale back the size of local governments in New York, which he has blamed for the state’s high property taxes — an assertion budget watchdogs say is more tied to the cost of programs like Medicaid or employee pensions.

At the same time, lawmakers contend Cuomo is dangling aid to municipalities over local governments to force the sharing of services — a claim the governor’s office denies.

“Local governments are just saying that’s not really an appropriate carrot or a stick and frankly they deserve that money and they do a lot of shared services now,” Flanagan said.

But Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein suggested there would be a compromise possible on the issue.

“If indeed there’s a way they can do these efficiencies and enjoy the benefit of the local level, I think that’s something we can discuss,” Klein said.

Heastie: No ‘Red Flags’ In Budget Talks

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday in an interview said there were no “red flags” at the moment that would prevent the budget from being passed before the start of the new fiscal year.

“I don’t have any red flags that I would say right now that I”m concerned about,” Heastie said after a Democratic conference meeting. “We’ve put out where we’re out, the Senate has put out right they’re at. The governor, we know where he’s been since the end of January and we’ll see where we’re at.”

The traditional motions of moving forward in the budget talks begin today as lawmakers will meet in their “mothership” conference committee meeting this afternoon.

“The conversations I’d say have been positive, but let’s see what the final budget looks like,” he said.

Still, a range of issues continue to remain unsettled as lawmakers sort out the details.

Among them is a juvenile justice reform policy of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18. It’s a measure wholly backed by Heastie, who wants to move cases involving 16 and 17-year-old defendants to Family Court. But in the Senate, narrowly divide with Republicans holding a slim majority, questions remain over the measure, and whether GOP lawmakers can back a bill that would do everything the Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo support.

The Senate did include in its one-house budget resolution an acknowledgement of the issue, but Heastie indicated it was vague.

“It really comes down to having the three words in there — raise the age — I’m not sure what that means because a lot of what really matters is how much are we’re going to treat the 16 and 17-year-olds as children and have things be determined in Family Court is really the question,” he said. “So, am I OK they put the words in? Yeah, but yeah how much substance is behind raise the age is really the issue.”

Hoosick Falls Residents Push Hannon To Release Contamination Documents

Hoosick Falls residents in a letter to Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon released Monday urged him to give them access to documents related to the drinking water contamination in their community.

“Now we need your help to learn more about how our communities became polluted,” the eight residents wrote in the letter. “As you are aware, we have had to deal with misleading information and a complete lack of transparency when all we have wanted is basic information pertinent to our health and safety.”

The letter itself was released by the Environmental Advocates of New York.

In the letter, the Hoosick Falls residents thank Hannon for his push on Drinking Water Quality Institute and the Senate Republican-backed effort for a clean water bond act.

But they also want Hannon, the Senate Health Committee chairman, to go further and release the information gained by lawmakers when reviewing the PFOA contamination in the village, which has been blamed on Honeywell and Saint Gobain facilities.

“While we are discouraged that requests for this information have been ignored by the Senate, we have no reason to believe that you wish to continue this troubling trend by withholding information crucial to the health of our families and overall community,” the residents wrote.

Hannon Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd