Latino Groups Backs Aid-In-Dying Bill

From the Morning Memo:

A bill that would provide for aid-in-dying services for the terminally ill was endorsed Wednesday by the Latino Commission on AIDS and the Hispanic Health Network.

“This endorsement by the Latino Commission on AIDS and the Hispanic Health Network is a huge boost to our campaign to authorize medical aid in dying as an option for terminally ill New Yorkers to end unbearable suffering,” said Kim Callinan, the chief executive officer of Compassion & Choices. “We still have much work to do to move the bill forward and I am delighted we will be doing it together.”

The push for the legislation is back in Albany after it has stalled in the Legislature.

The measure allows for narrow qualifications for patients and requires that two physicians confirm the terminal prognosis. Patients must also be referred to a mental health professional for evaluation if considered necessary by a doctor.

Supporters of aid-in-dying legislation have pointed to a variety of safeguards in the measure designed to protect the terminally ill make the decision as to whether to end of their life. The medication is self-administered by the patient.

The measure, multiple versions of which have been proposed and introduced in the Legislature over the last several years, has been met with stiff resistance by social conservatives and the Catholic Church as well as advocates for the disabled.

“The reality is that no matter how hard we try, we cannot escape the cycle of life and death,” said Guillermo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS and founder of the Hispanic Health Network. “My belief is that if the time comes when we can’t bear the suffering that afflicted Miguel and so many of my friends who died of cancer, or AIDS, a merciful God will understand that we all should have the option to die peacefully.”

Restaurant Workers, Michelle Williams Team Up On Tipped Wages

An advocacy group pushing for a higher minimum wage for restaurant and service industry workers has teamed up with actress Michelle Williams that compares states that pay workers a unified minimum wage and those that don’t.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is exploring a potential end to the tipped wage, which would bring employees in restaurants and other service industry jobs to the state’s minimum wage, expected to grow to $15 in the coming years in the New York City area.

“The current broken two-tiered wage structure in New York puts women restaurant workers at the mercy of their customers and co-workers,” said Saru Jayaraman, President and Co-Founder of ROC United, and author of Behind the Kitchen Door: The People Who Make and Serve Your Food. “With just a small change in policy, Governor Cuomo can cut sexual harassment in half for a majority female workforce, without sacrificing economic growth. One fair wage is good for workers and good for business.”

The current minimum wage for restaurant workers is between $7.50 and $8.65 and tips are meant to bring them to the main wage of $10.40 or $13, depending on the area of the state.

Williams’s participation comes after it was revealed she was paid $1,000 for reshoots for a film while her co-star Mark Wahlberg earned $1.5 million.

PR BetterTipsBetterWages213 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Senate Moves State Primary To Sept. 13

The state Senate on approved a measure that moves state and local primaries two days in advance to Sept. 13, a Thursday, and off Sept. 11.

In addition to the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the state primary this year would also fall on the last day of Rosh Hashanah.

“We live in a great democracy where the right to vote is a privilege we don’t take lightly,” said Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who conferences with the Republicans in the chamber. “Today, we have done our part to guarantee all voters their right to vote. New Yorkers, who would find it impossible, or difficult to do both, will be able to observe the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, or the solemn day of 9/11, without concern.”

Support for moving the primary away from Sept. 11 has been historically bipartisan in Albany and the Democratic-led Assembly has previously approved a bill to move the date. The measure now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

“Changing this year’s primary date is absolutely necessary,” said Sen.. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat. “It is unjust to ask voters to choose between their civic duty and their observance of a sacred holiday. It is my responsibility to encourage and empower citizens to engage in our democratic process. Therefore, I will do everything in my power to remove any hindrance from participating in our elections.”

What has been a heavier lift for Albany is unifying the two primary dates for state and local elections and congressional races, the latter scheduled in June by a federal court order. Republicans have backed an August date for the primary, which Democratic lawmakers have rejected.

In Albany, Building Trades Members Push Wage Bill (Updated)

Members of the New York Building Trades on Tuesday lobbied in Albany to push for a bill that revises the definition of public work in order to give workers expanded wages and benefits.

In essence, the legislation would provide a prevailing wage to workers who are part of a greater range of projects.

The bill’s sponsors, Assemblyman Harry Bronson and Sen. Terrence Murphy, argue the measure is meant to clear up the definition of public works projects that have been “undermined” by judicial rulings.

“The New York State Constitution makes clear that it is the public policy of New York to pay the prevailing wage to those working on state financed construction projects, so as not to undermine the cost of local labor,” the bill memo states. “In spite of this policy, employees working on publicly financed projects are presently receiving the prevailing wage due to judicial opinions which have undermined the law’s original intent. This bill would remedy the present situation by adding a clear definition of ‘public work’ subject to this article.”

The bill is meant to create a “bright line test” for project definitions, including whether it is paid for in whole or part using public funding and if the construction is being done with a public entity leasing a portion of the space from the final development.

“Right now, the state’s taxpayers are being short-changed by economic development programs that ignore, and even undermine, the state’s construction workers,” said James Cahill, President of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council. “It’s time to define public work to make sure construction workers on projects financed by or subsidized by state resources receive fair wages and benefits.”

Updated: Business groups, however, disagree with the push for this bill.

The Rochester-based Unshackle Upstate in a report released late last year found the cost increases would hurt the state’s economy.

“Despite the unnecessary cost increases associated with the prevailing wage law, special interests in Albany are pushing for prevailing wage to be expanded to projects that are not entirely paid for with public funds. Such an expansion is not only bad for the overall health of New York State’s already sluggish economy, it would force many private construction companies out of business.

Members of the coalition stand ready to work with state policymakers and other interested parties to ensure New York is best positioned to meet its infrastructure needs, while at the same time protecting taxpayer dollars and limiting waste.”

Moody’s Sees Credit Positive For Cashless Tolling

From the Morning Memo:

The state Thruway Authority’s push to recoup some of its money lost through cashless tolling in an amnesty program is a credit positive, according to an analysis by Moody’s Investors Service.

The firm found the amnesty program would allow the state to recoup some of the $8 million in uncollected tolls, allowing users who cross the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge, known as the Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge, to waive fees for violations if unpaid tolls are settled by Feb. 26.

At the same time, once the cashless tolling program was in place, revenues on the new bridge rose to $80 million, a 9 percent increase, between April 2016 and September 2017, while traffic also grew by 2.5 percent.

Still, Moody’s expects an expansion of cashless tolling to create a challenge for the authority in the future.

The $8 million in uncollected toll revenue reflects 4 percent of revenues at the bridge since September.

“Uncollected tolls have the potential to become an even greater challenge as the cashless system is expanded across the authority’s entire 570-mile system by 2020,” the report found.

A Star Government Witness Now A Liability

From the Morning Memo:

Federal prosecutor Robert Boone has some sartorial concerns for Todd Howe, the star government witness in the corruption trial of Joe Percoco, the former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo facing bribery and fraud charges.

Specifically, Boone wants Howe “to continue to wear a suit for the remainder of his testimony” following his arrest on Friday after the one-time Albany consultant was found to have violated the condition of his plea agreement that he not break any laws.

Howe was found to have disputed a credit card charge for a hotel he stayed at earlier last year. The admission led to Howe’s arrest and could lead to him continuing his testimony this week in a prison jumpsuit and not business attire.

In the letter to Judge Valerie Caproni, Boone also asked that the jury be told why Howe was arrested.

“In an effort to avoid speculation by the jury as to why Mr. Howe is now incarcerated, we respectfully request that before cross examination resumes, the Court instruct the jury that Mr. Howe was remanded as a result of his bail being revoked,” he wrote.

The development comes as defense attorneys for both Percoco and his co-defendants have sought to undermine Howe’s credibility beyond credit card fraud.

Milt Williams, the former Moreland Commission official who is now representing developer Joseph Gerardi in the case took issue with emails produced by Howe that have apparently been altered. Williams wants the examples of these edited emails entered into evidence as an example of Howe’s “manipulation” to gain the trust of Gerardi and another developer facing charges, Steven Aiello.

“The government’s case hinges on Howe’s word,” he wrote. “These emails reveal that word to be worthless. Indeed, they demonstrate Howe’s commitment to distorting the truth in order to benefit himself for selfish gain.”

Bellone Urges Lawmakers To Back Shared Services Funding

From the Morning Memo:

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in a letter to be released Monday urged the top lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly to include funding for local government shared services efforts in their one-house budget resolutions.

Bellone praised the results of his county’s shared services push from last year and backed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed plan to spend $225 million in matching funds to help further the process through 2019 for municipalities.

“I respectfully request that you include this proposal in your respective SFY 2018-19 One-House budget proposals,” Bellone wrote in the letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flangan. 

“Over the long term, this will allow local governments to operate more efficiently through new inter-municipal partnerships from an outdated, ad-hoc approach into a modern government reform mechanism. It also provides the appropriate flexibility for local leaders to determine opportunities to share services without sacrificing their autonomy.”

The letter comes as lawmakers today will hold a hearing on shared services through the Senate Local Government Committee.

Cuomo last year renewed his emphasis on shared service programs as a means of reducing property taxes, though budget experts dispute that is a fix for high local levies.

Schneiderman Sues Weinstein Brothers, Company

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Sunday announced a lawsuit filed against the once-powerful Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, his brother Bob and the company the men founded.

The suit contends the company and its founders violated the civil rights and human rights of their employees and the state’s business laws. The legal action comes after Harvey Weinstein was accused by multiple women last year of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct.

Weinstein was forced out of the movie production company he founded, The Weinstein Company, which later was put up for sale. Schneiderman’s suit contends harassment victims should benefit from the company’s sale.

Schneiderman’s lawsuit argues the company itself failed to protect workers from a widespread culture of harassment and abuse.

At the same time, the suit also argues co-CEO Bob Weinstein failed to crate a safe workplace, as did the company’s human resources department.

The allegations detailed in the lawsuit outline relatively new public claims of alleged missteps by the company when it came to how it handled harassment claims that in turn fed a hostile work environment.

“As alleged in our complaint, The Weinstein Company repeatedly broke New York law by failing to protect its employees from pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“Any sale of The Weinstein Company must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched. Every New Yorker has a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, intimidation, and fear.”

Weinstein in New York has so far alluded legal repercussions based on the allegations he’s faced, which spurred a societal movement leading to other prominent men in the entertainment, media and in politics to face accusations of misbehavior and wrongdoing.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance declined to prosecute Weinstein last year after his office concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge him with sexual assault.

Vance faced criticism for the decision and it was later revealed an attorney for Weinstein contributed to the district attorney’s campaign days before the assault charges were waived. Vance insisted there was no correlation between the donation and the decision to not prosecute.

Restaurant Workers: Boost Pay To Combat Harassment

Rstaurant workers say a boost in their minimum wage will help combat the harassment they face in the workplace as Gov. Andrew Cuomo considers a pay boost for workers who make less than the minimum wage.

“Sexual harassment is standard practice in the restaurant industry where employers are willing to profit off women but won’t pay them a fair wage,” said Saru Jayaraman, President and Co-Founder of ROC United, and author of Behind the Kitchen Door: The People Who Make and Serve Your Food. “With just a small change in policy New York can make a big difference for a majority female workforce. Governor Cuomo can cut sexual harassment in half right now with one fair wage”

There has been a push underway to boost the pay of those who earn tipped wages as Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month announced plans to hold hearings on the elimination of the tipped worker wage. Under current law, tipped workers in the food service sector earn a minimum wage of $7.50 to $8.65. Tips from customers are their main source of getting them up to the legal minimum wage of at least $10.40 or $13 in downstate counties.

The hope is that if restaurant workers rely less on tips they will be less likely to have to put with misconduct by a customer.

Howe Arrested After Testimony In Percoco Case

Todd Howe, the key government witness in the corruption trial of Joe Percoco, has been arrested after it was revealed on the witness stand Thursday he may have broken the law after entering a plea agreement with the federal government.

Howe, during questioning by Percoco’s defense attorney, admitted that he had disputed a credit card charge for a hotel stay at the Waldorf Astoria when he in fact did stay at the hotel.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday morning Howe was in custody and a search of the federal inmate database shows that Howe is at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Howe, a consultant with longtime ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had been considered a major witness for the government’s case against Percoco and prominent upstate developers, who are accused of bid rigging and fraud.