Bernadette Hogan

Video Producer for Capital Tonight. Email: Twitter: @bern_hogan

Posts by Bernadette Hogan

Gov’s Budget Omits Male Contraception Coverage

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $175 billion budget plan does not include insurance coverage for male contraception, explicitly omitting language that would include condoms and vasectomies.

It’s one of the key differences from the legislature’s version, the Comprehensive Contraception Care Act, which offers equitable coverage.

“The legislature feels very strongly that contraception is a two way street, men and women, and of course, when you’re talking about condoms that’s a public health issue that protects women and men from sexually transmitted diseases,” said Sen. Liz Krueger Tuesday night in a Capital Tonight interview. She is a co-sponsor of the Legislature’s version of the contraception bill.

Both versions read: “All FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices, and other products. This includes all FDA-approved over-the-counter contraceptive drugs, devices, and products as prescribed or as otherwise authorized under state or federal law.”

But the Governor’s version immediately tacks on, “notwithstanding this paragraph, an insurer shall not be required to provide coverage of male condoms.”

The legislature’s bill allows “voluntary sterilization procedures,” where the executive proposal specifies solely “voluntary sterilization procedures for women.”

“We’re legislators. We need to read, we need to review, we need to make the decision whether we agree with something or we need to change it and we have the ability,” Krueger said. “Now, thanks to both houses being Democratic, to pass the kinds of bills we believe are literally in the best interests of New Yorkers.”

Both versions are congruent in covering up to 12 months of contraception, education and counseling services and follow up services.

Next week the state Senate is expected to pass the CCCA along with the Reproductive Health Act.

Protections for Journalists in 2019 Budget

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo included a proposal in his 2019 budget address drawing journalists into a protected fold.

It elevates the penalty for assaulting a journalist from a misdemeanor, to a class D felony offense.

“Reporters have a tough enough job as it and it is unacceptable and unconscionable that they increasingly have to endure the threat of physical harm for just for doing their jobs,” Cuomo said in a statement. “While the current federal administration is fostering an environment that normalizes and even encourages attacks on the press, New York is taking a stand. It is my hope that other states join us in enacting these protections into law once and for all.”

Cuomo cited the Trump Administration as the proposal’s root cause, noting an increased level of animosity towards reporters and chastising the President’s favored phrase “fake news” bestowed upon certain members of the media and outlets.

Former IDC Senator Hired by Ag & Markets

Former IDC Sen. David Valesky has been added to the payroll of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Valesky will act as a liaison to local governments, focusing on education and outreach, according to an Ag & Markets spokeswoman.

He is replacing Raquel Gonzalez, the now Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Civil Service.

In a statement, Ag & Markets Commissioner Richard Ball said:

“We are thrilled to welcome Dave, who as a former longtime member of the senate agriculture committee is a great addition to our team and will help advance the agency’s priorities throughout New York State especially given the national pressures on farms and producers. We always look for ways to connect New Yorkers with the great foods we grow and produce here in New York, and Dave brings valuable statewide experience and knowledge to the Department.”

Valesky served the 53rd Senate district until defeated in a Sept. 13th primary challenge by Sen. Rachel May.

He numbers one of the six unlucky former IDCers to lose their seat thanks to intense discontent with the breakaway Democratic conference.

The Senate Democratic Conference had no comment on Valeksy’s hiring.

As Deputy Commissioner, Valesky will rake in a salary numbering $127,000, a step up from $79,500, the former base pay for lawmakers–although according to SeeThroughNY, a fiscal tracking data site aligned with the Empire Center for Public Policy, the ex-Senator expensed reports since at least 2008 ranging from $9,000 to $34,000.

SeeThroughNY listed Department of Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Ball’s salary as $120,468 in 2017.

Valesky served as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and as a member of the Rural Resources Commission.

He was first elected to the state Senate in 2004, representing the 49th district from 2005 to 2014 before its consolidation.

Plastic Bag Ban ‘Nearly Perfect’

Catskill Mountainkeeper says Governor Cuomo’s plastic bag ban while “nearly perfect,” has potential to replace one problem with another.

The environmental nonprofit group is calling on the Governor to include language that would place a fee on other single-use bags.

In a statement Monday, Katherine Nadeau, Deputy Director at Catskill Mountainkeeper, said, “Plastic pollution poisons our environment. Governor Cuomo’s commitment to banning plastic bags and expanding the Bottle Bill puts our state on the path to protect wildlife and water quality while addressing an ongoing litter issue. But if New York bans single use plastic bags without putting a fee on other single use bags, we’d be bunting when we need a grand slam.”

The group notes the bulk of refuse collected in roadside cleanups is plastic.

On a similar note, they called the bottle bill expansion “spot-on.”

“While drink bottles without a five-cent deposit litter our roadways and hiking trails, we rarely find redeemable bottles. Applying the five-cent deposit to additional beverages will help prevent litter, and is exactly what the Catskills need. We applaud Governor Cuomo’s commitment to expanding our bottle redemption laws.”

The Governor will deliver his combined 2019 state of the state budget at 2p.m. later today.

Cuomo Adding Speed Camera Program to Budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he will reinstate and expand the New York City speed camera program in his 2019 executive budget, which will be unveiled tomorrow.

His plan includes increasing the amount of speed camera zones from 140 to 290 and placing “additional signage” in the designated areas.

The program lapsed last July following inaction in the state Senate – in part due to Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat who was caucusing with the Republican majority at the time, and wouldn’t support the legislation without language that would add police officers in NYC schools.

Other past key players on this issue were now-former Brooklyn Republican Sen. Marty Golden, and former Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt, a Rochester Democrat.

Cuomo finally addressed the legislative inaction by declaring a state of emergency in August, temporarily re-authorizing the program.

In his statement today, Cuomo wasn’t shy about placing the blame for the program’s failure on Republican shoulders – a not terribly difficult thing to do, given the fact that the Republicans are no longer in charge of anything at the state Capitol.

“After Senate Republicans shamefully refused to extend this life-saving program, I declared a State of Emergency before the start of the school year to temporarily keep the cameras operating,” the governor said.

“With this new proposal we will not only reinstate the program the way it should have been done in the first place – we will also expand the number of cameras to protect more children and prevent needless tragedies and heartbreak.”

The program, designed to record and enforce speeding violations near school zones, is operated and controlled by New York City. It was first signed into law in 2013.

Expanding Public Campaign Finance Laws

From the Morning Memo:

Election reform is a top contender on Democrats’ legislative priorities this session, particularly in the area of expanding public campaign finance laws.

At the state capitol Monday advocates and elected officials voiced how tough it can be for first time candidates to raise enough money to run.

Albany Common Council President Corey Ellis said that without bird in the hand corporate connections or independent wealth, it’s difficult to convince donors, and voters, you’re a winner.

“The worst thing you want to heard someone say is, ‘well you can’t win because you don’t have the money,'” Ellis said.

Assemblywoman Pat Fahy said when she first ran for her seat seven years ago, thoughts about financing the operation was nearly both the beginning and the end of her foray into public office.

“The very first night I made a couple of calls and they said 50 to 75 thousand dollars…I would’ve gone to bed that night saying, ‘that’s it I’m done,’ if they had said more,” she said.

In the end, her decision to run was made separate from the financial imposition burden, but, that burden is immense.

“Ultimately we did raise that money,” said Fahy, “and we raised it nickel by nickel.”

But critics, like state Sen. Cathy Young, say public financing of campaigns awards further credence to a corruption system.

“In New York City, the public financing of campaigns has become a cauldron of corruption,” said Young in a statement, naming lawmakers who have taken advantage of the program in the past, such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and citing the Campaign Finance Board as chief perpetrator.

Not to mention, she argues, the price tag is too hefty for taxpayers.

“Currently, New York State is projected to have a $500 million budget deficit in the forthcoming fiscal year. Modeled after New York City’s public financing system, legislation passed by the State Assembly and sponsored by Democrats in the State Senate would cost taxpayers more than $200 million.”

Young is the ranking Republican on both the Senate Election’s and Ethics Committees and said she will utilize the committee review process, “to raise awareness and marshall public opposition to the Democrats’ plan.”

NYC Councilman Encourages 2020 Census Participation

From the Morning Memo:

Please participate in the 2020 census — even if you’re an undocumented immigrant, implores New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez in a statement Wednesday.

“New Yorkers and especially undocumented residents should not be afraid to participate in the 2020 Census,” Rodriguez said.

The data collected is vital to shaping future undertakings in the Big Apple, including: budget funding, resource allocation, emergency preparations, and gauging population growth and or decline, he said.

Rodriguez, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. in his teens, says those worried about a citizenship question included in the census have no reason to fear.

But anxiety over arrest, separation and even deportation exists for those whose friends and family members have undetermined citizenship statuses, or are undocumented themselves.

It’s also a response to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s appointment of Julie Menin, currently the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, as the City’s new director of the Census.

“Ms. Menin’s staff should reflect the diversity of our great City of New York and the 2020 Census outreach needs to be provided in the appropriate language for a neighborhood and/or resident. The information distribution needs to be disseminated widely so that it is accessible to all residents.”

Anxiety over the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 census has tensed.

“It is essential that we ensure that all residents, regardless of immigration status, know their rights when participating in this historic survey that leads to better services for all New Yorkers,” Rodriguez said.

Should the question remain on the population count, speculation over inaccurate results or even an undercount looms.

Big Apple’s Economic Future Looks Strong…ish

From the Morning Memo:

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli gives a big thumbs up to the Big Apple’s economy, albeit, erring on the side of caution.

In a report Wednesday, the comptroller’s office says the city is slated to end 2018 with an additional 72,000 jobs, a positive streak predicted to carry through the new year.

In 2017 alone, the city reached a record employment of 4.4 million, noting between 2009 and 2017, 715,000 jobs were added, an achievement dubbed the “largest and longest job expansion since World War II.”

October’s monthly unemployment rate hit 4 percent, a figure unmet in 42 years.

DiNapoli’s report says it’s all thanks to consumer confidence, steady tourism, rising property values and growing Wall Street profits.

“New York City’s economy is strong and continues to set new records,” DiNapoli said.

Despite growth, there’s worry over instability in the stock market reflected over the past several months.

The city also faces “significant budget gaps and risks in the coming years.”

Fiscal strain from agreements with labor unions made after the budget was adopted in June 2018 are a noted challenge, but not a permanent or unexpected obstacle.

“While the FY 2019 budget surplus is likely to grow, city officials will need to consider additional actions to narrow the budget gaps projected for fiscal years 2020 through 2022,” DiNapoli said.

“In addition, the city faces the prospects of future risks, which could make balancing the budget more difficult. While the economy is still strong, it appears more vulnerable than in recent years.”

The report exposes broad view tender spots, like the slowing global economy and pressure from federal trade agreements that would throw a wrench in the balancing the books. Also laying in wait are New York City-centric caveats, such as low pension fund earnings and an increasingly dependent NYCHA and Health and Hospitals Corp. that could call for a boost in city contributions.

Then there’s the white elephant in the room: the crumbling Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Wednesday morning on WAMC Radio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged the wearisome task, even going so far as to admit a want to wipe hands clean of the transportation infrastructure burden.

It’s a problem that’s getting more expensive by the day.

July 2018 data determines the 2020 budget gap doubled to $510 million, and upped to $991 million by 2022.

“These estimates already assume fare and toll increases of 4 percent in 2019 and 2021.”

To read the full report, click here.

Pay Raises: ‘Let New Yorkers Have A Say’

Dissatisfaction with legislative pay raises is trending among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Hudson Valley state Sen. Sue Serino introduced a bill that would require voters to have a say in approving the pay commission’s recommendations.

“With New York politicians poised to become the highest paid in the nation, New Yorkers themselves deserve a say in the process, it’s that simple,” Serino said.

She voted against the pay commission’s creation in the 2018 state budget.

“Many public servants work tirelessly on behalf of their constituents, and their salaries should reflect that commitment and dedication, however, lawmakers’ salaries are paid for by the hardworking taxpayers of this state, and they are the ones who should decide whether a raise is warranted,” Serino said. “This bill would ensure that their voices are heard loud and clear.”

Should the commission’s recommendations be solidified into law come January 1st, Sen. Serino would have to decide whether she wants to retain her post, or give up involvement in her Dutchess County based real estate company.

The commission’s recommendations included boosting salaries for members of the state legislature, executive chamber and commissioners, also, capping outside income to 15 percent of salaries and a severely denuded stipend system.

The bill was introduced on December 14th, and is currently in the Senate Rules Committee.

Responding to Schoharie Limo Crash, Bill Tightens Safety Regulations

New legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would change the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s requirements for retrofitted limousines.

Current law allows more lenient safety requirements for re-sold vehicles when compared to vehicles sold as new. Requirements for seat belts or exit areas are different, especially as some limousines purchased second hand may become altered or expanded to combat capacity limitations.

The bill is a direct response to October’s fatal limousine crash in Schoharie County along Route 30A that claimed 20 lives.

It has been recorded as the U.S.’s most deadly transportation accident within the past nine years.

The passengers were traveling in a rented, modified 2001 Ford Excursion. It had failed inspection barely a month prior.

By Republican Reps. John Faso and Elise Stefanik and Democratic Rep. John Faso introduced the legislation.

“NHTSA regulations are in place for a reason,” Faso said.

“Each time a new vehicle is sold, it must undergo a thorough safety examination. However, if the vehicle is substantively modified to add more seating, it is not subject to the same safety checks. It’s vital that vehicles which are significantly modified undergo a strict amount of scrutiny. The recent tragedy in Schoharie County which took the lives of 20 people must move the Congress to close this loophole and enact stricter rules on modified vehicles. While there were certainly other factors surrounding this crash which are the subject to federal and state investigation, as well as a criminal prosecution, making sure modified vehicles are safer is a critical step.”

Nauman Hussein, operator and son of Prestige Limousine owner Shahed Hussain, faces criminally negligent homicide charges and will be prosecuted by the Schoharie County DA.

A lawsuit has been filed against Prestige Limousine’s owners by the family of victim Amanda Rivenburg.

Today, the lawyer representing Rivenburg’s family announced the family intends to file a lawsuit against the State of New York on grounds of negligence.

The incident remains under investigation by both state and federal authorities.