Bernadette Hogan

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

Posts by Bernadette Hogan

Local Governments Concerned Over Legalized Marijuana

From the Morning Memo:

A new report from the New York State Association of Counties lays out concerns local governments have with legalizing adult use marijuana too hastily.

Although the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act includes an opt out clause for localities unwilling to participate in the sale of marijuana (they can pass local laws or a resolution negating it) NYSAC says their scope of unease extends further.

“There are many facets of the Governor’s plan, and county officials are exploring the entire proposal. There is industrial hemp, CBD oils for therapeutic applications, and the adult use of marijuana,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario. “Our current public health efforts combating tobacco use will double when we are talking about cannabis, including educational campaigns and cessation programs.”

The group says potential impact on public health and safety, economic development and criminal justice must be recognized, and the public educated on these changes.

They cite the Department of Health’s 2018 report commissioned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommending legalization that also acknowledged an inevitable increase in responsibility for law enforcement and municipalities.

Other organizations like the Mental Health Association in New York Inc. have argued more scientific research is needed before a green light is given, as mental health impacts are no light matter, especially as the brain is continually developing until one’s mid-twenties.

NYSAC held a panel last week which also went over future farming and development plans for cannabis, such as hemp or medical cannabis production.

There’s been mixed reviews whether or not the legislation will be dealt within the budget process, as Cuomo himself has mentioned, April 1 is a long way away yet.

NY, Catholic Charities Offer Free Legal Aid To Immigrants

Catholic Charities is formally launching a volunteer based program that offers free legal services to immigrants across New York State.

It’s funded by the state’s Liberty Defense Project, a public private partnership initiative billed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a pushback on the federal government’s immigration policies and the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement, ICE.

Thus far, 105 cases have been placed with volunteer attorneys who, through the program, are trained to handle cases involving undocumented immigrants and refugees.

Services include support for asylum seekers fleeing violence in home countries, unaccompanied minors and family reunification.

State Cracks Down On Fake IDs

Bar school attendees beware.

The state last year seized 892 fake identifications last year, an increase from 814 in 2017 in a crackdown on underage alcohol consumption and possession of false identification. More than 900 people were ticketed for fake IDs or using someone else’s identification card.

DMV investigators are using new technology to process tickets faster, and the State Liquor Authority issued nearly 1,100 penalties to licensed retailers. Attendance by owners and staff in the SLA’s free Alcohol Training Awareness Program is up 20 percent since 2017.

“It goes without saying that New York State has absolutely zero tolerance for underage drinking, and last year’s record number of fake ID seizures demonstrates once again that we are deadly serious about tackling this issue,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Underage drinking often leads to avoidable tragedies, and we will continue these successful enforcement measures to crack down on illegal behavior and ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.”

In a region by region comparison, western New York topped the charts with 335 fake IDs confiscated, compared to just two in the North Country. Western New York also led in related arrests at 394.

Nixon, Advocates: Cuomo’s Education Funding is Stingy

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s one time primary challenger Cynthia Nixon blames him for inequities in the state education system.

“Every year, Andrew Cuomo and the Senate Republicans stood in the way and opposed the funding for our schools,” said Nixon Tuesday at the state Capitol.

She was flanked by education activists and progressive lawmakers who argue over $4 billion in direct aid is owed to school districts around the state.

Lawmakers like Sen. Robert Jackson, one of the original plaintiffs in the now settled Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that established the Foundation Aid formula, say without the funding, a divided system perpetuates the broadening gap between wealthier, white children and poorer, minority students.

Nixon, billed as a spokeswoman for the progressive Alliance for Quality Education, says the extra $338 million included in the state budget is pennies compared to the $1.66 billion increase in Foundation Aid requested by AQE and the State Board of Regents–not to mention, a three year phase in period.

“The governor’s refusal to address educational inequity has had devastating circumstances. New York schools are the second most unequal in the entire country and New York schools are the single most segregated system in the entire country.”

Cuomo has pointed to weaknesses in district level funding, arguing there’s an issue with how wealthier districts distribute dollars to poorer schools. But his counterparts contend that method is all wrong, and the state, not local districts, is at fault for not providing enough funding.

A spokesman from the Governor’s Office pointed to Cuomo’s thoughts on the matter expressed last week in a WAMC radio interview where the Governor essentially expressed a tough love attitude imploring advocates to be thankful for what they have.

“When you advocate for your agenda that’s what you should do,” Cuomo said last week.

“The job of government is then balancing those needs. Education, we spend more than any state in the United States, double the national average. ‘Well, we want more.’t I know, but it’s double the national average.”

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.”