Nick Reisman

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Disability Rights Group Opposes Opioid Tax

From the Morning Memo:

The non-profit Center for Disability Rights this week became the latest group to oppose a planned tax on prescription opioids, writing in a letter to top lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly that the proposal would pass further cost increases onto patients and physicians.

The tax, which is estimated to generate $100 million, is a revisal of a previous plan that had been struck down in court.

“Our organization is perhaps most concerned with the provision in Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal that would explicitly allow the healthcare industry to pass added costs onto patients and providers,” wrote the organization’s policy analyst, Kathryn Carroll in the letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“Disabled people already face much higher rates of poverty than the nondisabled population, and so we already struggle to pay for our prescriptions and other healthcare costs. The disabled community in New York does not deserve to see our healthcare costs rise any further than they already have in recent years. Sadly, this will be the reality if the Governor’s proposal is passed into law.”

The surcharge is meant to combat heroin and opioid addiction in the state.

In the letter, Carroll wrote the Center for Disability Rights backs efforts to combat addiction.

“However, to do so at the expense of affordable healthcare is unacceptable,” the letter states.

The letter comes with less than two weeks to go until the state’s $175 billion spending plan is due at the end of the month.

A variety of groups — both advocacy and health care-based — have opposed the tax increase, including the Home Care Association of New York State, Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, Community Pharmacy Association of New York State as well as the Business Council of New York State, Unshackle Upstate and NFIB. Albany.

Center for Disability Rights Opioid Tax Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Here And Now

Good morning! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and has nothing planned publicly.

At 9 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will rally for Gov. Cuomo’s tax plan fairness plan, SUNY Oswego Metro Center, 2 S Clinton Street, Syracuse.

At 9:30 a.m., County Comptrollers and Treasurers from across the state, members of the New York State Association of Counties, and numerous other officials from municipal governments will be holding a joint press conference to ask for the Reinstatement of Assistance and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding to the 2019-2020 Executive Budget. LOB Room 130 at the State Capitol.

At 10 a.m., Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and CSEA members will announce a Peer Trainer Program agreement, Albany City Hall, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks, Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard St., Room 103B. New York City.

At 11 a.m., Sen. Anna Kaplan will sponsor a resolution honoring Persian New Year and will host a reception immediately following session.

At 11:15 a.m., Hochul will hold another rally for Cuomo’s tax fairness plan, Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St., Watertown.

At 11:30 a.m., The Alliance for Quality Education will join Senator Robert Jackson for a press conference Wednesday to present the findings of a statewide school Equity Tour. Over recent weeks, Senator Jackson and AQE toured schools across 10 schools districts statewide, including 15 schools in New York City, to document the impact of school funding inequities on students. 3rd floor of the State Capitol outside the Minority Senate Chambers & LCA hallway.

At 11:45 a.m., professional drivers will make their second caravan up to Albany to call on Governor Cuomo and the legislature to exempt yellow and green taxis from the devastating congestion surcharge and hold a press conference, Senate chambers, third floor, Capitol, Albany.

At noon, advocates from throughout New York State will converge on Albany to call on the Governor and Legislature to address the overwhelming need for additional resources to promote and support recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions in New York and hold a press conference at the Great Western Staircase. State Capitol, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., State lawmakers and advocacy groups will gather to demand publicly financed elections and discuss their plans to implement it in New York State. LOB LCA Press Room, Albany.

At 1 p.m., lawmakers will hold a public hearing on the implementation of publicly financed campaigns, Hearing Room A, LOB.

Also at 1 p.m., Councilman Francisco Moya, the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the NYPD’s 110 and 115 Precincts have partnered up to host a Graffiti Cleanup Day in Queens. 37-59 94th St. Jackson Heights, Queens.

At 2 p.m., Sen. George Amedore, local elected officials and business leaders from Montgomery County to call for a state investment to help CDTA expand public transit services into Montgomery County, Room 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

Also at 2 p.m., Hochul will rally for Cuomo’s tax fairness plan, Oswego City Hall, 13 W. Oneida St., Oswego.

At 6:30 p.m., de Blasio will host a parent leader forum, PS 153, Adam Clayton Powell School, 1750 Amsterdam Ave., New York City.

Headlines:

Former Vice President Joe Biden has signaled to supporters he will soon launch his bid for the presidency and needs large donations in order to catch up with small contributions to rival campaigns.

The FAA’s approval of a Boeing jet involved in two separate crashes is now coming under worldwide scrutiny after the plans were grounded by regulators.

President Trump continued to criticize the late Sen. John McCain, saying he would “never be a fan” of the lawmaker who had been deeply critical of him.

The United States will soon halt detaining some migrant families at the border in order to stem some overcrowding at facilities.

Thousands of members of the health care union 1199 SEIU protested cuts at a rally in Albany to the Medicaid program that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration signaled it would reverse in the budget talks.

Former Gov. David Paterson was back in Albany on Tuesday to push for a New York City casino built by Sands in Las Vegas. Sands is one of several casino operators trying to speed up a timetable for casino gaming in the five boroughs, which is currently not set to begin until 2023.

A bill that would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to the full minimum wage is being pushed for in the final budget agreement by restaurant workers and state lawmakers who back the legislation.

It’s an internal struggle that was thrusted into a very public spotlight. Members of the Syracuse Police Department find themselves at odds with their chief. They put those odds in public view during Saturday’s Saint Patrick’s Parade when only a handful of officers marched while dozens of others boycotted.

The vigil was organized by the dean– chaplains and staff of Hendricks Chapel and the Muslim Student Association. It was held so that students could grieve together and in a place of peace following the attacks.

It’s called the European Travel Authorization System (E.T.I.A.S.), a new program the European Nation will be implementing in 2021. It will be screening for additional security measures on everyone entering and exiting the countries.

The Herkimer County Village of Poland is looking for a new mayor, and it’s anyone’s guess who will be the next leader — no one actually ran for the job.

More than 300 jobs in the Rochester City School District could be cut if the proposed 2019-2020 budget is passed.

The Rochester City Council held a discussion about a proposed police accountability board Tuesday evening, drawing a full house of both supporters and detractors.

A group of Xerox employees are “re-badging,” and being transferred to another company’s workforce after it signed into a $1.3 billion shared services agreement with HCL Technologies.

Next time you get takeout in Buffalo, it may not come in a plastic foam container. Buffalo Common Council members are considering a ban on the material.

The state Senate and Assembly passed a measure Tuesday expanding the use of speed cameras in New York City school zones. The legislation also creates a pilot program for cameras in up to 20 school zones across the city of Buffalo.

Lawmakers also expanded the program in New York City to include 750 speed camera zones.

A City Hall briefing on the troubled Thrive NYC plan raised more questions than it did answers on Tuesday.

Gov. Cuomo said at a news conference he would support a measure banning serial sexual assaulters from riding mass transit in New York City.

Cuomo said he would support scaling back a $420 million film tax credit program in order to shore up spending in the state budget.

State officials are urging Capital Region residents to report any seal sightings in the Hudson River after one was seen earlier this month.

Cuomo on Tuesday once again slammed President Trump for failing to provide funding for the Gateway Tunnel, blaming him if a disaster on Hudson rail tunnels occurs.

State lawmakers are pushing for campaign finance reform, but the spigot of fundraisers during budget season has not stopped at the capital, with one night playing host to nine fundraisers all within walking distance of each other.

From Mary Poppins to Home Alone 2, feeding pigeons in parks is an iconic activity. And now a group of demonstrators is urging New York City officials to let them keep doing it.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara rubbed shoulders with celebrities to celebrate the launch of his book.

Legislature Passes Speed Camera Measures

The Democratic-led Legislature on Tuesday approved measures designed to expand speed cameras in New York City and create a pilot program in Buffalo.

One bill would expand speed cameras to 750 school zones in New York City, operating from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.

New York City officials are required to install signs providing notice that a speed camera is in use.

The measure builds on a 2013 law that created a program with a five-year sunset for 20 school zones.

Lawmakers also approved legislation that would create a pilot program for Buffalo modeled in part after the New York City program. The city of Buffalo would be authorized to install cameras in 20 school zones.

“The safety of children and students is one of our top priorities,” Speaker Carl Heastie said. “We saw from New York City’s demonstration program that speed cameras in school zones dramatically decrease the number of infractions, preventing deadly accidents. I’m glad that this year we could work together with our Senate colleagues to pass legislation that will help save the lives of schoolchildren and other pedestrians.”

The issue was an especially acute one for Brooklyn, where advocates had pushed lawmakers for several years to expand the camera program.

“No parent, senior, or pedestrian of any age should live in fear of crossing the street because of speeding traffic. This program slows traffic and saves lives,” said Brooklyn Sen. Andrew Gounardes. “Plain and simple. The numbers are indisputable and speak for themselves: 63 percent reduction in speeding traffic and 14 percent in traffic injuries. We know that speed is determinant of the severity of an injury received in a crash. I’ll never apologize for prioritizing the safety of millions of pedestrians over the issuance of tickets to reckless drivers.”

Cuomo Muses About Rolling Back Film Tax Credit

What’s good for Amazon is also good for Hollywood?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference said he would be supportive of rolling back the state’s $420 million film tax credit it could bolster education and health care spending.

“If it’s between film tax credit and Medicaid, I would say film tax credit,” Cuomo said. “If it’s between film tax credit and education, I would say film tax credit.”

Cuomo also mused about the possibility of the Democratic-led Senate supporting a cut to the tax credit program as well, which has led to a flood of movies and TV shows being filmed in New York in recent years.

There’s also some clear subtext: Cuomo has blamed the state Senate for the failed Amazon project in Queens, which would have linked $3 billion in tax incentives to up to 25,000 jobs in Long Island City.

The district of Sen. Mike Gianaris, a prominent critic of the deal, includes Silvercup Studios in Queens.

“The Senate is against tax credits, right? If they need to find funding, I wouldn’t be surprised if they propose cutting the film tax credit,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo has criticized the legislative budget resolutions for spending too much and not balancing out with new revenue.

“If the Senate could use that to close their gap, it’s something I would be open to because these are hard choices,” Cuomo said. “I can see them being wholly consistent and saying I would be the film tax credit, because that’s the exact same point.”

Cuomo Throws Cold Water On NYC Casino

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference Tuesday said he was skeptical of a push by casino operators to expand into New York City, suggesting the revenue numbers projected by the companies were overly rosy.

At the same time, Cuomo said the casino expansion downstate would still hurt the four upstate casinos that were given exclusivity rights until 2023.

“Long term you’re still hurting the competitiveness of the upstate casinos because this was always the point: We wanted the person driving from Queens upstate if they wanted to go to a casino,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Mujica, last week also cast doubt on the possibility of expanding casinos in New York City ahead of the 2023 timetable, saying the revenue would not necessarily aid the state immediately.

MGM and Genting currently operate racinos in Yonkers and in Queens. Sands wants to build a casino in one of the five boroughs, promising construction jobs along with it.

Stewart-Cousins Says She’s Open To New Sexual Harassment Hearings

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Tuesday said she was supportive of holding more hearings on sexual harassment as backed by lawmakers and advocates.

“There is some concern that the voices of some folks upstate, some groups that have actually been successful in combating sexual harassment have not been heard, so I’m certainly open to that,” she said.

Stewart-Cousins is the latest lawmaker to be open to more hearings. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said he was similarly supportive of doing so, as are lawmakers who led the February hearing.

A group of advocates who are victims and survivors of sexual misconduct in Albany have called for more hearings, including one in Albany and another in New York City.

Lawmakers are assessing a wider range of legislation to combat sexual harassment and assault and want to review how the issue effects workers in variety of industries.

Former Governor Paterson, Now With Sands, Touts Downstate Casino

As gambling interests seek to accelerate the end of upstate exclusivity to pave the way for a New York City casino, former Gov. David Paterson is the public face of the effort backed by the Las Vegas-based Sands to enter the market.

“I think as long as the government has the power to do it, which it does, I think it would be an incredible idea,” Paterson said in an interview at the state Capitol.

MGM, which operates the Empire City racino in Yonkers and Genting, the owners of the Aqueduct racino in Queens, are also pushing state officials to accelerate the time table for issuing downstate casino licenses, which currently cannot be approved until 2023.

MGM and Aqueduct are both operating pre-existing gambling halls with slot machines; a casino license would enable them to start table-top gaming.

Sands, owned by prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, has assembled an advisory panel led by Paterson and prominent New Yorkers. Paterson served as governor from 2008 through 2010.

Sands has argued for an “open process” — a phrase echoed by Paterson, who framed the issue has one that would generate not just casino jobs, but also construction work. He estimated the construction of a new casino in New York City would create between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs.

“The process being opened up to all different types of parties would be a chance for them to compete,” Paterson said.

There are four upstate casinos at the moment. The governor’s top budget aide this month cast doubt on whether a casino license acceleration can move forward given the exclusivity fees that would have to be paid out to the upstate operators.

Paterson, however, said there is an opportunity for upstate casinos with “revenue sharing, licenses being deferred in cost, annd obviously that the communities around those facilities share in the wealth of any benefits the come from the revenue generated by the casino.”

The former governor isn’t lobbying the Legislature and state lawmakers directly on the issue.

“I’m not speaking with one of them,” Paterson said. “I’m not a lobbyist, and I never wanted to be. So for the first time, I’m running away from the lawmakers and right to the media.”

32BJ SEIU Endorses Katz For DA

The labor union 32BJ SEIU on Tuesday endorsed Queens district attorney candidate Melinda Katz in the Democratic primary for the open office.

“32BJ has done a fantastic job standing up for workers across the country,” said Katz, the Queens borough president. “Their fights to raise the minimum wage, protect immigrants from ICE, and win better working conditions have made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. The Queens District Attorney should be an ally to working people in these fights, and I’m proud to have 32BJ’s support. As DA, I’ll hold employers accountable for wage theft and unsafe working conditions, and do everything in my power to protect immigrant workers from the Trump administration’s xenophobic policies.”

Katz faces Councilman Rory Lancman and Judge Greg Lasak in the primary.

“32BJ is proud to join the diverse base of local elected officials, other labor unions, and community groups throughout Queens in our endorsement of Melinda Katz in her campaign for District Attorney,” said union president Hector Figueroa.

“Not only does Borough President Katz deeply understand the kinds of economic and safety risks workers across Queens face every day, she has made workers’ rights a key part of her campaign and created a detailed agenda to get justice for these workers as District Attorney. Her plan to protect Queens residents from wage theft, unsafe workplaces, and hostile work environments will make New York a better, safer place for working families.”

Lawmakers, Workers Push For Higher Tipped Worker Wage

A bill that would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to the full minimum wage is being pushed for in the final budget agreement by restaurant workers and state lawmakers who back the legislation.

“The food service industry employs the largest number of women workers earning below the minimum wage, workers who must rely on the whim of consumers rather than their own employers to be paid a living wage and support their families, fostering an environment that encourages racism, sexual harassment, and high poverty rates,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee.

“The seven states that already require tipped workers be paid the full minimum wage have flourishing restaurant industries. It’s time for New York to get on board and eliminate this shameful economic injustice.”

The bill is being sought more than a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the Department of Labor to study the effect of ending the so-called subminimum wage, which has been eliminated in seven states, including California.

“All New Yorkers deserve fair compensation regardless of their occupation. This includes tipped workers who are central to New York’s economy yet aren’t afforded the security of a stable paycheck. Allowing for one fair wage will permit these workers a full paycheck for a full day’s work,” said Assemblyman David Weprin, a Queens Democrat. “I want to thank Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee for advocating for this important topic and working to ensure that all New Yorkers are paid a fair wage.”

The move would aid workers in an industry that is predominantly composed of people of color and immigrants as well as single mothers.

Former Prosecutors Back Discovery Law Changes

More than 100 former prosecutors have signed a letter that backs changes to evidence discovery procedures in New York courts.

The measure, backed by Sen. Jamaal Bailey, is one of a trio of major criminal justice law changes lawmakers and advocates are seeking, including ending cash bail for many non-violent charges as well as speedy trial changes.

“We became prosecutors to help society hold people accountable for crimes that were committed,” the letter, released by Citizen Action, states.

“We took seriously our personal responsibility in that position to assure due process and fairness as core principles embedded in the United States Constitution. While we operated within a legal structure that did not require us to immediately provide important information, like police reports and technical evidence, to the accused or their attorneys, we know that this is unfair. A fundamentally fair criminal process must be balanced.”

The proposal would enable criminal defense attorneys the ability to review evidence earlier in a case before the trial begins.

Former prosecutors signing onto the letter included those who have worked in Dutchess, New York, Bronx, Kings, Richmond, Ulster, Albany, Erie, Rockland, Broome, Queens, Nassau and Monroe counties, as well the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of North Carolina, and Harris County, Texas.