Nick Reisman

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Lawmakers Want To Curb License Suspensions For Unpaid Fines

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers in Syracuse and Buffalo on Tuesday participated in a national push to limit the suspension of driver’s licenses due to unpaid fines, criticizing the punishment for disproportionately affecting poor people of color.

A national group, the Driven by Justice Coalition, found that over more than two years, New York issued 1.6 million suspensions due to debt. Those suspensions were nine times higher in the 100 poorest communities, and in upstate New York, suspensions were four times as high where people of color live.

“As the data shows, debt-related driver’s license suspensions are drastically higher among low-income communities and especially low-income people of color,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter, a Democrat who represents Syracuse.

“As the representative of one of the most economically disadvantaged communities of color in the country, it is imperative that the driver’s license suspension process is sensibly reformed as soon as possible.”

The proposal to reform the debt collection has the backing of Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tim Kennedy. The move would create an income-based payment plan and make it easier for the fees to be paid, Kennedy said.

“This bill isn’t removing an obligation to pay a fine or fee; it’s simply making it more accessible for drivers to pay down any incurred debt responsibly and realistically, and removing a barrier that currently punishes New Yorkers for being poor,” said Kennedy, a Buffao Democrat.

“Through this bill, we’re not only lifting the suspensions tied to unpaid traffic fines, but we’re creating a system for New Yorkers to pay these fees efficiently and without fear of losing a job, missing a rent payment or forfeiting an education due to personal and financial challenges.”

Several other states have passed similar bills in recent years.

Here And Now

Good morning —

Today is the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Take some time today to pause and reflect and thank the first responders who put themselves in harm’s way for the rest of us.

Happening today:

There are numerous Sept. 11 observances today, and this won’t be an exhaustive list.

At 7:30 a.m., riders will depart Albany for a motorcycle memorial ride, New York State Museum, 222 Madison Ave., Albany.

Also at 7:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will deliver remarks at the town of Hempstead’s Sept. 11 memorial service. Town Park Point Lookout. 1300 Lido Blvd., Lido Beach.

At 8:30 a.m., state and New York City officials, including Gov. Cuomo, will attend the Sept. 11 Commemoration Ceremony.

At 10 a.m., riders depart from the Modena Travel Plaza, Milepost 66 Southbound. Modena.

Also at 10 a.m., Hochul will deliver remarks at the Jones Beach Sept. 11 memorial motorcycle ride, 895 Bay Parkway, Wantagh.

At 12:30 p.m., Gov. Cuomo will deliver remarks at the Sept. 11 memorial ride lunch and ceremony, Jacob Javits Center, 655 W. 34 St. New York City.

At 2 p.m. Hochul will deliver remarks at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s annual remembrance ceremony, St. Peter’s Church, 22 Barclay St., New York City.

At 6:30 p.m., Hochul and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend the Staten Island Sept. 11 memorial ceremony. St. George Esplanade, 300 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island.

Headlines:

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will use his considerable fortune to fight flavored e-cigarettes and vaping amid public health concerns over their use.

Gov. Cuomo at a news conference called out the MTA over the need to address quality-of-life issues for commuters, including basic physical protections.

The MTA is set to roll out the first M9 train on the Long Island Rail Road today.

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants a crackdown on the costumed actors in Times Square after one was alleged to have groped a child.

Pensioners at the former St. Clare’s Hospital have filed a lawsuit after the fund dried up.

A new bill would extend health benefits to sanitation workers who were affected by 9/11-related illnesses, and have not been previously be eligible.

The kids born to widows of the terrorist attacks are now in their late teens, about to enter adulthood.

Ongoing leaks at the Oculus will prevent it from being opened during a 9/11 tribute, the Port Authority said.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday her office had filed a motion to block President Donald Trump’s administration from a rule change that would deny green cards and visas to immigrants who are seeking social services and other welfare programs.

A video by the Rockland County Republicans widely decried as anti-Semitic will be back up soon, GOP officials said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said at a hearing she made a payment on her student loans while on the dais, bringing the balance below $20,000.

The Cuomo administration on Tuesday announced plans to file a sweeping $2 billion lawsuit against opioid makers, distributors and pharmacy benefit managers.

The lawyer of a rape survivor being investigated by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics pushed back against the agency’s pursuit of the case and criticized the panel at a meeting.

The commission on public financing held its first public meeting in Manhattan on Tuesday to consider not only getting big money out of politics, but whether to also eliminate fusion voting, which allows candidates to run on multiple party lines.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy is trying a new tactic to combat guns: Going after banks and retailers.

What happens when students get to hit the snooze button and start class later in the day? The New York City Education Department and the City Council want to find out.

Being a repo man can be hazardous, but it landed Jose Rodriguez in jail, after he tried to repossess an NYPD detective’s car in May.

New York officials are going to take another run at a comprehensive gambling and gaming review, a study that could determine the outcome of new legislation shaping the industry.

As the school year begins, there’s a shortage of bus drivers in the Amsterdam school district, putting trips to and from school in doubt for kids.

Protestors were on the march in downtown Syracuse Tuesday, demanding local representatives vote to defund hate. Demonstrators added their voices to the immigration debate.

The Monroe County Legislature on Tuesday unanimously passed a new law that looks to secure restaurant grease traps after a toddler’s tragic death in July.

On Tuesday, a member of the New York City Board of Correction, the panel overseeing New York City’s jails, alleged the department was using inmates to search human waste for contraband.

With court cases settled, there will be a Republican and Democratic candidate on the ballot for Oneida County Executive.

A Clifton Park-based payroll company that folded and left businesses across the country in the lurch insists it’s the victim in the story.

Meet the new chief, same as the current chief. The man leading the Ithaca Police Department for the last three months will soon take on the role, permanently.

The City of Buffalo’s newly revised tax foreclosure process is drawing criticism from Erie County leaders who would no longer get their piece of the pie.

Under current New York state law, a driver could lose his or her license for failing to pay the fees associated with traffic or parking tickets. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tim Kennedy wants to change that.

A sign of progress Tuesday as doctors, nurses and administrators at the Erie County Medical Center signed a steel beam, completing the outside structure of what will soon be a brand new emergency and trauma department.

After asking the community what it wants in the former YMCA space in Poughkeepsie, four proposals have been submitted.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick are heading back to Broadway.

In national news:

Voters in North Carolina took to the polls Tuesday in several races, with Republican Dan Bishop narrowly winning an open seat in the House of Representatives.

Bishop’s victory doesn’t reflect the weakened position for Republicans heading into 2020, including among suburban voters.

President Trump fired his national security advisor, John Bolton, who disputed the White House’s version of what happened.

Bolton was the president’s third national security advisor, and had been deeply at odds with him over foreign policy.

For the first time in a decade, the number of Americans without health insurance is on the rise.

A bill expanding labor rights for “independent contractors” was approved in California — a measure in response to the rise of “gig economy” businesses like Uber and Lyft.

From the editorial pages:

The Daily News reflects on how to observe the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Times Union writes preparations need to be made now to aid the homeless of Saratoga Springs as winter approaches.

Newsday says Congress should investigate reports of how President Trump’s businesses are profiting from his presidency.

From the sports pages:

The Yankees belted six home runs in a single game, but still lost to the lowly Detroit Tigers.

Antonio Brown, a volatile wide receiver recently added to the New England Patriots, has been accused of rape in a federal lawsuit.

Cuomo Says He Won’t Tell Public Financing Commission What To Do

The commission determining the future of the state’s election and campaign finance laws will produce independent decisions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters in New York City on Tuesday.

“I’m not going to tell the commission what to do,” Cuomo said.

The commission, which held its first public hearing in Manhattan today, was created by lawmakers and Cuomo to develop the specifics of a system of publicly financed campaigns. Its report, due Dec. 1, has the force of law unless lawmakers return before the legislative session begins to change it.

The panel is composed of appointees of the governor and the legislative leaders.

But the commission, Cuomo acknowledged, also has a “broad mandate on electoral policies” as minor parties like the Conservative and Working Families parties fret the commission could alter fusion voting, the practice of candidates running on multiple ballot lines.

The Working Families Party, in particular, has sought to pre-emptively push back against efforts to change fusion voting. The WFP last year initially endorsed the governor’s primary opponent Cynthia Nixon. After Cuomo won the Democratic Party, the WFP endorsed him and he ran for re-election with their line.

“I have benefited from fusion voting in the past,” Cuomo said. “Many elected officials have. I’ve run on multiple party lines, so I’ve participated in it. I don’t have any recommendations to the commission. They should use their own independent judgment.”

WFP supporters have urged the commission to focus on a narrow purview: Public financing of campaigns.

“They have a legislative mandate on what they can look at in the commission,” Cuomo said. “I’m sure they’re sticking to that legislative mandate.”

Cuomo Administration To File $2B Opioid Suit

The Cuomo administration on Tuesday announced plans to file a sweeping $2 billion lawsuit against opioid makers, distributors and pharmacy benefit managers.

The money is meant to benefit health consumers who have borne the broad cost of the effort to fight the opioid epidemic through higher insurance premiums.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference call the opioid crisis the result of a system-wide “fraud” in the drug manufacturing trade.

“I’ve seen a number of schemes and frauds, but the opioid scheme is as diabolical, as brazen, as obnoxious and as offensive as anything I’ve seen,” Cuomo said.

“These drug companies knew what they were doing. It was not accidental – it was an industry-wide conspiracy. The damage they have caused has been immeasurable – it has cost thousands of human lives and billions of dollars, and they have gotten away with it for decades. These drug companies are not going to get away with murder, and we are taking a series of actions to ensure that they don’t.”

Attorney General Letitia James’s office has filed a separate lawsuit against opioid makers and distributors. Oklahoma last month won a $570 million ruling against Johnsons & Johnsons in an opioid-related case.

The suit the Cuomo administration announced is being led by insurance regulators at the Department of Financial Services, which pointed to the estimated $2 billion overpayment in in insurance premiums in the last decade, which it attributed to opioid addiction.

“Any intentional misrepresentation by the manufacturers and distributors of opioids and PBMs would have led to great financial burden for consumers and New York State-licensed health insurers,” said Financial Services Superintendent Linda Lacewell.

“DFS is charged with oversight of New York’s insurance industry and rate review for consumers and express authority to investigate insurance fraud. DFS will use every tool at our disposal to take appropriate action to protect consumers and the health insurance industry in New York.”

Cuomo And 11 Governors Call For Gun Control Measures

A dozen governors, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on Tuesday called on President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take action on gun control legislation that includes a red flag law, strengthened background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“Putting an end to the gun violence epidemic is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it is an American issue. Gun deaths do not have to be the norm,” the governors wrote. “The time is now to break the cycle by enacting four common-sense measures.”

The letter was signed by Cuomo, along with the governors of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington.

The letter comes after another spate of mass shootings around the country. Cuomo has challenged the Democratic candidates for president to make gun control a central issue of the campaign.

James Files Motion To Block ‘Public Charge’ Rule

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday her office had filed a motion to block President Donald Trump’s administration from a rule change that would deny green cards and visas to immigrants who are seeking social services and other welfare programs.

The Trump administration signaled last month it would move ahead with the “public charge” rule change, which federal officials said was meant to boost self-sufficiency. Immigration advocates contend the move would deny vital services like health care.

“We will not allow Trump Administration to enact rules that violate the laws and the values of this country,” James said.

“If enforced, the public charge rule will not only sow fear and chaos into the lives of immigrants working to lift themselves and their families out of poverty, but will have an adverse impact on the heath and well being of New Yorkers, and individuals across this country. This rule is dangerous, disruptive, and should not be permitted to take effect.”

The rule change is due to take effect on Oct. 15.

Tonko Wants Commerce Secretary To Resign

From the Morning Memo:

Rep. Paul Tonko called on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to step down after reportedly threatening officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The threats to fire top officials at the agency after the National Weather Service’s Alabama office contradicted a tweet by President Donald Trump over the direction of Hurricane Dorian.

Trump said the hurricane threatened Alabama; NOAA’s Alabama office said it would not. Trump was basing his warning off a previous weather map, and has since defended his public warning about the danger posed to the state.

Ross’s warning led to NOAA’s headquarters issuing an unusual statement disavowing the National Weather Service’s assertion Alabama was not at risk.

Tonko, in his statement, said the reversals and threats put the public at risk.

“This kind of political directive puts government scientists in the impossible position of having to decide between risking their jobs and careers to do the right thing—ensuring the public, local leaders, first responders and other emergency managers are getting reliable data and information—or doing what they are told by political leadership and allowing false and potentially dangerous information to spread,” he said.

A Democrat who represents the Capital Region, it’s not clear what congressional lawmakers will do to address the story, but Tonko pledged to “continue to hold political leaders accountable” for abusing the political trust.

“This Administration has never hesitated to distort, suppress and even attack science outright to advance their political agenda, but this is one of the first times they’re doing it so publicly, without shame or apology. Under any other Administration, knowingly misleading the American people and endangering communities would be a major scandal,” Tonko said in the statement.

“For the current Administration, this kind of reckless abuse of science and the truth has become business as usual. Reporting now suggests that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross put the safety of countless Americans at risk by compromising America’s hurricane warning system just to protect the President’s ego. If these reports are true, Secretary Ross needs to take responsibility and resign.”

Here And Now

Good morning and happy Tuesday!

Happening today:

At 9:15 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will meet with UJA-Federation to discuss its partnership with the state. 130 E 59th St., 7th Floor, New York City.

At 10 a.m., the New York State Public Campaign Financing Commission will meet for a public hearing. Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), 199 Chambers Street (between Greenwich and West Streets), Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., the Joint Commission on Public Ethics will meet. 540 Broadway, Albany.

At noon, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Carl Heastie will hold a news conference. Community Board 12 District Office, 4101 White Plains Road, the Bronx.

At 3:30 p.m., New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will join elected officials and advocates outside of a hearing by the Public Campaign Financing Commission to discuss the need for statewide public financing of elections and the preservation of fusion voting.

At 4 p.m., Williams will make recommendations to the commission on campaign finance reforms and creating a statewide system for public matching funds.

At 6 p.m., Hochul will highlight the importance of women in government at the women’s justice agenda at the Northeast Women in Public Finance Event. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, 51 W 52nd St., 23rd Floor, New York City.

Headlines:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state health officials are urging people to stop vaping as 41 people in New York have gotten sick and eight people nationwide have died.

Vape business owners in New York insisted the product is safe.

The Cuomo administration also announced an investigation into vaping products and their safety.

And the Department of Health will subpoena vape manufacturers.

A Long Island school in the course of a single week received three threats, alarming law enforcement.

Local prosecutors say the implementation of discovery reform as set by the Legislature is an “overwhelming” task.

Anti-vaccination protesters disrupted a meeting of the state Board of Regents, urging them to block a law that ends the religious exemption for vaccinated students.

A new law set to take effect will ave key fobs covered in car service contracts.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has tapped the political director of the politically influential 32BJ SEIU to become his director of strategic planning.

The school year is underway in New York, but the state’s teachers union already looking ahead to January and a push to boost funding for schools.

Lights used to commemorate the Sept. 11 attacks in lower Manhattan are endangering nearly 200,000 birds a year.

A law establishing a remembrance day in New York schools in commemoration of the Sept. 11 attacks was signed into law on Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Elected leaders in Fulton County have taken a stand against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to require New York drivers to a pay a $25 fee to upgrade their license plates.

Rep. Brian Higgins is pushing for an experimental program to fight algae in the Great Lakes.

Western New York is escaping federal cuts to projects as President Trump diverts money to help pay for the wall on the southern border.

Another group has filed legal documentation in support of the state’s Green Light law. The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a brief supporting the law as part of an ongoing lawsuit.

The Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr., a socially conservative Democrat on the New York City Council, urged leniency for a gay student who killed a classmate.

Democrats in Manhattan are trying to find a way to push party chairman Keith Wright out of the job.

The fallout continues after a Clifton Park payroll company suddenly shut down, affecting thousands of small businesses and their employees in the Capital Region and across the nation.

Cash bail is ending in 2020. Here’s how that would affect jails and those accused of crimes.

They look like something you might come across at an airport, but they are actually on Rikers Island: scanners.

Albany County is considering an unexpected place to help the homeless: the county jail. Sheriff Craig Apple announced the new program, and a new name for the jail, Monday.

For the people inside the medical examiner’s office in Kips Bay, September 11th is something they think about every single day. They’re forensic scientists who are still trying to identify victims’ remains, now 18 years after the attack.

The forthcoming capital plan from the MTA remains shrouded in secrecy.

Gov. Cuomo says the Long Island Rail Road should receive its equitable share of funding in the capital plan.

An environmental coalition on Monday rolled out a “tool kit” for local governments to transition to electric fleet vehicles.

Lawmakers in Albany County voted down a bill that would have set term limits for themselves.

He didn’t make the requirements to debate this Thursday, but Mayor Bill de Blasio wants his rivals in the race for the Democratic nomination for president to talk about one place in particular.

Mayor de Blasio joined Errol Louis from San Juan to discuss his campaign trip to Puerto Rico and his proposed “Robot Tax” to address job loss from automation.

The mayor also discussed the future of the Gifted and Talented programs in city schools, and on efforts to expand the ferry system.

The mayor defended spending an additional $43 million on a ferry system that’s under scrutiny from the city comptroller.

The Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner has been accused to have abused county time by working as an Uber/Lyft driver while on the clock.

The City of Rochester Planning Commission received the final draft of ‘Rochester 2034’ Monday evening.

This weekend, the late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter will be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan continues to keep a watchful eye on the Diocese of Buffalo and the repeated calls for Bishop Richard Malone to resign.

It could soon be easier to get wine delivered to your home in New York due to a recent Supreme Court ruling.

In national news:

President Trump had initially invited Taliban leaders to Camp David for peace talks, but declared those plans “dead” on Monday.

Crews in the Bahamas continued to find bodies as the Hurricane Dorian recovery effort continues to move along at a slow pace.

Congress has a three-week deadline to resolve what could be another brutal fight over federal spending.

Before he entered office, President Trump had a deal with a struggling Scottish Airport that would send flight crews to his resort.

The latest examples of alleged self-dealing by the president are giving Democrats another look at impeachment.

In his first campaign rally in almost a month, President Donald Trump on Monday night urged supporters in North Carolina to vote for the Republican candidate in a special election for the District 9 race.

The president defended states for doing away with Republican primaries for president, and called his declared GOP opponents “a laughingstock.”

For the first time ever, most working-age people entering the workforce are people of color, many of them women.

The ride hailing firms Uber and Lyft are expected to lose a fight in California over how workers are classified as “independent contractors.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered another defeat, this time with Parliament rejecting his call for an early election.

From the editorial pages:

The Daily News says any “green new deal” efforts to fight climate change should also address nuclear energy.

Newsday calls negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan “a bitter pill to swallow.”

The Buffalo News says the long-awaited property revolution for the city is fair, but also long overdue.

Chris Churchill at the Times Union has some fun with the notion of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Gov. Chris Christie holding a forum on civility in politics.

From the sports pages:

The Yankees blanked the Red Sox and knocked them out of postseason contention.

The Mets topped the surging Diamondbacks, 3-1.

Monday Night Football: The Saints narrowly beat the Texans. The Raiders beat the Broncos.

Legal Groups Sues Public Financing Commission For Records Access

An Albany-based legal group on Monday announced it had filed a lawsuit seeking access to records generated by the commission deciding the details of the creation of a system of publicly financed campaigns.

The Government Justice Center, a group with ties to the fiscal watchdog organization The Empire Center, filed the lawsuit after the campaign finance commission failed to act on its Freedom of Information Law request.

The records request sought documents related to the group’s first meeting. The commission is holding a public hearing on Tuesday in New York City.

The group says it filed the request with Jay Jacobs, the state Democratic Party chairman who was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the panel. The commission is composed of appointees of the governor and the legislative leaders.

“The Public Campaign Finance Commission is not taking any of its obligations under Freedom of Information Law seriously,” said the group’s executive director, Cam Macdonald. “This was made abundantly clear when the meeting was streamed using a cellphone camera and the video was sideways and blurry for most of the recording. The public has a right to know what the Commission is up to, especially since the members are not accountable to voters like our elected officials are.”

The commission is tasked with recommending the details of a system of publicly financed campaigns, due by December.

The Government Justice Center earlier this year sued to challenge the recommendations of a similar commission, which backed a pay raise for the Legislature and statewide elected officials as well as a cap on private-sector pay.

States Investigate Google Over Anti-Trust Concerns

Fifty state attorneys general are investigating Google for potential anti-trust violations, New York Attorney General Letitia James confirmed on Monday in a statement.

“Google’s control over nearly every aspect of our lives has placed the company at the center of our digital economy. But it doesn’t take a search engine to understand that unchecked corporate power shouldn’t eclipse consumers’ rights,” James said.

“That is why New York has joined this bipartisan investigation of Google to determine whether the company has achieved or maintained its dominance through anticompetitive conduct. As with the Facebook investigation we are leading, we will use every investigative tool at our disposal in the Google investigation to ensure the truth is exposed.”

The investigation comes as a separate probe has been launched by attorneys general, led by James’s office, reviewing the business practices of Facebook.