Nick Reisman

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Coalition For Fertility Coverage Expands

A coalition of groups that is pushing for private health plans to cover fertility procedures has expanded and plans to commit “significant resources” to get the legislation approved.

The Coalition to Help Families Struggling with Infertility is pushing for the passage of the Fair Access to Fertility Treatment Act, is meant to expand coverage for procedures like in-vitro fertilization and fertility preservation, which benefits cancer patients.

The groups plan to spend on a media campaign that includes digital, TV and radio as well as grassroots mobilization.

The coalition includes RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, Alliance for Fertility Preservation, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Coalition for Women’s Cancers and other New York-based patient advocacy groups. Lobbying will also be done by Dickinson, Avella & Vidal and Tress Capitol Advisors.

The measure has been proposed in previous legislative sessions and has won support in the Democratic-led Assembly. Advocates are hopeful that with Democratic control of the state Senate, the bill can be acted on this year.

MWBEs Seeking Scaffold Law Reforms

From the Morning Memo:

A coalition of minority and women-owned contractor businesses this week released a letter to top lawmakers seeking reforms to the state’s Scaffold Law.

The Scaffold Law is a perennial regulatory change sought by businesses every legislative session. The measure, in short, places safety requirements for work at high elevations, including absolute liability for any injury sustained while falling upon a contractor or owner.

“New York construction insurance costs are at crisis levels and are threatening the well-being of minority and women-owned contractors across New York state,” the contractors wrote in the letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and lawmakers.

“Research shows that construction insurance costs in New York have been significantly inflated by the ‘absolute liability; standard of the Scaffold Law, which is preventing our small businesses from growing and helping to fulfill the MWBE utilization goals set forth by the state legislature.”

The Association for Affordable Housing and the General Contractors Association are also pushing for changes this year, which appear an heavier lift given the Democratic control of both the Assembly and state Senate this term.

Read the full letter here.

Here and Now

Good morning and TGIF! It’s Day 21 of the federal government shutdown.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and Albany with nothing public planned.

At 8:30 a.m., state Attorney General Tish James, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone headline the annual Long Island Association State of the Region Report, Crest Hollow Country Club, Woodbury, Long Island.

At 10:30 a.m., Assemblyman Charles Lavine and state Sen. James Gaughran announce a drive to gather food and supplies to benefit federal employees affected by the government shutdown, Sagamore Hill Historic Site, 20 Sagamore Hill Rd., Oyster Bay.

At 11 a.m., Bellone joins with law enforcement officials to announce a program to help human and sex trafficking victims by offering tattoo removals at no cost to the victim, H. Lee Dennison Building, Media Room, 100 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge.

At 1:30 p.m., Westchester County Executive George Latimer and NuEnergen announce a “demand response” sustainability program, Yonkers Waste Water Treatment Plant, 1 Fernbrook St., Yonkers.

At 6:30 p.m., NYC Council members Diana Ayala, Margaret Chin and Mark Levine, as well as Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, attend a fundraiser for public advocate candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ulysses, 95 Pearl St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli attends a reception for state Attorney General Letitia James, Nassau Community College, 1 Education Drive, Garden City.

Headlines…

The White House is considering diverting disaster aid to build the wall at the southern border as the federal government shutdown drags on.

President Trump at a visit to Texas continued to press the case there is a “crisis” on the border that needs to be addressed.

The president falsely claimed he never said Mexico would pay for the wall.

The Trump administration is trying to find ways of minimizing the impact of the shutdown by seeking to open some public agencies without the funding from Congress in place.

Federal workers, meanwhile, are bracing for their first missed paycheck since the government shutdown began.

Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen will testify before a House Oversight Committee panel.

The U.S. has a vulnerable electrical grid that made it an easy target for Russian hacking, The Wall Street Journal found.

Multiple people tell The Associated Press that Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is looking at Troy as a potential headquarters for a 2020 presidential bid.

This week the executive director for the State Association of County Health Officials had an op ed published. In it she warned that while there appears to be broad support for legalization of marijuana, voters are overwhelmingly also concerned about their health. And there are a lot of health issues to consider when discussing cannabis and marijuana.

Gov. Cuomo continued to explain his #MeToo joke on Thursday as former staffers seek changes to how sexual harassment complaints are handled.

The now fully-Democratic state legislature is not dawdling when it comes to passing new legislation. In a radio interview, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he wants to make it easier for New Yorkers to cast their ballots.

Voting reform bills will kickoff what’s expected to be a busy first few weeks of the new legislative session as long-stalled proposals will get a vote.

In his sixth State of the City speech on Thursday, Mayor de Blasio returned to his ideological roots, railing against the concentration of wealth in the hands of the very few. He introduced a slew of initiatives he said will help New Yorkers catch their breath and catch a break as they struggle to live in our modern world.

Rochester’s mayor is asking for unity and empathy several days after publicly calling for a local weatherman to be fired for saying a racial slur on air.

Moody’s Investor Services has downgraded ratings for Del Lago Casino in the Finger Lakes region for the second straight year.

In Buffalo’s Theater District, you have two options for parking: pay the meter and park on the street, or choose one of several privately-owned surface parking lots — that’s where some lawmakers say you’re taking a big gamble.

Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek joined other leaders on Thursday to open a new opioid court.

It seemed like it popped up overnight: a new 12-story tower on the northern edge of downtown Buffalo. But after three years of work, 500 Pearl is almost a finished product.

The campaign of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been fined by the state for not carrying workers compensation insurance.

Gov. Cuomo on Thursday said he would back new ethics reforms for the Legislature, including an expansion of the state Freedom of Information Act to include the Senate and Assembly.

Cuomo will roll out his state budget proposal on Tuesday, several weeks ahead of the deadline.

Federal officials and the Schoharie district attorney are moving toward an agreement for access to the site of a limo crash last year that killed 19 people.

The Nassau County executive announced a task force will be formed to address the issue of adult-use marijuana, which is likely to be legalized this year.

Rep. Tom Suozzi will hold a seat on the key House Ways and Means Committee.

Demolition of the old Tappan Zee Bridge set for this weekend was postponed by weather.

This was a bit of a bummer for local restaurants that had planned specials around the demolition.

GENDA Re-Introducted With Largest Co-Sponsor List

Sen. Brad Hoylman’s office on Thursday announced he had re-introduced the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination with its largest co-sponsor list in the bill’s history.

The measure, meant to codify protections for transgender individuals in New York in housing and the workplace as well as other facets of life, is expected to gain a vote in the state Senate as Democrats gain control of the chamber.

The bill has 39 lawmakers co-sponsor it, comprising the entire Democratic conference.

“It’s 2019 and New York is the only state in the northeast without statutory protections for its transgender citizens, including hate crimes,” Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, said in a statement. “After a protracted 16-year battle, the Democratic majority will finally be able to shield transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers from discrimination and hate.”

The bill is expected to easily pass in the Democratic-led Assembly where it has for the last 10 years.

Legislature To Take Up Voting Reforms On Monday

State lawmakers are expected to take up on Monday a package of bills and a pair of constitutional amendments designed to make it easier to cast a vote in New York.

The bills will include measures for early voting, combining the state and federal primaries, a bill that would make voting easier for people who have moved and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-old prospective voters, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in an interview on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom.

An additional bill would close the loophole in state election law that allows donors to give an unlimited amount of money through a web of limited liability companies.

The Legislature is also expected to pass constitutional amendments for same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting.

The bills will be passed a day before the 90th anniversary of the birth of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The legislation is the harbinger of a flurry of activity expected in the coming weeks in Albany as lawmakers take up additional bills to strengthen abortion rights and gun control measures.

“I think in the core the governor’s Democratic principles, Andrea and her Democratic principles and the Assembly and its Democratic principles will be on the same page for most things,” Heastie said.

The measures were included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s agenda for the first 100 days of the new year and is expected to sign them if approved.

“We’re very excited that key voting reforms that are part of the Governor’s 100-day agenda will taken up by the legislature on Monday,” said Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Cuomo. “We look forward to working with them to go further and enact public campaign financing, make Election Day a state holiday and ban corporate contributions once and for all.”

Cuomo Outlines Potential Ethics Reforms

Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again signaled Thursday he would be open to changes to how procurement and contracting is done in the state as well as expanding the state’s Freedom of Information of Law.

“I’ll have a very aggressive ethics program,” Cuomo said in an interview with WAMC. “I want to do real contract procurement. I want to FOIL for the legislative and the executive.”

Cuomo on Wednesday told reporters he be supportive of procurement reforms that had initially been called for in the wake of his former close aide Joe Percoco’s arrest in connection to a bribery and bid-rigging scheme.

On Thursday, Cuomo said those procurement reforms would be “better than pre-audit.”

“I want to do a questionnaire to the grantee that comes with the contract,” Cuomo said. “Did you have a lobbyist? Did you have a lawyer? Do you have a relationship with the granting entity? Ask the questions that give the comptroller and the IG real leads to follow up on.”

Movement on the issue comes as Democratic lawmakers had also telegraphed their desire to back the stalled reforms as well, including return the pre-audit powers back to the state comptroller’s office. Cuomo had previously pointed to internal reforms instituted in the wake of the corruption arrests.

But making changes to the state’s lobbying and ethics watchdog, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, may be a heavier lift.

Sen. Liz Krueger this week called for the passage of a constitutional amendment that would create a new watchdog entity with a majority of appointments made by the state’s judiciary.

“I would support it if it makes sense,” Cuomo said. “That was a complicated equation. Let’s do the things we know we can do right up front.”

He added, “I’m in favor of it, but I really want to get things done quickly.”

Cuomo Plans Budget Address On Tuesday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will hold his combined budget and State of the State address on Tuesday, he said in a radio interview on Thursday morning.

“I think we have an historic 100 days here and a great opportunity. We just have to get it done,” Cuomo said in an interview with WAMC’s Alan Chartock. “We have the agenda, we just have to make sure we don’t trip over our own feet and get it done.”

Cuomo’s address will come less than a month after he outlined a broad agenda for the new year and the legislative session with full Democratic control of both chambers of the Legislature.

Lawmakers and Cuomo are expected to push for legislation meant to strengthen abortion rights, make it easier to vote and register to vote, new gun control measures and the legalization of marijuana for adult use.

In his speech in December, Cuomo said he modeled the effort after the first 100 days of President Franklin Roosevelt.

“I really did two versions of the State of the State already,” Cuomo said. “I laid out a full agenda in what I called an FDR speech.”

Once again, Cuomo will not hold the remarks in the Assembly chamber, but at a convention center or theater across the street from the Capitol.

Cuomo has sought to emphasize areas in which he agrees with legislators, but he is also expected to clash with some lawmakers when it comes to school spending and health care.

The governor pointed to the new majority leader in the Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has being able to balance the needs of a 39-member conference in the new session.

“I think she has the skill set and leadership ability to navigate those treacherous straits,” he said.

Cuomo Explains His MeToo Remark

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in radio interview brushed off the blowback he’s received from awkwardly received joke he made on Wednesday to reporters about the Me Too movement.

Cuomo spoke with reporters in a hallway gaggle or press scrum and, before he began to take questions, urged them to back up a step.

“Space. We need space,” he said. “Or I’ll bring you all up on charges under the Me Too movement.”

The comment drew some notice online, especially given that Wednesday saw the installation of the first woman majority leader in the state Senate.

Cuomo in a WAMC interview on Thursday morning called the remark an “off-hand comment.”

“You know, I walked out into the hallway and I was assaulted by the gaggle and pieces of equipment hitting me in all sorts of my anatomy,” he said. “It was an off-hand comment just to get them to move back. You know, the physical assault was overwhelming. But it was just an off-hand comment.”

Asked to elaborate by host Alan Chartock as to what Cuomo meant by “parts of my anatomy” the governor responded, “No, they just, they — you know how it works. When they come in a crush and literally get in your physical space and they have cameras and microphones and tape recorders and — it’s, they just physically confront you. It’s just the nature of the beast. But it was just an off-hand comment to say move back, and give me a little physical space.”

Cuomo Floats Revenue Idea For Legalized Marijuana

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday his administration was considering a proposal that would send revenue derived from the legalization of marijuana to communities that have been impacted by harsh drug laws.

“I think it’s very important that the wealth that’s generated here, the economic opportunity which should be significant, goes to assist those people who paid the price in the first place,” Cuomo said. “So how do you steer the economic empowerment to the communities that actually paid the price? That’s something we’re working on.”

It’s not yet clear what this would mean or how that money would be distributed and more details may come in Cuomo’s combined budget and State of the State address in the coming weeks.

During the Democratic primary last year, Cuomo’s opponent Cynthia Nixon proposed using the money to provide economic support for communities of color who have disproportionately borne the weight of the war on drugs. Nixon’s framing of this as “reparations” drew criticism at the time.

A number of questions still remain over the state would tax adult use marijuana, though Cuomo has pointed to neighboring states as potential models. A report from the Department of Health last year outlined a potential tax plan as well.

“The how is something we’re talking about right now,” Cuomo said. “I think you have to look at New Jersey and Massachusetts. They are naturally competitors in the marketplace.”

It’s also not entirely clear how much revenue legalized marijuana would actually generate. Additional proposals have called for the revenue to go toward bolstering mass transit in the New York City area.

Still, Cuomo said he didn’t want to tax marijuana to the point where purchasing on the black market is an attractive option.

Cuomo Says He Is Supportive Of Procurement Reform

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday he would be open to changing how the state reviews contracts and procurement, an effort lawmakers have considered since the indictment of a former close aide to the governor.

“I’m open to procurement reform, certainly,” Cuomo said in a gaggle with the press. “You will always have people who are greedy and venial and dumb, quite frankly. it’s not that passing a law will stop dumb people from doing dumb things or greedy people from doing greedy things, but you put every safe guard in place that you can.”

Cuomo said he supports a “thorough contract procurement review that actually asks questions before the fact.”

The comments come as Democrats in the Legislature have once again signaled they would consider bolstering procurement oversight, backing measures first proposed in the wake of the arrest of Joe Percoco as well as prominent upstate developers in connection to a bid rigging and bribery scheme.

Percoco was sentenced last year was sentenced to six years in prison.