Albany

Federal Judge Tosses SALT CAP Lawsuit

A federal judge has tossed lawsuit by New York and other states against the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions in a move that upheld a key provision of the federal government’s 2017 tax law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has railed against the cap on the cap on deductions, arguing the measure was meant to harm higher tax states like New York, where taxpayers could deduct their state and local taxes from their federal income tax.

The cap, however, limited those deductions to $10,000 — a move state officials worried would send wealthier New Yorkers to states where taxes are not as high.

The multiple states challenging the SALT cap argued the move unfairly singled out Democratic states where taxes are higher and questioned the constitutionality of the cap.

Federal Judge Paul Oetekn, however, reaffirmed the cap as part of Congress’s “broad powers” to write and pass tax legislation under the Constitution.

The cap, like any federal tax provision, will affect some taxpayers more than others and, by extension, will affect some states more than others,” the judge wrote in his ruling. “But the cap, again like every other feature of the federal Tax Code, is a part of the landscape of federal law within which states make their decisions as to how they will exercise their own sovereign tax powers.”

He added that states challenging the cap have failed to show it restrains their “decision-making process” and had “no basis for concluding that the SALT cap is unconstitutionally coercive.”

Updated: In a statement, Cuomo left open the possibility of an appeal.

“There is no doubt in my mind that President Trump’s unfair tax policy targets New York and other blue states by funding tax cuts for corporations and the rich on the backs of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “New York is already the largest ‘donor state’ in the nation – paying the federal government $36 billion more than we get back every year. The SALT cap takes this gross imbalance and supercharges it, costing New Yorkers another $15 billion each year.

“The bottom line is this policy is unprecedented, unlawful, punitive and politically motivated – and it must be stopped. We disagree with the court’s decision and are evaluating all options including appeal.”

State of New York Et Al v Mnuchin Et Al by Nick Reisman on Scribd

New York State Bar Association Says It Can’t Investigate Giuliani

The New York State Bar Association in a statement Friday afternoon rebuffed a call from Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris that it investigate former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and possibly disbar him.

Giuliani has emerged as a central figure in the swirling controversy around President Donald Trump and Ukrainian officials. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, has been described as a go-between for Trump and Ukrainian officials as the president faces allegations he sought an investigation by the country of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Harris, a California senator, told MSNBC on Thursday the New York State Bar Association “needs to investigate Giuliani and probably disbar him.”

But in a statement released by the bar association on Friday, President Hank Greenberg said its “not empowered” to investigate professional misconduct inquiries.

“There is a common misperception among the general public and the media that NYSBA is responsible for investigation and enforcement of ethical violations by attorneys licensed to practice law in New York State,” Greenberg said.

“Membership in NYSBA is entirely voluntary, and attorneys are not required to belong in order to practice in New York. As such, NYSBA is not empowered to investigate inquiries related to professional conduct. This authority legally rests with the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, which has appointed grievance committees to investigate complaints. That said, we continue to work with New York’s judicial branch regarding rules of ethics for lawyers and providing guidance to our members and the legal profession on meeting ethical standards.”

The process for disbarring an attorney in New York is outlined here.

Uninsurance Rate Falls To A Record Low Upstate

The number of people enrolled in some form of health insurance has continued to increase, with the uninsurance rate falling to a record low of 3.5 percent.

That numbers gleaned from a U.S. Census report come as the rest of the state has also seen its uninsurance enrollment rate fall to 5.4 percent overall. The national rate has ticked slightly upward to 8.7 percent, according to the 2018 American Community Survey.

“These low rates of uninsured present an even better picture than what most people might realize,” said Christopher Booth, the CEO of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “The real uninsured number is even less because these surveys only record those who report having coverage. There are thousands more who are eligible for coverage but simply have not enrolled in such programs as Medicaid, Child Health Plus and Medicare.”

New York has one of the more robust Medicaid programs in the country, and its typically the most costly item in the state budget. But the program, along with the state’s health exchange marketplace set up after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, have been credited with signing more people up for coverage.

“Upstate New York’s uninsured rates have historically been lower than the numbers recorded for the state and nation,” Booth said. “We believe the more favorable numbers here reflect the fact that the region has lower levels of health care spending due to a marketplace of nonprofit health plans and nonprofit hospital systems.”

Ortiz: Money Needed For Census

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers on Thursday pushed for funding to be made available to help the state ensure a full count in the upcoming 2020 Census.

A letter released by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz’s office and backed by 24 lawmakers in the Assembly, urged the money be allocated soon.

The $20 million set aside for the Census in New York would aid state support efforts, including outreach efforts for community-based organizations, local governments and libraries.

The state’s Census commission concluded its hearings on the issues New York faces in the once-a-decade count in July.

“We only have one opportunity to get an accurate count, there’s no second chance,” Ortiz said.

“New York state should act quickly to fund community groups, libraries, and local government efforts to achieve a full count. The legislature included money to fund census efforts that can’t wait any longer.”

Census politics are especially key for New York, given its large immigrant population. New York officials pushed back against efforts by the federal government critics alleged were meant to under count migrant populations, such as requiring a person to check off whether they are citizens of the country.

Census data is used by the federal government to allocate funding as well as determine representation in Washington.

Upstate Nuclear Operator Plans $20M Clean Energy Plan

From the Morning Memo:

The company that operates upstate New York’s three nuclear power plants is planning a $20 million push over the next decade to focus on clean energy and environmental technology.

The goal for Exelon Corp. and its Exelon Foundaion is to eventually develop the technologies for broader commercial use.

“Exelon stands with the majority of our customers who want cleaner air and affordable, reliable energy,” said Chris Crane, Exelon CEO and Chairman, Exelon Foundation.

“With recent advances in technology, these are no longer mutually exclusive objectives. The Exelon
Foundation Climate Change Investment Initiative will put us a step closer to a clean energy future by helping entrepreneurs translate their ideas for reversing climate change into practical solutions.”

The company operates the James Fitzpatrick plant in the town of Scriba in Oswego County, Nine Mile Point, also in the town of Scriba, and the Ginna plant in the town of Ontario in Wayne County.

The Exelon Foundation is set to contribute $10 million to the plan. Exelon Corp. will match the grant with up to $10 million through in-kind investments of pro-bono services, such as mentoring business leaders on structuring business plans and financial resource allocation as well as meeting regulations.

The initiative, known as 2c2i, will be announced later today at The Climate Group’s clean-energy forum in New York City.

The move comes as some environmental organizations have looked to nuclear power as a source of aiding the transition away from fossil fuels. Nuclear energy is a component of Sen. Corey Booker’s $3 trillion to fight climate change, which includes a $20 billion R and proposal for new technologies.

42 Days Without New Measles Cases In Rockland County, DOH Says

There have been 42 days without a new measles case reported in Rockland County, the state Department of Health and the Rockland County Health Department said on Tuesday.

The announcement is a key milestone given the time is the equivalent of two incubation periods for measles.

“Our work together followed public health best practices, always mindful and respectful of the needs of the communities affected,” said Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “While this is welcome news to the hundreds of professionals who work to protect the health of New Yorkers, we are not letting down our guard.”

The announcement also comes after state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo backed legislation ending the religious exemption for vaccinations for school children. The measure is being challenged in state court by opponents of vaccinations.

State health officials said there have been a total of 312 people infected with measles in Rockland County since Oct. 1, 2018. During that time, 30,000 vaccinations were administered in Rockland County — about three times the amount from the previous year.

“We are on track in the coming days to reach similar milestones in the remaining counties where we have focused our public health response,” Zucker said. “We will remain vigilant in protecting all New Yorkers from measles and other dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases.”

NYSUT Board Backs UAW Strike

From the Morning Memo:

Striking United Auto Workers are getting support from the state’s umbrella teachers union.

The board of the New York State United Teachers late last week backed a resolution in support of the UAW as 49,000 workers are on strike against General Motors.

The resolution noted GM earned $27.5 billion in profits over the last four years of the current labor contract with UAW and has used lower paid temporary workers, contractors and subsidiary employees in factories while its unionized workforce has declined.

“The hardworking women and men of the United Auto Workers deserve better than a company in General Motors that puts profits over people. We are standing in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters here in New York because they are our neighbors — neighbors who send their kids to our schools and are important members of our communities,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta in a statement.

“Our message to GM is simple: Do what’s right and negotiate a fair contract now.”

The strike by the UAW is expected to head into is 8th day.

Cuomo Admin: Insurance Companies Should Act In Good Faith On CVA

Insurance regulators in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on Thursday issued a guidance to insurance companies facing potential financial exposure due to legal claims made under the Child Victims Act.

The law’s passage this year opened up a floodgate of child sexual abuse lawsuits against institutions, including the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America.

The guidance, issued by the Department of Financial Services, called on insurers to act “in good faith” and promptly when it comes to the legal claims.

“We enacted the Child Victims Act so that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a path to justice,” Cuomo said in a statement. “With this action we are helping ensure the claims process works efficiently and effectively by reminding insurers they have an obligation to move quickly so that these survivors finally get some measure of peace.”

The guidance also encouraged insurers with records to preserve them and provide them to policyholders and other people entitled to review them in connect with the lawful discovery process.

“We expect our regulated entities to exercise best practices with their prior and current policyholders, and their respective claimants, including properly performing any and all duties to defend CVA-related claims, so that survivors receive the long-overdue relief provided under the Child Victims Act,” said Financial Services Superintendent Linda Lacewell.

Lawmakers Blast JCOPE’s Investigation Of Rape Survivor

The pursuit of a lobbying disclosure case against a rape survivor who pushed for the passage of the Child Victims Act has continued to draw condemnations from state lawmakers.

Kat Sullivan, who was raped while a student at the Emma Willard School in Troy, used the proceeds of her settlement money to pay for a plane to fly a banner and billboards in support of the legislation.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics contends Sullivan spent more than $5,000 on the effort and should register as a lobbyist. Failure to do so could lead to a $25,000 fine.

Sullivan’s attorney David Grandeau on Wednesday at a JCOPE meeting blasted the commission for investigating the case. Two Democratic lawmakers, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and Sen. Liz Krueger, agreed.

“I’m really upset and kind of disgusted as well. It appears she’s been revictimized,” Rosenthal said in an interview on The Capitol Pressroom on Wednesday. She’s being singled out here in my opinion and it’s causing her more trauma.”

Krueger pointed to a constitutional amendment she backs that would overhaul the ethics and lobbying watchdog to provide it with more independence.

“I seriously doubt that new independent entity would be deciding to target this young woman for a $5,000 expenditure that’s in the public interest,” she said.

JCOPE has pursued the Sullivan investigation for the last year.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine last month wrote a letter to the commission criticizing the panel’s handling of the case.

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.