Benjamin Files For City Comptroller Run

Manhattan Democratic Sen. Brian Benjamin announced he had filed for an exploratory bid for New York City comptroller.

The filing, first reported by The Daily News, comes as incumbent Scott Stringer is term limited from running again and is widely considered to be a candidate for mayor in 2021.

“As a native New Yorker, with parents who depend on pensions for their retirement, I know how important the Comptroller’s job is,” Benjamin said.

“I am exploring this run because I want to protect the savings of average New Yorkers in a city that’s growing ever more expensive. From my work in building affordable housing to my record in the Senate, I have dedicated my career to helping grow and sustain New York’s middle class.”

Benjamin was first elected to his Manhattan Senate seat in 2017.

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.

Court Order Will Keep Caputo From Attending His ‘Big Brother’ Roger Stone’s Event In Buffalo

When political consultant Roger Stone speaks Friday evening in Buffalo, perhaps his closest ally in Western New York won’t be present.

Stone is set to discuss the 2020 presidential election. The event will also serve as a fundraiser to help pay legal bills for his November trial connected to the Russia special investigation.

That trial also is the reason Stone cannot have any contact with his friend and colleague Michael Caputo.

“I attended Roger’s arraignment in late January, ready to play the role of family spokesman, as we had agreed months before his arrest,” Caputo said in a statement. “There I was told Roger was not to speak with me again. Later, this was communicated to his attorneys in a sealed court order.”

Both men worked with the Trump 2016 presidential campaign in some capacity. Caputo described Stone as a “big brother” and noted for 32 years they spoke nearly every day and their families spent holidays together.

“I’m not a defendant nor a witness in his trial,” he said. “I have no role at all. This ban on contact is a rank infringement on Roger’s Constitutional rights – but that doesn’t matter in America today. In a country where a sitting president can weaponize his national security agencies to spy on a political rival, where the frightening powers of the federal government can be brought down like a sledgehammer on innocent men like General Flynn and Roger Stone for purely political reasons, we have no rights, none of us, and least of all Roger Stone.”

As a result of the court order, Caputo said he is not allowed at the Stone event, hosted by former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. He said he’s asked all his friends to attend the event, donate to the defense fund, and say hello for him.

“I miss Roger’s oddball sense of humor, his friendship, his generosity, his brilliance. I miss his Sunday gravy. I miss the herd of rescue dogs who ruled his house. I miss his beautiful and kind wife Nydia, my big sister,” Caputo said. “Most of all, I will miss the United States of America, because the Stone prosecution is more proof that our country has found her end”

He said he’s raised $12Stone-Caputo5,000 for Stone’s defense and will continue to raise more. Stone is not permitted to talk about the ongoing litigation during his visit to Buffalo.

5 New York Issues To Watch In Tonight’s Debate

From the Morning Memo:

Democrats will meet in their latest TV debate this evening as a winnowing process is starting in the historically crowded field.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has dropped her bid and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t meet the debate criteria. That leaves only businessman Andrew Yang and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as the only candidates with New York ties on the stage this evening.

And yet, there are key issues that affect New Yorkers to be discussed. Here are five New York issues to watch.

1. Gun control.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sought to challenge Democratic candidates running for president to make gun control a signature issue in the race. He argues that taking a muscular stance on issues like banning assault-style weapons, strengthening background checks and supporting a “red flag” law to keep guns away from those considered dangerous wouldn’t hurt the party politically.

Indeed, gun control remains popular with Democratic voters and has support even among independents on issues like background checks. For now, Congress is showing little desire to act on the issue and President Donald Trump has made contradictory statements on the issue.

2. The opioid crisis.

A tentative settlement with the Sackler family, which owns the company responsible for Oxycontin, has been blasted by state attorneys general, including New York’s Letitia James. Any settlement could be a major windfall for state governments and could be worth billions of dollars. But prosecutors are considered the settlement will let the Sackler family and its company Purdue Pharma off the hook from being responsible for the opioid addictions crisis that has gripped the country.

3. Health care.

Fresh Census data shows nationally a decline in the health insurance rate among Americans. Not so in New York, which is bucking the national trend. The rise in the number of uninsured people could be attributed in part to efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act, while in New York state lawmakers and Gov. Cuomo have backed measures to bolster it amid a series of federal court challenges. The ACA is one of the key legacies of the Obama administration. But progressives in the Democratic Party are attempting to go even further and push for either a single-payer model or a “Medicare for all” expansion. The divide is perhaps the most significant among former Vice President Joe Biden and the rest of the field.

4. Climate change.

Reducing carbon emissions responsible for the changing climate of the planet remains a top concern for the base of the Democratic Party. Candidates spent hours at a forum earlier this month discussing the issue. A “Green New Deal” — various versions of which have been proposed by Democrats and enacted in New York — are being discussed. The question remains: How can the candidates stand out on an issue that the party itself broadly agrees on?

5. E-cigarettes

President Donald Trump on Wednesday proposed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes amid heightened concerns over the health affects of vaping and reports of vaping-related illnesses striking users. In New York, Gov. Cuomo announced an investigation of vaping products and once again reiterated a proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes in the state that he made earlier this year. The vaping industry is striking back, calling the reports of illnesses linked to their products questionable.

U.S. Marshal Nominee Withdraws Name From Consideration

From the Morning Memo:

The Trump administration’s nomination for the next U.S Marshal for the Western District of New York has withdrawn his name from consideration.

The president nominated Peter Vito, the former commissioner of Erie County Central Police Services, in May. However, politicians from the Rochester-area, including Congressman Joe Morelle and Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, immediately opposed the choice.

The marshal traditionally comes from Rochester while the U.S. Attorney has been from Buffalo. Taking that into consideration, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued what is known as a “blue slip” – the tradition by which a home state Senator can block a nomination regardless of whether their party is in control.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been an honoring the “blue slip” prior to Vito withdrawing his name.

“We look forward to vetting the next nominee from the White House and urge them to respect the precedent of professionalism and geographic balance for this important law enforcement position,” said Schumer spokeswoman Allison Biasotti.

It’s unclear at this point who the next nominee will be. The administration has generally taken the recommendation of Congressman Chris Collins regarding appointments in the region.

Collins recommended Vito and expressed disappoint earlier this summer that the Senate was not going through the confirmation process.

Here And Now

Good morning and happy Thursday to all.

Happening today:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with nothing public planned.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is in New York City with nothing public planned.

At 9:15 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will convene the New York City Regional Economic Development Council meeting, Syracuse University NYC, Fisher Center, 19 E 31 St., New York City.

At 10 a.m., Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Sen. Shelley Mayer and other officials will celebrate the commencement of the I-684 repaving project. Katonah Train Station, 70 Katonah Ave. Katonah.

At 10:45 a.m., Hochul will announce the opening of the Nantronics Manufacturing Hub, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Building 20, 63 Flushing Ave, Brooklyn.

At 2 p.m., Hochul will announce the completion of shoreline improvements on Long Island. 13 Cloverfield Road 3, Valley Stream.

At 2:30 p.m., the EPA will make a water-related announcement. 187 Wolf Road, Suite 303, Albany.

At 7 p.m., New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will attend the Congressional Black Caucus Leadership reception honoring Rep. Karen Bass. 801 Mt. Vernon Place, Washington.

Headlines:

Thousands of people gathered in lower Manhattan on Wednesday to mark 18 years since the September 11th terror attacks, still raw in the minds of countless New Yorkers and other Americans.

A bill meant to make it easier for state workers who volunteered at the World Trade Center site in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 to file claims for sick leave was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

New York City firefighters traveled to the Pentagon for a Sept. 11 memorial.

After 18 years, the pain still feels fresh for those who lost loved ones on 9/11.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the sudden shutdown of a Clifton Park payroll company which affected thousands of small business employees in the Capital Region and nationwide.

Pioneer Bank says it has millions of dollars in exposure due to the company’s collapse.

Ronnie Hakim, a top official at the MTA, is set to depart.

The union that represents New York’s state troopers would not oppose efforts to require their members to wear body cameras.

Republican Rep. Chris Collins has been denied an appeal in federal court after his indictment last year on insider trading charges.

Testimony in an Oyster Bay corruption case shows the girlfriend of a former commissioner wore a wire at prosecutors’ behest.

Attorneys for former Suffolk County District Attorneys Thomas Spota insist he did not commit any crimes in a case stemming from the beating of a prisoner.

Attorneys for Suffolk Legal Aid on Long Island have voted to unionize.

Instructors at YogaWorks in New York City are attempting to unionize, in what is likely to be a first for the U.S.

New York City’s income gap hasn’t changed under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had promised to fight inequality.

The owners of a building in the East Village contend de Blasio blocked renovations in order to aid a donor.

The New York City Council is working to overturn a ban on so-called conversion therapy for gay people in order to avoid a court challenge that could set a national precedent.

A new gun control law is set to go into effect that is meant to strengthen background checks and was approved in response to a shooting at a church in South Carolina.

Horse riders are not thrilled with the skimpy offerings at the revamped version of Frontier Town in the North Country.

A registry of animal abusers is coming to Oneida County. The Board of Legislators passed a resolution Wednesday to create the registry, while also prohibiting offenders from owning animals.

A Niagara County judge has set the schedule for proceedings in two lawsuits challenging the authority of new state commission – more than a month after the lawsuits were filed.

Many Syracuse parents are breathing a sigh of relief after a new policy will provide transportation to more than 1,000 students.

Eleven hotels, dozens of restaurants and a handful of gas stations sit near I-81 in Salina. They all rely on business from the highway, but with the community grid, much of that traffic will be carried onto what’s now 481 instead.

The Brighton Police Department is hoping to capitalize on the next generation of home security by working with a growing home security company.

Seneca Falls residents are getting ready to welcome the newest members of the National Women’s Hall of Fame for their historic achievements.

Teachers in Buffalo are applauding the proposal that would allow New York school students to take mental health days.

There are nearly 60,000 mold complaints that the New York City Housing Authority failed to fix.

A plan by the utility NYSEG to raise rates has upset customers in the Hudson Valley.

In national news:

Ten Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage on Thursday in the next round of debates of the 2020 campaign.

Before the debate, former Vice President Joe Biden took a tumble in a poll as Sen. Elizabeth Warren starts to gain.

Biden’s campaign sees a disconnect between its base of older, more moderate Democratic voters and the young, online-savvy reporters who cover him.

The Supreme Court determined the Trump administration can bar asylum seekers, but a legal fight will continue.

President Trump proposed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, siting a public health concerns over illnesses believed to be related to vaping.

The EPA is scaling back its regulations of clean water rules to standards put in place in 1986.

Democrats are urging Rep. Joe Kennedy to hold off on a challenge to Sen. Ed Markey for a Massachusetts Senate seat.

California officials are taking aim at the NCAA’s ban against college athletes being compensated.

From the editorial pages:

The Times Union writes groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposed a legalization effort, should be required to release the names of their donors.

Newsday is backing restrictions on vaping.

The New York Post decried the “stonewalling” of the Empire Center by the campaign finance commission in an open records case.

The Daily News criticized the federal opportunity zones tax break and says Congress needs to fix it.

From the sports pages:

Triple Crown winner Justify failed a drug test prior to winning a race that qualified him for the Kentucky Derby.

The NFL faces an unprecedented problem in the form of the rape allegation against wide receiver Antonio Brown in a civil suit.

The Mets are hanging in there to stay in postseason contention.

James Critical Of Reported Opioid Settlement

Attorney General Letitia James in a statement Wednesday criticized the reported settlement reached with thousands of governments around the country, Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family.

The details of the settlement are yet to be released, but James indicated a settlement would not hold the pharmaceutical firm to account for the opioid addiction crisis.

“While our country continues to recover from the carnage left by the Sacklers’ greed, this family is now attempting to evade responsibility and lowball the millions of victims of the opioid crisis,” she said. “A deal that doesn’t account for the depth of pain and destruction caused by Purdue and the Sacklers is an insult, plain and simple. As attorney general, I will continue to seek justice for victims and fight to hold bad actors accountable, no matter how powerful they may be.”

James and local governments in New York are pursuing a case against opioid makers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday a separate lawsuit filed by the Department of Financial Services, seeking to recoup $2 billion in increased insurance costs.

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.

Cuomo Signs Bills Aiding 9/11 First Responders And Volunteers

A bill meant to make it easier for state workers who volunteered at the World Trade Center site in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 to file claims for sick leave was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Cuomo also signed a bill into law meant to increase the number of doctors authorized to review those receiving New York City pensions for disability claims. The measure’s backers say that expanding the pool of doctors is needed to in order to evaluate claims of illnesses related to being in proximity of the site and cut down on delays.

The governor at a commemoration ceremony in Manhattan following the 7th annual motorcycle ride in honor of the day said the legislation was meant to provide support to first responders and their families.

“We are not going to leave them alone because they are also American heroes and we honor them and we honor their families,” Cuomo said. “We will take care of their families the way they took care of ours.”

The legislation was approved after Congress last month voted to extend the authorization of the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund for first responders grappling with illnesses related to the attack.

Cuomo on Wednesday honored the family of Det. Luis Alvarez, a first responder who lobbied for the extension of the compensation fund in Washington and died last month. The governor presented the family with the Public Service Medal in honor of Alvarez’s advocacy.

Cuomo called Alvarez’s work “the American spirit at its best.”

“That is American courage. That is American patriotism. That is what we all hope and aspire that we could be, and we could do,” he said.

“And in this time of ugliness all around us, in this time of anger, in this time of fear, let’s remember what makes this country the greatest country in the world and this state the greatest state in the country. We will never forget the price of freedom and we will never forget to honor, to respect, to dignify the American values and those who fight for them.”

Lawmaker Wants All American Flags Sold In New York Made In America

A bill introduced this week by Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara would require all U.S. and New York state flags sold in the state be made in America with American labor.

Federal law requires flags purchased by the federal government be made with 50 percent of American-made materials.

“Our flag has covered the coffins of presidents, it has traveled to the moon, and for those who make the ultimate in sacrifice for our great nation, their remains are covered with the flag for which they fought for when they are given their final honors, and that flag should be made in the United States,” Santabarbara said in a statement.

Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have approved legislation over the years that bars their states from spending money on flags manufactured outside of the United States. Minnesota banned the sale of foreign-made American flags.

“I stand with Americans who want their flag American-made,” Santabarbara said.

It’s estimated that $3.6 million in American flags are imported to the United States; most are made in China.