Moody’s: Court Blocking Opioid Surcharge Hurts Addiction Programs

A federal court striking down the state’s $100 million surcharge on opioids will hurt the effort to fight addiction, Moody’s Investor Services found in a report released Friday.

The surcharge, which would have raised $100 million a year through June 2024, would have gone toward a special fund on the first of the year for treatment and support programs for addiction.

New York is one of 23 states that saw increases in drug deaths in 2017, though deaths per 100,000 stood at 19.4, short of the 21.7 deaths nationwide.

The court decision could require the state to decide whether to use existing sources of money to support addiction programs, the report found.

“The state may yet be able to raise revenue from opioid-related businesses in a way that will pass muster with the courts,” Moody’s found. “The federal court ruling found that the flaws in the state’s approach stemmed from its efforts to prevent the affected companies from passing through the impacts of the surcharge to customers and suppliers. The state would have imposed steep penalties on those found to do so, reflecting legislators’ wishes to avoid imposing higher costs on those with legitimate medical need for opioids.”

Cuomo To Include Child Victims Act In Budget

The Child Victims Act, a measure that makes it easier for the survivors and victims of childhood abuse to file lawsuits, will be included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 budge proposal, his office on Friday announced.

“There has been a degradation of justice for childhood sexual assault survivors who have suffered for decades by the authority figures they trusted most. That ends this year with the enactment of the Child Victims Act to provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice,” Cuomo said.

“For years Senate Republicans unconscionably blocked passage of this critical bill, but in partnership with a new progressive legislative majority we have an opportunity to ensure perpetrators of these heinous acts are held accountable and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse get their day in court.”

The bill has stalled in the state Senate under the Republican majority and is likely to be approved with Democratic control of the chamber.

Cuomo’s office said the bill would be “consistent with” the legislation backed by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

Advocates for the legislation have called for a one-year look back for expired civil claims that can be revived by survivors.

Cuomo is scheduled to release his full budget proposal on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Albany.

Why Gillibrand 2020 In Troy Makes Sense

If she runs for president, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s unofficial campaign motto may be to Enjoy Troy.

Her campaign-in-waiting is reportedly considering placing its headquarters in Troy, a small upstate city just north of Albany on the Hudson River.

The city has blue-collar and working class roots, but in recent years it has sought to rebrand itself as an upstate hipster haven of sorts, with its interesting architecture and restaurants — a Williamsburg for Rensselaer County.

More broadly, the Capital Region is home to several colleges, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.

And, perhaps most attractive to Gillibrand, Troy is near her home in Brunswick, giving her some proximity to her family during an otherwise grueling national campaign.

Gillibrand, of course, is a native of the Capital Region and early on was exposed to the rough-and-tumble of local Albany city politics. As dramatized in an off-Broadway play last year, Gillibrand’s grandmother, Polly Noonan, was a top aide to longtime Albany Mayor Erastus Corning.

LG Hochul “Very Confident” Voting Reform Coming ASAP

The Cuomo administration has made voting reform its first priority for this upcoming election.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, D-NY, doesn’t expect any hold up when it comes to getting a number of those bills passed. She told reporters in Buffalo to expect “robust reforms” to pass starting Monday.

“Oh I’m very confident,” she said. “I’m very confident.”

The LG said the first priorities of the Legislature will be to pass early voting. She expects the legislation will allow voters to case their ballots for at least ten days prior to the November election.

The September primary may soon be coming to an end, as well. Hochul said it doesn’t make sense to hold two primaries, a federal one in June, and state and locals three months later.

By moving everything to June, she said it will remove a costly burden for local boards of election and increase voter participation.

“It is disgraceful that we are one of the last states, the lowest performing states when it comes to voter participation,” she said.

Finally, she said “same day registration” will be among the early priorities. The measure she said will make it easier for everybody to vote.

She blamed the Legislature’s past inaction on the state Senate formerly controlled by Republicans.

“It’s been one of our highest priorities and now we have the votes we needed in the Senate,” Hochul said. “I believe it’s going to happen almost immediately. It’s one of our first priorities to get more participation in our democracy and make sure that there’s access to the ballot box.”

The lieutenant governor said other measures like voting by mail are in the administration’s sights, but will take a little bit longer because they need a constitutional amendment in order to become law.

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.

Langworthy Intensifying Push For GOP Chairmanship

From the Morning Memo:

This week 11 Republican county chairmen from the North Country region of New York State delivered a letter to GOP State Chairman Ed Cox, asking for his resignation.

In the letter, they called the 2018 election cycle disastrous for NYGOP on nearly all levels. Specifically, they pointed to losses by large margins, ceding control of the state Senate, and squandering “a credible opportunity against a flawed governor.”

The county leaders said the gubernatorial candidate, Marc Molinaro, was not to blame as he was left to run with no time to raise money, no clear endorsement and no solidarity from the party. Molinaro reentered the race last year at the urging of county chairs after the party couldn’t rally behind other interested candidates.

The chairmen blamed Cox and party leadership for the perceived disorder.

“Mr. Chairman, the North Country Republicans request that you graciously resign from your position and allow a new leader to take the reins,” they wrote. “Waiting for the undeniable outcome of an election for State Chairman would only delay the needed restructuring and revitalization our party sorely needs and would send a message to the citizens of our state that we aren’t serious about becoming a viable party again.”

Despite the letter Cox told Daily News reporter Ken Lovett, who broke the story, that he did not have plans to leave. That could set up for a contested state chairmanship race this fall.

Erie County GOP boss Nick Langworthy was not among those who called for Cox’s resignation. However, a chairman told Lovett he was “likely the favorite” to replace him.

Langworthy had no comment on the letter and has not publicly lobbied for the job, but a senior GOP source said he has been quietly working to build support for several years now as the heir apparent. That effort has intensified in the aftermath of the 2018 election and he has recently been traveling the state to speak with colleagues the source said.

It is not clear yet when the state party’s reorganization meeting will be. They are required to hold it within the first 21 days following New York’s primary, but some expect the Legislature to move the primary from September to June to coincide with federal elections 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.

Extras

In remarks to reporters as he headed to the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump left open the possibility of declaring a state of emergency, which could allow him to bypass Congress to fund the wall.

Flanked by Border Patrol officers, as well as Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, and a cache of drugs, cash and weapons seized by the authorities at the border, Trump again blamed the protracted shutdown affecting vast swaths of the federal government on Democrats.

The Pentagon is preparing options to build barriers on the southern border in the event that Trump declares a national emergency there, the latest indication such a move is gaining traction within the administration.

As the government shutdown drags on, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is having discussions with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle about a potential l”DACA for the wall” deal.

Vice President Pence vowed that Trump would not back any deal to reopen the government without money for his proposed border wall, a sign the government shutdown will likely be headed into its fourth week this weekend. “Walls work,” Pence said. “It’s not a debatable point.”

Trump, who has himself been divorced twice, wished Jeff Bezos “luck” on his divorce.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer who implicated him in a scheme to pay hush money to two women claiming to have had affairs with him, has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7 and give “a full and credible account” of his work for the president.

The pair of outside groups tied closely to Trump has retained the top Republican opposition group in an effort to smother Democrats seeking to challenge him — and perhaps even help pick his 2020 challenger.

Some Transportation Security Administration employees are quitting their jobs as the partial government shutdown continues through its third week, leaving more than 800,000 federal employees without a paycheck, the union that represents them maintains.

In his annual State of the City speech, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio offered progressive promises – including a redistribution of wealth, even as he has thus far been unsuccessful in his many attempts to raise taxes on high earners – and a new ferry to Staten Island.

“Brothers and sisters, there’s plenty of money in this city,” de Blasio said. “It’s just in the wrong hands.”

Brooklyn state Sen. Kevin Parker officially assumed a powerful new role as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and also is potentially setting himself up as a private consultant – he says for clients outside New York.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery have reached agreement on a plan that will give the federal agency access to the limousine involved in the crash that killed 20 people on Oct. 6.

In its first major act designed to show partisan unity in the state Legislature, the Democratic-run Senate and Assembly on Monday will pass a multi-bill package designed to improve New York State’s voter participation rates.

Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign was fined $1,500 by the state last year for failing to obtain workers’ compensation coverage.

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is looking at basing a potential 2020 presidential campaign in Troy, New York, a small upstate city on the banks of the Hudson River, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders gave a full apology after reports surfaced of another former staffer from his 2016 campaign accusing a top aide of sexual assault.

El Museo del Barrio in Harlem, the country’s oldest museum devoted to Latino art, announced that it was rescinding a decision to honor a princess from Germany known for her connections to archconservatives who complained that Pope Francis is too liberal at its upcoming 50th anniversary gala.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran will establish a county task force dedicated to study the possible ramifications of statewide legalization of recreational marijuana, a measure supported by the governor.

Peter Breitnauer, a 34-year veteran of the Kenmore Police Department, the last six as police chief, stood in front of a federal judge and admitted he stole painkillers from a community drop box.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is already a composer, a lyricist, an actor and an author. Now he’s going to be a bookseller.

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.