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This Week in New York State Government

Governor:

Governor Cuomo Launches New York Youth Mentoring Program

Governor Cuomo launched the New York Youth Mentoring Program, which will provide career and life guidance to children who are at risk of failing out of school or in foster care across the state. The Program—guided by its Advisory Board, chaired pro bono by the Governor’s mother, Mrs. Matilda Raffa Cuomo—will identify, train, and match hundreds of business-based mentors with students in some of New York’s most challenging elementary and middle schools.

To accompany the launch of the New York Youth Mentoring Program, the Governor also announced the launch of a website to provide information about available services and mentoring models, in addition to resources for volunteers interested in mentoring children in their communities.

The New York State Mentoring Program:
The New York State Mentoring Program is designed to match some of the state’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged students with volunteers from businesses and enterprises in all regions of the state. The program currently targets fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders and is expected to expand into middle school as the program develops.

The New York Youth Mentoring Advisory Council will work with private sector and nonprofit partners to identify mentors to work with at-risk youth in communities across New York State. Support for businesses and schools participating in this initiative will come from the State’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils. A trained coordinator in each regional council will work with the mentoring participants in their area.

Additionally, the Advisory Council will work closely with its partners in education to identify distressed communities – areas that have higher poverty rates and a higher need for mentoring programs – and expand the program to reach children in those communities. About 40 percent of a teenager’s waking hours are spent without companionship or supervision. Mentors provide teens with a valuable place to spend free time.

Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation to Strengthen Support for Families of Terrorist Attack Victims

Governor Cuomo signed legislation to strengthen financial support for the families of terrorist attack victims. The new bill will allow insurers to waive commission fees associated with the purchase of annuity insurance for families affected by any terrorist attack on the United States, expanding on the current law which only allows a waiver for families affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“New Yorkers stand together whenever tragedy strikes,” said Governor Cuomo. “This bill will allow insurers to better support people who are impacted by heinous acts of terrorism, and I am proud to sign it into law.”

By waiving the mandatory commission, insurers are able to offer their services pro-bono and provide further financial relief to families. This bill (S.2152/A.2026) also allows the waivers to be applied to families affected by attacks carried out in the past.

Governor Cuomo Announces $13.9 Million Repaving Project for Long Island

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that work is set to begin on a $13.9 million project to resurface 16.2 miles of State Routes 106, 231 and 25A in the towns of North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Smithtown, Riverhead and Babylon. The work is part of $75 million in paving projects that were accelerated to repair widespread damage caused by deep frost last winter.

The following sections of roadways will be repaved:

  • State Route 25A between Glen Cove Road and State Route 106 in North Hempstead; between Edgewood Avenue and Moriches Road in Smithtown; and between Wading River Manor Road to State Route 25 in Riverhead (9.8 miles)
  • State Route 106 between the State Routes106/107 split and State Route 25A in North Hempstead, along with individual repair locations from north of State Route 25A to the end (3.5 miles)
  • State Route 231 between Macniece Place and Talisman Drive in Babylon (.5 miles)

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said, “Winter weather – snow, ice, freezing rain and deep frosts – can create havoc on our roads and it is important to do this resurfacing work before the cold weather returns. In keeping with Governor Cuomo’s Drivers First initiative we are minimizing the impact this construction will have on the community by performing much of the work during nighttime hours.”

The project includes removing the top layer of pavement and replacing it with new asphalt. Traffic signal loops will be replaced and fresh pavement markings, including bike lane striping and more visible pedestrian crosswalks, will be installed. The project also includes cleaning and repairing drainage structures to improve roadway runoff.

Governor Cuomo Announces Nearly $710,000 in Grants to Police Departments for New Fingerprinting Equipment

Governor Cuomo announced nearly $710,000 in state grants to 51 police departments and sheriffs’ offices across the state for the purchase of electronic fingerprinting equipment. This new equipment will replace existing devices that either malfunction or are obsolete.

“Fingerprinting is a proven and highly effective crime-fighting method – which drives us to help law enforcement agencies record and share fingerprints as efficiently as possible,” Governor Cuomo said. “These grants will help departments across the state, regardless of size, maintain a vital form of equipment, and I am proud that the state is able to help our local partners in this way.”

All fingerprints taken in connection with arrests must be submitted electronically to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services – the state’s repository of criminal history record information – and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Digital fingerprint technology enables law enforcement agencies and the courts to instantly receive an arrestee’s positive identification and any past criminal history and warrant information from the state. This information is crucial in determining how cases against arrested individuals proceed, including whether bail is set by the court.

The maximum grant awarded for each device was $10,000. Each of the grant recipients must provide a 50 percent local match as this technology benefits both local law enforcement agencies and the state. Any municipal police department or county sheriff’s office in the state was eligible to apply for this funding and could apply for more than one device if the agency hosts a regional server that allows others to electronically submit fingerprints to the state and FBI.

To see the full list of counties set to receive funding, please click here.

Governor Cuomo, Joined By Vice President Gore, Announces New Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Lead Nation on Climate Change

Governor Cuomo, joined by Vice President Gore, announced four major actions to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across New York State. These nation-leading environmental and clean energy initiatives will help New York homes, businesses and universities invest in clean energy, drive economic growth across the state, and protect the environment.

“Climate change is an issue of society’s sustainability – and to deny that climate change is real is to deny reason,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York is stepping up. We are demonstrating the leadership and focus that this issue demands. We are joining together and committing ourselves to tackling climate change and showing the nation what is possible. Now it is up to world leaders to follow suit.”

Former Vice President Al Gore, the subject of an Academy Award-winning documentary, a dedicated environmentalist and Nobel Prize winner, for decades has been a leading advocate in efforts to combat climate change and joined Governor Cuomo to announce these new actions.

“The leadership shown by Governor Cuomo and New York State to make bold emissions reductions commitments is vital to solving the climate crisis,” said Former Vice President Al Gore. “On the eve of the Paris climate negotiations, New York’s efforts to reduce emissions and join with others like California, Quebec, and Ontario to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy send a strong signal to world leaders: local, regional, and state governments are taking climate action now.”

Governor Cuomo Announces Over $32 Million in Federal Grants to Promote Highway Safety

Governor Cuomo announced that over $32 million in federal highway safety grants have been awarded to 541 highway safety programs throughout New York State to improve overall highway safety and reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries due to crashes.

“Making New York’s roads safer for motorists, passengers and pedestrians is a top priority of this administration,” Governor Cuomo said. “These grants will go a long way toward meeting that goal by supporting education programs and enforcement efforts that make this state’s roadways safer for all.”

The funding, which was awarded to New York State by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is being administered in the form of grants by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to state, local, and not-for-profit agencies to support three specific types of driver safety initiatives:

  • Police Traffic Service: Initiatives by law enforcement agencies to target dangerous driver behaviors. This includes participation in the national Click It or Ticket seat belt mobilization and other enforcement initiatives aimed at preventing speeding, intoxicated driving, and aggressive driving.
  • Child Passenger Safety: Child passenger safety education, car seat checks, the distribution of seats, and setting up child seat fitting stations.
  • Highway Safety Grants: State, local and not-for-profit programs that cover additional traffic safety undertakings that include education initiatives, traffic records improvements, trainings, crash reconstruction and railroad crossing safety.

A complete listing of all of the 2016 grant projects is available here.

Governor Cuomo Announces $9.7 Million NY SUNY 2020 Grant to Establish a Regional Workforce Development Center at Adirondack Community College

Governor Cuomo announced a $9.7 million award to SUNY Adirondack as part of the fourth round of NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grants. This funding enables SUNY Adirondack to build the Adirondack Regional Workforce Readiness Center which will house extensive applied learning and workforce training initiatives to help prepare the Capital Region’s workforce for the jobs of the future.

“As upstate New York’s economy continues grow, we must ensure that our workforce has the skills and training needed to fulfill the jobs created by new and emerging industries,”Governor Cuomo said. “This grant will allow SUNY Adirondack to build a state-of-the-art facility that ensures workers receive the training they need, so that new businesses are assured of a quality workforce.”

The Workforce Readiness Center will work with local employers to train students to meet regional workforce development needs, support the goals of SUNY and the Capital Region Economic Development Council, and, above all else, contribute to helping residents secure employment in the region. The facility will house state-of-the-art training simulation labs for the region’s healthcare workforce, create a single point of contact for small business start-up and growth in a largely entrepreneurial-minded community, and centralize the college’s workforce development staff and resources.

Comptroller:

Comptroller DiNapoli: Convicted Drunk Drivers Not Installing Court-Ordered Ignition Locks

The New York City Department of Probation (NYC Probation) failed to properly supervise thousands of New Yorkers convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), allowing them to evade the provisions of “Leandra’s Law” that require them to install Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) in their vehicles, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

In New York state, a person convicted of DWI is subject to a range of sanctions, including license suspension or revocation, fines, and possible jail time. In New York City, persons convicted of a DWI are monitored by either the Queens District Attorney’s Office or NYC Probation. This audit examined those under the supervision of NYC Probation.

Under the Child Passenger Protection Act, also known as Leandra’s Law, those sentenced for a DWI on or after Aug. 15, 2010, must install an IID in any vehicle they own or operate, and the Department of Motor Vehicles adds an “ignition interlock restriction” to their license. The IID connects to the vehicle’s ignition system and prevents the car or truck from starting if the operator’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the allowable level preset into the IID (.025). The IID will also notify the IID manufacturer, who in turn notifies the Probation Department of the violation. The law is named after Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old who was killed when the vehicle she was riding in, being driven by the intoxicated mother of one of her friends, crashed in Manhattan.

When NYC-based offenders are convicted and sentenced to probation with the IID condition, their assigned probation officer (PO) is supposed to run a DMV check to determine whether the probationer’s driver license was previously suspended or revoked, and whether they have any vehicles registered in their name. This information is needed to identify the vehicles, if any, in which IIDs should be installed.

DiNapoli’s auditors reviewed the case files of a sample of 100 offenders, 60 of whom were repeat offenders, to determine whether the above-DMV checks were performed. They found:

  • In 70 cases, there was no evidence that DMV checks were performed at intake;
  • In 32 cases, there was no evidence that DMV checks were performed by the POs during the offender’s entire probation term. Seventeen of these 32 offenders did not install an IID
  • Of the 68 cases that did have DMV checks during the probation term, 22 were considered high risk requiring monthly DMV checks. Auditors found evidence of monthly checks in only one of those cases; and
  • In nine of the 68 cases, the DMV checks were performed as a result of DiNapoli’s audit.

Auditors further found NYC Probation doesn’t always notify the courts or district attorneys when DWI offenders under its supervision are trying to drive while impaired or drunk.

Attorney General:

Attorney General Schneiderman Announces Agreements to Improve Hospital Services for Those with Limited Language Ability; Limited Incomes

In a significant step toward promoting equal access to healthcare, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced agreements with Auburn Community Hospital in Auburn and Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital, Inc. in Binghamton that will bolster their language assistance and financial aid services. Both hospitals serve increasingly diverse communities and are committed to ensuring their services keep pace with the needs of its population.  Implementing and revisiting language assistance and financial aid policies will work to ensure the hospital’s services remain available to individuals regardless whether they have limited English proficiency (LEP) or ability to pay.

“Overcoming language barriers in the medical setting is key to protecting the health and well-being of all New Yorkers,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The agreements with Auburn Community Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial in Binghamton exemplify steps that healthcare providers can take to provide all people, regardless of income or LEP-status, a meaningful opportunity to obtain quality medical care.”

Attorney General Schneiderman and Facebook Announce New Partnership To Combat Online Sex Trafficking

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a new partnership with Facebook to use innovative data and analytical methods to crack down on human trafficking. The announcement took place during the Attorney General’s keynote address at Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s National Summit of Human Trafficking and the State Courts.

The partnership will leverage technology to identify victims of sex trafficking in online advertisements for commercial sex, and pursue the traffickers that engage in this practice of modern day slavery. The initiative will focus, in particular, on identifying child victims of sex trafficking, including those who are reported as missing.

“This is an exciting and important new partnership that will greatly assist our efforts to bring sex traffickers to justice and return their victims to safety,”said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Working with Facebook, we will open a new front in the fight to make online sex trafficking a thing of the past. Facebook has been a great partner in my office’s work to protect children in the past, and I am very pleased to be working with them again on this critical new effort.”

Attorney General Schneiderman Announces Lawsuits Against Businesses for Allegedly Selling and Shipping Synthetic Marijuana and Other Designer Drugs Statewide

Building on his office’s cutting edge work to stop the sale of so-called designer drugs, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that his office has filed lawsuits against Erie County-based Surrealistic Sensations, operated by Michael Jamail, and Rockland County-based Liquid Shop a/k/a Liquid Glass Shop, operated by Andrew Grogan for allegedly selling hallucinogenic and psychotropic drugs and street drug alternatives. These substances, known as “designer drugs,” promote auditory and visual hallucinations, sedation, euphoria, and other street drug effects, but can lead to addiction, psychosis, acute arrhythmia, asphyxiation and even death.

The Attorney General’s investigation found that the distributors named in the lawsuit were labeling dangerous products with names like “Green Giant” and “Psycho,” and in new formats like psychoactive eliquids and candies, then promoting and marketing them as “legal highs.” As detailed in the petitions, some products had practically no label information and most lacked comprehensive ingredient lists, warnings, and directions for use, as required by law. Without ingredient disclosure, adequate usage or warning information, the lawsuits allege that the labels are deceptive and the drugs are dangerous for consumers. The investigation revealed sales being made in New York and, in some instances, far beyond New York’s borders. In response to the AG’s lawsuit, a Bronx County Supreme judge issued a restraining order and demanded Surrealistic Sensations appear in court.

“The proliferation of illegal designer drugs is a national health crisis that is hurting New York families and communities,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “After successfully stopping more than 20 head shops across our state from selling these dangerous drugs, my prosecutors and investigators are tracking down dealers who sell these drugs online and in stores. There is one set of rules for everyone, and if your trade is selling dangerous, mislabeled drugs anywhere in New York State, you must stop — or we will stop you.”

Attorney General Schneiderman Leads Multi-State Coalition Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Review Case Concerning Restrictions Limiting Access to Abortion Services

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that he is leading a coalition of a dozen states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to grant certiorari to review a federal appellate court decision upholding two provisions of Texas law that significantly restrict access to abortion services in that state. The provisions at issue in the case were purportedly enacted to promote the state’s interest in women’s health, but the evidence in the case established, and the federal district court expressly found, that the provisions would not in fact advance that interest and could even undermine it.

The Texas provisions at issue in the case require that all abortion clinics comply with standards applicable to ambulatory surgical centers and that any physician performing an abortion hold admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the location where the abortion is performed. While the provisions were purportedly enacted to promote women’s health, the evidence in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole overwhelmingly established that the provisions would not in fact serve that purpose and could even undermine it. As a result, a federal district court in Texas enjoined the provisions’ enforcement. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and upheld them (except it enjoined the enforcement of each provision at a single abortion clinic), finding that it was required to defer to the state’s judgment in the matter.

In the states’ brief, Attorney General Schneiderman argues that identifying the proper standard of review for evaluating abortion regulations enacted to promote women’s health is an important issue for the States. New York’s brief notes that states have an interest in ensuring that their health-related regulations of abortion services are subject to the proper level of judicial review, one that affords reasonable deference to legislative judgments, but not the near-complete deference afforded by the Fifth Circuit. The brief cautions that a wholly deferential standard of review may fail to give proper weight to the constitutional right to access abortion services.

Attorney General Schneiderman and U.S. Deparment of Labor Join Forces to Ensure Private-Sector Employees Get Health Care Benefits Due by Law

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and officials of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) have signed an agreement to share information and work cooperatively to address violations of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and New York State laws covering health insurance plans. Theagreement, or “Memorandum of Understanding,” makes it possible for the two law enforcement agencies to refer cases to one another, conduct joint investigations into potential violations of law and assist each other with enforcement cases. It represents a new collaborative effort aimed at protecting the rights of participants in employee health plans, whether they are members of plans offered by insurance companies or “self-insured” plans created by private employers for employees.

Since 2010, the New York Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau has reached more than a dozen agreements with health insurance companies enforcing laws related to a wide variety of health care issues, including laws requiring equal coverage for mental health compared to physical health issues, laws prohibiting co-payments for preventive health services such as colonoscopies, and laws mandating coverage of child lead testing.

Since 2012, EBSA has conducted the Health Benefits Security Project (HBSP) which is a comprehensive national health enforcement project that identifies and corrects  systemic violations of federal law related to health benefits such as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and the new protections afforded by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. These investigations involve employer-sponsored plans and their service providers and make sure promised benefits are paid, participants are told about their benefits and rights under the plan, and fiduciaries are held accountable for mismanagement of a plan. By sharing investigatory information and working together both agencies can more likely ensure that improperly denied benefits are identified and corrected.   Frequently, the entity violating federal or state health coverage laws is subject to both sets of laws and so the collaborative approach embodied in this MOU will provide greater protections to the individuals entitled to the full array of health-related benefits.

Currently, New York State is prohibited from enforcing New York laws against self-insured health plans. These plans, under which private employers pay all or a portion of employees’ health care costs directly, provide health care coverage for about half of New York workers. Conversely, the Department of Labor does not have authority to regulate health insurance companies in their role as insurers.This agreement will allow the Attorney General and EBSA to collaborate on enforcement efforts involving New York insurance companies violating state and federal law.  These carriers often use the same procedures to administer self-insured health plans on behalf of employers. Armed with this information EBSA will be able to conduct investigations to determine whether self-insured health plans have been victimized as well.  Conversely, EBSA will share information about violative practices employed by service providers to health plans that likely use these same practices when they review claims as insurers and, thus, may be in violation of state law.

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