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This Week in New York State Government

Governor:

Governor Cuomo’s Trade Mission to Cuba Helps Connect New York Businesses to New Opportunities

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo returned Tuesday April 21, from a two-day trade mission to Cuba where more than a dozen New York industry leaders worked together with Cuban officials to find ways to start new economic partnerships as the U.S. and Cuba begin the process of normalizing relations.

Roswell Park Cancer Center signs agreement with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) to develop a lung cancer vaccine with a clinical trial in the United States

During the trip, Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo signed an agreement with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) to develop a unique lung cancer vaccine with a clinical trial in the United States. The trade mission facilitated face-to-face connections and enabled the two parties to reach an agreement on the final details. The agreement will enable testing of a CMI-developed vaccine for lung cancer, which is already in use in Cuba, in an early-phase clinical trial at Roswell Park. The vaccine has already shown promise in controlling lung cancer, and the teams hope it may have value in both preventing and treating lung cancer and possibly other cancers. The agreement with the CIM paves the way for Roswell Park to move forward on its application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to offer the vaccine in a clinical trial in the U.S.

Infor Global Solutions Inc. announces agreement to sell healthcare management software in Cuba

During the trip, Infor worked together with Cuban counterparts to reach an agreement to provide software and training in Cuba.

SUNY and University of Havana work toward new future together, SUNY to establish a Cuba lecture series

During the trade mission, State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and José F. Buscaglia-Salgado, Director of Caribbean, Latin American and Latino Studies at the University at Buffalo, met with officials at the University of Havana to discuss initiatives to expand scholarly and cultural exchanges between New York State and Cuba. Since 1997, the State University of New York has had important and enriching partnerships and educational exchange programs in Cuba. SUNY campuses at Albany, Buffalo, New Paltz, Oswego, and Old Westbury have had study abroad programs in Cuba.

As a result of the trip, the University of Havana shared a framework for a memorandum of understanding between SUNY and the University, which will:

  • Enable SUNY to increase study abroad programs to Cuba.
  • Increase scholarly exchanges between SUNY and the University of Havana.
  • Provide study abroad students with internship and other applied learning opportunities as New York companies seek a presence in Cuba.

SUNY hopes to solidify this memorandum of understanding with the University of Havana and use it as a framework for a future partnership with the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education and expand opportunities to the other institutions of higher education in Cuba.

New York State companies enjoyed productive bilateral meetings with Cuban industry leaders

In addition to the announcements that Roswell Park and Infor made during the trip, New York State’s business leaders enjoyed productive bilateral meetings with Cuban officials and industry leaders. During the trade mission, Cayuga Milk Ingredients, Chobani, MasterCard, JetBlue, Plattsburgh International Airport, New York Genome Center, Pfizer, and Regeneron all explored future opportunities with their respective Cuban counterparts.

Working Lunch hosted by Cuban Minister of Trade and Foreign Investments Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz

Upon arrival in Cuba, Governor Cuomo participated in a working lunch hosted by Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, the Cuban Minister of Trade and Foreign Investments, and attended by other New York and Cuban officials. The discussion at the lunch centered on the new economic opportunities that will become available to New York and to Cuba as the process of normalizing diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba continues to move forward.

Governor Cuomo Announces Federal Railroad Administration Approves $1 Billion Loan to MTA to Improve LIRR & Metro-North Signal System Safety

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the Federal Railroad Administration has approved a loan of $967.1 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the improvement of the safety of the signal systems used by the MTA’s two commuter railroads, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. The loan, which is the largest and lowest-cost financing for the MTA, will finance the installment of positive train control, a technology designed to remove the potential for human error that can lead to train-involved accidents.

Positive train control is a technology that allows computerized systems to automatically control certain aspects of train movement. It is intended to prevent train-to-train collisions, trains accidentally traveling into areas where track workers are working, or derailments caused by excessive train speed or the movement of a train through an improperly aligned switch. The technology can address situations like the Spuyten Duyvil derailment in the Bronx, where a train was going faster than its maximum allowable speed. Congress mandated the installation of positive train control in 2008 for all commuter railroads in the U.S.

Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road are in the process of implementing the technology, which includes the installation of on-board components for 1,455 rail cars and transponders alongside 588 route miles of track. In November 2013, the MTA awarded a contract to a joint venture of Bombardier Transportation and Siemens Rail Automation to act as a systems integrator that will provide the design, furnish equipment and ensure that the system functions as intended. LIRR and Metro-North forces and some third party contracts will support installations of wayside, office, communications and on-board equipment. Installation of positive train control on Metro-North territory in the State of Connecticut will be funded by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

The loan is the largest to have been made through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program and remains subject to MTA Board Approval on April 29 and final closing in May. The MTA will issue its Transportation Revenue Bond directly to the Federal Railroad Administration and will repay the obligation over 22½ years at a fixed interest rate of 2.38%. MTA’s Transportation Revenue Bonds are rated “AA-” from Standard & Poor’s, “A2” from Moody’s, and “A” from Fitch.

Governor Cuomo Announces More Than 115,000 Positions Available on Jobs Express Website

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that more than 115,000 available jobs, a new record high, are now listed on the Jobs Express website (www.jobs.ny.gov). The site sorts thousands of jobs by region and occupation, and also allows users to search jobs based on zip code and travel distance. There is also a one-stop-shop website that provides information and resources for Jobs Express at https://www.ny.gov/services/find-job.

The new record high in available jobs is an indicator of an improved economy, as well as an indicator of the success businesses have in using the site. In March 2015, New York State’s private sector job count increased by 8,600 to 7.75 million, reaching a new all-time high.

New businesses and job listings are added to the Jobs Express site every day.

Governor Cuomo Announces Administration Appointments

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the following 11 nominations and appointments to his administration, continuing to shape a team committed to expanding opportunity for all New Yorkers.

Gerrard P. Bushell will be nominated to serve as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. Mr. Bushell is an accomplished investment advisor who counsels some of the nation’s leading institutional investors on their private and public investment strategies. He is currently a Senior Relationship Advisor in BNY Mellon’s alternative and traditional investment management businesses.

Jerry Boone will be nominated to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance. His nomination replaces that of Kenneth Adams, who will return to the private sector in June. Mr. Boone currently serves as President and Commissioner of the Civil Service Commission, overseeing New York’s workforce as principal human resources partner and employee benefits manager for the Executive Branch of state government, which employs 150,000 people.

Sabrina Ty has been recommended to serve as President and CEO of the Environmental Facilities Corporation. This recommendation must be approved by the EFC Board of Directors. Ms. Ty most recently served as Special Counsel to the Commissioner in the Office of General Services, where she oversaw several of the Governor’s Enterprise initiatives for achieving savings, supervised the implementation of the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Program and managed the agency’s MWBE program.

Margaret A. Tobin has been appointed Senior Vice President of Development for the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Ms. Tobin most recently served as Chief Financial Officer of Empire State Development, where she oversaw the $1.6 billion bond financing of World Trade Center 3.

Axel Bernabe has been appointed Assistant Counsel to the Governor with a focus on Health. Mr. Bernabe most recently served as a Partner with Constantine Cannon, P.C., where for over 10 years he specialized in healthcare, antitrust and complex commercial litigation, as well as on providing corporate compliance advice to companies in the healthcare and insurance industries.

Mehul J. Patel has been appointed Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff at Empire State Development. Mr. Patel currently serves as Chief of Staff at ESD and will be adding the COO role to his responsibilities.

Heriberto (Ed) Vargas has been appointed Director of Labor Relations for the Department of Labor. He is a veteran New York City labor leader with more than 30 years of experience working on economic, political and social justice issues affecting working families in New York State, nationally, and internationally.

Shareema Abel has been appointed Special Counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for Homes and Community Renewal. She currently serves as Litigation Attorney in the Teacher Performance Unit of the New York City Department of Education, where she was lead counsel on disciplinary hearings of tenured pedagogues.

Linda Donahue has been appointed Special Counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. Ms. Donahue currently serves as Senior Counsel for the New York City Law Department, where she litigated and managed federal civil rights class actions and wrongful conviction cases.

Nika Milbrun has been appointed Assistant Director of Constituencies for African American and Women’s Affairs for the Executive Chamber. Ms. Milbrun most recently served as Regional Field Director for Terra Strategies on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Matthew L. Ossenfort has been appointed to serve on the State Workforce Investment Board. Mr. Ossenfort was elected Montgomery County Executive in November 2013. At 33, he is the youngest sitting county executive in New York State.

Governor Cuomo Announces Green Practices at State Agencies Lead to $13 Million in Cost Savings

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that implementation of green policies at state agencies have saved New York taxpayers $13 million while substantially reducing paper use and waste, and increasing recycling. A new report released found that state agencies have made great strides in avoiding and minimizing the use of pesticides and increased purchasing of green products. This announcement comes in honor of Earth Week, April 19-25, which Governor Cuomo proclaimed as a weeklong celebration of New York’s commitment to protecting our environment.

Key achievements by state agencies include:

  • a 40-percent reduction in copy paper purchased by state agencies since 2011 has saved taxpayers $13 million dollars bringing total savings since 2008 to $27.4 million;
  • a 53-percent reduction in waste generated since 2008;
  • a steadily increasing recycling rate, reaching its highest level of 71 percent in both FY 12-13 and 13-14, and averaging 63 percent since 2008;
  • a steadily increasing purchase of 100-percent, post-consumer recycled content copy paper, which reached 50 percent of all copy paper in FY 13-14, an increase from 22 percent in FY 08-09; and
  • widespread adoption by agencies of non-chemical means of controlling pests on turf and ornamental plantings, a practice that protects pollinators, which reached 70 percent of all agencies in FY 13-14, an increase of 22 percent since 2011.

The report is available at: http://www.ogs.ny.gov/EO/4/Default.asp.

Governor Cuomo Announces $22 Million to Improve Flooding and Storm Resiliency

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that a project in Oneida and Herkimer Counties and three projects in New York City are moving forward after receiving approvals from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. These projects will make communities more resilient and better equipped to mitigate the risks of loss and damage associated with future disasters. During the recovery and reconstruction process following a federally declared disaster such as Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, or Superstorm Sandy, FEMA provides HMGP funds for states to administer grant programs that mitigate the vulnerability of life and property to future disasters.

FEMA has granted final approval for construction and Phase I approvals for final engineering, along with permission for three projects under its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. After Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of New York, Governor Cuomo called for government and non-profit organizations across the state to submit applications for projects to help rebuild smarter, stronger, more resilient and more sustainable communities in the wake of recent natural disasters. The projects total more than $22.1 million.

The Sea Gate Community in Brooklyn:Superstorm Sandy severely damaged the community of Sea Gate’s bulkhead and sea wall, which is the main form of protection against erosion, storm surges, and flooding to nearby homes.In most areas, the bulkhead that previously safeguarded the community has been completely destroyed, putting parts of Coney Island and other surrounding neighborhoods at risk.The total project cost of the new bulkhead, including construction costs, is estimated at $2.8 million.

NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation: This project, estimated at $5.16 million including construction costs, will replace and upgrade the tide and sluice gates (movable gates that allow water to flow underneath) on the bridge that separates Flushing Bay from Flushing Creek. Once installed, excess water can be easily drained, which will leave room in the bay to capture extra water and decrease frequent flooding in the park after rainfall. The total area covered by this mitigation project will be about 400 acres.

Richmond University Medical Center: The cost of this project, including construction costs, is estimated at more than $6.2 million. Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC), a designated level-one trauma center and stroke center, has more than 2,000 employees and 510 patient beds.

Governor Cuomo Announces $71 Million in Parks 2020 Improvement Projects

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that 88 revitalization and rehabilitation projects, totaling $71.7 million, will be completed at 60 State parks and historic sites across New York this year. The announcement is in honor of Earth Week, April 19-25, a weeklong celebration of New York’s commitment and accomplishments to protecting our environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state’s vast and magnificent natural resources, implementing clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change.

The projects are part of the Governor’s NY Parks 2020 plan, a multi-year commitment to leverage a broad range of private and public funding to invest approximately $900 million in State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The Governor committed $110 million to the effort in the 2015-16 State Budget. In addition to the projects announced this week, the 2015-16 budget will provide for various system-wide improvements, such as investments in energy efficiency, technology, natural resource stewardship, and trail projects; and allocates funding for emergencies, engineering and construction oversight, and design of future year projects.

The projects make up the next phase of the long-term NY Parks 2020 plan, which follows seven strategic priorities:

  • Making comprehensive investments in the State’s most popular flagship parks to ensure they remain relevant throughout the 21st Century;
  • Targeting investments to projects that promote healthy, active outdoor recreation;
  • Ensuring people from all walks of life have opportunities to connect with parks;
  • Replacing well used but worn out public use facilities and critical infrastructure that have been neglected too long;
  • Preserving historic sites and cultural assets;
  • Ensuring proper stewardship of some of the State’s most unique ecosystems, including making them more resilient to extreme weather; and
  • Leveraging the tourism impact of State Parks to energize local economies.

Governor Cuomo Announces Completion of Energy Efficiency Project at Grand Central Terminal

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced, as part of Earth Week, the completion of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s largest-ever energy-efficiency project, which will save $2.5 million in annual energy costs at Grand Central Terminal.

The upgrades will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions by more than 11,200 tons a year—the equivalent of removing roughly 2,140 cars from the road. The more than 750,000 people who pass through Grand Central daily will benefit from improved air quality and better climate control.

The $25 million project is the result of a partnership between the New York Power Authority and the MTA and was carried out under Governor Cuomo’s BuildSmart NY program, a statewide initiative to increase energy efficiency in public buildings. It is consistent with the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan, which spurs clean-energy innovations that protect the environment and strengthen the State’s economy.

The project, which began in 2012, includes a variety of energy-saving measures, such as the installation of cooling towers, temperature controls and compressed air and steam distribution systems, air handling upgrades, and new chillers to enhance the terminal’s original cooling system. The project also implemented sub-meters to provide a better understanding of the energy usage throughout the facility.

Governor Cuomo Announces Recipients of Better Buffalo Fund Incentives

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the first recipients of funding through the Better Buffalo Fund, a $30 million Buffalo Billion initiative dedicated to projects that encourage density and growth along transportation corridors and revitalize neighborhood commercial districts. A total of $11,722,500 was awarded to 21 projects, including nine on the East Side of Buffalo, which will contribute to the renovation of more than 200 residential units and more than 50,000 square feet of store front and commercial space.

The fund aims to create vibrant, mixed-use, high-density neighborhoods and is focused on giving all residents of the City of Buffalo greater access to the major employment hubs—projected to create thousands of jobs and increase the city’s tax base. Announced as part of Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative, it will create stronger transit and transportation access linkages between neighborhoods and existing and growing employment centers, job training and services. Applicants applied for grants and revolving loan funds through the Better Buffalo Fund for one of two initiatives—Transit Oriented Development and Buffalo Main Streets.

Governor Cuomo Announces Buffalo Manufacturing Works Open for Business

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the opening of Buffalo Manufacturing Works, a world-class facility for advanced manufacturing. This Buffalo Billion initiative will provide manufacturers with the support they need to innovate, expand into new markets and boost productivity.

Buffalo Manufacturing Works is operated by EWI, a leading non-profit engineering and technology organization dedicated to developing, testing, and implementing advanced manufacturing technologies for industry. Based on input from local manufacturers, the center will concentrate on four primary technology focus areas: Flexible Manufacturing, Materials & Testing, Additive Manufacturing and Machining & Finishing. These will augment the technical capabilities at EWI’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio and will be driven by industry demand for technology services in each area.

Buffalo Manufacturing Works is housed at 847 Main Street in Buffalo, with 50% of the space dedicated to laboratories and the balance of the space being filled by large meeting rooms and flexible office space. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is providing, at no cost, space to house EWI for their start-up operations. In addition, New York State is investing $45M of the Buffalo Billion toward machinery, equipment, future facility needs and operations over the next five years. Empire State Development is also providing $800,000 start-up funding support for EWI.

Governor Cuomo Announces Regional Task Forces to Help Crime Victims

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that task forces are being piloted across the state to enhance the investigation and prosecution of cases involving New York’s special needs population. The countywide task forces will address and enhance the way law enforcement, medical personnel and social services agencies respond to criminal cases involving people with disabilities and special needs who have been victimized.

The newly created Vulnerable Persons’ Task Forces will enhance collaboration and identify best practices and training to better serve New York’s vulnerable populations. April 19th also kicked off Crime Victims’ Rights Week in New York, and this year’s theme is Engaging Communities, Empowering Victims, which sends the message that, through partnerships we can provide support and services that will empower victims to direct their own recovery.

Vulnerable Persons’ Task Forces also are being piloted in Albany, Jefferson and Nassau counties. Task Force members typically include, but are not limited to, representatives from The Justice Center, local law enforcement agencies, district attorneys’ offices, victim advocates, medical professionals, such as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, adult protective services workers, and medical examiners/coroners.

Governor Cuomo Announces Robert Moses State Park to be First Energy-Neutral State Park in the Nation

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $1.7 million, 500-kilowatt solar system to be installed at Robert Moses State Park, which will make the Suffolk County coastal park the first energy neutral state park in the nation. The new system will create a greener, more sustainable park and achieve an annual $130,000 in cost savings. The announcement is in honor of Earth Week, April 19-25, which Governor Cuomo proclaimed as a weeklong celebration of New York’s commitment to protecting our environment.

The park will become energy neutral through a net-metering agreement with PSEG Long Island, and through an energy audit on the park. The audit will recommend how the park can become more energy efficient, and those ideas will be implemented prior to the installation of the new photovoltaic (PV) system. The electricity generated by the solar array will meet or exceed the annual usage of the park.

State Parks expects to install another 300kW of solar-power generating capacity at parks across the state this year, including projects at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island, Peebles Island State Park and Thacher State Park in the Capital Region, and Alan Treman State Park in the Finger Lakes.

Governor Cuomo Announces First of its Kind Energy Efficient Home Build by Veterans for Veterans

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the groundbreaking of the country’s first U.S. Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home, which will be built by veterans, for veterans, in Huntington Station. As part of the United Way of Long Island VetsBuild® program, projects like this help veterans find employment in the green construction industry. Building a zero energy home—one which has a renewable energy system that offsets all or most of its annual energy consumption—translates into virtually nonexistent energy bills. This announcement is in honor of Earth Week, April 19-25, which Governor Cuomo proclaimed as a weeklong celebration of New York’s commitment to protecting our environment.

The green residence, located at 40 Depot Road in Huntington Station, NY, in Suffolk County, will be home to several military veterans with special needs, and going forward VetsBuild expects to create approximately 60 jobs and build five Energy Star Homes per year. The program is funded by a $200,000 grant from the New York Department of State. View rendering here.

As part of $81.9 million in state aid that will support 97 projects in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, United Way of Long Island was awarded $600,000 over three years from New York State Department of State for VetsBuild as part of Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative.  Additional partners include The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Building Performance Institute Inc., State Department of Energy, GEICO, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Knapp Swezey Foundation, L.I. Regional Economic Development Council, National Grid, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority , PSEG, and United Veterans Beacon House.

Governor Cuomo Announces $1.8 Million in Conservation Grants to Boost Tourism, Farmland Protection and Public Access for Recreation

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $1.8 million in Conservation Partnership Program grants for 55 nonprofit land trusts across the State. Representatives of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Land Trust Alliance unveiled the grantees at an event at Teatown Lake Reservation in Westchester County. The announcement launches a weeklong celebration of Earth Week, which recognizes New York’s commitment to protecting our environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state’s vast and magnificent natural resources, implementing clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change.

The grants, funded through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), will leverage an additional $1.7 million in private and local funding to support projects to protect farmland, wildlife habitat, water quality, enhance public access for outdoor recreational opportunities, and conserve priority open space areas important for community health, tourism and regional economic development. The Land Trust Alliance administers the Conservation Partnership Program in coordination with DEC.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “DEC’s partnerships with land trusts are crucial to achieving our conservation goals, without which there would be many land conservation projects that would not be possible. Governor Cuomo continues to demonstrate his commitment to the environment, diversity, providing opportunities for sportsmen and sportswomen, and improving recreational access opportunities near where people live in New York State. This year’s budget provided a $15 million increase to the Environmental Protection Fund including increases to land acquisition, municipal parks and environmental justice grants.”

Governor Cuomo Announces Taskforce to Develop Pollinator Protection Plan to Protect New York’s Agricultural Economy

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State will establish an interagency taskforce to develop a Pollinator Protection Plan to promote the health and recovery of pollinator populations in New York State. Pollinators – which include various types of bees and butterflies – contribute significantly to the state’s agricultural economy by adding roughly $500 million in pollination services on an annual basis. To address the alarming decline in pollinators that has occurred in recent years, the Governor has directed the Commissioners of the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Department of Environmental Conservation to meet with farmers, research institutions and key industry leaders to develop a roadmap to conserve and grow pollinator populations across the state.

This announcement is in honor of Earth Week, April 19-25, which Governor Cuomo proclaimed as a weeklong celebration of New York’s commitment and accomplishments to protecting our environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state’s vast and magnificent natural resources, implementing clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change.

Pollinators contribute substantially to the State’s economy by providing $500 million worth of pollination services to New York annually, and adding $15 billion in value to crop production nationally each year, according the USDA. New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, cherries, onions, pumpkins and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of pollinators. Over the last 50 years, the number of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, bats and butterflies, has dropped significantly. Scientists believe many of these losses are caused by a combination of factors such as poor nutrition, loss of foraging habitat, parasites, pesticides, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity and poor land management practices.

Comptroller:

Comptroller DiNapoli: Pension Funds Break New Ground on Board Diversity

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that the New York Common Retirement Fund (Fund) has reached precedent-setting agreements with Monster Beverage Corp. and Standard Pacific Corp. to formally include sexual orientation and gender identity in their considerations when seeking diverse board candidates. Standard Pacific, a California-based homebuilder, is believed to be the first U.S. corporation to include these provisions in its board nominating charter.

Monster Beverage agreed to amend its charter in response to a separate Fund proposal which was co-filed by the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, The City of Philadelphia Public Employees Retirement System and Calvert Investments. As a result of the agreements, the Fund has withdrawn the board diversity proposals it filed at the two companies.

“Corporations with homogeneous boards are vulnerable to ‘groupthink’ which can discourage innovation and put their reputations and financial performance at risk,” DiNapoli said. “Investors want their companies to draw talent and ideas from the deepest possible pool, which Monster and Standard Pacific clearly understand. As investors, we’ll continue to urge the companies in our portfolio to adopt more inclusive practices in seeking board candidates.”

Comptroller DiNapoli Releases School Audits

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced his office completed the following audits:

Campbell-Savona Central School District – Budget Review (Steuben County)
The significant revenue and expenditure projections in the tentative budget are reasonable. The district consistently appropriates fund balance that is not needed to fund operations. Two of the district’s reserves totaling $1.14 million appear to be overfunded. The district’s tentative budget complies with the property tax levy limit.

Cortland City School District – Budget Review (Cortland County)
The district has overestimated appropriations for payroll, health insurance, retirement, debt and utilities by $3.2 million. After the district’s planned use of $500,000 in fund balance, the remaining unassigned fund balance is only $200,000, or 0.4 percent, of the ensuing year’s appropriations. The district’s preliminary budget complies with the tax levy limit.

Fort Edward Union Free School District – Financial Condition (Washington County)
Although the board adopted reasonable budgets that included realistic estimates based on historical or known trends, the district relied on the appropriation of fund balance to finance recurring expenditures and, as a result, the budgets were not structurally balanced. As of June 30, 2014, the district reported an unrestricted fund balance that totaled $35,463, or .33 percent, of the ensuing year’s budgeted appropriations. District officials have developed a multiyear financial plan to address current and long-term financial trends.

Glens Falls Common School District – Financial Condition (Warren County)
The board did not adopt structurally balanced budgets that funded recurring expenditures with recurring revenues for the general fund for 2012-13, 2013-14 or 2014-15 fiscal years. Furthermore, the district’s general fund operating cash balance decreased by approximately $370,000 in one year. As a result, the district had to issue a tax anticipation note to meet cash flow needs during the 2014-15 fiscal year.

West Seneca Central School District – Financial Condition (Erie County)
The district had no operating cash on hand and very little fund balance at the end of 2013-14 fiscal year. The district incurred significant operating deficits in fiscal years 2010-11 through 2012-13. In addition, the district issues short-term debt to provide temporary cash flow and has improperly used a total of $7.5 million in reserve fund cash to help with cash flow in fiscal years 2012-13 and 2013-14.

Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Municipal Audits

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced his office completed the following audits:

Town of Champion Great Bend Fire District – Controls Over Financial Operations (Jefferson County)
The district has not submitted the required annual financial reports to the Office of State Comptroller for the 2011 through 2013 fiscal years. The district did not submit its tax levy limit calculations for 2015 or the three prior years. Auditors calculated the levy limit for 2015 and found the district’s proposed 2015 tax levy exceeded the statutory limit by $4,394 and the board did not pass a resolution to override the limit.

Chenango County – Departmental Cash Receipts (2015M-21)
County officials have ensured cash receipts are properly collected, recorded and deposited. Department officials have implemented effective controls including issuing duplicate receipts, segregating key financial duties, performing monthly reconciliations and cross-checking their records with the monthly treasurer’s report.

Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District – Internal Controls Over Selected Financial Operations (2014M-171)
The board was not provided with the necessary financial reports and information to properly oversee operating and grant activities or to develop realistic or structurally balanced budgets. As a result, the district borrowed $669,000 from grant funds to help pay operating costs.

Village of Woodsburgh – Claims Processing and Information Technology (Nassau County)
The board did not perform an effective claims audit to ensure transactions were properly authorized and approved or claims were for proper village purposes. The board also did not adopt a comprehensive IT policy or establish procedures addressing crucial aspects of IT security.

Comptroller DiNapoli Releases States Audits

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits have been issued:

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): Motor Vehicle Financial Security and Safety Responsibility Acts: Assessable Expenses for the Fiscal Year Ended March 31, 2014 (2015-S-7)
For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014, net assessable expenses for the acts total about $19.9 million. DMV has adequate procedures in place to ensure that it accurately identifies and reports its assessable expenses in all material respects.

Department of Transportation (DOT): Collection of Special Hauling and Divisible Load Overweight Permit Fees (2014-S-52)
Although DOT accurately charged and collected the correct fee for each transaction tested, auditors found significant and pervasive weaknesses in internal controls at the regional office level that decrease assurance that all permits are appropriately recorded and the correct fees are collected and deposited. These deficiencies include poor accountability for permits issued and fees collected, a lack of segregation of duties for permit transactions, and minimal oversight by both the central and regional offices. Several regional offices are also at increased risk because they have devised systems to informally hold supplies of pre-signed checks provided by select repeat customers.

Workers’ Compensation Board: Assessment of Costs to Administer the Workers’ Compensation Program for the Two Fiscal Years Ended March 31, 2013 (2014-S-43)
The board has adequate procedures in place to ensure that it accurately identifies and reports its assessable expenses in all material respects. The board made minor calculation errors in the fiscal year 2011-12 assessment, resulting in a net understatement of $144,592 in the total assessment of about $204 million. The errors were partially attributable to insufficient staff training. The board also lacks a formal review process to ensure the procedures for preparing the assessment are properly executed and monitored.

Attorney General:

Attorney General Schneiderman & NYC Corporation Counsel Carter Join Forces with Premier Law School Clinics Aiding Tech Entreperneurs

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Corporation Counsel Zachery Carter announced that they have joined forces with two premier technology clinics, the Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy (BLIP) Clinic, operated out of The Brooklyn Law School, and the Tech Startup Clinic, operated out of The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University as well as Fordham University School of Law’s Center on Law and Information Policy (CLIP). The collaboration aims to provide a regular venue for interaction between government and technology start-ups, which often have trouble navigating the complex legal and regulatory regimes in New York City and State. This collaborative effort is further intended to offer government regulatory and enforcement agencies and academia insights into trends and needs in this rapidly-growing sector of New York’s economy.

The collaboration to help tech start-ups in New York City is in line with New York City’s Small Business First initiative. In February, the Mayor announced the 30 recommendations of Small Business First, a comprehensive plan to streamline the City’s requirements for small business owners, and make resources and materials more accessible in order to reduce the regulatory burden and increase compliance in all five boroughs. Additional business services are also available to help all small businesses in New York City start, operate, and grow through seven NYC Business Solutions located in all five boroughs. Free services include helping connect small businesses with capital, business courses, recruitment, pro-bono legal assistance, help navigating government, and more. For more information on free business services, visit www.nyc.gov/nycbusiness or call 311.

Attorney General Schneiderman Announces Resources for Parents to Safeguard their Children from Lead Poisoning

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced new resources to help parents protect their children from lead poisoning. His office has created two new publications for parents, Should My Child Be Tested For Lead Poisoning? – which provides a useful checklist to determine whether a child is at risk for lead poisoning and should be tested by a health care provider – and Lead Paint Poisoning: Keep Your Home and Children Safe, which details actions parents can take to protect their children from the most common source of lead poisoning, exposure to the paint and dust from lead-based paints.

Although lead poisoning is a preventable disease, it continues to be a major children’s environmental health problem in the United States. New York consistently ranks high in the country on key risk factors associated with childhood lead poisoning, including many young children living in poverty, a large immigrant population, and an older, deteriorated housing stock. According to a 2009 report of the New York State Task Force on the Prevention of Childhood Lead Poisoning, thousands of children in the state are at risk for lead poisoning.

Attorney General Schneiderman Announces $1.8 Million Community Climate Initiative to Fund Locally-Based Responses to Climate Change

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that the creation of a new $1.8 million program to fund the development of local responses to climate change. The Community Climate Initiative will provide competitive grants to locally-based organizations across the state to respond to climate change in their communities, from fostering public awareness in fighting air pollution that contributes to climate change to promoting energy efficiency or renewable energy. Funding for the Community Climate Initiative was obtained through a 2007 court-ordered settlement with American Electric Power, the largest U.S. power company, for violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

To foster local creativity and innovation – as well as to cultivate locally-driven approaches – Attorney General Schneiderman intends to solicit a wide range of proposals from community-based organizations to lead efforts to address climate change in their communities. In general, the Community Climate Initiative will be designed to fund the best ideas that local organizations across the state have for addressing climate change in their communities. However, the program will seek geographic diversity in granting as well as to serve those communities which have traditionally suffered the greatest from environmental impacts.

For example, community-based organizations could propose projects to increase public awareness about climate change or to build new partnerships – such as those among municipal governments, environmental advocates, labor groups, and business to work together to reduce air pollution that contributes to climate change. In addition, organizations could propose programs to reduce climate change pollution, such as by encouraging energy efficiency or conservation, supporting renewable energy, and providing access to clean power or public transportation.

Grants awarded through the Community Climate Initiative – which the Attorney General anticipates beginning to make in the fall of this year – will be made through a competitive a grant process to be run by a program administrator selected by the Attorney General. The selection of the program administrator will also be competitive. All final selections of projects to be funded will be made by the Attorney General’s office.

Speaker:

Assembly Recognizes National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol and Governmental Operations Committee Chair Crystal Peoples-Stokes announced the passage of a comprehensive package of legislation aimed at improving treatment and services for crime victims. This announcement coincides with the observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, an annual event aimed at raising awareness of crime victims’ issues. This year’s theme, Engaging Communities, Empowering Victims, emphasizes the role of the entire community to reach more victims and expand their options for services.

Crime impacts individuals from all demographics. Today’s bills aim to eliminate the discriminatory impact of the current laws that prevent victims and their loved ones with limited resources, delicate living situations, lack of marital status and other challenges from pursuing justice and receiving the benefits they deserve. These bills expand definitions and redefine terms to simplify certain claims processes and provide victims more protection under the law. Included measures will encourage more victims, especially those of domestic violence and sexual assault, to obtain the help they need and begin healing.

Once again, the Assembly passed the Rape is Rape bill first introduced two years ago. This bill would amend the definition of rape to include other forms of nonconsensual sexual conduct that are currently recognized by the law as “criminal sexual acts” and would remove the penetration requirement from the rape statutes. This would allow all victims who suffer the traumas of rape to get justice and ensure that all forms of sexual assault are recognized as rape (A.4959-A/Simotas).

The Crime Victims’ Rights package also includes legislation that would:

  • Permit courts to direct anti-trust fines to be paid to the New York State Office of Victim Services to compensate victims (A.2661/Englebright).
  • Extend the expiration date of an order of protection issued as a result of certain sexual assault offenses (A.1797-A/Paulin).
  • Expand the requirement that the Board of Parole notify crime victims about their right to submit a victim impact statement for consideration when the offender becomes parole eligible (A.6945/Walker).
  • Establish the right of tenants to call police or emergency assistance without trepidation of losing their homes as the result of landlord actions or local nuisance laws (A.1322/Lavine).
  • Define the term “necessary court appearance” for purposes of the determination of a crime victim’s award to include, but not be limited to, any part of a proceeding from arraignment through sentencing, pre and post-trial hearings and hearings before the parole board (A. 1097/ Ortiz).
  • Raise the threshold for when proof of financial difficulty is necessary for claims by crime victims from $5,000 to $10,000 (A.6943/Peoples-Stokes).
  • Make domestic partners of homicide victims eligible for the same benefits legally married spouses are awarded (A.3694/Glick).

Speaker Heastie, Environmental Conservation Chair Englebright Announce Assembly Legislative Package for 45th Annual Earth Day Observance

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright announced an environmental legislative package that the Assembly is expected to pass on the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.

The Assembly’s 2015 Earth Day Legislative package contains bills that address the growing concern for the health-threatening chemicals found in some children’s products and the presence of microbeads that pollute the state’s water bodies, including the Great Lakes.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would be directed to post on its web site a list of chemicals that are found in items meant for children and pose a risk to human health. The bill would require manufacturers of children’s products to notify retailers when the merchandise they are selling contains one of the DEC listed chemicals, and it also would prohibit the sale of children’s products that contain the most harmful chemicals (A.5612, Englebright).

The Microbead-Free Waters Act would ban the sale or distribution of personal cosmetic products containing microbeads, which are micro-sized pieces of plastic found in some facial and body wash products that slip through municipal water treatment plants and into bodies of water throughout the state. The beads enter the food chain where they can be mistaken for food by fish. These small plastic bits are capable of absorbing toxins that pose a serious threat to human health and wildlife (A.5896, Schimel).

The Earth Day legislation also includes bills that would:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring DEC to set specific emission regulations (A.6072; Englebright).
  • Establish a permanent environmental justice advisory group and an interagency coordinating council to ensure that no group of people, whether based on race, socioeconomic or ethnicity, is forced to bear an unfair share of negative environmental consequences (A.3063, Peoples-Stokes).
  • Create Environmental Impact Zones to prevent communities from bearing an unfair environmental burden by requiring the DEC to publish a list of areas in the state that are most adversely affected by existing environmental hazards (A.3382, Peoples-Stokes).
  • Reduce the public’s exposure to hazardous material by ensuring light bulbs sold in the state do not contain excessive levels of mercury (A.5844, Kavanagh).

Senate:

Senate Passes Bill to Create a New iCenter to Promote Innovative and Effective State Technology

The New York State Senate passed legislation that would help save money and encourage public-private partnerships by increasing the effectiveness of state government technology. The bill (S3095), sponsored by Senator Rich Funke (R-C-I, Fairport), would authorize a new “iCenter” within the state Office of Information Technology Services to pilot and test new and emerging technology products that would potentially benefit state operations and reduce government costs.

In digital age, it is increasingly difficult to keep up to date with changing technology products. Under the new measure, the iCenter would be a one-stop-shop for state agencies to examine new technologies across their operations to authenticate functionality, guarantee interoperability, and potentially streamline state services.

The approved legislation would save the state money by allowing government agencies to analyze and assess new technologies before using them. State agencies would have the ability to work in partnership with the private sector through the iCenter to understand best practices and incorporate new perspectives in the calibration of state government’s information technology needs. After receiving feedback from the iCenter, interested vendors would still need to participate in the competitive process that follows existing statewide technology procurement guidelines.

Many states are now implementing a similar technology collaborative. North Carolina established an iCenter in 2013, and by 2014 had begun saving $8.4 million in renegotiated state information technology contracts and reduced storage costs.

Senate Passes Legislation to Help Family Caregivers

The New York State Senate passed a measure that would help caregivers receive the necessary resources to deliver care to older adults and others with long term health needs in a home setting. The CARE Act (S676A) sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon (R, Nassau), would reduce future hospitalizations of patients by ensuring that caregivers are involved in and educated about patients’ needs and how to best meet them once they leave the hospital.

At any given time, an estimated 4.1 million New Yorkers provide varying degrees of unreimbursed care to adults with limitations in daily activities. While most caregivers are asked to assist an individual with basic activities of daily living, such as mobility, eating, and dressing, many are expected to perform complex tasks on a daily basis such as administering multiple medications, providing wound care, and operating medical equipment.

Despite the vast importance of caregivers in the individual’s day-to-day care, many caregivers find that they are often left out of discussions involving a patient’s care while in the hospital and, upon the patient’s discharge, receive little to no instruction in the tasks they are expected to perform.

The Caregiver Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act would help address these challenges by having caregivers and hospitals work together in the development of a care plan. Upon admission to a hospital, a patient would be able to designate a caregiver in the patient’s medical record.  Prior to the patient’s discharge to their residence or transfer to another facility, the hospital would need to notify and offer to meet with the designated caregiver to discuss the patient’s plan of care and offer to adequately train the designated caregiver in certain aftercare tasks.

This approach would not only improve the quality of care provided to patients once they leave a hospital setting, but it would help reduce an estimated $17 billion in Medicare funds spent each year nationally on hospital readmissions that would not be needed if patients get the right care.

Senate Passes Bill to Support Local Farmers

The New York State Senate passed legislation that will help New York farmers grow their businesses. The bill (S2250) sponsored by Senator William Larkin (R-C, Cornwall-on-Hudson), would connect farmers to Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs), giving them additional resources to promote economic growth and increase job creation.

Under current law, IDAs can issue loans and provide technical support to manufacturers, processors, and warehousers of agricultural products, but not to those businesses that directly grow, harvest, or collect agricultural products.

Expanding the authorization of already existing IDAs, many of which are located in rural areas, will help promote job growth in industries such as fruit cultivation, raising of beef and other animals, and additional agricultural pursuits.

This legislation continues the Senate Republican commitment to keeping New York’s agriculture industry thriving. The 2015-16 State Budget added more than $12 million to the Executive Budget proposal, restored budget cuts to 33 different programs that support farmers, agricultural technology, and research, and included funding for key components of the Senate’s “Grown in New York” plan to strengthen connections between farmers and consumers looking to buy locally produced foods. The budget also included $50 million for a new Southern Tier/ Hudson Valley Farm Initiative to support the agriculture industry and farmland preservation.

Senate to Celebrate Earth Week with a Package of Bills to Protect the Environment, Increase Greens Jobs, and Boost Recreation

The New York State Senate will be celebrating Earth Week by acting upon an extensive package of 27 bills that would create new protections for natural resources, promote energy conservation, help create green jobs, and increase tourism through enhanced recreational opportunities.

Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said, “Our state has abundant natural resources that are worthy of being protected both for our current well-being and for future generations. The bills that will be acted upon this week strengthen our commitment to improving the health of our communities, protecting the environment, conserving energy, and increasing recreation while striking an important balance that continues to build our economy.”

To see the full list of bills, please click here.