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This Week in New York State Government

Governor:

Governor Cuomo Announces 11 More Companies Join Start-Up NY

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that 11 more businesses plan to expand in or locate to New York State under the START-UP NY program. They will join the more than 70 companies already participating in the initiative, which creates tax-free areas associated with colleges and universities across the state in order to spur economic growth.

The 11 businesses will invest nearly $30 million, and have committed to create at least 158 new jobs over the next five years in tax-free areas sponsored by the University at Buffalo, Rochester Institute of Technology, Farmingdale State College, Morrisville State College, SUNY Brockport and Stony Brook University. This latest group of companies joining the program brings the total number of businesses participating in START-UP NY to 83, representing commitments to create more than 2,530 new jobs and invest more than $133 million in communities throughout the state.

These businesses will create jobs in several key industries, including research and development in biotechnology, physical engineering and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, beverages, information technology, and systems and software development.

The following businesses are approved for START-UP NY:

  • Adiabatic Solutions, LLC
  • C&M Robotics Co., Ltd.
  • ClearCove Systems, Inc.
  • Codagenix, Inc.
  • DaStrong Corp.
  • Empire Farmstead Brewery, Inc.
  • Joox America, LLC
  • K16 Corporation
  • Mitogenetics, LLC
  • Precision Optical Transceivers, Inc.
  • QB Sonic, Inc.

Governor Cuomo Receives 2015 Exceptional Leadership Award for Work on Raise the Age Criminal Justice Reform

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo received the Families Together 2015 Exceptional Leadership Award for his administration’s work on Raise the Age criminal justice reform. The Award was presented at a Legislative Awareness Day and Luncheon where family members and advocates urged state leaders to pass the Governor’s Raise the Age proposal that aims to create better outcomes for children and public safety.

The 2015 Exceptional Leadership Award is presented by Families Together in New York State, a nonprofit, family-run organization serving families of youth with social, emotional, behavioral and cross-systems challenges. Alphonso David, Deputy Secretary and Counsel for Civil Rights and Workforce and incoming Counsel to the Governor, accepted the 2015 Exceptional Leadership Award on the Governor’s behalf.

The Governor’s Raise the Age proposal follows final recommendations from the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice and include: raising the ages of juvenile jurisdiction for child and adult offenses, changes to regulations governing arrest and police custody procedure, expansion and changes to pre-trial diversion and court processing processes, plans to remove youth from adult jails and facilities, expanded services to assist offender re-entry to communities, and reforms that address the collateral consequences of juvenile and youthful offenses.

Today, New York State is only one of two states that automatically processes, prosecutes and incarcerates 16- and 17-year olds as adults. Youth are incarcerated with the adult population in local jails while awaiting trial and in the prison population if found guilty. Youth housed in adult facilities are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, two times more likely to be injured by prison staff, and five times more likely to complete suicide than their peers in juvenile facilities. 96 percent of these youth are incarcerated for non-violent offenses.

More information about the Raise the Age campaign is available at www.raisetheageny.com.

Governor Cuomo Launches ‘Fight for Fair Pay’ Campaign

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched the “Fight for Fair Pay” campaign, a call to action to raise the minimum wage in New York this year. The campaign includes a website, www.ny.gov/FightForFairPay, which provides information and resources about the importance of raising the minimum wage in the State. The Governor proposes to raise the statewide minimum wage to $10.50 per hour and to $11.50 per hour in New York City. Today, the Governor joined labor and community leaders in Buffalo to rally for the increased minimum wage, which would enable more New Yorkers to better support themselves and their families. Over the next few weeks, the Governor and members of his cabinet will travel across the State to rally support for the Governor’s proposal and make it a reality.

“The sweetest and healthiest success is one that enables everyone to do well together – that is what community is all about,” Governor Cuomo said. “As our economy recovers and our businesses add new jobs, we need to ensure our entire workforce has the opportunity to be part of the economic recovery and new momentum we are seeing in all corners of the State. New York has always been a leader in protecting our workers and building strong communities, and this year we must continue to move forward by fighting for fair pay and raising the minimum wage statewide.”

County Executive Statewide Join Governor Cuomo’s Enough is Enough Campaign to Combat Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that county executives from communities across the state have joined the “Enough is Enough” campaign to combat sexual violence on college campuses and universities. These 17 county executives represent broad, bipartisan support for the Governor’s proposal to create the strongest protections for college students in the country, codifying uniform sexual assault prevention and response protocols for private colleges – protocols which have already been adopted by the State University of New York.

“We all must take a stand against sexual assault and rape on college campuses,” Governor Cuomo said. “By joining us in this fight, these county executives – representing both political parties and virtually every corner of the state – are helping us push for the toughest and most comprehensive law in the nation to combat sexual assault on college campuses. I am proud to have their support on this critically important issue, and I ask all New Yorkers to stand with us in saying enough is enough.”

The Governor’s legislation will extend the SUNY policy and protections to colleges statewide and ensure that the state’s 1.2 million college students are protected with comprehensive and uniform procedures and guidelines, including affirmative consent and access to law enforcement. Once law, this policy will go far to protect more students in New York.

Governor Cuomo Announces NY Parks 2020 Plan to Modernize State Park System

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled a seven-point framework of the NY Parks 2020 Plan that will leverage approximately $900 million in public and private funding to modernize the State park system. NY Parks 2020 was previewed in the Governor’s Opportunity Agenda. The plan is part of a multi-year commitment since 2011 to restore facilities, enhance visitor experience, update signage and create better access for tourists at parks across the State. The 2015-16 Executive Budget adds $110 million toward this initiative.

The NY Parks 2020 plan was unveiled by Commissioner Rose Harvey of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation at Saratoga Spa State Park, where the Governor has already directed more than $7 million to improve the National Historic Landmark and flagship State Park in the Capital Region. The investment is making possible a diverse range of projects at the Saratoga Spa State Park– including newly paved trails; restored picnic pavilions; improvements of the Victoria Pool complex; a new playground; a more sustainable upgrade of the Saratoga Performing Arts gateway and preservation of the historic Lincoln and Roosevelt Bathhouses.

The NY Parks 2020 plan is available here.

Attorney General:

Attorney General Schneiderman Announces $8 Million Agreement With Direct Marketer for Deceptive Practices that Resulted in Hidden Charges to Consumers Ordering Products Marketed on TV

As part of a wider investigation into deceptive practices allegedly used by the direct marketing industry, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced an $8 million settlement with Allstar Marketing Group, LLC, (“Allstar”), a firm headquartered in Hawthorne, N.Y. The agreement, reached along with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, requires the direct marketing firm to stop using allegedly deceptive and misleading advertising and ordering processes when selling a variety of products, such as the Snuggie, the Perfect Brownie Pan and the Magic Mesh screen.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds Bureau launched a probe into the industry after receiving complaints from consumers, including hundreds forwarded to the Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds bureau by the Better Business Bureau.

According to the Attorney General’s investigation, Allstar ran misleading infomercials on television that featured attractively priced offers for products to lure consumers to place orders either online or over the phone. The company then allegedly used deceptive and confusing ordering processes, which resulted in consumers being charged excessive and unauthorized fees and charges.

Attorney General Schneiderman Secures Agreement With Thomson Reuters Corporation to Ensure Equal Treatment of Legally Married Same-Sex

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced an agreement with Thomson Reuters Corporation (Thomson) to ensure the equal treatment of married same sex couples under its employee benefit programs. Under the agreement, Thomson will ensure that no employees are owed monies as a result of any incorrect designations of spouses within its benefits systems, and will also stop making unnecessary tax calculations for the benefits the company provides to the same-sex spouses of employees.

“Marriage equality is the law in New York, but major corporations operate across a country with a patchwork of marriage laws, some of which still do not recognize the legal unions of same-sex couples,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Until marriage equality is the uniform law of the land, we will use every available tool to ensure equal treatment and equal justice for all couples. I commend Thomson Reuters for swiftly seeking to address concerns raised by my office.”

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, private employers were required to treat their financial contributions to the benefits of an employee’s married same-sex spouse as “imputed income” to the employee for federal tax purposes. Though this imputed income was not directly received by an employee, it was taxed like direct income. Prior to the Windsor decision, this potentially resulted in employees with same-sex spouses facing a higher tax liability. Following the decision, however, employers were no longer required to impute income to such an employee.

Attorney General Schneiderman Report on Charity Telemarketers Finds Majority of Funds Solicited go into Pockets of Fundraisers, Not to Charitable Causes

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released his annual “Pennies for Charity” fundraising report showing that for-profit telemarketers operating in New York in 2013 retained the majority of the funds they raised on behalf of charities – more than $156 million that was intended to support charitable causes.

Telemarketers registered in New York reported raising more than $302 million for charity in 2013, a 20% increase over the previous year and the most ever reported in the history of the New York Attorney General’s annual Pennies for Charity report. Of those funds, $146.5 million went to organizations’ charitable missions, about 48% of the total money raised. In 75% of the fundraising campaigns run by telemarketers, the charities retained less than 50% of the funds raised.

At 48%, the share of funds raised by for-profit telemarketers that went to charity in 2013 increased significantly in comparison to 2012, when only 37% of the funds raised went to the charitable missions donors intended to support. The Pennies for Charity report has been published annually for the last 12 years, drawing attention to this issue.

Attorney General Schneiderman Secures Agreement with Hempstead Union Free School District to Ensure Equal Educational Opportunities for Students Regardless of Immigration Status

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced an agreement with the Hempstead Union Free School District to ensure educational access for students regardless of their immigration status. Among other things, the district agreed to retain an ombudsman who will provide new internal oversight over enrollment policies within the district, to retain an independent monitor to ensure that the district enrolls students in compliance with the law, and to offer compensatory educational services to students who experienced enrollment delays for the 2014-15 school year.

“Education is the bedrock of our American democracy, and every child in our nation – no matter where they were born – deserves the chance to attend school,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I am pleased that Hempstead School District has agreed to come into compliance with the law and that it will also provide additional services to any student who was, until now, unable to enroll in their local school. We will continue to work with school districts statewide to ensure that every child is treated equally and has full access to the tools needed to become productive members of society.”

Attorney General Schneiderman Announces Over $13.5 Million Recovered for Individuals through Consumer Assistance Program Since 2011

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that since January 2011, his office has helped over 17,000 people successfully resolve their consumer complaints. This includes recovering over $13.5 million in refunds and other relief for over 12,000 of these consumers through his agency’s Consumer Assistance Program. These figures were released as part of a new report – Fighting Fraud in New York:  One Consumer at a Time – that highlights the office’s efforts to recover funds for individual consumers. The report, released to coincide with national Consumer Protection Week, also indicates that the program has resulted in an average per complaint recovery of $1,107.  This is in addition to the litigation and other enforcement actions that have resulted in a record of over $1.8 billion in consumer relief obtained by the Consumer Frauds Bureau since 2011.

The report indicates that Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office receives thousands of consumer complaints each year from every corner of the state. Complaints, spanning a range of industries and categories, have varied from seniors being scammed on loan modification services to threatening and illegal debt collection practices. This year, the areas that have generated the most emails, calls, and letters to the office include:

  • Automobile industry: 2,986
  • Credit and Identity Theft: 2,224
  • Service Industries: 2,146
  • Utilities: 1,778
  • Landlord/Tenant: 1,721

While consumer complaints have been received from every part of the state, the top five regions for consumer recoveries are:

  • New York City: $3.57 million
  • Hudson Valley: $2.56 million
  • Western New York: $1.86 million
  • Long Island: $1.38 million
  • Capital Region: $1.32 million

The full report can be viewed online here.

Senate:

Senator Skelos Announces the Creation of New Task Force on the Delivery of Social Services in New York City

New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos announced the creation of the Task Force on the Delivery of Social Services in New York City. This new initiative will examine the system in place to assist millions of New York City residents each year and facilitate discussions on how to help improve the lives of those in need of public programs that provide social, economic, and health benefits.

The Task Force will be chaired by Senator Tony Avella (D, Bayside). Members will include: Senator Simcha Felder (D, Brooklyn), Senator Martin Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), Senator Andrew Lanza (R-C-I, Staten Island), Senator Diane Savino (D, Staten Island), and Senator James Sanders, Jr. (D, Rochdale).

The Task Force will: identify and research the challenges and barriers to the effective delivery of public assistance benefits to people in the city, such as the efficiency and effectiveness of delivering shelter assistance; discuss how to address those challenges/barriers; engage in discussion with the City’s Human Resources Administration (HRA), not-for-profit organizations, advocates, welfare clients, and other interest groups; examine best practices from other states/cities; look into how we can strengthen the collaboration between public (HRA) and private non-governmental organizations; provide guidance on improving the process and evaluation method that measures the effectiveness of the delivery of public welfare benefits in New York City on an annual basis; and seek out partnerships with nonprofits/private companies that have expertise in program evaluation.

Senate Passes Term Limits for State Legislative Leadership

The New York State Senate passed legislation that would set into law eight-year term limits for leadership positions in the Senate and Assembly. The measure (S2722B), sponsored by Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R-C-I, Rome), is consistent with what is already in place in Senate rules and also limits the number of consecutive years a legislator can serve as a committee chair or party leader.

Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said, “The Senate voluntarily put into place term limits for leaders and committee chairs because we understand that government can benefit from change. While the Assembly had previously ignored the Senate’s efforts to adopt these term limits, I am hopeful that they will join us in passing this important government reform.”

The bill limits the tenure of the Temporary President of the Senate, Speaker of the Assembly, and minority leaders of both houses to eight years. Legislative committee chairs would also be limited to serving no more than eight consecutive years.

The Senate first voluntarily implemented leadership term limits in 2009 as part of the rules governing the Senate. Adoption of the measure passed would make them permanent in law for both the Senate and Assembly.

The bill will be sent to the Assembly.

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