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This Week in New York State Government

Governor:

Governor Cuomo Launches Website in Support of Upstate Agenda – Which Includes More Than $1 Billion in Economic Development Funding for the Region This Year Alone

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched a new website to engage New Yorkers and provide information on the Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) that is included in his Executive Budget. Through the URI, every Upstate region except for Western New York will compete for one of three $500 million awards that will be disbursed over five years. Because the URI will run alongside the Regional Council initiative, even regions that do not secure an award from the URI are estimated to receive at least $90 million in economic development funding this year – which is more than any single region received in the last two years of the Regional Council awards.

Governor Cuomo Proposes $30 Million in Agricultural Economic Development Projects for the Southern Tier

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced plans to help boost the agricultural economy in the Southern Tier—one of the most diverse agricultural regions of the state with a large potential for growth. The Governor’s budget would make available $30 million dollars for projects that help farms and agribusinesses grow throughout the area, with additional funding to assist targeted agricultural economic development projects.

Under this initiative, $25 million would help farmers increase agricultural production on farms and improve profitability. Funding would also support farmers in better managing environmental resources. Projects that are awarded state funding may receive up to $100,000, which will go toward funding up to 75 percent of an eligible project. Applicants are responsible for the other 25 percent, and all projects should be completed within one year of the contract.

Governor Cuomo Announces $4.9 Million to Repair Historic Properties Damaged by Superstorm Sandy

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $4.9 million in grants are available to provide repair and assistance to historic and archeological resources that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. With the money being made available by the National Park Service for a second time, not-for-profit organizations, municipalities, and state agencies can apply to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to receive aid.

“New York has a rich history, and many places important to it were damaged in Superstorm Sandy, making them more vulnerable to future severe storms,” Governor Cuomo said. “These grants will help build back these significant sites and ensure they remain important parts of New York’s heritage, and tourism economy, for generations to come.”

Properties are eligible for grants if they:

  • Are located in Suffolk, Nassau, Kings, Queens, Bronx, New York, Richmond, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Sullivan or Ulster counties; and
  • sustained Hurricane Sandy-related damage; and
  • are listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, or contribute to a listed or eligible historic district.

The deadline for applications is 4:00 p.m. on May 1. Work must meet the U.S. Department of the Interior’s standards for treatment of historic properties and be pre-approved by the State Historic Preservation Office. Eligible activities include:

  • pre-development activities, including Historic Structure Reports, condition assessments, plans and specifications, and other related surveys and studies;
  • archeological stabilization;
  • building restoration, rehabilitation and stabilization; or
  • restoration, rehabilitation, preservation and stabilization of a documented historic landscape.

Members of New York Congressional Delegation Join Governor Cuomo’s Enough is Enough Campaign

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that 16 members of New York’s Congressional Delegation are joining the Governor’s Enough is Enough campaign calling on members of the public to support and advocate for the passage of the Governor’s proposal to create the strongest protections from on-campus sexual violence in the country. His proposal would codify uniform sexual assault prevention and response protocols for all colleges and universities – public and private – in New York, better protecting the State’s 1.2 million college students. The congressional delegation’s support follows the more than 100 elected officials from across the State, more than 40 city mayors, 17 of 18 county executives and Whoopi Goldberg who recently joined the Enough is Enough campaign.

Governor Cuomo Announces Success of First Year of Farmland Assessment Cap

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that as a result of the Agricultural Land Assessment Cap, last year farmers across the state paid $11 million less in agricultural property taxes. Signed into law by Governor Cuomo in October 2013, the law ensures that any increase in the agricultural assessment will be no more than two percent per year for farmers. Coupled with the two percent property tax cap, New York farmers are now enjoying a more predictable property tax climate. This predictability allows for smart business decision-making that helps to increase productivity and profitability on farms across the state.

Governor Cuomo Announces Appointments to JCOPE

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the appointment of Michael K. Rozen and the reappointment of Michael A. Romeo to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Mr. Rozen will fill the seat that was vacated by Mitra Hormozi. Mr. Romeo was originally appointed to the Commission last year to fill the seat vacated by Vincent Delorio; he is now being reappointed to begin his own term.

JCOPE is an independent ethics and lobbying regulator with oversight that includes State legislators, candidates for the Legislature and legislative employees, as well as the four statewide elected officials, candidates for those offices, executive branch state employees, certain political party chairs, and lobbyists and their clients. The Commission provides information, education, and advice regarding current ethics and lobbying laws, and promotes compliance with these laws through required disclosure filings, audits, investigations, and enforcement proceedings.

Governor Cuomo Details Upstate Agenda – More Than $10 Billion Specifically Targeted For Upstate New York, Representing Largest Upstate Investment in Modern History

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo traveled to Rochester to deliver an address to the Rochester Rotary and Rochester Business Alliance regarding his Upstate agenda and Executive Budget, in which he detailed the $10 billion in capital investments that are specifically targeted for Upstate.

The $10 billion in capital investments represent the highest amount proposed specifically for Upstate in modern history and builds off of the more than $15 billion in capital investments the State has made Upstate over the past four years. As part of today’s address, the Governor discussed in detail two programs to continue the State’s focus on growing the Upstate economy: the Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs), and a new program, the Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI).

Governor Cuomo Announces Availability of Additional Home Heating Assistance

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that those in danger of running out of heating fuel or having their utility service shut off can now apply for a second emergency benefit through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). The additional assistance is being made available in light of the prolonged cold weather and additional federal funding awarded to the state.

Normally, eligible households can receive one regular HEAP benefit per season and could also be eligible for a single emergency HEAP benefit if they face an energy emergency situation. Households that have already received a regular benefit and an emergency benefit can now apply for a second emergency benefit if they find themselves in a crisis situation. Applications for regular and emergency HEAP benefits will be accepted through Friday, March 27.

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Executive Deputy Commissioner Sharon Devine said, “Another harsh winter has wreaked havoc on household budgets and we’ve heard from our local partners that senior citizens and the elderly have been particularly hard hit. It’s important that households facing an emergency situation know that help is still available but they need to contact their local department of social services to apply.”

HEAP is 100-percent federally funded and New York State has received a total of $377 million in federal HEAP funding for the 2014-15 season, including a late-winter release of $33.3 million. Emergency benefit amounts vary depending on the emergency, up to a maximum of $575.

Eligibility varies based on income and household size. For the 2014-15 HEAP season, a household of fo

Governor Cuomo Announces Administration Appointments

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced six appointments to his administration, adding to the efforts of his Term Two team to implement the Governor’s bold agenda.

  • Tom Topousis has been appointed Special Adviser to the Communications Director and Director of Speechwriting.
  • Aimee Vargas has been appointed Director of Downstate Intergovernmental Affairs, which covers the Hudson Valley, NYC and Long Island.
  • Julissa Gutierrez has been appointed Deputy Director of Constituency Affairs.
  • Rosemary Powers has been appointed Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Transportation.
  • Tanuja Mohapatra has been appointed Director of Legislative Affairs for the Department of Financial Services
  • Catherine Youssef Kassenoff has been appointed Special Counsel for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for the Energy and Finance Sub-Cabinet.

Governor Cuomo Details Impact of Minimum Wage Increase on New York Workers and the Economy

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo detailed the projected impact from a minimum wage increase from the current $8.75 to proposed $10.50 statewide and $11.50 in New York City. In total, more than 1.35 million workers will experience an increase in wages statewide, with the majority of benefits going to adults and women. The direct economic value across the state as a result of these higher wages is approximately $3.4 billion.

“The minimum wage should allow people who work full-time jobs to support themselves and their families – but that is just not possible today,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our proposal will help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers better sustain themselves and live with dignity and respect. The State Legislature must pass our proposal this year, because the sweetest success is shared success and we won’t rest until we are all rising together.”

A statewide regional breakdown of the 1.35 million New Yorkers who will experience higher wages, as well as the projected direct economic value of the minimum wage increase can be viewed here.

Comptroller:

Comptroller DiNapoli Expands State Spending Transparency on OpenBookNewYork.com

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that New Yorkers can now trace state spending back to the funding source or program on openbooknewyork.com, an easy-to-use search tool for the public to see how their tax dollars are being spent. This is the fifth expansion of the website, building on DiNapoli’s commitment to increasing government transparency.“We’ve expanded state spending data on openbooknewyork.com and made it even easier to use. The public will now have more information at their fingertips to help follow the money,” said DiNapoli. “New Yorkers in every corner of the state have a right to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.”

This expansion allows users to customize their state spending searches by agency, fund type, budget year, account, budgetary program and more. Users can compare up to three years of data or download the database.

In 2008, DiNapoli launched openbooknewyork.com to give taxpayers unprecedented information about government spending. The website initially included financial information about state spending and contracts, but has since been expanded to include five modules:

  • State Spending includes data for major spending categories for state agencies and some authorities;
  • Contracts includes information on nearly 50,000 active contracts that state agencies have with businesses, not-for-profit organizations and other governmental entities;
  • Local Government Spending includes property tax cap and tax limit data, as well as detailed revenue, spending and balance sheet data for 3,100 counties, cities, towns and villages, as well as school and fire districts going back to 2001;
  • State Payments includes payments to vendors, municipalities school districts  and others since 2012; and
  • Public Authorities includes summary financial data for more than 500 state and local public authorities dating back to 2007.

Attorney General:

Attorney General Schneiderman Joins Amicus Brief Coalition In Favor Of President Obama’s Immigration Executive Action

Attorney General T. Eric Schneiderman announced that he has joined a coalition of states in filing an amicus brief in a federal Court of Appeals, asking that the court allow President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration policy to take effect immediately, despite an injunction imposed by a federal district court judge in Texas.

It is estimated that the President’s executive actions will impact an estimated five million individuals. One executive action would expand the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives beneficiaries the right to work, to include all young people who came to this country before turning 16 years old and have been present since January 1, 2010. Another executive action would create a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, which would make eligible for deferred action and work authorization individuals who are parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, who have been in the country since January 1, 2010, and who pass background checks.

Attorney General Schneiderman Announces Agreement with EmblemHealth to Boost Coverage for Preventative Services

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced an agreement with EmblemHealth, Inc., requiring Emblem to cover anesthesiology services provided in connection with an in-network preventive colonoscopy, without any cost-sharing by the member. Emblem has also issued refunds to hundreds of Emblem members who paid a copayment, coinsurance, or deductible for such anesthesiology services.

An important provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) is the requirement that health plans cover recommended preventive services without member cost-sharing. Preventive services can improve health and save money by identifying health issues before they become complex and costly to manage. In order to encourage more individuals to seek these services, the Affordable Care Act requires free access to certain preventive services, without any cost-sharing requirements such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles. One of these preventive services is in-network preventive colonoscopies.

Because colonoscopies necessitate the administration of anesthesia, anesthesia services provided in connection with preventive colonoscopies should likewise be covered without member cost-sharing. In the past, only certain Emblem plans were structured to adhere to this principle, but even those plans failed to remove cost-sharing obligations for such anesthesia services. Now, Emblem has agreed to cover in full – without copayment, coinsurance, or deductible – all claims for anesthesiology services provided in connection with an Affordable Care Act-mandated in-network preventive colonoscopy.

As part of the agreement, Emblem has also sent reimbursement checks to members of certain Emblem plans whose claims for anesthesia performed in connection with an in-network preventive colonoscopy were processed subject to member cost-sharing. Reimbursements total close to $400,000. In addition, the agreement provides that Emblem will train its employees, and pay a penalty.

Speaker:

Assembly Speaker Heastie: Legislature Elects Four Members and Re-elects Three Others to Board of Regents

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan and Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah Glick announced the Legislature’s election of Beverly L. Ouderkirk, Dr. Catherine Fisher Collins, Judith Johnson and Judith J. Chin and the re-election of Dr. Kathleen Cashin, Roger B. Tilles and Dr. Lester W. Young to the New York State Board of Regents.

The Board is comprised of 17 members elected by the Legislature for five year terms. One member is elected from each of the state’s 13 judicial districts and four members serve at-large.

Newly Elected Regents

  • Beverly L. Ouderkirk (Judicial District 4) has more than two decades of experience as an elementary K-4 and special education teacher, principal and superintendent.
  • Dr. Catherine Fisher Collins (Judicial District 8) earned a doctoral degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo from which she also received her Master’s Degree in Allied Health Education, graduating from the School of Nursing, Nurse Practitioner’s Program.
  • Judith Johnson (Judicial District 9) has devoted her professional life to public education, providing leadership roles to six school districts and the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Judith J. Chin (Judicial District 11) worked for the New York City Department of Education for 37 years, serving in various capacities before her retirement, including as a Regional Superintendent / Chief Education Officer for a majority of the elementary, middle schools and high schools in Queens.

Re-Elected Regents

  • Dr. Kathleen Cashin (Judicial District 2) served the students of New York City for more than 35 years as a teacher, staff developer, reading consultant, and superintendent.
  • Roger B. Tilles (Judicial District 10) graduated from the University of Michigan, College of Law. He became Director of Law and Legislation for the Michigan Department of Education and was elected to the Michigan State Board of Education.
  • Dr. Lester W. Young (At-Large) has served as a teacher, guidance counselor, supervisor of special education, principal, Associate Commissioner with the New York State Education Department and Superintendent of Community School District 13.

Assembly Speaker Heastie Announces SFY 2015-16 Families First Budget Proposal

Calling it an investment in the health, safety, economic success and social well-being of New York’s families, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Ways and Means Committee Chair Herman D. Farrell, Jr. released the State Assembly’s 2015-16 “Families First” budget proposal (E203). The $150.7 billion proposal makes strategic investments focused on New York’s families in education, health and human services, criminal justice, and housing and includes measures to promote independence and economic security.

“When families succeed, our state succeeds and that is why we are putting families first in the New York State Assembly’s budget proposal,” said Heastie. “We have a responsibility to provide our citizens all across the state with a budget that encourages strong and supportive communities. By investing in these programs, we ensure the sustainability of the families who are the foundation of New York’s vibrant communities and a cornerstone of our state and local economies.”

“Whether it is our children, working parents or seniors, all members of our community benefit from programs that strengthen families by increasing access to human services and promoting economic independence,” said Farrell. “For generations, citizens across this state have been able to pursue a higher education, access quality healthcare, grow a business and enjoy the benefits of living in a state that invests in the future well-being of its citizens. This year, the Assembly budget once again pursues a responsible and balanced approach to meeting the needs of families across the state by making a sound investment toward their future success.”

Senate:

Breaking News from Capitol Hill: Booker, Paul & Gillibrand Announce Bipartisan New Medical Marijuana Bill to Allow Patients – Including Veterans – to Access Necessary Care without Fear of Federal Prosecution

Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) stood with patients, their families and advocates to announce new bipartisan legislation that will allow the use of medical marijuana in states where it is legal without fear of federal prosecution. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act would reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule II drug to recognize it has accepted medical use, and would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies. The bill would also permit VA doctors to prescribe veterans medical marijuana to treat serious injuries and chronic conditions. The legislation would not legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states, rather it would respect the states that set their own medical marijuana programs and prevents federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors and caregivers in those states. Currently, 23 states plus the District of Columbia have already legalized medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and 12 states have laws on the books or are about to be signed into law by their governors regulating cannabidiol (CBD) oils, a non-psychotropic component of medical marijuana which some families use to treat their children’s seizures. However federal leaves doctors who prescribe, patients who use and businesses that sell medical marijuana vulnerable to arrest. As a currently classified Schedule I drug, federal law also severely restricts medical marijuana research, as well as fair and safe financial services for medical marijuana-related businesses.

Specifically, the CARERS Act would:

  • Recognize States’ Responsibility to Set Medical Marijuana Policy & Eliminate Potential Federal Prosecution
    The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act so that states can set their own medical marijuana policies. The patients, providers and businesses participating in state medical marijuana programs will no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution.
  • Reschedule Marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, Recognizing “Accepted Medical Use”
    Marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule I drug, meaning it does not currently have accepted medical use in the United States. The CARERS Act moves it to Schedule II, recognizing what Americans already know: marijuana has a legitimate medical purpose.
  • Allow States to Import Cannbidiol (CBD), Recognized Treatment for Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
    The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to remove specific strains of CBD oil from the federal of definition of marijuana. This will allow youth suffering from intractable epilepsy to gain access to the medicine they need to control their seizures.
  • Provide Veterans Access Doctors in Department of Veterans Affairs facilities are currently prohibited prescribing medical marijuana. The CARERS Act would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans.
  • Permit Financial Services and Banking for Marijuana Dispensaries
    Right now, medical marijuana business is a cash business. The CARERS Act provides a safe harbor to banks and credit unions, their officers and employees that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses that engage in activities pursuant to state law.
  • Expand Opportunities for Research
    The CARERS Act removes unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for researchers to gain government approval to undertake important research on marijuana.

Though federal law limits the opportunities for research, studies have shown that medical marijuana is an effective treatment for a variety of illnesses. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences conducted a two-year review of data and found widespread agreement that medical marijuana can treat nausea, pain and anxiety. A conclusion from another study through the University of California found evidence that medical cannabis can treat certain types of pain syndromes caused by injury or diseases of the nervous system, and possibly for painful muscle spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.

Senate to Act this Week on its “Brighter Future” Budget Plan

The New York State Senate Republican Majority will act on its “Brighter Future” budget plan that creates a new property tax rebate program for middle-class homeowners, extends historic opportunities to students and makes significant investments in New York’s infrastructure to create good-paying jobs.

“Our Senate budget focuses on the priorities of hardworking taxpayers and their families by providing new property tax relief, rebuilding our infrastructure to spur job creation and giving students across the state the opportunities they need and deserve.  This fiscally responsible spending plan should serve as a blueprint for an enacted budget that invests in New York and helps our residents build a brighter future,” Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said.

“Our Senate one-house budget resolution calls for significant property tax relief to help hardworking New Yorkers, regionally balanced funding to help create good jobs and important infrastructure investments to help rebuild the state’s economy.  Furthermore, it invests in the future of our students by increasing education aid and completely eliminating the GEA.  By acting on this fiscally-responsible budget this week, the Senate will take a major step forward in the process of ensuring another on-time state budget,” Senator John A. DeFrancisco, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said.

Senate Passes Measures to Prevent Drug Use in New York Communities

The New York State Senate passed two drug prevention bills to combat the spread of methamphetamine use in New York and to stop parks and playgrounds from being used by drug dealers.

Bill (S1150), sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats), would deter the growing use of methamphetamine in New York by strengthening penalties for the sale and possession of meth and make them consistent with penalties for crimes involving heroin and cocaine.

Domestic meth availability is at a five-year high and is likely the result of increasing large-scale production in Mexico and small-scale production in the United States. While meth has been traditionally associated with western and southern regions of the country, its influence, sale, and possession are moving steadily towards the East Coast. By implementing stricter anti-meth laws, the bill would align New York with similar measures in the neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Massachusetts.

In addition, the Senate passed legislation that aims to keep children safe while at parks and playgrounds. The bill (S994), sponsored by Senator Martin Golden (R-I-C, Brooklyn), would increase penalties for people who sell drugs in playgrounds and parks, protecting children and their families from the dangers of drug dealers.

This measure expands upon current New York State law, which penalizes people who sell drugs on school grounds or day-care centers, to include parks and playgrounds that may not be attached to schools. The bill would help law enforcement prosecute drug dealers who use parks and playgrounds in an effort to target children.

 

 

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