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This Week in New York State Government

Governor:

Governor Cuomo Announces Second Phase of Combat Heroin Campaign

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the next phase of New York’s #CombatHeroin campaign, which has reached more than 14 million people through social media so far. To reach an even broader audience, starting December 19, public service announcements will begin airing in movie theaters across New York State. Additionally, ten new “Real Story” videos have been posted to the state’s Combat Heroin website, www.combatheroin.ny.gov. The PSAs and new videos show New Yorkers sharing their stories of recovery and describe the dire consequences of addiction for individuals and families. The PSAs will be shown in movie theaters before select movies rated PG-13 or R from mid-December through early January, peak movie-going season.

Governor Cuomo Announces Low-Interest Loans Available to Residents and Businesses Impacted By Winter Storm and Flooding

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the U.S. Small Business Administration has granted the Governor’s request for a Physical Disaster Declaration for counties most impacted by the significant lake effect snow storm and flooding that occurred Western New York from November 19 – 26, 2014. The federal declaration makes available various forms of financial assistance to homeowners, renters, small businesses and nonprofits to repair or replace property damaged or destroyed as a result of the extreme weather.

Governor Cuomo Announces Draft Medical Marijuana Regulations

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the release of proposed regulations for the State’s medical marijuana program as required by the Compassionate Care Act. The proposed regulations are an important step toward making medical marijuana a treatment option in New York for individuals suffering from one of the debilitating diseases outlined in the Act. These regulations provide a comprehensive structure that will govern all aspects of the medical marijuana program in New York State.

The proposed regulations require that medical marijuana certificates be issued only by physicians who have registered with the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and received DOH-approved training. Patients with serious medical conditions would be certified by their physicians before applying for the registry identification card needed to receive medical marijuana. Certifications will be good for up to one year. Patients are also able to designate caregivers to obtain the medical marijuana for them if the caregivers have applied and been approved by DOH. The registry identification card application fee would be $50, but could be waived in cases of financial hardship.

Governor Cuomo Announces Proposed Regulations to Provide Medicaid Coverage for Transgender Care and Services

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced new regulations to include transgender health care services under New York State’s Medicaid program. The proposed regulations provide treatment for hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery.

Under the proposed regulations, hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery would be covered for persons who have referrals from medical professionals. Surgery would be covered for individuals who are a minimum age of 18 or 21 years old, depending on specific circumstances. Referring medical professionals will have to document that a patient has persistent gender dysphoria, has received appropriate hormone therapy a minimum of one year, has lived a minimum of one year in the gender role consistent with the person’s gender identity and has received mental health counseling.

Governor Cuomo Announces $100 Million Health Innovation Grant Awarded to New York State

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State, in coordination with Health Research Inc., has been awarded a four year, $100 million State Innovations Model Testing grant. Given by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, the grant will support the Governor’s State Health Innovation Plan, an ambitious blueprint that works to give New Yorkers access to high quality, coordinated care in every region of the state.

The grant will:

  • Integrate care and services by improving access to primary care. It will also integrate primary care services into long-term care, behavioral health, specialty care, and community supports.
  • Create a continuum of care that links physicians and community-based resources to help promote the state’s Health Prevention Agenda and Medicaid reform efforts.
  • Increase transparency to assure that patients, payers and providers have access to information that will help them make informed choices about their health care.
  • Pay for the value of care received by a patient to ensure that care is high-quality, efficiently provided, and results in the best possible outcomes for the patient.

Governor Cuomo Announces $26 Million For Aviation and Rail Safety, Security and Economic Development Projects

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that $26.8 million in State funding is being awarded to 38 rail and aviation safety, security and economic development projects across the State. This funding will generate approximately $36 million in new investments for transportation projects statewide.

New York State awarded $17.8 million in funding from the State’s Passenger and Freight Rail Assistance Program to 12 rail projects that will repair and replace 65 miles of track and ties, rehabilitate rail grade crossings and bridges, and construct new connections to improve safety and operations.

Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio Announce Integrated Flood Protection System Study and Design For Red Hook

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the study and design of an integrated flood protection system (IFPS) in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. The project, for which the City and State are each committing an initial $50 million, for a total of $100 million, aims to make the waterfront community more resilient and better protected from future storms. The City and State have received some initial Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding, to be drawn down from the $100 million, to complete the project’s feasibility and design.

The study and design advance a State and City commitment to develop a comprehensive flood management system for Red Hook, part of the City’s comprehensive, five borough resiliency plan, focused on strengthening coastal defenses, upgrading buildings, protecting infrastructure and critical services, and making homes, businesses, and neighborhoods safer and more vibrant. The project was first announced in the City’s comprehensive resiliency plan and by Governor Cuomo and Vice President Biden as part an innovative storm plan aimed at making the waterfront community more resilient and better protected from future storms.

Governor Cuomo Announces $6.2 Million For Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Programs

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York State has received $6.2 million in federal funds that will allow 90 community organizations, hospitals, police departments and district attorneys’ offices to enhance services and protections for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The grants will also support the work of health care professionals who are specially trained in examining sexual assault victims and collecting evidence that can be used by law enforcement, as well as allowing the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault to develop protocols and training that better address sexual assaults on college campuses.

The funds will support programs that assist victims and the work of law enforcement professionals, including:

  • Advocacy, counseling and legal services;
  • Salaries of sexual assault examiners, who are nurses or other medical professionals specially trained to perform forensic exams;
  • Salaries of police investigators, prosecutors and probation officers that specifically handle domestic violence and sexual assault cases; and
  • Training programs for law enforcement, judges and service providers.

Governor Cuomo Signs Bill Enhancing Protections for Pets Across New York State

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed a bill to increase protections for pets across New York State. The bill prohibits the unnecessary piercing and tattooing of cats, dogs, and all other pets for purely cosmetic purposes for the pleasure of the owner, except under limited circumstances. Those who violate the law will be subject to criminal penalties.

The bill (A.739-D/S.6769-C) prohibits the piercing or tattooing of all pets, including cats and dogs, to protect the animals from unnecessary harm. The bill allows the use of piercing and tattooing in only limited circumstances, such as ear tags on rabbits, tattoos for identification purposes only, or where the piercing provides a medical benefit to the animal and is performed by or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

A violation of the law is punishable by imprisonment for a period not to exceed 15 days and/or a fine not to exceed $250. The law will take effect in 120 days.

Governor Cuomo Announces Start of Construction of $27 Million Affordable Housing Complex in Yonkers

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the start of construction of 188 Warburton Apartments, a $27 million affordable housing development in Yonkers. A high priority of the City of Yonkers, the development will replace two distressed buildings with 51 state-of-the-art, energy efficient units of workforce housing. 188 Warburton Apartments is a $27 million, 62,000-square foot, LEED-certified development which will include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and 79 parking spaces. Other amenities include a multi-purpose community room, in-unit dishwashers, an outdoor children’s recreational area, and on-site laundry. This project is part of a multi-phase initiative aimed at revitalized the Cottage Place Gardens public housing complex in Yonkers and creating a new integrated community. The 188 Warburton Apartments is being developed by The Community Builders, Inc., one of the nation’s leading nonprofit real estate developers and owners, and the Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers.

The financing for 188 Warburton Apartments includes federal, state and local resources:

  • $13.4 million in tax exempt bonds;
  • $1.2 million in subsidy funds;
  • $976,000 in an estimated annual allocation of 4% Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits;
  • $2 million in a Homes for Working Families loan through New York State Homes and Community Renewal;
  • $750,000 estimated loan from the Municipal Housing Authority of the City of Yonkers;
  • $550,000 estimated City of Yonkers HOME Subordinate Mortgage Subsidy Loan;
  • $1.74 million estimated Neighborhood Stabilization Program Subordinate Mortgage Subsidy Loan
  • $4.2 million estimated sponsor loan funded from the State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation Brownfield Cleanup Tax Credits program; and
  • $61,200 funded from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to partially offset the cost of energy-efficiency measures.

Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State

The following piece was authored by Laura Nahmias of The Capital.

A state casino siting board has named three developers who now have the right to build casinos in New York State.

In the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region, the board recommended awarding a license to the Lago Resort, a $425 million casino and hotel developed by Rochester-based developer Wilmorite. The casino’s plans have been the focus of an intense battle in Tyre, the small town where it would be located, because of staunch opposition from some Mennonite residents.

State Casino Board Settles on Three Developers

The following piece was authored by Thomas Kaplan of The New York Times.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of debate over a method of extracting natural gas.

Fracking, as it is known, was heavily promoted as a source of economic revival for depressed communities along New York’s border with Pennsylvania, and Mr. Cuomo had once been poised to embrace it.

Instead, the move to ban fracking left him acknowledging that, despite the intense focus he has given to solving deep economic troubles afflicting large areas upstate, the riddle remained largely unsolved. “I’ve never had anyone say to me, ‘I believe fracking is great,’ ” he said. “Not a single person in those communities. What I get is, ‘I have no alternative but fracking.’ ”

In a double blow to areas that had anticipated a resurgence led by fracking, a state panel on Wednesday backed plans for three new Las Vegas-style casinos, but none along the Pennsylvania border in the Southern Tier region. The panel, whose advice Mr. Cuomo said would quite likely be heeded, backed casino proposals in the Catskills, near Albany and between Syracuse and Rochester.

Comptroller:

Comptroller DiNapoli: New York City’s Financial Outlook Improving

New York City’s revised four-year financial plan shows substantially smaller out-year gaps than projected by the city in June 2014, mostly because of higher tax revenues and lower projected pension and debt service costs, according to a report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The financial plan, covering FY 2015 through 2018, incorporates developments during the first quarter of the current fiscal year. The city projects a surplus of $105 million in FY 2015, which DiNapoli expects will grow as the fiscal year progresses given the city’s conservative economic and revenue assumptions and the continued strength of the local economy.

In June, the city projected budget gaps of $2.6 billion in FY 2016, $1.9 billion in FY 2017 and $3.1 billion in FY 2018, which were much larger than those projected in February 2014 because of higher collective bargaining costs and new programmatic initiatives. Since then, the city has increased its revenue forecast by more than $1.1 billion for FY 2015 through 2018, and has lowered its expenditure forecast by $1.7 billion. These unanticipated resources permitted the city to reduce the out-year gaps by an average of 36 percent to $1.8 billion in FY 2016, $1.2 billion in FY 2017 and $1.8 billion in FY 2018. The financial plan also includes an annual general reserve of $750 million, the largest amount ever, and the city has other reserves if needed. Although the city is relying on $3.4 billion in nonrecurring resources to balance its FY 2015 budget, the FY 2016 budget includes less than $1 billion in nonrecurring resources.

Attorney General:

Attorney General Schneiderman Investigation Reveals Major Retailers Illegally Selling Prohibited Toy Guns

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that his office sent cease and desist letters to several major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Amazon, K-Mart, and others for allegedly selling prohibited toy guns online to residents of New York State, and, in at least one case, in a K-Mart store in suburban Rochester. The letters, stemming from an ongoing investigation, call for retailers to immediately stop the in-store and online sale and shipment to New Yorkers of toy guns that violate New York State law pending the resolution of Attorney General Schneiderman’s investigation.

Attorney General Schneiderman Announces Guilty Pleas And Jail Terms In Largest Cockfighting Bust In NYS History

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the felony convictions of two Ulster County men charged as part of the three-county takedown, “Operation Angry Birds,” which resulted in the dismantling of the largest known cockfighting ring in New York history, reaching from Ulster County to Brooklyn and Queens, and one of the biggest in the country. Farm owner Moises Cruz, 71, and farm manager Manuel Cruz, 60, pleaded guilty to the top count felony of violating New York Agriculture and Markets Law, Prohibition of Animal Fighting. The men are among nine defendants who have pleaded guilty in the case. Upon the request of the Attorney General’s office, the guilty pleas include a ban upon the two defendants from owning animals in the future. The men face up to nine months in jail when they are sentenced by Ulster County Court Judge Donald A. Williams on February 26, 2015.

Attorney General Schneiderman & DEC Commissioner Martens Announce $11 Million In Grants And Nearly $24 Million In Matching Funds For Six Environmental Projects In Greenpoint

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens announced $11 million in the latest grant awards by the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF), a $19.5 million environmental improvement fund created from money obtained by the state in a 2011 settlement with ExxonMobil over its massive oil spill in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In this round, the state awarded grants to six projects that address environmental priorities of the Greenpoint community. The projects – which range from establishing an environmental education center at the Greenpoint library to creating natural habitats along Newtown Creek – were the top vote-getters in recent community voting organized by the GCEF. These grants will be combined with $23.8 million in matching contributions from the recipients, bringing the total investment in improving Greenpoint’s environment to nearly $35 million. The Attorney General’s office and the DEC are jointly overseeing the program’s implementation and, along with community input, selected the winning projects.

Attorney General Schneiderman And NYC Dep Commissioner Lloyd Announce Agreement With Landowner To Clean Up Illegal Landfill That Polluted NYC Drinking Water Reservoir

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd announced a legal agreement with a Putnam County landowner to clean up an illegal landfill that discharged pollution into the Croton Falls Reservoir – a New York City drinking water reservoir that has historically provided 10 percent of the daily water supply for New York City. The agreement requires the landowner, Gary Prato, to clean up the site and pay $245,000 in penalties. The agreement was reached in a consent judgment entered into by the state, city, and Prato and was signed by Putnam County Supreme Court Justice Victor G. Grossman. This agreement follows a July 2014 legal victory by Attorney General Schneiderman and the City of New York that ruled that Prato and his contractor, Anthony “Dirtman” Adinolfi, violated several state environmental laws in creating and operating the landfill on Prato’s estate on the shores of the Croton Falls Reservoir. Water from the Croton Falls Reservoir has not been used in New York City for several years, while a filtration plant has been under construction in the Bronx.