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NY proposes regs ending fingerprinting for food stamps
May 17th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has proposed regulations prohibiting agencies from requiring fingerprints from food stamp recipients.

The regulations will most significantly affect New York City, the only jurisdiction in the state that currently fingerprints people who want to receive the benefits.

City Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar said in a statement that fingerprinting “identifies potential duplicate payments and prevents fraud.” He said the policy has “saved more than $35 million over the last decade in a program that now provides services for 1.8 million New Yorkers annually.”

“We remain committed to doing everything we can, consistent with state and federal regulations, to protect the integrity of the food stamp program,” he continued.

There will be a 45-day public comment period before the regulations issued by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance are finalized. Under the regulations, counties will not need a waiver to be exempt from fingerprinting.

The move will leave Arizona as the only state that requires fingerprinting for food stamp access.

The administration and advocates say the practice stigmatizes recipients and makes it more likely that children will go without food.

“There is never an excuse for letting any child in New York go to bed hungry,” Cuomo said in a statement. “For too long, requiring finger imaging from those eligible for food stamp benefits has created an unnecessary barrier to participation in the program, causing a negative stigma and keeping food off the table for those in need.”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn and General Welfare Committee Chair Annabel Palma issued a statement praising Cuomo’s decision. “We are confident that the integrity of the food stamp program will be maintained and are pleased New Yorkers will no longer be forced to go through this process,” they said in their statement.

“We’ve found that finger imaging identifies potential duplicate payments and prevents fraud, which saved more than $35 million over the last decade in a program that now provides services for 1.8 million New Yorkers annually. We remain committed to doing everything we can, consistent with state and federal regulations, to protect the integrity of the food stamp program.”
By on May 17, 2012, 1:34 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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Is NY ethics commission leaking?
May 15th, 2012

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is questioning whether information about an ethics investigation into a top member of his party was leaked illegally.

TheAlbany Times Union reported earlier today that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics is investigating accusations against Tom Libous,the second-highest ranking member of the state Senate.

Skelos, a Republican, said the information was not supposed to be public. “Whoever from JCOPE is leaking this is committing a crime. They’re committing a crime,” hesaid. He said that any allegations against Libous were “garbage.”

JCOPE’s predecessor, the Commission on Public Ethics, was wracked with internal leaks — especially during the Troopergate investigation. JCOPE was designed to address the failings of the CPI and faced controversy regarding the impartiality of a number of appointees.

“Obviously, there is a letter that goes out that is required by law. Look who sent the initial letter, the mayor of Binghamton, D, Democrat, who was looking to run against Tom Libous. If this is a political stunt, that’s all it is,” Skelos said.

Calls to JCOPE requesting information about the process of notifying parties of an investigation have not yet been returned.

Technically, the public is not supposed to know whether JCOPE has decided to follow up on a complaint until the ethics commission makes its findings public.

“It’s not supposed to be made public. It’s a misdemeanor,” Skelos told reporters. “So whoever from JCOPE is leaking this is committing a crime. They’re committing a crime.”JCOPE’s predecessor, the Commission on Public Integrity, had major problems with leaks during Troopergate. The loyalty of the JCOPE commissioners to the interests of the people who appointed them has been a concern since the commission was unveiled.

According to the Times Union, the investigation into Libous is based on a complaint by Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, a Democrat. Ryan asked JCOPE to look into statements made by Attorney Anthony Magone that Libous offered to help Mangone’s business in exchange for giving his son a job, the newspaper reported. Mangone made the statements during a federal trial. Libous’ son was hired by the firm. Ryan made his accusation and formal complaint public by sending off the complaint in front of reporters.

By on May 15, 2012, 5:13 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Minimum wage bill on the move in Assembly
May 15th, 2012

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced this morning that his house will likely pass a measure that will increase the state’s minimum wage by $1.25 an hour. Silver made it clear that the move is designed to pressure the state Senate into either voting on the legislation or having to go home during an election year to explain to their constituents why they didn’t vote for the measure.

“I think the rank and file in the Senate are going to have difficulty going back to their voters, including the numbers I showed you from conservatives and registered Republicans, they’re going to have a very difficult time showing up on Election Day saying I’m against this when they are all for it,” Silver told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has called a minimum wage increase, “a job killer.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t come out fully for or against the bill. “Especially in times like now, a minimum wage increase would be in order,” Cuomo told Susan Arbetter host of The Capitol Pressroom, earlier this month. “You can have a discussion about how much over what period of time.”

Silver said that he believes Cuomo now supports his bill and would corroborate his support if asked. The Governor’s office has not yet responded to our inquiry about his stance on Silver’s legislation.

By on May 15, 2012, 2:25 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Espada Found Guilty of Theft
May 14th, 2012

Former state Sen. Pedro Espada has been found guilty of embezzling from his Bronx health care network.

After finding Espada guilty of theft, the jury continued to deliberate other charges, including conspiracy and fraud.Espada’s son, who also worked at the Soundview network, is also on trial.

The senior Espada, who had long cast himself as an underdog fighter, had blamed his political foes for stirring up the allegations against him.

Common Cause is using today’s verdict to call for more aggressive ethics investigations from the state-level Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, said in a statement thatEspada is “the poster child for corruption and the wholesale flaunting of our campaign finance and ethics laws.”

Espada was at the center of the 2009 state Senate coup that left the body paralyzed for a month. He was eventually named senate majority leader as part of a deal that allowed him to return to the Democrats.

A good number of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle refused to even speak to Espada while he carried the title. Before the coup, Espada had wracked up thousands of dollars in unpaid fines from the state and city board of elections. He also faced accusations he didn’t even live in his district.

In early 2009, just before the coup, Espada granted the Gazette a rare interview and took us on a tour of his alleged Bronx residence and one of the health clinics. At the time, Espada mocked and challenged then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to come after him.

After five years of investigating me in his own tenacious way he should have said, to remove the taint that he himself had helped develop over me, he should have said he investigated Soundview and regrettably several people did bad things but Sen. Espada is absolutely not guilty of any wrongdoing. If I had been, I would have been charged. I’m sure personally he regrets that because what goes around really does come back around.”

Espada lost his seat in a primary election to Gustavo Rivera in 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 14, 2012, 5:03 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo visits Westchester to call for agency for disabled
May 10th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the College of New Rochelle in Westchester County today to push for legislation that would create a new agency to investigate reports of abuse of the disabled.

“This bill puts forth unprecedented reforms that will transform how New York state protects and cares for people with special needs and disabilities,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This is exactly the type of agency that the patients and their family and friends deserve.”

Cuomo announced the legislation on Monday.

Last month, Cuomo told reporters he thought the legislative session would be relatively quiet. However, Cuomo has made it clear the new agency is a major legislative priority and that he will lobby legislators and the public on the issue until he is able to sign it into law.

Both legislative leaders have said they expect to be able to pass the law by the end of the session, which ends in June.

“This bill puts forth unprecedented reforms that will transform how New York State protects and cares for people with special needs and disabilities,” said Governor Cuomo. “This is exactly the type of agency that the patients and their family and friends deserve. I urge the Senate and Assembly to pass this bill so we can start implementing these reforms as soon as possible.”Cuomo said earlier this week that the legislation is a legislative priority for him and the leaders of both legislative houses said they thought they could pass the legislation by the end of the season. The legislation is designed to address what has been called a corrupt, abusive system by a number of observers. Earlier this year Cuomo told reporters that he expected a quiet legislative session because he had achieved the majority of his legislative agenda. But now Cuomo appears geared up to lobby and legislators and the public on the legislation until he is able to sign it into law.

Advocacy groups have generally been supportive of the legislation, though the father of a 13-year-old autistic boy smothered to death by a caretaker has criticized the legislation for not being more proactive. The boy’s father, Michael Carey, told The New York Times he felt the state should invest in cameras and training and limit caregiver overtime.

More about the Justice Center can be found at www.Justice4SpecialNeeds.com. A report by the governor’s special advisor on vulnerable persons is available here.

By on May 10, 2012, 3:33 pm
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Neighboring Bronx Dems split on nutritional standards bill
May 9th, 2012

Two Bronx Democratic legislators with bordering districts are on different sides of a debate over a bill that would require higher nutritional standards for any meal packaged with a toy.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, whointroduced the legislation earlier this week, told the Gotham Gazette today that the new standards are designed to get children accustomed to eating a healthier diet.

“If parents want to feed their kids horrible stuff, god bless America, they can do that, but we know kids develop their eating habits early on and they should be given the chance to eat healthy,” he said.

But fellow state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., disagrees. In an email sent to the press and his constituents, he wondered how elected officials had the right to “tell moms how they should feed their children.”

“Parents struggle to do what’s best for their children, and at least so far, in this country parents are not dictated to by local elected officials about how to feed their children,” he said in his email.

How can these same two officials think they have the right to tell moms how they should feed their children or what to what restaurant they should take them?
Parents struggle to do what’s best for their children, and at least so far, in this country parents are not dictated to by local elected officials about how to feed their children.  If they want to cook at home, they can. If they want to go out and eat, they can

A 2009report by the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand found that 62 percent of Bronx residents are overweight or obese.

Other cities have looked at ways to control the sale of toys with meals. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors recently passed a law banning toys with meals, and the Center for Science for Public Interest is leading a national charge to push for similar laws.

McDonald’s Happy Meals may be the most well-known food products accompanied by toys. But the company said efforts to regulate the products as part of a strategy of tackling the problems of obesity are misplaced.

“We don’t think removing a toy will reduce childhood obesity,” said Cheryl Forsatz, a spokeswoman for the company. “The issue is much more complex and we are committed to giving families choices.”

Rivera said he has yet to talk to the Republican majority about his legislation, but said he expects it to be included in a package of mostly health-related bills that he called “common sense legislation.”

State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, also a Democrat,introduced a similar bill. He did not return a phone call earlier today requesting comment.

By on May 9, 2012, 4:41 pm
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Bloomberg: Obama support of same-sex marriage is civil rights 'turning point'
May 9th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called President Barack Obama’s newly announced support for same-sex marriage “a major turning point in the history of American civil rights.”

“No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people — and I have no doubt that this will be no exception,” Bloomberg said in a statement today.

President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage during an interview earlier today with ABC’s Robin Roberts. The president’s official announcement of his evolution on the matter came a day after he visited Albany, N.Y., accompanied by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor, who championed the landmark passage of same-sex marriage legislation in New York last year, told reporters in Albany earlier today that he did not discuss the subject with Obama.

Bloomberg has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage.

Though the billionaire mayor has not announced whether he will endorse a candidate in the presidential race, his support would be valuable for attracting independent voters.

By on May 9, 2012, 3:58 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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MMA Beaten by Assembly
May 8th, 2012

Yesterday Assembly Democrats decided not to advance a bill that would legalize and have the state sanction mixed martial arts. The Senate has passed the bill a number of years only to see it stall in the Assembly. One of the bill’s most outspoken opponents, Assemblyman Bob Reilly has announced his retirement this year and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he was torn about the legislation so boosters thought this might be their year.

They were wrong. In a closed door meeting yesterday the bill was shelved–meaning it won’t come to a vote this year. The Ultimate Fighting Championship–the largest organization that puts on MMA fights and has a television contract with FOX–said the Assembly was acting in an “un-American” fashion.

The controversial sport where men and women use multiple types of martial arts to knock each other out, submit each other with jiu jitsu or win on points, is now legal in every state except New York and Connecticut. The UFC has promised that the state will reap major financial rewards and see tourism boosts in west and upstate New York where the economies are flagging. But the UFC’s real goal is to hold an event at Madison Square Garden. Such an event would be seen as a coming out party for the UFC as a legitimate, mainstream sport.

How important is it to the UFC? The merchandise stands at the I-Zod center in New Jersey where they held an event this past weekend were stocked with shirts that read UFC NYC in a fashion aping the classic red and black RUN DMC shirts.

Madison Square Garden has made it clear that they want UFC to come to town. But legislators like Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari say the sport is “brutal” and goes against the anti-bullying and messages of tolerance. However the UFC insists the struggle to have the sport legalized in New York is actually tied to labor unions in Las Vegas that are upset with the UFC’s owners the Fertitta brothers who also own Station Casinos.

By on May 8, 2012, 4:15 pm
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Liu Weighs in on GENDA
May 8th, 2012

City Comptroller John Liu is all for the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act that has been passed in the state assembly and introduced in the senate by Sen. Daniel Squadron.

All people deserve equal protection from discrimination. New Yorks Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act is a necessary and overdue extension of civil rights that will ensure that people cannot be fired or otherwise subjected to bigotry based on gender identity or expression,” said Liu is a statement. “We are grateful to Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and State Senator Daniel Squadron for pushing forward this legislation.

According to the Empire State Pride Agenda, “GENDA would extend basic civil rights protections to all New Yorkers based on their gender identity and expression.”

By on May 8, 2012, 2:44 pm
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Obama in Albany
May 8th, 2012

The Capital Region is abuzz about President Barack Obama’s visit to UAlbany’s School of NanoScale Science and Engineering. Obama will deliver a speech on the economy. For those of you who don’t know–the nanotech school is attached to the UAlbany campus and it has been gradually, or should I say, quickly expanding over the years. The high-tech building it resides in looms over the road to Albany’s biggest mall like some sort of alien space craft and now construction has begun on a major expansion with a cool bridge doohickey that will eventually allow gear heads to safely cross over mall traffic in space age comfort.

Anyway it is all pretty neat and the President will certainly get to have the opportunity to pose with funky head gear/head covering as the building features clean rooms and workers routinely wear neat-o space suit looking things.

Last time the president visited the area local businesses broke out the stops to try to attract his attention. His patronage of Five Guys in DC had local chain restaurants crossing their fingers. But this time it is a strip joint called Shenanigans that is trying to lure in Secret Service members.

Of course no one is as excited to have Obama in town as the politicians themselves. Democrats and Republicans are tripping over themselves to take credit for the nano college.

This dry press release may not convey his joy but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is definitely amped by the President’s visit.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 8, 2012, 1:16 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany | 6 Comments »

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Williams Calls for State to Raise Minimum Wage
April 30th, 2012

Councilman Jumaane Williams has introduced legislation in the City Council calling on the State to pass a bill increasing the minimum wage. “I am proud to be joined by a number of my colleagues, including Speaker Quinn, in the active support of an increase to our state’s minimum wage,” Williams said in a statement. “Along with other wage-related legislation we are addressing today, the Council has the ability to show its support of New Yorkers who cannot afford to live in the city they have helped make great. New York State should not be behind the curve on minimum wage, yet we somehow are. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have rates higher than that mandated by the federal government, and a number of states have indexed future increases to the cost of living. Economists have shown that raising the minimum wage is a job creator, not a job killer. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the increase in spending that will result from the minimum wage increases passed in eight states in 2012 will lead to an additional $366 million in economic output and create 3,000 jobs.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver supports a minimum wage increase but the measure faces a major obstacle in the form the Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos who adamantly opposes the an increase.

By on April 30, 2012, 2:52 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Living Wage Vote Set
April 30th, 2012

The City Council is set to vote on a living wage bill that would require anyone benefiting from city subsidies to pay their workers a minimum of $10 an hour with health care benefits or $11.50 without. Earlier today Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the feature speaker for the bill. Someone in the crowd shouted out that everyone but, “Pharaoh Bloomberg” was in attendance. Quinn chided the audience and demanded an apology. When none was rendered she stormed off. Colin Cambpell of The Politicker has the video.

Quinn has positioned herself against the mayor recently in the debate over the prevailing wage. Bloomberg vetoed a prevailing wage bill last week and gave an impassioned speech against the living and prevailing wage. Most political observers see Quinn’s recent opposition to the mayor as political posturing for her mayoral run.

By on April 30, 2012, 2:42 pm
In category: City Hall | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo Creates Education Reform Commission
April 30th, 2012

The office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is touting some unflattering figures about New York’s educational system today–”73 percent of New Yorks students graduate from high school and 37 percent are college ready.” The stat is contained in the official press release announcing the creation of the New York Education Reform Commission, a group that will meet across the state to gather input on education and then make recommendations to the governor by Dec. 1 2012, or, “such other date as the Governor shall advise the Commission.” So you know expect recommendations on their time. Here is the full release from Cuomo’s office:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 30, 2012, 12:58 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 8 Comments »

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Stringer Blasts Bloomberg's Veto
April 25th, 2012

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer does not have kind words for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the living wage bill. “The working people of New York City have a fundamental right to wage they can live on, and the Mayor has rejected that idea in his regrettable veto action today. Along with millions of other New Yorkers, I look forward to the City Council swiftly overriding this action and taking the first steps towards genuine wage equity for all people in New York City,” said Stringer.

By on April 25, 2012, 4:29 pm
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Bloomberg Vetoes Prevailing Wage Bill
April 25th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the living wage bill today that would have raised the wages earned by people who work on city-funded developments. Council President Christine Quinn has promised to override the veto.

Bloomberg announced the veto during a speech about job creation.

“Unfortunately, the City Council has recently passed a bill, and is about to pass a second bill, that imposes costly conditions on businesses, and that will make it harder for government to encourage job creation, and harder for businesses to grow,” Bloomberg said.

Those bills the so-called living and prevailing wage bills are a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked, rather than a garden to be cultivated.

In those days, government took the private sector for granted. We cannot afford to go back to those days. We cannot take our economy for granted. And I will not sign legislation no matter how well-intended that that hurts job creation and taxpayers.

And thats why I will veto both the living and prevailing wage bills. But before I do, I wanted to explain the principles guiding my decision,” said Bloomberg.

Comptroller John Liu issued this statement: As a City employee the Mayor continues to ignore the widening wealth gap within the five boroughs. In opposing these bills, he is sending the wrong message, that our scarce taxpayer resources are better spent on lining the pockets of wealthy corporate executives rather than creating fair-paying jobs to support working families and the communities in which they live. Needless to say, my office looks forward to the Council overriding these vetoes, and to continuing to enforce Prevailing Wage Laws, which help promote equality and fairness in our City. Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 25, 2012, 3:18 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy | 4 Comments »

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Cuomo Establishes Health Exchange
April 12th, 2012

No. 42
E X E C U T I V E O R D E R
ESTABLISHING THE NEW YORK HEALTH BENEFIT EXCHANGE
WHEREAS, the implementation of a Health Benefit Exchange and other reforms in New York will: (1) result in lower premiums for individuals and small businesses; (2) allow individuals and small businesses purchasing coverage through such Exchange to receive $2.6 billion in federal tax credits and cost sharing subsidies; and (3) provide one million additional New Yorkers access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance, reducing the percentage of New Yorkers who are without health insurance;
WHEREAS, a state that chooses to operate its own Exchange must demonstrate to the federal government, by January 1, 2013, that its Exchange will be able to begin accepting applications by October 1, 2013, and will be operational by January 1, 2014, and if the state does not demonstrate operational readiness of its own Exchange, its residents will be required to participate in a federal Exchange;
WHEREAS, the State of New York is best positioned to: (1) understand the ramifications of operating an Exchange within New Yorks commercial insurance market; (2) consider the unique regional and economic needs of the States individual and small business health insurance markets; (3) account for the diversity of its population, with its ethnic, cultural and language differences; and (4) decide what benefits will be provided to enrollees in the Exchange, which health plans can participate in the Exchange, what rules should apply to the marketing of products by health plans, and how to operate the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) for small businesses;
WHEREAS, the Affordable Care Act requires an Exchange to evaluate the eligibility of individuals for Medicaid and other public health coverage and enroll them if eligible, meaning that it will be essential to coordinate the operations of the Exchange with the States administration of these programs;
WHEREAS, the taxpayers of this State subsidize the costs associated with care for the 2.7 million New Yorkers without health insurance, who frequently forego preventive care and other needed treatment, putting them at risk of being sicker throughout their lives and dying sooner than those who have health insurance, which diverts funds from other public uses and costs state and county taxpayers more than $600 million annually just to pay for a portion of the services rendered by hospitals to people without insurance;
WHEREAS, New Yorks uninsured working families often earn too much to qualify for public health insurance, but not enough to purchase coverage that costs, on average, over $1,200 per month for an individual and $3,450 per month for a family of four;
WHEREAS, small businesses, without assistance, cannot afford to purchase health insurance coverage for their workers, nearly 800,000 of whom have lost employer-sponsored coverage over the last decade, and thus face a major competitive disadvantage that inhibits their ability to grow, create jobs and otherwise support the States economic development;
WHEREAS, the costs associated with care for the uninsured are shifted through increased premiums to those individuals and groups that purchase health insurance coverage, causing working families with health insurance to pay $800 more in premiums on average each year;
WHEREAS, the development and operation of an Exchange in New York will impose no cost on the State, but will be funded entirely with federal funds until January 1, 2015, at which time the Exchange will be wholly self-funded, meaning that no State or county taxpayer dollars will be used for such purposes; and
WHEREAS, it is therefore critical that the State of New York establish and operate its own Exchange, and that it do so expeditiously;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the Laws of the State of New York, do hereby order as follows:
1. There is hereby established within the Department of Health, in conformity with the Affordable Care Act, the New York Health Benefit Exchange (the Exchange). The Department of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Financial Services and other state agencies, shall take all necessary steps to effectuate the Exchange, and expedite its ability to perform those functions necessary to carry out the requirements and serve the goals of the Affordable Care Act.
2. The Exchange shall, among other things, facilitate enrollment in health coverage and the purchase and sale of qualified health plans in the individual market in this state, and enroll individuals in health coverage for which they are eligible in accordance with federal law.
3. The Exchange shall, among other things, take such actions necessary to enable eligible individuals to receive premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions and to enable eligible small businesses to receive tax credits, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.
4. The Exchange shall, among other things, enter into agreements with appropriate entities, including but not limited to federal, state and local agencies, to the extent necessary to carry out its duties and responsibilities, provided that such agreements incorporate adequate protections with respect to the confidentiality of any information to be shared.
5. The Exchange shall, among other things, convene regional advisory committees, consisting of consumer advocates, small business consumer representatives, health care providers, agents, brokers, insurers, labor organizations, and any other appropriate stakeholders, to provide advice and make recommendations on the establishment and operation of the Exchange, including recommendations about relevant regional factors, and shall provide opportunities for public input on such matters.
6. The Exchange shall, among other things, become financially self-sustaining by January 1, 2015, as required by the Affordable Care Act.
7. Nothing in this Order shall be construed to duplicate, preempt, supersede, limit or otherwise restrict the statutory authority, duties and functions of the Department of Health, the Department of Financial Services or any other agency of this State.
G I V E N under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of Albany this twelfth day of April in the year two thousand twelve.
BY THE GOVERNOR
Secretary to the Governor

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued the following executive order today establishing The New York Health Benefit Exchange that will help individuals and small businesses secure health insurance as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans had resisted creating an exchange for months–some labeling it an extension of “Obamacare.” Cuomo promised after the budget deal that he would take matters into his own hands.

“The bottom line is that creating this health exchange will lower the cost of health insurance for small businesses, local governments, and individual New Yorkers across the state. The sky-high cost of insurance in New York is driving businesses out of the state and preventing lower income New Yorkers from being able to afford needed coverage,Cuomo said. Establishing the health exchange will bring true competition into the health care marketplace, driving costs down across the state.”

Here is the executive order: Read the rest of this entry »
By on April 12, 2012, 1:34 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Health | 3 Comments »

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Bloomberg Digs Cuomo's Budget
March 27th, 2012

City taxpayers are winners today in Albany. The components of the budget agreement announced today, taken together with the landmark pension reform overhaul announced two weeks ago, herald the best legislative session for the City in a decade. Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver deserve our thanks for delivering an on-time budget and doing right by New York City.
Pension reform, which was part of the Governors Executive Budget proposal, was really part one of the budget and a central achievement of the process. It will save the City $21 billion over thirty years which is $21 billion more we can spend to keep taxes down and provide vital services to New Yorkers. On top of that, the States takeover of Medicaid growth will save the City of New York nearly a billion dollars over the next five years.
A planned increase in education funding has been expanded by the Legislature delivering help our schools badly need. This is great news for our kids, but the State must continue working to achieve the unfulfilled promise of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement.
The budget resolution also includes important public policy victories for the City. For years, we have been pushing to overhaul the States juvenile justice system so that our young people can more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives. Agreement on the Close to Home initiative is the culmination of that work. In addition, the budget agreement notably rejected efforts to slow down the implementation of a State law requiring cleaner fuel, which the City helped pass in 2010. And the Governor and the Legislature put parents and schoolchildren first when they rebuffed efforts to prohibit parents from seeing important information about teacher effectiveness.
Finally, an almost unprecedented accomplishment: it appears that the budget includes no new unfunded mandates for New York City. We are hopeful this commitment to fiscal responsibility continues throughout the rest of the legislative session.
Governor Cuomo has demonstrated bold leadership throughout this legislative session and budget process, both in setting forth meaningful public policy solutions to some of our toughest problems and in bringing people together to turn his proposals into reality. Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver have been outstanding partners for the Governor in truly making Albany work for the people and for the City of New York.

And they said it wouldn’t last. Sure Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have had their moments. Some sniping here, some disparaging remarks there but the pair have been happy as clams as of late. Maybe it has something to do with Tier 6–regardless the fuzzy-warm snuggles continue with Bloomberg’s assessment of Cuomo’s budget. Bloomberg says “City taxpayers are winners today in Albany.”

Check out Bloomberg’s full assessment of the budget agreement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 27, 2012, 3:50 pm
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What Does the State Budget Deal Mean For NYC?
March 27th, 2012

This is budget week in Albany and now we have an official acknowledgement that a deal has been reached. The budget deadline is at the end of the month but legislators really dealt with the hard stuff during December’s special session and the late night legislative spree earlier this month. So what does the budget have in store for the city?

  • The juvenile justice “Close to Home” initiative is of particular interest. NYC will be able to place and treat its juvenile delinquents in the five boroughs rather than sending them upstate.
  • Funding for the MTA capital plan, with $770 million coming directly from the state. “The five-year MTA capital plan contains $22.2 billion for projects critical to transit in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley, and that will produce tens of thousands of jobs. The first two years of the MTA capital plan were funded at $9.1 billion. The Budget will help allow the MTA to obtain the full $13.1 billion needed to achieve the five year capital plan and complete some of the largest construction projects in the history of New York.”
  • The Office of New Americans will be established to help immigrants better participate in “the state’s economy and civil life.”

Also Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going ahead with a controversial provision that will give him increased powers over state spending:

“To achieve greater efficiency in government operations and improve performance, the Budget enacts the Governor’s proposal to ensure fiscal flexibility in order to expedite government consolidation and streamlining. The interchangeability provisions give the state the authority to move certain funds between state agencies that will save money in back office functions such as business services, information technology and call centers. This will allow the state to move functions from one state agency to another to improve efficiency, ensure better performance, and reduce costs for taxpayers. The transfers will not be used to alter or shift programmatic functions of the agencies.”

Here is the full release from Cuomo’s office:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 27, 2012, 2:08 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Deal on "Close to Home"
March 26th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rev. Al Sharpton have issued a joint statement praising an apparent deal that would allow New York City the ability to control placement and treatment of its juvenile delinquents. For more on what exactly the legislation would do check out my recent story.

For too long, too many of our City’s young people have been shunted off upstate hundreds of miles from family, school and community and far from the support they need to get back on course. Today’s budget agreement includes a landmark overhaul of our juvenile justice system, paving the way for young people in the system to receive services close to their families and more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives.
We have been championing this kind of change together since our visit to the Finger Lakes Residential Center in December 2010, where the injustice and inadequacy of the status quo was on full display. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for making the Close to Home initiative a top priority for his administration. Building on the City’s legacy of juvenile justice reform reducing the use of detention and placement, increasing community-based alternatives and lowering recidivism rates, all the while making our City even safer Close to Home will address the needs of our young people and improve public safety.
In addition to the Governor, we thank Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for making this a reality; Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Karim Camara and Joseph Lentol, who first introduced legislation and led the way in Albany on this critical issue; and Senators Diane Savino, Martin Golden, Andrew Lanza and Steve Saland, who provided thoughtful leadership during budget deliberations. We also thank Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council for their support of the initiative.

For too long, too many of our City’s young people have been shunted off upstate hundreds of miles from family, school and community and far from the support they need to get back on course. Today’s budget agreement includes a landmark overhaul of our juvenile justice system, paving the way for young people in the system to receive services close to their families and more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives.

We have been championing this kind of change together since our visit to the Finger Lakes Residential Center in December 2010, where the injustice and inadequacy of the status quo was on full display. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for making the Close to Home initiative a top priority for his administration. Building on the City’s legacy of juvenile justice reform reducing the use of detention and placement, increasing community-based alternatives and lowering recidivism rates, all the while making our City even safer Close to Home will address the needs of our young people and improve public safety.

In addition to the Governor, we thank Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for making this a reality; Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Karim Camara and Joseph Lentol, who first introduced legislation and led the way in Albany on this critical issue; and Senators Diane Savino, Martin Golden, Andrew Lanza and Steve Saland, who provided thoughtful leadership during budget deliberations. We also thank Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council for their support of the initiative.

By on March 26, 2012, 1:57 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Health | Comments Off

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New York Scores D on National State Integrity Investigation
March 19th, 2012

A report by the Center for Public Integrity that studied the laws and corruption risks of all 50 states gave New York a score of D. The just released scorecards and accompanying stories rate both the laws and how they are implemented. New York ranked 36 amongst all states on the corruption risk. The Center for Public Integrity hopes to use the reports to work with states to enact reform. Full disclosure: I am the New York reporter for the project.

WNYC ran a story on the investigation this morning and Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing told them that the report does not take into account reforms made under Gov. Andrew Cuomo. This assertion is not completely true asmy story focuses on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, how the agency appears to be stacked with political cronies and how the creation of the agency has echoes of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s failed attempt to reform the state’s ethics organization.

Please take a look at the report and let us know what you think. The site provides a handy tool to send the report to your representative. Isn’t that a heckuva thing?

By on March 19, 2012, 8:01 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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