Faso supports expanded work mandate for food stamp recipients (updated)

Rep. John Faso

Reps. John Faso and Sean Patrick Maloney voted on opposite sides on Wednesday as the House Agriculture Committee passed a Republican farm bill that Democrats oppose, at least partly because it would tighten the work requirements for people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – the anti-poverty program formerly known as food stamps.

More than 42 million Americans – 1 in 8 people – benefit from the SNAP program, which provides funds on debit cards to help poor, elderly and disabled people buy groceries, an average of about $125 per person each month. New York has more than 2.8 million SNAP recipients, including 42,000 people in Orange County, 18,000 in Ulster County and 13,000 in Sullivan County.

Republicans want to require that able-bodied adults under 60 either work or take job training for at least 20 hours a week to continue getting that assistance, with exceptions for pregnant mothers, parents of children younger than 6 and for certain other circumstances. (States could waive that requirement if their unemployment rates are higher than the national average.) Current law requires SNAP recipients between ages 18 and 49, who aren’t disabled and don’t have dependents, to work or train at least 80 hours a month to receive benefits for more than three months in a three-year period.

Faso, a Kinderhook Republican who represents Ulster and Sullivan counties, joined his GOP colleagues on Wednesday in support of the farm bill, which cleared the Agriculture Committee in a 26-20 vote and heads next to the House floor. He didn’t take part in the speeches and partisan clashes that preceded the vote, but had argued in support of the proposed SNAP changes – including the tightened work requirements – in an op-ed column in the Albany Times-Union several days earlier.

He said in that piece that too many able-bodied recipients aren’t working – 11 million adults under age 60 in 2016 – and that the program must focus on helping them find and keep jobs. He invoked the welfare reform of the 1990s as a model.

“A purpose of benefit programs such as SNAP should be to help people gain self-sufficiency,” Faso wrote. “We would be more successful at reducing systemic hunger and poverty if states required able-bodied adults to participate actively in employment and training programs that put them on a path toward stable employment.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney

Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat who represents Orange County, voted against the bill after giving an impassioned speech and grilling a flustered Republican committee member about one particular provision, which he said would deliberately make it harder for people – including the disabled – to claim benefits. “This is a backdoor way to kick people off the program,” he argued.

In a statement on Thursday, Maloney condemned the farm bill for multiple reasons, both for provisions affecting Hudson Valley farmers and farmland conservation efforts and for those affecting SNAP beneficiaries. He said the bill would make massive changes in SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs that “were designed to throw folks off the program or reduce their benefits.”

Brian Flynn, one of seven Democrats campaigning to challenge Faso for New York’s 19th Congressional District seat, went further in a statement on Thursday, saying the bill would “viciously cut funding” for “a program that helps to feed millions of children, seniors, and those with disabilities.”

“This is a moral issue,” Flynn said. “The health and welfare of our most vulnerable citizens hangs in the balance, proving once again that John Faso cares little about the people he claims to serve.”

The House Democrats’ campaign arm also took a swing. “By voting for this cruel and reckless legislation, Congressman Faso has once again put his party ahead of his constituents,” Evan Lukaske, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

(Update: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and fellow Democrats announced a Senate bill on Thursday that would go the opposite direction on SNAP by increasing food payments for school-age children by $42 a month, and by adjusting the aid formula to keep pace with rising food prices. “No community and no classroom is better served by having hungry kids, and no amount of government savings is worth a child in their bed hungry at night,” Gillibrand said in a statement.)

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O’Donnell raises $150K for NY18 congressional run

Orange County Legislator Jim O’Donnell has raised about $150,000 and lent $50,000 of his own money for his bid to unseat Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a three-term Democrat with more than $3 million in his campaign account.

O’Donnell, a Republican and retired police commander from Goshen, reported virtually no expenses in his first three months of campaigning, and thus had a little over $200,000 in his campaign account as of March 31.

Maloney, a Cold Spring resident who has represented the 18th Congressional District since 2013, reported raising 345,574 in the first quarter of 2018, leaving him with almost $3.2 million in his account after expenses.

Maloney’s campaign filed petitions last week to run on four ballot lines in November: Democratic, Independence, Working Families and Women’s Equality. O’Donnell petitioned for three lines: Republican, Conservative and Reform.

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Delgado maintains lead in campaign funds in NY19 race

Antonio Delgado remains the leader in campaigns funds in the crowded race for New York’s 19th Congressional District, reporting a bigger account after the first quarter of 2018 than six rival Democrats and the Republican congressman they are vying to challenge.

Unlike in the two previous quarters, when two Democrats both outraised him, Rep. John Faso had the biggest haul among all 19th District candidates in the first three months of 2018. The freshman from Columbia County reported collecting $468,305 in that time and finished the quarter with $989,831 in his coffers.

Delgado, an attorney from Rhinebeck, took in $461,637 – not far behind Faso – and had $1,199,938 on hand as of March 31. He’s one of seven Democrats who filed petitions last week to compete in a June 26 primary for the 11-county 19th District, which includes Ulster and Sullivan counties.

Here are the amounts that the other six candidates raised in the first quarter and the balances in their accounts after expenses, according to the reports their campaigns filed with the Federal Election Commission by Sunday:

Pat Ryan

Raised, first quarter 2018: $423,129

On hand as of March 31: $959,068

Brian Flynn

Raised, first quarter 2018: $150,413

On hand as of March 31 $897,649

Gareth Rhodes

Raised, first quarter 2018: $234,821

On hand as of March 31: $477,930

David Clegg

Raised, first quarter 2018: $163,999 (includes $100,000 Clegg loaned his campaign)

On hand as of March 31: $451,679

Jeffrey Beals

Raised, first quarter 2018: $87,137

On hand as of March 31: $85,933

Erin Collier

Raised, first quarter 2018: $92,321

On hand as of March 31: $61,289

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Working Families Party backs Metzger for Senate

Rosendale Councilwoman Jen Metzger, one of two Democrats looking to challenge Republican state Sen. John Bonacic, announced Monday that she has gotten the endorsement of the labor-backed Working Families Party in her bid for the 42nd Senate District seat.

“Jen Metzger proves that you don’t need to make a false choice between principled, progressive values, and winning elections,” Phillip Leber, the party’s Hudson region political director, said in the press release from Metzger’s campaign. “Social movements can only do their jobs if we elect authentic progressives, and Jen Metzger is the real deal.”

Both Metzger and Pramilla Malick, the Orange County environmental activist who challenged Bonacic two years ago, have registered as Democratic candidates for the 42nd District. They’ll compete in a Sept. 13 primary if both stay in the race. State candidates must file their election petitions by July 16.

“For two decades now, our state senator has made a career out of taking money from corporate donors and polluters, while giving us handouts,” Metzger said in Monday’s announcement. “I look forward to partnering with the Working Families Party to support – not block – legislation that meaningfully improves the lives of the people in our district.”

The 42nd District takes in parts of Orange, Ulster and Delaware counties and all of Sullivan. Bonacic, a former Orange County legislator and assemblyman who lives in Mount Hope, has been a senator for almost 20 years.

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Martens announces Assembly campaign

A Minisink resident who has been active in community opposition to the Competitve Power Ventures power plant in Wawayanda announced Friday that he’s running for the Assembly seat held by Republican Karl Brabenec of Deerpark.

Martens, a 38-year-old carpenter and married father of two, said in a statement on Friday that his frustration with the dysfunction he has seen at all government levels during his activism with the group Protect Orange County inspired him to run. He registered as candidate for the 98th Assembly District with the state Board of Elections earlier that day.

“I am not a career politician,” said Martens, who’s a Democrat. “I am a family man. But what I lack in political experience I make up for in a deep personal drive to secure an equal, just, and safe society for everyone, to promote sustainable development, and to protect the environment for generations to come.”

Brabenec, a former Deerpark town supervisor, has represented the 98th Assembly District since 2015 and plans to seek a third term, having kicking off his re-election campaign in February. The 98th District stretches across six towns and the City of Port Jervis in Orange County and takes in a chunk of the populous town of Ramapo in Rockland County.

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Skoufis bill on internet ads is adopted in budget

A state bill sponsored by Assemblyman James Skoufis to require that political ads appearing on Facebook and other social media identify who paid for them effectively became law last month, when lawmakers passed a budget that included a disclosure requirement for internet political ads.

Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat, took up the legislation by Sen. Todd Kaminsky of Long Island after having been attacked repeatedly by anonymous ads leveling false claims against him on Facebook and Instagram. He said at a press conference last June that at least 35 different messages smearing him had run in a constant barrage for the last 18 months, each attributed to a made-up organization. The bill he sponsored would require a “paid for by” line on all political ads, including those on the internet.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo later took up the same crusade, which is also being waged at the federal level in Congress. As a result, the budget that New York lawmakers passed on March 30 included a requirement that internet ads identify the independent expenditure committees that paid for them. It also requires the state Board of Elections to keep a publicly accessible database of digital ads bought by independent committees.

“Voters deserve to know who’s behind the digital political ads that are popping up all over their screen,” Skoufis said on Thursday in a press release about the new requirements. “As someone who’s been targeted by anonymous groups looking to spread misinformation with outright lies, I know how necessary this measure is to protecting and strengthening our democracy. If someone wants to influence our elections and attempt to shape our future, it’s only right that they take responsibility for it.”

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Gibson takes role with Molinaro campaign

Chris Gibson

Former Rep. Chris Gibson, a Hudson Valley Republican who considered running for governor this year but announced that he wouldn’t two years ago, has taken a background role in the gubernatorial race as the unpaid campaign chairman for Marc Molinaro, one of two Republicans vying to take on Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gibson, a retired Army colonel and three-term Republican whose district included Ulster and Sullivan counties, and who left office in 2015 after declining to seek re-election, is currently a visiting professor of foreign policy at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., and a recent author. His book, “Rally Point: Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize the American Dream,” was published in October.

In an announcement about Gibson’s campaign role on Wednesday, Molinaro said, “Chris Gibson embodies the high standards for integrity, commitment and service by which we will run this campaign and which we will ultimately restore to the State Capitol in Albany. I am honored that he has agreed to serve as Campaign Chairman.”

Gibson said in the same release: “Marc Molinaro is the right person to clear the cloud of corruption that has descended over the Governor’s office and restore New Yorker’s faith in the future of our state.”

Molinaro and state Sen. John DeFranciso will compete for Republicans’ endorsement to run for governor at a party convention in Manhattan on May 24.

Cuomo has been governor since 2011 and is running for a third term. He faces a challenge from the left from fellow Democrat Cynthia Nixon, the former “Sex and the City” star.

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Delgado, Ryan file first petitions in NY19 race (updated X4)

Antonio Delgado and Patrick Ryan were the first two Democrats to file petitions this week out of as many as nine potential candidates vying to challenge Republican Rep. John Faso this year for New York’s 19th Congressional District seat.

Delgado and Ryan both gave their petitions to the state Board of Elections on Monday, three days ahead of the filing deadline. Delgado’s campaign said afterward it had collected almost 6,000 signatures – more than quadruple the 1,250 minimum – from all 11 counties in the 19th District, which includes Ulster and Sullivan counties.

“This is a powerful moment that shows how much grassroots support this campaign has built across the Hudson Valley and Catskills,” Delgado said in a press release. “I’ve said all along that nobody is going to outwork us.”

Five other Democrats – Brian Flynn, Gareth Rhodes, Jeffrey Beals, David Clegg and Erin Collier - also are campaigning for Faso’s seat and will compete with Delgado and Rhodes in a June 26 primary if they submit petitions by Thursday. Two other potential candidates in the race are Steve Greenfield, who has said he will run on the Green Party line, and TV actress Diane Neal, who has registered as an independent candidate.

(Update: More petitions were filed on Wednesday. Faso submitted four – for the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform ballot lines. Clegg and Beals filed their Democratic petitions. Greenfield handed in his Green petition.

Faso’s campaign announced it collected 9,600 total signatures for the four petitions, 1,000 more than it gathered for his first run two years ago. “I’m running for re-election because Washington needs problem solvers not rabid partisanship,” Faso said in the release. “I’ll continue to focus my efforts on making Upstate New York more economically competitive, standing up for our farmers, tackling the opioid crisis and ensuring our veterans receive the services they’ve earned.”)

(Update #2: Flynn filed his petition on Thursday and appears to have far eclipsed Delgado’s signature boast. He’s got 1,098 petition pages vs. Delgado’s 619. — Scratch that. Flynn press release says he got more than 5,000 signatures.)

(Update #3: Rhodes has filed his petition. That will make seven Democrats running in a primary on June 26 once Collier files hers as well, assuming everybody’s petitions withstand any challenges.)

(Update #4: Collier’s petition is in.)

Delgado, Ryan and Rhodes all have touted their first-quarter fundraising totals before this Sunday’s deadline to file campaign finance reports. Delgado’s campaign announced it had raised more than $460,000 in the first three months of the year, while Ryan’s said it had raised more than $422,000 and Rhodes’ said it had collected about $240,000.

Flynn, a Greene County resident and small business owner, recently touted endorsements from the Transport Workers Union, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, and Tony Cellini, former supervisor of the Town of Thompson in Sullivan County.

Delgado, an attorney who lives in Rhinebeck, announced on Tuesday the endorsement of Manna Jo Greene, an Ulster County legislator and longtime environmental activist. He was scheduled to speak that night to Hudson Valley Strong – an Indivisible chapter – at Rhinebeck Town Hall.

Ryan, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and lives in Gardiner, is scheduled to give a speech about that war – “What Went Wrong: A Veteran’s Perspective on Iraq” – tonight at Bard College in Dutchess County.

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Raises on the horizon for state lawmakers

State lawmakers elected this November may benefit from the first pay hike in 20 years for New York’s senators and Assembly members, whose base pay was hiked by 38 percent in 1998 and has remained at $79,500 ever since.

Tucked into the budget the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved on March 30 was the creation of a five-member committee that will determine raises for all 213 lawmakers, plus statewide elected officials and heads of state agencies. The governor and lawmakers tried a similar approach two years ago, but their raise panel dissolved in rancor – and without any pay increase – after the Legislature’s appointees voted for 43 percent raises and Cuomo’s appointees blocked them.

The new panel consists of Chief Judge Jane DiFiore, the comptrollers for the state and New York City, and the SUNY and CUNY board chairmen (both of whom are past comptrollers), and will decide on raises by Dec. 10 – after the elections for all legislative seats and statewide officials. Those increases will take effect on Jan. 1 unless the Legislature convenes before then to change or reject them, an unlikely prospect.

The budget allows the committee to award raises for 2020 and 2021 as well, although legislators can claim them only if they pass a budget by April 1 each of the next two years.

Even with the long raise drought, the New York Legislature, which is in session during the first six months of each year, still had the third highest base pay among U.S. state legislatures as of last year, behind California ($104,118) and Pennsylvania ($86,479), according to the National Conference of State Legislators. The 43 percent pay hike New York’s pay panel considered in 2016 – an increase said to match the combined inflation since 1998 – would have raised base pay to $114,000, highest in the country.

Most New York lawmakers – including nine of 10 of those representing pieces of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties – also get stipends on top of their $79,500 base pay for party leadership positions or for being the chairman or ranking minority member of a committee. Here are the 10 senators and Assembly members for this region and their titles and stipends. (Some have more than one title or chairmanship, but can only receive a stipend for one.)

Sen. William Larkin Jr., R-Cornwall-on-Hudson (39th District)

Assistant majority leader for house operations, $25,000 stipend

Total salary: $104,500

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford (51st District)

Chairman, Majority Program Development Committee: $25,000 stipend

Total salary: $104,500

Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope (42nd District)

Chairman, Judiciary Committee: $18,000 stipend

Total salary: $97,500

Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam (46th District)

Chairman, Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee: $12,500 stipend

Total salary: $92,000

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston (103rd District)

Chairman, Insurance Committee: $12,500 stipend

Total salary: $92,000

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh (100th District)

Chairwoman, Mental Health Committee: $12,500 stipend

Total salary: $92,000

Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton (104th District)

Chairman, Rural Resources Commission: $12,500 stipend

Total salary: $92,000

Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford (101st District)

Ranking Republican, Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm, and Nutrition Policy: $9,000 stipend

Total salary: $88,500

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark (98th District)

Ranking Republican, Assembly Labor Committee: $9,000 stipend

Total salary: $88,500

Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury (99th District)

Chairman, Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities: no stipend

Total salary: $79,500

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Lawmakers want study for Lyme disease link to mental illness

A bill unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday directs state agencies to study whether Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses can cause mental illness in infected patients.

Sponsors include James Seward, an Otsego County Republican whose district includes part of Ulster County, and who serves on the Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases. In a press release touting the bill, he said, “Studying Lyme in relation to mental health is a logical step forward that can lead to improved diagnosis and treatment plans that can improve patient outcomes in the short- and long-term.”

He said the task force held a hearing last August at which patients with tick-borne illnesses described their “battles with mood disorders, anxiety, depression and other mental health related issues.”

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Forestburgh Democrat who represents most of Sullivan County and part of Orange, is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly. She’s chairwoman of the Assembly Mental Health Committee and a former nurse. The Assembly hasn’t voted on the bill yet.

The bill would direct the Office of Mental Hygiene and Department of Health to conduct a study examining whether infectious diseases and blood-borne pathogens can lead to mental ailments, and submit the results by Oct. 1, 2019.

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