Schmitt, Hoovler plan public talk in Woodbury on opioid crisis

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt and Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler plan to host a roundtable discussion next week about the opioid epidemic.

The talk is open to the public and will take place from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Woodbury Senior Center at 16 County Route 105 in Highland Mills. Schmitt’s office said speakers will include government and nonprofit representatives, recovering addicts and first responders, and they will talk about the current state of the crisis and potential ways to combat it.

“The heroin and opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that impacts each and every one of us directly or indirectly,” said Schmitt, R-New Windsor.

Anyone interested in participating should contact Jena Knight at knightjl@nyassembly.gov or 845-469-6929.

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Cuomo signs bill allowing Ulster towns, villages to raise conservation funds

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Friday that enables Ulster County towns and villages to tax property sales and use the proceeds to buy land or development rights as a conservation measure.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, and Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, simply added the word “Ulster” to a 2007 law that gave towns and villages in Westchester and Putnam counties the ability to create “community preservation funds” that they replenish with income from real estate transfer taxes. Voters must approve the tax in a referendum for a municipality to impose it.

“This legislation is about giving Ulster communities the tools to safeguard their unique natural, historic, agricultural, and scenic resources for the benefit of current and future generations,” Metzger said in a statement after the bill signing. “Having worked at the local level in Ulster County for many years to protect open space and support our local farms, I am thrilled to partner with Assemblymember Cahill in providing this important opportunity to local governments for this purpose, and thank the Governor for recognizing the need to protect our irreplaceable Hudson Valley resources.”

Cahill called the bill “an important step forward in helping our local governments preserve open space, develop the tools needed to make housing more affordable and to responsibly plan for a sustainable future.”

The legislation was similar to a proposal Cuomo recently vetoed that applied solely to the Town of Chester in Orange County, and would have given that town the ability to tax property sales for a conservation fund if voters approved. In that case, Cuomo said his objection was the allegation in a federal lawsuit that the bill’s purpose was to block housing development for Hasidic families.

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Maloney says Trump’s conduct “left us no alternative” to impeachment (updated)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said Tuesday that President Trump’s misuse of military aid for his own political benefit and his obstruction of “lawful investigations of his misconduct” had left Congress no choice but to impeach him as a way of holding him accountable.

In a statement after the release of the House Intelligence Committee’s report on its impeachment hearings, the Cold Spring Democrat expressed respect for people who “hoped for better from this president” and were skeptical of the unfolding impeachment process, but said he believed the evidence and history will vindicate that course. Maloney serves on the Intelligence Committee and participated in that panel’s televised questioning of government officials for five days about Trump’s suspension of military assistance to Ukraine and two investigations he wanted that country’s president to announce.

Here’s Maloney’s full statement:

“The evidence is as clear as it is heartbreaking: President Trump misused taxpayer-funded military assistance to pressure a foreign government for help with his re-election campaign. He did so over months with a reckless disregard for our national security and that of a key European partner currently at war with Russia. He has obstructed lawful investigations of his misconduct and repeatedly and knowingly lied to the public.

“I have had a high bar for impeachment. But the President’s conduct has left us no alternative. If we are to be faithful to the people we serve and the oath we take to the Constitution, we must hold this president or any president accountable for such misconduct.

“I respect those who hoped for better from this president, and who remain skeptical of this constitutional process. It is precisely because of this respect, not in spite of it, that I will act in the best interests of our country. I am confident that over time, and in the light of history, the facts and the evidence compelling these actions will create a broad understanding of their necessity.

“I thank the brave national security professionals and career foreign service and military officers who did the right thing by testifying before the Committee and the American public.”

Update:

Chele Chiavacci Farley, the Republican planning to challenge Maloney in 2020 for New York’s 18th Congressional District seat, issued a statement Tuesday night condemning the “divisive and unproductive” impeachment hearings and the party-line vote on the Intelligence Committee’s report, a split that she said showed no “clear mandate to remove a sitting President with less than a year before the next election.”

“Democrats continue to waste millions of dollars and relentlessly pursue any path they can to continue to fracture our nation, in their brazen attempts to overturn an election, and invalidate the votes of millions of Americans,” Farley said.

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Delgado proposes to ban campaign donations from opioid makers

Rep. Antonio Delgado announced a new bill in November to prohibit campaign contributions to federal candidates from the political arms of any pharmaceutical companies that make opioids.

The Rhinebeck Democrat said he was co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Max Rose, a Staten Island Democrat, and argued it would blunt the influence of drug manufacturers as policy makers in Washington grapple with ways to combat an opioid addiction and overdose crisis.

“Addressing the opioid crisis must also include rooting out the corrupting influences that perpetuate it,” Delgado said in a statement. “The opioid crisis is deeply prevalent in New York, especially in our rural communities, and yet pharmaceutical companies and special interests continue to have free rein to advance their agenda by lining the pockets of lawmakers in Washington.”

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Cuomo signs Metzger bill shielding employees’ reproductive decisions

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Jen Metzger that prohibits employers from discriminating against workers or prospective employees for their beliefs and decisions regarding contraception and abortion.

The Assembly had passed the “Boss Bill” in five previous years, but the Senate had taken no vote on it while Republicans controlled that chamber. That changed in January after Democrats won a large majority in the Senate: now sponsored by the newly elected Metzger, the proposal sailed through with most Republicans in support in a 56-6 vote in the opening weeks of the legislative session. The Assembly passed it again the same day.

“No one should have to fear that they will lose their job or be demoted because of their own, private reproductive health decisions,” Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat, said in a statement after the bill signing on Nov. 8. “Choosing if and when to have children, what prescription drugs to take or medical services to access, are decisions for individuals and their families and not their employers. With threats to basic reproductive healthcare looming at the federal level, protecting New Yorkers with this legislation is more vital than ever.”

Her statement noted that while employees’ medical records are confidential under federal law, employers can glean information from “insurance summaries and other human resources documents.”

The law prevents employers from looking at records about the employee’s or a dependent’s use of a “drug, device or medical service” without the worker’s prior written consent; from using that information to retaliate against the employee “with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment”; or from making a worker sign a waiver forsaking the right to make reproductive decisions.

A coalition of groups immediately filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the law as a violation of their religious rights, arguing it would force pro-life pregnancy centers, Catholic hospitals and religious schools to employ workers who don’t share their opposition to abortion.

“No government has the right to tell pro-life or religious organizations they must hire someone who doesn’t agree with their core mission,” said Ken Connelly, general counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the group that brought the case on behalf a Rochester pregnancy care center and other aggrieved parties.

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Palm Tree elects write-in justice candidates

The Town of Palm Tree appears to have its first elected judges: two lawyers from outside the Hasidic community whose names were written in at the Nov. 5 election with the endorsement of the Anash political party.

Richard Croughan got 683 votes and Stephen Hunter got 676, according to the Orange County Board of Elections’ unofficial results.

Neither lives in Palm Tree – the town formed this year by separating the Village of Kiryas Joel from the Town of Monroe – but were eligible to run because Palm Tree passed a law waiving the usual legal requirement that justices live in the towns that elect them to preside over municipal court. That law came too late for Croughan and Hunter to petition to get on the ballot, but Kiryas Joel’s main political faction put their names as write-in candidates on sample ballots that were distributed to voters outside polling stations on Nov. 5.

Town officials opened the field to non-residents because no one from Palm Tree petitioned last year or this year to be a judge, forcing the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to distribute Palm Tree traffic tickets and other local court matters to neighboring towns and villages. State law requires towns to have two elected justices.

Croughan and Hunter will serve four-year terms. Palm Tree still has no courtroom for them, but town officials are considering building a small courthouse on land that Kiryas Joel owns off Larkin Drive in Monroe and uses for a park. They say it could take until next summer for Palm Tree Court to come to order if that plan comes to fruition.

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Skoufis bill mandating campaign ad disclosure signed into law

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill sponsored by Sen. James Skoufis that requires all political ads and mailings identify who paid for them so opponents can no longer lob anonymous attacks at candidates and elected officials.

Those ads and materials must now bear a “paid for by” message, just as federal campaign materials are required to do and as other states already demand.

“Voters deserve full transparency when it comes to political communications – and now, finally, they’ll get it,” Skoufis said in a statement.

Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, a Rockland County Democrat, sponsored the bill in the Assembly, where it had passed four years in a row. The Senate had never taken it up while that chamber was in Republican control, but passed in a 61-1 vote in June with Democrats in the majority and Skoufis as the new sponsor.

Skoufis noted in his statement that he had been the target of anonymous mailings and robocalls attacking him. “I know first-hand the confusion caused by these deceptive practices, especially when messages come from seemingly legitimate sources with no ‘paid for by’ disclaimer,” he said. “We all have a right to vote in honest and fair elections, and this new law is a significant step forward.” 

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Biden leads Dem field in NY poll

Joe Biden has gained ground and Elizabeth Warren has slid among Democratic voters in New York in a Siena College poll released this week that asked for their preference in the Democratic presidential field.

Support for the former vice president in New York rose to 24 percent from 21 percent in a poll Siena took in October. That put him well in front of Warren, whose support had dropped to 14 percent from 21 percent, and Bernie Sanders, who dipped to 13 percent from 16 percent.

The other candidates barely registered in the latest poll, except for Pete Buttigieg at 5 percent and Kamala Harris at 3 percent.

The biggest share of Democratic voters – 29 percent – were undecided or wouldn’t answer.

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Cuomo signs Metzger bill to raise pension cap for volunteer responders

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill by Sen. Jen Metzger that increases the maximum pension amount that a volunteer fire department and ambulance corps can offer its members for each year of service as a recruiting too.

The bill, unanimously approved by both the Senate and Assembly in June and signed by Cuomo on Nov. 8, raises the annual limit to $1,200 from $700 for contributions to what are known as length of service award programs.

“Firefighters and EMS volunteers are the first line of defense in emergencies in our communities, and are vital to the protection of public safety and well-being,” Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat, said in a statement. “By increasing the maximum allowable award, we recognize the work of these dedicated and brave volunteers while also providing a stronger incentive for recruitment of new volunteers.”

Volunteers begin receiving payments through these programs once they reach retirement age, and can accrue up to 40 years of service credits. New York first authorized the payments in 1988 and hadn’t raised the contribution cap since 2004.

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Schmitt holds ceremony to honor veterans

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt organized a ceremony in Goshen Tuesday night to recognize 16 veterans from the 99th Assembly District who will be featured on a portable “wall of honor” that will be mounted in various places around the district for the next year.

“I am honored to be able to host this inaugural Veterans’ Hall of Fame event to pay respect to our heroes who have dedicated their lives to defending our freedoms, protecting our country and serve our community,” the New Windsor Republicans said in a statement afterward.

The induction ceremony was held at the Orange County Government Center. The wall that will display the veterans’ stories was built by members of Carpenters Local 279, Laborers Local 17 and American Legion Post 1796.

The inductees, their hometowns and military branch are: Andrew Morris, Blooming Grove, Army National Guard; Thomas Simmons, Chester, Marines; Edward Joseph Szulwach, Chester, Navy; Daniel Clarino, Cornwall, Marines; Richard Grabowski, Goshen, Army; Joseph Donovan, Goshen, Army; Carl Crist, Hamptonburgh, Navy; John Joseph Flynn, Highlands, Army; Joseph Gregory Lowrey, Highland Falls, Army; George Reilly, New Windsor, Marines; James Mullany, South Blooming Grove, Army; Alan Dagistino, Stony Point, Army; David Pritchard, Washingtonville, Air Force; Alfred Pierce, Wawayanda, Army; William Doyle, Woodbury, Army; and Kenneth Smith, Woodbury, Army.

The wall also honored Catholic War Veterans Post 386.

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