Maloney outlines economic aid proposal

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney released a list of priorities on Thursday that he said he and another Democrat will introduce as the House and Senate race to enact a sweeping package of aid and policies to soften the economic wreckage caused by the coronovirus pandemic.

Maloney, D-Cold Spring, and Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts will propose cash payments of $4,000, plus $2,000 per child, to households earning less than $100,000 a year. Homes with higher incomes would get $2,000 cash payments and an additional $1,000 per child.

They foresee continuing the support for households earning less than $100,000 after one year by delivering the same $4,000 payments in quarterly installments until the unemployment rate falls below 5.5 percent for two quarters in a row.

The rest of their proposal is eight pages of ideas ranging from support for the health-care workers who are on the front lines of the crisis, to aid for Metro-North Railroad and allowing food-stamp benefits – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – to be used for restaurants and other small businesses.

“A global pandemic impacts all of us, no matter your nationality, beliefs, or abilities,” Maloney said in a statement. “This coronavirus emergency relief policy framework makes sure our most vulnerable are not left behind and puts resources where we need them most.”

The Trump administration and Senate have been negotiating a $1 trillion aid package with direct payments to households and assistance for businesses in response to the pandemic and the rapid economic shutdown it has caused. Whatever terms they agree on will then have to been reconciled with the House’s priorities.

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Candidates file petitions to meet deadline moved up by coronavirus outbreak

Candidates running for Congress and state Legislature in New York rushed their petitions to the state Board of Elections by Friday to meet a deadline that was sped up by almost two weeks to shut down all door-to-door activity as the coronavirus spreads.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had slashed the number of signatures they needed by executive order so they could meet the threshold with less time. New York has faced mounting restrictions to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and will begin an even stricter period on Sunday with people told to stay home except for essential activities.

But the candidates or their party members managed to gather the signatures they needed by Friday’s deadline. The looming contests triggered by those filings include a Republican congressional primary on June 23 between Kyle Van De Water and Ola Hawatmeh, who are vying to challenge Democratic Rep. Antonio for the 19th District, which includes Ulster and Sullivan counties.

Another primary on that date will be a Democratic contest between Michelle Hinchey and Gary Greenberg for the 46th state Senate District, which includes part of Ulster County.

Two of the lawmakers representing parts of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties appear to be getting a pass from the opposition this year, unless the Board of Elections has some last-minute petitions it didn’t post or a challenger later files an independent petition.

The unopposed candidates are Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh, and Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark.

Below are the candidates whose petitions – usually for more than party – were filed and posted by Friday night. (Party initials: D-Democrat; R-Republican; C-Conservative; WF-Working Families; L-Libertarian; I-Independence; SAM- Serve America Movement)

18th Congressional District

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring: D, I

Chele Chiavacci Farley: R, C, L

Scott Smith: L, SAM

19th Congressional District

Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck: D, WF, I, SAM

Kyle Van De Water: R, C, I

Ola Hawatmeh: R, C

Steven Greenfield: G

39th Senate District

Sen. James Skoufis, D-Cornwall: D, WF, SAM

Steve Brescia: R, C, L, I

42nd Senate District

Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale: D, WF, SAM

Mike Martucci: R, C, L, I, SAM

46th Senate District

Michelle Hinchey: D, WF, SAM

Gary Greenberg: D

Richard Amedure Jr.: R, C, I, SAM

Robert Alft Jr.: Green

51st Senate District

Jim Barber: D

Peter Oberacker: R, C, I

Timothy O’Connor: L

98th Assembly District

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark: R, C, L, I

99th Assembly District

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt: R, C, L, I, SAM

Sarita Bhandarkar: D, WF

100th Assembly District

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh: D, WF, I

101st Assembly District

Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford: R, C, I

Chad McEvoy: D, WF

Barbara Kidney: G

103rd Assembly District

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston: D, WF, I

Rex Bridges: R

104th Assembly District

Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, D-Newburgh: D, WF

Andrew Guazza IV: R, C

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Cuomo may alter candidate petition rules in response to virus outbreak

Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested on Friday that he may use his emergency powers during the coronavirus outbreak to adjust the laws for the petitions that candidates circulate to get their names on the ballot.

“Normally you go door to door with a petition and you speak to the person who opens the door and you ask them to sign a petition,” Cuomo said during a press briefing. “This is not the best time to be sending people door to door. It’s the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do. I don’t know the specific solution but I know it’s something that we have to address.”

Candidates running this year started collecting signatures on Feb. 25 and have until April 2 to submit their petitions. Reducing the number of signatures they need or extending the deadline could only be done by executive order or legislation.

Gary Greenberg, a Greene County Democrat running for the 46th Senate District seat that George Amedore is vacating, has been urging the state to take one action or the other.

“The presidential debates are going to be held without an audience out of concern for the public health crisis,” he said in a statement on Thursday. “Yet New York State is requiring candidates and volunteers to intrusively knock on doors asking for signatures of registered voters. Current law makes no sense in these scary days of the coronavirus and New York State should act now to protect people not place them at risk of the virus.”

Greenberg had said earlier that a campaign volunteer collecting signatures for him had been verbally abused because she is of Chinese descent, which he said had provoked coronavirus fears and hostility.

“My good friend of nearly 20 years was moved to tears this week after having doors slammed in her face from people who didn’t know the reason for her visit at their homes,” he said. 

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Schmitt cheers ruling on campaign finance panel

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt celebrated a state court decision on Thursday that overturned new rules that would have allowed candidates to claim public matching funds for small campaign donations and raised the bar for third parties to keep their ballot lines.

A Niagara County judge ruled that the state Legislature improperly delegated its own authority by appointing a commission last year to write those rules and letting them become law without voting on them. Allowing an unelected group to make laws violated the constitution, Supreme Court Justice Ralph Boniello declared.

Schmitt, a New Windsor Republican, was a named plaintiff in one of two lawsuits challenging the panel’s decisions, which was opposed by two ideological opposites: The liberal Working Families Party and the Conservative Party. Both groups objected to the higher vote threshold for their parties to have stayed on the New York ballot.

Schmitt opposed both the tighter ballot standard and the optional public campaign financing, which was intended to boost the impact of small donors and drain the political influence of big donors (the law also would have lowered contribution limits). Republicans have fought public funds for campaigns as a waste of taxpayer money.

“This ruling not only saves over $200 million in taxpayer money from being spent on political campaigns but preserves every citizen’s political organizing rights,” Schmitt said in a statement.

He said it also showed “commissions cannot be created to circumvent the legislature and constitutional legislative process.”

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NY bill targets consumer price gouging during outbreak

Sens. Jen Metzger and James Skoufis are among the co-sponsors of a bill that would punish makers and sellers of hand sanitizer, surgical masks and other consumer medical goods for jacking up prices during the coronavirus outbreak.

The proposal introduced in the Senate this month would strengthen New York’s existing ban on price gouging by declaring that any price increase greater than 10 percent during a public health emergency is “unconsionably excessive,” without a judge having to make that determination. Violators could be fined up to $25,000 unless they prove the excessive price increase was beyond their control.

“At a time when the most vulnerable in our communities are at risk, it is absolutely shameful to hike up prices for goods that can help prevent illness and save lives,” Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat, said in a statement about the bill. “This legislation is intended to prevent unscrupulous businesses from profiting at the expense of public health.”

Skoufis, in a separate statement, said: “I co-sponsored this key legislation because during a public health crisis, bad-acting manufacturers and retailers taking advantage of consumers need to be held accountable. This bill is an important step, especially now, and I urge the Legislature to take swift action and pass it. Time is of the essence.” 

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Senate passes Metzger bill to create state guides for small businesses

The state Senate unanimously passed a bill by Sen. Jen Metzger on Wednesday that will require the state to publish an annual online compliance guide for small businesses to update them on taxes, permits and any other changes in laws and regulations that concern them.

“Too often, small businesses are in the dark about regulations that affect them due to inadequate communication from state agencies, and could end up facing penalties that could have been avoided if they were better informed,” the Rosendale Democrat said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure that our small businesses have access to the information they need to comply.”

The bill was one of at least six geared toward small businesses that the Senate approved on Wednesday. Another would designate one employee in each of five state departments to serve as a liaison to small business owners when they interact with those agencies.

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Skoufis cheers dismissal of “vindictive and frivolous” suit

State Sen. James Skoufis issued a statement on Monday applauding the recent dismissal of a federal lawsuit that had been brought against him last year by a Monroe resident who had been blocked from Skoufis’ Facebook page.

“It’s reassuring to know that the courts were able to see through this vindictive and frivolous lawsuit,” Skoufis, D-Cornwall said. “As I continue to work for my constituents and push back against overdevelopment in our region, I won’t let reprehensible bullies like Eli Wagschal stand in the way of our efforts. My constituents deserve someone who will fight for their quality of life and I will always do just that.”

In the lawsuit, Wagschal complained that he was blocked after he criticized anti-Hasidic remarks that other Facebook readers posted in response to an article about a proposed new village in Monroe that Wagschal’s father has helped to organize. Skoufis opposes that effort to form the proposed Village of Seven Springs and has introduced a bill to tighten the standards for incorporating new villages in New York.

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Maloney criticizes late federal response on coronavirus testing

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney chided the Trump administration on Friday for taking too long to make and distribute the huge volume of test kits that medical labs and facilities will need to identify coronavirus cases as COVID-19 spreads in New York and across the U.S.

Speaking at a press conference in Goshen, the Cold Spring Democrat said he was frustrated that the administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “have been too slow in the development and the dissemination of the test kits so that we can do the testing at greater scale, which of course allows us to do better tracing and to do better containment efforts.”

Maloney was speaking after a panel discussion at the Orange County Emergency Services Center at which medical professionals and county officials from Orange and Dutchess counties talked about ways they are preparing for the inevitable arrival of COVID-19 and recommended a measured approach to the outbreak. No patients in either county had tested positive yet for the virus.

During the panel discussion, Maloney praised the $8.3 billion just approved by Congress and President Trump to track and contain COVID-19, but said testing kits need to be more widely available and CDC needs to disseminate more guidance, particularly to those caring for vulnerable populations.

“We need to understand exactly what the path to a vaccine is and a realistic time frame for that,” he added. “We need to have better information on the mortality rates because you hear widely divergent information on that.”

Maloney told reporters later that the CDC has now “gotten out of the way” so that public and private institutions can begin producing test kits more quickly. “The vice president has made pronouncements about this that have not been fully accurate, but the direction is correct,” he said. “It just needs to happen faster.”

Flanked by two Republican county executives and two assemblymen from different parties, the Democratic congressman said the outbreak requires White House leadership and shouldn’t be a political issue.

“But setting the politics aside,” Maloney said, “it is important that the White House communicate the seriousness of this, that they coordinate the federal response and that they disseminate the resources effectively and efficiently that have been made available by the Congress so that we’re doing what we need to do when we can do some good.”

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Two candidates seek Senate seat Seward will vacate

A Schoharie County farmer and an Otsego County business owner and legislator are set to square off for the state Senate seat that retiring Republican James Seward is vacating and that includes four Ulster County towns in the broad area it covers.

The Republican candidate is Schenuvus resident Peter Oberacker, owner of Form Tech Solutions and a member of the Otsego County Board of Representatives.

The Democratic candidate is Jim Barber, a Middleburgh farmer who held government jobs for nine years: he ran New York’s Farm Service Agency – a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – for seven years and worked for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets for two years.

They plan to compete for the 51st Senate District, which includes all or part of nine counties and takes in the towns of Hardenburgh, Shandaken, Olive Rochester in Ulster County, its southern tip. Seward, who lives in Otsego County, is leaving office this year after 34 years in the Senate.

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College student plans Assembly run

A Republican college student from Beacon plans to challenge Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson for the seat Jacobson won two years ago in a heavily Democratic district.

The prospective Republican candidate for the 104th Assembly District is Andrew Gauzza, whose Facebook page lists him as a government major at Manhattan College in the Bronx.

Jacobson, a former longtime Orange County Democratic chairman, won the Assembly seat after serving leaving his party leadership position and serving on the Newburgh City Council. The seat had been vacant for several months since the death that April of Frank Skartados, the Democratic assemblyman who last represented the 104th District.

The district includes the cities of Newburgh, Beacon and Poughkeepsie, along with the towns of Newburgh, Lloyd and Marlborough, and has more than twice as many enrolled Democratic voters as Republicans. Jacobson beat his Republican opponent by about 7,000 votes in 2018.

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