Farley campaign holds Tuxedo Park fundraiser

Republican congressional candidate Chele Chiavacci Farley will hold a campaign fundraiser on Saturday in Tuxedo Park, the village in which she and her family have settled as she prepares to challenge Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney for New York’s 18th Congressional District seat next year.

An invitation distributed by Tuxedo Park Mayor David McFadden suggests guests and supporters contribute $250, $1,000 or $2,800 per person, which is the federal limit, or up to $11,200 per couple to hit the maximum for both a primary and a general election (Farley has no Republican primary rival at this stage). The fundraiser is taking place at the home of Barbara and Peter Regna.

“We need Chele in Congress to stand up to the Washington elite and vote for the things we support,” McFadden and his wife, Robin, say in the invitation email, which notes that the Farleys are their neighbors. “Furthermore, we need Congress to work together to get things done – Chele will make that a priority.”

Farley and her husband, Richard, rented a house in Tuxedo Park earlier this year, shortly before she announced her 2020 run for the 18th District seat. The private-equity executive had lived in Manhattan for 26 years before then. She challenged Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for her seat last year, an uphill battle that Gillibrand won by 34 percentage points.

McFadden waged his own bid for Congress in 2010, competing with three other Republicans and stepping aside without a primary after committee members endorsed Nan Hayworth, a Westchester County eye doctor. Hayworth went on to unseat Democrat John Hall that November, only to lose her seat two years later to Maloney, who is now in his fourth term.

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Dems seek to block shift in military funds to build border wall

Democratic lawmakers from New York are pushing for bill language to stop the Trump administration from moving military construction funds to extend the Mexican border wall, as it just did with $160 million that was supposed to pay for a new engineering building and parking garage at West Point.

In a joint letter this week, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney urged Senate and House committee leaders from both parties to keep two clauses to protect previously approved projects in a major defense bill for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. The Democratic-controlled House had included that language in its National Defense Authorization Act in July; it was not in the bill version the Republican-led Senate passed two weeks earlier. Conferees from both chambers must now negotiate the final bill.

The Trump administration announced this month it was shifting $3.6 billion Congress had allocated for 127 military construction projects to fund the border wall, including a $95 million engineering center and $65 million garage that were scheduled to be built next year at the U.S. Military Academy. President Trump had declared an emergency earlier in the year to allow the fund transfer, which prompted House Democrats to try to preserve funding for all military projects authorized since 2015 through the defense bill.

“The targeted military construction projects, including the Engineering Center at West Point, have undergone a thorough review process by the military and by Congress and were determined necessary for military operations, unlike the border wall,” Schumer, Gillibrand and Maloney wrote in their joint letter on Monday in support of the House language.

According to a fundraising brochure, the Cyber & Engineering Academic Center at West Point would be 130,000 square feet and would allow the academy to deliver inter-disciplinary courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that aren’t feasible in the 50-year-old classroom spaces used today.

“It is critical that West Point has modern facilities to deliver engineering and cyber education programs that anticipate Army needs and prepare our leaders for that future environment,” read the brochure from the West Point Association of Graduates. “Our facilities are not keeping pace with these changes and we are currently well behind our peers.”

It was unclear if funding for the engineering center could be restored if Congress approved the bill language that the two senators and Maloney supported (and if Trump signed a bill with those clauses, which seemed dubious).

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Pols from both parties pay tribute to Larkin

Warm tributes to former state Sen. Bill Larkin poured in from Republicans and Democrats alike upon learning of his death at home in Cornwall-on-Hudson over the weekend, each praising the 91-year-old Republican for his dedication to his constituents and fellow veterans during his 40 years as a state lawmaker.

U.S. Sen. Schumer, a Democrat whose political career also dates back to the 1970s and briefly overlapped with Larkin’s when both were assemblymen in 1979 and 1980, tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” to hear of Larkin’s death, calling him “an honorable man, legislator and veteran.”

“He was an advocate for all veterans, champion for the Hudson Valley, and will be deeply missed,” Schumer said on Twitter.

Below are other statements, in addition to those published in the Times Herald-Record on Monday, from elected officials and others about an accessible and well-liked politician who represented part of the Hudson Valley in Albany for four decades and had become an institution by the time he retired last year.

“Today, we lost a great American hero and friend, State Senator William J. Larkin. My condolences go out to his wife Pat and his entire family. I’ve had the honor of knowing Senator Larkin for over 25 years. He was a good friend and mentor. I worked with Senator Larkin on many projects and he was always there to give me helpful advice and assisted me to be an effective legislator. His positive impact on our community will be felt for many years and never forgotten. Thank you Senator for you friendship and your service to our state and country! – Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark

“He was a masterful politician, someone who treated everybody with respect no matter what their party. My thoughts are with his family.” – Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, D-City of Newburgh

“Nikki and I mourn the loss of Senator William J. Larkin, Jr. Senator Larkin served with integrity and distinction for decades of his life in the US Army and in state and local elective office. Senator Larkin was a direct participant in many prominent moments of modern American and New York history. His legacy of selfless service set the standard for others to follow and be measured by. Our thoughts are with Pat and the entire Larkin family. I know our entire region will mourn Senator Larkin in the coming days and always rejoice in his legacy.” – Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, R-New Windsor

“I considered myself very privileged to serve along and next to Bill Larkin for 22 years in New York state government. His passing will be a great loss to our country and to everyone he served.” – Former Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, R-Blooming Grove

“Senator Bill Larkin was a character larger than life.  His tenure in office will be noted as one dedicated to constituent service and providing for the communities he served above all else.  He set the bar high and then insisted that each of us exceed it. My deepest sympathies to his wife Pat, his entire family and in particular, to his son Bill, who the Colonel often reminded me was my much more successful classmate from Albany Law. A contemporary of my Mom, Maryalice Cahill, Bill Larkin truly was part of the greatest generation.  May he rest in peace.” – Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston

“Word of Bill Larkin’s passing comes with great sadness. He was the quintessential public servant. If it was important to his constituents, there was no issue too big or too small for which Bill would not fight in order to improve life for all of us. Among the countless issues on Bill’s agenda in Albany, education was right there at the top. He was a tremendous friend to SUNY Orange, and his imprint on our College will be felt for generations. He helped shape our vision of how SUNY Orange can more effectively serve students in Newburgh and throughout Orange County. Additionally, his backing of our BRIDGES program allowed us to create needed educational opportunities for students who might not otherwise have had access to college. All of us at SUNY Orange are grateful for Bill’s friendship and support.” – SUNY Orange President Kristine Young

“The Satmar Community of Kiryas Joel/ Town of Palm Tree sends its sincere condolences to the family of State Senator Bill Larkin who passed away today. Senator Larkin represented us and was a trusted friend to our community! He will be missed.” – Village of Kiryas Joel (via “Satmar Headquarters” on Twitter)

“There has been no finer statesman for the Hudson Valley over the past 4 decades than Senator Bill Larkin. Our area has been blessed to have been represented by such a humble, kind and caring person. He embodied all that is good about humanity: his heroism, his tireless passion for those who lived in New York, the devotion to his country and his advocacy for veterans across our nation – which forever will live on in the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor. The Town of Monroe is extremely grateful for all of Senator Larkin’s support over the years. Our prayers go out to his wife Patricia and his family.” – Town of Monroe Supervisor Tony Cardone

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Delgado bill on debt-relief for family farmers becomes law

President Trump has signed a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Antonio Delgado that will enable more family farms to restructure their debts through bankruptcy by raising the limit on debt that qualifies for protection from creditors.

“Today is a victory for our small and mid-size farmers who now have the flexibility to reorganize their debt and continue operations in what continues to be a challenging time for agriculture,” Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, said in a statement last Sunday, after Trump signed the Family Farmer Relief Act. “In this era of bitter partisanship, I was proud to lead my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass a bipartisan, commonsense bill to help small farmers in New York’s 19th Congressional District during this down farm economy.”

The bill raises the debt limit to $10 million from $3.2 million for farmers applying for Chapter 12 bankruptcy.  Delgado’s office says the increase reflects the increase in land values and average farm size in the U.S. since the original limit was set.

The House bill had 27 co-sponsors from both parties, including Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa sponsored the Senate version.

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Skoufis bill would block $25 license-plate replacement fee

A new bill by state Sen. James Skoufis would allow New Yorkers to keep their license plates if they’re still legible, overriding a recently announced policy that has ruffled feathers by requiring drivers to buy replacements for $25 apiece if their plates are at least 10 years old.

New Yorkers would have to pay the state an additional $20 to keep their old plates under the Department of Motor Vehicles policy, which is set to begin on April 1 and has stirred friction between the Cuomo administration and lawmakers from both parties.

“I’m deeply opposed to the recent announcement that New Yorkers will soon have to spend money to replace their license plates with a new design,” Skoufis said in a Facebook statement. “The nickel and diming of state residents by the DMV and other state agencies has to stop. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to block this latest move.”

Following weeks of criticism, DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder released a long, testy statement on Friday that accused legislators of “hypocrisy and misstatements” and “seeking cheap press hits.” He defended the $25 charge for new plates by saying it was established in 2009, two years before Cuomo took office, and challenged lawmakers to return to Albany for a special session to lower that fee, which he said Cuomo supports doing.

He also pointed out that plate numbers must be readable by toll cameras, and invited lawmakers to devise an inspection system to make sure a vehicle’s plates can still be read after 10 years of life. Plates that can’t be discerned and billed cost the state money in toll revenue, he said.

“The 10 year life replacement program does not go into effect until next April so we have time to work with the legislature to explore alternatives,” Schroeder said. “We support reducing costs wherever possible.”

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Jacobson proposes ban on bullet-proof vests for civilians

Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson has introduced two bills in response to the recent mass shooting in Dayton that would forbid anyone other than a law enforcement officer from owning a bullet-proof vest and make it a separate crime for a civilian to wear a bullet-proof vest while committing any other offense.

“Unless you are actively working in law enforcement or in a handful of occupations, there is no legitimate reason to purchase or own a bullet-proof vest,” Jacobson, a City of Newburgh Democrat, said in a statment. “Bullet-proof vests are necessary to protect those whose professions put them at risk of injury. Otherwise, bullet-proof vests are used by those hoping to protect themselves while committing crimes.”

The second bill broadens the category of offenses in state law during which wearing a bullet-proof vest constitutes an additional crime. That charge currently applies only to violent crimes in which the suspect has a firearm. Under Jacobson’s bill, a person convicted of any misdemeanor or felony while wearing a bullet-proof vest would serve a second prison sentence for the vest in addition to the sentence for the underlying charge.

Connor Betts, the Dayton shooter, was wearing a bullet-proof vest when he sprayed gunfire that killed nine people – including his sister – and injured 27 in Dayton’s nightlife district on Aug 4. Despite his vest, police officers killed Betts in a hail of bullets just 30 seconds into his shooting spree. Betts was firing a legally purchased AR-15 pistol with a 100-round, dual-drum magazine.

Jacobson introduced his bills on Aug. 23. They can’t be taken up until lawmakers return to Albany for their next six-month session in January.

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Schmitt visits Mexican border on “fact finding mission”

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt traveled to Texas this week for what he described as a “fact finding mission” to learn about illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The New Windsor Republican reported on his stops in a series of press releases, including an escort by the Val Verde County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday to a border fence, legal and illegal entry spots, and an emergency shelter for immigrants. He said he spoke with border patrol agents, humanitarian aid workers and some recent immigrants themselves, and concluded that recent New York policies he already opposed that were meant to help illegal immigrants – such as allowing them to get driver’s licenses – are bad because they will encourage more unauthorized border crossing.

“As Assemblyman I plan to bring this reality to my colleagues during debate and discussion on legislation,” Schmitt said. “We cannot continue to do harm and create pull factors which hurt our state, our nation and lead to the exploitation of men, women and children by cartels.”

Schmitt’s office said he paid for his own travel and lodging expenses and won’t be seeking reimbursement from the state.

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Metzger backs dam repairs to preserve Minnewaska Park lake

State Sen. Jen Metzger held a press conference with Tillson Lake supporters this month to promote a lower cost estimate for refurbishing the dam that sustains the 22-acre lake in Minnewaska State Park.

A state engineering report in 2012 estimated repairs would cost $5 million to $9 million, while removing the dam would cost $1 million to $2 million – but also destroy the lake. A new engineering report this year explored a different approach and calculated the dam could be repaired for $3.2 million.

Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat, spoke to Friends of Tillson Lake members and reporters at the Ulster County park on Aug. 14, and said in a statement afterward that she hopes the state will proceed with refurbishing the dam based on the lower estimate.

“Tillson Lake is a beloved scenic and recreational destination in the community, and supports a diversity of native plant species, as well as amphibians, reptiles, and birds,” she said. “Residents enjoy the lake for kayaking, fishing, canoeing, and bird watching, and it is also used by the Shawangunk Valley Fire Department for training.”

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Skoufis, Jacobson open shared office in Newburgh

State Sen. James Skoufis and Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson will hold a ceremonial opening on Tuesday for the joint district office they and their legislative staffs will share at 47 Grand Street in the City of Newburgh.

The two Democratic legislators and their supporters will gather at 5 p.m. and cut the ribbon at 6 p.m. Jacobson, who lives in the Newburgh and was a city councilman before winning the 104th Assembly District seat in November, said in a statement that the Grand Street office is “a commitment to the revitalization of the City of Newburgh” and “a convenient location to meet with constituents.” 

“By having my office across the hall from Senator James Skoufis, constituents can have ‘one-stop shopping’ to meet with both their State representatives,” he said.

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Metzger announces $100,000 grant to study Lyme disease prevention

A Dutchess County research organization searching for ways to prevent Lyme disease got $100,000 in state funding to support its work though a budget line that Sen. Jen Metzger helped secure in June.

Metzger visited the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook on Thursday to announce the grant for The Tick Project, a five-year study that the Cary Institute started in 2016 and is set to finish next year. The institute is testing Lyme-fighting approaches in 24 Dutchess County neighborhoods that include the use of a tick-killing fungus and a bait for mice and chipmunks that kills the ticks they carry.

“Lyme is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the United States and accounts for more than 80 percent of tick-borne diseases,” Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat who has had Lyme disease five times, said in a press release after the visit. “I have long admired Cary Institute for the invaluable work the organization does to advance our understanding of Lyme and ways to prevent it.”

The Cary Institute grant came from a $250,000 Health Department appropriation that Metzger helped secure for efforts to fight tick-borne illnesses.

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