Gibson stands alone among GOP in House to vote down EPA “reform” bill

Rep. Chris Gibson was the only Republican in the House GOP last week to vote against changes to a board of scientists that provide critical analysis and advice to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013, that passed in the Republican-controlled House, would have changed how members of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board could be selected  and their the length of office.

According to supporters, the changes will “restore balance and independence to the scientific advisory process at EPA.” More of the reasoning behind the bill can be found here.

But those against the legislation say it  cloaks itself in reform but would actually weaken the EPA’s scientific integrity, independence and increase corporate influence on science. The White House also came out against the legislation, with President Barack Obama promising to veto it.

You can find the opinion by the Union of Concerned Scientists here.

The bill was lobbied on by industry groups like Exxon Mobil and the American Chemistry Council , according to Open Secrets, a government transparency website that’s written about the bill in the past.

Gibson, from Kinderhook, was the only Republican in the House to vote against the bill. He represents Ulster and Sullivan counties as part of the 19th Congressional District and just won his third term in the House.  Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, also voted against it, aligning with all but four House Democrats.

I’ve put out a request for comment from Gibson on the reasoning behind his vote. Will update if I receive it.


Posted in Down in D.C., Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Neuhaus says budget crunch precludes Middletown lease

Orange County can’t contemplate a 20-year lease with Middletown to rent office space from the city until it has solved its budget problems, County Executive Steve Neuhaus said in a statement sent to the Times Herald-Record Monday night, after a brief and convoluted political tiff with Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano had played itself out. The statement read:

“The county will continue to work closely with Mayor DeStefano and Middletown to improve the quality of life for all residents. The budget challenges we face make it prohibitive at this time to sign a 20-year lease in Middletown or anyplace else until we know we can pay for it. That’s the way families budget expenses and I am committed to Orange County government doing the same.”

That was a succinct version of what Neuhaus had written to DeStefano in a Nov. 19 letter, the source of the dispute. That letter had rebuked two Democratic county legislators, Jeff Berkman and Mike Paduch, for voting against Neuhaus’ proposal to sell Orange County’s nursing home, which came up two votes short of a needed supermajority in a Legislature vote on Nov. 13. In that same letter, Neuhaus had thanked the Democratic mayor for trying to persuade Berkman and Paduch to support the sale of the home, a scenario that both DeStefano and Berkman disputed at a press conference on Monday. Berkman and Paduch both represent parts of Middletown.

Neuhaus had sent DeStefano a clarification letter that calmed the mayor before Monday’s press conference. But DeStefano and Berkman also had challenged the less controversial point that strained county finances prevented the county from entertaining the city’s lease offer. They said rent at the 27,000-square-foot former bank building on South Street would be much cheaper than what the county pays now for its Fulton Plaza offices in Middletown.

Neuhaus had counted on using $15 million in proceeds from the sale of the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation to balance the 2015 county budget. After the defeat of his privatization plan, lawmakers passed a budget amendment that would close the resulting gap by about $3 million, which Neuhaus can either accept or veto by Monday. Either way, county officials and lawmakers must now explore other ways to cut spending or raise revenue in 2015.

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Gibson opposes Obama’s immigration plan

Congressman Chris Gibson opposes President Barack Obama’s plan to give millions of undocumented immigrants relief from the fear of deportation and the ability to apply legally to do work.

Calling it a “mistake,” Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said Obama “is selectively choosing not to enforce the law, something he is duty-bound to do by his oath of office.”

On Thursday, Obama unveiled a plan based on executive actions to spare about 5 million people in the U.S. illegally from getting deported and refocus enforcement onto those with criminal histories. The move affects mostly parents and young people.

According to the Associated Press, Obama’s plan would prioritize deportations for recent arrivals and criminals, de-emphasizing parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years. It would commit more resources for enforcement efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border, increase pay for immigration officers and loosen eligibility requirements for people seeking a green card.

Although Gibson agrees the immigration system us “broken” and needs fixing and supports further securing the U.S. borders, Gibson said the system should be fixed by working together.

Gibson said the best way forward “centers on bipartisan negotiations within Congress to address all immigration issues, including border security, interior enforcement, visa reforms, guest worker program reforms, a program to address the status of undocumented immigrants, and effective foreign policy reforms.”

Gibson instead suggested that the U.S. Senate pass emergency immigration legislation that the House passed in early August that applies more funding to securing the border. Only after then would he support moving forward, Gibson said.

“After securing our borders, Congressman Gibson supports legislation that encourages people living in the country without legal documentation to come forward and plead guilty to breaking the law, submit to a background check, and pay a fine. These actions would lead to earned legal status,” Gibson said.

Posted in Sullivan, Ulster | Leave a comment

Hein campaign will celebrate Hein for holidays

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein will be celebrating himself this Christmas season at a $25-per-plate dinner after being selected as one GOVERNING magazine’s people of the year.

Hein was profiled in November as one of nine public officials the magazine’s leaders felt are leading innovation throughout the country.

In turn, Hein is using the honor to fundraise off of at a dinner on Dec. 11 at the Lazy Swan Country Club in Saugerties. The invitations were postmarked on Nov. 21 by Hein’s campaign account, Friends of Mike Hein.

The celebration promises to have music, festive appetizers, a cash bar and silent auction. It’s from 5:30 p.m. to 7: 30 p.m.



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Valley View conflict continues after sale attempt fails (updated)

The partisan conflict over the future of Orange County’s nursing home is still simmering after Republicans came up two votes short of the 14-vote supermajority they needed on Nov. 13 for the Legislature to authorize the sale of the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation.

County Executive Steve Neuhaus, who proposed the sale and built $15 million in anticipated proceeds into his 2015 budget, sent a letter to Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano on Wednesday that thanks him for trying to persuade Democratic legislators Jeff Berkman and Mike Paduch to support selling Valley View and chastises them for voting against it, as their caucus has consistently done. The letter again praises a plan by a prospective Valley View buyer to collaborate with Touro College’s new medical school in Middletown, which had been touted to win the votes of Berkman and Paduch since they both represent parts of Middletown.

Other language suggests the courting of Berkman and Paduch hasn’t ended, and may result in another privatization vote.

“It is my hope that they will, at some point, take you and I up on supporting a plan to expand services at Touro and encourage job growth and economic development in the City of Middletown,” Neuhaus told the Democratic mayor in his letter, which his office forwarded to the Times Herald-Record.

Berkman announced that same day that he plans to step aside as leader of the Legislature’s Democratic minority.

One day later, Michael Sussman —  the attorney, Democratic activist and staunch Valley View supporter who stopped a rapid trot to sell the home this year with a successful legal challenge — sent out a press release posing a new line of argument against privatizing Valley View: the drastic impact it would have on the county’s “already dismal affirmative action statistics.”

The release, put out on behalf of the Orange County Democratic Alliance, points out that more than one third of Valley View’s 384 employees as of November 2013 were minorities, including 86 who were African-American and 34 who were Hispanic. Privatizing the 360-bed home, he wrote, would leave the county workforce 88 percent white.

“The County Executive and his colleagues in the Legislature who advocate Valley View’s sale have already shown a disregard of their moral obligations to the elderly,” Sussman wrote. “They must now be made to answer for their disregard of their stated obligations to promote affirmative action in the County’s workforce.”

Neuhaus’ letter gives the impression that the county might agree to rent a former TD Bank building that Middletown owns if Berkman and Paduch enable the Valley View sale to proceed. DeStefano has been negotiating with county officials to move county offices into the empty building on South Street, which the city bought for $500,000 three years ago.

Update: DeStefano, in a telephone interview, strenuously disputed multiple points in Neuhaus’ letter, including the implication that he had acted as the county executive’s “agent” to secure the votes of Berkman and Paduch for selling Valley View. He said he plans to hold a press conference on Monday to air his objections to the letter and describe discussions he said he has had with the Neuhaus administration on the county budget, office space in Middletown and other issues.

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Berkman will step aside as Dem leader

Orange County Legislator Jeff Berkman has announced he will step aside as leader of the Legislature’s Democratic caucus after six years in that role, clearing the way for a new minority leader to be chosen in January.

Berkman, a longtime legislator who represents part of Middletown, said in a press release that he had informed fellow Democrats of his decision on Thursday, declaring that “it is time for new leadership to step forward.” He celebrated his party’s longstanding practice of holding open caucus meetings and values he said the Democrats have upheld.

“We have kept faith with our Caucus principles of transparency, fiscal responsibility, and maintaining our resolve against arbitrary executive power and authority,” Berkman wrote.

Berkman’s announcement came on the heels of climatic Legislature vote on Nov. 13 on whether to privatize the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation, one of two issues that have fueled partisan conflict on the Legislature for the last four years. Berkman and seven other Democrats stood firm in opposition to selling the nursing home, denying Republicans the 14-vote supermajority they needed.


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Brabenec pulls ahead in Assembly race

Deerpark Supervisor Karl Brabenec is now leading Monroe resident Elisa Tutini by eight votes in the tight race for the vacant Assembly District 98 seat after the counting of 120 absentee votes on the Rockland County side of the district.

Brabenec, a Republican who trailed Tutini by 10 machine votes after the Nov. 4 general election, beat his Democratic opponent, 67-49, in Rockland’s absentee count. Another 20 absentee and affidavit ballots have been challenged by attorneys by both sides and won’t be opened until brought before a judge.

The outcome now hinges on a much higher volume of absentee ballots in Orange County, where Brabenec fared a lot better than Tutini on Election Day. Orange’s Board of Elections began counting more than 1,300 absentee votes on Tuesday.

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Maloney broke with most House Dems on pipeline vote

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney was one of 31 House Democrats who sided with Republicans last week on a vote to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a partisan football that could come to a vote in the Senate today with implications for a looming Senate runoff race in Louisiana.

Maloney also bucked his party on the issue in May 2013, when he was a rookie congressman and one of only 19 Keystone supporters in his conference. In a statement after he voted again for the project on Friday, the Cold Spring Democrat touted the “thousands of new, high skilled, high paying job” that would accompany construction of the oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Louisiana, and argued the increased oil supply would help “place America on a path to energy independence.”

All House Republicans, including Rep. Chris Gibson from the neighboring 19th District, supported the pipeline in a 252-161 vote. Most Democrats have opposed the project because of multiple environmental concerns, and the White House has made no decision on whether to approve it. One countervailing concern in the Hudson Valley is the recent spike in rail transport of crude oil through the region, which could be alleviated if the pipeline is built.


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KJ blocs split on Assembly, Town Board

Kiryas Joel’s two political parties steered their respective voting blocs to different candidates today in races for the vacant Assembly District 98 seat and an empty Monroe Town Board seat, making the outcome of those races more unpredictable.

Anash — the political arm of the village’s main faction — backed Democrat Elisa Tutini in the Assembly race, while the opposition group known as the Kiryas Joel Alliance supported Republican Karl Brabenec. Brabenec and Tutini, both of whom were supported by both parties in crowded September primaries for the seat, are engaged in a three-way battle for Assembly with United Monroe candidate Dan Castricone, who has been voicing opposition to the proposed expansion of Kiryas Joel.

In a race for a councilman seat the Town Board left empty all year, Anash supported Democrat Blanca Johnson, while the Alliance backed Dennis McWatters, United Monroe’s candidate. There is no Republican candidate in the race.

Anash endorsed all three Democratic incumbents running for statewide offices — Gov. Andrew Cuomo (who met with village leaders in Kiryas Joel on Sunday), Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli — while the Alliance made no endorsements in those races. Nor did the Alliance back any candidate for New York’s 18th Congressional District seat or for the state Senate’s 39th District.  Anash directed its votes to Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Republican Sen. William Larkin Jr.

As usual, workers hired by each party are distributing sample ballots with highlighted candidate boxes outside the village’s main polling station on Forest Road. But there is something new this year: members of the United Monroe citizens group are handing out their own sample ballots with the names of their two candidates — Castricone and McWatters — highlighted.


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Siena poll: Amedore leads Tkaczyk days before election

Two days before election, a Siena College poll shows GOP contender George Amedore leading incumbent Democrat Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk by 11 points.

The GOP contender for the 46th state Senate district leads Tkaczyk, 54-43 percent, the poll shows. The number has barely budged from the last poll Siena did that showed he had a 52-42 percent lead.

The 46th Senate District covers the towns of Esopus, Hurley, Kingston, Lloyd, Marbletown, Saugerties, Ulster and Woodstock in Ulster as well as the City of Kingston. It reaches into five counties: Montgomery, Greene, Albany, Schenectady and Ulster counties.

“Amedore continues to have the support of 80 percent of Republicans, he’s grown his support among Democrats from 15 percent to now 25 percent, and he continues to have a strong lead with independents,” Siena spokesman Steven Greenberg said. “Tkaczyk continues to run virtually even in the Ulster/Greene portion of the district and continues to trail badly, now by 20 points, in the Albany/Montgomery/Schenectady portion of the district.”

Greenburg says there is “virtually no gender gap” between Democratic women and Republican men as Amedore leads with men by 14 points and with women by nine points. Greenburg says Tkaczyk’s favorability rating has taken a hit.

“Amedore continues to have a strong favorability rating, 54-35 percent, only down net six points from 53-28 percent, Tkaczyk’s favorability rating has taken a bigger hit. She has a negative 42-46 percent favorability rating, down from a positive 44-34 percent previously,” Greenberg said. “Amedore has more Democrats viewing him favorably than Tkaczyk has Republicans, and is viewed strongly favorably by independents, who view Tkaczyk strongly unfavorably.”

Pollsters contacted 478 likely voters between Oct. 28 through Oct.30. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percent. Amedore has the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines while Tkaczyk has the Democratic and Working Family Party lines.

Greenburg also says that Tkaczyk won’t get much help at the polls from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. Cuomo only has support from 38 percent of voters in the 46th Senate District.

“Amedore has a decided edge, even though this district has slightly more Democrats than Republicans. He is viewed significantly more favorably than she is, and he is not seen by voters as running the more negative campaign. With most voters saying they are certain of their choice and very few undecided voters, Amedore’s path to victory seems far less bumpy than Tkaczyk’s,” Greenberg said.

For all you crosstab lovers, here you go.

Posted in Sullivan, Ulster, Up in Albany | Leave a comment
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