GOP town supervisor endorses Skoufis

State Sen. James Skoufis, a Cornwall Democrat gearing up for his first Senate re-election run with no announced opponent yet, wheeled out an early, cross-party endorsement on Tuesday from New Windsor Supervisor George Green, a Republican who returned to office in January.

“Senator Skoufis has been and will continue to be a champion for New Windsor’s residents,” Meyers said in statement from the Skoufis campaign. “In 2020, we are partnering together to rebuild our town’s infrastructure, clean up our water, promote more responsible development, and get our fair share from Albany in order to keep taxes down. He has my full support for a well-deserved re-election.”

Meyers, a retired state trooper, previously had served 12 years as town supervisor, then came back last year to challenge the fellow Republican who had unseated him 14 years earlier – George Green. Meyers beat Green in a GOP primary and went on to easily win the general election in November, running on both the Republican and Democratic lines.

“At a time when our national government continues to embarrass itself on a daily basis, I’ve always been proud to partner with people of all political affiliations on behalf of the people I represent,” Skoufis said in a statement.

Skoufis, a former assemblyman, succeeded the late Bill Larkin last year to represent the 39th Senate District, which takes in part of Orange County and two towns each in Ulster and Rockland counties.

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Poll finds weak support for NY’s bail reforms

A Siena College poll taken after a wave of negative publicity surrounding New York’s newly implemented bail reforms found that 49 percent of New Yorkers viewed those changes as bad for the state and only 37 percent saw them as good.

Disapproval was particularly heavy in the suburbs, where 64 percent of poll respondents took a dim view of eliminating bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies and only 23 percent regarded that policy as good. Upstate, the split was 32 percent (good) to 56 percent (bad). (Siena groups Orange County in the suburbs and Sullivan and Ulster counties in upstate.)

Republicans were more solidly opposed (15-78 percent) than Democrats were favorable (53-34 percent), and most independents were sour on bail reform (29-56 percent). Statewide, 13 percent of respondents had mixed or no views on bail reform or thought it was too early too judge its impact. The poll of 814 New Yorkers was taken Jan. 11-16 and released Tuesday.

Republican politicians, backed by law enforcement officials, have pounced on bail reform as a Democratic blunder that should be be dropped or amended, and as a potent symbol of one-party rule in Albany. Democrats, in turn, have accused Republicans of fanning public fear and misrepresenting the law, although some support making adjustments to restore some leeway for judges to order suspects held on bail.

“Now is not the time for small tweaks or minor changes to this new law,” Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan said in a statement responding to the Siena poll. “Democrats should admit they made a grave mistake and swiftly join us in repealing bail reform now. It’s time to scrap this dangerous and deadly statute before more innocent New Yorkers are abused, assaulted, or killed.”

A bail-reform advocacy group responded by saying the poll showed it needed to do more work educating the public on the benefits of allowing more defendants – not only those who can afford bail – to await trial outside of jail.

“Unfortunately, months of fearmongering and misinformation have had an effect, as defenders of a broken status quo commit to frightening New Yorkers instead of coming together to make sure much-needed reforms are working as intended,” said Khalil A. Cumberbatch, chief strategist for New Yorkers United for Justice. “And the new system can work: look no further than Kings County, in which DA Gonzalez eliminated cash bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies three years ago – and violent crime is down 18%. We don’t have to choose between fairness and safety.”

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Skoufis reports huge campaign warchest after one year in Senate

State Sen. James Skoufis has amassed one of the largest campaign accounts in the Hudson Valley in his first year as a senator and has no declared Republican challenger yet as he prepares for his first re-election run.

The Cornwall Democrat, a former assemblyman who succeeded the late Republican Sen. Bill Larkin last year, reported this week that he had collected $256,000 in contributions over the last six months and had $321,000 on hand after expenses. The put him well ahead of most senators from the Hudson Valley and second only to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is from Yonkers.

More than half of his income came from individual donations, and the rest came from unions, businesses and industry groups. Some of Skoufis’ biggest contributors were Ira and Diana Riklis, a Manhattan couple that donated $16,800; Monsey resident Gary Barnett, who contributed $11,800; and Newburgh philanthropist Bill Kaplan, who gave $10,000.

Candidates start collecting petition signatures on Feb. 25. Aside from a daunting warchest, another advantage Skoufis holds over the Republican opponent who emerges by then is a growing Democratic enrollment edge in the 39th Senate District. As of November, active Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans in the district by almost 18,000, a margin that had grown by 2,000 since the election one year earlier.

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Metzger reports $216,000 on hand for re-election race

State Sen. Jen Metzger gathered another flood of mostly modest campaign donations in the last six months and kicked in $20,000 of her own money, while snubbing contributions from businesses and industry groups, according to the financial report her campaign filed on Wednesday.

The bulk of her income during that period was the $107,000 she amassed through 575 individual donations. The Rosendale Democrat also received about $11,000 from unions, and had $216,000 on hand to prepare for her first re-election race since winning the 42nd Senate District seat in 2018.

Metzger had touted her small-dollar fundraising in a press release earlier in the week, saying she had amassed more than 1,000 individual donations in her first year in office.

“There has always been a way of doing things in Albany: high-dollar fundraisers with lobbyists, big contributions from industry groups, and a revolving door of monied interests influencing policy decisions,” she said in a statement. “The overwhelming grass-roots support for our campaign shows that we don’t need to play the Albany game. I answer only to the people I represent, and I always will.”

Mike Martucci, the Republican who plans to challenge her for the four-county Senate district, disclosed Wednesday in his first financial report that he had loaned his campaign $100,000 and collected $15,000 in donations. Like Metzger, he had lots of individual donations and none from businesses or industry groups in his report.

Martucci, a Wawayanda resident who founded the school bus company Quality Bus Service, plans to hold a campaign kickoff in New Hampton on Thursday.

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Metzger joins Dem push to amend bail reform (updated x2)

State Sen. Jen Metzger has added her support to two Democratic bills modifying state bail reforms that took effect and have prompted a torrent of criticism from law enforcement officials and Republicans.

The Rosendale Democrat announced Wednesday she had become a co-sponsor for a bill several Long Island senators introduced last week that would restore judicial discretion by allowing judges to order suspects held on bail if they might flee or pose a danger to their victims or others.

“The bail reform law passed last year sought to fix a system that everyone, including DAs and law enforcement, agreed was flawed, but the new law needs changes to better protect public safety,” Metzger said in a statement. “I have been meeting with stakeholders throughout my district on the reforms, and I believe we can strike the right balance.”

The law that took effect Jan. 1 eliminated bail altogether for suspects charged with most misdemeanors and certain felonies. The goal was to correct the injustice of jailing only poor defendants who can’t afford bail while awaiting trial, but the reforms have caused an uproar about releasing suspects who may be dangerous or unlikely to return to court.

Metzger, along with the Long Island senators, also have signed on as co-sponsors for a separate bill by Sen. James Skoufis, D-Cornwall, that would enable judges to order ankle bracelets for any suspect with a past conviction for a violent crime, regardless of the level or when it occurred. The law enacted last year allows electronic monitoring when a suspect has had a violent felony conviction in the last five years.

Assembly Republicans held a press conference on Wednesday in Albany with law enforcement officials and relatives of crime victims to demand changes in the new bail law.

“Lives are being cut short, families left in mourning, because Assembly Democrats believe justice starts and ends with protecting criminals over the law-abiding middle class – disgraceful,” Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, a Deerpark Republican, said in a statement afterward. “I am calling on Assembly Democrats to do the right thing and work with us to make changes to bail reform immediately before more damage is done.”


Mike Martucci, the Republican who plans to challenge Metzger for the 42nd Senate District seat, went after her for bail reform in a statement on Thursday after launching his campaign, previewing what is certain to be a central GOP message this year.

“Our current state senator just doesn’t get it,” he said. “We should not be putting the rights of criminals over the rights of our families – especially if it threatens public safety.”

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Ryan endorses Buttigieg

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan declared his support on Tuesday for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, calling him “the right leader to unify and heal our country again.”

“I’m confident he will guide the return of our nation to smart, effective, and compassionate leadership,” Ryan said in a statement. “Pete and I share a strong commitment to ‘servant leadership’ and I am proud to endorse and support him in what is the most critical presidential election of my lifetime.”

Ryan, a Democrat who won two elections last year to fill the county executive vacancy and earn a full term, pointed to the experience he and the former South Bend mayor shared as veterans who had served overseas (Ryan in Iraq, Buttigieg in Afghanistan). He said Buttigieg offered “a bold, progressive vision for our future grounded in moral leadership and real experience, from leading a diverse industrial Midwest city to leading troops in combat.”

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Cuomo calls for changes in NY’s “unsustainable” Medicaid system

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded the alarm about New York’s growing Medicaid costs in his State of the State speech on Wednesday, forecasting a major political challenge ahead as his administration and state lawmakers seek to close a $6 billion deficit in the next three months.

And the third-term Democrat tethered county governments and their taxpayers to that difficult task by invoking the state’s cap on county Medicaid costs and how much that has saved them. He cast those frozen county shares as as a rising cost burden that the state is shouldering for them, amounting to $4 billion in all this year.

“We are paying $177 million on behalf of Erie, $175 million on behalf of Westchester, $2 billion on behalf of New York City to cover their local costs,” Cuomo said.

So did he mean he will propose lifting the county Medicaid caps in his budget proposal this month? Cuomo didn’t say that, although he did suggest that part of the problem lies in counties administering Medicaid but no longer paying cost increases. He called that situation “unsustainable” and in need of program restructuring.

“You cannot separate administration from accountability,” Cuomo said. “It is too easy to write the check when you don’t sign it.”

Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, said the following day that he interpreted Cuomo’s remarks as an overture to county governments to help the administration reduce Medicaid spending, and not as a warning that he will propose lifting the local caps.

He said the counties are prepared to do so, in part by strengthening efforts to root out waste, fraud and abuse in the giant and costly Medicaid system.

“I think we could help insure the integrity of the program,” Acquario said.

Preserving the local spending freeze is vital for counties, which have little margin for spending increases under the state’s property-tax cap and will already be three months into their 2020 budgets when the state will adopt its own budget – with any Medicaid cuts – by April 1.

Counties have been spared the full brunt of Medicaid’s rising cost since 2005, when the state initially limited their annual increases to 3 percent. It went further in 2014 by freezing the counties’ shares altogether. According to Acquario, the cumulative savings for Orange County – which has a capped Medicaid expense of $73 million per year – has been $90 million over that 15-year span. Acquario said Ulster County spends $32 million a year and has saved $42 million since 2005 because of the cap, while Sullivan County pays $21 million and has saved $22 million.

But if Cuomo was suggesting the state take over the administration of Medicaid, Acquario noted it already has done that to a large extent under a policy adopted in 2013 and phased in over five years. He estimated the counties currently administer only about 25 percent of Medicaid cases – generally the more complex situations that can’t be handled by the state’s automated system for determining eligibility.

Acquario said county officials have every interest in working with the state to bring down Medicaid costs – and preserve the freeze on local contributions.

“We can’t afford for this to fail,” he said.

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Dem group airs early TV ad for Delgado

Rep. Antonio Delgado is one of 17 House Democrats featured in a volley of new TV ads focused on health care, the potent issue that helped propel Delgado and other freshmen to victory and their party to power in the 2018 elections.

The commercials were paid for by a Democratic group called House Majority Forward, which announced it was spending $2.2 million on ads that denounce Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for blocking legislation and promote the 17 House members – all but one of them freshmen – in their districts.

The commercials are tailored for each district and celebrate the recent House passage of a bill intended to lower prescription drug costs. The opening angle for Delgado’s commercial is the 33 town hall gatherings that the Rhinebeck Democrat held last year across the 11-county 19th District, which includes Ulster and Sullivan counties.

“At dozens of town halls, Antonio Delgado has listened to folks struggling to afford the medicine they need,” the commercial begins, moving on to his support for the prescription drug bill.

Delgado represents a district President Donald Trump won by seven points in 2016 and is a Republican target, but he holds a large warchest and no prominent Republicans have emerged to challenge him. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who ran for governor in 2018 and had been courted as a potential GOP candidate for the 19th District, recently ruled out a congressional run.

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NY teens can now “pre-register” to vote at age 16

A new state law that took effect on Jan. 1 allows 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote and requires school boards to adopt policies to encourage students to pre-register or register if they’re 18.

Under the law, teens who pre-register will automatically be registered as voters when they turn 18, without having to go to their county election offices or take any other action.

New York lawmakers passed the bill a year ago in a sweep of Democratic-sponsored election reforms, with many Republicans, particularly in the Assembly, opposing voter pre-registration. Sen. David Carlucci, the Rockland County Democrat who carried the Senate version, argued in a statement that signing up future voters will foster sustained participation.

“When young people are engaged from an early age they stay engaged,” Carlucci said. “By eliminating barriers to register and increasing education, we are strengthening our democracy.”

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Schmitt cheers ICE detention of suspect in fatal hit-and-run

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt applauded the announcement by federal authorities on Friday that they had taken into custody an undocumented immigrant who had been charged with fleeing from a fatal car accident in Stony Point last month.

Jorge Flores-Villalba, a 27-year-old Mexican who had entered the U.S. illegally, was picked up Monday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Tuesday as he left a home in Haverstraw. He had been charged with fatally striking a 35-year-old mother of three with his SUV as she crossed Route 9W on foot on Christmas Eve. Police released him afterward because a state law that took effect on Wednesday doesn’t allow him to be held on bail while his case is pending.

Schmitt, a New Windsor Republican who held a rally for the accident victim, Maria “Rosie” Osai, last Sunday to protest the bail reforms, said on Friday: “Thanks to federal intervention, Rosie’s family will receive the justice they deserve, the justice that was denied by New York State. We must immediately repeal these criminal justice changes to ensure the safety of all residents of New York.”

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