Senate bill allows property-tax waiver for fully disabled vets

For the fourth time in six years, the state Senate passed a bill this week that would allow school districts, counties and other taxing jurisdictions to charge fully disabled veterans no property taxes.

The proposal, approved without any dissent, was one of several bills related to military service that senators passed on Wednesday to coincide with the upcoming Memorial Day. The property-tax waiver originated in the Assembly 12 years ago, but has never cleared that chamber. It would apply to veterans who have been declared fully disabled as the result of a combat injury and would leave it to each municipality, county and school district to decide whether to grant those vets a full tax exemption.

The bill package also included one by Sen. Bill Larkin Jr. to rename the Tappan Zee Bridge the “Purple Heart Memorial Bridge.” Larkin, a Cornwall-on-Hudson Republican who fought in World War II and the Korean War, was instrumental in establishing the Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, and recently was added to the Senate’s honor roll of New York veterans for his advocacy on military issues. His bridge bill, pending in both legislative chambers since 2014, passed unanimously; the Assembly hasn’t taken it up yet.

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Dems rip GOP health bill anew after CBO report

Rep. Sean Maloney blasted the House Republicans’ health care bill as a “Trojan horse” bearing tax cuts for the rich, following the Congressional Budget Office’s release of a report finding the Obamacare replacement would leave 23 million fewer Americans with health insurance a decade from now.

“It turns out that this bill is worse for most Americans than the first version, and I wish I could say I’m surprised,” the Cold Spring Demcorat said in a statement. “Folks with pre-existing conditions will now take a huge hit, health care will be more expensive for middle class families, and 23 million people will still lose their health care. Even if premiums don’t go up, out of pocket costs will, since insurance will cover less – all so we can give the rich almost a trillion dollars in handouts. I could go on and on – this thing is just a Trojan horse full of tax cuts for the super wealthy and lousy health care for the rest of us.”

Rep. John Faso, the freshman Republican representing the neighboring 19th District, voted for the GOP’s American Health Care Act on May 4, helping it squeak through the House of Representatives in a 217-213 vote. He defended it afterward in a statement, denying it would let insurers slash coverage and gouge customers with pre-existing conditions, and accusing Democrats of offering “not a single alternative.” He issued no statement on this week’s CBO analysis of the GOP bill.

But two of the six Democrats who already want to run against Faso in 2018 did have something to say. Brian Flynn of Hunter said the report “reinforced what we already knew. In order to give a tax cut to the wealthy, Faso voted to increase premiums on working families, throw tens of thousands of constituents off their healthcare, impose an age tax on a district with an aging population, and gut protections for people with preexisting conditions.”

Sue Sullivan of Plattekill, in a similar statement, said the CBO report confirmed that “Republicans want to raise out-of-pocket healthcare costs with higher premiums, deductibles, and prescription drug costs. Rep. John Faso and his fellow Republicans have set in motion a bill that will strip protection from people with pre-existing conditions and will impose an age tax on older Americans, forcing them to pay premiums as much as five times higher than what others pay.”

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Orange County GOP endorses candidates for fall races

“Team Orange” is up for re-election, former party chairman Bill DeProspo is running for judge, and 16 candidates have come forward to run for 21 Legislature seats.

That is the upshot of the Orange County Republican Committee convention at Kuhl’s Mountain House in Middletown on Tuesday. Committee members endorsed the threesome that ran together for three open seats under the “Team Orange” banner in 2013: County Executive Steve Neuhaus, District Attorney David Hoovler and County Clerk Annie Rabbitt. Republicans also endorsed former committee chairman Bill DeProspo to run for the county court seat that retiring Judge Nicholas De Rosa is vacating, and 11 incumbents and five newcomers for Legislature seats.

The lawmakers seeking reelection are Paul Ruszkiewicz, Katie Bonelli, Barry Cheney, Steve Brescia, John Vero, Kevin Hines, Tom Faggione, Jim DiSalvo, Leigh Benton, Mike Anagnostakis and James O’Donnell.

The new Republican Legislature candidates are: Janet Sutherland, who’s running to replace GOP Majority Leader Melissa Bonacic; Peter Tuohy, who plans to challenge Myrna Kemnitz, a Monroe Democrat; Kathy Stegenga, who’s running for the seat that Democratic Minority Leader Matt Turnbull will vacate; Joseph Minuta, who is seeking the seat that Democrat Chris Eachus will leave; and Rob Sassi, who plans to challenge Democrat Roseanne Sullivan of the Town of Wallkill.

Sassi and Minuta already announced their candidacies. Sassi is a retired Valley Central High School government teacher and a Crawford town councilman for the last six years. Minuta is an architect who has served on the Newburgh School Board for the last two years.

“The Party is proud of our solid team this year, and we are focused on gaining legislative seats,” GOP Chairwoman Courtney Canfield-Greene said in a press release. Republicans have ruled the Legislature every year except one in its 48 years of existence, and currently hold 12 of 21 seats.

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Hein says he’ll make decision on run for NY-19 by end of July

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein said on Monday that by the end of July he’ll make a decision on whether to run for congress next year against freshman Rep. John Faso.

Hein, a Town of Hurley Democrat who’s in his third term as Ulster County executive, said he’s been humbled by frequent requests to run for congress in the 19th Congressional District and will make the decision with his family.

In the early run up to the 2016 elections Democratic county chairs had urged Hein to run for congress. He explored the option and was even seen in Kingston speaking with members of Tucker Green Consulting, Inc., a Manhattan-based campaign consulting firm.

Hein said when he was exploring a run for congress, which was in late 2015, his team had polls that put him 4-5 points ahead of Faso.

But Hein declined to run in December 2015 and the Democratic primary was won the next year by Zephyr Teachout, who went on to lose in the November general election by Faso. Faso, a Kinderhook Republican, is an attorney and former state assemblyman.

Hein said that he felt it was important to make a decision early on whether he’ll run, considering the large interest in taking on Faso by a growing number of Democrats.

So far a whopping six Democrats have said they’re interested in taking on Faso, despite the election not being until November 2018. The district, which includes all or part of 11 counties, includes all of Sullivan and Ulster counties.

The crowded Democratic field so far includes 28-year-old Gareth Rhodes of Kerhonkson, 40-year-old Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck, 26-year-old Steven Brisee of Walden and 47-year-old Brian Flynn of Hunter, 52-year-old Sue Sullivan of Plattekill and 40-year-old Jeffrey Beal of Woodstock. Flynn and Delgado have already raised significant funds for their runs, according to federal election records. Faso has filed to run for reelection 2018.

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Updated: Former diplomat becomes sixth Dem to run in NY-19

Jeffrey Beals, left

A high school history teacher from Woodstock and former diplomat is exploring a run for congress in New York’s 19th Congressional District, bringing the potential Democratic candidates up to half a dozen.

Jeffrey Beals, 40, a teacher of U.S. humanities at Woodstock Day School in Saugerties, filed his statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday. He’s lived in Woodstock the last year with his wife and two sons, ages seven and four.

According to his campaign website, Beals served in the U.S. Army and then the State Department, where he helped mediate the drafting of Iraq’s constitution and open America’s first diplomatic talks with the insurgency. He served as an intelligence officer in the CIA and then worked on peace talks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alongside Ambassador Chris Stevens, who he called his close friend. Stevens was later killed when in Benghazi, Libya.

Beals said he also served on the foreign policy team for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and worked with his brother, cinematographer Matthew Beals, on a film that comes out this fall that examines big business and childhood in America. He’s also an organizer with Swing Left, a campaign that aims to win the House for Democrats in 2018, according to this New Yorker piece.

In an interview, Beals said his family has had a farm in the Hudson Valley since he was a boy and that he supported Zephyr Teachout in her campaign for the 19th district last year. He cited more than a decade of government service among his his qualifications to hold office.

“I grew up as part of a generation that believed that freedom is something you fight for overseas. But I’ve come to believe it’s more important to fight for it here at home,” Beals said.

Beals joins a quickly ballooning group of Democrats who have said they’re exploring a run or are running against Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook,  in the 19th district that includes Ulster and Sullivan counties. The election isn’t until November 2018.

The crowded Democratic field so far includes 28-year-old Gareth Rhodes of Kerhonkson, 40-year-old Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck, 26-year-old Steven Brisee of Walden and 47-year-old Brian Flynn of Hunter and 52-year-old Sue Sullivan of Plattekill. Flynn and Delgado have already raised significant funds for their runs, according to federal election records. Faso has filed to run for reelection 2018.

Faso, an attorney and former state assemblyman, won election in November 2016.

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Tobin announces bid for Middletown Council

Sparrow Tobin

MIDDLETOWN – Public school teacher and Democrat Sparrow Tobin has announced his campaign for the 4th Ward of Middletown Council.

Tobin said he will challenge the status quo and advocate for working families, economic fairness and social justice.

He is the president of the Hudson-Catskill Central Labor Council , the treasurer of the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation, the second vice president of the Middletown Lions Club and a member of the state’s United Teachers board of directors

The two current alderman for the 4th Ward are Jude Jean-Francois and Vanessa Morales-Cid.

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Assembly Dems pass universal health coverage bill

Assembly Democrats offered their rejoinder this week to Republicans’ efforts in Washington to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act: a 15-year-old bill to establish universal, single-payer health insurance for all New Yorkers.

Their conference had passed the “New York Health Act” each of the last two years with no hope of the Republican-controlled Senate doing the same. On Tuesday, in the wake of a House Republican bill that opponents say would be disastrous for New Yorkers and the state budget, the Assembly rolled out the single-payer proposal again and approved it in a party-line vote of 94-46.

“Many Hudson Valley families are concerned with the high cost of living in our region,” Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton, said in a statement afterward. “The NY Health Act would ensure everyone has access to the medical care they need without expensive insurance premiums. It would end confusing doctor bills and ensure your wellness comes first.”

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark, denounced the plan as “socialist healthcare” devised by New York City “radicals.” 

“Our taxes continue to skyrocket, our business climate is pathetic, yet New York City liberals waste time on this useless bill that will almost certainly never pass the Senate,” Brabenec said in a press release. “This is political grandstanding at its best, which mandates outrageous tax increases on every citizen and virtually eliminates the private health insurance industry statewide. The solution to healthcare starts with providing quality jobs for our residents and empowering our business leaders to invest in employees through benefits and health coverage.”

He was a “no” vote.

The program would combine federal funding the state already receives for Medicaid and other programs and Child Health Plus into a single trust fund. Its provisions include eliminating the counties’ Medicaid contributions, something Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, has proposed doing through the House GOP’s repeal-and-replace bill.


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As Curlie Dillard mulls OC Legislature reelection bid, former Newburgh Councilwoman to seek seat

Ailing Democratic Orange County Legislator Curlie Dillard is unsure if he will be healthy enough to represent the City and Town of Newburgh for a second term, and former Newburgh Councilwoman Gay Lee has declared her candidacy for the seat.

Dillard, a former Newburgh councilman who won the District 4 Legislature seat in 2013, will let his doctor determine whether he is well enough to campaign for another term, he said on Tuesday.

“I’ve got to check with my doctor,” said Dillard, whose district is mostly composed of a swath of the city “It will probably be a number of people running for my seat if I rule it out.”

Lee, a clinical social worker, said on Tuesday that she will be one of those running.

After deciding to forgo another campaign for the Council in 2015, Lee unsuccessfully fought to get on the ballot for the Newburgh mayor’s race after Jonathan Jacobson won the endorsement from the city’s Democratic Committee.

She said she announced her candidacy for the District 4 seat was announced last week during a meeting of the Orange County Democratic Committee, Lee said.

“I think that if I’m in the county, I can be the voice that the City of Newburgh needs,” she said. “I can be the person that either screams fire or helps to put the fire out.”


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Fifth Democrat throws hat in the ring against Faso

19th Congressional District candidate Sue Sullivan

Yet another Democrat has announced a run for the 19th Congressional District against Rep. John Faso, despite the election not being until November 2018.

Sue Sullivan, a Plattekill resident and businesswoman, announced Wednesday that she’ll challenge Faso, R-Kinderhook. She’s the fifth Democrat to say she wants to run against Faso, despite the election being almost a year and a half away.

The district includes all of Ulster and Sullivan counties. Faso is a freshman congressman, attorney and former state assemblyman.

Sullivan, 52, has several titles under her belt, according to her campaign website.

She’s the former vice president of government affairs and development with St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh and founder of the non-profit Greater Newburgh Partnership, which is charged with bringing together private, public and not-for-profit segments of the community.

She also served as the first director of development and communications at the Mohonk Preserve.

Currently Sullivan has her own consulting firm in Newburgh, iSER Consulting. The company helps businesses and people with grant writing, planning, branding, project management, community relations and helping to secure funding for job growth.

Sullivan said that she was inspired to run after attending the massive Women’s March on Washington with her mother, son, two sisters, niece and cousins. The protest march held in Washington D.C. in January came a day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

“Like others, the day after elections I woke up and was very troubled,” Sullivan said.

After the march, Sullivan said her mother challenged her to run for office. She then began exploring a run, studying prior elections, opponents and Faso.

“This was not part of my life’s strategic plan,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that her campaign will focus on her roots in the region and the issues facing local voters, such as healthcare and job creation through small businesses. She pointed to her prior positions as giving her “a track record for getting things done.”

The crowded Democratic field for the 19th district so far includes 28-year-old Gareth Rhodes of Kerhonkson, 40-year-old Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck, 26-year-old Steven Brisee of Walden and 47-year-old Brian Flynn of Hunter. Flynn and Delgado have already raised significant funds for their runs, according to federal election records. Faso has filed to run for reelection 2018.

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Sussman trades jabs with Neuhaus after forgoing race

Steve Neuhaus

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus lobbed a strong insult at a political rival last weekend after Michael Sussman announced he won’t run for county executive this year, telling the Mid-Hudson News that the attorney and Democratic activist was less popular than “sewer treatment plants” and “life-altering diseases.”

That line, and one that followed about Sussman’s “frivolous lawsuits” against the county, prompted outraged responses from Sussman and Brett Broge, the county Democratic chairman. Sussman issued a statement saying Neuhaus’ remarks “display a mean spiritedness which is deeply disturbing and should lead to questions about this man’s capacity and judgment.”

Michael Sussman

“His ad hominem comments suggest that he has a new role model: Donald Trump,” Sussman wrote.

Broge also compared Neuhaus’ invective to the president’s in his own statement, saying, “What will help galvanize our party into having a candidate is Mr. Neuhaus’ petty ‘Trump-like’ juvenile response.”

The Mid-Hudson News later removed the paraphrased sentence about sewer plants and “life altering diseases” from its article. But Neuhaus, a Republican who took office in 2014 and is seeking a second term this fall, has since confirmed to the Times Herald-Record that he made those analogies, explaining that he meant that voters would think poorly of Sussman once they knew his background and political views.

“We were ready to run against him or anybody else,” Neuhaus said.

Here’s how his reaction to Sussman’s decision was initially reported: “‘I think Mr. Sussman realized that his views and his interests are not in sync with the average voter and the average Orange County Democrat,’ Neuhaus said. The incumbent said public opinion of Sussman ranked him lower than sewer treatment plants and life altering diseases. ‘I wish him luck. I hope he doesn’t continue to cost taxpayers thousands of dollars with frivolous lawsuits.’”

Sussman and Broge both point out that one of those lawsuits stopped Neuhaus from selling the county’s Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabiliation, after courts ruled that he needed a super-majority vote of the Legislature to do so.

Sussman had considered taking on Neuhaus for months, meeting with supporters to develop a party platform that he said could frame a campaign for himself or another Democratic candidate who stepped in. A week before announcing he wouldn’t run, he released the results of that work, a 15-page report offering principles to guide economic development, sustain farming and resolve tensions in southeastern Orange County over Kiryas Joel’s growth, among other issues.

His decision not to run leaves Democrats without a county executive candidate to lead the party’s slate this fall, with less than six months to go before the Nov. 7 county elections. Democratic committee members will meet to endorse candidates on May 31 and may have a contender for county executive then. Candidates begin collecting petition signatures on June 6 and must file their petitions by July 13.

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