Cahill seeks 13th Assembly term

State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill announced Thursday he plans to run again for the Assembly seat he has held since 1998.

The Kingston Democrat represents the 103rd Assembly District, which takes in much of Ulster County and two Dutchess County towns and has a huge Democratic enrollment edge of more than 2-to-1. No one ran against Cahill in 2018, and he won the previous two races by large margins.

In a statement, Cahill touted grants he helped secured for various local projects, including the Edmund Burke Community Resource Center in Kingston, and legislation he has sponsored such as the Statewide Emergency Tenant Protection Act.

“I will continue to work for the best interests of the people I have had the honor of serving in elective public office for 29 of the last 33 years,” said Cahill, a former Ulster County legislator who served one Assembly term in the 1990s before losing and regaining his seat. “While that is a long time by any measure, the duties and responsibilities are ever-evolving and my enthusiasm to serve is as strong as it was the first time I took office.”

The candidate planning to challenge Cahill in November is Rex Bridges, a Conservative Party member from Rhinebeck in Dutchess County. Candidates have until April 2 to file petitions to run.

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Farley campaign: NY-18 is still a swing district

A spokesman for Chele Chiavacci Farley’s congressional campaign argued this week that New York’s 18th district is still “reliably purple” in spite of its growing Democratic enrollment edge and that it will go more heavily for President Trump than before if Bernie Sanders is his opponent this fall.

“President Trump won the district in 2016 and is likely to do so again,” campaign spokesman Michael Lawler said by email. “If the Democratic frontrunner, Bernie Sanders, is at the top of the ticket, Trump will win NY-18 by a larger margin.”

He also suggested Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney had proven more partisan than centrist by supporting the Green New Deal and being “a leader” in Trump’s impeachment. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Maloney took part in the questioning of witnesses in televised hearings.

Lawler was responding to reporting by the Times Herald-Record on a continuing shift in voter enrollment in Democrats’ favor in the Hudson Valley. State Board of Elections counts show Democrats have gained 25,000 more voters than Republicans added in the 18th District since congressional lines were drawn in 2012, giving Democrats a huge advantage of 30,000 voters over Republicans.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat, has represented the four-county district since 2013 and is seeking a fifth term this fall, challenged by Farley, a Republican. Scott Smith, a science teacher from Goshen, also plans to wage his second run as an independent candidate for the seat.

Trump beat Hillary Clinton by two percentage points in the 18th District in 2016. Maloney won re-election that year by 10 points.

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Republican enters race for Amedore’s Senate seat

A retired state trooper has declared his candidacy for the state Senate seat that Republican George Amedore is vacating in a sprawling district that takes in a chunk of Ulster County.

Richard Amedure issued a campaign announcement on Friday that touted his experience as a trooper, veteran, small farmer and member of the Planning Board in Rensselaerville, a town of 1,800 in Albany County. He zeroed in on the controversy over state bail reforms enacted last year that have fueled a backlash and may be amended during this legislative session.

“Our state government has lost focus on what is most important,” he said. “Instead of focusing on public safety, they’ve passed dangerous bail reform laws that leave our communities vulnerable. Instead of supporting small businesses and local communities, they’ve pushed an agenda more suited to the values and lifestyles of New York City politicians. I’m running for Senate because we deserve better.”

Two Democrats, Michelle Hinchey and Gary Greenberg, already are campaigning for the five-county 46th Senate District, which includes the City of Kingston and eight towns in Ulster County and has an almost 17,000-voter Democratic enrollment edge. Amedore has represented the district since 2015 and is not seeking a fourth term.

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Metzger opposes Medicaid cost shift to counties

State Sen. Jen Metzger says she won’t support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to require counties to cover any annual Medicaid cost increases over 3 percent, an idea that could raise their Medicaid bills again after the state held them flat for several years by absorbing the higher costs.

“A Medicaid cost-shift to county and city governments is unacceptable and will burden already struggling working families with local taxes they cannot afford,” Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat, said in a statement this week. “I have communicated to the Senate Majority Leader my position that we reject any and all efforts to push the costs of growth in Medicaid programs onto counties.”

Cuomo put the proposal in his budget as part of his effort to temper increases in the state’s Medicaid spending. He also formed a panel to recommend how the state can close an immediate Medicaid budget gap of $2.5 billion.

County leaders have strongly protested removing the caps on their annual Medicaid spending, which were put in place to help them comply with the state’s 2 percent limit on property-tax increases. Both Orange and Sullivan counties already have proposed raising their sales tax rates to raise revenue for new state mandates, including the potential Medicaid hike.

The Senate and Assembly are developing their own budget proposals before negotiating with Cuomo a spending plan for the fiscal year that starts April 1.

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Maloney gets Independence Party endorsement

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s campaign announced he has gotten the Independence Party’s endorsement for the third election in a row, all but assuring the Democrat that additional ballot line this fall.

Maloney, who has represented New York’s 18th Congressional District since 2013, will seek a fifth House term this fall, challenged by Republican candidate Chele Chiavacci Farley.

“It’s always been my priority to work with whoever has the best ideas to help make life better for Hudson Valley families, workers and veterans – whether they be Democrat, Republican, or neither,” Maloney said in a statement touting the Independence Party’s backing.

He also had the Independence line in 2016 and 2018, and won more than 7,700 votes on it in the last election. The party backed both Republican and Democratic House members from New York in the 2018 election; all but one were incumbents.

Farley, meanwhile, has gotten the Conservative Party endorsement, a customary second ballot line for Republican candidates. Maloney’s 2018 opponent, Orange County Legislator Jim O’Donnell, won almost 14,500 on the Conservative line that year.

Candidates started collecting petition signatures this week for each of the ballot lines they plan to run on in November.

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Metzger calls Senate Dems’ bail plan “just and protective of all New Yorkers”

State Sen. Jen Metzger was one of eight Democratic senators who helped craft a proposal to alter the state’s controversial new bail policy that they hope will answer concerns about public safety while retaining the goal of ending discrimination against poor defendants.

“For the past several weeks, I have been participating in a Senate bail reform working group to develop a proposal that the communities I represent will find both safe and fair,” the Rosendale Democrat said in a statement about proposed revision, which isn’t in bill form yet. “My Senate colleagues and I recognized aspects of the new law needed amending, and I am glad we have been able to put forth a plan that is just and protective of all New Yorkers.” 

She and her colleagues were responding to heavy criticism from law enforcement and Republicans about the state eliminating bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges. The law took effect on Jan. 1 and was meant to stop the practice of jailing only defendants who can’t afford bail while they await trial, but it triggered a strong backlash and news reports about courts having to release repeat offenders and suspects accused of violent acts.

Under the revision reported by Newsday on Wednesday, judges could order defendants with felony charges to be held in jail or released with monitoring if warranted by their criminal records or likelihood of fleeing. Judges would use prescribed guidelines to make those determinations.

Orange County District Hoovler, a Republican who leads the state District Attorneys Association and has been a critic of the new bail law, told the Times Herald-Record on Thursday that the proposed revision was a “positive step” and sounded similar to bail reforms New Jersey has adopted, although he couldn’t elaborate without knowing the details.

“It’s better than what we have now,” Hoovler said.

Sen. James Skoufis, a Cornwall Democrat who wasn’t part of the group that developed the revision, called it “a big step in the right direction” that would preserve the safeguard against discrimination while restoring judges’ ability to jail persistent offenders and dangerous suspects.

He said Senate Democrats will likely pursue the proposal as a standalone bill, but may later try to pass it as part of the budget if the idea meets resistance. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has sounded dubious about revisiting the bail issue so soon, and bail-reform advocates have urged Democrats to resist what they describe as fear-mongering against the law.

Skoufis said he disagreed that more time was needed to asses the impact.

“I believe there’s ample evidence, including crime data from the NYPD and elsewhere, that the concerns regarding bail reform must be addressed now,” he said. “When it comes to public safety, time is always of the essence.”

Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, a City of Newburgh Democrat, also called the Senate Democrats’ proposal “a step in the right direction.” He said he liked that it would set strict standards for holding defendants, given past complaints that bail decisions seemed arbitrary or tilted against black and Hispanic defendants.

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State lawmakers press DOT commissioner on Route 17 widening

The state transportation commissioner got an earful during a recent budget hearing from lawmakers pushing for the addition of a third lane on Route 17 to ease growing tourist traffic on a central artery through Orange and Sullivan counties.

Four of the region’s legislators – Sens. James Skoufis and Jen Metzger and Assemblymen Jonathan Jacobson and Colin Schmitt – took turns asking Marie Therese Dominguez on Jan. 28 about an awaited study on Route 17 traffic and urging the Department of Transportation to include money for the widening its next capital plan. They noted the long quest for a third lane and the tourism sites that have arisen in the meantime – a casino and water park in Sullivan and a nearly completed Legoland theme park in Orange.

The DOT commissioner indicated the traffic study would start in April, but made no commitment to scheduling construction funds.

When asked by Schmitt about not doing so, Dominguez answered, “We’re committed to doing the study to make sure we see what the alternatives are and how we would approach what the path forward is.”

She then came in for a grilling from Skoufis, who demanded to know why the study has taken so long to start after lawmakers approved the $5 million to fund it 22 months ago. And he he questioned why the DOT can’t budget construction funds in the second year of the two-year capital plan that it will soon release.

He told her municipal leaders and other stakeholders who support the road widening “are sick and tired of hearing ‘we need more time.'”

“If this doesn’t happen there is only stakeholder who is to blame, and everyone will know it, and it will happen very publicly,” Skoufis told her.

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Maloney, Delgado tout House bill to bolster unions

Hudson Valley Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Antonio Delgado touted their support for a bill passed by the House on Thursday that would strengthen union protections for workers and allow government fines against employers who violate labor laws.

The vote on the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, split along party lines with most Democrats in favor and most Republicans against it. Among other things, the proposal would allow workers to file class-action lawsuits and enable the National Labor Relations Board to impose fines of up to $50,000 per violation against employers.

“Our labor unions protect the rights of Hudson Valley workers and help set a higher standard of living for working families across our state,” Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat representing New York’s 18th Congressional District, said in a statement. “As powerful special interests continue to attack our unions, Congress needs to draw a clear line in the sand and stand up for hard-working families. I’m proud to support the PRO Act, which will protect our unions, give New Yorkers the freedom to negotiate a better working environment, and strengthen our local economy.”

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Senate passes bills to combat opioid crisis

A bill by state Sen. Jen Metzger to crack down on doctors who over-prescribe narcotic painkillers was one of 17 bills the Senate passed on Tuesday to address the opioid epidemic in various ways.

Metzger’s bill, approved unanimously, would simply add a clause to state law to require the state Health Department to monitor its data on prescriptions for “inappropriate prescribing of controlled substance.” The Senate had passed the same bill near the end of last year’s legislative session, but the Assembly never took it up.

Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat elected in 2018, co-sponsored most of the other bills approved on Tuesday, includes ones that would require updated training for prescribing controlled substances and mandate that patients who are given opioids also be prescribed drugs that can reverse an overdose.

“The communities I represent have been deeply affected by the opioid crisis, with Ulster, Sullivan, Orange, and Delaware counties all facing staggering opioid-related death rates that far exceed the state average,” Metzger said in a statement. “There is no doubt that the package of opioid legislation passed will save lives.” 

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Law enforcement leaders, Republicans protest bail reform at Capitol

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler speaks at bail reform protest

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler and three Republican assemblymen representing parts of Orange County took part in a large rally in Albany on Tuesday in opposition to the state’s elimination of bail for many crimes while suspects are awaiting trial.

Police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and Republican lawmakers held the protest in the Capitol to denounce bail reforms that took effect on Jan. 1 and have allowed more defendants to avoid jail. Law enforcement leaders and Republicans have been hammering the new policy as dangerous for weeks, highlighting a wave of news reports about violent suspects getting released. Some agree reforms were needed but say the law went too far and should be modified.

“Our law-enforcement brothers and sisters are at the heart of the criminal justice, and no discussion about the laws of the state can take place without their input,” Hoovler, president of the state District Attorneys Association, said in a statement afterward. “Victims and their families are the most vulnerable members of our communities and are also at the heart of the criminal justice system. It is high time that we really listen to law enforcement and victims if we want to make sure these reforms work for all New Yorkers.”

Democratic lawmakers, who supported the reforms to stop jailing poor defendants who can’t afford bail, have responded in different ways to the outcry, with some supporting amendments to restore judicial discretion and others arguing more time is needed to judge the impact.

Assemblymen Karl Brabenec, Colin Schmitt and Brian Miller, each of whom has parts of Orange County in his district, all attended the rally and issued statements denouncing bail reform afterward.

“The past 35 days have been a nightmare for the people of New York, and we need to repeal these laws immediately before any more harm is done,” Brabenec, R-Deerpark, said. “I introduced legislation three months ago to repeal bail reform because I knew this would be a disaster, and now our darkest fears have been confirmed.”

Republicans hold weak minorities in both the Senate and Assembly and are unlikely to spur an outright repeal. But they have seized bail reform as a central political message that will likely continue through campaign season this fall.

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