Maloney bills would subject Congress members to “Trumpcare”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has introduced three bills that would force Congress members with government-subsidized health insurance to accept for themselves and their families what he views as the most harmful changes in coverage standards that Republicans are considering.

The Cold Spring Democrat, an outspoken opponent of the GOP proposals to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, pitched his “Do Unto Others” bill package as a dose of reality for his colleagues, one that would require them to abide by the same proposed changes in guaranteed services, premiums and protections for people with pre-existing health problems.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Maloney said. “Members of Congress who vote for a garbage health care bill shouldn’t get to keep their special access to Obamacare while they stick their constituents with more expensive plans that cover less. Don’t think your state should cover Essential Health Benefits like hospital stays or prescription drugs? Then your family shouldn’t get that coverage either. If you think high risk pools are so great, you can join one. Think older folks should be charged more for their care? You can pay those rates too.”

One bill would require members whose states waive the ACA rules on pre-existing conditions to accept whatever alternatives those states devise for that population, such as high-risk insurance pools. Another would force members whose states waive the “essential health benefits” that all insurers must now carry to enroll in the weakest policies their states offer. The third bill would require members from states that let insurers raise premiums for older customers to take their state’s most expensive plan.

House Republicans narrowly passed their health insurance bill on May 4. Senate Republican leaders wanted to try to pass their version this week but postponed the vote because they didn’t have enough support within their own caucus.

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Lawmakers vote to allow ward system for school boards

State lawmakers passed a bill this week that would enable school districts to create wards for the election of school board members, an idea that supporters in Pine Bush School District and Sullivan County have promoted since 2015 as a way to limit the ability of voting blocs to control boards.

The bill, approved in the last week of the 2017 legislative session, was sponsored by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh, and Sen. Bill Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson. It glided through the Assembly in a 140-2 vote on Monday and cleared the Senate in a 62-1 vote the next day.

Adopting a ward system would require a referendum. If approved by voters, a district could be divided into three to nine wards.

The legislation mistakenly required elections for all boards seats in the same year. The sponsors, who say they meant to have staggered elections, plan to introduce an amendment to retroactively change the wording. The bill must be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign or veto.

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Lawmakers replenish campaign cash in Albany

With the conclusion of the 2017 legislative session in Albany this week, the New York Public Interest Research Group distributed its latest list of campaign fundraisers that state lawmakers held in the capital while debating funding and legislation their donors are so keenly interested in.

Here are the events that senators and Assembly members representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties held and the minimum donation to get in the door (some had more than one):

Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope: $750, Fort Orange Club, Feb. 13

Sen. Bill Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson: $500, Fort Orange Club, Feb. 13 and June 14

Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, $500, The University Club, Feb. 28; $250, Angelo’s 677 Prime, June 7

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, $800, Fort Orange Club, March 13; $250, The Albany Room, June 13

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark, $250, Pinto & Hobbs Tavern, March 20

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, $500, Renaissance Hotel, March 21

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh, $300, The Albany Room, March 28

Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury, $250, City Beer Hall, June 14

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Senate Republicans snub child sex abuse bill

The latest push to extend New York’s short statute of limitations on child sex-abuse cases fizzled in Albany at the hands of Senate Republicans this week, when Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan refused to let the Senate vote on a bill that the Assembly overwhelmingly approved and that Gov. Andrew Cuomo supported.

State lawmakers ended their 2017 session on Wednesday with no Senate vote on the Child Victims Act or any alternatives that had been proposed, including one that the New York State Catholic Conference supported. The conference had opposed the bill the Assembly passed, arguing it would open the Catholic Church to lawsuits for abuse claims from decades ago, but it endorsed another pending bill that would have removed entirely the statute of limitations on prosecution.

None of the four Republicans senators representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties would state their positions on the Child Victims Act when asked this week. James Seward and George Amedore, each of whom represents parts of Ulster County, didn’t respond at all to the Times Herald-Record’s question. Spokesmen for John Bonacic and Bill Larkin each emailed statements that took no stance on the bill.

Advocates have pushed for 11 years to extend or eliminate the state’s statute of limitations on criminal charges and lawsuits involving sexual abuse of children. Under current law, the victims of such acts must seek criminal charges or sue before they turn 23 – much too early, advocates say, for many traumatized abuse survivors to come forward. The bill that the Assembly passed would given victims until age 28 to seek prosecution and until 50 to sue culpable institutions. It also would have given previously time-barred victims one year to bring cases.

Larkin’s spokesman said this week that Larkin was reviewing the reform proposals and hoped for an agreement before the session ended.

“The Senator is committed to working with his colleagues to protect children from sexual predators and hold abusers accountable and would like to see the State Legislature reach an agreement on this issue prior to the end of this year’s legislative session,” spokesman Brian Maher said. He didn’t respond when asked if Larkin would vote for or against the bill that the Assembly approved in a 139-7 vote on June 7.

Cuomo declared his support for the bill after the Assembly approved it. Advocates and Democrats had implored the Senate’s Republican leaders to bring the legislation to the floor before the session ended. The Times Herald-Record reported on the bill’s uncertain status and on a Saugerties man involved with the reform effort on Monday.

Bonacic’s spokesman, Conor Gillis, sent the Times Herald-Record a statement that touted past legislation but took no position on the Child Victims Act. He said only that Bonacic would review the bill if it came to the floor.

The statement read: “The Senate has consistently passed legislation to protect New Yorker’s from sexual predators, going as far back as 2006 when the Senate passed Megan’s Law, legislation ensuring that sexual predators register with the State and provide parents and members of the community with this information. The Senate has passed legislation to toughen criminal penalties on sexual predators, while also passing legislation restricting where sex offenders can go, explicitly barring them from entering school grounds. With that being said, should any version of the Child Victims Act come to the floor, Senator Bonacic will carefully review the details before he votes.”

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Bay State congressman endorses Ryan in NY-19

Patrick Ryan, one of eight Democrats who’ve decided to run for congress against Rep. John Faso, has racked up his second endorsement despite the congressional race not being until November next year.

Congressman Seth Moulton, D-Salem, announced the endorsement of Ryan and seven other Democratic veterans on Wednesday, saying that the Democratic Party “needs a new generation of leadership” and that “it’s time to stop rehashing 2016 and deliver a vision for America that addresses the real challenges facing Americans in all parts of our country.”

“Pat is a Democrat running to represent New York’s 19th Congressional District, where he was born and raised,” Moulton said in a statement. “As a West Point-trained Army officer and technology entrepreneur, his career has been driven by service to our nation throughout his life. Pat’s commitment to finding creative solutions sparked technological advancements in the fight against terrorism and fueled job creation.”

Faso – a first-term Republican, attorney and former state Assemblyman – is from Kinderhook in Columbia County.

Ryan, 35, of Brooklyn, grew up in Kingston. He’s a graduate of Kingston High School and the United States Military Academy at West Point. He went on to serve two combat tours in Iraq, rising to the rank of captain. He began two start-up technology businesses and currently works for Dataminr, a New York City start-up company that analyzes data from social media. He said he’s currently searching with his wife for a home in Gardiner, Accord and Kingston.

Ryan and Moulton, who’s in his second term, already shared a connection. Ryan said he began considering a run for congress through a network of military veterans that included Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran and Democrat who represents Massachusetts’ sixth congressional district.

Both Moulton and Ryan were also recruited to run for Congress through the Boston-based group New Politics, that works to recruit those with public service backgrounds to run for office. The group helped recruit Moulton for his 2014 run for congress.

Last week, Ryan was endorsed by liberal VoteVets PAC, a Washington D.C.-based political action committee.

The 19th district includes all or part of 11 counties, including all of Ulster and Sullivan.

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Rift in Albany endangers renewal of Orange, Ulster sales tax rates

A normally routine renewal of the sales tax rates in Orange, Ulster and many other New York counties has gotten gnarled in politics in Albany, raising the possibility that state lawmakers will end this year’s session today without extending rates that expire Nov. 30.

The Assembly approved those two-year rate extensions for all counties in a single bill in May, but combined them with an extension of the mayoral control of New York City schools – a contentious issue for Senate Republicans. The Senate has snubbed the Assembly bill and passed its own individual tax “extenders” for Orange, Ulster and the other counties. The Assembly hasn’t taken up those bills.

And that is where things stand as lawmakers slog through a final round of bills today and prepare to fold up their tent for the year.

If they depart without renewing county tax rates for another two years, legislators would have to return to Albany to do so in a special session before the rates expire on Nov. 30. Failing do do so would cost counties millions of dollars in revenue, because their rates would revert to 3 percent (from 3.75 percent in Orange and 4 percent in Ulster). Most counties have bumped their rates up to 4 percent from the 3 percent default that state law allows, and have to go through the motions of asking the Legislature and governor to approve their higher rates every two years.

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Bill targeting abuse on school buses may fizzle in Assembly

A bill that stems from a bus monitor’s assault on two Pine Bush School District students with severe autism has passed the Senate but may die in the Assembly after being inserted into other legislation with little time left in the session to get the Senate on board.

The proposal, now incorporated into A8485 and awaiting a vote with the session scheduled to end on Wednesday, would require bus companies to report to school districts any abuse or suspected abuse of students aboard their buses. Originally sponsored by Democrat Aileen Gunther before being added to a broader bill last week, the legislation was written in response to the arrest of Shirley Ellison in 2015, on charges that the 73-year-old bus monitor had struck two boys, ages 8 and 12, who both had severe autism and couldn’t speak. According to one of the boys’ father, Ellison was later sentenced to three years of probation.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill, with Republican Bill Larkin as its sponsor, on June 6. It will die when the session ends on Wednesday unless the Assembly approves it or both the Assembly and Senate pass the expanded version that Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan created.

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Larkin is “reviewing” bills on child sex abuse (updated x 2)

Sen. Bill Larkin said through his spokesman that he’s “reviewing a number of proposals” to help survivors of sexual abuse, a long-running cause that the Assembly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Democrats have embraced, and that now hinges on Senate Republicans in the last two days of this year’s legislative session.

The Assembly overwhelmingly approved a version of the Child Victims Act on June 7 that would extend New York’s short statute of limitations for criminal charges and lawsuits, giving victims of sex abuse until age 28 to seek prosecution and age 50 to sue the institutions that employed their abusers. Cuomo declared his support for the bill last week. Advocates and Democrats have implored the Senate’s Republican leaders to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote before this year’s session ends on Wednesday. The Times Herald-Record reported on the bill status and on a Saugerties man involved with the reform effort on Monday.

The Times Herald-Record has asked the four Republican senators representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties – Larkin; John Bonacic of Mount Hope; George Amedore of Rotterdam; and James Seward of Milford – for their positions on the bill.

Only Larkin has so far responded. In an emailed statement, his spokesman, Brian Maher said: “Senator Larkin is currently reviewing a number of proposals that were introduced on the topic. The Senator is committed to working with his colleagues to protect children from sexual predators and hold abusers accountable and would like to see the State Legislature reach an agreement on this issue prior to the end of this year’s legislative session.”

Maher didn’t respond when asked if Larkin would vote for or against the bill that the Assembly approved in a 139-7 vote.

The other senators’ statements will be added if and when they are sent.

(Update: Bonacic’s spokesman, Conor Gillis, sent a statement that also gave no position on the Assembly bill. It read: “The Senate has consistently passed legislation to protect New Yorker’s from sexual predators, going as far back as 2006 when the Senate passed Megan’s Law, legislation ensuring that sexual predators register with the State and provide parents and members of the community with this information. The Senate has passed legislation to toughen criminal penalties on sexual predators, while also passing legislation restricting where sex offenders can go, explicitly barring them from entering school grounds. With that being said, should any version of the Child Victims Act come to the floor, Senator Bonacic will carefully review the details before he votes.”)

(Update #2: It appears now that Senators won’t have to take a position on the Child Victims Act at all. Albany reporters say Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said after emerging from  closed meeting a short while ago that the Senate “is not going to be taking that bill up.”)

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Senate touts bills to protect children

With a renewed push for the state Senate to pass child sex abuse legislation before the 2017 session ends next week, Senate Republicans on Thursday touted 13 other bills their chamber has passed – mostly this week, and mostly with little or no opposition – that they said would protect children.

The bills included: new restrictions on where convicted sex offenders may live and work; proposals to make cyberbulling of minors a misdemeanor and make gang recruiting near schools a felony; and a requirement that special-ed schools take fingerprints of prospective employees. The Assembly has approved only two of the 13 bills: one that would require that agencies that place foster children be told when those children have been abused or mistreated; and another that would limit to 15 the number of cases that children protective services workers have at any given time.

Advocates are imploring Senate leaders to allow a vote on legislation extending the statutes of limitations on criminal charges against people who sexually abuse children and lawsuits against their employers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined their cause on Wednesday night by filing a bill identical to one the Assembly passed overwhelmingly last week. Senate Democrats on Thursday urged Republican leaders and the breakaway Democrats who share power with them to embrace that legislation, one of several pending proposals to extend or lift the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases.

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Cuomo has 43 percent approval rating in new poll

A new poll by Marist College and NBC 4 New York found that 43 percent of New York voters approved of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s job performance, his highest approval rating in almost three years but well below where he stood with voters in his first three years in office.

More than 50 percent of voters had scored the Democrat’s performance “excellent” or “good” in most Marist polls taken in 2011, 2012 and 2013, giving him an approval rating that peaked at 59 percent and slid to a low of 37 percent in May 2015, just after Cuomo had started his second term. As of the last poll in September, 40 percent of voters rated Cuomo’s performance as excellent or good.

The new poll was released Wednesday and was based on responses from 703 voters surveyed by phone from June 6-10. Results had a error margin of 3.7 percentage points.

The same poll found Cuomo at least 30 percentage points ahead of four hypothetical Republican opponents – including Donald Trump Jr. – in next year’s election. With 11 percent or more of survey respondents undecided, Trump led in a matchup with the president’s son by 62-27 percent; by 58-26 percent against Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Cuomo’s 2014 opponent; by 58-22 percent against former hedge fund manager Harry Wilson, a 2010 candidate for state comptroller; and by 57-26 percent against Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, Cuomo’s 2010 opponent.

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