Coverage of Albany and New York State government

  • Governor Announces 2018 State of the State Proposals
  • Comptroller: State Not Adequately Enforcing Bottle Law
  • Business Advocacy Groups Call for Prevailing Wage Reforms
  • Addiction Treatment Providers Seek $100 Million in 2018 Budget
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Governor Announces 2018 State of the State Proposals

Gov. Cuomo continued releasing some of his 2018 legislative priorities that will be highlighted in his ‘State of the State’ address on January 3rd.

Minimum Wage Tip Credit

Last Sunday, the Governor announced that the state Department of Labor will hold public hearings next year and gather information from workers and employers on the possibility of eliminating minimum wage tip credits in favor of paying currently tipped employees a higher minimum wage. Tipped workers, who typically work in service industry jobs like restaurants, car washes and salons, usually earn less than the minimum wage.

Tip credit is the difference between what a tipped worker is paid and what the current minimum wage is. The credit saves employers’ money when the amount that workers are earning in tips is equal to or above the current minimum wage. But when a tipped employee is earning less than minimum with their hourly wages combined with their tips, then their employer must legally pay the difference so the employee is still earning at least minimum wage.

The Governor said that some employers skirt the law, leading some workers — particularly women and minorities — to be exploited.

The New York Restaurant Association warned that eliminating the tipped wage credit for workers would lead business owners to look to automate more functions and would ultimately harm the people it is designed to benefit.

Shared Services Panels

Last Monday, the Governor said that he will propose to make the county shared-services panels permanent, and that state funding for local government performance aid will now be conditional on the continuation of shared services panels. He also said that state rules will be relaxed to make it easier for localities to pool their health insurance plans for local government workers.

Last Tuesday, the Governor said that he plans to propose $20 million for comprehensive infrastructure and operational improvements at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility; will take legal action to halt a rail operator’s plan to store thousands of railcars indefinitely in the Adirondack Park; and released a plan for the New York State Common Retirement Fund from significant fossil fuel investments.

Belmont Park Redevelopment

Last Wednesday, the Governor announced the selection of a developer for the $1 billion redevelopment of Belmont Park into a sports, entertainment, retail and hospitality destination.  The winning project features an 18,000-seat arena for the New York Islanders, a 435,000-square-foot retail and entertainment complex, a hotel, six acres of outdoor recreation space and up to 10,000 square feet of community space.

Banning ‘Revenge Porn’

On Thursday, the Governor announced that he plans to propose legislation to criminalize “sextortion” and non-consensual pornography, commonly called “revenge porn.”

Protecting New York’s Lakes from Algal Blooms

He also announced that the state will provide funding to combat harmful algal blooms in Upstate New York that threaten the use of lakes for recreation and drinking water.

‘Democracy Agenda’

He also announced that he plans to propose a series of reforms that he dubbed the ‘Democracy Agenda.’  It includes increasing transparency in political advertising by require online platforms to maintain an archive of political ads and to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals or entities are not purchasing such ads.  To secure the state’s election infrastructure, he will propose the creation of an Election Support Center; development of an Elections Cyber Security Support Toolkit; providing cyber risk vulnerability assessments and support for local Boards of Elections; and to require counties to report data breaches to state authorities.  The package will also measure that are intended to make it easier to vote, including early voting; automatic voter registration; and same-say voter registration.

The Governor’s previously announced ‘2018 State of the State’ proposals are:

Comptroller: State Not Adequately Enforcing Bottle Law  

Last Wednesday, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released an audit which finds that the state Department of Taxation and Finance is not adequately overseeing the state’s “bottle bill,” meaning that less money goes to fund state environmental programs.

New York State imposes a 5 cent deposit on many bottles and cans that hold less than a gallon, including sodas, beers and juices, but millions of dollars worth of deposits go unclaimed each year. Under state law, the state keeps 80 percent of those unclaimed deposits and the “deposit initiator” — in most cases, the bottler or distributor — keeps the other 20 percent. .

Comptroller DiNapoli said:

“New York’s landmark bottle bill motivated New Yorkers to recycle more and protect our environment. Unredeemed deposits also provide a dedicated funding source for the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.  My auditors found the state Department of Taxation and Finance’s oversight over the program can be improved so environmental programs are not getting shortchanged. The department needs to do a better job collecting the money that could be used to protect and preserve our state’s natural resources, parkland, waterways and beaches.”

Business Advocacy Groups Call for Prevailing Wage Reforms

Last week, a group of business and industry groups called for reform of New York State’s prevailing wage law.  The coalition, which includes the Business Council of New York State, Unshackle Upstate, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and the NYS Economic Development Council, says that the state mandate increases the costs of public construction jobs by as much as 25 percent.

The group is calling on state lawmakers to reform the state’s prevailing wage mandate by following federal prevailing wage law standards, and by requiring the state Department of Labor (DOL) to ensure that the prevailing wage mandate is imposed only where union contracts cover at least 30 percent of the workers in a given building trade in a given “locality.”

Read the group’s fact sheet here.

Addiction Treatment Providers Seek $100 Million in 2018 Budget

Last Tuesday, addiction treatment providers called on state lawmakers to add $100 million in next year’s to increase staffing.  The Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of New York (ASAP) State is calling its campaign for more funding for drug abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services “Superstorm Opioids.”

Throughout the state, overdose deaths from heroin, prescription painkillers and synthetic opioids have risen almost 200 percent between 2011 and 2016.  During the same period, state funding for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services has risen just 10 percent.

Political Update

Independence Party Endorses Governor Cuomo for Re-Election

According to a news report, the state Independence Party has endorsed Governor Cuomo for re-election in 2018.  While it is extremely early in the 2018 election cycle, the party previously endorsed him in the 2010 and 2014 elections.

Bronx Assemblyman to Run for State Senate Seat

Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda (D- Bronx) has announced that he plans to run for the State Senate seat that will become vacant when Senator Ruben Diaz resigns to join the New York City Council.

He said that his priorities will be public safety and criminal justice reform; education programs; affordable housing; increased access to mental health care; economic development and opportunities; and social service reforms.

Winners & Losers

Each week, City & State New York publishes a list of the week’s political “winners” and “losers.”  Read last week’s list here.

As we approach 2018, City & State published its list of Winners & Losers of 2017.

Coming Up

The Governor will deliver his State of the State Address in Albany on January 3, 2018, which is also the first day of the 2018 legislative session.

On January 4, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Economic Development, and

Small Business and the Senate Administrative Regulations Review Commission are holding a public hearing in Albany on the state Department of Labor’s proposed rulemaking relating to employee scheduling.

On January 10, the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee is holding a public hearing in Albany on interactive fantasy sports.

On January 11, the Assembly committees on Codes, Health and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse are holding a public hearing in New York City “to examine the potential impacts of the legalization and regulation of marijuana and its effects on New York’s criminal justice and public health care systems.”

On January 12, the Assembly Insurance Committee is holding a public hearing in Albany “to evaluate whether the new title insurance regulations are successfully lowering consumer costs while also ensuring that the title insurance market remains healthy and competitive in New York State.

The Governor’s 2018-19 Executive Budget proposal will be released by January 16.

The Board of Regents holds its next meeting on January 22 and 23.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on January 30.

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