Coverage of Albany and New York State government

  • Governor Announces Additional 2018 ‘State of the State’ Proposals
  • Senate IDC Releases ‘One New Yorker’ Budget Agenda
  • Governor Grants Clemency to 61 Individuals
  • Governor Announces Campaign to Warn of Fraudulent Addiction Treatment Referral Services
  • Governor Touts State’s Efforts to Address Illegal Tobacco Trafficking and Sales
  • New York, Seven Other State Sue EPA Over Cross-Border Smog
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Governor Announces Additional 2018 ‘State of the State’ Proposals

On Thursday, Gov. Cuomo announced the 15th proposal of his 2018 State of the State: a new program to address hunger in public schools, including colleges and universities. The “No Student Goes Hungry Program” would require schools with high-need student populations to provide breakfast after the school day has begun, by offering nutritious vending machine options or serving breakfast in the classroom.

Under the proposal, the state would provide technical assistance and capital funds for equipment such as coolers and vending machines; SUNY and CUNY would be required to either provide physical food pantries on campus or allow students to receive food through a separate, “stigma-free” arrangement; the Farm to School program, which connects local farmers with school districts to increase the amount of locally grown food on school menus, would be expanded; and school districts would be incentivized to use more local, farm-fresh products by increasing the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for district that purchase at least 30 percent of their ingredients from New York farms.

On Friday, Governor Cuomo announced the 16th proposal of his 2018 State of the State: a series of measures to enhance protections for people who borrow to pay for college.

They include licensing and regulation of student loan servicers by the Department of Financial Services (DFS); creating a Student Loan Ombudsman at DFS who will serve as the student borrower’s advocate to help resolve student complaints, mediate disputes and educate borrowers about student loans, and provide free financial counseling and assistance for students in default; requiring all colleges to annually provide students with the estimated amounts incurred for student loans; and prohibiting the suspension of professional licenses of individuals behind or in default on their student loans.

See all of the Governor’s 2018 State of the State proposals here.

Senate IDC Releases ‘One New Yorker’ Budget Agenda

Last Thursday, the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) released its “One New Yorker” agenda, which addresses “election reform, children, students, families, workers’ rights, uplifting communities, keeping citizens healthy and helping immigrants.” (Read the full agenda here.)

Highlights of the IDC’s 2018 agenda include authorizing early voting; automatic voter registration; establishing a student loan forgiveness program to address teacher shortages; reducing the New York City income tax rate to 0% for residents earning $50,000 or less; and diverting a portion of New York City’s sales tax revenue to pay for emergency MTA repairs.

The IDC is the group of eight Democratic State Senators who are aligned with the Senate Republicans, rather than with the Senate’s mainstream Democrats.

Governor Grants Clemency to 61 Individuals

Last Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced that he has issued pardons to 18 people who are facing deportation and other immigration-related challenges as a result of their convictions; pardons to 39 individuals who committed misdemeanors and non-violent crimes when they were 16 or 17 years old and have been crime free for 10 years or more; and commutations to two individuals who have demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation and a commitment to community violence reduction.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“These New Yorkers have proved their rehabilitation, in some cases for decades, but have been unable to gain legal status or fully reenter society due to the stigma of conviction.  While the federal government continues to target immigrants and threatens to tear families apart with deportation, these actions take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York.”

Governor Announces Campaign to Warn of Fraudulent Addiction Treatment Referral Services

Last Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced the launch of a public awareness campaign to crack down on “patient brokering,” a practice where brokers collect payments from addiction treatment providers in exchange for referring patients to those programs. The campaign warns New Yorkers about the fraudulent practice and urges that these brokers be reported.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“Vulnerable New Yorkers struggling with addiction are being targeted and falsely promised life-saving treatment services and then are given inadequate and ineffective treatment at outrageous costs.  With this campaign, we make it clear that this reprehensible practice will not be tolerated in New York and will help ensure that people receive the appropriate assistance they need to reclaim their lives.”

Governor Touts State’s Efforts to Address Illegal Tobacco Trafficking and Sales

Last Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo announced New York State’s Cigarette Strike Force seized $6.6 million worth of contraband tobacco in 2017, a $1 million increase over 2016.  More than 47,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes were seized, along with 134,000 counterfeit tax stamps and nearly $445,000 in cash.  Cigarette Strike Force investigators also arrested 85 accused cigarette and tobacco smugglers who face more than $7 million in fines.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“This illicit activity not only hurts law abiding businesses, but it also places undue burdens on taxpayers due to the loss of state revenue for vital services.  This administration will continue to do everything in its power to crack down on these criminals and help ensure a fair and level playing field for all.”

New York State collects about $1.2 billion annually in tobacco taxes.  However, the Tax Foundation has reported that New York State has the highest rate of tobacco smuggling in the nation, with an estimated 55.4 percent of cigarettes consumed in the state deriving from smuggled sources.

New York, Seven Other State Sue EPA Over Cross-Border Smog

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced last week that he is leading a coalition that includes the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over air pollution.

The group sued the EPA in federal court for rejecting a petition aimed at lowering smog pollution from nine coal-dependent Midwestern and Southern states, Schneiderman said Tuesday. They are seeking to have the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit review the EPA’s decision.

Attorney General Schneiderman said:

“Millions of New Yorkers are breathing unhealthy air as smog pollution continues to pour in from other states.  The federal government has a fundamental responsibility to act. Yet the Trump EPA has abandoned its responsibilities – repeatedly failing to act to control smog pollution that jeopardizes New Yorkers’ health.”

The EPA proposed denying the states’ petition shortly before President Obama left office.  The EPA formally denied the petition last month.

Political Update

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.

Coming Up

The Governor will deliver his State of the State Address in Albany later today.

On January 4, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Economic Development, and Small Business and the Senate Administrative Regulations Review Commission (ARRC) 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 Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on January 18.

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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