Plugged In @ Hinman Straub – January 11, 2019

What’s Inside

  • First Day of 2019 Legislative Session
  • Governor to Present the Executive Budget Next Week
  • Governor Announces Additional Round of Administration Appointments
  • Governor Cuomo Criticizes the MTA
  • Governor Announces $10 Million for Expansion of Addiction Treatment Services
  • Mayor of New York City Announces Plan to Guarantee Health Care for all New Yorkers
  • Attorney General James Announces $9 Million Settlement of Federal Student Loan Servicing Claims with ACS Education Services
  • Attorney General Announces Prison Sentence in Million Dollar Medicaid Fraud Scheme
  • Credit Agency Downgrades del Lago’s Outlook
  • Assemblymember Hunter Appointed Chair of NCOIL’s Health and Long-Term Care Committee
  • Former Senator Valesky Joins Department of Agriculture and Markets
  • Updates and Reminders
  • Coming Up

First Day of 2019 Legislative Session

Wednesday marked the opening of the legislative session for 2019. As expected, Assemblyman Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) was re-elected Speaker of the Assembly and Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) was elected Temporary President of the Senate, making history as the first woman to hold the post. During opening remarks, Senator Stewart- Cousins listed a number of progressive proposals the Senate looks to pass including strengthening abortion rights, tightening gun safety laws, stricter limits on campaign donations, the Dream Act, the child Victims Act, and making the property tax cap permanent.

During his opening remarks, Speaker Heastie highlighted the record number of woman elected to the Assembly, including a number of whom are committee chairs and hold high leadership positions, and reaffirmed the Assembly’s commitment to a progressive agenda. Speaker Heastie said, “The Assembly Majority is both a member-driven and an issue-driven conference. As session gets underway, we will hear much about progressive priorities. It is important that we remember that many of the issues that have taken center stage all started here in the People’s House. I have always said that New York – the Empire State – leads the nation on so many issues that have been nurtured and developed right here in the chamber by our hard working members.”

The legislature’s work will begin in earnest starting next week when they plan begin passing legislation.

Governor to Present Executive Budget Next Week.

This week, the Governor surprised many by moving up his planned budget presentation to Tuesday January 15. He had originally told lawmakers that his intention was to present his Executive Budget the last week of January. Governor Cuomo has promised that a number of progressive agenda items will be included in this year’s budget.

Senate Minority Leader Flanagan Announces Top Deputies

Last Friday, Senate Republican leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) announced the top-level leadership positions for the incoming Senate Minority Conference.

Senator Joe Griffo (R-Oneida County) will serve as the Deputy Leader; Senator James Seward (R- Otsego County) will serve as the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee; and Senator Fred Akshar (R- Binghamton) will chair the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

Attorney General Announces Settlement With Charter for Defrauding Internet Subscribers

Last Tuesday, State Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced $174.2 million consumer fraud settlement with Charter Communications for defrauding internet subscribers, which will results in $62.5 million in direct refunds to consumers. The agreement settles a consumer fraud action alleging that the state’s largest internet service provider, which operated initially as Time Warner Cable and later under Charter’s Spectrum brand name, denied customers the reliable and fast internet service it had promised.

Attorney General Underwood said:

“This settlement should serve as a wakeup call to any company serving New York consumers: fulfill your promises, or pay the price.  Not only is this the largest-ever consumer payout by an internet service provider, returning tens of millions of dollars to New Yorkers who were ripped off and providing additional streaming and premium channels as restitution – but it also sets a new standard for how internet providers should fairly market their services.”

Governor Announces Additional Round of Administration Appointments.

Last weekend, the Governor announced another round of administration appointments. In an effort to promote effective state operations, the Governor has divided the operations, policy, and emergency management responsibilities of the Office of the Director of State Operations and made the following appointments:

  • Kelly Cummings – as Director of State Operations and Infrastructure;
  • Adam Zurofsky – as Director of State Policy and Agency Management;
  • Michael Kopy – as Governor’s Office Director of Emergency Management;
  • Michael Schmidt – as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance;
  • Letizia Tagliafierro – as Inspector General of New York State;
  • Judith Mogul – as Special Counsel to the Governor;
  • Harold Moore – as Chief Technology Officer;
  • Laura Edidin – as Chief Special Counsel for Ethics, Risk and Compliance;
  • Patrick Muncie – as Deputy Communications Director for Transportation;
  • Lisa Santeramo – as Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs;

Cuomo said:

“Over the past two terms, this administration has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of New Yorkers, and I am proud to welcome this team to help build on our great progress. With the help of these driven and qualified individuals, we will continue to make New York a stronger and more just state for all.”

Governor Cuomo Criticizes the MTA

In an interview with the Daily News Editorial Board, Governor Cuomo criticized the MTA, citing the recent L train controversy as an example of its inefficiency and suggested that the 2nd avenue subway project would not have been a success without his involvement.

Governor Announces $10 Million for Expansion of Addiction Treatment Services

This week the Governor announced up to $10 million in capital funding to expand addiction treatment services across the state. The funding will help facilitate the addition of up to 40 new withdrawal and stabilization or residential treatment beds. The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services will distribute the funds through a Request for Applications process.

Governor Cuomo said:

“Addiction is a scourge on our society that has devastated communities and families across the entire state. These expanded services demonstrate our ongoing commitment to support all New Yorkers who are looking to get on the road to recovery and build on our nation-leading efforts to end this epidemic once and for all.”

Mayor of New York City Announces Plan to Guarantee Health Care for all New Yorkers

This week, the Mayor made national news by announcing a plan that would provide health care for 600,000 currently uninsured New Yorkers. Details are scarce, but, the new program will be called NY Care and will provide direct access to NYC Health + Hospitals’ physicians, pharmacies, and mental health and substance abuse services. Cost to patients will be determined on a sliding scale. The Mayor claims the program will cost roughly $100 million, however, he has admitted to factoring in expected relief of current emergency room costs in his estimate.

The Mayor said:

“Health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it. While the federal government works to gut health care for millions of Americans, New York City is leading the way by guaranteeing that every New Yorker has access to quality, comprehensive access to care, regardless of immigration status or their ability to pay.”

Attorney General James Announces $9 Million Settlement of Federal Student Loan Servicing Claims with ACS Education Services

Late last week, the Attorney General and the Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services announced a $9 million settlement agreement with the federal student loan servicer ACS Education Services (known currently as Conduent Education Services). This settlement addressed claims that the loan servicer steered borrowers away from available income-based repayment options and toward more expensive options. The settlement also addresses claims that the loan servicer deceived borrowers concerning Public Service Loan Forgiveness Programs. In addition to paying fees and restitution to injured borrowers, ACS has agreed not to service loans for major federal programs or private loans for the next five years. 

James said:

 “ACS has systematically failed borrowers by refusing to educate them on more effective federal repayment options, and instead, pushing them towards options that padded their bottom line. At a time when the student debt crisis is at an all-time high, federal loan servicers should be supporting borrowers, not deceiving them at every turn. Everyone deserves a fair opportunity to work towards a life without debt.”

Attorney General Announces Prison Sentence in Million Dollar Medicaid Fraud Scheme

Attorney General Letitia James announced the state prison sentence of Kester Atumonyogo, 49, of Baldwin, New York, for defrauding the State Medicaid program of over one million dollars. Mr. Atumonyogo will receive one-and-one third to four years in prison. The defendant’s conviction and sentence concludes the second half of a long-term investigation by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (“MFCU”) into fraudulent durable medical equipment providers in Brooklyn, New York.

Credit Agency Downgrades del Lago’s Outlook

For the second year in a row, Moody’s has downgraded del Lago’s credit rating and warned of a continued negative outlook. Moody’s cited lower than expected revenue growth and the crowded casino market as reasons for del Lago’s issues. All four of New York’s non-Indian nation casinos are failing to meet revenue projections they provided to state officials at the time of their application for gaming licenses. Of the non-Indian nation casinos, del Lago seems to be doing the worst against their own projections. In year two, revenues were 57% lower than first year expectations.

Assemblymember Hunter Appointed Chair of NCOIL’s Health and Long-Term Care Committee

Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter (D-Syracuse) was appointed to serve as chair of the Health and Long-Term Care Committee of the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL), an organization of state legislators that advocates for more effective insurance regulation and educates lawmakers on insurance-related issues. She replaces Assemblyman Cahill, another New Yorker, as chair.

 Assemblymember Hunter said:

“I am humbled to have been appointed the new chair of the Health & Long-Term Care Committee for NCOIL. Assemblyman Cahill, the immediate past chair who is also from New York, has been an avid supporter of sound health insurance policy, and I look forward to similarly crafting and supporting policies that protect the consumer and support sustainable health insurance markets. As chair, I will bring the best policy perspectives that New York has to offer while also considering what has been most effective in other states. I welcome the challenge of crafting model insurance laws that are sure to bring progress across state legislatures throughout the country.”

Former Senator Valesky Joins Department of Agriculture and Markets

Earlier today it was announced that Former state Senator Dave Valesky has joined the Cuomo administration as a deputy commissioner at the Department of Agriculture and Markets. Valesky replaces Raquel Gonzalez, who left in November to join the Department of Civil Service.

Updates and Reminders

City & State NY’s weekly Winners & Losers here.

47 acre marijuana factory headed to Buffalo.

If you are over 65 and receive an Enhanced STAR tax exemption, make sure to enroll in the new income verification program.

Coming Up

The Governor will present the New York State Executive Budget for FY 2019-20 on Tuesday January 15. The presentation at 2:00 p.m., in the Hart Theater of the Egg Center for the Performing Arts.

The state Board of Regents holds its next meeting on January 14 and 15.

The Assembly plans to hold a joint committee public hearing on budget oversight and county-wide shared services property tax savings plans on January 15.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on January 17.

The Assembly plans to hold a public hearing on NYSERDA programs funded by the SFY 2018-2019 budget on January 22.

On January 23, the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee is holding a public hearing “to examine recycling-related issues.”

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on January 29.