Tag Archives: Governor Andrew Cuomo

Long Island to Have First Stand-Alone Large-Scale Anaerobic Digester in NY Metro – Eliminates Waste & Generates Clean Energy

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo with LIPA Chief Executive Officer Tom Falcone. LIPA has just approved a large-scale anaerobic digester which will will turn recycled food waste into four megawatts of clean energy. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Long Island will have the first stand-alone large-scale anaerobic digester – a type of food waste recycling center that converts waste into energy – in the New York City metropolitan area. When operational in 2020, It will produce four megawatts of clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Long Island by 85,000 metric tons a year, the equivalent to removing 18,000 cars from the road. 

The Board of Trustees of the Long Island Power Authority voted to approve the project which directly supports Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Green New Deal, a clean energy and jobs agenda that puts New York State on a path to a carbon-free economy and supports the State’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“New York State continues to lead the way with clean energy initiatives and innovative solutions that benefit both our neighborhoods and our planet,” Governor Cuomo said. “By implementing this groundbreaking technology on Long Island, we can not only produce clean energy and reduce greenhouse gases, but also spare our landfills and keep our communities cleaner and greener for decades to come.”

The project will create at least 10 full-time jobs and help retain more than 100. The facility provides a lower cost waste disposal option for food service businesses such as supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, commercial food processers, cafeterias, catering halls, and hotels. The Town of Brookhaven will also have the capability to divert 10,000-15,000 tons per year of food waste to the project from the more expensive disposal options currently used.

The project, to be operated by American Organic Energy (AOE) at Long Island Compost in Yaphank, will process approximately 180,000 tons of local food waste per year. This waste would have otherwise been transported by gas and diesel-powered trucks to distant landfills, along with 30,000 tons of fats, oils and greases (FOG). Working with GE Water and Scott’s Miracle-Gro, AOE will collect, separate, pre-process, break down, and transform Long Island’s food waste into convertible energy, electricity, fertilizer, and nutrient-rich clean water.

Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be reduced by 85,000 tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to removing 18,000 cars off the road. It will also reduce truck traffic on Long Island roads by 1.4 million miles per year, compared to current landfill disposal practice. In addition, Long Island Compost will convert certain stationary equipment from diesel to electricity, which is expected to reduce diesel fuel consumption by an estimated 200,000 gallons per year.

Anaerobic digestion is a biological process that occurs when organic matter is decomposed by bacteria in the absence of oxygen. During the decomposition process, the biogas released can be recovered, treated and used to generate energy in place of traditional fossil fuels.

The agreement also establishes annual and hourly limits on the delivery of energy to LIPA. The average residential bill impact would be approximately $0.10 per month, competitive with pricing of other comparable clean energy facilities under contract to LIPA. The anaerobic digester is expected to be operational by December 31, 2020.

The project is also supported by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Cleaner Greener Communities initiative, which provided $1.35 million and also was chosen for a $400,000 Empire State Development award by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York continues to find innovative ways to produce and deliver clean energy to consumers,” Tom Falcone, LIPA’s Chief Executive Officer, said. “Turning food waste into energy here on Long Island diverts waste from Long Island landfills, reduces carbon emissions, and helps LIPA meet New York’s aggressive clean energy goals.”  

“By transforming waste into energy, digester projects like this will reduce harmful emissions and material going into landfills, while providing economic and environmental benefits to Long Island residents,” Alicia Barton, President and CEO of NYSERDA said. “NYSERDA is proud to collaborate with LIPA to advance clean energy solutions that support New York’s nation-leading clean energy goals under Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal.” 

“This project, the largest this side of the Mississippi, has many societal benefits including creating renewable energy, reducing solid waste and reducing truck traffic,” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign of the Environment said. “Today the project is cutting edge, tomorrow it will be standard operating procedure. This transformational project was seven years in the making, the permits are now completed, and we are thrilled the construction can begin.” 

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Clean energy projects like this facility aren’t just good for the environment, they’re good for the health of our communities and help build a greener economic future for our entire state.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said,”Governor Cuomo understands the importance of investing in renewable energy initiatives to ensure a sustainable future for our communities and communities across the state. We are focused on expanding our efforts to create a cleaner, more efficient Long Island, and I thank the Governor for his continued support in making projects like these possible.” 

“Through this partnership, Brookhaven will continue to move forward with our plans to create an energy park at our landfill as we cap and close this facility, piping methane to this anaerobic digester to produce an estimated 1.5 megawatts of energy,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said. “Using food scraps and other organic matter in this facility to create compost and energy is an important part of our overall strategy to reduce our waste stream on Long Island to benefit our environment. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his support of this important an innovative clean energy project.”

Senator Todd Kaminsky said,”For a sustainable future, Long Island must stop sending excess food to landfills, and instead utilize state-of-the-art technology that turns waste into clean energy. The future is now, and the approval of this large-scale anaerobic digester is a breakthrough that marks the beginning of a new, green era.”

Sammy Chu, CEO, Edgewise Energy, and Chairman, US Green Building Council – Long Island Chapter said, “This project represents a very exciting opportunity for Long Island. It not only supports Governor Cuomo’s goal of decarbonizing our electric supply but also addresses our growing regional waste crisis. This is the type of creative solution that we need right now.”

Kevin Law, President, and CEO of the Long Island Association said, “The anaerobic digester is the most sophisticated food waste processing facility in the region. This technology will digest food waste taken from supermarkets, restaurants, and hospitals and turn this material into a source of clean energy. The LIA is in full support of this project which will benefit Long Island’s economy, environment and energy portfolio.”

Neil Lewis, Executive Director of the Molloy College Sustainability Institute said,”This project addresses the interconnection of energy, food and carbon emissions. This anaerobic digester helps with the solid waste problem on Long Island by reducing food waste, while also generating electricity. Biogas is a renewable form of energy that should be put to work for us, rather than causing emissions issues in landfills and being wasted.”

Julie Tighe, President, New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) said, “We are in full support of this effort to deploy technology and solutions that can help New York State achieve its ambitious climate, clean air, and economic development goals.  We applaud LIPA and look forward to continued efforts to help Long Island develop a robust organic waste-to-fuel industry.”

New York State’s Green New Deal

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Green New Deal, the nation’s leading clean energy and jobs agenda, will aggressively put New York State on a path to economy-wide carbon neutrality. This initiative will provide for a just transition to clean energy, spurring the growth of the green economy and mandating New York’s power be 100 percent clean and carbon-free by 2040, one of the most aggressive goals in the U.S. The cornerstone of this newly proposed mandate is a significant increase of New York’s successful Clean Energy Standard to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

As part of the unprecedented ramp-up of renewable energy, New York has already invested $2.9 billion into 46 large-scale renewable projects across the state as it significantly increases its clean energy targets, such as: quadrupling New York’s offshore wind target to a nation-leading 9,000 megawatts by 2035; doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025; and deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030. To support this ambitious work, NY Green Bank intends to use its expertise in overcoming financing gaps to foster greater environmental impacts per public dollar by raising over $1 billion in third party funds to expand climate financing availability across New York and the rest of North America.

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Governor Cuomo Holds NYS Budget Hostage Without Permanent Property Tax Cap; I Object

Voting on a school bond referendum, Great Neck, Long Island. New York State’s property tax cap removes local control over spending for education and local services including parks and libraries © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he won’t sign the state budget unless it makes permanent the property tax cap.

“The highest tax in the state is the property tax and it is a killer,” Governor Cuomo said.”We want to reduce economic pressure on families by making sure government is not aggravating the problem with increased expenses. We’re going to cut your state income tax and we’re going to cap your property taxes so you know it’s not going higher than 2 percent. And I will tell you this as sure as I am before you today: if we do not have the permanent property tax cap in that state budget, this hand will never sign that state budget until it’s in there.”

From the very beginning, I have objected to this trampling off local control with an arbitrary and unreasonable constraint designed to hamstring and ultimately destroy local governments. Cuomo’s original intent was to force school districts and other local governments to cannibalize their reserve funds; the second was to force consolidation and dissolution of local governments and the third was to use local taxes as the bogeyman, so politicians could appear to be on the side of taxpayers.

Of course the property tax is the largest state tax and of course school taxes are the largest component. Something has to be “largest”. What should be? But local property taxes are spent where they are used, and local people have the greatest ability to participate in spending decisions. In fact, school and library taxes are the only taxes we taxpayers directly vote.

What the property tax cap does, though, is remove local control. Communities should have the right to decide if they want to improve their schools or parks. The property tax cap which basically keeps the annual increase to 2% or the rate of inflation whichever is less says: we don’t want any growth or improvement or new investment in your community. We want the status quo, and if that means deterioration, so be it. (Little known fact: the property tax cap incentivizes bonding because the debt service isn’t counted toward the cap.)

Somehow, and fairly ingeniously I think, the Great Neck Public School district has managed to continue to be among the best in the country and still average only 1.8 percent increase in the tax levy since the property tax cap was implemented in 2012, despite increasing enrollments and unfunded state mandates. This year, though, through the complicated formula, the school district could have raised taxes by 4.09 percent and still fall within the cap, is only seeking 1.94 percent increase. .

I resent the property tax cap by which the Governor and state legislators can declare themselves champions of reducing or controlling taxes.

But here’s the thing: New York State’s property taxes are not the highest in the nation; Nassau County’s taxes are not the highest; and both of these do not take into account that Long Island and New York’s incomes and our housing values are higher.

According to a survey by Wallethub, a financial services company, New York State ranks 8th (not first) in property taxes. New York ranks 43rd in its real estate tax rate, at 1.68 percent. You know which states are higher? Nebraska (1.80), Texas (1.83), Vermont (1.83), Wisconsin (1.94), Connecticut (2.07), New Hampshire (2.20), Illinois (2.31), and New Jersey (2.44) (See the study: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-property-taxes/11585/)

Even so, do you want to be Alabama, which is #2 on the list for lowest taxes, where the median home value is $132,000 and the tax is $558 (0.42%), or Louisiana, #3, where the median home value is $152,900 and median tax is $795 (0.52%)? Louisiana ranks 51st in health care, Alabama is 48th. New York is 17th (fourth most physicians per capita)

USA Today ranks New York’s public education 9th noting, “Between 2003 and 2015, the achievement gap between eighth graders living in poverty and their wealthier peers narrowed by the largest amount of all states…Annual public school funding totals $18,665 per pupil in New York, the third highest expenditure of all states.” (Top three are Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont). Alabama ranks 43rd (14th lowest in public school spending at $10,142). Louisiana is 46th, Mississippi is 48th.

Yes, total taxes are high: New Yorkers spend 17.07 percent of income on taxes, second highest after Connecticut (17.65 percent). But New York State is spending billions on a 21st century infrastructure and racing toward 50:50 clean energy by 2030. This is where I want to live. So do 20 million others, a number that is increasing, even as unemployment rates are at the lowest ever and the number of jobs is at an all-time high.

We pay a lot in taxes because our incomes are higher and our housing values are higher, what is more, we get more for our money, making for a higher quality of life.

The states that don’t charge an appropriate amount of state and local taxes – that is related to the cost of providing services and public investment – depend on federal handouts. New York is one of 11 states that send more money to the federal government than it gets back, in fact the #1 donor state, sending $36-$48 billion more to the federal government than it gets back. Alabama is 4th “most federally dependent state”; Louisiana is 10th.

New York sends the second highest amount in federal taxes, $133 billion (California sends $227 billion), and is fourth in the average amount of federal taxes per adult ($8,490), behind Connecticut $10,279), Massachusetts ($9,445), and New Jersey ($8,811).

(Here’s an idea: New York should do what tenants do in a landlord dispute and put that $36 billion into escrow until the SALT deductibility issue is fixed.)

But we shouldn’t be punishing our localities because of the criminality of Republicans to use the tax code as political weapon – according to State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli, the SALT deduction cap has driven down tax receipts by $2.3 billion, as wealthiest New Yorkers choose other places for primary residency.

But the tax cap is also a political weapon.

The larger objective is to eliminate local municipalities entirely – to force villages to consolidate into towns, towns into counties, school districts into larger school districts. But the fallacy in that is all that it saves is a few administrative positions. Villages and school districts already have cooperative purchasing, mutual aid; school districts even cooperate on transportation where feasible. Our school district spends 4 percent of its budget on administration, the lion’s share, 75 percent, on instruction (12 percent on building, grounds & capital projects, 6 percent on transportation). (To see where your schools spend every penny, come to Great Neck South High School this Saturday at 9:30 am for the line-by-line budget review.)

The state boasts that since implementation the tax cap has “saved” taxpayers $24.4 billion statewide – that works out to $1000 per capita, divided by 7 years, or $142 a year. I’m not sure that’s worth giving up local control.

But just as Cuomo and the Congressmembers decry Trump’s disparity in federal spending for blue states versus red states and the attack on state control over its ability to raise revenue and spend, it is the same thing with local spending: there is gigantic  disparity in the level of state aid to school districts, with the result that New York City only has to raise 50 percent of its school budget from property taxes, while Great Neck, which gets just 4 percent from the state, has to raise 95 percent through property taxes. Here’s another measure: Roosevelt, with 3270 enrolled students, gets $53 million in state aid; Great Neck, with 6399 enrolled students, gets $10 million – the difference made up from property taxes. That’s just the way it is.

What the property tax cap means is that virtually all Great Neck’s school spending is governed by the cap; other districts have much less that is controlled by the tax cap.

The responsibility for determining if our elected representatives are properly handling our tax appropriations is on the community, not an arbitrarily selected cap enshrined in law.

We see what our school taxes (and park and library and sewer district) pay for and I don’t want the state – or some politician looking to score points – deciding we can’t have low class size or a robotics club or a fencing team or an opera performance (Great Neck South High marks its 50th anniversary full-scale opera production, April 12). This community has decided these things are just as important to our district’s mission of helping every child fulfill their full potential as cramming the latest incarnation of ELA and math or operating school buildings as if they were prisons. Our mission has been to instill a love of life-long learning. And the investment this community has made in public education has brought solid ROI day after day.

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Sierra Club Applauds Cuomo Commitment to Advancing Clean, Renewable Energy in State of State

Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated his support for offshore windpower project off Long Island in his 2019 State of the State address © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Environmentalists are hailing energy and environmental legacy initiatives in New York State  proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his his annual State of the State and budget address.

“Governor Cuomo made historic commitments today supporting the advancement of clean energy throughout the state,” stated Lisa Dix, Senior New York Campaign Manager for the Sierra Club. “With a mandate to source 70 percent of the state’s energy through renewables by 2030, doubling New York’s distributed solar target and quadrupling the current offshore wind targets, the Governor has proven that he is a national leader determined to make New York a 21st century, renewable energy, economic powerhouse. Through massive investments in offshore wind ports and clean energy job training centers, New York will be the regional hub for the offshore wind industry. Working with the administration, climate-affected communities and labor, we will create long-term, family-wage jobs, while supporting a robust supply chain and multiplying economic development opportunities for New Yorkers.”

The initiatives include commitments to:

New York’s “Green New Deal”: The Governor restated his December goal of making New York 100 percent carbon neutral by 2040. The Administration will map how New York will achieve carbon neutrality, while providing a just and fair transition for communities and workers. This initiative includes a $10 billion “Green Future Fund” that supports climate priorities and emissions reduction goals and $70 million to provide initial funding for communities affected by the clean energy transition.

Increased Clean Energy Standard Target: New York is now the second state after Hawaii with the most ambitious clean energy targets in the nation, with a new goal of sourcing 70 percent of New York’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030, including the most ambitious off-shore windpower program in the country. This doubles the current targets for energy storage, distributed solar, large scale solar and wind and quadruples the offshore wind targets.

Increased Green Infrastructure and Jobs: With the Governor committing to building nearly four times more offshore wind by 2035 than he initially stated, this is the most ambitious offshore wind generation commitment in the country. New York will nearly triple the offshore wind commitment any state has made before. Additionally, about $200 million of the budget will be invested in building offshore wind ports and clean energy job training centers.

Clean Transportation and Congestion Pricing: The Governor urged the legislature to pass congestion pricing legislation to make the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) more reliable for years to come. Through congestion pricing, the state would make $15 billion to invest back into the MTA. The Governor also committed to over $3 billion in funding for clean energy and clean transportation infrastructure for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. The Governor, however, fell short in setting an enforceable commitment to reducing emissions from New York’s transportation sector, the economic sector responsible for the most climate/carbon pollution in New York State.

Cuomo Lays Out Ambitious Progressive Justice Agenda for 3rd Term, Draws Contrast With Federal Government Failures

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivering his inaugural address at Ellis Island: “I don’t fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In an inaugural address worthy of a president, Andrew Cuomo, sworn in for his third term as Governor of New York State, pledged to fulfill an ambitious, progressive Justice Agenda: voting reform, strengthening gun laws, protecting health care, legalizing marijuana and reforming the criminal justice system. The venue was key to his message: the great hall at Ellis Island where millions of impoverished immigrants, the forebears of so many New Yorkers, escaped poverty and persecution to pursue the American Dream, and standing as the greatest symbol of difference with the federal administration.

The setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government, forced by Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to build a wall across the length of the southern border with Mexico, has caused a cascading series of closures at national parks and monuments, but New York State is paying to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open, and he used it as a symbol of what the state stands for and would strive for, and as a parable for the different approaches to leadership and governance.

Hallowed Ground: New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his third inaugural address in the great hall of Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants passed through in pursuit of the American Dream © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Let New York say that the federal government may shut itself down, but it will never extinguish the Statue of Liberty’s torch. It will never erase the words of her poem. They will never close our harbor. They will never close our hearts. They will never close this hall of dreamers. They will never disrespect the legacy they left,” he declared.

 “When they write the history books about this time and place, I believe they will record this period as one of global and national unrest. A time that saw thousands of new immigrants reaching for our borders in search of hope. A time that saw troubled, frightened, American citizens frustrated by economic stagnation and a deteriorating democracy, have grave new doubts about where our country is headed. 

“There is now a fundamental questioning of the viability of the American promise. A covenant that created our nation’s founding 242 years ago and reached full flower right here in this Great Hall for our ancestors yearning to breathe free, illuminated by the torch of our great Lady in the Harbor. A land that would work with you to lift you up to reach new heights, as high as your wings and work could carry you, with individual freedom and equal rights for all. An American promise grounded on the theory that we would work together.

“This sacred compact has held firm through the centuries, through world wars, internal dissension, and economic depressions. Through it all, we overcame, we rallied as one, and we built the strongest nation on the globe. There is no other nation that can threaten us. America’s only threat is from within: it is the growing division amongst us. The threat is when we see ourselves as black or white, foreign or native born, instead of as Americans. As Christians or Jews or Muslims, gay or straight, instead of as Americans. That, my friends, is truly frightening.

“And that is the threat that we face today. As our nation once confronted a great economic depression, we now confront a great social depression. People’s frustration is turning to fear and the fear is turning to anger and the anger is turning to division. It is impossible to overstate how dangerous, how malignant this condition is. It is like a cancer that is spreading throughout our society, a disease that causes one cell in the body politic to attack other cells, to turn one against one another.”

He added, “It may surprise you, but I don’t fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose.”

He said, The hard, but true path is to confront and actually solve the problem. The easy, but false path is to use the anger to blame someone else, and the easiest target to blame is always the people who are different. And this federal government has sought to demonize our differences and make our diversity our greatest weakness, rather than our greatest strength. We always knew, we always knew that the concept of E Pluribus Unum, forging one people from many different origins would be difficult, we knew it.”

In setting out his progressive agenda and to counter the skepticism that it could be accomplished, Cuomo noted that now that both houses of the Legislature are Democratic, “I feel liberated. I felt like I was fighting with one arm tied behind my back. And we will not repeat mistakes of the past. We know hollow campaign rhetoric and false political posturing only aggravates the frustration…

“New Yorkers know the difference between rhetoric and results. We either perform by delivering real solutions that restore hope and progress in people’s lives or we fail. It is that simple. Either the government works or the government doesn’t work. Either the government delivers or the government delivers. And if we don’t deliver, we fail. But, in New York failure is not an option, my friends.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo is sworn into his third term by Justice Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo, who has in his prior two terms done bold things on the scale of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was New York State governor, in fact, invoked FDR, saying, “Just as FDR turned the frustration of the economic depression into a movement that passed the New Deal, let New Yorkers’ frustration of the social depression to pass a new justice agenda – advancing social racial and economic justice – and let us address our issues, our very real issues with a progressive agenda – not a regressive agenda – an agenda that moves us up, forward and united, not down, backwards and divided.”

He laid out an ambitious agenda: “Within my first 100 days, I will propose to the new Democratic Legislature the most progressive agenda this state has ever seen, period.

“From voting reforms, to Roe v. Wade for New York, to protecting a woman’s right to choose. To better gun laws, to healthcare protection, to legalizing marijuana, to protecting the labor movement, to a green new deal, to real criminal justice reform – we will make history and New York will move forward. Not by building a wall, my friends, but by building new bridges, and building new airports, and creating new middle class jobs and an economic future for the next generation and showing us how good we can be at our best when we are together.”

Cuomo declared, “We will get it done. And it won’t just be what New York got done at this defining moment, but how we did it. The way we’re going to do it is by bringing people together. Democrats and Republicans. Upstate and downstate. Young and old. All of us together because we believe, in New York, that we can be a people truly guided by our better angels. Because New York believes that our interconnection and interdependence come from our essential goodness.

“It is New York’s duty, it is New York’s destiny, it is New York’s legacy to bring the light to lead the way through the darkness and I pledge to the people of the State of New York, that’s what we will do together.”

The setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government has caused a cascading series of closures at national parks and monuments, but New York State is paying to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue, in giving the invocation, evoked memory of arriving in the United States from Austria in 1947 as a refugee of the Holocaust. Speaking about the four pillars of freedom – to worship, speech, freedom from want and fear, he called on leaders to fight “to restore freedom from fear for all Americans.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

One after another of the state leaders sworn into office – Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Latisha James – referred to immigrants and their own origins, coming from humble circumstances.

Governor Cuomo reemphasized the point: “we believe the promise that attracted 5000 people a day to come from across the globe to this sacred place, through this portal on Ellis Island, that this is not a faded memory of yesterday, but rather a shining beacon for a better tomorrow. 

“Ellis Island remains the place where Maud McKoy arrived from the poor island of Jamaica. Whose son was educated in New York public schools, and rose to become the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“It is the place where Rose and Joseph Amster, Jewish immigrants from Austria arrived, whose Brooklyn-born granddaughter would become Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg.

“This is the place, and this is the promise that made America, America. And no one can ever forget that. It doesn’t matter how high one is raised, or what office one’s occupying. Never forget where you came from, and never forget or deny this place. Because this is the place where Richard Cawley arrived fleeing starvation in Ireland, and whose grandson is now Vice President Mike Pence.”

“This is the harbor where Frederick Trump [Drumpf] arrived from Germany, and whose grandson would become President of the United States. Don’t you tell me Ellis Island isn’t real, and true, and the promise it made America lives today, because it does,” he said in the only part of his address in which he referred to Trump by name.

Referring to his father, Mario Cuomo, who passed away on January 1 four years ago, he said, “he would implore us all each and every one to stand against the tide to fight back and that New York should lead by example by the power of our example and lift up New York to show the nation the way forward, show them the better way. And he would be right.”

Here are more highlights from the event:

Letitia James, the first woman and first black to hold the office of Attorney General in New York State, is sworn in my Reverend Anthony L. Trufant, Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church.  “We stand today on hallowed ground… where refugees came looking for a brighter future under the torch of liberty,” and pledged to fight for justice for all against the powerful. “I believe the law is the greatest equalizer, the force against government inertia and entrenched interests.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who has spent 32 years in state public service, is administered the oath of office by Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals. DiNapoli pledged to continue his campaign for transparency and accountability, and to fulfill his responsibility to the 1.1 million New Yorkers vested in the state’s pension system © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Kathleen C. Hochul is administered the oath of office of Lieutenant Governor by Paul Feinman, Associate Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul pointed to the “unprecedented social and economic progress of the last four years. We will build on that foundation” and reaffirmed her belief in the “power of public service to make sure tomorrows are better than yesterdays.” She reflected on her grandmother who came through Ellis Island to the United States 90 years ago as an impoverished woman from Ireland who became a domestic servant. “She achieved the ideal for her children, who built companies, became educators, served in the military and whose granddaughter became a member of Congress and Lt. Governor. She pledged to draw upon her grandmother’s strength to fight for women’s pay equity, child care, combat sexual assault. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
More than a dozen green energy activists arrive to send message to Cuomo and cabinet as they board the ferry to Ellis Island for Cuomo’s inauguration; two Trump 2020 supporters also showed up © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Governor Cuomo, Cardinal Dolan Participate in Interfaith Vigil for Victims of Hate

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo addresses an interfaith prayer vigil for the victims of the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Following the deadliest assault on the Jewish Community in US History, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.

Earlier in the day, Governor Cuomo announced that the $10 million grant program to help protect New York’s non-public schools and cultural centers, including religious-based institutions, against hate crimes is now accepting applications. Additionally, the Governor directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, November 4 in honor of the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.

Cuomo began by evoking Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s extraordinary background as exemplifying America and New York State:

Cantors Dan Mutlu and Julia Cadrain are joined by Reverend Bertram Johnson and Imans Shansi Ali and Tahir Kukaj in singing “I Will Build This World” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“The Rabbi was born in South Korea, to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, and a father who was an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew.  Her father’s ancestors emigrated from Romania to the United States. At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family.

“She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor and as a rabbi in the world. My friends, that says it all – God Bless America. Only in America. She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in its 175-year history.  God Bless the state of New York.

“But we gather tonight on a somber moment, because this is a dark and frightening time in our nation. Our better angels are being overpowered. The character of America is being perverted. And yes, the power of hate is overtaking the power of love. We mourn and we embrace the families of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh and grieve with them. We mourn and grieve for the African American community in Kentucky. And, we suffer with those who endured the anxiety and threats of mail bombs last week.

“But we would not be here tonight if these were isolated incidents. They are not. There is a frightening pattern developing on many levels of American society. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 57 percent nationwide. Neo-Nazi groups have increased 22 percent in this country. Nativists and white supremacy groups are on the rise. At the demonstration in Charlottesville in August, 2017, members of the Ku Klux Klan felt so empowered they didn’t even need to wear hoods to hide their faces. The societal fabric of America is stressed and frayed. We gather this evening to pray and to marshal the voices of support and love as an antidote to the forces of division and hate.

NGovernor Andrew Cuomo: “There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“Elie Wiesel said, ‘there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ As Governor, I pray with you this evening. But as Governor, I also state in the strongest terms that we are a nation of laws and we are a state is a state of laws, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination or hate in the state of New York. Hate is not protected by our law, not in speech and not in action. Quite the opposite. And our state has the most aggressive hate crimes laws in the county and I announced today that we are doubling both our security efforts and our prevention efforts. You have my word as governor that we will stamp out the evil of discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head.  The Jewish community is an important member of the family of New York and we will protect our family–all together, all united.

“But I am afraid that enforcing the law, while an essential important step is not the only step. Being prepared to fight the fire is necessary, but we must work to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. I feel as if we are standing in a field of dry grass with smoldering embers surrounding us.  And a strong wind is shifting directions. We must stamp out the embers before they become flames and we must reduce the winds of hate that threaten the fields of peace.

“There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.

“In school, one of the first lessons we learn about America is when we are asked to raise our hands to the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. Whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, we are indivisible.

“Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be differences because we were born as a collection across the globe. But we would have, as Jefferson said, “a decent respect” for the opinions of others. One of our Founders’ first acts was to pass a law to make the motto on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. It set the tone of unity and commonality. The very same founders didn’t fear immigration, they embraced it. It was the British government’s bid to block migration to the colonies, that was among one of the reasons cited for the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.

“The tremendous right to practice your religion of freedom was a powerful magnet drawing many to America. The Pilgrims were separatists from the Church of England, the Huguenots settled the Hudson Valley, French Protestants fleeing persecution in Roman Catholic France, English Catholics under George Calvert colonized Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Jewish people in Rhode Island, seeking the religious freedom established by Roger Williams.

Some 1250 people attended the Interfaith Prayer Vigil for those massacred at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh at Central Synagogue, built in 1872, the oldest continuously operated synagogue in New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“One year into his presidency, George Washington visited a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island as the first amendment was being debated. To his Jewish hosts, Washington wrote a remarkable letter.  He reasserted that the Government of the United States, quote, ‘gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, and requires only that the people who live under the protection of the government conduct themselves as good citizens.’

“Washington quoted the bible to remind them that, in effect, they had reached their Promised Land: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’

“That was George Washington. There was no period that tested our unity more than the Civil War. And as the war closed, President Abraham Lincoln pointed the nation to the future in his Second Inaugural Address, saying: ‘With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds — to achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace.’

“Lincoln’s invoking god is relevant and instructive. We are one nation under God. It is not just our government that instructs peace and tolerance, but our religious heritage as well. We are gathered in a house of worship today. Christianity teaches us tolerance. Matthew 25 instructs us Catholicism to do for the least of our brothers.  Judaism speaks to the concept of Tikkun Olam, to reach out and heal the breach, and the concept of Tzedakah literally charity, but more broadly meaning the concept of social justice. Buddhism, Islam, virtually every religion speaks of tolerance, acceptance, and condemns violence.

“The victims in Pittsburgh were engaged in a sacred Jewish naming ceremony of a newborn—a bris—celebrating the joy of a new life, only to perish in the face of hate. We will not let them die in vain. We must once again, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We must rise above our traditional political divisions. We must refrain from fanning the embers of hate before the flames are out of control. Our American values override our political, partisan differences. Intolerant voices of division must be condemned by all, and not episodically, but consistently. Not only for public consumption but genuinely with personal commitment. Political debate must honor Jefferson’s mandate of civil discourse. Our political leaders must heed this wisdom today.

“At this time of chaos, confusion, ignorance and fear, this nation needs a light to follow. And Let that light be the torch that is held by the great lady in our harbor. Let New York State once again serve this nation as an example to follow. That is the legacy of this great state: throughout history, a beacon of progressive values. We are home to 19 million people from every nation on the globe–New York State is the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. We are not threatened by diversity, we celebrate diversity. Generations of immigrants stepped off ships and planes onto our shores. This state has thrived because we have no tolerance for discrimination. Not in our laws, and not in our spirit. We are a people of differences, but we have forged community through chords of commonality. This state exemplifies the best of the American spirit.

“The Rabbi asks us what we can do. Let us commit ourselves this evening to a constructive course of action. Let New Yorkers exemplify what it means to be a true American patriot. Let New York show this nation what the flag actually means. Let us lead forward in the way of darkness. Let us lead as a government, as a community and let us lead as individual citizens. Let us lead this nation at this time of confusion by the power of our example. There is no place for hate in our state and New York lives by the credo: that the most powerful four-letter word is still love.” 

“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children,” said Rabbi Angela Buchdahl © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

In her remarks, Rabbi Buchdahl noted that she expressed concern of the rise in anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashanah services. “I never expected, six weeks later, the worst attack on Jews in the United States ever. It is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare, impossible to believe here in America. Not just as Jews – Muslims, immigrants – day after pipe bombs against prominent Democrats, and two Blacks shot dead. Charlottesville. A gay nightclub in Florida. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. There is a systemic environment where hate can grow.

“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children.

Rising Anti-Semitism, demonization of immigrants and refugees, gun violence, fake news on social media and the dark web.

“But now, we call to our higher selves. We ask, how do we make sure love wins, solidarity and faith and goodness win. There are hundreds of vigils taking place all over the nation and the world.

“You may have needed courage to show up in a synagogue. You will need more courage to build alliances even with people with whom you don’t agree and to people who hate us, in order to build bridges and rise above cynicism.”

The bimah was lined with representatives of the spectrum of faith in New York.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel reading the Sunday after the deadliest attack on Jews in America began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel on Sunday, the day after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” “The people in St. Patrick’s gasped at the profound nature of that: “it was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” Jesus, he said, “the faithful Jew.”

Reverend Amy Butler pointed to the power of words. “The violence we saw did not begin at 9:54 on a Saturday morning. It was generations of hate, lies that has found refuge in the political climate where words are weaponized for political gain. Language that dehumanizes, foments suspicion and fear rather than love and compassion. That’s what resulted in a gunman walking into a synagogue. We reject discrimination and hatred.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel reading the Sunday after the deadliest attack on Jews in America began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pastor Amandus Deer  noted that he has spoken from Central Synagogue’s bimah dozens of times to mark “Shoah,” which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, with a call to “Never Again.”  “I am heart broken,” he said, leading a reading of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”

Rabbi Buchdahl pointed to the ancient Jewish custom of tearing cloth to mourn a close relative. “We lost 13 innocent souls [11 in Pittsburgh and two African Americans gunned down in Kentucky] to acts of hate and violence. We are all mourners. They might want to t3ear our community apart; they can’t tear what binds us together as Americans. The ribbons remind us of the work we have to do.”

Tearing ribbons, lighting candles and saying prayers to remember the victims of hate at the Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Each of the dignitaries then lit a candle for those who were taken and a special prayer of memory was recited.  Noting the obligation to remember those who have died, Rabbi Steinmetz remarked that  one of the murdered, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, would say kaddish for those who died but did not leave family to recite the prayer. “His reason was that they would not be forgotten. “

The synagogue, which dates from 1872 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in New York City, packed some 1,250 people into every seat.

Participants included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Cantor Dan Mutlu,Cantor Julia Cadrain, Rabbi Mo Salth, Cardinal timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr, Iman Shansi Ali, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Iman Tahir Kukaj, Reverend Bertram Johnson, Dianne Lob, Rabbi Deborah Joselow, Rabbi Lori Koffman, Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, and Dr.Simran Jeet Singh.

The interfaith service concluded with a prayerful singing of a song which begins, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.”

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Governor Cuomo Welcomes Trump Back to NYS: ‘Perhaps This Trip Will Help You Remember What Makes this State, this Nation Great’

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo with JoAnn Smith, CEO of Nassau County Planned Parenthood, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and members of Planned Parenthood. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued the following statement in honor of Donald Trump’s visit to New York State:

Mr. President, welcome back to New York, the progressive capital of the nation.

“Despite being a native New Yorker, since you took office, you have attacked our healthcare, passed a tax law that punished New York in order to fund corporate tax cuts, ripped immigrant New Yorkers from their families, launched an assault on our environment, and undermined the basic values on which this state and this nation were built.

“You say you want to make this country great again, but you have clearly forgotten what made this country great in the first place. Perhaps you can use this trip to New York to help you remember what truly makes this state and this nation great.

“While in Utica, I urge you to meet with the immigrants and refugees who are breathing new life into the city, which has a higher proportion of immigrants than any other city in upstate New York.

“I urge you to visit Seneca Falls, where women first fought for equal rights—a legacy New York is fighting to uphold against your administration’s ongoing attacks on women.

“I urge you to visit Westchester, where jobs are on the rise and the economy is booming despite your partisan and punitive tax policies that are directly responsible for home sales dropping 18 percent.

“I urge you to visit the new Buffalo, where an economic renaissance is transforming the city without resorting to harmful tariffs or trying to revive the industries of yesterday.

“I urge you to visit the beautiful Long Island beaches and thriving marine economy that are threatened by your administration’s reckless proposal to drill off our shores. In New York, we are advancing the strongest environmental program in the nation, and we say no way, no how to your continued assault on our planet.

“I urge you to meet with Mr. Pablo Villavicencio, a father, husband and aspiring American citizen who was torn away from his family and locked away for 53 days because of your anti-immigrant agenda. I was proud to fight for his freedom and will always stand with our immigrant communities against your un-American policies.

“I urge you to visit the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, a symbol of New York’s proud building spirit, constructed by the men and women of organized labor, that today is setting the example for your administration that pledged but failed to follow through on your own rebuilding efforts.

“And I urge you to visit the Leadership and Public Service High School in New York City, where I joined students there who, along with others across our state and nation, are calling for action on gun safety. While your administration remains beholden to the NRA and ignores the young people crying out for change, New York is proud to be taking on the NRA and moving to strengthen our nation-leading gun safety laws to keep our communities safe.

“Mr. President, I urge you to visit the Statue of Liberty in our harbor to remember the American promise made to your grandfather when he first came to this country as an immigrant—the promise of equality, hope and opportunity for all.

“Perhaps then you will remember what made this country great.”

 

Dignitaries Come out to Little Neck Queens 91st Memorial Day Parade, One of Largest in Nation, to Honor Fallen, Vets

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYC Public Advocate Tish James, among the dignitaries holding New York State banner at the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Little Neck, Queen’s presented its 91st Memorial Day Parade, considered one of the largest, longest Memorial Day parades in the nation, with 161 entities participating.

This year’s parade commemorated the centennial of World War I,  65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War. Grand Marshal Brigadier General William Seely, USMC representing the Department of the Navy, the featured branch,  “protecting our shores for 243 years”. The Honorary Grand Marshal was Deborah Crosby, who in 2015, retrieved the remains of her father, Frederick Peter Crosby, USN, from Vietnam.

the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Among the dignitaries: US Senator Charles Schumer, US Congressman Tom Suozzi, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, NYC Public Advocate Leticia James, the Democratic candidate for New York Attorney General.

Elected officials and dignitaries at the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Also, First United States Volunteer Cavalry “Rough Riders’” Color Guard; Grand Marshal Brigadier General William Seely, USMC representing the Department of the Navy.

US Congressman Tom Suozzi joins the Rough Riders at the 91st Annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“At a time when this country is so divided, when there is tension, we have a day where we can come together and remember what our freedom, our democracy is all about.

“This Memorial Day, as we spend time with friends and loved ones, we remember those New Yorkers, from the North Country to Staten Island, who gave their lives for our nation, our values, and our way of life. Our nation’s armed forces have displayed extraordinary courage and made unimaginable sacrifices answering the call to serve, and we owe our eternal gratitude to them and their families.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: “At a time when this country is so divided, when there is tension, we have a day where we can come together and remember what our freedom, our democracy is all about. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my sincerest thanks to the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve, and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  On this day – and every day – we commemorate those selfless heroes who laid down their lives to protect our freedom and our democracy.”

Here are highlights:

NYC Public Advocate Tish James with Teen and Jr. Teen New York . © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade marked the 65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade marked the 65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Indigent Veterans Burial Fund contingent at 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Luke G, who was at the Battle of the Bulge, a “young” 94 years old © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Marching for the Jewish War Veterans of Queens contingent at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

US Senator Charles Schumer at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Francis Lewis High School’s Jr. ROTC at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Manhasset-Lakeville Volunteer FireFighters march in the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Harvest Church of New York at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Daughters of the American Revolution at the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Marching Band of Sullivan High School came from Sullivan, Missouri to march in the 91st Little Neck-Douglas Memorial Day Parade © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

For more information, visit www.lndmemorialday.org.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

New Yorkers Need to Demand State Legislators Support Cuomo’s Women’s Agenda

New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul addresses the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University: “The torch has now been passed to us. Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

New York State, the birthplace of women’s rights, is pushing for a second round of legislation to address persistent and institutional gender inequity. The state legislature needs to hear from advocates before the April 1 budget deadline.

It is laudable that these initiatives – in categories of Health, Safety, Workplace, Girls, and Family being forcefully advanced by Governor Cuomo – came after months of information gathering, listening tours, and the formation of regional Women’s Councils, coordinated by the governor’s Director of Women’s Affairs, Kelli Owens. Just having such a position is notable.

As Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a singular champion of women’s rights in New York State, said in her remarks that opened the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University on March 1,The genesis for the Council of Women and Girls came because of Washington – on the day the president said ‘We don’t need to be concerned’ and abolished the [Obama-era] Commission on Women and Girls, our governor, as in so many cases [climate action, environmental protection, gun control], stepped up to fill void created by Washington.”

Trump has moved aggressively to roll back gains women have made: restoring being a woman as a “pre-condition” for medical insurance, overturning the mandate that insurance companies provide contraception without co-pays, attacking Title X funding for health clinics including Planned Parenthood, advocating for legislation to curtail access to abortion.

Unless Congress takes action, the Violence Against Women Act will run out of funding in September. This landmark piece of legislation is a life-saver. Since its original passage, domestic violence cases are down by more than 65% nationally. If Congress’ “action” on reauthorizing CHIP is an indication, the Republican-controlled Congress will likely let this lapse as well, even as they cut billions of dollars for programs that directly affect women and families.

New York State – which Cuomo never fails to point out has been a progressive leader for the nation, a status he has worked to reclaim – has made some important gains during his administration, including aggressively pushing for economic development opportunities for Minority & Women-owned Enterprises, for wider access to pre-K programs, gun control, access to health care and guarantee for women’s reproductive rights.

In this second round of legislation and policies – notably several of which need to be adopted by the State Legislature before the April 1 deadline for adopting the budget – he is going after sexual harassment, pay equity, domestic violence, expanding access to child care, educational opportunities, job training and business investment.

New York has been celebrating the centennial of Women’s Suffrage since 1917, the year the state on its own gave women the right to vote, three years before the nation adopted the 19th Amendment.

But despite New York’s progressive policies, New York women still earn less than men for the same work: white women 89c, African American 66c, Hispanic women 54 c in New York, “and we’re the good state, where people are better off. Does that not tell you we have a long way to go?” Hochul said.

“We are convening forums around the state, to drill down why this is happening – part is institutional, cultural, part is that women don’t have childcare but want to continue on a career track, have talent, brilliance, but are primarily responsible for making sure kids are okay and there is not enough child care.” Also parental leave, not just for a newborn or adoption, but when a child or parent gets sick.

“You should be proud your state recognizes this challenge – we now have the most generous paid family leave policy – to relieve the stress of possibly losing a job when you are home with a new baby.”

“It’s about economic empowerment: getting more girls into STEM education and careers. It’s about safety and security – domestic violence” – something that has been crystallized in the Trump White House, notably with the tolerance of a credibly accused wife-beater as Trump’s secretary.

Budget initiatives (see details at https://www.ny.gov/2018-womens-opportunity-agenda-new-york/womens-opportunity-agenda-proposals) include:

Health initiatives: passing Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act codifying access to contraception; codifying Roe v. Wade into state law and constitution to insure health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty; mandating insurance coverage and insuring access to IVF and fertility services; combat maternal depression and establish a maternal mortality review board (NY ranks 30th in maternal mortality); add experts in women’s health and health disparities to the State Board of Medicine.

Safety: pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class; remove firearms from domestic abusers; combat sextortion and revenge porn; extend storage timeline for forensic rape kits at hospitals (from 30 days to at least five years, or when the victim turns 19); advance legislation to amend the Human Rights Law to protect all public school students from discrimination.

Workplace: combat sexual harassment in the workplace; call on NYS Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with women and minority leadership; reauthorize the State’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program; close the gender wage gap; support women returning to or advancing in the workforce with job training and placement services; invest $20 million in Women-Owned Businesses;  encourage more use of flexible work schedules.

Girls: expand access to computer science and engineering (STEM); launch “If You Can See It You Can Be It,” a day for girls to see what is possible; create K-12 learning module on healthy relationships; legislation requiring school districts to provide free menstrual products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12.

Family: invest $25 million to expand pre-K and after-school programs; increase state funding by $7 million  to provide working families with affordable child care; continue enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for working families; establish a new Child Care Availability Task Force.

“All these areas converge,” Colleen Merlo, Executive Director, Long Island Against Domestic Violence, said. “Gender equality cannot be achieved unless we address all these buckets….We see that women lose time at work because of domestic violence, so if we don’t create safety at home, they are losing time at work, so are not advancing, not getting equal pay or promotion – all are interconnected with safety.”

It’s also about making it easier to vote, adding early voting (which NYS doesn’t yet have), so women who work and care for children aren’t shut out of casting a ballot – part of Cuomo’s “Democracy Agenda.”

“The torch has now been passed to us,” Hochul stated. “Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way, that we spoke up for people without voices.”

What to do? First: contact state representatives to urge them to vote on the budget and legislation bolstering the Women’s Agenda. Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, among others, is mounting a lobbying day in Albany on March 13, to join Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and more than 1,000 activists from across New York State, to advocate for pro-reproductive health legislation.

Call and write representatives, yes. March, yes, Protest, yes. Spread the word with social media, yes. Vote, absolutely.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Issues Challenge to Trump: ‘This is the Moment’ to Stop Scourge of Gun Violence

New York State Governor tells Trump: “The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an open letter to President Trump.

Dear Mr. President,

The old adage is right: “go with your first instinct.” Your White House meeting with bipartisan federal legislators right after the Florida massacre appeared and was unscripted and productive. You essentially had one question that summed up what every American was feeling: “why?” Why sell guns to young people who can’t yet buy a beer? Why sell assault weapons that are designed to kill so many people so quickly? Why not take guns from the mentally ill before they hurt someone or themselves? Why not make sure every gun purchaser goes through a background check?

There was no answer from the electeds assembled, because there is no answer – except the one you suggested – they are afraid of the NRA.

Major political change comes when a window of opportunity opens and a leader seizes the moment. There are brief moments in history where attention, passion and drive combine to unite the American people and overwhelm the forces preserving the status quo and create change.

The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment. The Republicans will follow your lead. Yes, they fear the NRA, but they fear the enraged citizen majority more.

In New York, after the Sandy Hook massacre, the nation had a similar moment. It was a moment of grief and pain and anger. Sandy Hook touched the hearts and minds of every day Americans. It was anyone’s child – it was everyone’s child. In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook we passed the New York Safe Act – common sense gun safety. It has made a dramatic difference, it didn’t negatively affect any legal gun owners, and I believe it has saved lives.

Mentally ill and dangerous people shouldn’t have guns so we need universal background checks. When a person shows signs of mental distress or violence, there should be a provision for police to investigate and determine the facts – a “red flag bill.” Domestic violence offenders should not have guns. Assault weapons are too dangerous in the wrong hands and not worth the risk. In 1938 we outlawed machine guns in this Country precisely for the same reason: they were too dangerous if obtained by the wrong person. Does anyone miss not owning machine guns?

For those of us who serve in government, if we are lucky, we may have a few moments that present a real opportunity to make a lasting difference. There are brief openings where transformational progress is possible and you have that opportunity now. The moments are rare and fleeting. They are leadership moments: don’t squander it.

The political advisers are wrong. NRA members will be nervous about any government change and intervention but they will ultimately realize a functioning system vindicates legitimate gun owners rather than demonizing all. If you lose this moment, I am sad to say there will probably be another shooting and the Country will be in the same place, and it will once again pose the question that you posed – “why?” “Why didn’t we do anything about this after Florida?” You have the responsibility to stop that from happening.

In State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo Advances Far-Reaching Agenda to Build on Progressive Policy

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers the 2018 State of the State with an expansive progressive agenda of specific proposals for social, economic, environmental and political justice © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered his 2018 State of the State Address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, presenting a far-reaching 2018 agenda that delivers on the promise of progressive government by advancing a slate of critical social and economic policies to improve the lives of New Yorkers. The bold agenda includes a full package of legislative reforms, robust investments and targeted actions – from a comprehensive women’s rights agenda to a first-in-the-nation plan to fight the federal tax assault to nation-leading criminal justice reforms – that will increase opportunity for New Yorkers and ensure the Empire State continues to serve as a beacon of equality, unity and fairness for the nation.

These sweeping proposals build on seven years of progress under Governor Cuomo – passing a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free college, marriage equality, paid family leave, gun safety, infrastructure, and landmark criminal justice reforms, all while lowering taxes for the middle class, capping property taxes and keeping spending increases to the lowest levels in generations. In the face of a concerted federal assault from Washington, New York will continue to lead the way in 2018, fostering our shared values of opportunity, equality, fairness, and hope, and proving the competency of our progressive government.

“New York believes that there is no future built through division – but only through unity,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said. “The New York way is that tolerance is expected from all, inclusion is our operating principle, and forging community is the ultimate goal. For too long in this country, government has promised too much and delivered too little. This administration understands that effective government requires citizen confidence and management competence.  To better society, government leaders must be dreamers and doers; visionaries and achievers. We are facing unprecedented challenges to women’s rights, our immigrant community, the environment and our economy. New York is unwavering. We will continue to lead the nation by fighting to protect and advance the rights of all women, ensuring the integrity of our elections, safeguarding New York’s natural resources, creating the jobs of tomorrow, combating the federal assault on our tax code and reforming our criminal justice system so that wealth does not dictate outcome.”

Highlights of the Governor’s 2018 Agenda include:

  • Keeping New York Economically Competitive
  • Upholding the New York Promise
  • Expanding Educational Opportunity for All
  • Continuing Economic Opportunity and Growth Under NY Works
  • Providing A Cleaner, Greener and Healthier New York: The Wellness Agenda
  • Leading the Fight Against Climate Change
  • Advancing the Democracy Agenda
  • Building a Stronger, Safer New York

 The Governor’s 2018 Policy Book is available here.

Here is a run-down of the specific proposals:

KEEPING NEW YORK ECONOMICALLY COMPETITIVE

Since day one, Governor Cuomo has fought to reduce taxes for New Yorkers. Today all New Yorkers pay a lower state tax rate than when Governor Cuomo took office, and the Governor has secured the lowest middle class tax rate since 1947, the lowest corporate tax rate since 1968 and the lowest manufacturers tax rate since 1917. While Washington leaves our middle class behind, New York will continue to fight for our hardworking families.

  • Fight the Federal Tax Assault on New York: The recently enacted federal tax law is an assault on New York. By gutting the deductibility of state and local taxes, the law effectively raises middle class families’ property and state income taxes by 20 to 25 percent, and undermines a critical foundation of state and local government finances in New York State and across the nation. New York is already the top “donor state” in the nation—contributing $48 billion more annually to the federal government than it gets back—and under the new law the State will pay an additional $14 billion per year. Governor Cuomo believes that we must take dramatic action to preserve our state’s economy. He is putting forward a multi-part strategy to fight this assault on New York. First, we will challenge this unprecedented federal double taxation in court as unconstitutional, because it violates states’ rights and the principle of equal protection. Second, we will lead the nation’s resistance to the new law, starting a repeal-and-replace effort: “Tax Fairness for All” campaign. Third, we will take action to protect the state’s economy by exploring the feasibility of a major shift in tax policy, and are developing a plan to restructure the current income and payroll tax system, as well as create new opportunities for charitable contributions to support public programs. As we launch this massive and complicated undertaking, we will engage tax experts, employers, and other stakeholders in a thorough and collaborative process to produce a proposal that promotes fairness for New York’s taxpayers and safeguards the competitiveness of New York’s economy.
  • Address the Carried Interest Loophole: Despite promises to the contrary, the federal government left in place the so-called “carried interest” loophole. Using a multi-state approach, Governor Cuomo will address this Wall Street giveaway.
  • Reduce Taxes to Record Lows for Middle-Class New Yorkers: The Budget continues to lower Personal Income Tax rates for middle-class New Yorkers. With the middle class tax cuts of 2012, rates were lowered from 6.85 percent to 6.45 percent for taxpayers in the $40,000-$150,000 income bracket, and to 6.65 percent in the $150,000-$300,000 income bracket. Under these new reforms, the rate will drop even further this year, to 6.33 percent and 6.57 respectively. They will continue to drop all the way to 5.5 percent and 6 percent, respectively, when the cuts are fully phased in by 2025. The average New Yorker will save $250 in taxes in 2018, and $698 when fully phased in. These new lower tax rates will save middle class New Yorkers nearly $6.6 billion in just the first four years, and annual savings are projected to reach $4.2 billion and benefit 6 million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the state’s lowest middle class tax rates in more than 70 years.
  • Continue to Reduce the Local Property Tax Burden by Making the State’s County Shared Services Panels Permanent: Governor Cuomo has made a historic commitment to reducing local property taxes for millions of New Yorkers. New York State will build on the historic progress achieved by taking the next step forward to provide local governments with new tools to put money back in the pockets of middle-class families. The state will provide $225 million in the FY 2019 budget to meet the match commitment of the County Wide Shared Services Initiative and the Governor will work to make the state’s successful county-wide shared services panels permanent in order to institutionalize savings initiatives. The Governor proposes that state funding for local government performance aid be conditional on the continuation of shared services panels. The state will also ease rules on the creation of local healthcare consortia to reduce local health insurance costs. The Governor will direct the New York State Department of Financial Services to publish guidance and provide technical assistance to local governments in order to ease the process of creating health consortia, specifically for smaller municipalities. The Governor has directed the Department of State and other agencies to continue to work with local municipalities to examine other legal and policy impediments to shared services by municipalities, such as zoning and other functions, to be considered this session. Additionally, to help communities across the state take advantage of Smart Street Lighting technology and its taxpayer savings and energy efficiency benefits, Governor Cuomo will launch a statewide Smart Street Lighting program to convert 500,000 street lights to LED technology by 2025. This program has the potential to reduce energy consumption annually across the state by 482 gigawatt hours, the equivalent of 44,770 households, save taxpayers $87 million annually, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of light and safety of communities across the state. Finally, Governor Cuomo will continue the state’s local property tax relief program that will provide an average reduction of $380 in local property taxes to 2.6 million homeowners this year alone. 

UPHOLDING THE NEW YORK PROMISE 

Advancing the Women’s Agenda 

New York has a long and proud legacy of leading the way to advance women’s rights. From the birth of the women’s rights movement at Seneca Falls to the recent passage of the most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy in the nation, New York continues to champion women’s rights and break down barriers to equality.

In 2018, we will build on our progress by continuing to advance equality for women and protect our rights against federal attempts to stall and undermine us. The Council on Women and Girls will release a full set of policy recommendations to create opportunity for women to succeed in every area: work, health, safety, education and family life.

  • Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: The Governor will launch a multi-pronged agenda that targets sexual harassment in the workplace. The comprehensive reforms to protect women’s rights include legislation to prevent public dollars from being used to settle sexual harassment claims against individuals, void forced arbitration policies in employee contracts, and mandate that any companies that do business with the state disclose the number of sexual harassment adjudications and nondisclosure agreements they have executed.
  • Remove Firearms from Domestic Abusers: New York law prohibits the possession of firearms for individuals convicted of felony or “serious” offenses. However, this excludes certain misdemeanor offenses involving domestic violence, such as assault and battery crimes or strangulation. To ensure that all domestic violence offenders are held to the same standard, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to include all domestic violence misdemeanors on the list of prohibited offenses.
  • End Sextortion and Revenge Porn: To end this disturbing form of sexual exploitation, Governor Cuomo proposes a two-pronged approach that will criminalize disclosing or threatening to disclose sexually compromising images or videos with the intent to cause material harm to the victim’s mental or emotional health or to compel the victim to undertake some sexual act; and criminalize compelling a person to expose him or herself or engage in sexual conduct by threatening to harm the victim’s health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships. This new legislation will create the following crimes, which will also require registration as a sex offender:
  • Unlawful Publication of Sexual Images: With intent to cause material harm to mental or emotional health, a person (1) disseminates images of intimate sexual nature; or (2) compels another to engage in conduct by threatening to disseminate images of an intimate sexual nature. This will be a class A misdemeanor; punishable by up to one year in jail or three years of probation.
  • Sexual Extortion in the 3rd Degree: A person compels or induces another person to expose his or her sexual or intimate parts or engage in sexual conduct by instilling a fear in him or her that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor will perform an act intended to harm the person, or another person, with respect to his or her health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships. This will be a class E Felony; punishable by up to four years in prison.
  • Sexual Extortion in the 2nd Degree: Same as above but the victim is under 17-years-old. This will be a class D Felony; punishable by up to seven years in prison.
  • Sexual Extortion in the 1st Degree: Same as above but the victim is under 15-years-old. This will be a class C Felony; punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
  • Codify Roe v. Wade into State Law: For years, Governor Cuomo has pushed to codify the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings into state law to secure a woman’s access to reproductive health options. This year, the Governor will again call for the passage of legislation to ensure the rights of women to make personal health care decisions to protect their health in addition to their life, and to ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. The Governor will also continue to champion a constitutional amendment to codify these protections into the state constitution.
  • Pass the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act: Contraception has been a critical tool for women to gain economic and social independence. The use and availability of contraception also reduces the rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion. As the federal government rolls back access to reproductive health care, New York will not be part of an attempt to undermine the independence of women. In 2017, Governor Cuomo fought to uphold the reproductive health protections of the Affordable Care Act, no matter what happened at the federal level, by enacting regulations that ensured access to cost-free contraception and medically necessary abortion. In 2018, the Governor will advance a program bill to enshrine access to contraception including emergency contraception into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
  • Call on the New York State Common Retirement Fund to Invest in Companies with Women and Minority Leadership: New York State’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises Program has seen dramatic increases in participation due to the Governor’s goal of 30 percent MWBE State contract utilization—the highest goal of any state in the nation. However, despite this progress, women and minorities remain severely underrepresented in business ownership, in management roles and on corporate boards. To further address these imbalances, in 2018, Governor Cuomo will call for the New York Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with adequate female and minority representation in their management and on their boards of directors. The Governor will work with Comptroller DiNapoli to put in place processes and standards to systematically invest in companies that invest in women and minority leadership.
  • Reauthorize MWBE Program Legislation and Expand the MWBE Program to All State-Funded Contracts: Since taking office in 2011, Governor Cuomo has transformed the State’s MWBE program. In order to continue building on this promise, Governor Cuomo will propose legislation during the 2018 session that will reauthorize the law and expand the MWBE Program requirements to more contracts entirely funded by the state. The legislation will require MWBE goals on state funds used for contracting purposes on the local level. This will leverage the largest pool of state funding in history to combat systemic discrimination and create new opportunities for MWBE participation. 

Criminal Justice For All 

Governor Cuomo has advanced significant criminal justice reforms throughout his time in office, improving every stage of the justice system from arrest to community reentry. Three major reforms were passed this past year, including Raising the Age of criminal responsibility, extending the landmark Hurrell-Harring settlement’s indigent criminal defense reforms to the entire state, and requiring law enforcement to video-record interrogations for serious offenses, as well as allowing properly-conducted witness identification into evidence at trial. In 2018, New York will build on this bold progress by restoring basic fairness to our state’s criminal justice system.

  • Reshape Bail and Pretrial Detention: When New York’s laws governing bail were enacted back in the 1970s they were among the most progressive in the nation. Unfortunately, the status quo is no longer acceptable. Governor Cuomo is proposing legislation that will eliminate monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. Instead, people will be released either on their own recognizance or with non-monetary conditions imposed by the court, such as reporting to a pretrial services agency. For people charged with a violent felony offense, both monetary and non-monetary bail will be permitted, but only after a judge conducts an individualized review of the nature of the case and the defendant’s personal and financial circumstances. If monetary bail is set, the court must give the defendant a choice between cash or bail industry bonds and an alternative form of bail such as an unsecured or partially secured bond. Additionally, in limited cases such as domestic violence offenses, cases involving serious violence, or when a defendant commits a new crime while out on pretrial release, a judge could order, after due process, a defendant to be held in jail pretrial without bail if they find the defendant poses a significant flight risk or if there is a current threat to a reasonably identifiable person’s physical safety.
  • Expand the Discovery Process: Under Governor Cuomo’s proposal, prosecutors and the defense will have to share information in a multi-stage time frame before a trial takes place. This will include disclosure of evidence and information favorable to the defense; intended exhibits; expert opinion evidence; witnesses’ criminal history information; and search warrant information will be made available to defendants in a timely and consistent manner. Doing so ensures attorneys have the tools necessary to adequately represent their clients. Additionally, along with an accelerated disclosure of witness information, this plan will provide numerous special procedures to ensure the safety of those witnesses and the integrity of the judicial process.
  • Improve Access to a Speedy Trial: At the Governor’s direction, new legislation being advanced will guarantee that criminal cases proceed to trial without undue delay and that people are not held in jail for unreasonable periods of time. The legislation will reduce unnecessary delays and adjournments in court proceedings, requiring that people held in custody – not just their attorneys – consent to a speedy trial waiver that must be approved by a judge. These waivers include a deadline so that the defendant, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges understand when the trial is scheduled and will only be granted after the defendant has made an appearance before a judge. Courts will also conduct periodic reviews of cases where defendants are held in detention, to assess the prosecutor’s statement of readiness, reconsider bail status if appropriate, and schedule a pre-trial conference. A motion to dismiss must also now be made at least 20 days before the trial begins and it must include sworn factual allegations specifying the time periods that are being charged against the prosecution.
  • Transform Civil Asset Forfeiture: New legislation will ban all asset seizures, unless an arrest is made. In cases where people are acquitted or the case is otherwise dismissed, they would get their money and valuables returned. Additionally, the State Division of Criminal Justice Services will expand reporting requirements to include additional information, such as demographic and geographic data, to better understand how civil asset forfeiture is used in New York State. Once a more comprehensive data set is created, New York will then evaluate the asset forfeiture system and make the appropriate changes to fix the identified issues.
  • Improve the Re-Entry Process: The Governor is proposing to remove outdated statutory bans on occupational licensing for professions outside of law enforcement and instead, applicants will be assessed on an individual basis. The mandatory suspension of driver’s licenses following a drug conviction will also be removed to allow people to travel to work and attend drug treatment, as long as the crimes did not involve driving. Additionally, the Governor will safely widen release opportunities for people who have shown rehabilitation by expanding the type and variety of programs provided in state prisons to make those individuals eligible for merit release and limited credit time allowances. Under the proposal, the Parole Board will examine cases under a new “geriatric parole” provision in which the Board can balance any public safety risk posed by these individuals with their need for age-appropriate treatment in the community. The reforms will also speed returning citizens’ reintegration to society by reducing their financial burdens after release, including removing the current parole supervision fee and having local child support enforcement offices review child support orders for people incarcerated over six months.  Finally, the Governor has ordered a comprehensive review of parole revocation guidelines and practices to determine appropriate alternatives to incarceration for those who violate technical parole conditions but pose no risk to public safety.
  • Reduce New York’s Use of Solitary Confinement: In 2016, Governor Cuomo began implementing a historic agreement reached between the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to reduce the frequency and duration of solitary confinement and to improve conditions within state prisons. This year, the State intends to continue this massive overhaul by having the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision close over 1,200 solitary housing unit beds throughout New York State’s prisons.
  • Protect the Rights and Safety of New Yorkers in Local Jails: To address deficiencies in all local jails, the Governor proposes an immediate enforcement strategy from the State Commission of Correction. The Commission—which is statutorily authorized to oversee all correctional facilities—will undertake a comprehensive review of facilities throughout New York that have repeatedly and egregiously failed to meet well-established standards of safety, security, and service. This review will include an analysis of reportable incidents, deaths in custody, and physical facility conditions. Upon the Commission’s determination, local jails with persistent, pervasive problems will be required to create and adhere to a corrective action plan to either improve their facilities—or close them in an expedited manner—to ensure the safety for both staff and incarcerated individuals.
  • Support the Child Victims Act: The Governor seeks to eliminate statutes of limitation for all sexually-related criminal cases when committed against a person who is less than 18 years of age. Further, the Governor seeks to extend the statute of limitations for civil claims from three years from a victim’s 18th birthday to 50 years from the date of the offense. This would give many victims the opportunity to have their day in court. For any victim who is still unable to bring a lawsuit, the Governor would open a one-year window in which these victims are able to commence their claims. Finally, the Governor will eliminate the need to file a notice of claim with a public entity before being able to bring a lawsuit against that entity.

Launching A Comprehensive Plan to Attack Homelessness 

The Governor is committed to implementing innovative solutions to address the multi-faceted problem of homelessness, including expanding access to affordable housing across the state. In 2016, the Governor launched a landmark $20 billion, five-year plan to combat homelessness and advance the construction of affordable housing in New York State, which included $10 billion to end the homelessness crisis and support housing programs, rental subsidies and other shelter costs in New York City and across the state. The state’s new comprehensive plan to attack homelessness will build on the progress achieved to date.

  • Increase Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness: To strengthen shelter services for homeless individuals living with mental illness in existing homeless shelters, Governor Cuomo will direct the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to work together to ensure that Assertive Community Treatment teams are connected to existing shelters, so that individuals with mental illness can access needed treatment. In addition, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services will make on-site peer-delivered substance abuse treatment services available in 14 existing shelters across the state. These on-site services will assist approximately 200 homeless individuals with substance use disorder by providing services in shelters that are located in areas that have seen the biggest increases in substance use.
  • Require Outreach and a Comprehensive Homeless Services Plan from Each Local Social Services District: Homelessness is on the rise and street homelessness is the most difficult problem to solve. Governor Cuomo will require that local governments have an effective outreach program to address street homelessness as a condition of receiving state funding for homelessness services. He is also directing that the MTA, the Port Authority, Centro, Capital District Transportation Authority, the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority and the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority do the same. The Governor will direct the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to require social services districts to engage in planning activities related to street outreach, homelessness prevention activities, rapid rehousing, and ongoing housing stability for the formerly homeless. The State will also require social service districts to engage with the State’s ongoing efforts, set reasonable goals that are data-driven and uniquely tailored to the needs of its communities, and to report regularly on progress made. The State will provide technical assistance throughout the planning process by releasing guidance related to best practices and policies that can facilitate success.

We Are All New Yorkers – Immigrants’ Rights 

New York State and this nation were founded on the premise that we are all created equal. While this promise may be threatened by acts of hate and intolerance, we must remember that we are stronger than that – we are one New York and we are all immigrants. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we will continue our legacy of protecting the rights and freedoms of all New Yorkers so that they have the opportunity to succeed and contribute to our state’s cultural and economic strength.

  • Continue the First-In-the-Nation Liberty Defense Project to Provide Critical Legal Representation to Immigrants: Last year, Governor Cuomo successfully launched the Liberty Defense Project, a first-in-the nation, state-led, public-private legal defense fund to ensure that all immigrants, regardless of status, have access to high quality legal counsel. In partnership with leading nonprofit legal service providers, the project has significantly expanded the availability of immigration attorneys statewide. As misguided immigration policy at the federal level continues to threaten New York’s immigrant families, Governor Cuomo will work to ensure that the Liberty Defense Project continue to sustain and grow the network of legal service providers providing these critical service in defense of our immigrant communities.
  • Pass the DREAM Act: Since 2002, undocumented students qualify for in-state tuition at SUNY and CUNY if they graduated from a New York high school or received a GED in the state. Yet, each year, many talented students who graduate from New York high schools remain unable to fulfill their potential simply because they cannot afford the tuition and lack access to tuition assistance to help pay for school. We can do better. Governor Cuomo will press for the passage of the DREAM Act to finally open the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers. The DREAM Act will give undocumented students access to the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as state-administered scholarships. An investment in young immigrants’ futures is an investment in New York’s future. 

Protecting the Rights of Workers

New York has a long and proud tradition of fighting for union workers’ rights.  At a time of stagnant wages, evaporating pensions, and swelling household debt, unions offer a pathway to the middle class and create economic growth that reaches all Americans.

  • Examine Eliminating the Minimum Wage Tip Credit to Strengthen Economic Justice in New York State: Governor Cuomo is directing the Commissioner of Labor to schedule public hearings to evaluate the possibility of ending minimum wage tip credits in New York State. The Department of Labor will hold public hearings to solicit input from workers, businesses and others to ensure New York continues to protect economic justice for all New Yorkers.
  • Stand with Labor Unions Facing Uncertainty from the Supreme Court: Public-sector labor unions are under attack on the national level, facing legal challenges to their very core.  The United States Supreme Court will soon hear Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees which seeks to effectively end public labor unions.  The Court will determine whether fee arrangements like those permissible under the Taylor Law violate the First Amendment. As the nation waits for a decision in the Janus case, Governor Cuomo stands beside public labor unions in their fight for survival and will do everything in his power to preserve workers’ rights and protect the right to organize and collectively bargain.

Serving Our Veterans 

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has championed programs to make New York State the most veteran-friendly state in the nation. The New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs continues to strengthen its ties with the approximately 775,000 Veterans living in New York State.

  • Prevent Financial Exploitation of Veterans and Their Families: Veterans who fight to protect our state and nation should never have to continue fighting enemies when they return home. Far too often, deceitful businesses target veterans who are elderly and/or disabled, promising to help veterans and their family members obtain federal benefits in exchange for an often-substantial fee. Governor Cuomo proposes to enact the nation’s strongest legislation against pension poaching to eliminate this predatory conduct. This law will implement new disclosure requirements for businesses that advertise their fee-based services of filing claims and appeals for VA benefits, and will enable the prosecution of businesses that violate these standards.
  • Properly Designate New York State’s Veterans Service Agency: The New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs is commonly mistaken for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. To avoid this confusion, the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs will now become the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services.  This new name accurately defines the core mission of this agency—serving veterans and their families the rest of the way—and clearly distinguishes the Division from the federal VA, avoiding any unnecessary mistakes and confusion moving forward.
  • Expand Programs for Veterans Behind Bars: Through the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the Governor implemented three Veterans Residential Therapeutic Programs at Medium Security Correctional Facilities that identify each veteran’s individual needs and provide them with corresponding services. Under this new proposal, the Governor will provide resources to expand the programs available and offer the programs in Maximum Security Facilities for the first time.
  • Deliver Access to Justice for Veterans through Law School Partnerships: Building on the success of New York’s Justice for Heroes grants, Governor Cuomo will expand the program to offer participating schools the chance to renew their grants for the next two years. By providing law schools with a total of up to $150,000, each participating school will be able to improve the sustainability of its new legal services initiatives, ensuring that free legal services for veterans and their families will be provided by faculty and students at these schools for many years to come.

EXPANDING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL

The Importance of Early Education 

Governor Cuomo has championed early childhood and family health to ensure that all children are healthy and thriving in New York State. The Governor recognizes that it is essential we reach our children in the critical development window while they are young. Early childhood support and education is the basis of a quality education and can significantly improve the long-term prospects of our young people. Building on the progress of recent years, Governor Cuomo will make critical investments to strengthen early childhood programming and expand access to more New Yorkers. 

  • Invest When It Matters Most – The First 1,000 Days of Life: In August of 2017, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to create a First 1,000 Days on Medicaid working group to identify and recommend ways to improve outcomes and opportunities for young children and their families through access to childhood health services, and expansion of other health and early childhood system coordination and family supports. Based on the recommendations of the working group, Governor Cuomo will begin implementation of the comprehensive First 1,000 Days Plan to:
    • Develop a clear, standardized model of pediatric primary care to ensure that growth and development are on track and establish a uniform measurement tool for providers and educators to assess child development upon Kindergarten entry.
    • Facilitate group-based models of prenatal care to support pregnant women living in neighborhoods with the poorest birth outcomes in the state, including high incidence of preterm births and low birth weights.
    • Enhance home visiting services in three high risk communities using a targeted approach to match families to a home visiting program that best fits their needs and eligibility.
    • Launch peer-family navigator services in non-healthcare community settings, such as family homeless shelters and drug treatment centers, to facilitate effective warm handoffs from the provider diagnosing the child to the treatment provider allowing continuity of care in services for at risk families.
    • Provide parents of young children with improved access to evidence based parent-child therapy models.
  • Expand Pre-Kindergarten for 3- and 4-Year-Olds in High-Need Schools Across the State: Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the State has more than doubled its commitment to pre-kindergarten from $385 million to more than $800 million. In addition, since Governor Cuomo introduced three-year-old pre-kindergarten in 2015, more than $30 million is now dedicated to high-need three-year-olds alone. Governor Cuomo will continue to invest in pre-kindergarten by investing an additional $15 million create 3,000 new slots for three and four-year-olds in high-need schools around the state.
  • Establish the Child Care Availability Taskforce: To build on the state’s investments in child care and the development of safe, accessible, and affordable child care, the Governor is establishing a new Child Care Availability Taskforce. This taskforce, which will include representatives from the child care provider community, the advocacy community, representatives of the business community, unions that represent child care providers, representatives from several state agencies and local departments of social services, will be responsible for examining access to affordable child care; availability of child care for those with non-traditional work hours; statutory and regulatory changes that could promote or enhance access to child care; business incentives to increase child care access; and the impact on tax credits and deductions relating to child care.

Five Point Plan to Ensure No Student Goes Hungry 

The Governor’s No Student Goes Hungry Program includes investments to expand the Farm to School program, legislation to expand access to free breakfast and put an end to lunch shaming, and policy changes to ensure students in kindergarten through college receive access to farm-fresh foods in a quality learning environment.

  • Ban Lunch Shaming Statewide: Lunch shaming is a disgraceful practice in some schools where children are publicly humiliated in front of their peers by adults for not having money for lunch. The Governor will propose a law that when passed, would immediately end the practice of lunch shaming of any kind.
  • Require Breakfast After the Bell: In order to expand access to breakfast and prevent students from going hungry during morning classes, Governor Cuomo will propose requiring schools with more than 70 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch to provide breakfast after the school day has begun for the next school year. In successful breakfast after the bell programs, schools can either serve breakfast in the classroom, or offer nutritious vending machines options to ensure that students have access to breakfast as they start their day. To ease the transition, the state will provide technical assistance and capital funds for equipment such as coolers and vending machines to support breakfast after the bell.
  • Expand Farm to School: New York will double the state’s investment in the Farm to School program to support the use of healthy, local, New York foods in school districts across the state. The Farm to School program was created to connect schools with local farmers and offers technical assistance and capacity in the school to source products locally to help schools provide students with nutritious meals from food produced by local farms.
  • Increase the Use of Farm-Fresh, Locally Grown Foods at School: Lack of healthy, nutritious food can impair a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school. It is also often linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems for children in preschool through adolescence. To incentivize school districts to use more local farm-fresh products, Governor Cuomo will propose an increase in the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from the current 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30 percent of its ingredients from New York farms.
  • Require Food Pantries on All SUNY and CUNY Campuses: To ensure consistent healthy food options are available to young adults on college campuses, the Governor will require all SUNY and CUNY schools to either provide physical food pantries on campus, or enable students to receive food through a separate arrangement that is stigma-free. The Governor proposes a $1 million state investment for schools to implement the program.

Expanding High Quality Educational Programming For All 

Governor Cuomo has secured record investments in K-12 education to support all students in the State, recognizing that no investment is more important than the future of our young people. The State’s investment in education has continued to increase under the Governor’s leadership. This year, Governor Cuomo will continue to expand education programming and set young people on path to success.

  • Launch An Additional Round of the Empire State After-School Program: Last year, Governor Cuomo created the Empire State After-School program, which provided $35 million to create 22,000 after-school spots in high-need communities. This year, the Governor proposes an additional $10 million to support the creation of 6,250 new slots in communities with high rates of student homelessness, or designated as in need of a safe place for students to go after the school day ends. High-quality after school programs are associated with a return of $3 for every dollar spent.
  • Expand Successful Early College High School Program by Growing the Network of Schools Throughout the State: During the Governor’s administration, New York has spent $47 million to support Early College High Schools, an innovative program where students can earn college credits leading to an associate’s degree while earning their high school diploma. In order to expand the Early College High School program model to students across the State, the Governor is proposing an additional $9 million to support the creation of at least 15 Early College High Schools, where schools will partner with a college or university and industry partner to create opportunities for every student in the school to graduate with some college credit.
  • Expand Computer Science Education to All Elementary, Middle, and High Schools:Technology is among the fastest growing employment sectors, and New York students need to be prepared for the jobs for tomorrow. In order to ensure that New York schools are able to offer coursework in computer science, the Governor proposes a $6 million annual commitment to provide teacher support and development in computer science and engineering. In addition, the Governor will call on the State Education Department to work with industry leaders to develop model computer science standards.

Expanding Access to Higher Education 

Governor Cuomo has led the nation in expanding access to a quality and affordable college education and provide our young people with the tools they need in the 21st century economy. Since he took office, the Governor has taken action to reduce the financial barriers to college, including implementing a rational tuition plan that limits SUNY and CUNY tuition increases, creating the Get On Your Feet Student Loan Forgiveness Program, launching the groundbreaking Excelsior Scholarship to provide tuition-free college for middle class families, and investing $8 million to help reduce the costs of textbooks through innovations like the Open Educational Resources at SUNY and CUNY.

Building on these historic accomplishments, Governor Cuomo will continue to fight to ensure all New Yorkers can go to college and achieve their dreams.

  • Launch the Second Phase of the Excelsior Free Tuition Program: Last year, Governor Cuomo created the historic Excelsior Scholarship, the first-in-the-nation program to provide free tuition at New York’s public colleges and universities for middle class families. Along with other sources of tuition assistance, including the generous New York State Tuition Assistance Program, the Excelsior Scholarship allows approximately 53 percent of full-time SUNY and CUNY in-state students, or more than 210,000 New York residents, to attend school tuition-free.  In FY 2019, the Excelsior Scholarship will enter year two of a three-year phase-in. Starting in the 2018-19 academic year, the Excelsior Scholarship income eligibility threshold will increase, allowing New Yorkers with household incomes up to $110,000 to be eligible. To continue this landmark program, the Governor is proposing $118 million to support 27,000 students in the Excelsior Scholarship program.
  • Combat Exploding Student Debt: Increasing access to an affordable higher education is critical and New York State has led the way. The Governor will advance a comprehensive plan to further reduce student debt that includes creating a Student Loan Ombudsman at the Department of Financial Services; requiring all colleges annually provide students with estimated amounts incurred for student loans, such as the amount of student loans incurred to date, a range of the total payoff amount including principal and interest, and the monthly repayment amount that the student may incur for the loan to date; enacting sweeping protections for students including ensuring that no student loan servicers or debt consultants can mislead a borrower or engage in any predatory act or practice, misapply payments, provide credit reporting agencies with inaccurate information, or any other practices that may harm the borrower; and prohibiting the suspension of professional licenses of individuals behind or in default on their student loans.

NY WORKS

Preparing the Workforce of Today & Tomorrow 

Governor Cuomo has overseen a remarkable resurgence of New York’s economy. Since he took office, New York’s economy has created more than 1 million private sector jobs, and the State’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8.3 percent to 4.7 percent. But in the midst of this economic growth today, Governor Cuomo recognizes the urgent necessity of preparing New Yorkers for the good-paying jobs of tomorrow. On average, there will be nearly 362,000 job openings each year in New York over the next ten years, and Governor Cuomo is committed to ensuring that New Yorkers are equipped to fill them.

  • Establish a new, $175 million Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments through the Regional Economic Development Councils, targeted in emerging fields: Establishing the Consolidated Funding Application for economic development funds is one of the Governor’s signature economic development achievements — a bottom-up approach that brings together higher education, industry and government leaders to plan the future of their region. The State has invested more than $5.4 billion through the REDCs that have funded more than 6,300 projects and supports more than 220,000 jobs across the state. Building on the success of this bottom-up model, establishing a new Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments would support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of expanding industries—with a particular focus on emerging fields with growing demand for jobs like clean energy and technology. Funds would also support efforts to improve the economic security of women, youth, and other populations that face significant barriers to career advancement. The funding for the workforce CFA will consist both of $150 million in new, flexible resources and $25 million in existing streams of workforce funding.
  • Expand the New York Youth Works Program: To build on the success of the Youth Jobs Program, Governor Cuomo proposes to increase the maximum credit available to certified New York employers by 50 percent—raising the maximum tax credit from $5,000 to $7,500 for certified youth employed full-time and from $2,500 to $3,750 for those employed part-time.  In addition, to help participants better-develop the skills needed to advance from an entry-level position toward a chosen career, the Governor will direct the Department of Labor to align and connect employers and youth participating in the Youth Jobs Program with regional workforce development efforts of SUNY, CUNY and New York’s BOCES. This alignment will leverage State workforce investments and augment skills development that employers are able to provide on-site with additional workforce support in the classroom and online.
  • Create New Office of Workforce Development: Currently, there are dozens of programs available in various agencies, but if we are to maximize our capacity to meet the state’s workforce needs, the state needs to better integrate this fragmented process. The Office of Workforce Development will serve as a focal point of accountability and coordination for all workforce training programs for the state, including the new CFA program. Headed by a new Director of Workforce Development, the Office will establish standards for program performance and ensure alignment with the economic development goals of the state and the individual regions. The Director will serve on the State Workforce Investment Board, the Strategic Implementation Assessment Team (which reviews proposals submitted by the 10 Regional Economic Development Councils), and the Regional Community College Councils.

Continue the Bottom Up Regional Economic Development Strategy 

Governor Cuomo knows that the American Dream centers on economic security and mobility. He has fought to remove barriers to opportunity, strengthen the middle class, and build pathways to help give every New Yorker a chance to succeed and build a better life for themselves and their family. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has transformed its approach to economic development and adopted a bottom-up strategy that empowers local communities all across the state.

  • Invest $750 Million for Round Eight of the Regional Economic Development Councils: Governor Cuomo created the Regional Economic Development Council competition in 2011 to develop regional economic development plans through a bottom-up approach that brought together higher education, industry and government leaders to plan the future of their region.  The State has invested more than $5.4 billion through the REDCs that has funded more than 6,300 projects and supports more than 220,000 jobs across the state.  To build on the success of the REDC program, the Governor proposes continuing this regional economic development approach with an eighth round of the REDC awards with $750 million to fund regional priority projects.
  • Launch Round Three of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative: To give communities the tools they need to select and fuel targeted revitalization strategies, and build on the Governor’s proven track record in energizing the state economy, New York State will expand its already-successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative with an additional $100 million, providing up to $10 million for awards in each region. Together, these investments will ensure that communities have the tools they need to boost their local economies and transform downtown neighborhoods.

Building 21st Century Infrastructure 

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York is moving forward with a $100 billion infrastructure program, the most aggressive and ambitious building program in the country. From investing in rehabilitating roads and bridges and rebuilding airports for the 21st century, New York is moving forward with bold projects across the state: a new Moynihan Train Hall to serve as the world-class transit hub that New York deserves; a 1.2 million square foot expansion of the Javits Convention Center; a new Kosciuszko Bridge, the first major new bridge in New York City in more than 50 years; new train stations in Niagara Falls, Rochester and Schenectady; a $6.6 billion transformation of the Long Island Railroad; and a record MTA Capital Plan to bring New York City’s subway system into the 21st century.

  • Broadband for All: New NY Broadband Program Round III Awards: In 2015, the Governor created the New NY Broadband program, the largest and most ambitious state investment in broadband with the goal of ensuring all New Yorkers have access to high speed broadband. Since its launch, the program has reached 2.3 million homes and extended broadband access to over 98 percent of New Yorkers. This year, the Governor will advance Round III of New NY Broadband program awards to address the remaining two percent of New Yorkers, connecting an additional 120,000 locations. Round III will catalyze more than $360 million in total investment, including $225 million in State funding. With Round III, the Governor is proud to announce that New York has invested $1 billion in this effort and 99.9 percent of New Yorkers have commitments for high-speed broadband access, with all but one percent having access to 100 mbps service or better.
  • Expand Cashless Tolling to the Entire New York State Thruway and Port Authority Crossings: By eliminating the need to stop at a toll, this technology improves the driving experiences, expedites traffic flow and benefits those who live near tollbooths by reducing congestion-related emissions. The Governor championed the implementation of cashless tolling at MTA bridges and tunnels, which was completed in 2017, and also announced that same year the expansion of cashless tolling to the Thruway’s Harriman and Grand Island toll facilities. To expand these benefits across the state, Governor Cuomo plans to implement cashless tolling technology on all toll collection points along the Thruway. Additionally, the Governor has also urged the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to study the possibility of installing cashless toll collection on all PANYNJ operated Bridges and Tunnels. When complete, users of the Thruway, from New York City to Buffalo, will experience reductions in traffic congestion and improvements in travel times. The project will utilize Design-Build construction to reduce costs and accelerate the construction schedule. Cashless tolling throughout the Thruway system will be operational in 2020.
  • Invest in New Mass Transit, New Roads and Bridges: In 2018, New York State will continue its landmark infrastructure program by investing $11.7 billion to transform the state’s transportation infrastructure. The State Department of Transportation will pave 2,000 miles of road and repair or rehabilitate 500 bridges, and the New York State Thruway Authority will renew an additional 170 lane miles, repair or rehabilitate 25 bridges and complete the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo bridge in 2018.
  • Redevelop and Rebrand Stewart International: The Governor is calling on the Port Authority to approve this $34 million investment, which would increase access to world-class destinations and attractions throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley by supporting the construction of a permanent U.S. Customs and Border Protection federal inspection station. The new FIS will allow the airport to handle both domestic and international flights, while providing an improved passenger experience for all travelers. Additionally, as part of this modernization effort and to improve its name recognition, the airport will be rebranded as New York International at Stewart Field.
  • Build a New Metro North Station at Woodbury Common: Woodbury Common attracts approximately 13 million visitors a year, causing significant congestion in the community, yet there is no rail option to provide visitors an alternative to driving. By spearheading the accelerated transformation of the Route 32 corridor at Woodbury Common, Governor Cuomo has already taken action to ease the congestion in the area. Building on this effort, Governor Cuomo will support a review of the potential for a public-private partnership to bring a new Metro North Station to Woodbury Common.
  • Build the AirTrain to Create Train-to-Plane Access to LaGuardia Airport: LaGuardia Airport remains the only major East Coast airport without a direct rail link. To address this problem, Governor Cuomo is calling upon the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to expeditiously authorize the development of an AirTrain connection between LaGuardia and Willets Point in Queens, creating access to both the number 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road, which offer service to Grand Central, Penn Station and all of Long Island. The project is expected to be developed through a public-private partnership. The Port Authority will begin the environmental review process as soon as possible, with the goal of starting construction in 2019.
  • Take Steps to Revitalize Red Hook: Red Hook, Brooklyn and its surrounding communities are emerging as a hub of possibility and opportunity. Governor Cuomo is calling on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore options for improving and consolidating maritime operations by relocating activities in Red Hook to South Brooklyn. In addition, the Governor is also calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to study options for improving transportation access to the Red Hook area and surrounding communities, including the potential extension of subway service from lower Manhattan to a new station in Red Hook through an underwater tunnel.  Once a plan for how to modernize and potentially consolidate maritime activities becomes clear and the MTA study is completed, a community-based planning process with key participation by elected representatives and interested stakeholders would be expected to recommend the appropriate redevelopment alternatives for any Port Authority land no longer needed for maritime needs.
  • Construct an Inland Port in Central New York to Improve Regional Trade: Building on Governor Cuomo’s historic investments in modernizing our infrastructure, New York will construct an inland port in the Town of DeWitt that will facilitate the movement of containerized freight by rail as opposed to truck. This initiative will improve the economic competitiveness of import/export businesses in Central New York while leveraging the privately-funded rail infrastructure serving the region. The inland port will serve to reduce the transportation costs of moving containerized freight between the Port of New York and New Jersey and the Central New York region by as much as $500 per container; retain and create freight-related jobs; reduce vehicle emissions; and remove large trucks from both the New York metropolitan area and from Interstate 81.
  • Move I-81 Forward with Expanded Environmental Impact Statement: Governor Cuomo has been a strong advocate for revitalizing the I-81 viaduct and has pushed to carefully explore every option and alternative for this aging artery. In 2017, the Governor directed the New York State Department of Transportation to initiate an independent study of tunnel and depressed highway alternatives for the I-81 corridor, which concluded that while a tunnel is the most expensive option, it is technically feasible and could be studied in the Environmental Impact Statement. Governor Cuomo is now directing DOT to add the tunnel alternative to the current EIS for further review and consideration, which will ensure public and advisory agencies can provide comments on all three feasible alternatives—the viaduct replacement, community grid, and tunnel alternative—and the detailed engineering, social, economic and environmental studies performed for each.
  • Advance the Transformative Long Island Tunnel Proposal: In 2015, the Governor directed $5 million to the Department of Transportation to examine the feasibility of a tunnel connecting Long Island to Westchester County or Connecticut. This year, the Governor has directed that New York State should continue to pursue such a tunnel, a project which DOT has determined is feasible as a way of reducing traffic on the congested Long Island Expressway.

Fueling Clean Energy Jobs 

New York State is committed to developing a vibrant clean energy economy, and job growth in this emerging industry is booming across the state – with more than 150,000 New Yorkers working in the clean energy industry. In 2014, the Governor launched Reforming the Energy Vision to establish a new framework for clean, resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers. In 2016, the Governor established the Clean Energy Standard, requiring 50 percent of New York’s electric supply come from renewable energy sources by 2030. The Governor also supported the creation of a 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund designed to leverage private sector investment, fuel clean energy markets and deliver energy savings across the state. The Fund is expected to save New Yorkers $39 billion in energy costs over the next 10 years while dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Increase Transmission of Clean and Renewable Energy By Investing $200 Million to Meet Unprecedented Energy Storage Target of 1,500 Megawatts by 2025: As renewable energy sources produce a larger share of New York’s electricity, New York must also address the intermittency of clean resources like wind and solar that are not continuously available. To address these energy challenges and further New York’s climate and clean energy goals, the Governor is launching an initiative to deploy 1,500 megawatts of energy storage – representing the largest commitment per capita by any state – by 2025 and employ 30,000 New Yorkers in this industry. To achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo is directing state agencies and authorities to work together during 2018 to generate a pipeline of storage projects through utility procurements, to advance regulatory changes in utility rates and wholesale energy markets, to incorporate storage into criteria for large scale renewable procurements and to reduce regulatory barriers. The Governor is also announcing a commitment of at least $200 million from the NY Green Bank for storage-related investments to help drive down costs and to strategically deploy energy storage to where the grid needs it most, Finally, the Governor is also directing NYSERDA to invest at least $60 million through storage pilots and activities to reduce barriers to deploying energy storage.
  • Solicit Proposals for Offshore Wind: To position New York as the leading offshore wind market in the United States and to drive competition, reduce costs and create jobs in this emerging industry, Governor Cuomo is calling for the state to procure at least 800 megawatts of offshore wind power between two solicitations to be issued in 2018 and 2019, resulting in enough clean, renewable energy to power 400,000 New York households. The Governor is also directing NYSERDA to invest $15 million in clean energy workforce development and infrastructure advancement to train workers for jobs in this industry, including offshore wind construction, installation, operation, maintenance, design and associated infrastructure. To attract private investment in port infrastructure and supply chain activities, Governor Cuomo is also directing NYSERDA to work with Empire State Development and other State agencies to determine the most promising public and private offshore wind port infrastructure investments.
  • Divest the New York Common Fund from Fossil Fuel Investments: New York State has taken major steps to reduce its carbon footprint and cut back on the use of fossil fuels as an energy source, yet the New York Common Fund remains heavily invested in fossil fuels. The Governor is calling on the Fund to divest from significant fossil fuel investments and to cease all new investments with entities with significant fossil fuel-related activities. Additionally, the Governor will work with the State Comptroller to create an advisory committee of financial, economic, scientific, business and workforce representatives as a resource for the Common Fund to develop a de-carbonization roadmap to invest in opportunities to combat climate change and support the clean tech economy while assessing financial risks and protecting the Fund. Finally, the Governor calls on the Fund to dedicate a meaningful portion of the Fund’s portfolio to investments that directly promote clean energy—which makes economic and environmental sense. 

A CLEANER, GREENER, AND HEALTHIER NEW YORK: THE WELLNESS AGENDA  

New York State is committed to expanding access to quality and affordable health care for all New Yorkers. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has taken a holistic approach to health care, promoting healthy lifestyles and taking steps to ensure a clean environment. From redesigning Medicaid to reduce costs and improve care to embracing the Affordable Care Act and enrolling nearly one in five New Yorkers through the state’s marketplace, Governor Cuomo has transformed health care in New York State. This year, New York will continue to expand access to affordable and quality health care while addressing the major health challenges facing the state’s communities today.

  • Reverse the Opioid Epidemic: At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York has taken bold steps in confronting the local effects of a nationwide crisis of deadly addiction to opioids, with significant increases in treatment capacity, strong support services, the removal of barriers to accessing high quality treatment, and public awareness and education activities. However, despite this progress, far too many New Yorkers continue to suffer at the hands of addiction. To address this public health crisis, Governor Cuomo is proposing a comprehensive plan to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for perpetuating the epidemic; strengthen protections against addiction stemming from prescription opioids; take steps to eliminate insurance barriers to addiction treatment and recovery services; direct state agencies to implement regulatory and policy reforms that increase access to substance use disorder services; and advance legislation to add 11 fentanyl analogs to Schedule I of the controlled substance schedules of New York State Public Health Law.
  • Enforce Lead Testing: Limiting lead exposure is critical to safeguarding the health and safety of children across New York State. Governor Cuomo is directing the State Department of Health, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and other state partners to develop a system to ensure all housing authorities and all private landlords in the state protect children from this hazard. This proposal comes following the New York City Housing Authority’s unacceptable revelation of its failure to abate lead paint and notify tenants of the danger.

Expanding Access to Open Space 

New York State is home to some of the most pristine natural resources in the nation and Governor Cuomo has continued to demonstrate his commitment to protecting and improving access to New York’s open spaces.

  • Complete the Hudson River Park: Encompassing more than 500 acres and stretching 4.5 miles along Manhattan’s West Side, the Hudson River Park is the borough’s second largest park after Central Park. Under Governor Cuomo, the State’s investment in the Hudson River Park has remained strong, facilitating the redevelopment of Pier 26, Pier 57 and key infrastructure repairs after the damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy, among other important projects. However, despite these commitments the park is still only 77 percent complete and the original 2005 deadline envisioned for completing the park is long past due. This year, Governor Cuomo is committing to fulfill his father’s nation-leading vision. The Governor will work with the city to make the phased and matched investments necessary to get the job done.  In addition, the State will continue to facilitate public-private partnerships, while ensuring the Estuary Management Plan is complete and the marine sanctuary is protected.

Protecting Our Clean Water

Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has taken aggressive action to protect and preserve clean drinking water in New York to ensure that current and future generations of New Yorkers have access to clean water. In 2016, the Governor launched the Water Quality Rapid Response Team to swiftly identify and address drinking water quality issues across the state and in 2017, Governor Cuomo signed the Clean Water Infrastructure Act – a $2.5 billion investment in drinking water infrastructure and water quality protection across New York. Additionally, the Governor enacted the $400 million Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015, secured a record $300 million investment for the Environmental Protection Fund, and provided $11 billion in Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund financing.

  • Fast-Track Containment and Treatment of the Grumman Plume: In Nassau County, industrial practices at the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Bethpage facilities in the Town of Oyster Bay have left a legacy of pollution in the form of a massive contaminated groundwater plume that has affected the surrounding community since the 1930s. At the Governor’s direction, the State Department of Environmental Conservation launched an engineering investigation to assess expedited cleanup options, including full containment of the plume, in order to ensure the contamination does not threaten additional drinking water wells. This year, the state will fast-track construction of a new, state-of-the-art well system to fully contain and treat the plume of contamination and protect the quality of drinking water on Long Island and will use all legal tools at its disposal to hold the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman accountable for the construction and operation of the containment and treatment system.
  • Sue the EPA to Complete the Hudson River Cleanup: Governor Cuomo, in partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman, has committed to immediately take necessary steps to sue the EPA if the agency accepts the Upper Hudson River cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls as complete. In light of the overwhelming evidence and data that the remedy is not protective of human health and the environment, the EPA’s decision to certify the PCB remedy for the Upper Hudson River as complete is indefensible.  As the EPA continues to abdicate its responsibility, Governor Cuomo will fight to protect the river and the surrounding communities. New York is also prepared to withdraw from the 2002 Record of Decision, signed under a previous administration, which guided the cleanup and removal of millions of tons of PCB-contaminated sediment from the Upper Hudson River.
  • Attack Harmful Algal Blooms in New York’s Waters: Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the state has taken comprehensive steps to address the growing threat of harmful algal blooms in New York’s waterbodies. This year, the Governor will implement a $65 million initiative to aggressively combat harmful algal blooms in Upstate New York, focusing on 12 priority lakes that are especially vulnerable to HABs.
  • Require Expedited Corrective Actions at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility: Following visible releases of dark water discharges from the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility, Governor Cuomo directed the State Department of Environmental Conservation to hold the Niagara Falls Water Board accountable and to take actions to protect water quality at this iconic tourist attraction. To ensure that the Niagara Falls wastewater facility’s problems are resolved in a comprehensive fashion, Governor Cuomo will invest over $20 million to launch Phase One of the wastewater system overhaul to complete comprehensive infrastructure and operational improvements at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility. The Governor’s proposal also provides $500,000 to expedite two engineering studies to evaluate both the plant’s discharges and treatment systems, which are required by the new consent order with the Niagara Falls Water Board. 

LEADING THE FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE 

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has successfully established some of the nation’s strongest and most aggressive climate change policies. From Reforming the Energy Vision to setting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, New York is leading the charge in the fight against climate change. In June 2017, Governor Cuomo formed the U.S. Climate Alliance with the Governors of California and Washington State to ensure that willing partners across the country continue to meet or exceed the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change. While the federal government abdicates its responsibility to lead on climate change, New York State will continue to step up to protect our environment, our health, and the future of our children.

  • Expand Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Reduce Emissions Equitably from the Highest-Polluting, High Demand “Peaker” Power Plants: In 2013, Governor Cuomo led the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states in reducing the cap on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants 50 percent by 2020. In August 2017, the other RGGI states agreed to Governor Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State call to reduce the cap another 30 percent by 2030.  In addition, Governor Cuomo has committed to phasing out the use of coal in the state’s power plants by 2020. In 2018, Governor Cuomo looks forward to working with the other RGGI states and potential new partners in Virginia and New Jersey to ensure a smooth transition to a broader, more cost-efficient GHG market that maintains the initiative’s ambitious reductions in climate pollution. The Department of Environmental Conservation will also undertake a rulemaking in 2018 to implement the 30 percent cap reduction announced by the RGGI states in August 2017, including revisions to strengthen RGGI by grouping together and thereby covering peaking units that collectively exceed RGGI’s capacity threshold of 25 megawatts, including revisions to strengthen RGGI by grouping together and thereby covering peaking units that collectively exceed RGGI’s capacity threshold of 25 megawatts. This year, DEC will also propose complementary reforms to reduce emissions of smog-forming pollutants from peaking units and will adopt regulations ending the use of coal in the state’s power plants by 2020.
  • Reconvene Scientific Advisory Committee on Climate Change Disbanded by the Federal Government: After announcing its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the federal government took another misguided step by disbanding the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, a group of leading scientists and stakeholders tasked with providing recommendations to the federal government to support state and local governments, communities and the private sector in planning for the effects of climate change. Therefore, Governor Cuomo, as co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance and in collaboration with partners, will reconvene the Advisory Committee to develop recommendations to navigate the challenges of climate change. As a result, the Advisory Committee will continue its critical work without political interference and provide the guidance needed to adapt to a changing climate.
  • Launch Resilient NY to Dramatically Enhance Community Resiliency in the Face of Extreme Weather: Following dozens of extreme weather events in New York State, Governor Cuomo has taken bold and aggressive action to ensure that communities affected by extreme weather not only recover, but build back better than before. This year, the Governor proposes to develop a comprehensive program to adapt to and prepare for extreme weather associated with climate change. This plan will address resiliency guidelines and will provide state financial support for state-of-the-art local resiliency plans to help protect communities from flooding.
  • Invest Nearly $130 Million in Volkswagen Settlement Proceeds in Clean Transportation Projects: At Governor Cuomo’s direction, the Department of Environmental Conservation is working with other state agencies and stakeholders to develop a plan to invest the $127.7 million available to New York from the settlement of Volkswagen’s violation of the Clean Air Act. All categories of investment will prioritize replacement of diesel vehicles with emission-free electric vehicles, stimulating the transformation to a low-carbon transportation system. With this strategic, comprehensive plan, New York State will seek to invest all of the Volkswagen settlement funds over the next three years.

ADVANCING THE DEMOCRACY AGENDA 

Protecting the Sanctity of Our Elections 

As proven in the 2016 election, social media is a highly utilized tool for placing and viewing political advertisements, yet political advertisements on social media platforms are not regulated in the same way as advertisements on traditional media platforms. This has created new opportunities for unscrupulous and disruptive actors to improperly influence our political process. This year, Governor Cuomo proposes the strongest and most comprehensive policy to ensure that elections in New York State remain fair and transparent and that online political ads are archived for all to see.

  • Increase Transparency in Digital Political Ads: To ensure the fairness and transparency of New York elections, Governor Cuomo is putting forth a three-pronged strategy to:
  • Expand New York State’s definition of political communication to include paid internet and digital advertisements: This proposal will update the definition of “political communication” to include paid internet and digital advertisements, and require that all advertisers include a disclosure in their election-related ads, such as “paid for by.”
  • Require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political advertisements purchased by a person or group for publication on the platform: Governor Cuomo proposes to require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political communications purchased by a person or group on their platform related to New York State elections. The file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.  This archive will ensure that political ads do not disappear, and that they are viewable, and able to be fact-checked, by a larger portion of the electorate.
  • Require online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate: Governor Cuomo proposes to amend state law so that paid internet or digital advertisements are included in the definition of political communications. This will help ensure that foreign entities are unable to covertly purchase and distribute political advertising related to state elections through social media or other outlets. Under the new law digital ad buyers will be required to register as an independent expenditure committee, just as they would if they were purchasing time on television. Foreign entities will be prohibited from forming an independent committee and, as a result, would be unable to purchase and publish political advertising online. Violations of these requirements would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each instance.
  • Institute Early Voting: Currently, New York is one of only 13 states where early voting is not available and an excuse is required to request an absentee ballot. To make it easier for New Yorkers to vote, Governor Cuomo proposes instituting early voting in the state, requiring every county to offer residents access to at least one early voting poll site during the 12 days leading up to Election Day. Counties must have one early voting poll site for every 50,000 residents, and voters will have at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends to cast early ballots.
  • Adopt Automatic Voter Registration: To modernize the voter registration process, Governor Cuomo proposes adopting a system that implements automatic voter registration, streamlining state services by automatically sending voters’ information from relevant agencies directly to the County Board of Elections.
  • Allow Same-Day Voter Registration: New York does not currently allow voters to register to vote on Election Day. Governor Cuomo proposes to allow New Yorkers to register and vote on the same day so that onerous registration deadlines do not prevent New Yorkers from having the opportunity to participate in the electoral process.
  • Enhance Statewide Election Cyber Security Resilience and Defend Against Election Disruption: This year, the Governor proposes taking action to secure our democracy through bold steps to protect the state’s elections:
  • Create the Election Support Center: This will provide technical expertise and trainers to assist the State Board of Elections with developing regulations to enhance the cyber security of elections infrastructure; train county Boards of Elections members in cyber security best practices; and ensure that relevant threat intelligence is quickly distributed to local stakeholders.
  • Create and Deploy the Elections Cyber Security Support Toolkit: The toolkit includes a new suite of threat mitigation tools to ensure election security at the state and local levels. This will include log-in and network monitoring software and hardware services, Distributed Denial of Service defense, and change-detection software to ensure that all changes to voter databases are logged and monitored, and any discrepancies are identified, investigated and corrected in a timely manner. 

Increasing Transparency and Continuing Ethics Reform 

Since his first day in office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively for comprehensive ethics reform. Governor Cuomo’s advocacy began with the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 to increase transparency and accountability throughout State government. The Governor’s relentless efforts culminated with an historic agreement in 2016 with the Legislature to further advance critical election, lobbying, and enforcement reforms. This year, Governor Cuomo proposes a two-fold approach to ethics and good government reforms. His proposals will reiterate the continued need to address unresolved problems, shed sunlight on our political process and those who fund aspects of it, and will also identify new solutions to rebuild the trust and confidence that New Yorkers should have in their elected representatives.

  • Advance Constitutional Amendment Limiting Outside Income and Creating a Full-time Legislature: The Legislature’s part-time structure allows professionals from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to serve the public. Yet concerns have been raised about potential conflicts of interests that may arise from income legislators derive from other employment. To strike the right balance between public service and private ventures, the Governor proposes a constitutional amendment to be put before the voters that would limit outside income for legislators to 15 percent of their base salary. This 15 percent limit is the same limit our federal government places on federal legislators’ outside income.
  • Advance Constitutional Amendment Imposing Term Limits for Elected Officials:Current term limits require members of the Legislature to seek re-election every two years, yet there are no limits on the number of terms they may seek. The Governor proposes a constitutional amendment to create 4-year legislative terms for members of the Senate and the Assembly. The proposed constitutional amendment would also impose 8-year term limits for new members, and impose term limits for statewide officials.
  • Require Members of the Legislature Seeking Outside Income to Obtain an Advisory Opinion Before Earning Outside Income: Currently legislators may earn income from private ventures without being required to obtain any analysis or approval regarding whether the outside income presents conflicts of interest with their duties to the public. As such, the Governor proposes legislation which would require all legislators to seek an advisory opinion from the legislative ethics commission before earning outside income. To further support in their deliberations and discussions regarding outside income and conflicts of interest and reinforce the public’s trust in the process, a designee from the Office of Court Administration would serve on the commission. By examining compensation from non-state activities on a case by case basis, this measure would help guide our elected representatives, prevent conflicts of interest, and increase the public’s trust in all their elected officials.
  • Close the LLC Loophole: To preserve open, free, and fair elections that are not captured by wealthy public interests, state law limits the amounts that both corporations and individuals may donate directly to state candidates. However, because of a quirk in the way that present election law is interpreted, wealthy individuals and corporations can use Limited Liability Companies (“LLCs”) to avoid New York’s campaign donation limits. This “LLC Loophole” in campaign finance law has allowed special interests to circumvent both contribution limits and disclosure requirements. The Governor proposes closing the LLC Loophole for all elected officials. It is our responsibility to even the playing field so that rich and poor New Yorkers alike have their voices heard in our political process.
  • Subject Local Elected Officials to Financial Disclosure Requirements: The Governor proposes that any local elected official who earns more than $50,000 per year in a government salary, as well as all county executives, county managers, and all chairs of county board of supervisors file the same financial disclosure statements that state employees file with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or a similar form to be approved by the state. This means that municipal employees would provide the same information in their financial disclosure statements as state employees, including his or her spouse’s or partner’s income. Sunlight, in this instance, goes a long way towards assuring the public that those entrusted with government service are fulfilling their duty to the public.
  • Institute Public Financing and Enact Additional Campaign Finance Reforms: Every day, ordinary New Yorkers struggle to make their voices heard in our political system. No matter the issue, candidates are incentivized to focus on large donations over small ones. The only way to truly fix this problem is to institute a public financing system for political campaigns that matches funds from small donations. Governor Cuomo proposes to do just that by instituting a voluntary public financing system that matches small donations with public funds. New York law also continues to allow unlimited contributions to party “housekeeping” accounts by individuals and corporations. These accounts are designed to support non-campaign party activities, but instead provide another mechanism for big donors to impact political campaigns. New York also still allows a campaign’s intermediary, known as a “bundler”, to pass large groupings of individual contributions to a single campaign without disclosing the bundler’s identify. The Governor proposes to address both issues by placing a $25,000 contribution limit on housekeeping accounts and requiring all “bundlers” to disclose their identities.
  • Promote Increased Transparency through Comprehensive Reforms to FOIL: The New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) governs the public’s right to access government records and provides transparency for citizens into the workings of state government. The Governor proposes a comprehensive reform of FOIL to improve transparency and promote openness in state government, including requiring proactive disclosure of certain records. But transparency cannot just be limited to the Executive—everyone must be held to the same standard. The Governor therefore proposes that FOIL apply equally to the Legislature. Additionally, the Governor proposes that both FOIL and the state’s Open Meetings Law apply to both JCOPE as well as the Legislative Ethics Commission to further ensure transparency, accountability, and increase public confidence in all aspects of state government.
  • Expand the Authority of the State Inspector General: The Governor proposes increasing the Inspector General’s jurisdiction to include oversight of nonprofit organizations and foundations that are created for the benefit of, or controlled by SUNY or CUNY. The Inspector General would be authorized to investigate complaints of corruption, fraud, criminal activity, conflicts of interest or abuse within each university and its affiliates, and to refer potential criminal findings within these entities for prosecution. The Governor also proposes broadening the Inspector General’s authority to include all state-related procurement and the implementation and enforcement of financial control policies at SUNY and CUNY. This would allow the Inspector General to oversee the policies of any affiliated nonprofit organization and foundation of each respective university.
  • Enact Procurement Reforms: Despite existing legal safeguards, conflicts of interest and unlawful conduct may jeopardize the impartiality and objectivity of the current procurement process. This risk is further heightened by the significant amount of dollars spent by state and local public agencies, which exceeds tens of billions of dollars annually. The Governor therefore proposes creating a Chief Procurement Officer to oversee the integrity and uniformity of procurement practices across the state and ensure state procurement staff are prepared and positioned to conduct effective and ethical procurements. To achieve these ends, the Chief Procurement Officer will spearhead a comprehensive review of current procurement practices across all state entities and relevant affiliates with the intent of establishing best practices and implementing uniform policies and procedures. Additionally, the Governor proposes new measures which would prohibit individuals, organizations or business entities that submit bids, quotes, or responses to state contract offers from making campaign contributions to any officeholder in the branch of government awarding the contract while the decision is pending, and for six months following the contract award.  Finally, under current practice, the Office of the State Comptroller, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of General Services either undertake reviews and audits or process payments of contract vendors and/or grantees that have multiple projects with the State. However, they lack a single system to track payments and audits of these entities and fail to coordinate their efforts on a routine basis. This should change. The Governor proposes legislation that will direct these entities, along with the Chief Procurement Officer and the Office of Information Technology, to collaborate on a study and make recommendations regarding initiatives to better enable the public to track state contracts and audits.

BUILDING A STRONGER, SAFER NEW YORK 

Governor Cuomo has consistently taken decisive action to ensure public safety for all New Yorkers. This past year, New Yorkers faced the devastating consequences of extreme weather and New York’s emergency response extended beyond our borders to support our neighbors. This year, the Governor proposes a public safety package that will build on the Governor’s legacy of fighting for the safety all of New Yorkers.

  • Establish the Strongest Counter Terrorism Program in the Nation: Governor Cuomo has taken significant action to fight terrorism and keep New Yorkers safe from new and emerging threats. In 2015, he launched the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, making New York the only state with the ability to report unusual behavior via text message. In 2016, the Governor directed the State Office of Counter Terrorism to test more than 600 businesses annually to determine if and how these organizations report suspicious activity.  In response to these new and evolving threats, the Governor recently announced a partnership with renowned counter terrorism experts to review the state’s security and issue recommendations for improvement. These recommendations will help New York State establish the strongest counter terrorism program in the nation, allowing the state to be better prepared to meet modern threats posed by terrorism. Further, they will provide recommendations to better protect our bridges, tunnels, trains, buses and airports, as well as our transit hubs at Penn Station and Grand Central Station. In the interim, Governor Cuomo is taking action to restrict terrorists’ capabilities and make it easier for New Yorkers to report suspicious activity. These actions will improve statewide security and strengthen counter terrorism policies, procedures, and tactics. Governor Cuomo will take additional actions to further secure the state, including:
    • Expand Vehicle Rental Regulations: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to require any person attempting to rent a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds to present a valid driver’s license and an additional form of identification to the company in order to obtain the keys. This will ensure that individuals attempting to rent a vehicle are who they say they are and will help prevent any attempted deception to conceal a renter’s identity for malicious purposes.
      • Launch a Terrorism Tip Line: Building off the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, New York will work with the Public Service Commission to establish a first of its kind three-digit tip line dedicated to reporting terrorist threats and suspicious activity. This three-digit line will make it easier for New Yorkers to recall the event they witness and encourage further reporting to prevent a potential terrorist act.
      • Develop a School Safety Response System to Ensure First Responders Have Real-Time Access to the Blueprints of Every School in New York State: Governor Cuomo has led the charge to protect New Yorkers from gun violence and acts of terror. In the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the Governor championed the toughest and smartest gun legislation in the nation, and he has pushed to strengthen security measures across the state. This year, for example, the Governor announced a $25 million grant program for critical hardening of infrastructure for non-profits, non-public schools, day care centers, and cultural centers to increase security, and last year, the Governor provided $10 million to local law enforcement agencies for equipment purchases to improve police officer safety and response capabilities. Still, the threat of mass violence and shootings continues to plague the country. In the coming year, the State will explore new technology options for a school safety response system that may include real-time “blue team” GPS tracking and direct lines of communication for all response personnel. The State will also ensure that all schools in New York State are mapped both internally and externally so first responders can enter with greater certainty about where they are going, where threats may exist, and where victims may be hiding.  This information will enable them to operate around new and unfamiliar locations with certainty and speed to rapidly save as many lives as possible.