Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

In Memoriam.....Marine Corps Sergeant Mark A. Bradley

From the Executive Chamber of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo

Governor Cuomo has directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, June 21 in honor of Marine Corps Sergeant Mark A. Bradley, a Cuba, NY resident who died in Afghanistan on June 16.

Sgt. Bradley died while conducting combat operations in Helmand province. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division of the II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

"On behalf of the people of New York, I want to express my sympathy to the family, friends, and fellow Marines of Sergeant Bradley," Governor Cuomo said.

"As we mourn the loss of this young Marine from Western New York, we honor and remember his service to our nation."

From The G-Man would like to take this opportunity to honor Sergeant Mark A. Bradley
, his love of country and his service with the following video tribute. May he rest in peace.

Video uploaded to YouTube by moderatepopulist

Thursday, June 16, 2011

President Obama Announces “How to Make Change” Series for Young Americans

The President discusses a new youth series at a meeting with young Americans in the Roosevelt Room.

White House Briefs

Public Safety Broadband Meeting

Vice President Biden speaks about the importance of creating a national public safety broadband network at a meeting with first responders, public safety advocates and Administration officials.

President Obama Addresses Council on Jobs and Competitiveness

The President speaks about the importance of creating new jobs and conditions where businesses can thrive at a meeting of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in Durham, North Carolina.

White House Congressional Picnic

President Obama welcomes members of Congress to the White House as he and the First Lady host the annual White House Congressional picnic.

Cuomo: 'The Senate's Failure to Act Last Night Was Unacceptable'

New York Governor Issues Statement on Rent Regulations

"Affordable housing is an all too scarce commodity, especially in New York City and the surrounding areas. Our state's rent protection laws are essential and any long term expiration would create a crisis. Last night the State Senate -- both Democrats and Republicans -- failed to continue the laws beyond their expiration.

"We are making progress but the Senate's failure to act last night was unacceptable and a betrayal of the one million tenants living in rent protected apartments. I will not allow the legislature to go out of session and go home until tenants are protected. I am prepared to call special session to keep the legislature in place until there are rent protection laws in place."

'We Are on the Verge of a Pinnacle Moment for This State'

Statement from Governor Cuomo on Passage of Marriage Equality Act by New York State Assembly

"The vote by the State Assembly has moved New York one step closer to making marriage equality a reality. I applaud these legislators' prompt and courageous support on this measure, which will finally allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry and provide them with hundreds of rights that others take for granted. I commend Speaker Sheldon Silver for his leadership and Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell for his tireless work fighting for equality. We are on the verge of a pinnacle moment for this state."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

White House Briefs

New York Rent Regulations Set to Expire!

Statement from Governor Cuomo on Rent Regulations

"Tonight, June 15, 2011, many rent regulation laws in the State of New York are set to expire. More than one million New Yorkers live in units covered by these rent laws. If the laws are not renewed, over the long term, there would be nothing less than a housing crisis in the State. Today's expiration is generating anxiety among affected tenants and their advocates. This is compounded by the fact that the anticipated end of the Legislative session is next week.

"My position has been clear. New York's rent laws must be extended and strengthened.

"However, New Yorkers should know the facts. There would be no short-term emergency. Current rent laws could be continued by short-term 'extender' legislation or even if the laws lapse for a short period of time, which they have in the past, there will not be a significant increase in rent levels or disruption in the availability of affordable housing.

"Make no mistake, to prevent a long term crisis, these laws must be renewed and strengthened.

"There is a full agenda for both the Assembly and Senate to accomplish and the legislative session will not end, either through regular or special session, until the people's business is done."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

President Obama Arrives in Puerto Rico

The President speaks about his Administration's commitment to the people of Puerto Rico as he arrives in San Juan.

Cuomo: 'Marriage Equality is a Matter of Fairness and Legal Security for Thousands in This State'

New York Governor Proposes Marriage Equality Act

Governor Cuomo has submitted a program bill to bring marriage equality to New York state. The Marriage Equality Act permits all couples to enter into marriage in New York state, thereby removing the current barrier same-sex couples face in recognizing their relationships, protecting their families and obtaining essential benefits.

Specifically, the Act grants same-sex couples who seek to marry equal status under the law as well as hundreds of rights, benefits and protections that are currently limited to married couples of the opposite sex.

"From the fight for women's suffrage to the struggle for civil rights, New Yorkers have been on the right side of history. But on the issue of marriage equality, our state has fallen behind," Governor Cuomo said.

"For too long, same-sex couples have been denied the freedom to marry, as well as hundreds of rights that other New Yorkers take for granted. Marriage Equality is a matter of fairness and legal security for thousands of families in this state – not of religion or culture. When it comes to fighting for what's right, New Yorkers wrote the book, and Marriage Equality is the next chapter of our civil rights story."

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the freedom to marry is "one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free people." Further, the state assigns hundreds of protections, benefits and mutual responsibilities in a variety of areas to couples who marry, including health care and hospital visitation rights, child custody issues and financial matters.

However, in New York, many individuals who currently seek to exercise the freedom to marry their partners may not do so solely because they are of the same sex.

The Marriage Equality Act would remove these barriers by amending New York's Domestic Relations Law to state that a marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex; no government treatment or legal status, effect, right, belief, privilege, protection or responsibility relating to marriage shall differ based on the parties to the marriage being the same sex or a different sex; all relevant gender-specific language set forth in or referenced by New York law shall be construed in a gender-neutral manner; and no application for a marriage license shall be denied on the ground that the parties are of the same or a different sex.

To ensure that the bill does not intrude into matters of religious belief, the Marriage Equality Act affirms that no member of the clergy can be compelled to solemnize any marriage. This bill grants equal access to the government-created legal institution of civil marriage while leaving the religious institution of marriage to its own separate and fully autonomous sphere.

The bill also guarantees that religious institutions and benevolent organizations such as the Knights of Columbus remain free to choose who may use their facilities for marriage ceremonies and celebrations or to whom they provide religious services, consistent with their religious principles.

New York has always been at the forefront in advancing equal rights. In 1983, New York banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment. In 2002, the state extended the same principle to the private sector by enacting the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act.

That same year, the state recognized same-sex relationships by extending workers' compensation benefits to all those who lost a partner on 9/11. Passage of the Marriage Equality Act represents yet another significant step in granting full and equal rights to all citizens of New York state.

The Marriage Equality Act bill memo is available here. The bill text is available here.

"Lenny's: The Ultimate Settlement"

Department of Labor Investigation Finds NYC Restaurant Must Pay Workers Over $5 Million in Back Wages

Governor Cuomo today announced that the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) has reached a $5.1 million settlement with New York City-based "Lenny's: The Ultimate Sandwich" (Lenny's) for minimum wage and overtime violations affecting over 800 workers. This settlement is the largest recorded settlement for workers in the DOL's 110-year history.

"It is our duty to protect hard-working New Yorkers and ensure that they receive every dollar that they earn," Governor Cuomo said.

"This settlement – the largest recorded settlement for workers in the history of the Department of Labor – sends a strong message to employers that exploiting employees will not be tolerated in New York State. I thank the Department of Labor for their efforts on behalf of workers across the state."

Lenny's is a New York City-based sandwich chain with several locations. From 2002 to 2008, over 800 employees from eleven locations were cheated out of millions of dollars. The DOL's investigation found that employees were regularly paid less than the minimum wage and were not paid overtime wages.

Employees worked 10 to 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week, at an average weekly salary of $275 per week. As required under the state’s minimum wage and overtime law, however, the workers should have been paid at least $500 per week for the same number of hours worked. In addition, time records kept by the employer were not accurate and wage statements were not provided to workers, as required by law.

As a result of this investigation, the DOL has reached a $5.1 million settlement with Lenny's for wages, damages, and penalties. The DOL has received a $1 million down payment and Lenny's will pay the remaining $4 million in full over the next twenty-four months. Lenny's is paying $100,000 in penalties to the state. Employees will receive the first installment of their unpaid wages beginning in June 2011.

New York State's minimum wage is now $7.25 per hour. Employers are required to pay overtime for weekly hours past 40 at 1.5 times the employee's regular pay rate.

This investigation was conducted by Senior Investigator Cloty Ortiz under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Maritza Lamboy.

'It's a Win-Win for Small Business Owners and Investors'

Addabbo C0-Sponsors Bill to Help Small Businesses Get Venture Capital Funding

Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr., (D-Queens) announced that he is a co-sponsor of legislation (S.5587) introduced in the Senate by Senator James Alesi (R-Rochester) that would amend the state’s tax law to authorize the state to license six certified capital companies to raise $150 million in private venture capital from insurance companies in order to assist New York businesses that require funds not available from traditional commercial banks through all stages of development: pre-startup, start-up, expansion, or survival.

In exchange for investing in qualified businesses, the insurance companies would get premium tax credits, with such issuance to be delayed four years. While the economic benefits of the program begin almost immediately, the delayed tax credits would have no fiscal impact to New York State until 2015.

In order to qualify for the tax credits, each certified capital company must satisfy a number of requirements in its investment portfolio, including: Two-thirds of its investment of certified capital must go towards qualified businesses located in undeserved areas; ten percent of its investment must be directed towards qualified seed funds, certified as such by the Superintendent of Financial Services; fifty percent of its investments must go towards businesses focused on emerging technology products and services; and no more than $15 million can be invested towards one individual company.

In addition, a certified capital company under CAPCO-6 would be required to return 15 percent of its net profits on qualified investments to the Department of Financial Services. This legislation also adds to the reporting requirements already present in previous CAPCO programs to ensure compliance with the requirements set forth above.

New York State last renewed its CAPCO program in 2005. The NY CAPCO was created by the Assembly over a decade ago to utilize a premium tax credit incentive to increase investment in venture capital funds focused exclusively on New York businesses.

New York insurance companies can earn tax credits by making investments in small companies that have difficulty accessing traditional funding sources. Since 1998, five CAPCO programs have been certified. Through these five programs, $400 million of private capital has been raised, and the investment from these funds has created or retained over 2,000 jobs and will generate $412 million in tax revenue by 2016.

"It's a win-win for both small business owners and investors. Our current economic climate makes getting risk capital for small businesses extremely challenging. As elected officials, we must make every effort to help our small businesses," said Addabbo.

The bill has been sent for review to the Senate’s Committee on Investigations and Government Operations. After passage and signature by the Governor, the bill would take effect immediately.

Image courtesy of

St. Pancras Students Awarded for Creativity

(Back row L-R): Glendale’s St. Pancras School Principal Philip Ciani with Senator Joe Addabbo; (Front row L-R): Students showing their posters and citations are Jade Sibug; Hailey Cruz; Molly Fleming.

Addabbo Presents Citations in Recognition of NYS Senate's Earth Day Poster Contest

In recent weeks, New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. visted elementary students around his district to present citations to students who took part in the New York State senate's Earth Day poster contest.

The senate held the contest to honor and celebrate Earth Day for children in Grades K-6, using the theme, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Students were encouraged not only to be creative in their projects, but also to convey a real commitment to making the environment a better place.

By educating them about the importance of recycling, students will learn to be creative in solving the problem of solid waste. Participating students’ posters will be displayed on Senator Addabbo’s website. All the participating schools were limited to submit three entries per school.

Addabbo also dropped off senate citations to students at St. Margaret’s and Our Lady of Hope in Middle Village; St. Mary Gate of Heaven in Ozone Park; P.S. 97 in Woodhaven; P.S. 58 in Maspeth; and P.S. 64 in Ozone Park.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Politics in Action: H.R. 2112


H.R. 2112 — Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

(Rep. Rogers, R-KY)

From the Executive Office of the President

(Office of Management & Budget)

The Administration has serious concerns about the content of H.R. 2112, making appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, and for other purposes.

The Administration is committed to ensuring the Nation lives within its means and reducing the deficit so that the Nation can compete in the global economy and win the future. That is why the President put forth a comprehensive fiscal framework that reduces the deficit by $4 trillion, supports economic growth and long-term job creation, protects critical investments, and meets the commitments made to provide dignity and security to Americans no matter their circumstances.

While overall funding limits and subsequent allocations remain unclear pending the outcome of ongoing bipartisan, bicameral discussions between the Administration and congressional leadership on the Nation’s long-term fiscal picture, the bill provides insufficient funding for a number of programs in a way that undermines core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation. Programs adversely affected by the bill include:

Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The Administration strongly objects to the level of funding provided for nutrition programs that are critical to the health of nutritionally at-risk women, infants, children, and elderly adults. The proposed funding levels would lead to hundreds of thousands of participants being cut from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and reduce Federal support for food banks. These cuts would undermine efforts to prevent hunger and support sound nutrition for some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Food Safety. The Administration is concerned with the funding provided in the bill for the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) which will significantly hamper USDA’s ability to inspect food processing plants and prevent food borne illnesses and disease such as E. coli and Salmonella from contaminating America’s food supply. The Committee’s recommendation may require the agency to furlough employees including frontline inspectors which make up over 80 percent of FSIS staff. By reducing FSIS inspections, food processing plants may be forced to reduce line speeds, which could lead to decreasing product output and profits, as well as plant closures.

Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI). The Administration is concerned that the bill does not support HFFI, which is a key initiative to combat childhood obesity. HFFI will expand USDA’s activities to bring healthy foods to low-income Americans and increase the availability of affordable, healthy foods in underserved urban and rural communities by bringing grocery stores and other fresh food retailers to “food desert” communities where there is little or no access to healthy food.

Research. The bill provides insufficient funds for USDA research programs, which are needed to help solve food production, safety, quality, energy and environmental problems. By reducing funding for the Agricultural Research Service to its lowest level since 2004 as well as inadequately funding the Nation’s competitive grant program, the bill will hinder the Department’s ability to develop solutions to address current as well as impending critical national and international challenges.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Administration is concerned that the funding level in the bill and resulting staff reductions will severely limit the FDA’s ability to protect the public’s health, assure the American consumer that food and medical products are safe, and improve Americans’ access to safe and less costly generic drugs and biologics.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The Administration strongly objects to the funding level for CFTC, as it would cause a cut in staffing levels and seriously undermine CFTC’s ability to protect investors and consumers by effectively policing the futures and swaps marketplace through its current market oversight and enforcement functions. Moreover, the funding level would significantly curtail the timely, effective implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, including new CFTC responsibilities to regulate the $300 trillion swaps derivatives market.

International Food Aid. The Administration opposes the level of funding provided for the Food for Peace Title II international food aid program as it would severely limit the United States’ ability to provide food assistance in response to emergencies and disasters around the world. Given a statutory floor on non-emergency development food aid, a reduction would be borne entirely by the emergency component of the program, and would prevent distribution of emergency food aid to over 1.1 million beneficiaries.

In addition, the bill includes the following problematic policy and language issues:

Restrictions on Finalizing USDA Regulations. The Administration opposes the inclusion of section 721 of the bill, which effectively prevents USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration from finalizing a rule on conduct that would violate the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. The final rule has not yet been published and any concerns about the rule are better addressed through the standard rulemaking process than through an appropriations rider.

Restrictions on FDA Regulations and Guidance. The Administration strongly opposes section 740 of the bill, which would undermine or nullify FDA statutory standards that have been in place for decades and that are essential to protect the health of Americans. The provision would unduly limit the factors that FDA considers in determining the best ways to protect the public from unsafe foods; protect the safety of the blood supply from HIV, West Nile Virus, and other infections; ensure the safety of infant formula; protect patients from drugs and medical devices that have not been shown to be safe and effective; assure that food labeling and health claims on foods are accurate; and reduce youth use of tobacco products and otherwise reduce illness and death caused by tobacco use.

WTO Trade Dispute. The Administration is concerned by a provision in section 743 that would eliminate payments that are being made as part of the mutually agreed settlement of a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute regarding U.S. domestic cotton supports and the export credit guarantee program. The framework serves as a basis to avoid trade-related countermeasures by Brazil that are authorized by the WTO until the enactment of successor legislation to the current Farm Bill. Under the agreement, the United States is committed to fund technical assistance and capacity-building support for Brazil’s cotton sector. The bill’s provision preempts the resolution process and would open the door to retaliation negatively affecting U.S. exports and interests.

The Administration strongly opposes inclusion of ideological and political provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation.

The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress as the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process moves forward to ensure the Administration can support enactment of the legislation.

Image courtesy of

The Campaign To Cut Waste

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden speak about the Administration's ongoing effort to make government more accountable to the American people through The Campaign to Cut Waste.

The Campaign To Cut Waste will build on the Accountable Government Initiative, led by OMB Director Jacob Lew and OMB's Deputy Director for Management and Federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients, which has already tackled waste and inefficiency in many areas across government, cutting contracting spending for the first time in 13 years, identifying $3 billion in information technology savings, shutting down duplicative data centers and getting rid of excess federal real estate.

This campaign continues the steps the administration has taken to date to reduce government waste and make government work better for the American people.

Cuomo Bill Seeks to Establish New Health Benefit Exchange

Proposed Legislation Would Set Up Health Insurance Exchange to Comply with Federal Health Care Law

Governor Andrew Cuomo has submitted a Governor's program bill that would establish a new Health Benefit Exchange in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.

New York will operate its own exchange, rather than have the federal government operate one for the state, given the complexity and diversity of the insurance market in New York.

"This legislation would fulfill New York's commitment to the federal government to set up a health benefit exchange that will enhance access to affordable quality health care for all New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said.

"This is a dynamic and flexible proposal that will protect consumers and help bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and taxpayers."

The purpose of this legislation is to establish a single Exchange in New York – a centralized, customer-service oriented marketplace where individuals and small groups will be able to purchase qualified health plans, receive eligibility and subsidy determinations, and be enrolled in a range of coverage options, including public health coverage programs.

The Exchange will be established as a public benefit corporation managed by a Board of Directors. Four of the seven members of the Board will have expertise in relevant areas, including individual health care coverage, small employer health care coverage, health benefits administration, health care finance, public or private health care delivery systems, and purchasing health plan coverage.

The Superintendent of Insurance (or after October 3, 2011, the Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services), the Commissioner of Health, and the State Medicaid Director will serve as ex officio members of the board.

The Board will consult with an Advisory Committee, comprised of 18 representatives of stakeholders and sectors that will be impacted by the operation of the Exchange, including health care consumers, small businesses, the medical community, and insurers.

The Committee's advice to the Board will reflect findings about regional variations regarding the availability of health insurance coverage and other issues deemed necessary by the Committee and the Board.

The Exchange will make available health plans, including certain qualified dental plans, to individuals and employers beginning on or before January 1, 2014.

Under this legislation, the Exchange will establish the minimum requirements an insurer shall meet to be considered for participation in the Exchange and will implement procedures for the certification, recertification, and decertification of health plans as qualified health plans.

The Exchange will also assign ratings to qualified health plans offered through the Exchange on the basis of relative quality and price, in accordance with the ACA.

The bill also provides critical protections meant to assist individuals in using the Exchange. For example, the bill provides that the Exchange will operate a toll-free telephone line to assist consumers and an Internet website containing standardized comparative information on qualified health plans.

The website will also feature a calculator allowing individuals to determine the actual cost of coverage. The bill also requires the Exchange to establish a program to award grants to entities to serve as "navigators" to help educate consumers and facilitate enrollment.

In addition, the Exchange will include a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which will assist small employers in facilitating the enrollment of their employees in qualified health plans offered in the group market.

While the ACA requires each Exchange to be "self-sustaining" by January 1, 2015, federal funds will support the planning, implementation, and operation of the Exchange through December 2014. New York has already been selected to receive funding under an Early Innovator Grant ($27 million) and an Exchange Planning Grant ($1 million).

In June, the New York State Department of Health expects to apply for a Level 1 Establishment Grant, which makes a year's worth of funding available to states that have made some progress under their Exchange Planning Grant.

With the enactment of this legislation, assuming other applicable criteria are met, New York will qualify to apply for additional federal funding to support Exchange planning and establishment through December 31, 2014.

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