Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Open Invitation from Senator Aubertine

You are Invited to Participate in the Upcoming
Hearing Without Having to Drive to Albany


The New York State Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a public hearing Monday, March 1, on proposed legislation known as the Farm Worker Fair Labor Practices Act (S.2247-B). The hearing will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Hearing Room A of the Legislative Office Building, Albany, and be Web cast live on the Internet HERE.

Testimony will be given in person by farmers, advocates, agribusiness and other interested or affected parties to discuss the legislation, the impact its mandates would have on both farm workers and the agriculture industry as a whole. Written testimony will also be accepted by the committee from parties unable to attend the hearing or unable to testify within the timeframe.


Senator Aubertine said "I encourage you to tune into the hearing as it will be the first time there has been a truly open forum in Albany aimed at examining the impact of a bill which may significantly change the the face of Agriculture in New York State. Farmers, farm workers, human rights advocates, economists, state agencies, and scholars will debate the merits and shortfalls of this bill while at the same time be questioned by a bi-partisan panel of Senators on the agriculture committee. We are making history tomorrow and I hope you can be part of it too."

Sincerely,


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sean Coffey for Attorney General of New York

This is a video worth watching! We'll keep you posted on other candidates planning to run for NYS Attorney General.

Can You Identify This Democrat?


The Jefferson County Democratic Committee put out a request recently for memorabilia and many have responded. One of our Committee members from the City of Watertown, Mrs. Rosemary Burns, was kind enough to donate a picture of Bobby Kennedy when he visited Watertown. The people listed in the picture are: Robert Kennedy, John Galvin and Lowell Fitzsimmons. What we would like to know is who the lady at the front of the picture is. If any of our readers can identify this person please post it here or email us at: jeffersondemocrats@gmail.com

Any memorabilia (ie buttons, lawn signs, pictures etc) that you might have would be appreciated. All we would like is for you to bring it to the Headquarters at 95 Public Square Rm 205 and have us scan them. The electronic files will then be attributed to you, catalogued and stored for future generations. Processing the items takes only a few minutes and you can then take your items home with you. Images captured will be stored indefinitely and will be a testament to all the hard work and dedication that you and your family have given to our Party and Community through out the years.

If you have anything you would like posted please drop us a email at jeffersondemocrats@gmail.com or call our Head Quarters at (315) 785-3028.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Statement from Chairman Hennessey

The Jefferson County Democratic Committee is watching with great interest the news that Governor Paterson will not seek a new term as Governor. Though we are unable to comment on recent allegations without more information, domestic violence is a matter that must always be taken seriously.

This committee has been supportive of Governor Paterson's political career and the way he has overcome many difficult challenges. However, election year battling has taken its toll on Albany and we hope that the elected officials, that we have wisely voted to represent us, can resume work on the important issues facing the North Country in a better political atmosphere.

The Jefferson County Democratic Committee is focused on moving forward to assist our local candidates and officials in the upcoming election year; as our representatives are focused on passing a responsible budget that will help our region and this state to recover from the economic downturn and create jobs.

Sean Hennessey, Jefferson County Democratic Chairman

Thursday, February 25, 2010

TO PUT NEW YORKERS BACK TO WORK, GILLIBRAND HELPS U.S. SENATE PASS NEW BIPARTISAN JOBS BILL

Gillibrand Pushed for Tax
Cut for Businesses that Create New Jobs

HIRE Act Cuts Taxes for Businesses When
They Make New Hires, Cuts Overhead Costs for
Small Businesses, Expands Investments in Local
Infrastructure Projects to Save, Create More Jobs



Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today passed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act – legislation to cut taxes for businesses that hire new workers, invest in infrastructure projects and reduce financial burdens on small businesses to put more Americans back to work starting right now.

“No one is feeling the burden of this economic downturn like New York families,” Senator Gillibrand said. “After months of continued job loss, it’s time to do whatever it takes to put New Yorkers back to work and help families survive. The legislation we passed today cuts taxes for businesses when they make new hires, cuts costs for small businesses and gives states and local governments the resources they need to continue updating our infrastructure, creating construction jobs and supporting future economic growth. It’s commonsense legislation that makes smart, targeted investments to create jobs right now and continue rebuilding our economy for the long term.”

Similar to legislation that Senator Gillibrand wrote, the HIRE Act includes tax cuts for businesses when they make new hires. Giving businesses incentives to hire new employees right now is one of the fastest, most effective measures we can take to create a large amount of jobs in a short period of time, instead of waiting for the economy to recover, and prolonging chronic unemployment.

Despite making gains in the housing and financial markets over the last year to pull our economy back from the brink, job numbers are historically the last part of the economy to recover from a recession.

To put more Americans back to work starting right now, the Senate’s HIRE Act would:

· Create new tax incentives for businesses to hire unemployed workers
The legislation provides firms who hire a worker who has been unemployed for more than 60 days a break on the firm’s Social Security payroll taxes until the end of the year, as well as a $1,000 general tax credit for firms who maintain an employee for more than one year.

· Cut costs for small businesses
This proposal in the legislation would help small businesses grow and hire more workers by allowing them to write off more of their expenditures. Specifically, the HIRE Act would extend a provision in the Recovery Act that allows small businesses to deduct up to $250,000 of the cost of qualifying property in the year it is purchased, rather than waiting to recover their costs through depreciation deductions over a number of years.

· Extend transportation programs to rebuild aging infrastructure, save existing jobs
The legislation includes a fully-funded extension of the current transportation authorization through the end of the year. Currently, New York was receiving 70 cents on the dollar for federal transportation funding, severely hindering the state’s ability to move forward with numerous infrastructure projects. The construction sector has been severely hindered because of the economic recession. Unemployment in construction trades is above 22 percent nationwide, and in some parts of New York, is upwards of 35 percent. With this continuity in funding, New York State will have the ability to take up longer-term commitments as Congress moves forward with the development of a multi-year transportation authorization bill later this year.

· Expand the Build America Bonds program
The Build America Bonds program allows local governments to sell tax-discounted bonds to fund investments in roads, sewer and other infrastructure projects and help manage local tax bills. Expanding it will allow state and local governments to finance more infrastructure projects and put people back to work.

Congressman Owens Fights to Restore Cuts to Fort Drum

Owens Presses Sec. McHugh, Gen. Casey for Fort Drum Funding
Congressman continues fight to restore funding cuts


WASHINGTON – At today’s House Armed Services Committee hearing, Congressman Bill Owens questioned Secretary of the Army John McHugh and General George W. Casey on recent funding cuts for Fort Drum.

"It is critical to our nation's security and North Country job growth that Fort Drum funding cuts be restored as quickly as possible," said Owens. "Fort Drum is a main driver of our local economy and I will continue to fight these cuts every step of the way."

The hearing marked another step in Rep. Owens’ fight to restore Fort Drum funding cuts. Since the budget reduction was announced, Owens has regularly met with military officials to ensure that adequate support is provided to the facility, which houses the most deployed division in the United States Army.

Congressman Bill Owens is a former Air Force JAG officer and currently sits on the Committee on Homeland Security and the House Armed Services Committee.

Senator Aubertine Highlights New Jobs

Census Offering 1,200 Jobs in
Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties
Aubertine: Short term jobs will have
a 10-year impact on region in
terms of aid, representation


ALBANY (February 25, 2010)—State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine said today that more than 1,000 jobs to help administer the 2010 U.S. Census are available in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. One-Stop Career Centers throughout the region are currently testing for these jobs.

Joining the Department of Labor, the Governor and the New York State Senate, Sen. Aubertine is encouraging all residents interested in these jobs to apply and take the test. These jobs are temporary, but offer wages of $9.75 to $15.75 for 25 to 30 hours per week to help ensure that every New Yorker is counted in the 2010 Census. According to the state Department of Labor, about 500 jobs are available in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, with another 200 available in Oswego County.

“Short term, these are jobs which will help many struggling to make ends meet earn good wages, but long term, the results of this Census will help determine our future as a region,” Sen. Aubertine said. “The results of the Census will help determine what level of representation we have as a state in Congress and what federal funding will be available for roads, housing, schools and public safety. Make no mistake, the Census matters for Central and Northern New York and we must do all we can to count everyone. These jobs are available and people are needed to do this important work.”

Every ten years, the Census Department counts the people in each state. This census count helps decide how many representatives New York will have. It also determines how the federal government allots funds to states and communities. For each person counted in the region, New York receives some $1,500 in federal funds per year over the next ten years. For every person not counted, the region will lose $15,000 in federal funds over the same period.

Census takers play a vital role in counting New Yorkers. They find households, check address lists, interview people and record answers. They usually work in their own neighborhoods or communities, most often at night and on weekends.

To find out more about testing dates and locations, applicants should call 1-866-861-2010. Census practice test available at: 2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs/documents/Practice_Test.pdf. For more information on the Census, go to 2010.census.gov and for more information from the state Department of Labor, see press releases at www.labor.ny.gov/pressreleases/pressreleases.shtm.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Congressman Owens Fighting for Small Buisness


Owens Votes to End Health Insurance Price Fixing

Washington – Congressman Bill Owens today voted in favor of legislation that will repeal the special anti-trust exemption for health insurance firms and medical malpractice insurance companies. The measure would end special treatment for the insurance industry that allows them to fix prices and set their own markets without fear of being investigated. H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 406-19. Owens is an original cosponsor of the legislation.

“There is no legal, rational, or moral reason to grant insurance companies an anti-trust exemption, and it has to stop,” said Owens. “My top priority is job creation, and taking away insurance companies legal trust status will improve our system in the right way by lowering insurance costs for small business owners, and encourage them to create quality jobs.”

Under the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, insurers will no longer be protected from liability for price fixing, dividing up market territories or bid rigging. In the last 14 years, there have been 400 mergers among health care insurers so that 95% of health insurance markets are “highly concentrated,” which means consumers have little or no choice between insurers. This non-competitive market has led to health insurance premiums having more than doubled in the past decade.

“Every month we hear of record profits for insurance companies and CEOs while we see our own costs rise. Washington must reform our system in the right way without taxing health care benefits, cutting Medicare, or crippling our small business community. Legislation like this improves our health care system and lowers costs without adding to our national debt.”

H.R. 4626 was introduced earlier this week by Rep. Tom Perriello (VA-5) and Rep. Betsy Markey (CO-4).

AS NYERS PREPARE THEIR TAXES, GILLIBRAND OUTLINES HOW TO TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF MIDDLE CLASS TAX CUTS SHE HELPED CREATE

Broad Range of Tax Cuts Available
for New Yorkers to Save on
Property Taxes,
New Home and Car Purchases,
College Tuition

COUNTY-BY-COUNTY REPORT:
Gillibrand Cut Taxes For Approximately 6.3 Million
New York Families With ‘Making Work Pay Tax Credit’
– Cutting Taxes for 93 Percent of New Yorkers
Free IRS Tax Assistance Available in Every
Corner of New York to Help Taxpayers
Maximize Federal Returns



Washington, D.C. – As New Yorkers get ready to file their tax returns for 2009, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is urging New York taxpayers to take full advantage of tax cuts she worked hard to secure. In addition to creating a broad range of tax relief for New Yorkers through the Property Tax Deduction and Child, Tuition and First Time Home-Buyer tax credits, Senator Gillibrand cut taxes for approximately 6.3 million middle class New York families – 93 percent of New Yorkers – through the “Making Work Pay Tax Credit.”

“New Yorkers pay some of the highest taxes in the nation,” Senator Gillibrand said. “After nearly a decade of tax giveaways to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans at the expense of small businesses and everyday New Yorkers, middle class families deserve a break of our own. From easing the burden of property taxes to helping families afford child care, purchase a new home, or send our children to college, I fought hard over the last year to help make life more affordable for New York’s hardworking middle class families.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index, over the last 10 years, gas prices on average have more than doubled. Food prices increased an average of 50 percent. College tuition at a four-year public institution rose by over 60 percent, according to the College Board. And health care premiums have doubled, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

To help middle class families keep more of what they earn, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Senator Gillibrand helped pass last year included the “Making Work Pay Tax Credit.” Approximately 6.3 million New York families are eligible for the tax credit, cutting taxes for approximately 93 percent of New Yorkers.

In the North Country, approximately 185,000 are eligible for the Making Work Pay tax cut – cutting taxes for approximately 97 percent of North Country residents.

To create more opportunities for middle class families and help them save more across the board, Senator Gillibrand fought hard last year to make the following tax deductions and resources available for 2009 tax returns:

Keeping More of What We Earn

Making Work Pay Tax Credit
The Recovery Act included the $400 Making Work Pay Tax Credit for working individuals. The tax credit was automatically included for most workers to ensure middle class workers receive this tax cut immediately. However, workers who did not receive a deduction in their withholding or who may have lost their job before they received the full value of the credit should be sure to claim it on their returns.

Earned Income Tax Credit
The Recovery Act also included the Earned Income Tax Credit – a refundable tax credit to help lower-income taxpayers. The credit begins to phase out at $21,420 for married taxpayers filing a joint return with children and completely phases out at $40,463 for one child, $45,295 for two children and $48,279 for three or more children. The Recovery Act expanded the maximum benefit for families with more than three children to $5,657.

Unemployment Benefits
In addition to helping workers keep more of their paychecks, the Recovery Act is also helping New Yorkers who have lost their jobs keep more of what they collect in unemployment benefits. Individuals receiving temporary unemployment benefits receive the first $2,400 tax-free. Most beneficiaries should have received this benefit in a reduction in their withholding, but those who did not should be sure to deduct it in their taxes.

Making Life Affordable for Middle Class Families

First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit
Senator Gillibrand helped pass the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit as part of the Recovery Act, and passed legislation in October to extend it into 2010 and expand it for more buyers. Individuals who bought a home and have not lived in a residence they owned for the past three years are eligible for this $8,000 credit, which will also be available this year through the end of April. Existing homeowners are now eligible for a tax credit of $6,500.


The First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit has been a driving force to shore up the housing market and spur new buyers. In fact, home sales jumped 5 percent in 2009, with the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit fueling sales. New home sales continued rising last month by 3.8 percent, according to estimates from U.S. Commerce Department economists.


Property Tax Deduction
Senator Gillibrand introduced bipartisan legislation last year that expanded and made permanent federal property tax relief for New Yorkers who do not itemize their federal tax deductions. The enhanced deduction would offer new tax relief for up to 30 million homeowners across the country.

Before 2008, only taxpayers who itemized their deductions could claim a deduction for state and local property taxes. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act that Congress passed in 2008 temporarily allowed non-itemizing taxpayers to deduct their property taxes. However, this deduction was capped at only $500 and expired at the end of 2009. Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would lift the caps and makes the property tax relief permanent.

New Car Purchases
Anyone who purchased a new car in 2009, including through the Cash for Clunkers program, is eligible to deduct the state and local sales tax on their purchase. To claim the credit, families must earn less than $260,000 and $135,000 for joint filers.

Child Tax Credit
Working families have been especially hard hit by the recession – for example, the cost of child care is rising $730 each year. To ease the burden on working parents, the Recovery Act expanded the Child Tax credit, which offers a tax cut of up to $1,000 for each child for many New York families by making it fully refundable and increasing the amount of income that families can count toward the credit.

American College Opportunity Tax Credit
The high cost of college tuition has put the dream of higher education out of reach for too many of New York’s brightest, hardest working students. To make college affordable for every student, the Recovery Act created the American College Opportunity Tax Credit, allowing families to claim a credit for the cost of a student’s college tuition and required course materials.
The credit is capped at $2,500 per student for four years. The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels.

Free Federal Tax Filing Help

Tax Assistance Centers In Every Corner of New York
New York taxpayers can get free assistance on their federal taxes at IRS assistance centers across the state.

Additionally, every taxpayer making less than $57,000 can use the IRS Free File program available on the IRS Web site. Users get the step-by-step help they need to prepare, complete and file federal tax returns online – at no cost.



The program is made possible through a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a group of industry-leading tax software providers. Since 2003, the Free File program has delivered free tax services to more than 25 million people.


Not only is the program completely free and secure, but taxpayers who use Free File with direct deposit may receive refunds in as little 10 days.

Statement from Governor David A. Paterson Calling for the Extension of Unemployment Insurance

ALBANY, NY (02/24/2010)(readMedia)-- "As we in government work to rebuild a broken economy, we must continue to protect those most affected by this catastrophic downturn: the unemployed. Many of our neighbors without jobs have come to rely on the unemployment insurance benefits that provide them with the means to make their mortgage payments, buy groceries or simply make ends meet. However, if Congress does not act quickly, this much-needed resource will expire, leaving many without the support they need to weather this storm.

"I strongly urge Congress to extend the unemployment insurance benefits beyond the February 28 deadline through the end of this year. Without this extension, approximately 575,000 New Yorkers will see an end to their benefits. With it, we will help to ensure the economic security of those who have already made sacrifices, scaled down spending and gone without."

Aubertine: Tax Refunds Must Be Paid

Senator Pushing Resolution
Opposing Governor’s Plan,
Signs Petition to Move Bill to
Prevent it



ALBANY (February 24, 2010)—State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine today reiterated his support for the timely return of personal income tax refunds and his opposition to a plan proposed by the Governor to withhold refunds. On Tuesday, he signed a petition to discharge a bill that would require by law that refunds be paid within 30 days.
“To call it a refund does not reflect what this money really is: It’s an overpayment to New York State that must be returned,” said Sen. Aubertine, who is chair of the Rural Resources Commission and the Senate Upstate Caucus. “It’s not New York State’s money. The money should be returned and returned in a timely fashion. People very much need this money. People pay into the system all year long and this time of year a lot of people are counting on that money to make ends meet.”
Under Senate rules passed last year with the support and urging of Sen. Aubertine, any 38 members of the Senate can discharge a bill from committee for eventual placement on the Senate calendar. After signing onto a bipartisan resolution formally opposing the governor’s plan to lower the state’s current cap on income-tax refunds paid out before March 31st, the Senator signed a petition to discharge for Rural Resources Commission member Sen. George Winner’s bill, which would require payment of refunds within 30 days or else require the state to pay interest on the refund.
“There’s no question we need reform in the budget process, be it zero based or performance based budgeting, as well as statutes to prevent these kinds of gimmicks,” Sen. Aubertine said. “We've got a tool here that can bring out to the floor a bill to address this issue. If that's what it takes, let's use it to get it on the floor for a vote. I and other members, from both parties, are willing to do just that.”
The governor’s proposal is to lower the cap from $1.75 billion to just $1.25 billion, resulting in a nearly two-month delay for thousands of taxpayers awaiting lawful refunds. Additionally, taxpayers will not be paid interest on their funds until June 1 while businesses would be denied any interest until the second half of March.
“The governor really does not have a right to hold payments back to taxpayers across the state to the tune of some $500 million and another $200 million for businesses,” Sen. Aubertine continued. “The long and short of this is that it’s simply not the state’s money. Crafting a budget and meeting the needs of our state in these tough economic times requires creative solutions not repetition of the mistakes made in other states or gimmicks that only put hard working individuals and families in a deeper hole. ”
According to Sen. Winner, his legislation (S.3985/A.5100) would require the state Department of Taxation and Finance to pay a taxpayer’s refund within 30 days after receiving the taxpayer’s filing. If the department is unable to pay a tax refund because of a discrepancy in the taxpayer’s return, it would be required to provide written notice to the taxpayer of the discrepancy and an expected timeframe for its resolution. If the department fails to provide a refund or written notice within 30 days, the taxpayer would be paid interest on the refund owed at a rate of six percent annually.

A Message from NYS Comptroller DiNapoli

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't forget to attend this forum on Februrary 27th

Who: Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell
What: A Town Hall Meeting
When: Saturday February 27th at 2:00 PM
Where: The OFA Auditorium, 1100
State St., Ogdensburg N.Y.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (Theresa, NY) announced today that she will hold a Town Hall Meeting Saturday February 27th in Ogdensburg. The forum will take place at 2PM at the Ogdensburg Free Academy auditorium.

The Assemblywoman stated, “Local voices truly need to be heard in Albany now. Families from all over the North Country will be affected by the Governor’s proposal to close the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility. Our Town Hall Meeting will give our people the opportunity to be heard.”

“The concerns and the issues identified in this forum will be recorded and carried by me to Albany. I’ll also make certain that the Governor and Legislature will be aware of the concerns of North Country citizens as budget deliberations continue. The most pressing need for our region is job retention and job creation. All citizens are invited to express their opinions.”

Governor Paterson Announces Passage of Bill to Help Businesses Produce Their Own Renewable Energy

Governor David A. Paterson today announced the passage of a three-way bill negotiated with the Legislature to improve net metering, which encourages the development of renewable energy systems. Net metering allows electricity customers with qualified renewable energy systems to sell excess electricity back to their local utility.

"This is another step toward achieving the State's clean energy goals," Governor Paterson said. "As called for in the State Energy Plan, clean energy initiatives will create local job growth, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and improve public health, the environment, and the State's energy independence. I thank the Legislature, the renewables industry, and utilities for working with me to strengthen the net metering law."

This legislation is the product of a "Net Metering Summit" that was convened by Governor Paterson last fall to facilitate an agreement between renewable energy installers and the State's major utilities. The bill eliminates the peak load limitation on the size of non-residential solar and wind systems that are eligible to participate in the net metering program. Non-residential solar and wind systems will now be allowed up to 25 kilowatts with the interconnection charges capped at $350 and $750 for solar and wind, respectively. For systems above 25 kilowatts, up to the overall cap of 2,000 kilowatts, the customer would be responsible for the actual interconnection charges.

Amendment of the net metering law for non-residential customers was an important recommendation from the State Energy Plan as a means to support the development of in-state energy supplies. The amendment also supports '45 by 15,' the goal set by Governor Paterson for the State to meet 45 percent of its electricity needs by 2015 through increased energy efficiency and renewable energy. The '45 by 15' clean energy goal would reduce the amount of electricity used in 2015 by 15 percent below forecasted levels, while simultaneously meeting 30 percent of the State's remaining electricity needs through renewable resources. Achievement of this goal would create an estimated 50,000 jobs in the State.

Born to Organize!!

Federal Workers Union Pushes
to Represent Airport Screeners


By Joe Davidson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In a bid to jump-start the effort to organize airport security officers, the American Federation of Government Employees announced Monday that it is filing a petition seeking an election to represent them.

The petition to the Federal Labor Relations Authority is an escalation in the long battle over collective bargaining rights for about 40,000 transportation security officers (TSOs) who screen luggage at the nation's airports.

The AFGE and the National Treasury Employees Union have signed up TSOs as members in preparation for an election. Although some TSOs are union members, they do not have collective bargaining rights. Until now, the labor organizations have worked to get those rights through administrative and legislative routes, before seeking an election.

But the recent withdrawal of Erroll Southers as President Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration was a setback for the unions, which had hoped for a TSA ruling that would allow collective bargaining. An election to determine which union would represent the workers would have followed.

"While it would be ideal for a TSA administrator to have granted collective bargaining rights first, the two do not have to go hand-in-hand," AFGE President John Gage said in a statement Monday. "By settling the question of representation first, AFGE will be ready to begin negotiations as soon as the bargaining rights are established."

Gaining the right to represent the airport screeners is a top priority for both unions. The winner would get a major membership boost and significantly raise its profile among federal employees.

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, responded to the AFGE announcement by saying that her union would win any election. But she added, "It would be a far better scenario for employees if the administration would grant them collective bargaining rights. It is unclear what an exclusive representative would mean under this structure."

By petitioning for an election at this point, Gage is making an aggressive move to win the support of TSOs. He announced the petition at a news conference filled with delegates in town for the union's legislative conference. It was like throwing red meat to hungry lions.

The desire for collective bargaining rights is demonstrated by the 13,000 to 14,000 screeners -- about a third of the total -- the AFGE says it has signed up, even without the full slate of rights that generally go with union membership. The National Treasury Employees Union declined to say how many TSO members it has.
Read more HERE from The Washington Post

Check out Congressman Owens and His new Site Today

Owens Unveils New Congressional Website


WASHINGTON – Congressman Bill Owens today announced the launch of his new Congressional website.

“My four district offices and our location in Washington have served a great number of Upstate New Yorkers, and I am glad to see a place on the internet where everyone back home can contact me with questions or comments.” said Owens.

Features of the website include assistance with federal agencies, voting record, press releases, positions on issues, federal grant assistance, military academy nominations, flag requests, tour information for Washington, and a schedule request to meet with Rep. Owens.

Additional constituent services can be found at Rep. Owens’ website at www.owens.house.gov or by clicking HERE.

Lawmakers hear need for 'Rooftop Highway'

By JAMES NANI and MARCY VELTE
Gazette staff writers

A proposed “Rooftop Highway” would run from Watertown to Plattsburgh in northern New York, mirroring U.S. Route 11 and connecting I-81 to I-87. Photo by Google.
February 22, 2010
A northern New York transportation advocacy group, legislators and business owners are asking for the creation of a highway that would connect Watertown to Plattsburgh and create a high-speed route for trucks and tourists between Interstates 81 and 87 north of the Adirondack Park.

But according to Jennifer Post, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, given the current economy and the recommendations of the 2008 Northern Tier Expressway: Route 11 Corridor Study — a study of the benefits of improving Route 11 rather than building a new highway — "there are no plans to develop multi-lane highway between Watertown and Plattsburg. However, preliminary scoping has been done so that projects may be developed and constructed along the corridor to address localized congestion, said Post.

The Northern Corridor Transportation Group and local manufacturers expressed to the Assembly Minority Manufacturing Task Force on Feb. 12 the need to construct a modern, four-lane, limited-access expressway in the north country.

The proposed interstate would span five counties: Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin and Lewis. Right now the only northern highways are U.S. 11 and State Route 37 — both are two-lane roads.

Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, R-Clarence, the Minority Manufacturing Task Force Chair, said in an interview that "Manufacturers who spoke with us expressed trouble with distribution." She said creation of the expressway makes sense, but its creation really comes down to money.

Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava, R-Gouverneur, and Assemblyman William Barclay, R-Pulaski, both support the project; with Scozzafava being a committed supporter of the interstate for more than a year.

According to Jason A. Clark, the director of the Northern Corridor Transportation Group, the estimated cost of the project is $4 billion, but 88 percent of the cost is expected to come from federal money.

Clark said he hopes the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration will proceed with a tiered environmental review process. Tier one would be a macro environmental investigation along the planned route and tier two would be a micro investigation to determine the exact route, about a 30-month process. He also said that according to a Congressional Government Accountability report, the four lane highway project could potentially create 27,000 upstate jobs.

"There is unparalleled economic potential for the state of New York if it was able to connect the five upstate border crossings and the ports in Oswego and Ogdensburg to a true four-lane, east-west interstate highway that would link the region to the rest of the federal interstate system," said Clark.

According to Clark, the highway would expand the Canadian/New York state trade corridor. He said one-third of the manufacturing jobs lost in the last five years in the north country have been lost in the Massena area. He also hopes that $3 billion dollars allocated for infrastructure improvements in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be used to fund the project.

The project has been called the Rooftop Highway or Northern Tier Expressway, with the name now proposed by its advocates as Interstate 98. State lawmakers from both parties that represent upstate New York have shown support for creating the highway to stimulate the economy in Northern New York and create jobs.

Drew Mangione, communications director for Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent, said that "Sen. Aubertine is working hard with Clark and others to see what can be done to make the interstate a reality." If approved, the highway would run through two counties in Aubertine's district – Jefferson and St. Lawrence.

Read more HERE from the Legislative Gazzette.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Open for Questions: Credit Card Reform

Owens Releases Statement on Advancement of Senate Jobs Bill

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bill Owens today released the following statement on the Senate jobs creation bill, which was advanced past a possible filibuster Monday night. The Senate version of the jobs package contains elements of Rep. Owens’ first piece of legislation, the Rural Jobs Tax Credit Act, which was introduced earlier this month.

“I applaud the Senate for moving quickly on this jobs bill and advancing it through the legislative process. Similar to my bill, this creates a valuable tax credit that encourages small business owners to create jobs right now in Upstate New York. Job creation is my top priority in Congress, and I am working with both Democrats and Republicans to ensure that it remains Washington’s focus as well.”

On February 2, Owens introduced H.R. 4565, the Rural Jobs Tax Credit Act, to spur investment in the Upstate economy by providing a refundable tax credit to any business in a rural area that expands its payroll by at least an inflationary amount. The credit would account for 15 percent of additions to payroll in 2010 and 10 percent in 2011.

Senate Passes Net Metering Bill to Reduce Energy Costs

Aubertine bill makes clean
energy investments profitable
for farms/businesses,
creates jobs


ALBANY (February 22, 2010)—The New York State Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine (S.6700) to amend the state’s net metering law to clear hurdles and allow farms, small businesses, municipalities and other non-residential customers to reduce their energy costs by generating clean electricity and selling it back to the grid.
“This is a business friendly and environmentally friendly bill that will help lower the cost for businesses and create jobs,” said Sen. Aubertine, Ranking Majority Member of the Senate’s Energy & Telecommunications Committee. “This legislation balances the needs of farmers, business owners, and the power industry, with the need to be better stewards of our environment. If a business wants to put photovoltaic panels on their roof or a farm is prepared to turn their waste into energy, net metering empowers these businesses to see that investment pay off with significantly reduced energy bills.”
Net metering legislation passed in 2008 gave commercial customers, including farms and small businesses, the ability to use power generated by clean energy sources, such as farm waste systems, the ability to sell back power unused power supplied to the electrical grid to offset the cost of power obtained from the grid. However, the law unintentionally limited the ability of New York businesses to generate and use their own clean energy. This bill clears those restrictions so that New York State’s net metering laws can now help reduce rising energy costs and limit overall stress on the electric grid through environmentally friendly means.
Additionally, this legislation provides incentive for businesses by lowering fees and reducing energy costs. For farmers, it sets in statute the maximum cost for connecting to the grid, a cost that has stifled farms in the region and throughout the state. Many farms have made the investment to generate energy and reduce costs, but could not afford to connect to the grid and obtain these benefits. In some cases, farm owners were told they would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars and even hundreds of thousands of dollars to connect. This bill limits that expense to $5,000 for farms generating up to 500 kilowatts.
“This bill broadens the ability of our farms and all types of businesses throughout Upstate New York and in our rural communities to take advantage of net metering,” said Sen. Aubertine, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, the Senate Upstate Caucus and the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. “The Senate took a critical step today in clearing the way for lower energy costs, job creation and new sources of clean renewable power.”
"Today's passage of the net metering amendment is a major win for New York's environment and clean energy economy," said Carol E. Murphy, Executive Director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY). "There is a strong demand among commercial customers for renewable energy systems, and local installers across the state have millions of dollars worth of pending contracts that can now move forward. We commend Senator Aubertine for supporting net metering and recognizing the important role renewable energy plays in creating green jobs and protecting our environment."
Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau, said "New York's farm families have been leading the way in utilizing renewable energy, from capturing methane on the farm and converting it to electricity to installing solar panels to help power farms naturally. Net metering is the tool that makes this innovation possible, and New York Farm Bureau is pleased to support this important initiative.”
Supporters of this legislation include ACE NY; the Farm Bureau; Alteris Renewables Inc; American Lung Association; Citizens Campaign; Environmental Advocates of New York; Environmental Advocates Of New York; Hudson Valley Clean Energy; New York Public Interest Research Group; New York State Conference of mayors and Municipal Officials; NY League Of Conservation Voters; Solar One; Uni-Solar; Vote Solar Initiative; and the Western New York Climate Action Coalition.

HHS Report Slams Insurers Premium Hikes While Pocketing Record Profits

Profits for the nation’s 10 largest health insurance companies increased 250 percent between 2000 and 2009—10 times faster than inflation—but that hasn’t stopped the private insurance industry from trying to reach even deeper into consumers’ pocketbooks with huge premium increases.

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the nation’s five largest insurance companies took in combined profits of $12.2 billion last year, up 56 percent over 2008.

But companies such as Anthem Blue Cross of California, owned by WellPoint, which enjoyed a $4.7 billion profit in 2009, want more. Anthem announced this month it would raise premiums on 800,000 Californians by as much as 39 percent. Insurers in several other states are seeking similar hikes. Says HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:

Over the last year, America’s largest insurance companies have requested premium increases of 56 percent in Michigan, 24 percent in Connecticut, 23 percent in Maine, 20 percent in Oregon, and 16 percent in Rhode Island, to name just a few states. Premium increases have left thousands of families that are already struggling during the economic downturn with an unpleasant choice between fewer benefits, higher premiums, or having no insurance at all. Hard-working families deserve better.


The HHS report says the increases are five to 10 times larger than the growth rate in national health expenditures and are “disturbing examples of the problems that make reforming our health insurance system more important than ever.”

In California, after a huge public outcry and criticism from the Obama administration and Congress, Anthem delayed its rate increases and WellPoint CEO Angela Braly will soon appear before the U.S. House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee to answer questions about the premium hikes.

Click here for the full HHS report.

In a related health care development, 8.5 million seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in the private for-profit Medicare Advantage programs are seeing their premiums jump by about 14 percent this year, but some may see rate increases as high as 31 percent, according to a report released today.

Leslie Spindle, vice president of Avalere Health, a data analysis firm that issued the report, told the Associated Press:

These premium increases fit within a broader trend of increased financial pressure on the insured. We see very large premium increases and a continued upward creep in how much out-of-pocket expenses beneficiaries are expected to pay, such as co-payments.

Medicare Advantage was designed as a pilot program to privatize Medicare during the Bush administration. It allows seniors to receive their benefits through private insurers who, in turn, are reimbursed by the federal government.

But currently, the government pays private insurance companies, on average, 13 percent more for providing coverage to Medicare Advantage clients than it would pay for the same care under traditional Medicare. Says Medicare spokesman Peter Ashkenaz:

The plans need to explain why these increases are necessary.

Meanwhile, the health care reform debate reignites next week with a televised White House bipartisan health care reform summit. Prior to the Thursday event, the Obama administration is expected to unveil a new health care reform plan that combines elements of the House- and Senate-passed bills. News reports say Republicans also will present a plan.

The details of the proposals are not known. But as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

The Massachusetts post-election polling made one thing clear: The country will not accept a tax on working families’ health care benefits.
Read more HERE

Owens Praises Implementation of CARD Act

Legislation Goes into Effect Today
Enacts Unprecedented Consumer Protection

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bill Owens today praised the implementation of H.R. 627, the CARD Act, which contains several strict protections for consumers – banning unfair interest rate increases and forbidding abusive fees and penalties by credit card companies.

“This is an important step toward helping middle-class families in Upstate New York pay off their debt,” said Owens. “For too long the credit card companies have been able to charge exorbitant interest rates which greatly impact a family’s budget. I hope these increased protections will make things a little bit easier for the hardworking families in Upstate New York.”

Called the “Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights”, H.R. 627 was signed into law on Mary 22, 2009 and began to take effect in August of last year. Today, the most beneficial initiatives of the bill will begin to ease the burden on middle-class families. Among other consumer protections included in H.R. 627, consumers are now given the right to refuse to accept rate hikes and pay off existing credit card balances under the old rate. In the new law, credit card companies are required to give 45 days’ notice of any rate increases on new purchases. If a consumer receives notice of a rate hike, they can now simply notify the card company that they reject the rate hike and want to close the account.

Additional provisions of H.R. 627:

· Companies must provide notice of any rate hike or change 45 days in advance.
· Account statements must be sent 21 days in advance of the payment due date.
· Interest rate hikes on existing balances are prohibited, only on future purchases.
· Penalty rate increases for payments less than 60 days overdue are banned.
· Charging interest on debts paid on-time is banned.
· “Due-date” gimmicks such as setting morning times for payments, before mail is delivered or charging fees for paying a bill by phone or internet is banned.
· Requires promotional rates to last at least six months.
· Consumers under 21 must demonstrate an ability to pay or have a parent cosign to be eligible for a credit card.

Assemblywoman Russell to Hold Town Hall Meeting

Who: Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell
What: A Town Hall Meeting
When: Saturday February 27th at 2:00 PM
Where: The OFA Auditorium, 1100
State St., Ogdensburg N.Y.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (Theresa, NY) announced today that she will hold a Town Hall Meeting Saturday February 27th in Ogdensburg. The forum will take place at 2PM at the Ogdensburg Free Academy auditorium.

The Assemblywoman stated, “Local voices truly need to be heard in Albany now. Families from all over the North Country will be affected by the Governor’s proposal to close the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility. Our Town Hall Meeting will give our people the opportunity to be heard.”

“The concerns and the issues identified in this forum will be recorded and carried by me to Albany. I’ll also make certain that the Governor and Legislature will be aware of the concerns of North Country citizens as budget deliberations continue. The most pressing need for our region is job retention and job creation. All citizens are invited to express their opinions.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Most Workers Hurt by Tax on Health Benefits Are Not in Unions

by Mike Hall, Feb 18, 2010

A new study shows that a proposed tax on workers’ health care benefits goes far beyond union workers’ plans. In fact, at least 80 percent of the workers hit by the tax would be nonunion.

The study by the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education looked at both the excise tax on so-called Cadillac plans in the Senate health care bill and the revised version reached Jan. 14 between the Obama administration and union leaders that lessens the tax’s impact on all working families.

Ken Jacobs, chair of the Labor Center and one of the study’s authors, says the tax’s impact is not just a union issue as was portrayed in much of the media coverage.

Union members are relatively a small fraction of the total population that would ultimately be affected by the tax, under either the Senate bill or the proposed amendment….The vast majority of employees affected by the excise tax are not covered by a union contact.

It’s uncertain what shape a final bill will take. Senate Republicans are blocking action on health care reform and the House-passed bill would use surtax on the very wealthy to fund the bill rather than taxing middle-class benefits.

In an AFL-CIO Now blog post last month, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said one of the clearest messages from the Massachusetts Senate election was “voters rejected attacks on the middle class like the proposed excise tax on health care benefits.”

Congress returns to work next week and we will keep you up to date on the latest developments in the health care reform fight.

Click HERE for the full excise tax report.

Jobs, Economic Development Focus of Roundtable

Local government, business and economic development officials
given voice in 2010-11 budget



WATERTOWN (February 19, 2010)—Upstate Caucus Chair Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine and Sen. William T. Stachowski, chair of the Senate Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business Committee, today brought local government officials, economic development and business interests together to discuss ways to use the 2010-11 state budget to strengthen the economy, create and sustain jobs.
“In these difficult times, we cannot afford to lose focus on our top priority, which remains protecting the jobs we have, while also putting in place the right tools to create new jobs here in Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties, and throughout New York State,” Sen. Aubertine said. “These are the people on the ground working to build our economy, who have the most intimate knowledge of what can be done to spur growth. The input collected here today will be used shape policy and a budget that promotes jobs and economic growth, especially Upstate, while also laying the foundation for a sustainable, long-term recovery.”
“Our job is to get people back to work,” said Sen. Stachowski. “That means listening to the people we represent to help us take immediate action as well as implement a long-term strategy to address the state’s unemployment. The expertise of industry leaders will be used to draft comprehensive job creation proposals that will be included in the state budget.”
As part of the New Jobs New York initiative spearheaded by Sen. Stachowski, today’s forum at Jefferson Community College’s Jules Center Room 6-218, featured around 50 representatives from area municipalities, businesses and economic development agencies.
“This is a great opportunity to provide input to our elected representatives and ensure that business and economic development interests are heard in the budget process,” said Garry Douglas, president and C.E.O. of Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce. “I want to thank Senator Aubertine and Senator Stachowski for putting together this forum and taking an interest in what we have to say. It is critically important that economic development and business friendly initiatives are the focus of our lawmakers. It’s clear to me that they are really listening and trying to respond.”
On Thursday, Sen. Aubertine met with school district officials to collect their input on the upcoming budget. Sen. Stachowski held similar forums with economic development as the focus in Buffalo on Thursday and Syracuse this morning.

Making Healthy Food Accessible & Affordable

First Lady Michelle Obama travels to Philadelphia, PA to discuss federal funding for a new multi-year Healthy Food Financing Initiative which will increase the availability of affordable, healthy foods in underserved urban and rural communities, particularly through the development or equipping of grocery stores and other healthy food retailers.

Gillibrand Pushes To Include Public Option In Health Insurance Reform Reconciliation Package

CBO Projections Show Public Option Could
Yield Savings of At Least $25 billion


Washington, D.C. – In the continued effort to pass health care reform that lowers costs and leads to higher quality care, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is working to pass health insurance reform that includes a public health insurance option under budget reconciliation rules.

Senator Gillibrand joined Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to write to Senate Majority Leader Reid highlighting findings from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that said a public option could yield cost savings of at least $25 billion. Bennet also pointed to the fact that a public option would provide Americans with a low-cost alternative to private insurance and improve market competitiveness.

In addition, the letter noted that there is substantial Senate precedent for using reconciliation to enact important health care policies, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), COBRA, and Medicare Advantage.

“Too many people in Washington believe that just saying you are for health care reform is a substitute for actually getting something done,” the Senators wrote.“While some choose to stall progress under the pretext of principle, more and more Americans are losing the health care coverage they need. Americans deserve better than political leaders who care more about the special interests than the people we’re supposed to represent. They deserve a Washington that is more concerned about the thousands of dollars being lost by families struggling to pay for coverage than the millions being spent by special interests intent on stopping reform in its tracks.”

In the letter, the Senators also pointed to widespread public support for a public health insurance option as evidence that the American people see it as an essential component of health care reform that lowers costs and improves the quality of care.

Late last year, before voting in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Bennet criticized the backroom deals, delay tactics and political posturing that led to the removal of the public option in health care reform.

Read more HERE

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aubertine Discusses 2010-11 Budget
with School Officials
Senator seeks input on minimizing the impact of cuts on
local students and property taxpayers


WATERTOWN (February 18, 2010)—State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine today brought school officials from more than 30 school districts in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties together to discuss the 2010-11 New York State Budget and the impact of reduced funding locally.

“Throughout my time in public office, I’ve worked to increase school aid for our districts and we’ve seen record levels of funding in recent years,” Sen. Aubertine said. “Unfortunately, as one of the largest segments of the state budget, in these difficult financial times, cuts are inevitable. We’ve given school districts and local governments two years to prepare for this, holding off on mid-year cuts and using stimulus money to keep funding stable. Now the challenge is working with the districts to ensure that the needs of our children can be met without further burdening the taxpayer.”

In late 2008, Sen. Aubertine met with school officials to discuss proposed mid-year school cuts and the overwhelming consensus among administrators was that mid-year cuts were unfair because budgets had been set already. The administrators said that if cuts had to be made, they needed time to prepare. In 2009, Sen. Aubertine worked to protect aid for the school districts by using stimulus funding, which district wide provided a modest increase in aid.

Late last year, the Senator, as chair of the Upstate Caucus, led the push against another round of proposed mid-year cuts on the grounds that not giving school districts time to prepare would lead to property tax increases, when cuts made as part of the budget process would give school districts the latitude to protect the taxpayer.

“Today’s meeting was intended to give our local districts the opportunity to share their concerns and ideas moving forward,” Sen. Aubertine said. “I am working to ensure that our school districts are in the best position possible to absorb these cuts, educate our children, and protect the local property taxpayer.”

To soften the blow of decreased aid, Sen. Aubertine has long been a proponent of mandate relief for school districts and supports many of the proposals by the Governor to free up school districts to make better, locally driven, efficient decisions with the aid and tax revenue available. He has also called for the school aid formula to best reflect the ability of school districts to handle reduced state aid particularly for the poorer rural districts in comparison to wealthier districts.

“This is an unprecedentedly difficult time in our state’s history and there are no easy decisions to be made,” Sen. Aubertine said. “The fact of the matter is that we need to make targeted cuts across the board, beyond just education funding, to rein in spending and improve the way we put together our state budget so that we can be leaner and more efficient for the taxpayer. I am working with my colleagues to protect our interests, but at the end of the day, our state cannot support maintaining our current spending levels.”

Assemblywoman Russell Speaks Out on Possible Closure

ASSEMBLYWOMAN RUSSELL DECRIES
THE POTENTIAL CLOSING OF AREA STATE PARKS


“A preliminary list of State Parks scheduled for closing this summer has crossed the desk of Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell. "I am very concerned that camping at a number of State Parks in the 118th Assembly district appears to have been targeted. Eel Weir, Keewaydin, Mary Island, Canoe Point and Cedar Island are on the list. I am also very worried about the impact that the closure of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield will have on our economy."
“These parks attract campers to our beautiful North country. They patronize local businesses and spend money here, money from outside of our region, state and Country. The economic impact of our local state parks is $63 Million annually. The loss of these parks will affect the bottom line of our small businesses, and cost us tourism jobs."
"Before it becomes final, this closure list deserves to be rethought. I have already met with local parks representatives, a Deputy Commission and have spoken with Commissioner Ash about how devastating the governor’s proposed cuts to parks will be to the North Country. I have advocated for our parks in conference to my colleagues and Assembly leadership. We need our parks and campgrounds more now than ever. They are affordable for our families, and sustain our local economy. It is bad policy to close facilities that generate revenue for the state."

Best of Luck Sam! We're With You!!!!

Former County Legislator Sam Roberts
to seek Joan Christensen's Assembly seat


Sam Roberts, who was very supportive of Senator Aubertine in his attempt to run for NYS Senate, is eyeing a run for County Legislature in Onondaga County. Sam is a true hero of the labor movement in NYS and we urge every Democrat to write a check and get on board. Best of Luck Sam, and we look forward to knocking doors for you!

Please read the Syracuse.com story below about Sam's run.

Syracuse, NY -- Another Democrat is ready to run for retiring Assemblywoman Joan Christensen’s seat.

Sam Roberts, a former Onondaga County legislator from Syracuse, filed papers Friday at the state Board of Elections to register his campaign fund-raising arm, Committee to Elect Sam Roberts. That sets him up to raise money to seek the 119th Assembly seat that fellow Democrat Christensen announced in late January that she would give up at the end of her current term.

Roberts, 53, of 320 Genesee Park Drive, said Christensen was a veteran Syracuse Common Council member and he an aspiring legislator when they talked about seeking the Assembly seat held by Republican William Bush. When Christensen took the plunge and upset Bush in 1990, Roberts said he told Christensen he would try to fill her shoes whenever she decided to step down.

In the 20 years since, Roberts served 10 years in the legislature, representing the old 19th District until the 2000 downsizing induced him to step down.

He found himself out of a job when General Motors shut down its Fisher body plant in Salina. He eventually found a new GM job at the company’s Massena factory, only to lose it when that plant closed. He’s been building superintendent at the Hughes State Office Building since 2007, a job the state Board of Elections says he must quit when he files nominating petitions in July, he said.

Roberts said the experience he gained in the County Legislature and the rough economic times he’s weathered along with many potential constituents suit him for the Assembly.

“I’ve been on both sides -- working, not working, knowing the effects of it,” Roberts said. “It’s hard to sit out and do nothing. It would be very easy for me to sit back, go to work every day and turn my back on everything else. But I think I bring something to table

Read more HERE

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Senator Aubertine to Hold Forum

Sen. Aubertine to Meet with School Superintendents,
Business & Economic Development Leaders

WATERTOWN (February 17, 2010)—State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine today announced a pair of forums to be hosted at Jefferson Community College as a means to incorporate local voices into the deliberations on the 2010-11 State Budget.

“There is no shortage of difficult decisions to be made in this year’s budget,” Sen. Aubertine said. “That’s why it is critical we continue to have an open dialogue locally. The issues, concerns and, most importantly, the ideas gathered in these forums will be used by me and the New York State Senate to ensure that we address our budget crisis while also meeting the needs of our children and job creation.”

On Thursday, the Senator will meet with school officials from throughout the 48th Senate District from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in JCC’s Jules Center Room 6-218.

On Friday, Sen. Aubertine will be joined by Sen. William T. Stachowski, chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business, for a roundtable discussion with businesses and economic development officials throughout the region from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., also in JCC’s Jules Center Room 6-218. Similar forums will be held tomorrow morning in Buffalo and Friday morning in Syracuse.

“The most pressing need for our state is job creation and job retention, especially Upstate, where despite decades of decline new opportunities are on the horizon,” said Sen. Aubertine, chair of the Senate Upstate Caucus. “By bringing the economic development and business communities together now, their input will be used to shape policy and a budget that promotes jobs and economic growth, while also laying the foundation for a sustainable, long-term recovery.”
-30-
Who: State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine, local school superintendents
When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday,

February 18, 2010
What: Forum with Oswego, Jefferson & St. Lawrence County School officials
Where: Jefferson Community College,
Jules Center Room 6-218
Who: State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine,
Sen. William T. Stachowski,
businesses, economic development officials
When: 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday,

February 19, 2010
What: Jobs Roundtable to discuss
Regional Business and Economic Development interests
Where: Jefferson Community College,
Jules Center Room 6-218

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Governor Paterson Releases Aqueduct VLT BID Documents

ALBANY, NY (02/16/2010)(readMedia)--

Governor David A. Paterson today publicly released all documents that were submitted to the Governor's Office and Legislature as part of the process to select an experienced gaming operator to build and operate a Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) facility at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The documents are posted on the Governor's website and include all submissions, bids and solicitations submitted by bidders to the Governor's Office and majority leadership of the Legislature. All documents can be found at
http://www.ny.gov/governor/press/aqueduct_vlt_bid_documents.html.
The final selection was based on a broad range of criteria including speed of payment, pay out over time, marketing/branding appeal, union support, construction capacity, win per slot, gaming expertise, community support, MWBE program, expansion plan, SEQRA footprint and lack of conditions on meeting the above criteria.

Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG), which was selected unanimously by Speaker Silver, Senator Sampson and Governor Paterson, was at or near the top in most of these categories. AEG's strengths included: a proposal that provided the fastest construction of a new permanent gaming facility with more VLTs at opening than other bidders; experienced development, gaming and construction executives; a high and attainable "win per day" estimate of $350; broad local support; full compliance with the Division of Lottery's pre-qualification license review, a statutorily required project labor agreement and the State's MWBE goals.

Publicly released documentation includes:
-Solicitation letter and draft MOU released by the State on April 16, 2009.
- Initial memoranda of understandings submitted by bidders on May 8, 2009.
- Financial evaluations performed by bidders and submitted to State on June 24, 2009. These evaluations were performed in response to the State's questions about ability to pay the franchise fee and financing for the development of Aqueduct.
- Supplemental bid revisions received by the State on August 13 and 18, 2009.
- Information supplied by the bidders on October 20, 2009, listing investors and detailing MWBE programs.
- Submissions received on November 6 in compliance with State's request to raise the franchise fee to $200 million.
- An analysis by Public Financial Management, submitted to the State on September 18, 2009, of the bidders' "win per day" estimates.

The process to select an experienced gaming operator for Aqueduct was initially outlined in a solicitation letter that was publicly released on April 16, 2009. In that solicitation letter, potential bidders were advised that "the State reserves the right to select a Vendor on the basis of its initial proposal in response to this solicitation without further negotiation, to negotiate exclusively with one potential Vendor or to negotiate with more than one potential Vendor, to request revised or supplemental proposals from one or more potential Vendors, or to cancel this solicitation without a selection."

Further, bidders were advised in the solicitation letter that the State would "endeavor to treat as confidential the potential Vendors' proprietary business information included in the potential Vendor's proposal and clearly designated as proprietary, provided, however, that such information does not represent financial or other key business terms of the potential vendor's proposal." As such, some small items in the documents have been redacted upon request of the bidder if the information was determined to be proprietary. Private information - social security numbers, tax returns or bank account information - was not included.

Additionally, the Division of Lottery conducted a pre-qualification review to determine whether each bidder, any associated entities and principal and key individuals, met the Lottery's standards for a video lottery license. This background licensing information is being prepared for transmission by Lottery, and will be delivered to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District, in the coming weeks. At the direction of Governor Paterson, Lottery will release all of these documents, appropriately redacted with respect to certain personal information - such as social security numbers - following submission to the US Attorney.

Update on Haiti

Dear Colleagues -
With a little over a month after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, we have received a situation analysis from the U.S. Ambassador on the ground. I am happy to share his report and continuous coverage of the relief and rebuilding efforts.
Warm regards,
Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Department of State. For those of you out there in our viewing area wondering where the heck have you guys been for the past week, obviously, we in Washington, D.C., have been experiencing an unusual amount of snow. So rather than doing briefings here from the podium, all of us have been home shoveling and doing other things just to survive Snowmageddon here in Washington, D.C. But we have had intrepid members of the State Department press corps with us during the course of the week and we’ve been able to try to continue business under arduous circumstances relative to Washington, D.C. I know there are some people out in the Midwest when I say you guys don’t get anything out there. But anyway, so we’re back in business and obviously pleased to see many familiar faces here back in the briefing room.
We are at one month beyond the Haiti earthquake, and we thought it was a wonderful opportunity having Ambassador Ken Merten here in Washington this week to bring him down just to kind of really give you a sense from the ground view of what is happening in Haiti, how Haiti has been able to cope and begin to recover from the devastating earthquake of a moment ago – of a month ago.
Haiti is now experiencing a three-day period of national mourning. Obviously, we stand with Haiti as it goes through this difficult timeframe. But I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to have our intrepid ambassador, who’s been leading an extraordinary effort on the ground in Haiti, begin the briefing and just kind of give you a sense of where we are here 30 days on.
Ken, thanks for joining us.
AMBASSADOR MERTEN: My pleasure. Thanks, P.J. Some of you I’ve seen down in Haiti. It’s nice to see you back all in one piece. I thought it might be useful for you all if I could give you a little picture of sort of where I see our efforts one month after the quake and give you, obviously, a chance to ask some questions on things that are of interest to you.
I’d like to start out, however, by giving a brief plug to my colleagues at the Embassy. I think those of us here from the United States can be really proud of our American diplomats, aid professionals, and soldiers on the ground who have helped deliver an immense amount of aid and relief to very, very needy people. I would ask you to keep in mind that in many cases the people providing this assistance, certainly amongst the Embassy and some of the AID staff, these are people who in many cases lost everything they owned that’s down in Haiti. They had their houses completely flattened. They’ve lost clothes, momentos, pictures. We’ve lost some colleagues down there. We have one of our Foreign Service colleagues died in the crash – in the earthquake. We have others that are still hospitalized. So it’s been a difficult period for us as well, but I’ve been very, very proud of everybody in the U.S. Government who’s down there doing, I think, fantastic work in terms of getting aid and relief to the needy Haitians.

Read more HERE Watch Video HERE

NY Manufacturers Say Conditions Improving

64% Expect To Hire in Coming Year!!

Economic conditions and optimism continue to improve for manufacturers in New York state, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

Business activity improved for a seventh consecutive month in February, according to the Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The monthly report is compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

A survey index measuring current business conditions climbed nine points from January to February, to a value of 24.9. The growth means conditions improved, and at a faster clip than the month before; the bank called the result “a healthy pace.”

A reading of zero indicates no gain or decline in activity. The survey polls 200 manufacturing CEOs from across the state.

The future looks even brighter, according to the survey. Indexes measuring employment levels, the pace of new orders and capital expenditures six months from now all remained in positive territory.

An index measuring inventories rose sharply to a reading of zero, meaning there was no decline in inventories from January to February. The index suggests most manufacturers have finished shedding inventory and are now escalating production to meet new orders.
Read more HERE

AG Candidate Visits the North Country


Kathleen Rice Visits the North Country

Nassau County District Attorney, and current candidate for NYS Attorney General: Kathleen Rice braved the North Country snow to sit down yesterday with State Committee member Ted Ford and County Chair Sean Hennessey. It was a great meeting, with Ms. Rice fielding questions about her understanding of the bread and butter issues affecting families in Jefferson County.
"..with all the issues we've had with the relocation of the Jefferson County VA; I was very pleased to hear how proactive Ms Rice has been in addressing VA issues in Nassau County," Chairman Hennessey said.

State Committee Member, Ted Ford said of Ms Rice, " Kathleen articulated well the need to further the efforts of the current and past NYS Attorney Generals. As a litigator and administrator of an office of 180 attorneys, I was impressed with her working knowledge of the managment of such a large organization."

Issues covered during the meeting were diverse and spanned from Farming Coops to Consumer Rights and Protections. "From all that we've heard and seen from these two candidates (Sean Coffey, Kathleen Rice) it's easy to be impressed. It's refreshing to see intelligent, talented people that have invested their careers in fighting for the rights of working men and women," Chairman Hennessey remarked. "So far, we felt very comfortable and optimistic about both Ms. Rice and Mr. Coffey and we look forward to hearing more! "

Please read more on Ms Rice:

District Attorney Kathleen M. Rice's Biography

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice brings experience, passion and dedication to the role of chief law enforcement official for one of the nation’s largest and safest counties. Upon taking office in 2006, Rice immediately began to modernize a district attorney’s office that serves Nassau County’s diverse population of 1.3 million residents.

In keeping the central promise she made during her historic 2005 run for office, Rice wasted no time in tackling the epidemic of drunk-driving on Long Island. Months after taking office, Rice overhauled the office’s DWI plea bargaining guidelines and created a comprehensive and unprecedented drunk-driving education program for Nassau’s high schools. Later that year, Rice and the courts agreed to open a DWI court, allowing specially trained prosecutors and judges to efficiently manage thousands of drunk-driving cases on a case-by-case basis each year.

Rice’s office has obtained murder and manslaughter convictions for drunk drivers who kill and she has drafted and lobbied successfully for legislation to toughen the penalties for the ‘worst of the worst’ drunk drivers in New York State.

In addition to her nationally recognized fight against drunk driving, Rice has worked hard to modernize the office and to reallocate resources to fight modern crime in Nassau County.

During her first two years in office, Rice has reallocated a significant amount of resources to the investigation and prosecution of public corruption. Her administration has moved to aggressively root out corruption in our schools and local governments.

Rice has also beefed up the resources used in the investigation of sexual predators preying on children using the Internet. In addition to refusing to plea bargain on child sexual predator cases, Rice has vigorously lobbied the state legislature to close the loopholes in the law and to toughen the penalties for criminals who prey on our children.

Rice has revamped bureaus dedicated to the protection of children and the elderly and to the prosecution of domestic violence. Rice has added specialized resources to the investigation of identity theft rings and consumer frauds and she has formed a specialized unit dedicated to the investigation of Medicaid fraud, the first of its kind in Nassau County.

Prior to becoming the first woman in Long Island’s history to be elected district attorney, Rice served as an Assistant United States Attorney under Attorney General Janet Reno in the United States Department of Justice’s Philadelphia office. During her more than five years as a federal prosecutor, Rice prosecuted cases of corporate fraud, deadbeat parents and public corruption, as well as federal drug and gun cases.

Read more HERE