Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In Quick Retreat, Insurers Say They’ll Cover Sick Kids After All

Arrogance allows you to do just about anything and think you can get away with it. For years, health insurers have swaggered about, callously raising premiums through the roof, dropping sick people from coverage and refusing to cover folks with pre-existing conditions. They got away with it. But not yesterday.

After media reports surfaced that big insurance companies claimed a loophole in the new health care reform law would allow them to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, the—well you know—hit the fan. Picking on sick kids is like kicking a dog or stealing Grandma’s purse. It doesn’t sit well with most Americans.

After mounting public outrage and a strongly worded letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the insurance industry quickly reversed course and promised to cover kids with pre-existing conditions beginning Sept. 23 as the new law requires. In a letter to the industry group American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Sebelius wrote:

Health insurance reform is designed to prevent any child from being denied coverage because he or she has a pre-existing condition…Now is not the time to search for nonexistent loopholes that preserve a broken system.

To ensure that there is no ambiguity on this point, I am preparing to issue regulations in the weeks ahead ensuring that the term ‘pre-existing condition exclusion’ applies to both a child’s access to a plan and to his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan.

In response, AHIP President Karen Ignagni wrote:

We await and will fully comply with regulations consistent with the principles described in your letter.

But she also wrote that insurance companies would be analyzing how much it would cost to comply-code words for “rate hike.”

At FireDogLake David Dayen lays out a likely scenario.

You can pretty much figure out AHIP’s game here. With no restrictions on cost until 2014, the industry can raise their premium prices almost at will. Even the bad publicity suffered from that 39 percent rate hike of Anthem Blue Cross plan has stopped that scheduled increase from taking effect in May. And when outrage is expressed by families facing double-digit rate hikes, AHIP will clear their throats and blame the pre-existing condition exclusion for exclusion for children, forcing the poor insurance companies to take on a sicker risk pool and raise prices to survive.

It takes a long time to beat down world class arrogance.

Listen to Senator Aubertine on the Home Grown Show

Click the picture above to link to The Home Grown Show with Senator Darrel Aubertine. Then click on 3-27-10 to listent to the show. Enjoy!!

SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND AND OWENS ANNOUNCE NEARLY $200,000 AWARDED TO ADIRONDACK REGIONAL AIRPORT

Funding Will Be Used To Expand the Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Building and to Improve Airport Drainage

Investments Will Improve Airport, Create Jobs

Schumer, Gillibrand, Owens:
Transportation Investments Create Jobs, Boost Economy
U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Bill Owens today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded the Adirondack Regional Airport a grant of $190,000 to fund an expansion and improvement project. Paid through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the grant will be used to expand the Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Building and to study the airport’s drainage, all while creating much-needed construction jobs.

"These improvements to the fire/rescue building and other facilities will ensure that Adirondack Regional Airport continues to provide safety and emergency response to the flying public,” Schumer said. “This airport is vital to the local economy, and not only do these types of projects keep the economic engine running, but they also create valuable jobs during a tough economic time. I will continue fighting to keep these grants coming.”

“This is a great investment for the North Country,” Senator Gillibrand said. “These federal dollars will help improve operations at the airport, support job creation and enhance safety for travelers. I will continue working with Senator Schumer to make sure New York gets its fair share from the federal government.”

“Our airport has the potential to play a large role in our economic recovery, and this funding will give Adirondack Regional the tools it needs to do just that,” said Owens. “The more we support our local airports, the more we can continue to grow jobs and pull ourselves out of the recession.”
Adirondack Regional Airport will use the $190,000 to expand the existing aircraft rescue and firefighting building, providing adequate space and relieving congestion that can pose a safety risk, and to conduct an comprehensive airport drainage study needed to determine the condition of drainage systems and to prevent flooding.

Senator Darrel J. Aubertine named New York State Snowmobile Association’s 2010 Legislator of the Year

Senator recognized for his fight to protect
trail fund and longstanding support for sportsmen

WATERTOWN (March 29, 2010)—State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine has been named 2010 Legislator of the Year by the New York State Snowmobile Association. The Senator will receive the award April 17 at the annual NYSSA Forum and Annual Meeting in Liverpool.
“Senator Aubertine has demonstrated time and again that he understands the importance of snowmobiling to the upstate New York economy,” said David Perkins, NYSSA Executive Director. Perkins added that Sen. Aubertine demonstrated important leadership during the ongoing New York State budget process. “The Senator’s leadership has been invaluable. His role in protecting the snowmobile trail fund has ensured that the trail fees collected as part of snowmobile registration will be used to help keep the trails safe.”
The Senator led the charge to restore a $1 million sweep in the 2008-09 budget and has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent similar sweep in current proposals and oppose a change in language that would allocate dedicated snowmobile trail maintenance funds to projects currently not eligible for this funding. The Senator worked to ensure that the budget resolution passed on March 22 rejects these actions, which were included in the Governor’s proposed budget.
“Snowmobiling is part of our way of life in upstate New York way of life and the sport depends on registration fees to fund safe trails and bring in much-needed tourism revenue,” Sen. Aubertine said. “It’s important the snowmobile registration fund is used for its intended purpose and not as a means to close budget gaps. I am happy to support the thousands of volunteers that give of themselves year after year to make it possible to ride throughout this state, and I am honored to have been chosen for this award.”
As an avid sportsman and farmer, Sen. Aubertine has been a member of the Thousand Islands Snowmobile Club and part of his land in Cape Vincent is used as part of the club’s trail system each winter. He has been a vocal advocate for snowmobilers and all sportsmen, emphasizing not only the quality of life issues for residents, but also the importance of these industries to the local economy.
“Senator Aubertine gets it,” said Mike Fischer, NYSSA President, adding “he understands the needs of upstate New Yorkers and has consistently demonstrated his commitment to responsible representation and steadfast leadership.” Fischer expressed his gratitude for the Senator’s persistence in protecting the snowmobile trail fund on behalf of NYSSA.
NYSSA is the voice of the more than 150,000 snowmobilers in New York State and the 239 local snowmobile clubs that contribute to a $1 billion dollar economic impact to the state. NYSSA seeks to preserve and improve snowmobiling in New York State by working toward improving trails, facilities and services for participants, and defending snowmobilers against discriminatory legislation. NYSSA works to protect landowners, review and watchdog the New York State Trail Fund and is constantly seeking additional Trail funding programs.
NYSSA continually works to improve communications in every aspect of snowmobiling, as it coordinates and provides leadership for New York State Snowmobile Clubs and Organizations in developing and implementing policies, strategies and action plans which foster the growth of safe snowmobiling.

Senator Schumer meets with DOJ official to hear concerns of upstate dairy farmers and consumers

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer held a constituent forum with Christine A. Varney, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Antitrust Division, who came to Batavia, New York at Schumer’s urging to meet with Upstate New York dairy farmers and consumers to explore potential anticompetitive practices in the dairy industry. Varney is the nation’s top antitrust investigator and she came to New York following a request by Schumer. The specific areas of focus during the forum included excessive market concentration, marketplace transparency and vertical integration in the dairy industry. Schumer hosted the meeting with Varney at the Genesee Community College in Batavia. During the meeting, constituents made statements and shared their concerns with Assistant Attorney General Varney.

“For too long farmers have been receiving rock-bottom prices for their products, while prices have not dropped commensurately for consumers at the stores,” Schumer said. “It just doesn’t add up. New York’s dairy industry has suffered tremendously in the past few years, and as I’ve traveled throughout the state, I’ve heard from constituents who are concerned that the state of competition in New York’s dairy industry may be playing a role. The Department of Justice did the right thing by sending the nation’s top antitrust investigator to New York to discuss this vital issues with the people whose livelihoods depend on a fair and competitive market.”

In an effort to reduce the pressure on struggling dairy farmers, Schumer has called on the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to take a hard look at the dairy industry and identify where the problems lay. In response to Schumer’s urging, the nation’s top antitrust official came to New York State to meet with dairy farmers and consumers to explore this problem.

Attorney General Cuomo Slams Nationwide Foreclosure Rescue Scammers


New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo is suing a pair of loan modification companies that he says ran nationwide foreclosure rescue scams. The lawsuits were filed against National Modification Service and its founder Joseph Romano, and Infinity Mitigation Corporation, Infinity Funding Group, and their owner and principal Neil Singer.

According to Cuomo, the companies and their owners prey on homeowners facing foreclosure by claiming that they can save their homes, but often fail to provide the services promised.

"As New Yorkers and others across the country fight to stay afloat in these tough times, we continue to see dishonest companies preying on vulnerable homeowners," said Attorney General Cuomo. "These companies pretend to be reaching out a helping hand, but instead they push consumers further down into debt and, in some cases, into foreclosure."

Cuomo also announced settlement agreements with two companies, ABM Mitigation Corporation , a Ronkonkoma-based loan modification business, and Raymond, Louis & Fitch, a Florida-based loan modification company doing business in New York.

As part of the settlements, both companies will refund fees to all customers who have not obtained a loan modification. ABM will shut down their practices nationwide and RLF will stop doing business in New York State.Both companies illegally charged customers thousands of dollars in up-front fees and failed to provide their customers with contracts as required by law.

Governor Paterson Requests Federal Disaster Aid for Six Counties Affected by March Storm

Governor David A. Paterson Monday announced that he has asked President Barack Obama to provide a major disaster declaration for Nassau, Orange, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties as a result of the March 13-15 Nor’easter, which caused flooding and severe beach erosion and cut electric power to more than 270,000 customers.

“While the State continues to do everything possible for the residents affected by this devastating storm, we need federal disaster assistance to help these communities recover,” Governor Paterson said. “The same counties affected by the March 2010 Nor’easter were pounded by repeated record breaking snow storms in December and February, which cost the State and local governments more than $45 million. Many of the emergency repairs and restoration efforts from the federally-declared disaster for the November 2009 storm were totally wiped out by the March Nor’easter.”

The Governor is seeking implementation of the Public Assistance program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the costs of response, debris removal and repairs to public property for the six counties. The Governor is also seeking statewide implementation of FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation program, which provides 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by State and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life or property from natural or technological disasters.

Monday, March 29, 2010

This Video tells it all about Senator Aubertine

Community Update with Senator Darrel Aubertine

We want to congratulate Senator Aubertine for taking care of the real issues affecting all of us here in the North Country. This video was produced by the NY State Senate. In 2008 the Republicans taped 383 public access cable shows such as this while the Democrats taped only 28. This year Republicans have produced 27 cable shows versus 14 for the Majority. We applaud the Minority and Majority for producing high quality productions that highlight the meat and potato issues that we are all struggling with. This is Senator Aubertine's first video and we look forward to more in the future! Keep'em coming!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Straight Talk on Health Care Reform

Working Families Win with House Health Care Reform Fixes

by Mike Hall, Mar 26, 2010

After Senate Republicans failed yesterday in their last desperate attempt to kill health care reform and allow the insurance industry to control the nation’s health care system, the House last night passed the final piece of legislation that puts working families in charge of their health care.

In a 220-207 vote, the House approved the health care reconciliation bill that fixes several flaws in the health care reform legislation President Obama signed this week—including significantly reducing the tax on working families’ benefits. Says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

With this legislation in place, families will have access to even more affordable care than the reform the president signed this week. Seniors will see the prescription drug “donut hole” close faster, and they will start paying less for their prescription drugs this year. Taxpayers will not pay for special deals that favor one state over another, and primary care doctors will receive fair pay for providing critical services to low-income Americans.

Pelosi’s leadership was instrumental in moving the health care reform bills to passage in recent days, despite often hate-filled attempts by Republican opponents to derail what is now the most significant legislation benefiting working families in decades.

Throughout the health care battle, mobilized union members provided a strong and visible counterpoint to the insurance giants’ television and lobbying blitz. Union members made more than 4 million phone calls and sent more than 1 million e-mail messages to lawmakers. Leaders flew to Washington, D.C., and visited members of Congress in their districts, making more than 10,000 contacts.

In addition, canvassers from Working America talked to more than 210,000 people about health care at their front doors, generating 30,000 health care petition signatures, 31,000 phone calls to Congress, 40,000 e-mail messages and 75,000 hand-written letters urging lawmakers to pass health care reform.

The contacts helped win approval of health care reform and improved the bill and ensured that its financing would be fairer.

The corrections bill, passed last night, eliminates 85 percent of the tax on working families’ benefits and delays its implementation until 2018. Along with reducing the tax on working families’ benefits, the bill imposes a small fair share tax on wealthy families’ investments and also increases employer responsibility requirements.

It also boosts the subsidies for middle- and lower-income families to purchase health insurance and increases funding for Medicaid. The reconciliation also removed several state-specific provisions that had received criticism and speeds up several new regulations to end insurance company abuse.

After the Senate defeated each of the 41 Republican amendments during a 21-hour vote-o-rama and passed the bill yesterday afternoon, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said:

This, of course, was a health bill. But it was also a jobs bill. It was also an economic recovery bill. It was a deficit-reduction bill. It was an anti-discrimination bill. It was, truly, a bill of rights. And now it is the law of the land.
Read more HERE from the AFL-CIO

DiNapoli: Open Space Provides Economic Benefits

Open space provides economic benefits that need to be identified and considered in land use decisions, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Open space can provide a variety of public benefits, including storm water drainage and water management,” DiNapoli said. “Open spaces also provide a more direct economic benefit through tourism, agriculture and the forestry industry. All these benefits should be a factor in land use decisions from Montauk to Massena.”

Agriculture is among New York’s largest and most vital industries, encompassing 25 percent of the state’s land and generating more than $4.5 billion for the state’s economy each year. In 2007, the income generated directly by farms, combined with income generated by agricultural support industries and by industries that process agricultural products, totaled $31.2 billion.

The study noted that open space contributes to the state’s economy by providing opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. DiNapoli also noted that open space often requires fewer municipal services than lands in other use and tend to generate more in municipal tax revenue.

Open space helps control storm water runoff, preserves surface water quality and stream flows, and aids in the infiltration of surface water to replenish aquifers. When lands are converted to other uses, the natural benefits provided by open space often must be replaced through the construction of water treatment facilities and infrastructure to control storm water, all paid for through local tax revenue. A series of studies have found the preservation of open space to be a more economical way to address storm water requirements.

DiNapoli’s report recommends that New York State consider:

•Allowing municipalities to establish community preservation funds
•Evaluating the adequacy of protections for lands providing benefits for municipalities
•Improving state-level planning for open space to address long-term funding needs
•Improving the administration of funds for open space programs
•Encouraging private land conservation
New York State has a history of being at the forefront of open space conservation efforts. In 1833 New York created the first state park in the nation at Niagara Falls. The state also led in the preservation of wilderness with the creation of the New York State Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill parks in 1885.
Click HERE for a copy of the Economic Benefits of Open Space report.

A Statement from Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell:

Assemblywoman Addie Russell (D-Theresa) announced that the Assembly has put forth a plan to consolidate state agencies and promote shared services as a means of addressing the state’s $9.2 billion budget gap. The plan would reduce the state workforce by over 300 positions, including streamlining management, saving the state over $30 million in the 2010-2011 budget, and consolidate 37 state agencies or offices in the coming fiscal year.
“We continue to identify redundancies and places where we can save,” Assemblywoman Russell said. “Eliminating duplicative offices and merging services wherever possible will make government operate more efficiently and effectively while saving the taxpayers money. Streamlining state government has been one of my top goals and our proposal goes a long way toward reforming and shrinking state government.”
The Assembly’s plan includes:
· Merging the current departments of Banking and Insurance to form a new Department of Financial Services – saving $6.83 million;
· Merge the Higher Education Services Corporation into the state Education Department – saving more than $1 million;
· Merging the administration of the Environmental Facilities Corporation into the Department of Environmental Conservation – saving $154,000;
· Merging the State University Construction Fund into the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York;
· Sharing administrative functions between the offices of Children and Family Services and Temporary and Disability Services – saving $530,000;
· Sharing administrative functions between the offices of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services – saving $3.45 million; · Consolidating the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform into the Department of State – saving $325,000;
· Authorizing the use of shared administrative services between the Racing and Wagering Board and the Division of Lottery; and
· Creating a task force to evaluate the consolidation of the Empire State Development Corporation, the Job Development Authority, the Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority into one Economic Development Agency.
The Assembly also accepts the following executive proposals, which would:
· Consolidate the Emergency Service and Homeland Security entities into a Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services;
· Consolidate the Operation of the Division of Housing and Community Renewal and the Housing Finance Authority.
· Merge the Office of Real Property Services and the Department of Tax and Finance;
· Merge the State Fair and the Industrial Exhibit Authority;
· Authorize the use of shared administrative services for the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and the Office of the Welfare Inspector General; and
· Transfer the Nutritional Outreach Program and the AIDS Homeless Housing Program in the Department of Health to the Office for Temporary Disability Assistance.
All proposed mergers would take effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Owens Votes to Help Small Businesses Hire This Summer

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bill Owens today voted to make business loans more affordable and available for Upstate New York small business. H.R. 4899, the Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act, passed the House floor today by a vote of 239-175.

“The key to a full economic recovery lies in the hands of our small business owners, and Washington must make available every opportunity to allow them to hire new employees and expand their operations,” Owens said. “This bill will open up a wider flow of credit to our entrepreneurs so that they support more employees in the summer when commerce typically picks up for many businesses.”

H.R. 4899 extends the Recovery Act small business lending program for an additional month by providing $600 million for the initiative. The program eliminates the fees normally charged for loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Since its creation, the program has supported nearly $23 billion in small business lending, which has helped to create or retain over 560,000 jobs.

The program’s funding is completely offset by rescinding emergency funding that is not needed, currently set aside for Cash for Clunkers, the national DTV program and for agriculture disasters.

Unemployment among Americans aged 16-24 is currently at 18.5 percent.

A Statement from Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell:

Assembly’s Budget Proposal Includes
Big Victories for the North Country
“The Assembly’s budget proposal includes great news for the North Country. Our advocacy for the issues that matter most to our region has not fallen on deaf ears in Albany. We were successful in our efforts to keep the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility open, as well as the state parks and historic sites throughout the Thousand Islands Region.

“In addition, the Assembly’s resolution modifies the proposal to create a small business revolving loan fund from money swept from NYPA. Our resolution will dedicate $1.5 million of the loan fund specifically for St. Lawrence County. This is the access to capital that our small businesses need to make it through this recession. Other victories for the North Country include restorations to agricultural, school and higher education programs, as well as softened cuts to the healthcare sector and a rejection of the proposal to steal money from the snowmobile fund.

“This is a great step forward, but we have not crossed the finish line yet. I will continue fighting until the last drop of ink is dry on a final budget that does not disproportionately hurt the North Country.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Promise of Health Care Reform

The Cost of Failure to Enact Health Reform

The number of uninsured Americans could grow by 10 million people in just five years, and spending on government health care programs for the poor could more than double by 2020, if there are not significant reforms to the current health care system, according to a new analysis just released from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Urban Institute researchers used their Health Insurance Policy Simulation Model to assess the changes in coverage patterns and health care costs that will occur nationally from 2010 to 2020 if major reforms are not enacted. The authors provide a range of scenarios to assess the effects. In the worst case:

By 2015, there could be 59.7 million people uninsured. The number could swell to 67.6 million by 2020. An estimated 49.4 million individuals were uninsured in 2010.
Middle-class households would suffer most without reform, with the percentage of these families without health coverage rising from 19 percent today to 28 percent at decade’s end.
As premiums nearly double, employees in small firms would see offers of health insurance almost cut in half, dropping from 41 percent of firms offering insurance in 2010 to 23 percent in 2020.
For employers who continued to offer health insurance, more of the costs would likely be passed on to workers. At the same time, individuals and families would face higher out-of-pocket costs for premiums and health care services. Their spending will jump 34 percent by 2015 and 79 percent by 2020.
The analysis is an update of a report prepared by the Urban Institute last year on the economic impact for the nation and individuals if the health reform effort were to fail. The new report presents fresh findings on the composition of the uninsured in 2020 without reform, the offers of health benefits by employers and the increase in costs to different payers.
Read more HERE from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Great Day for OCF and NY State

A Community Rallied And the Senate Listened

The people of Ogdensburg have been heard here in the Senate and I am pleased to say that the Senate rejects the closure of Ogdensburg Correctional Facility. The case was clear and we will continue working to make the case for this well run, efficient facility. The community, the families and the 300 employees came together to get us this far and we will continue working together.

Join me on the steps of the Capitol at 2:30 PM to rally in support of the prison.
We took a major step today, and now we need to go the last mile. I will continue to fight for this community and tomorrow, the Governor and the Assembly will hear our voices loud and clear.

I will continue drawing on the community's support to ensure the Senate's language is adopted.

A Budget I can vote "Yes" on!

Voting 'no' is not an option for saving this facility. We need to pass a budget that includes specific language preventing the commissioner from closing Ogdensburg Correctional now or in the future. That's what we have proposed here in the Senate and I will continue working to ensure that the final budget reflects this priority. We've cleared a major hurdle today and we are moving in the right direction. We must continue to work together and stand up for our community until this budget is passed and signed into law.

With more than 97 percent of its staffed beds occupied, a staff that operates the facility under budget each year, inmate incident rates at just a fraction of what downstate facilities endure, and overtime budgets less than half of what most other facilities pay, Ogdensburg Correctional Facility is a model of efficiency. In fact, the largest expense is payroll, which when distributed among 287 workers in a community of around 11,000 provides a significant economic impact. The ripple effect of losing this facility would likely cause the loss of close to 1,000 jobs in the community.

A Historic Victory for America

House sends Senate healthcare
bill to Obama's desk;
219-212

The House made history with the passage of comprehensive national healthcare reform Sunday, giving President Barack Obama a major legislative victory after more than a year of intense debate.

The Senate healthcare bill passed the House a vote of 219-212. Thirty-four Democrats voted against their party, and against the legislation. As expected, the Republican opposition was unanimous.

Less than one hour later, the House approved a package of changes to that legislation that will now be considered by the Senate under budget reconciliation rules that will prevent Republican senators from blocking the bill with a filibuster.

Democrats prevailed on that measure in a 220-211 vote, with 33 Democrats voting no.

Democrats also defeated a GOP motion to recommit the Senate bill, which would have killed the legislation, in a 199-232 vote.

Though the outcome seemed in doubt even as the House convened Sunday morning, as it had at numerous points throughout the past year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ultimately was able to deliver the votes and further cement her reputation as one of the strongest leaders of the House in decades.

"Imagine a society where someone could change jobs without losing health insurance,” Pelosi said in her floor speech, urging members to support the legislation. "Imagine an economy where people could follow their passions and their talents without having to worry that their children would not have health insurance."

Pelosi also offered a tribute to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.): "It wouldn’t be possible to talk about healthcare without acknowledging Senator Ted Kennedy, who made healthcare his life’s work," she said.

In a 15-minute speech, GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) told members they should be ashamed to be approving a bill he said is not supported by their constituents.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the Senate healthcare bill into law without delay. His signature will allow the Senate to consider the reconciliation bill.

Read more HERE from The Hill

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Statement of Congressman Bill Owens on Health Care Reform

Owens will vote to improve, increase coverage
for hundreds of thousands of Upstate New Yorkers

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bill Owens today released the following statement regarding H.R. 4872, the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010:

“To reach a decision on one of the most important choices of my lifetime, I drew on numerous sources in order to gather all the information that I could. I read and studied the Senate legislation, the reconciliation bill, the nonpartisan financial findings from the Congressional Budget Office, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report on the cost of inaction. I spoke to several representatives of New York State and our immediate community, and met with Congressman Paul Ryan, one of the leading Republican opponents of these bills. I also held numerous meetings with Upstate New Yorkers from every walk of life – from the AARP to working families, from labor unions to tea party members who came to my offices, from small business owners to CEOs of community hospitals. When I could not meet with constituents face-to-face, I held a telephone town hall with 3,700 people, during which a quarter of participants said that health care costs was the top concern, but 44 percent were more concerned with jobs. My staff was available in all five of my offices where thousands of calls were logged. The concerns I heard from constituents demonstrated both the need for health care reform to lower costs and to help our entrepreneurs create jobs.

“The math is sound on this bill. Currently, our nation spends $45 billion each year in uncompensated care alone. It is estimated that premium costs will go up at least another $45 billion, costing our economy at least $90 billion annually. In short, while Americans spend almost $2.5 trillion annually on health care, this legislation makes fiscal sense. For those reasons and many others, I intend to vote in favor of health care reform when it comes before the House of Representatives this Sunday.

“As I said during the decision-making process, I was not swayed by outside opinions, or misinformation campaigns from either side. I gathered all the available facts, and the correct decision was clear. In order to avoid astronomical rises in premiums, to improve our benefits, and to once again put our families – not insurance companies - in charge of their own health care this bill is needed.

“This legislation is necessary to once again return our nation to fiscal health and a robust economy. Should our nation continue down our current unsustainable path, we would be on track to spend one out of every five dollars our country earns on an ineffective health care system. This bill gives us the opportunity to provide health care to most uninsured Americans, and the opportunity to grow jobs in Upstate New York.

“After studying all the facts, I was presented with a simple choice: Do nothing and further burden our families and entrepreneurs, and allow our costs to spiral out of control, or take the first steps to reform our system in a way that will pay for itself and help America pull itself out of the recession.

“I believe this moves our communities and America forward.”

IMPACT ON THE NORTH COUNTRY

Earlier this week, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report on the impact that H.R. 4872 is expected to have on New York’s 23rd Congressional District. The committee found that approximately 405,000 North Country residents receive health care coverage. Under health care reform, these policyholders would be able to keep the insurance they have, pay less for preventative care, and no longer have to worry about being denied for a claim based on pre-existing conditions.

The legislation is also one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in history, as it provides families with incomes up to $88,000 for a family of four with tax credits to help pay for coverage. In Upstate New York, there are more than 177,000 households that would qualify for this tax cut. In addition to saving families money, the bill will also reduce the cost of uncompensated care for community hospitals and local health care providers by $67 million annually.

In his first few months in office, Rep. Owens has introduced and cosponsored legislation to help small business owners create jobs and put Upstate New Yorkers back to work. H.R. 4872 would allow local small businesses to pool together and benefit from group rate insurance and a greater choice of providers. Northern New York small businesses with 25 employees or less will qualify for tax credits of up to half of their insurance costs. This will apply to 12,600 Upstate small businesses. The legislation will also provide funding for 12 community health centers, creating jobs and spurring economic development in the process.

More than 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries will also see their coverage improve, as many in the community are subject to the Medicare Part D “donut hole” coverage gap.

HISTORIC INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION

Passage of the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act is the largest investment in the history of our nation to help students and families pay for college – and at no cost to taxpayers. The bill will reform the system of federal student loans and save the American taxpayer $61 billion while investing $51 billion to expand aid for college students. This initiative will cut the deficit by $10 billion over the next decade. Pell grants for students and competitive grants for community colleges are set to receive the largest benefit from this plan.

“I consulted with college presidents in our community and they overwhelmingly support this legislation,” said Owens. “This is a critical step toward rebuilding our economy, making sure young people have the ability to attend college or get career training, and that our work force remains to most highly skilled and effective in the world. This bill will help build a stronger, more competitive American economy for the future while saving taxpayers money.”

Reforms of health care and education are fully paid and are compliant with the “pay-as-you-go” system that Rep. Owens supported last month. PAYGO requires Congress to pay for the costs of tax cuts or increases in non-defense spending with savings elsewhere in the budget.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lack Of Participation In Last Census Cost The North Country Approximately $80 Million In Federal Funding Over Last 10 Years -- Gillibrand Urges New Yo

Gillibrand: “Participation in Census 2010
By All New Yorkers Is Critical To Ensuring
Our Fair Share of Federal Resources”

Washington, DC – As Census 2010 forms arrive in the mailboxes of New York residents this week, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is urging all New Yorkers to participate in this year’s Census.

During the last Census in 2000, approximately 200,000 New Yorkers did not fill out or send back their Census forms. As a result, New York State lost out on approximately $3.6 billion in federal funding over the last decade. In the North Country alone, approximately 4,000 residents did not participate in the 2000 Census, costing the North Country approximately $8 million in federal funding last year and over $80 million over the last 10 years.

“The census is a win-win for everyone – and it’s safe, easy and fast to fill out,” Senator Gillibrand said. “It is critical that we capture a true picture of New York’s families and neighborhoods to ensure their access to needed resources. Participation in Census 2010 by all New Yorkers is critical to ensuring our fair share of federal resources. Especially during difficult economic times, we need to secure federal funding to protect local education, health care, and public safety services and hold the line on property taxes.”

Census data, collected once every 10 years, guides decision makers on where to build new schools, health clinics, child care and senior centers and much more. The data also determines the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. Since the federal government uses census information every year to distribute critically needed funds for programs such as hospitals and school services, clean streets, public housing, social services, and food stamps, undercounting has resulted in neighborhoods losing hundreds of millions of federal dollars over the last decade.

The new census form, which asks each household 10 simple questions designed to take 10 minutes to complete, is safe and easy. Questions include full name, date of birth, country of origin, and contact number. The form includes a return envelope with pre-paid postage.

By law, individual responses are kept confidential and are not to be shared with other federal agencies. Respondents are not asked to answer questions regarding their immigration status.

Residents are urged to complete and return their census forms by mid April. Starting in May, Census workers will visit households who do not respond by mail.

Watch Assemblywoman Russell's Town Hall on Prison Closures

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Message From Congressman Owens on Health Care Reform

For many months, our nation has been embroiled in a heated debate on how best to reform our health care system.

A lot of you might be wondering where I stand in the ongoing discussion on health care. I am still undecided on how I will vote on this piece of legislation.
While I am waiting for the final bill to reach my desk, I am reviewing all material relevant to this debate to make the best and most-informed decision for Upstate New York. I am completing my reading of the Senate bill, requested to meet with White House personnel about my specific questions surrounding factual arguments, spoke with a leading opponent of health care reform Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, met with AARP representatives, and have poured over independent reports like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s presentation on the cost of inaction on health care reform.

Most importantly, I am gathering your input. Last week, I held a telephone town hall and spoke with over 3,700 constituents in our community. Your top concern voiced during an nonscientific poll on the conference call was, not surprisingly, job creation at 44%, with 25% stating that health care was their top concern. Telephones in all five of my offices have been ringing off the hook. Thousands of people from across the country have left voicemails, sent e-mails and written letters to voice their opinion. It is safe to say that I have heard from all sides of the debate, and most have expressed their concerns in a civil manner. It is no surprise that people on both sides of this issue are passionate. However, there is a line between civil discourse and the physical and verbal threats that I have received at my offices back home.

There are a lot of good people who support health care reform, and a lot of good people who oppose the plan. Unfortunately, there have been people from outside our community that have been verbally abusive to my staff, and made thinly-veiled threats of violence. Meanwhile, local and national Tea Party groups are more concerned with distorting my record and "declaring war" on me instead of providing real solutions to our nations problems. Now is the time for thoughtful conversation, not aggression, lies, or nonsensical rhetoric.

As I am presented with the health care bill, I will read it, study it, and make a decision that serves best the people of Upstate New York. Until then, I appreciate your support and patience as we work to do what is best for our community and our nation.

Aubertine Pushes for Property Tax Relief

Senator calls “circuit breaker” legislation
the beginning of a meaningful debate

ALBANY (March 18, 2010)—State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine today said meaningful bipartisan discussions on property tax relief must start now, while lawmakers are engaged in the budget process and well before the close of session in June.
To that end, the Senator today joined his colleagues for a near unanimous vote (58-1) to pass a bill that would create a circuit breaker tax relief system, restore rebate checks for seniors and put a cap on property tax levy increases which still maintains for school districts the latitude they need to educate our children.
“This is about finding ways to cut taxes,” Sen. Aubertine said. “New York State has the highest property taxes in the nation and we need to install a system that will provide meaningful relief based on an individual’s ability to pay. This legislation starts us toward that goal with an income based relief structure which is needed because the value of a home is not an indicator of a homeowner’s ability to pay.”
The legislation passed today would provide millions of dollars in relief to property owners in a fiscally responsible way that restricts rebates to middle class New Yorkers to fit within the economic constraints of the state’s difficult financial crisis. The Senator has been pushing for a circuit breaker and has voted in favor of caps on property tax increases, working toward a system that balances the needs of property taxpayers with the education needs of our students.
This legislation would also enable farmers to discount the payments made on equipment and machinery from their income for eligibility in the program, similar to legislation the Senator introduced (S.4451).
“This bill captures the essence of a bill I introduced in this house to enable farmers to show their real income when determining eligibility for STAR,” Sen. Aubertine said. “Currently, many farmers unable to receive STAR benefits because the payments they make on equipment cannot be deducted from their adjusted gross income. This bill addresses that and will provide new relief to many farmers.”
In addition to this direct property tax relief, the Senator pushed for and passed Tier V pension relief, which will save the state, local governments and school districts billions over the next few decades. Earlier this week, he voted for mandate relief which passed the Senate to free up school districts to do more with less and more efficiently use taxpayer revenue in the education of our children. Likewise, he is pushing for legislation to provide retirement incentives for teachers at 55 years old with 25 years of service, a move that will clear school districts of high salaries and open up opportunities for new teachers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Welcome Aboard Senator Peralta!!!

New York Senate Dems Congratulate
José Peralta on His Win
in the Queens Special Election



Albany, NY - Last night José Peralta won the special election in Senate District 13 (Queens), capturing 66 percent of the vote. The New York Democratic Senate Campaign Committee congratulates Senator-elect Peralta on his win, and welcomes him to the Democratic Majority Conference.

"In the assembly, Senator-elect Peralta had a strong record of fighting to improve the lives of his constituents and all New Yorkers," said New York State DSCC Executive Director Josh Cherwin. "We are proud to have him join our conference and look forward to his help in addressing the many challenges facing us today."

Peralta's win yesterday returned Democrats to a 32 - 30 majority in the New York State Senate.

GILLIBRAND UNVEILS NEW LEGISLATIVE AGENDA TO DELIVER HEALTHY, NUTRITIOUS FOOD TO CHILDREN AND FAMILIES MOST IN NEED

Introduces 3 New Bills to Enroll
Foster Care Children in
National School Lunch Program,

Update WIC Nutrition Guidelines,
Cut Red Tape From WIC Program
to Deliver Resources Where They
Are Needed Most

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today introduced a new legislative agenda to provide quality, healthy, nutritious food to low-income children and families who desperately need it. Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation to enroll all foster care children in the National School Lunch Program to give them access to healthy breakfasts and lunches, along with new legislation to update the nutritional standards of the USDA’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that provides resources for healthy food to low-income families, and cut waste from WIC to ensure that resources are being spent where they are needed most.

“Every child deserves the opportunity to achieve their full potential,” Senator Gillibrand said. “But too many of our children are falling behind because they don’t have access to healthy, nutritious meals. My legislation would make sure children who are most in need can get the same healthy meals that all schoolchildren have, update nutrition standards to maximize the effectiveness of the WIC program, and cut waste from the program to make sure we’re spending resources where they are needed the most.”

As the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, Senator Gillibrand is fighting for higher food standards and to provide New York with more resources to give all New York children and families access to healthy meals.

Healthier Meals for Children in Foster Care
Nearly 26,000 New York children live in foster care. A 2008 study by the University of Utah found that 35 percent of children in foster care are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity puts children at risk of becoming obese adults, and puts them at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart illness.

Senator Gillibrand is introducing legislation that would enroll all children in foster care in the National School Lunch Program that provides daily healthy, nutritious breakfasts and lunches to children in need.

Update WIC Nutrition Standards
WIC provides Supplemental Nutrition Assistance to pregnant women, and women with infants and young children. WIC is an effective program that improves the health of pregnant women, new mothers, their infants and children, and provides essential nutrients that are often missing from the diets of low-income families. In fact, WIC participants are proven to have longer, healthier pregnancies and fewer premature births. More than half a million New Yorkers participate in WIC.

However, until the 2004 Child Nutrition Act was implemented, the contents of the WIC Food Package had not been updated in over 30 years. Senator Gillibrand is introducing legislation that would require the nutritional standards of the WIC program to be reviewed by the Institute of Medicine at least every 10 years to ensure the program’s food packages meet current health and nutrition standards.

Cut Unnecessary Red Tape from WIC
States are required to certify whether WIC participants qualify for the program every six months – requiring the program to spend resources on administrative costs instead of resources for families in need. Since most participants enroll in the WIC program for up to five years starting from pregnancy, Senator Gillibrand is introducing legislation that would allow states to review their WIC participants once a year instead of every six months to cut wasteful spending on administrative costs and use these savings to deliver resources for families.

Read more about Senator Gillibrand’s agenda to improve food standards and give more New York children access to the healthy, nutritious meals they need to achieve their full potential.

Aubertine Bill Puts Employer Input at Center of New Bill to Reform State’s Economic Development Power Programs

Bill makes economic development
power programs permanent to
provide stability for employers
Legislation uses input from Powering New York’s
Future Initiative to address job growth, retention


ALBANY (March 17, 2010)—Using input collected last fall from businesses and stakeholders across the state, State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine has introduced legislation (S.7138) to advance reforms to the state’s low cost power for economic development programs.
“This brings into the discussion on reforming and improving these programs many of the ideas we heard last fall,” Sen. Aubertine said. “The Assembly has its proposal, the governor is expected to have his own and by working together we will put in place a program that will create and retain jobs throughout the state, especially Upstate.”
With other proposals having been released or in the works, this proposal from the Ranking Majority member of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee will be used in negotiations to complete the bipartisan and bicameral work done through the “Powering New York’s Future Initiative” last fall. Roundtables and hearings were held in Buffalo, Niagara, Uniondale, Oswego, Syracuse, Kingston, and Massena.
“Throughout the many roundtables and hearings across the state, the intent was always to incorporate the ideas and input from the businesses and stakeholders driving our economy,” Sen. Aubertine said. “It is important that the legislation to reform these programs be done in a deliberative way. I did not want to see us write a bill, pass it, sign it into law and ask the businesses, ‘How do you like it?’”
“We went to the business community to get their input, find out what they’re comfortable with and then craft legislation,” added the Senator, who is also chair of the Senate Upstate Caucus and the bicameral Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. “This legislation represents that work and the hope is that with other proposals, we can put together a compromise of good legislation that works well for everyone.”
The Economic Benefit Power Program proposed by Sen. Aubertine takes a comprehensive approach to using low cost power and the resources of the New York Power Authority to maximize the retention and creation of jobs across New York State. It would build on previously successful programs such as Power for Jobs by incorporating the needs of employers to ensure even better results.
The Senator’s legislation would make the program permanent beginning July 1, 2011 and offer seven year agreements for businesses with a mutual “evergreen” option for one year extenders that would maintain a seven year deal, ensuring that businesses have the certainty needed to support long term job commitments.
“This adds stability, which is needed,” Sen. Aubertine said. “Any employer that might take advantage of this program is going to know that for the next seven years, they’re in the program. As it works now, they’re subject to renewal every year and there’s always the question of if the Legislature is going to renew. This approach allows a business to put together a capital plan that takes into account whether these benefits are going to be there. It lends stability to what is a good economic development tool.”
To bridge the gap between the current May 15, 2010 expiration of Power for Jobs and other existing programs, this legislation proposes using an extender of the current program to reach the 2011 start date, then phases out the program for businesses already enrolled over five years to ensure a “soft landing” for any recipient not eligible for the new program. If a business receiving Power for Jobs is eligible for the new program, as most are expected to be, it will receive the greater of the two benefits over the five year phase out.
The Senator’s legislation would leave the existing Economic Development Power Allocation Board in place to determine eligibility and enroll employers in the new program, but expand the current four member board to nine members. This will provide for a broader base of expertise and better ensure that the board will always have a majority and a working quorum to make decisions. This expanded board would be chaired by the chair of the Empire State Development Corporation appointed by the Governor, the president of NYSERDA, the president of NYPA, two members selected each by the Majority in the Senate and Assembly, and one member chosen each by the Minorities in the Senate and Assembly.
Sen. Aubertine’s legislation would establish criteria for eligibility that will take into account:
· Retention of existing jobs;
· Creation of new jobs;
· Capital investment commitments, investment history in the community and long term commitment to the community and the state;
· Impact on surrounding economy, “multiplier effect,” and the potential for economic growth relating to this business;
· The quality of jobs created or retained in terms of salary, benefits, stability;
· The relative impact energy costs have on the recipient’s operations;
· The economic impact and criticality of services provided to the local community and state;
· Prior performance under other economic development programs; and
· Planned and previous investments in energy efficiency made by the business.
The criteria for being in the program had to be a part of the discussion with employers and this reflects their concerns,” Sen. Aubertine said. “Some of the things the business community wanted factored into their application were credit for making huge capital investments in New York, the number and quality of the jobs, the impact on the community and the work that has already been done to be more efficient. All of that was in the mix when we put this together.”
Energy efficiency is another key component in Sen. Aubertine’s legislation. His proposal would have the New York Power Authority fund free energy audits to recipients to improve efficiency. These audits would help determine ways the business can cost effectively reduce energy use in conjunction with receiving discount power for further savings that will enable the business or organization to reinvest and create jobs.
The new Economic Benefit Power Program proposed by Sen. Aubertine looks protects Rural and Domestic Power allocations for low and middle income residential customers eligible for the Home Energy Assistance Program (e.g. an income of $46,836 per year in 2010 for a family of four) at 100 percent of the benefits now provided and use the remaining allocations to provide additional resources to the program and further job creation efforts.
This legislation would also direct Empire State Development, NYPA, and NYSERDA where possible to coordinate applications for the Economic Development Power Program with state and local economic development programs to facilitate a single point of entry for “one-stop shopping” to help businesses to increase or maintain their investments in New York.
“Overall, this is certainly a very good economic development tool and something that for too long has not had the stability it needs to be as effective as it could be,” Sen. Aubertine said. “What I’m proposing with this legislation brings the stability to the program that will make it much more effective.”

Owens Meets with Ireland's Prime Minister

Owens Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day,
Meets with Prime Minister
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bill Owens today celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and met with Ireland Prime Minister Brian Cowen. Rep. Owens spoke with the Prime Minister about debt reduction strategies and effective cuts in spending.

“St. Patrick’s Day is a day when everyone is Irish,” said Owens. “Today, we can all be proud that Ireland is taking aggressive steps to rein in spending and control their national debt. Deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility are second only to job creation in my priorities in Washington.”

Rep. Owens has advocated a fiscally responsible strategy in Washington during his time in office, supporting multiple bills that aim to provide tax cuts to middle-class families and small business owners while advocating for a serious and sustained investment to pay down the deficit.

“Now is the time for Democrats and Republicans to work together and take decisive action to cut unnecessary spending and put Americans back to work,” Owens added.

Owens also congratulated Clinton County Clerk John Zurlo, who was named Irishman of the Year by the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce this morning.

“We are very proud of John. This is a major recognition considering the high number of Upstate New Yorkers who claim Irish heritage,” said Owens

Monday, March 15, 2010

"I'm Here Because of Natoma"

Health Care Reform Needed NOW!!!

Health Insurance Premiums Soar
as New Polls Show Americans
Want Reform


Recent polls show a majority of Americans want Congress to pass comprehensive health care reform now. And for good reason: There’s more news out this week about the enormous increases in health insurance premiums, according to a new report.

A survey from Economist/YouGov released this week shows 53 percent of respondents support changes proposed by the Obama administration. A second poll by Ipsos/McClutchey shows that 53 percent of Americans either support the current reform option or hope for an even stronger reform package. More than a third of those who oppose current reform proposals actually favor stronger reforms.

Meanwhile, a study by Health Care for America Now (HCAN) shows jaw-dropping insurance premium hikes—up 97 percent for families and 90 percent for individuals between 2000 and 2008. Premiums rose two times faster than medical costs and more than three times faster than wages. Companies like WellPoint are raising premiums by as much as 39 percent in California and by double digits in at least 11 states.

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that people who bought insurance on their own between 2004 and 2007 on average paid more of their health expenses themselves—52 percent—than insurance companies. Yet those who had employer-sponsored coverage only paid 30 percent out of pocket.

The industry front group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), heard plenty this week as thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., outside AHIP’s meeting to stage a citizens’ arrest for its crime in blocking health care reform.

Says Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman:

The recent premium increases in the individual market probably have done more to illustrate the cost of doing nothing in health reform in simple, graphic terms people can understand than anything so far in the health reform debate

Congressman Owens Delivers for The North Country

Owens Announces Funding
for Clarkson University
Grant to improve health concerns, help people quit smoking


WASHINGTON – Congressman Bill Owens today announced funding for Clarkson University in Potsdam for the school to develop a device with the goal of increasing the success rate for those trying to quit smoking.

“Clarkson has long been a standard for academic excellence in the North Country, and I am glad to see them awarded the tools they need to continue this tradition. It is important that we support our universities like Clarkson and the SUNY system throughout the state if we are to continue to be a leader in higher education,” said Owens.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded Clarkson University $198,525 to fund the development of a noninvasive monitoring system for cigarette smoking. The project director, Dr. Edward Sazonov will work in conjunction with Dr. Steve Tiffany at SUNY Buffalo on the task.

“We hope to develop a wearable device that can objectively capture and characterize cigarette smoking. Such a device can be used to evaluate effectiveness of behavioral and pharmacological smoking cessation programs and potentially be used to improve outcomes,” said Dr. Sazonov.

The objective of the project is to develop a non-invasive wearable system called the Personal Automatic Cigarette Tracker (PACT), a completely transparent monitoring device that does not require any conscience effort to achieve reliable monitoring of smoking behavior.

Engineering of the device will take place in the Laboratory of Ambient and Wearable Systems at Clarkson University, and a human trial will be conducted at SUNY Buffalo.

“Each year, we lose more than 400,000 lives and spend more than $165 billion in health care costs from the effects of cigarette smoking,” Owens added. “This type of innovation is an important step toward helping those who want to quit smoking succeed, and improving the overall health of our communities.”

Senator Gillibrand Shows Off Ease of Census


Be counted in New York for the Census
Published: Monday, March 15, 2010 6:05 PM EDT

As Census 2010 forms arrive in the mailboxes of New York City residents this week, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a coalition of advocacy groups and the U.S. Census Bureau urged all New Yorkers to participate in this year’s census.

At the event hosted and organized by Lillian Rodríguez-López at the office of the Hispanic Federation, Senator Gillibrand showed just how safe, easy, and fast it is to fill out and return the questionnaire. The senator also announced that her offices across New York will hold “Be Counted” Centers to help guide constituents through the process.

“This week households across New York State will be receiving one of the most important documents they will be given this decade: the 2010 Census Questionnaire Form. We thank Senator Gillibrand for drawing much needed attention to how easy, safe and critically important census participation is for Latinos and all New Yorkers,” said Lillian Rodríguez-López, president of the Hispanic Federation.

New York Secretary of State Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez said, “The census is safe; it’s easy, as it only takes a few minutes to answer and return; and it’s important, as census data affects funding and political representation for our community.

“Given the extraordinary economic challenges facing our families and communities right now, the stakes for an accurate count have never been greater – especially for Latinos and other groups who have traditionally been undercounted in the Census.An accurate count will insure our state receives much needed federal funding for social services and infrastructure improvements.”

Senator Gillibrand said, “The census is a win win for everyone – and it’s safe, easy and fast to fill out. It is critical that we capture a true picture of New York’s families and neighborhoods to ensure their access to needed resources. Participation in Census 2010 by all New Yorkers is critical to ensuring our fair share of federal resources.”

When the Census was last conducted in 2000, only 55 percent of New York City residents mailed in their surveys – far below the national average of 67 percent. Three of the city’s boroughs – Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens – were ranked among the worst counted places in the country.

Census data, collected once every 10 years, guides decision makers on where to build new schools, health clinics, child care and senior centers and much more. The data also determines the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. Since the federal government uses census information every year to distribute critically needed funds for programs such as hospitals and school services, clean streets, public housing, social services, and food stamps, undercounting has resulted in city neighborhoods losing hundreds of millions of federal dollars over the last decade.
Read more HERE

Friday, March 12, 2010

Schumer Pushes Youth Jobs Bill

ROCHESTER, NY---Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is backing a senate bill aimed at getting teens and other young workers part-time jobs.

The Youth Jobs Act of 2010 was sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and proposes the creation of 500,000 so-called "transitional jobs" for young workers through programs nationwide. The bill, if passed as-is would commit $1.5 billion federal dollars to job programs.

The current national youth unemployment rate stands at 21.5% according to Schumer.

"More than any time in recent memory, summer jobs for teenagers and young adults are going to be tough to come by this summer.That's why we need to start taking critical steps to immediately address the problem-investing in summer jobs programs will not only ensure that kids and young adults have the proper training to join the work force, but will relieve stress on the middle class families and is a proven way to jumpstart a local economy," said Schumer.
Read more HERE from WHAM 13

DiNapoli presses for energy company disclosures

New York State’s $129.4 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund will continue to press energy companies to disclose to their shareholders the environmental and regulatory risks associated with unconventional natural gas extraction including hydraulic fracturing, state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said.

“Natural gas stores locked in dense shale formations like the Marcellus Shale in New York are an important source of energy, but there are reasonable concerns about the environmental impact and potential liabilities inherent in its development,” DiNapoli said.

“Investors need to have quality information so they may weigh the risks and rewards of the companies they invest in. The development of the Marcellus and other shale gas plays must be done the right way. As shareholders, we want these companies to assure us that they have a full and complete appreciation of the liability risk, and that they’re taking steps to mitigate those risks,” he said.

DiNapoli, as the fund’s trustee, has filed resolutions with five companies – Chesapeake Energy Corp., XTO Energy Inc., Range Resources Corp., Hess Corp., and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.

The resolutions request company boards to summarize for shareholders: the environmental impact of their unconventional natural gas operations; potential policies for the company to adopt, above and beyond regulatory
Read more HERE from the Star Gazette

Owens Introduces Legislation to Increase Transparency in Congress

WASHINGTON, Mar 11 - Congressman Bill Owens today introduced legislation that would require all proceedings on the U.S. House floor and in committee hearings to be available to the American public on the internet.

“Upstate New Yorkers, as well as all Americans, deserve transparency and openness from their representatives in Washington,” said Owens. “My resolution will ensure that anyone can see exactly how their Member of Congress is representing them in Washington and that they are held accountable for their actions. This is an important step toward restoring full accountability to government, and I am proud of this legislation.”

H. Res 1166 is set to be considered by the House of Representatives in the coming weeks, and would direct the Clerk of the House of Representatives to establish and implement a process under which members of the public may view the proceedings of the House and its Committees online.

Statement from Sen. Aubertine Regarding Ravitch Plan:

ALBANY (March 11, 2010)—“I certainly welcome the plan proposed by Lt. Governor Ravitch for review because we need reform in the budget process. A five-year plan is a good idea and his success with a similar plan during New York City’s crisis decades ago gives the plan a certain amount of credibility to start.

“Over the years we’ve seen adjustments made here and there to the budget process, but fundamental change is long overdue, whether we’re talking zero-based budgeting and performance-based budgeting, or some other means. Moving the fiscal year to July 1, installing a pay as you go system, controls on spending and taking the politics out of the equation through an independent review board, are all intriguing ideas that need further discussion.

“However, my concern with Mr. Ravitch’s plan is primarily the debt component. The previous leadership in Albany borrowed and spent through tough times leading up to these past few years being a much more difficult crisis to pull through for the state. Borrowing for day to day expenses or to plug a deficit could end up just causing more trouble down the road. Debt service from the borrowing this state and its authorities have already done is a cost we cannot cut. We can only keep it from growing larger still by avoiding more debt.

“In the end, this plan must be reviewed thoroughly and not dismissed immediately because it does point to the need for change. We need to consider solutions outside of our comfort zone to do what is best for New York State to restore our economy, provide a quality education for our children, and ensure that essential services from road repair to health care are intact.”
Read more HERE from Senator Aubertine

Insurance Victims Tell Congress: Pass Health Care Reform Now


A panel of 24 victims of insurance industry abuse and their families told their heart-rending stories directly to members of Congress this morning and asked the lawmakers to listen to the American people and pass health care reform that works for us, not Big Insurance.

Marcelas Owens is spending his 11th birthday telling lawmakers it’s time to provide real health care to all Americans. Marcelas, who lives in Seattle, lost his mother, Tiffany, in 2007. She was too sick to work and lost her job as manager of a fast-food restaurant. She also lost her health insurance. She died of pulmonary hypertension at age 27.

Today’s forum on Capitol Hill, where Congress is debating how to fix the nation’s broken health care system, follows nationwide rallies yesterday, including one in Washington, D.C., where we told Big Insurance that blocking health care reform is a crime.

Members of Congress also heard from Leslie Boyd of Asheville, N.C., whose uninsured son died in 2008 at age 33 after a delayed diagnosis for colon cancer because he could not afford colonoscopies. Boyd’s husband also recently suffered a heart attack after his insurance company delayed approving his doctor’s request for a stress test.

They heard from Marcus Grimes of Woodbridge, Va., a former teacher who lost his sight because he did not have the $3,000 down payment for doctor-recommended surgeries that would have saved his sight (see video above). Speaking to the rally yesterday, Grimes said:

When you leave here to go to your congressman, go to your senator and tell them: “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.” We ask you senators. We ask your representatives. What side of history do you want to be on? We should have no more people dying….We stand as one. We walk softly, but we carry a big stick.

The forum on Capitol Hill, and yesterday’s rally, were sponsored by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a coalition of more than 100 organizations, including the AFL-CIO and many union affiliates. You can read the stories of all 24 victims of insurance abuse here.

Wendell Potter, a former vice president of insurance giant CIGNA and now senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy, moderated today’s forum. He points out the insurance industry is trying to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans in the health care debate.
See more HERE from the AFL-CIO

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Local #2 Leaders Testify before the NYS Senate Labor Committee


President Bob Mantello & Secretary-Treasurer Pat Tirino testified today before the NYS Senate Standing Committee on Labor. They gave testimony on the worker misclassification crisis here in NY. President Mantello's testimony begins at 2 hours, 18 minutes, Brother Tirino's follows shortly after that. Interestingly, the president of the Empire State Chapter of the ABC was there to listen, but not to testify...

Read more HERE from Bricklayers Local 2

Broad Plan Urged to Battle New York’s Fiscal Crisis

Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch at the Capitol on Tuesday. His plan includes billions in borrowing and imposes curbs on future spending.


ALBANY — New York could borrow billions of dollars to address its urgent budget shortfall and a financial review board would be established to impose new discipline on future spending under a five-year financial rescue plan that Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch will present Wednesday.

The plan would also require significant spending cuts and abolish some of Albany’s much-criticized budgeting practices, forcing lawmakers and the governor to account for how they will pay for spending expansions when they are approved.

Mr. Ravitch, who was asked by Gov. David A. Paterson to draw up the blueprint, is seeking to curb the runaway spending that has helped plunge New York into fiscal crisis. Despite the recession and talk of fiscal austerity, state spending this year soared by 10 percent over the previous year’s budget.

The state faces a $9 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that begins April 1 and a $15 billion gap for the following year.

The plan, which requires legislative approval, seeks to address New York’s immediate cash needs by permitting the state to sell bonds to help cover operating expenses. But those bonds would be contingent on the state’s producing a balanced budget, and the newly established board would have the authority to determine whether the budget meets that requirement.

In addition, the plan would limit how much could be borrowed — probably 1 percent or 2 percent of the total budget, so lawmakers do not rely on borrowing to shirk difficult decisions on spending cuts, though any increase in borrowing will be controversial.

It would represent drastic change to how Albany has operated for decades. But the severity of the fiscal problems, and Mr. Ravitch’s stature as one of the leading figures in the rescue of New York City in the 1970s, have legislative leaders and other top state officials examining the proposal seriously.

Even though the plan would take away some authority from lawmakers, Sheldon Silver, the most powerful Democrat in the Legislature, said it would be carefully considered by his colleagues.

“It’s not D.O.A.,” said Mr. Silver, the Assembly speaker. “I think there’s too much respect for Dick Ravitch in that regard, and he’s worked hard to come up with a plan that works.”

Mr. Ravitch declined to provide details on his proposal on Tuesday, but the plan was described by a number of people who had been briefed on it.

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