To Amend or Not to Amend the New York Constitution
October 5, 2017 For the first time in 20 years, New York voters will determine whether they want to hold a constitutional convention to consider changes to the State Constitution, which was adopted 240 years ago in April 1777.
The New York Proposal 1, the Constitutional Convention, will appear on the November 7, 2017 New York ballot. The Proposal 1 reads as follows:
“Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?”
If a majority of voters vote ”yes" to approve holding a constitutional convention to propose an amendment or amendments to the State Constitution, then the convention will convene in Albany starting in April 2019. Three delegates from each of the state's 63 senate districts and 15 at-large delegates statewide, a total of 204 delegates, would be elected in November 2018. Then, during the November 5, 2019 election, voters would vote on the amendments adopted by a majority of delegates. If the voters were to approve any amendments, they would go into effect on January 1 the following year.
A majority of ”no" votes will oppose holding a constitutional convention to propose any changes to the State Constitution.
The New Castle and North East Westchester League of Women Voters are holding a panel discussion on the Constitutional Convention: Pros and Cons. The discussion will be on Monday, October 23 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the John Jay Homestead, 400 Jay Street, Katonah. The event is free and open to the public.
The panel discussion will be with Nicholas A. Robinson, who is a professor at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University; Alan Rothstein, general counsel to the New York City Bar Association, Ret.; and Jennifer Wilson, Director of Program and Policy for the League of Women Voters of New York State.
Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over
August 31, 2017 New York State Police and local law enforcement will be out in force this Labor Day weekend as part of the national "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" driving while intoxicated (DWI) campaign. The enforcement period is underway and runs through Monday September 4.
In addition to the DWI checkpoints and patrols, troopers will also be watching for distracted or impaired drivers, vehicle occupants who are not properly buckled up, and drivers that violate the Move Over Law. The law requires drivers who approach an authorized emergency vehicle in the same direction, including tow trucks, and maintenance vehicles with flashing lights, are to reduce their speed, and move over to vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicles.
Over the Labor Day Weekend 2016, the New York State Police made 220 DWI arrests and issued more than 11,000 tickets.
According to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, “28 percent of all fatal crashes in New York State in 2015 involved alcohol. A total of 44,501 drivers were arrested on drunk and drug-impaired driving charges that year.”
Byram Hills School District is Among Hundreds NY Schools to Increase Access to Technology
Update July 17, 2017 On July 14, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced approval of 154 Smart Schools Investment Plans aimed at reimagining teaching and learning for the 21st century. The approved plans, totaling $103.2 million, are part of the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act - a sweeping education technology initiative first proposed by the Governor and overwhelmingly approved by voters. The investments authorized today will modernize classrooms across New York and equip students with the skills they need to thrive in the global economy.
"By investing in modern technology for classrooms across the state, we expand educational opportunity, increase student engagement, boost achievement, and close the digital divide," Governor Cuomo said. "This funding equips students with the skills and technology they need to succeed in the modern economy and build a stronger New York for all."
The plans approved were submitted by 136 school districts and eight special education schools. Projects include $43.3 million for school connectivity projects, $40.6 million for classroom technology purchases, $15.6 mil lion for high-tech security projects, and $3.7 million to construct prekindergarten classrooms and to replace transportable classrooms.
The approval allows those school districts an allocation in which New York State is borrowing the money on behalf of and the districts must then apply for the funds after they are expended.
Byram Hills has budgeted $333,850 to classroom technology. A summary of the 154 plans is available here.
In 2016, the district planned to purchase 104 Promethean ActivPanels. “The Promethean ActivPanel delivers incredible full HD picture quality, powerful interactive software and an intuitive touchscreen to create a truly engaging learning experience. The ActivPanel reveals brilliant colors and crisp details to boost readability ensuring the best learning experience for students. Users can actively participate in lessons at the display with just a swipe, pinch or zoom. The intuitive interface makes the experience natural whether you’re writing with the digital pen or using multitouch gestures."
In 2014, Governor Cuomo called for New York State to invest $2 billion in its schools through a Smart Schools Bond Act - an initiative that would finance educational technology and infrastructure, providing students access to the latest technology and connectivity needed to succeed and compete in the 21st century economy. New Yorkers agreed, as the voters authorized the Smart Schools Bond Act that November.
Following the proposal of the Bond Act, Governor Cuomo established the Smart Schools Commission to gather information on strategies for how schools can most effectively invest the bond funds. The Smart Schools Review Board met for the fifth time to consider investment plans submitted by school districts. The Board is comprised of the Director of the Budget, the Chancellor of the State University of New York, and the Commissioner of the State Education Department.
This advisory commission produced a final report recommending a focus on expanding robust broadband and wireless connectivity and utilizing transformative technologies. The plans approved today by the Smart Schools Review Board reflect many of the best practices identified by the Commission.
State Budget Director Robert F. Mujica said, "The Smart Schools program is revolutionizing classrooms in New York and the plans approved today will advance learning, ensure connectivity, and position students for success in the economy of tomorrow."
State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, "We are making sure that our schools have the right technological tools and capacity to connect students with the world to help prepare those children for the future? Whether that's in college or the work force. Districts are making major investments in school connectivity, school security, and in individual devices that will allow students to expand their knowledge, to practice skills where they need additional help, and to learn how to communicate and share their knowledge with others."
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said, "Our students are better served when advances in technology, resources, and tools get in the hands of our teachers. The governor's ongoing investment in Smart Schools does just that, and more students continue to benefit. The financial support provided today will boost our students' abilities to succeed in the classroom, in their future careers, and in life."
Longest Recreation Trail in the Country
January 10, 2017 Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2017 regional State of the State address at SUNY Purchase college today. He spoke of economic strength and social progress, jobs and investment in infrastructure, and tourism. The investment in tourism includes a proposal to build the largest state multi-use trail system in the nation.
The 750-mile Empire State Trail is to go from New York City to the North Country, from Albany to Buffalo up to the Canadian border. The finished pathway would travel through parks, valleys, and along waterways, through tourist destinations all across New York State. The trail will provide a place to run, bike, and walk with no motor vehicles. The plan requires paving and grading of 350 miles of a multi-use trail that would link 40 segments of existing trails throughout the state. The Erie Canal Greenway and the Hudson River Greenway are two areas that need to be finished to span from the New York State Bike Route 9, through Lake George, to the Canadian border. About 50 bridges, tunnels and culverts are proposed for the new trail, which will also have a finished surface of blacktop, with installed lighting, scenic outlooks, and signage.
Cuomo envisions a recreation, health and wellness activity center presented in an app that plugs into local Bed & Breakfasts and restaurants to provide constant tourism activity along the route. The trail will go to hundreds of destinations, including a walkway through the entire Hudson Valley, past Hudson’s Olana historic site and Clermont’s historic site, from Albany, Amsterdam, to Buffalo, the Erie Canal, and all the old towns, connecting state parks and historic sites.
The proposal calls to build the trail in three phases. Phase One would add 72 miles, Phase Two would add 82 miles, and Phase Three would complete the trail with 196 miles by 2020. Cuomo says the vast majority of the land is state owned, therefore the basic costs are the construction costs. The budget to build the trail is estimated to be $200 million. He proposed $53 million in the 2017 budget to complete Phase One, of which $26 million will go toward the completion of the trail in the Mid-Hudson Region.
Cuomo said the project would change the economy through the Hudson Valley and through the Erie Canal corridor, which are two areas that desperately need more economic activity. He added that statistics show for every $1 million invested in multi-use trails, 9.6 jobs are created. Starting in the Mid-Hudson, with its historic beauty and sites, he concluded, is the intelligent way to start.
Lowey Applauds Agreement to Close Indian Point
January 9, 2017
White Plains, NY – Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-Rockland/Westchester), the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, today released the following statement on the agreement to close Indian Point Energy Center:
“I applaud today’s agreement between Governor Cuomo and Entergy to close Indian Point Energy Center. Indian Point has long posed a grave threat to the safety and well-being of those living not only in the Lower Hudson Valley but to the nearly 18 million residents within a 50-mile radius, including New York City. I look forward to working with the Governor to find green solutions to meet New York’s energy needs, keep energy prices low, replace jobs and assist the workforce at Indian Point, support the local economy, and address the proper removal and storage of nuclear waste from the facility.
“Since 2002, I have advocated shutting down the plant, and as Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, I will work to ensure the federal government assists in the safe closure of Indian Point.”
GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH WALMART, WEGMANS, NATIONAL SUPERMARKET ASSOCIATION, THE COCA-COLA COMPANY, PEPSICO, AND FRESHDIRECT TO FEED OVER 35,000 NEW YORKERS THIS THANKSGIVING
November 23, 2015 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State is partnering with Walmart, Wegmans, the National Supermarket Association, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and FreshDirect this Thanksgiving Week to help deliver meals to feed more than 35,000 people statewide.
"Each year, Thanksgiving provides a time to not only join with family and friends to reflect on what we are grateful for, but also it is also a time to help fellow New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "The partnerships we have forged with these companies ensure that families throughout the state will have a warm, nutritious meal that they can enjoy with loved ones. As the holiday season continues, I encourage all New Yorkers to find ways to pitch in and do something to help someone in need."
Thanks to generous food donations from Walmart, Wegmans and the National Supermarket Association, meals are being assembled and packaged to feed over 35,000 New Yorkers statewide. Each meal includes turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, vegetables, cranberry sauce and potatoes.
Additionally, The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo have donated over 500 cases of beverages, including juice and other drinks, to be distributed with the meals. FreshDirect has provided thousands of boxes to ensure the meals are properly packaged and delivered.
The Walmart Foundation's partnership with Governor Cuomo and the State of New York this Thanksgiving is part of its overall commitment to assist communities and families throughout the state. During the past fiscal year, the Foundation donated more than $25 million to charitable efforts in New York State, including donations of nearly 13 million pounds of food to local food banks — more than 10 million meals to those in need.
Walmart Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations Jason Klipa said, "We are proud to once again partner with Governor Cuomo and the State of New York to put a little extra joy on the Thanksgiving tables of thousands of New Yorkers. While the holiday season can often remind us that there are many in need, we hope everybody can find even the smallest ways to help those who are less fortunate throughout the entire year."
In addition to the meals being donated this week, Wegmans also works year-round to fight hunger. In 2014 alone, Wegmans donated 8 million pounds of food and raised nearly $2 million for local food banks and organizations fighting hunger in Central New York, Western New York and Southern Tier.
Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. CEO Danny Wegman said, "Hunger never takes a holiday, which is why we support food banks and hunger relief agencies year round in the communities where we have stores. Helping at this time of year is especially meaningful for us."
National Supermarket Association Executive Director Haile Rivera said, "No one deserves to go hungry on Thanksgiving and the National Supermarket Association is proud to help make sure that doesn't happen. We thank Governor Cuomo for organizing this partnership and helping ensure families throughout New York are able to enjoy a full Thanksgiving meal."
Coca-Cola Refreshments New York Metro General Manager Francis McGorry said, "Coca-Cola associates live and work throughout the state, so it’s important to us that we do our part to help our neighbors in times of need, especially during the holiday season. We have a long-standing history of helping communities and appreciate Governor Cuomo’s leadership to share some happiness through the holiday food drive.”
Co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer of FreshDirect Jason Akerman said, "FreshDirect is proud to partner with New York State to help our friends and neighbors in need. Thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership, this effort ensures tens of thousands of New Yorkers will have a warm meal on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and generosity go hand in hand and we hope that everyone can find a way to help others this holiday season."
GOVERNOR CUOMO RAISES MINIMUM WAGE FOR STATE WORKERS TO $15 PER HOUR – MAKING NEW YORK FIRST IN NATION TO ENACT $15 STATE PUBLIC SECTOR MINIMUM WAGE
November 9, 2015 Increase will be implemented on same schedule as Governor’s proposal for statewide, all-industry $15 minimum wage
Governor builds on progress of Fast Food Wage Board’s $15 minimum wage and continues work to restore economic justice
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his administration is raising the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour. To date, no other state has enacted a $15 public sector minimum wage. This groundbreaking action comes as the Governor is pushing to make New York the first state in the nation to implement a $15 minimum wage across all industries, and follows the $15 minimum wage increase for fast food workers approved by the Governor’s administration earlier this year.
“I believe that if you work hard and work full time, you should not be condemned to live in poverty. Yet millions of families nationwide continue to be left behind by an insufficient minimum wage – and it’s time that changed,” said Governor Cuomo.
“We made a decision a long time ago, that if you worked full time, you should have a decent lifestyle for you and your family. 1933 – 1933 – FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, former governor of this great state signed a minimum wage law into effect. And he said when he signed the minimum wage law, and I quote: “by living wage, I mean more than a bare subsistence level. I mean wages of a decent living.” That was 1933, and it’s not a decent life – living today.”
And it is simple math. If you earned the minimum wage, it’s about $18,000 a year in New York. And you add up the numbers, you can’t pay for housing and food and clothing on $18,000 a year, period. And that’s what today is all about. It violates the very promise of this nation.
Approximately 10,000 state employees will be benefited by the Governor’s action, including those in all Executive Agencies, the Legislature, the Judiciary, and the independently elected agencies of the Department of Law and the Office of State Comptroller. Approximately 9,000 employees are outside of New York City, and 1,000 within New York City.
This change will be reflected in the State’s Budget Policy and Reporting Manual. When fully phased in on July 1, 2021, this wage increase has an annual projected cost of roughly $20.6 million, including the anticipated effect of fringe benefits.
This increase, which was announced by the Governor at a rally for low-wage workers in New York City, will be implemented on the same phased-in schedule currently underway for fast food workers. That schedule is as follows:
New York City
Statewide (exluding NYC)
Governor Cuomo has consistently fought to increase the minimum wage in New York State. In 2013, the Governor signed legislation that raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to its current level of $8.75. That legislation included another incremental increase to $9.00 that will take effect by the end of 2015. Additionally, the State Department of Labor empaneled a wage board last July focusing on tipped workers. The Governor’s administration ultimately accepted that wage board’s recommendations, setting the stage for an increase in wages for tipped workers from $4.90, $5.00 and $5.65 to $7.50 per hour on December 31, 2015.
Most recently, the Governor directed the Department of Labor to impanel a wage board to investigate and make recommendations on an increase in the minimum wage in the fast food industry. Earlier this year, then-Acting State Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino accepted those recommendations and signed the official order setting in motion the phased increase toward $15 per hour described above. An estimated 200,000 fast food workers are expected to benefit from this increase.
In total, more than 2.3 million New Yorkers (roughly 1,435,500 workers living outside of New York City and 927,400 living within New York City) will be directly benefitted by the Governor’s proposal to increase the minimum wage for workers in all industries to $15 per hour.
Basic STAR Program Re-Registration Required
September 5, 2013 State Senator George Latimer of the 37th S.D. calls attention to all North Castle homeowners who currently receive a reduction in school taxes through the STAR program. Basic STAR recipients will be required to re-register with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance by DECEMBER 31, 2013 in order to continue receiving their basic STAR exemption benefits for 2014 and beyond.
All homeowners registering for the STAR program for the first time need to go through the local tax assessor's office.
Westchester County homeowners will receive information in the mail between September 14 and October 4 that will provide instructions for on-line re-registration including a code needed to register. All homeowners are eligible for Basic STAR exemption on their primary residence only, assuming they have a household income of less than $500,000. This re-registration procedure is mandatory by December 31 of this year; loss of Basic STAR benefits amounts to a significant increase in a homeowner's local school tax bill if they fail to register by the deadline date. This is expected to be a one-time re-registration for those receiving basic STAR benefits.
Seniors citizens, ages 65 and older, receiving Enhanced STAR benefits must continue their existing procedure of annual income verification conducted through their local town or city assessors' office. Seniors do not need to re-register.
A recent audit found that individuals were defrauding the STAR program by accepting benefits they were not entitled to, costing NYS taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. The re-registration requirement is expected to weed out false or improper claims.
If resident wish to learn more about the STAR program, they can visit www.taxny.gov. or call the state hotline at 1 (518) 457-2036 Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday 9:00am to 1:00 p.m.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey Announces FEMA Will Pay Higher Share of Sandy Response Costs for New York State, Local Governments
President Obama Approves 90% Reimbursement for Local Governments for Sandy Costs; Local Governments Previously Eligible For Only 75% of Costs
Lowey Letter to President Obama and Direct Call to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate Urged Higher Reimbursement Rate
Lowey: “This is a victory for communities across New York hit hard by Sandy.”
May 23, 2013 Washington, D.C.– Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland), the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, today announced that President Obama has approved a 90% reimbursement level for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance funds to reimburse local communities for costs associated with the response to Superstorm Sandy. Up to this point, local governments had been eligible for only 75% of costs under FEMA’s Public Assistance program.
The President’s decision to support Congresswoman Lowey’s call for a 90% federal cost share will be retroactive, and local governments will receive additional FEMA Public Assistance funds to cover the cost of responding to Superstorm Sandy, reducing the burden on local taxpayers.
“This is a victory for communities across New York,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “Not only did Sandy devastate homes, businesses and lives, the cost of the emergency response and cleanup has placed huge burdens on state and local governments. President Obama’s decision that New York State and local governments will now be eligible to be reimbursed for a greater share of Sandy response costs is the right one and means that communities will be able to recover more quickly. Federal disaster aid has been essential in helping us get back on our feet in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.”
In November 2012, Congresswoman Lowey called on President Obama to increase the reimbursement level for communities impacted to 90%. The full text of the letter is below. Congresswoman Lowey also spoke directly with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to emphasize the need for New York state and local governments to be reimbursed at higher rate.
FEMA’s Public Assistance program reimburses state, tribal and local governments for the cost of emergency responses. The funds come from the Disaster Relief Fund, which was increased by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, a bipartisan bill passed by Congress in January to help states affected by Sandy. Congresswoman Lowey helped lead the bipartisan effort to pass the full assistance package.
Assemblyman Buchwald’s Bill Passes to Give Utility Customers A Stronger Voice
Bill Inspired By Duration of Sandy Power Outages
May 21, 2013 Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) announced that his bill, which would help ensure that customers are given a stronger voice to formally complain about power outages, has passed the New York State Assembly (A.5556). This legislation would for the first time require that the Public Service Commission include a proper complaint form on its website, and explicitly allow the duration of a power outage to be a basis for filing a complaint with the Commission.
“One of the crippling effects of Superstorm Sandy was the unacceptably long power outage response times that stretched across Westchester,” Assemblyman Buchwald said. “Families felt helpless, frustrated and cold, and they didn’t have a way to make their particular complaint known. This bill takes a step to correct one of the more preventable mistakes made by the power companies in the days and weeks following Sandy.”
The Public Service Commission oversees New York’s utility companies, and by tracking complaints regarding utility response times, the commission can better work to address reoccurring problems, improve communication and be more prepared for future natural disasters, Assemblyman Buchwald noted.
“Chappaqua had one of the longest wait times to get power restored, making the destruction of Sandy not only physical, but financial as well,” Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce Co-Founder Rob Greenstein said. “Without power, local businesses weren’t able to step in to help the community in all the ways they would have liked to, whether it was delivering a hot pizza to a family or offering a warm place to rest and charge your phone. We thank Assemblyman Buchwald today for bringing us one step closer to bridging the communication gap with utility companies in times of natural disaster.”
Earlier this year in January, Assemblyman Buchwald testified at the State Moreland Commission hearing in Westchester and recommended this legislation to improve oversight and communications between utility companies and costumers.
This bipartisan legislation will now be sent to the state Senate, where it is being sponsored by Senator Jack Martins (R-Mineola), for approval.
Assemblyman Buchwald: Elected Officials Who Betray the Public Should Lose Their Pensions
Introduces Bill to Strip Pension Benefits From Convicted Public Officials
May 9, 2013 Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) has announced that he introduced legislation that would take away pension benefits from any state or local public official convicted of a felony where the public’s trust has been violated (A.7173).
He added that in the past seven years alone, New York State has seen 32 state-level officials caught up in corruption cases. This has led to a breakdown in public trust and millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on unethical ex-officials’ pensions.
“If you have betrayed the public’s trust, you have no right to continue benefiting from hardworking taxpayers’ money,” Assemblyman Buchwald said. “People are tired of corrupt officials taking advantage of the system. This legislation takes a step toward putting integrity and trust back into our state government.”
Buchwald’s bill is an amendment to New York State’s constitution. That means in order to become effective, the bill must be approved by the current Legislature and then be passed again in two years, by a newly elected Legislature. It would then go before the public for a vote.
By amending the constitution, Buchwald’s bill would go a step further to strengthen the current law, which only strips pension benefits of convicted officials first elected after the law was passed in 2011. Buchwald’s bill, which is more encompassing, would apply to any elected official, regardless of when he or she first held office.
“I am confident that if this constitutional change were put before the voters it would receive overwhelming support." Assemblyman Buchwald said. “As public servants, we took an oath swearing to uphold the law and to do so faithfully and honestly. I promised Westchester families that I wouldn’t stand for this type of behavior, and now, more than ever, we need to act.”
Governor Cuomo Proposes New Class of Public Corruption Crimes
When Governor Cuomo was sworn into office, he made a commitment to return integrity to state government. While we have made tremendous progress towards a more efficient and effective government, prosecuting public corruption is essential to ensuring that the government works for the people.
That’s why the Governor, joined in New York City by District Attorneys from across the state, proposed new legislation today to crack down on public corruption in New York.
The Public Trust Act will establish a new class of public corruption crimes and expand the current definitions of public corruption offenses so that prosecutors can hold accountable those who violate the public’s trust. The law would also impose tougher jail sentences on individuals that misuse public funds and permanently bar those convicted of public corruption offenses from holding any elected or civil office, lobbying, contracting, receiving state funding, or doing business with the state, directly or through an organization.