Koslowitz Bill Targets Stores Selling Tobacco To Minors
Getting tougher with store owners who sell tobacco products to minors, City Councilmember Karen Koslowitz has introduced legislation which would authorize revocation of a license to sell those products as well as almost tripling fines for infractions.
"Our goal is to prevent addictive tobacco products from reaching the hands of our children," the Forest Hills lawmaker stated in filing her bill. Koslowitz, a Democrat, said she took the action after a Council survey found that over 50 percent of stores were selling to minors.
Under Koslowitz’s legislation, a store owner found guilty twice of selling tobacco to minors would lose the license to sell. In addition, he or she would be barred from turning the establishment over to a family member. Fines would be hiked from $300 to $1,000 for a first violation and from $500 to $2,000 for a second violation. The increases would "prevent businesses from disregarding penalties as just another ‘cost’ of doing business," Koslowitz said. The bill is scheduled to be voted on today.
PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:Democrats in New York state seem assured of a presidential primary on Mar. 7th between Vice President Al Gore, who’s been endorsed by Queens Democrats and Bill Bradley. As for a Republican primary, its iffy at this point.
Bradley’s supporters filed almost 46,000 signatures on petitions in their guest to place his presidential convention delegate candidates on the ballot in all 31 congressional districts. A candidate needs 500 to 1,000 signatures for each district and 5,000 statewide to qualify for the ballot, so Bradley appears to have a good cushion if challenged by Gore supporters, although there doesn’t appear to be any prospect of this.
Locally, City Councilmember Walter McCaffrey (D–Woodside) has endorsed Bradley. This positions McCaffrey for a challenge to incumbent Congressmember Joseph Crowley in the 7th CD if, as expected, McCaffrey decides to take on Crowley.
Councilmember Karen Koslowitz
On the Republican side, frontrunner George W. Bush is supported by Governor George Pataki and the state GOP and will have no problem getting his delegate candidates on the ballot. But the Republican rules for getting on the ballot are much more stringent than the Democrats’ so it’s problematic whether Arizona Senator John McCain or millionaire Steve Forbes will make it to the primary ballot. Forbes spent a bundle to have signatures collected and McCain put together a petition organization.
McCain’s people collected enough signatures to qualify in 25 of the state’s 31 districts, but Bush’s supporters in the state GOP have commenced a challenge to McCain’s petitions and there’s a chance he’ll be disqualified. McCain has brought suit to have the courts place him on the ballot and he’s also appealed to Bush to call off the petition challenge. Bush declined to take any action, saying it was a decision for local party officials to make.
In the 7th CD, Kathleen Ashton, a registered nurse from Woodside, supervised McCain’s petition effort. The state Board of Elections expects to certify the primary ballot by Jan. 31st.
CROWLEY PRESENTS GRANT:A federal grant of $250,000, secured by Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Elmhurst) for School District 30 to establish a 21st Century Learning Center after–school program at IS 204 was presented at the school recently.
The program will include several other educational programs as well as social and community support services for students and their families. It will bring together health care organizations, higher education institutions and technology/internet providers.
Participating with Crowley at the grant presentation were Philip Composto, principal of IS 204 at 36-41 28th St., Long Island City, and Gus Hatzidimitriou, grants director for School Board 30.
BUTLER LIKES SALES TAX HOLIDAY:Assemblymember Denis Butler (D–Long Island City/Astoria) says that the current state sales tax holiday, which ends on Friday, shows "the Assembly’s continued commitment to helping New York families make the most of their incomes." Butler said he’s also looking forward to the permanent elimination of the state four percent sales tax on certain clothing and footwear costing less than $100 per item on Mar. 1st.
The suspension of the tax started last Saturday and it’s the sixth one–week suspension since 1997, Butler said.
COHEN SPONSORS FUNDRAISER BAN:No Assembly Democrat was more happy to see his party leadership in that body get behind fundraising reforms than Assemblymember Michael Cohen (D–Forest Hills). As a sponsor of the bill which would ban fundraiser functions in Albany during the legislative session, Cohen says it would "insure that the quality of candidates for elected office is not solely determined by the size of their wallets."
Governor George Pataki proposed a similar bill about six months ago, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver opposed it. But last Wednesday, Silver did an about–face and said he supported the fundraising ban now.
However, Cohen’s bill is not expected to go anywhere unless the Republicans do a turn about and support a provision in the bill which permits the state’s residents to contribute to a fund to subsidize campaigns.
HEVESI SEEKS ACCESS–A–RIDE IMPROVEMENTS:The Access–A– Ride program, which provides free bus service to physically and/or mentally disabled persons, is not doing such a good job, state Senator Daniel Hevesi complained last week. The central Queens Democrat conveyed his sentiments to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which administers the program, but that agency failed to respond with the information Hevesi requested.
Hevesi said that in his travels around the senior centers in his district, he regularly hears complaints about late pickups, excessive ride lengths, rude drivers and denial of service. Hevesi said he’s been told by the MTA that they’ve just purchased 300 buses for the program which they feel will be a solution to the problems and complaints. Hevesi hopes so, too, and he said he’s going to monitor the program more closely to see whether its service improves.
MARSHALL FOCUSES ON POOR:City Councilmember Helen Marshall (D–East Elmhurst), who is co–president of the Black and Latino Council in the City Council, recently headed a forum looking into "The plight of the poor" in New York City. Marshall and other members expressed concerns about "the reversal of opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged to better their lives and become contributing members of society." She said this was especially disheartening because it was happening during good economic times.
"Opportunity has traditionally been the hallmark of this great city," she said. "But have we replaced optimism with the mean spirit of devastation and hopelessness, especially when our economy is flourishing and opportunity seems so apparent?"
PADAVAN LAW HELPS DISABLED KIDS:A new law will enable about 2,000 children with serious emotional disabilities to continue treatment in programs that integrate education with speech therapy, physical therapy and other support services, state Senator Frank Padavan reported last week.
Padavan (R–C, Bellerose), who sponsored the new law, said it bypasses the state mandate that Medicaid recipients must enroll in managed care programs. Under the new law, children receiving educational class along with medical health services are exempt from the Medicaid/managed care requirement.
Padavan stated: "By carving these seriously and profoundly disabled youngsters out from the state’s managed care mandate, we are helping to insure that they receive the type of treatment that has been proven to be cost effective as well as therapeutically correct."
DEMS SEE GOOD, BAD IN GOV’S BUDGET:Assemblymember Ivan Lafayette (Jackson Heights) and fellow Democrat state Senator George Onorato (Astoria) had mixed feelings over Pataki’s proposed budget released last week, finding some good and some bad in it.
On the education side, Lafayette praised the governor’s expansion of funding–for the pre–kindergarten program in one section, but panned a reduction of funds in another program which included pre–K money. Onorato, however, said he was "disappointed" that the governor failed" to promise that he will fully fund universal pre–K and full–day kindergarten." Onorato also "applauded" Pataki’s proposal to try to attract more teachers by providing free CUNYtuition while Lafayette said the Assembly will also propose a teacher development program.
Both lawmakers liked the idea of expanding the EPIC prescription drug discounts program. While Lafayette was pleased more people will receive health insurance, Onorato said HMOs must be made more accountable.
Onorato agreed with Pataki’s economic development moves but said the governor failed to address campaign finance reform or lobbying regulation.
FORUM FOR CANDIDATES:City Council Speaker Peter Vallone will be the keynote speaker this Saturday, Jan. 22nd, at the initial candidates forum being sponsored by the New York Women’s Agenda.
The series, called New York City Political Education Leadership Coalition, is aimed at the many candidates that will be seeking office 2001 but with little campaign or political experience. The large number of candidates will be a result of 40 of the present 51 City Councilmembers leaving office because of term limits.
Saturday’s forum is at the Baruch Conference Center in Manhattan. Subsequent forums will be held Saturday, Jan. 29th, and Sunday, Feb. 6th and 13th. For further information, call the Baruch School of Public Affairs at (212) 802–5900 or the New York Women’s Agenda at (212) 764–6992.
GREEN GUEST SPEAKER:Public Advocate Mark Green will be the guest speaker next Wednesday night, Jan. 26th, at Assemblymember Marge Markey’s 30th AD Regular Democratic Club meeting at 7 p.m. at Maspeth Town Hall, 53–37 72d St., Maspeth.