2015-05-27 / Political Page

Crowley Intros FILM Act To Stop Overseas Drain

Congressman Joseph Crowley and three other colleagues have joined in sponsoring bipartisan legislation for a two-year extension of a federally aided program covering productions of films, television and theatrical works, which are increasingly moving overseas.

Crowley and the other lawmakers said they introduced their bill “to increase global competitiveness of a major American industry and to create United States jobs and economic growth, emphasizing that foreign governments are offering aggressive incentives to attract productions.”

The legislation is titled the Facilitating Investment in Local Markets (FILM) Act and co-sponsors are Crowley, and Reps Doug Collins (R–GA), Jason Smith (R-MO) and Linda Sanchez (D–CA).

Crowley, the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, declared, “From the iconic Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens to the bright lights of Broadway, there is no question that the film, television, and theater industries contribute greatly to the culture of New York. But, what’s also critical is the economic impact of these industries, including creating good-paying jobs, pumping money back into local economies, boosting tourism, and more. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing legislation that will help ensure these important industries continue to make investments here in the United States.”

Summing up the New York picture, Crowley pointed out, “It is estimated that major motion picture shooting on location contributes $225,000 every day to the local economy and film production employs 130,000 people. According to the Broadway League, live theatre directly supports approximately 87,000 jobs and contributes approximately $11.9 billion to New York City’s economy.”

Collins stated: “The United States built the film and TV industry. It provides a huge economic boost to states like Georgia, attracting productions generating billions of yearly economic value and tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. Audiences around the world are also seeing on screen what makes the ‘Peach State’ special, thanks to smart tax incentives – common-sense measures to level the playing field for domestic productions.”

Speaking for his state, Smith said, “The FILM Act provides tax credits that encourage investment in rural America. Southeast and southern Missouri have already seen the economic benefits of film production from the award-winning movie Gone Girl. Additionally, Branson has been a major economic engine for the state with its fantastic stage productions. The FILM Act is a positive step forward in promoting rural areas on the big screen and stage.”

And the picture is the same in California, Sanchez’ home state, where, she says, “I know first-hand how important the film production industry is for Southern California. These American companies help provide good-paying jobs for thousands of hard-working families. This legislation will ensure we maintain the tax incentives necessary to help these businesses compete on a global playing field.”

Crowley said the FILM Act would modify Section 181 of the federal tax code to allow qualifying productions an immediate writedown of the first $15 million of production costs – or the first $20 million for productions taking place in low-income areas. To qualify, a production must be domestically produced: 75 percent of its total compensation costs must go to American actors, directors, producers and other production staff.

GIANARIS, SENATE DEMS PROPOSE EDUCATION, INFRASTRUCTURE BANK: State Senator Michael Gianaris and the Democrats minority in the Senate have announced an education package to aid public schools in the state by investing $682 million in an education infrastructure bank, with the funds coming from the state’s projected surplus and settlement funds.

Gianaris (D–Western Queens) explained: “This funding would help schools deal with needs involving physical capacity and school construction, areas crucial to providing a solution for the current issue of overcrowding at PS/IS 78.”

Gianaris said he believes “this funding would be a lifeline not only for PS/IS 78, but for all parents and students dealing with the lack of classroom seats throughout CEC Districts 24 and 30, two of the most overcrowded districts in the city.

“School overcrowding is a crisis directly affecting the lives of teachers, students and parents in western Queens every day and it must be dealt with immediately,” Gianaris continued. “Our neighborhoods are growing and more needs to be done to ensure infrastructure keeps pace. He vowed, “I will never stop fighting to provide our kids with the resources they deserve, and I will work to make this education infrastructure bank a reality quickly enough to solve the problems plaguing PS/IS 78 and so many other schools in western Queens.”

Referring again to the $682 million investment to fund the education infrastructure bank Gianaris said, “This crucial investment on behalf of New York’s students will help overcrowded schools throughout New York renew and rebuild their facilities to accommodate more students and create good local jobs in the process.”

Other education measures in the package would also provide teachers with the support they need to succeed, fund community schools that offer holistic social services, and begin a study to analyze the cost effectiveness of state testing, Gianaris said.

GIANARIS RENEWS CALL FOR NY TO DEAL WITH DISCRIMINATORY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM LAWS PERMANENTLY: As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal instituted a new religious freedom law last week, State Senator Michael Gianaris urged Governor Cuomo and New York state legislators to permanently oppose discriminatory religious freedom laws by enacting his legislation to ban state-funded travel to any state that enacts a new discriminatory religious freedom law in the future.

Gianaris recalled, “We took swift action as a state to combat Indiana’s discriminatory law last month, but we did not go far enough in asserting that New York would stand opposed to any new such laws in the future. Clearly other states did not get the message that discrimination will not be tolerated by the Empire State.

“I urge Governor Cuomo and my fellow legislators to pass my bill immediately and make clear that we will not stand for discrimination against our fellow citizens.”

Last month, Gianaris had introduced his legislation after Indiana instituted a religious freedom law that would implicitly allow for discrimination against the LGBT community. Gianaris urged his fellow lawmakers to take up his proposal, which is sponsored in the State Assembly by Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, and would ensure that New York State would always stand opposed to similar laws in any other state.

HOUSE ADOPTS KEY U.S.-INDIA DEFENSE MEASURE: The United States House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan amendment to the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), introduced by Congressman Joseph Crowley, which calls for expansion of United States – India defense cooperation.

Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus and former Co-Chair of the House India Caucus, said it was the first vote held by the House on United States – India since the 2014 Indian elections, and also follows the defense frame work advanced by President Obama and Prime Minister Modi last January.

Crowley also pointed out the support for building the United States – India relationship is “a solidly bipartisan effort” in Congress.

Co-sponsors of the bill are Congressmembers Eliot Engel (D–NY), Ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Ed Royce (R–CA), Chair of the latter Committee; George Holding (R–NC) and Ami Bera (D–CA), both Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

In addition to calling for an overall expansion in defense ties, the amendment specifically calls for the United States to welcome the role India plays in providing security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, work cooperatively with India on matters relating to our common defense, vigorously support the implementation of the United States-India Defense Framework Agreement, as well as support the India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).

“One of the most important decisions the United States has made in recent years is to strengthen our relationship with India, including cooperation and coordination on defense matters,” said Crowley. “Our amendment makes clear that the United States Congress stands firmly behind expanding and moving our defense relationship forward as we strengthen our overall strategic partnership with India.”

Engel stated, “Fifteen years ago, the dynamic nature of the strategic-plus partnership that we have today would have been unthinkable. This amendment, with India, which has bipartisan support, reiterates that our partnership with India is far and wide in scope, from shared security in the Indo-Pacific to expanded scientific collaboration in clean energy and space exploration.”

Royce commented: “The United States-India partnership will define the South Asia region and beyond for years to come. Front and center in this critical partnership is our increasing defense cooperation, which was further cemented by renewing our Defense Framework Agreement. This amendment puts the House on record supporting further cooperation between the United States and Indian armed forces.”

Bera declared, “As the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy, the United States and India are natural allies. Continued cooperation in defense benefits both our countries as we draw down in Afghanistan and deal with terrorism around the world. This amendment demonstrates our strong support for growing the defense partnership between the United States and India, and I’ll continue to be an advocate for strengthening the overall strategic and economic relationship between our two countries.”

Holding said, “With the emerging challenges the United States and India both face in the Indo-Pacific region and across the globe, it is essential we strengthen the defense partnership and cooperation between our two nations. I am encouraged by the progress made thus far by the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative and I strongly support continued defense collaboration between the United States and India for years to come.”

MALONEY LAUDS VULNERABLE VETERANS REFORM ACT: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has praised legislation to reduce homelessness among veterans, saying that the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act excludes payments that disabled veterans receive for in-home aid and attendance from being considered as income when determining eligibility for HUD housing assistance.

Under current law, she said, in-home aid and attendance payments were wrongly counted as “disposable income,” making it difficult for severely disabled veterans to qualify for federal housing assistance.

Maloney stated that The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act, introduced by Congressman Joe Heck (NV) and passed by the House unanimously recently:

“…will bring a measure of fairness to our government’s treatment of severely disabled veterans. Veterans who returned home with terrible injuries shouldn’t have to choose between in-home support to help manage a disability and housing assistance. This legislation addresses a terrible injustice in our current law and will reduce homelessness among the veteran population.”

According to the VA, there are more than 60,000 homeless veterans living in the United States. Veterans eligible for the aid and attendance benefit are defined as those requiring the aid of another person in order to perform his or her activities of daily living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, using the restroom, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting themselves from the hazards of their daily environment.

In order to receive aid and attendance benefits, Maloney said, severely disabled veterans must first establish their eligibility for a low income pension which requires an adjusted gross annual income of less than $12,256 for a single veteran with no dependents. Once eligibility is determined, that same veteran (single, no dependents) can receive $8,191 in aid and attendance benefits annually to supplement the cost of their medical care.

MALONEY HAILS FINAL PASSAGE OF TRAFFICKING ACT: The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) which will provide restitution to the survivors of human trafficking and punish those who profit from this horrific crime, has received final passage by the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney announced.

Maloney hailed the House’s passage by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 420-3. The Queens/Manhattan lawmaker was the lead Democratic sponsor of similar legislation of the same name introduced by Congressman Ted Poe (R–TX), which passed the House in January.

Maloney stated, “It is a harsh reality that sexual slavery persists across America. With this legislation, Congress has taken a firm stand against the pimps and ‘johns’ and for women and children. It has been a privilege to work with Congressman Ted Poe, who as a judge learned first-hand of the destructive nature of these crimes. He has been an unyielding advocate in his work to help the survivors rebuild their lives. I look forward to President Obama signing this legislation into law.”

Congressman Poe said, “In a time of seemingly endless partisan gridlock there is one thing we can all agree on: our children are not for sale. It is hard to believe in the year 2015, there are people living in modern day slavery in America. But that is reality. Human trafficking is a criminal enterprise that exists in cities across the nation, especially in my hometown of Houston, Texas.”

Poe described his bill as “a robust and aggressive strategy to help combat human trafficking in the United States. After years of hard work on this issue, Congress has taken a historic and necessary step today to help end modern day slavery in America. I look forward to President Obama signing JVTA into law so that we can finally help eradicate this scourge.”

OK BILL TO GET COMMUNITY INVOLVED IN PUBLIC ART PROJECTS: A bill to increase the community’s involvement in the city, Percent for Art Program, has passed the City Council, under the sponsorship of Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. It requires the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) “to provide advance notification of its intention to include works of art in a Percent for Art project on DCLA’s website,” Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) explained.

Van Bramer said the bill would also require that DCLA hold or present at a public meeting, perhaps one held by a community board in its district, on such works of art. The bill requires notice of the meeting to be published on the DCLA website at least 14 days before the meeting is held, Van Bramer said.

“Public art has the ability to inspire and make us see the world around us through a different lens,” Van Bramer said. “My bill aims to enhance the Percent for Art program by giving New Yorkers the ability to have a greater role in selecting public art projects that truly reflect the diversity of our city. The arts have played a tremendous role in shaping New York City.

“With the passage of this bill and mandating public hearings on Percent for Art projects we will solidify our city’s presence as the cultural mecca of the world by ensuring more communities have access to the public art that will continue to beautify the world around us.”

Tom Finkelpearl, NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner commented:

“For the last 30 years the Percent for Art program has provided New Yorkers with hundreds of extraordinary works of art that enhance our libraries, plazas, schools, and other public spaces throughout the city.

“When I was director of this program in the 1990s, I saw the incredible value that close collaboration with residents and stakeholders brings to this process, creating a strong sense of ownership over the art work among residents and helping artists more fully engage with the communities we serve. We look forward to continuing our work to commission projects that bring great art to neighborhoods in all five boroughs.”

Van Bramer explained, “The Percent for Art law was passed in 1982 by the New York City Council. The law requires that one percent of the budget for eligible city-funded construction projects be spent on art work for city facilities. The program offers city agencies the opportunity to acquire or commission works of art specifically for city-owned buildings throughout the five boroughs.”

MALONEY: DO BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR ALL GUN SHOW FIREARM SALES: A background check is required when a Federal Firearm Licensee wants to sell firearms at a gun show, says Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, but “no such requirement exists for private sales.”

Maloney adds: The ATF says that makes gun shows a “major trafficking channel” for illegal guns. To address this problem, Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) has introduced the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act. The same legislation was introduced by now-retired Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D–Long Island) in previous sessions of Congress.

“Background checks keep guns out of criminal hands, but for no good reason current law allows many guns to be sold without this basic step,” Maloney says. “It wouldn’t be hard for gun show hosts to set up a background check station for private sellers. Many states already have this requirement, and my legislation would nationalize it. If we’re serious about cracking down on illegal guns, it’s time to start patching the holes in our Swiss-cheese background check system.”

Maloney’s Gun Show Loophole Closing Act would:

 Subject gun sales and transfers at gun shows to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and require that transfers are reported to the Attorney General.

 Require gun show operators to register with the Attorney General and notify the AG of the details of upcoming shows, including the identity of all firearm vendors, as well as keep a record of all vendors’ identities.

 Allow the ATF to hire investigators to inspect gun shows and examine records kept by gun show operators and vendors.

COUNCIL’S CROWLEY FIGHTS FOR TRANSIT WORKERS’ HIGHER WAGES: Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley charged a transit operator with “dramatically” reducing staff and workforce intimidation, as she rallied with Transportation Workers Union Local 100 for a fair contact, livable wages and a safe working environment.

Crowley (D–Glendale) and Public Advocate Letitia James, joined in the TWU as they rallied for workers employed by Access-A-Ride dispatcher Global Contract Services. The lawmaker stated:

“GCS, the company that sub-contracts with MTA, has shown they do not have their workers’ best interest at heart. They have dramatically cut staff, impacting customer service, slashed salaries and benefits and have been accused of workforce intimidation,” said Crowley. “Access-A-Ride serves some of our city’s neediest, and we must ensure that those workers who are answering the customer calls are given the resources they needed to serve that population. GCS has been treating call takers and dispatchers unfairly; they have had questionable fires and have asked the remaining employees to do much more with less, ultimately affecting the level of service.”

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