2016-06-01 / Political Page

Final Presidential Primaries Approach

I On Politics
By John Toscano

With the Republican Party having conferred their presumptive presidential nomination for 2016 upon Donald Trump, the final similar activity for the Democratic Party remaining will occur next Tuesday, June 7th, when five states – California, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota – will hold their presidential primary elections to confer the final 682 delegate selections between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

The same states will go through the motions to hold similar elections for the Republicans just to close the history books on their selection of Trump, but the real drama will be focused on the Clinton – Sanders matches, although Clinton really has had a lock on her party’s nomination for some time, but Sanders and his supporters have insisted on playing out the string.

Just to set the ground rules in place and not create any future confusion, here’s the way these elections, will be contested delegate wise for next Tuesday.

Democrats’ delegate count is: California - 475; New Jersey - 126; Montana - 21; New Mexico - 34, North Dakota - 18, and South Dakota - 20.

Republicans; California - 172; New Jersey - 51; Montana - 27; New Mexico - 24, and South Dakota - 29.

Clinton has 2,310 delegates including unpledged super delegates, and needs 73 delegates more to reach the magic clinch-the-deal number of 2,383 delegates.

Trump has already 1,239 delegates, more than the 1,237 needed for his party’s nomination, according to the Associated Press/Politico count.

The main battle between Clinton and Sanders finally narrows down to California’s 475 delegates. At an earlier point, polls generally had Clinton ahead fairly comfortably. But the battering she has taken more recently, mainly from the press, and Trump, because of her private email account when she was Secretary of State, have weakened her poll leads, although they still have validity.

Also to be factored in is this: even if Sanders springs an upset in the California contest, Clinton will still come away with delegates in the final accounting which would put her over the top while Sanders would still be behind her in the final delegate count because Clinton leads him by about 700 delegates (300 not counting her super delegates) going into the June 7 contests.

So at the end of all the presidential primaries, Clinton will finally be hailed as the delegate queen, trailed by Sanders, when the Democratic Presidential Convention rolls around in July in Philadelphia!

And let’s give Sanders his due! He waged a heck of a battle with impressive results fighting the system. He also stood up to Trump, who put out that debate offer to Sanders, but quickly withdrew it after Bernie accepted the challenge.

URGE OBAMA TO AWARD MEDAL TO ABDUL-JABBAR: Congressman Joseph Crowley, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, led over 100 members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama urging him to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In the letter, the members emphasized Abdul-Jabbar’s impressive mark on the sports world, as well as his commitment to social justice, philanthropy, and education. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America’s highest civilian honor, and is presented to distinguished individuals from throughout the public service and cultural arenas, including leaders in arts, sports, and science.

“If anyone is a Renaissance man, it’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It’s not just his skyhook shot that’s extraordinary; his dedication to strengthening communities, expanding educational opportunity, and fighting intolerance is equally impressive,” said Rep. Crowley. “Kareem is an inspiration on so many levels, and his contributions are certainly worthy of such recognition.”

In Abdul-Jabbar’s 20-year career in professional basketball, he was a six-time NBA champion, a six-time league Most Valuable Player, a 19-time All-Star, and remains the league’s all-time leading scorer with a staggering 38,387 points.

Yet, Abdul-Jabbar’s contributions to society extend far beyond the court. A noted author, philanthropist, and social activist, Abdul-Jabbar’s post-basketball career has focused on making the world a better place. He has dedicated efforts to expanding learning opportunities to students in underserved communities through his Skyhook Foundation and has been a leading voice in speaking out against religious, racial, and gender-based intolerance. He is also a noted author, publishing numerous books in both history and fiction. In 2012, Abdul-Jabbar was appointed a U.S. Cultural Ambassador by the State Department, with a mission of promoting education, social and racial tolerance, and cultural understanding with young people around the world.

“He [Abdul-Jabbar] is a role model for today’s youth and a champion in more ways than one, and we urge you to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his many and varied contributions to our country,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter.

Crowley and Abdul-Jabbar both graduated from Power Memorial Academy high school in New York City in 1980 and 1965, respectively. In 2011, they were both in the inaugural class inducted into the now-closed high school’s Hall of Fame.

MENG BILL REMOVES TERM ‘ORIENTAL’ FROM U.S. LAW SIGNED BY PRESIDENT OBAMA: Legislation sponsored by Congresswoman Grace Meng (D–Queens), that removes the derogatory and antiquated term “Oriental” from federal law, was this afternoon signed into law by President Obama.

The bipartisan bill, which the President signed during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, will eliminate all references to “Orientals” – which still appear in Title 42 of the U.S. Code – and replace the word with “Asian Americans.”

“The term ‘Oriental’ has no place in federal law and at long last this insulting and outdated term will be gone for good,” said Meng. “No longer will any law of the United States refer to Asian Americans in such an offensive way, and I applaud and thank President Obama for signing my bill to get rid of this antiquated term. Many Americans may not be aware that the word ‘Oriental’ is derogatory. But it is an insulting term that needed to be removed from the books, and I am extremely pleased that my legislation to do that is now the law of the land.”

“After months of advocacy in both chambers of Congress, derogatory terms in federal law will finally be updated to reflect our country’s diversity,” said U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. “I’m proud to have seen this effort through. Mahalo to President Obama for his quick action.”

“Nobody, let alone the federal government, should use a hurtful term like ‘Orientals’ when referring to Americans of Asian descent,” said Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and an original cosponsor of Meng’s bill. “Our country is a rich tapestry of cultural backgrounds, and Americans of all backgrounds deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I was proud to support Congresswoman Meng as she led the charge on this issue, and I applaud her perseverance and success.”

Title 42 of the U.S. Code consists of federal laws that deal with public health, social welfare and civil rights. Its references to “Oriental,” which were written in the 1970s, are the last two places of U.S. law where the term is used to refer to a person. The word appears in the text of the Department of Energy Organization Act and the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976. Meng discovered that the term was still part of Title 42 while doing routine legislative research late last year.

Meng’s legislation was first passed by the House on December 2nd as an amendment to the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act. But because that energy measure stalled in Congress and President Obama threatened to veto it – due to unrelated provisions in the legislation – the House unanimously passed a freestanding version of Meng’s measure on February 29th. Meng’s bill was then unanimously passed by the Senate on May 9th. It garnered 76 cosponsors including all 51 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).

The President signing Meng’s bill into law is the Congresswoman’s second success at getting rid of the term “Oriental.” When Meng was a member of the New York State Legislature in 2009, she passed legislation into law that eliminated the use of “Oriental” in all official New York State documents.

The bill number of Meng’s legislation is H.R.4238.

STAVISKY, COLLEAGUES FORCE VOTE TO PROTECT CHILD SEX ABUSE VICTIMS: This Monday, Senator Stavisky and the Senate Democratic Conference brought legislation to the Senate floor that would have reformed New York State’s outdated statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Despite efforts, the initiative to give child sex abuse victims justice, hold abusers accountable for their crimes and protect children in the future was rejected by the Senate Republican Majority.

“This common sense legislation would have protected our children and delivered justice for the far too many victims in New York State. Monday’s vote gave all New Yorkers a chance to see where their Senator stands on this critical issue,” Stavisky said. “My colleagues and I will continue to push this issue to finally give child sex abuse victims the justice they deserve and hold the perpetrators of these heinous crimes accountable.”

If passed into law, the Child Victims Act would have:

• Eliminated the criminal statute of limitations for several child sexual abuse crimes;

• Eliminated the civil statute of limitations for all causes of action brought by a person seeking redress for physical, psychological or other injury caused by child sexual abuse;

• Created a one year window, starting from the effective date of the bill, for past victims of child sexual abuse to initiate lawsuits against their abusers;

• Applied the eliminated civil statute of limitations to public institutions, in addition to private institutions; and

• Created parity in how regulations impact public and private institutions under these circumstances.

SENATOR PERALTA PUSHES PASSAGE OF SWEAT ACT IN ASSEMBLY: State Senator Jose Peralta applauded today the New York State Assembly for passing the SWEAT Act (Securing Wages Earned Against Theft). Senator Peralta is the sponsor of the bill in the Senate. He urged his colleagues in the Senate to mirror the Assembly and pass the bill in the upper chamber to tackle wage theft in New York State.

“Today, the New York State Assembly took the historic step of passing the SWEAT Act, which is carried in that chamber by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. As I am the sponsor of SWEAT in the Senate, I encourage my colleagues to step up to the plate and do the same in our chamber, in order to make this important policy a reality,” said Senator Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).

“Passage of SWEAT will provide countless New Yorkers with the ability to receive their due wages from employers, for work they have already performed. No longer will employers be able to hide behind the facade of a limited liability company, in order to shield themselves from paying their workers. By providing employees with the power to place liens on their employer’s assets, we build upon our State’s existing Wage Theft Statute to take a step toward guaranteeing that all New Yorkers who conduct work are properly paid for their efforts.”

‘SAVING JAMAICA BAY’: City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Councilman Mark Treyger will have a special screening of “Saving Jamaica Bay” next Wednesday (June 8) at the Coney Island Aquarium at 6 pm. The film was produced by Van Bramer’s husband, Dan, he reported.

For many of us, Jamaica Bay is the anonymous body of water we fly over on our way in and out of JFK, but for the people and animals who live there, it’s so much more. Jamaica Bay is New York City’s largest open space and a national wildlife refuge. For years, it was also the city’s dumping ground. Jamaica Bay is a touch point for how we as a city relate to the natural world,” Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) stated.

“I hope you’ll join Council Member Mark Treyger, Dan, and me for a special screening of this important film at the Brooklyn Aquarium,” Van Bramer added.

Tickets are $20. All proceeds go to the New York Aquarium and the Audubon Society. The Aquarium is located at 602 Surf Avenue in Coney Island, in Brooklyn.

VALLONE VOTES ‘NO’ ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM ACT: Councilman Paul A. Vallone issued the following statement explaining his vote against the Criminal Justice Reform Act.

“Today I am voting against the Criminal Justice Reform Act in order to defend common sense and the preservation of our quality of life here in New York City. While the arguments of reducing the Judicial backlog and preserving the future of someone who ‘made a mistake’ may be meritorious, today’s actions would, in fact, not accomplish either goal. To fix the court system, you budget for more judges, officers, court clerks and staff. You don’t eliminate the crime. To remove the protections safeguarding our quality of life invites even more disregard of the very practices we were taught by our parents to not do.

“Policy over legislation is always preferable. It has been proven time and time again that successfully prosecuting low-level offenses often leads to the conviction of career criminals with outstanding warrants. Today’s legislation permanently removes another tool that the New York Police Department has to defend and protect our city.

“Once again, we will be shifting the burden to our police officers to determine who gets a criminal summons and who gets a civil fine. The chilling effect of these bills is simply unacceptable. Therefore, I will urge my colleagues to vote no. Otherwise, today will be remembered as the day that the quality of life in the City of New York was forever changed, and not for the better.”

ADDABBO EYES DANGEROUS DRIVERS: Three pieces of legislation cosponsored by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. seek to provide safer streets and neighborhoods throughout New York State by cracking down on impaired drivers who leave the scene of accidents, creating harsher penalties for unlicensed drivers who seriously injure or kill others as a result of their irresponsible and illegal behavior.

“Every law-abiding pedestrian and responsible motorist in our society deserves to travel our roadways in safety without being victimized by drunk or drugged drivers who flee the scene or by people who drive without licenses and cause serious accidents,” said Addabbo (D–Howard Beach). “When people get behind the wheel with their senses impaired, or shift into gear knowing full well that their licenses have been suspended or revoked – often for good reason – they are committing serious criminal acts against all the rest of us. We need to update our laws to make sure the punishments fit the crimes, particularly when innocent victims are severely hurt or lose their lives in the process.”

Under the first bill (S.405), New York law would be changed to presume that alcohol or drug impaired drivers leaving the scenes of accidents without reporting the collisions knew they had hit a person or object and still decided to flee. Specifically, they could be charged with hit-and-run offenses carrying fines of up to $5000 (the current maximum), in addition to the crime of impaired driving, unless they are able to prove that a sober driver would not have known a collision occurred. Known as “Alix’s Law,” the proposal is named after an Erie County teenager who was killed by an impaired hit-and-run driver. The driver, who successfully claimed he was unaware of hitting and killing Alix, was only convicted of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Impaired drivers would also be required to investigate when they know or have reason to know they have hit a person or property.

The second Addabbo proposal (S.1108) increases penalties across the board for leaving the scene of an accident without reporting the incident. The maximum monetary fine would be raised to $5500, and hit-and-run drivers who kill a person could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. Under current law, penalties are harsher for impaired drivers who remain at the scene of an accident than for those who flee the area and don’t report the incident, Addabbo explained.

Under the third bill (S.2484), motorists who seriously injure others when they are knowingly driving with suspended or revoked licenses could be charged with vehicular assault in the second degree, a class E felony. Those who drive illegally with suspended or revoked licenses who kill another person could be charged with the new crime of vehicular homicide, a more serious Class D felony, the lawmaker said.

“Incidents of serious hit-and-run accidents committed by drunk drivers, as well as crashes caused by unlicensed drivers who knowingly flaunt the law, have been on an uptick and need to be addressed,” said Addabbo. “Hopefully, higher penalties for illegal drivers and fewer excuses for impaired hit-and-run motorists would serve as deterrents to this irresponsible, illegal and dangerous behavior.” The Senator added that a number of constituents have requested these kinds of bills regarding unacceptable driver behavior.

In the Assembly, the bills are under review by the Committees on Codes and Transportation.

ADDABBO, SENATE PASS WIDE RANGE OF ANTI-DRUG BILLS: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. recently voted to approve a wide-ranging package of Senate legislation aimed at stemming increasing incidents of deadly heroin and opioid abuse and otherwise helping to protect New Yorkers from the horrors of drug-related deaths, illness and crime.

“Lives are being tragically and needlessly ruined and lost in New York and across the nation from a frightening epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse,” said Addabbo. “Here in New York City, according to the Health Department, deaths attributed to unintentional opioid overdoses rose by 56 percent between 2010 and 2014, with 79 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2014 involving some form of opioid, including heroin and powerful prescription painkillers. We are already taking action to address this epidemic, such as making lifesaving naloxone more readily available to reverse overdoses, but much more needs to be done both here in the City and statewide,” Addabbo declared.

The package of legislation approved by the Senate with Addabbo’s support includes greater penalties for illegal heroin or opioid sales, proposed advances in treatment opportunities, stronger restrictions on access to dangerous drugs, and enhanced public education about dangerous drugs, both legal and not.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) stated: “The heroin and opioid epidemic touches individuals, families and our entire society in different and terrible ways, and we need to fight it on every front: using criminal, medical, educational and all other tools at our disposal,” he said. “There is no one solution, so we need to fight this scourge by all means available.”

Bills to combat heroin and opioid abuse, and otherwise address drug-related challenges in New York include:

S.6962, which would help to ensure that insurance coverage is made available for pain management opioid medications that are manufactured in a way designed to prevent their misuse or abuse, such as making them difficult to crush or liquefy (and thereby inject or snort).

S.6623, which would impose greater restrictions on access to fentanyl and derivatives of the drug – a pain medication said to be 100 times more powerful than morphine and much deadlier than heroin – and also increase penalties for its illegal sale, especially when it is sold combined with heroin.

S.6516, which would require the State Department of Health to track and annually report on opioid overdoses and deaths, as well as the administration of “antagonist” drugs used to revive overdose victims, on a county-by-county basis to reveal where areas of particular abuse are located.

S.4177, which would redefine the state crime of operating as a major drug trafficker to make it easier to prosecute and convict major dealers of heroin and other deadly substances.

S.4163, which would enact “Laree’s Law” and make it possible to charge drug dealers whose customers die from the use of heroin and other opioids with homicide, instead of only the typical crime of criminal sale of a controlled substance.

S.7365, which is designed to combat the over-prescription of powerful opioid painkillers by enabling patients to request smaller quantities of medication (to prevent the use and abuse of left-over pills by others), ensuring that patients are advised by their physicians of the risks associated with opioid-related addiction, and requiring that the reason for the prescription be clearly documented in medical records.

S.7317, which would make it easier for physicians treating patients in managed care programs to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug that is well documented for its effectiveness in addressing opioid withdrawal symptoms and overall addiction recovery.

S.7315, which would require the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to create a card or pamphlet, to accompany each opioid prescription, detailing the risks of taking opioids, the signs of addiction, and safe drug disposal methods, while also providing phone and text number information for HOPELINE, New York’s primary addiction assistance program.

S.7200, which would make it a class B felony to sell controlled substances within 1,000 feet of a drug or alcohol treatment center or methadone clinic – a ploy pursued by dealers hoping to tempt addicts working towards recovery.

S.7012, which would help to ensure that criminal penalties associated with heroin are updated and strengthened to reflect the light weight of the substance in comparison to other drugs and its high potency and danger.

Having passed the State Senate, the bills are under consideration by various standing committees addressing different issue areas in the State Assembly.

SENATE PASSES TWO STAVISKY CRIMINAL PROCEDURE BILLS: The State Senate passed two pieces of legislation, last Thursday both sponsored by State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. Senate bills S3154 and S3162 both address the rights of crime victims.

The first, S3154, requires victims of a crime to be notified by the district attorney of their right to provide an impact statement. Under current law, notice goes out to victims upon request, in felony cases that result to a felony conviction, Stavisky (D–Forest Hills) explained.

“A victim of a crime undergoes a tremendous amount of stress throughout the entire legal process and at times, for the rest of their lives; so much so that many may be unaware of their right to provide a victim impact statement,” Stavisky said. “This legislation takes the burden off of the victim by no longer requiring them to request to meet with the parole board or share their feelings on the matter with the Department of Corrections.”

The second, S 3162, gives a crime victim access to information about the status of a case in which they were involved, as well as the right to participate in the judicial proceedings of a juvenile offender.

“Victims should be entitled to know how court proceedings are going, even when the perpetrator is a juvenile,” Stavisky said. “Whether it be out of concern for their safety, their peace of mind or interest in the case, a victim should not be shut out of court proceedings.”

Assembly versions of the bills, sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D–Flushing) are A89 and A118. They are in committee and on the floor calendar, respectively.

KOO PRAISES COPS ON ARREST: City Councilman Peter Koo stated the following regarding the arrests of two men accused of slashing a young woman in Whitestone last December.

“The 109th Police Precinct is to be commended for its outstanding work in bringing these men to justice. These arrests are an important step in the healing process for the young woman who was so brutally attacked, and we can all feel a little bit safer now that these hoodlums are behind bars.”

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