2018-05-02 / Political Page

I On Politics

MALONEY CALLS FOR WITHDRAWAL OF PROPOSED ‘JUNK INSURANCE’ RULE: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) wrote to US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta and US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin on April 23 urging them to withdraw a proposed rule from their departments “that will endanger Americans’ health.” The proposed rule, from February 21, would extend the allowable duration of short-term, limited-duration (STLD) insurance from 3 months to up to 12 months. “These STLD plans are often referred to as ‘junk insurance’ because of the substandard coverage they provide. This proposed change will destabilize the individual insurance marketplace and provide substandard coverage,” Maloney explained.

Congress Member Maloney argues in her letter that “[T]his rule will again leave Americans more vulnerable to financial hardship should they become ill. Customers who purchase STLD plans may be shocked and unprepared to pay for medical expenses they thought would be included in any product sold as ‘health insurance,’ such as prescription drug coverage, specialist visits, or chronic disease treatment.”

“In addition to defrauding customers, these plans will result in 8.1 million less Americans with minimum essential coverage, create market instability, and lead to increased costs for those remaining in the ACA individual marketplace,” Maloney said.

In her letter she stated that “the substandard coverage…does not include basic healthcare services, like mental health treatment, maternity care, and substance abuse services.

“These plans are exempt from complying with ACA health insurance mandates. For instance, they can enforce lifetime or annual limits and charge people with pre-existing conditions higher rates.

“While STLD policyholders will be subject to significant out-of-pocket costs and customers in the ACA-compliant individual insurance market experience premium increases estimated to be up to 18.3%, insurance companies will reap large profits selling these plans which provide minimal coverage… As a result, brokers are likely to market these plans very aggressively, and consumers may purchase them without understanding how they differ from compliant plans.

“While the proposed rule published by the Departments estimated that federal spending would increase $168 million as a result of these policy changes, (the journal) Health Affairs predicts federal outlays to increase by up to $3.1 billion.

“A deeply unfortunate consequence of the introduction of these plans will be the remaining 2.6 million STLD customers who currently have ACA-compliant plans but will switch to an STLD plan that has a mere fraction of the benefits they had previously, creating market instability and increased costs for those remaining in the ACA individual marketplace.

STLD plans are intended to provide policyholders an option for bare minimum health insurance coverage during short periods of transition, such as changing jobs or unemployment.

CROWLEY, MENG: TRUMP TARGETING NEPALESE FOR DEPORTATION IS HEARTLESS: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) and Congress Member Grace Meng (D-Queens) issued the following statement on President Trump’s formal announcement to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nepalese individuals:

“Once again, the Trump administration is making a heartless and senseless decision. This time, they are abandoning nearly 9,000 Nepalese citizens who have found safety and stability in our country.

“Deporting these men and women will have dire consequences, as Nepal is still struggling to provide adequate housing, medical care, and food to the millions who were displaced. It lacks vision and leadership from President Trump to unleash the full strength of his deportation machine on a small number of women and men who pose no risk to the United States.

 “Temporary Protected Status has given Nepalese citizens the security needed as their homeland recovers from a massive earthquake that left thousands dead and millions of survivors homeless. Nepalese citizens are not a threat but an asset to America, and they should be allowed to stay here. This decision just further reinforces President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and disregard for America’s values.”

Last month, Crowley and Meng, along with Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), led a letter signed by dozens of House members urging the Trump administration to extend TPS for Nepalese citizens living in the United States following the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015. Following a letter led by Crowley and Meng in 2015, the US government first granted TPS to Nepalese citizens in the immediate weeks after the earthquake and TPS was then extended to June 2018.

CROWLEY RECEIVES KEY ENDORSEMENT FROM GUN SAFETY GROUP: Congress Member Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, received an endorsement from Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congress Member Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly. Additionally, Crowley received a mark of distinction from Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization of Americans working together to end gun violence.

Chairman Crowley has been a longtime advocate for commonsense gun safety legislation that would keep our children and communities safe. He has long supported increasing enforcement of background checks, banning bump stocks, closing the gun show and “no fly, no buy” loopholes, and reinstating the assault weapons ban.

“Joe Crowley is a leader. Whether it’s getting first responders the benefits they’ve earned or calling attention to the horrific impact of the country’s gun violence epidemic, he is tireless in fighting for what’s right,” said Giffords. “Too many people are dying every day because the Majority in Congress refuses to address America’s gun violence crisis. We need leaders like Joe in Washington, DC who are committed to protecting kids and communities—and not worried about the wishes of the gun lobby. I’m proud to endorse Joe for Congress and I look forward to continuing to work with him to strengthen our nation’s gun safety laws.”

“Enacting commonsense gun safety legislation is one of the most critical moral obligations of our time. We can stop needless gun violence from claiming more lives—it will only take courage and action on behalf of our nation’s leaders,” said Crowley. “I promise to do everything within my power to enact gun violence prevention legislation that keeps our schools, communities, and places of worship safe. I’m humbled to receive support from Giffords and Everytown—two organizations that have consistently led the charge to ensure Americans are safe from gun violence.”

Congress Member Joe Crowley represents New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of Queens and the Bronx. He has publicly pledged to reject any donations from the National Rifle Association and has received an “F” grade from the NRA throughout his time in Congress.

SIERRA CLUB ENDORSES MALONEY FOR REELECTION: The Sierra Club endorsed Congress Member Carolyn Maloney for reelection in New York’s 12th Congressional District.

“The Sierra Club enthusiastically backs Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for reelection. Throughout her distinguished career in public service, Maloney has supported a clean energy economy and worked to move our nation away from reliance on the fossil fuels that cause climate change. She has been stalwart fighter for clean water, clean air, and energy efficient solutions and we look forward to continuing to work with her,” said the Sierra Club in their endorsement announcement.

“I thank the Sierra Club for their support. Halting the dangerous use of fossil fuels and their devastating contribution to climate change has been a priority for me since I first entered public service. As the Trump Administration and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seek to roll back decades of environmental protections at the behest of our nation’s biggest polluters, our vigilance and defense of the environment has never been more critical. I look forward to continuing to fight alongside the Sierra Club,” said Maloney.

With 3 million members and supporters, the Sierra Club is the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the US It has protected millions of acres of wilderness and helped pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Today, it is on the forefront of the effort to move away from the dirty fossil fuels that cause climate disruption and toward a clean energy economy.

With the Democratic Primary on June 26, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney has been endorsed by every City Council member, Assembly member and state senator that represents New York’s 12th Congressional District, along with three citywide elected leaders: Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Comptroller Scott Stringer; all four Democratic borough presidents and the entire New York House Democratic delegation. In addition, Maloney is supported by End Citizens United, the National Organization for Women, NARAL, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), and more.

VALLONE TO MAYOR: INCREASE FUNDING FOR SCHOOL SECURITY CAMERAS: The City Council’s response to the Mayor’s preliminary budget included NYC Council Member Paul Vallone’s request for a massive increase in funding aimed at installing new Internet Protocol Digital Surveillance (IPDVS) systems in New York City schools. Vallone had been strongly advocating for this to be included in the Council’s response to the preliminary budget as he continues to push for improvements to school safety throughout the city.

An IPDVS system allows authorized school officials to view live and archived camera images directly on their computer stations and provides remote viewing capability to authorized personnel from borough and central offices. Out of the over 1,700 schools in NYC, only 1,123 have IPDVS, leaving a third of schools without this modern security system. In Vallone’s district, the problem is even worse with 62% of schools lacking IPDVS.

The current Department of Education (DOE) 5-year capital plan for fiscal years 2015-2019 has $100 million allocated for IPDVS. However, a large portion of this funding is currently unused as it was focused on upgrading existing IPDVS systems at schools, rather than installing new ones. Vallone’s advocacy led to the City Council requesting an additional $100 million for fiscal year 2019, which would be used primarily to install new IPDVS systems in schools that do not have them. This would essentially double the amount allocated in the DOE’s 5-year capital plan from $100 million to $200 million. It is now up to the Mayor and administration to honor the City Council’s request for the benefit of all New York City students.

Going forward Vallone will continue advocating for this issue until every school in NYC has IPDVS. Additional funding would need to be allocated in the DOE’s next 5-year capital plan (FY20-24) in order to bring IPDVS to every school in NYC.

“We are about to enter the DOE’s next 5-year capital plan and now is the time to clearly show our commitment to school safety and ensure it remains a top priority. In the greatest city on earth, it is completely inexcusable for a third of our schools, or more, to lack a modern camera system,” said Council Member Vallone. “I’m proud to stand with our students, parents, teachers, administrators and my colleagues in City Hall as we call on the Mayor to make school safety a priority.”

PRISON FOR THOSE CAUSING DEATH, SERIOUS INJURY WHEN DRIVING W/O LICENSE: Legislation (S.3299) co-sponsored by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. to impose harsher penalties on unlicensed drivers who seriously injure or kill others as a result of their irresponsible and illegal behavior has been approved by the State Senate, said Addabbo.

“Every law-abiding pedestrian and responsible motorist in our society deserves to travel our roadways in safety without being victimized by people who drive without licenses and place all of us at risk,” said Addabbo. “When people get behind the wheel knowing full well their licenses have been suspended or revoked—often for good reason—they are committing serious criminal acts. 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 legislation, those who drive illegally with suspended or revoked licenses and kill another person could face a new crime of vehicular homicide, a more serious class D felony. A class D felony carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison. Motorists who seriously injure others when they knowingly drive with suspended or revoked licenses could be charged with vehicular assault in the second degree, a class E felony which may impose up to four years behind bars.

The legislation, whose prime Senate sponsor is NYS Senator Michael Gianaris, will now be considered by the Assembly Committee on Codes.

Addabbo noted that 10 percent of all New York crashes are reportedly caused by drivers with suspended or revoked licenses, and that 75 percent of these motorists continue to get behind the wheel illegally.

Serious and fatal crashes caused by unlicensed drivers who knowingly flout the law represent a very serious public safety issue, said Addabbo. “Hopefully, higher penalties for unlicensed driving would help deter this irresponsible, illegal and dangerous behavior.”

“We have seen a number of these tragic accidents here in Queens, and I have had constituents reach out to me on strategies to combat unlicensed driving,” said Addabbo. “I hope this bill will receive the consideration it needs and deserves, and ultimately be enacted into law. Too many innocent lives are at risk.”

In December of 2013, Addabbo added, Queens residents witnessed the particularly heart-rending death of eight-year-old Noshat Nahian, a third grade student at PS 152 in Woodside. The child was walking to school with his sister when he was struck and killed by a tractor trailer driver operating his vehicle with a suspended license.

CROWLEY VOWS TO CONTINUE INVESTIGATING RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE: House Democratic Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) released the following statement after House Intelligence Committee Republicans issued their report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections:

“This report is further proof that House Intelligence Committee Republicans were never serious about a thorough, nonpartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections. From day one, Republicans undermined the investigation, dismissing facts and twisting information, all in an effort to give the Trump administration cover. If Republicans had put as much effort into pursuing the facts as they did attacking the credibility of the investigation, we would know more today about Russia’s attack and how to protect our country in the future.

“This is a matter of national security—and must be taken seriously. Americans deserve answers, and House Democrats will continue our efforts to uncover the truth and protect the integrity of our democracy.”

MALONEY TO JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: HOLD HEARING FOR ERA: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) officially requested that the House Committee on the Judiciary hold a hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which she has introduced in the last 11 Congresses, consistently earning the support of Democrats and Republicans alike. H.J. Res. 33 currently has 145 bipartisan cosponsors. The ERA would make gender equality a constitutional guarantee and would protect women from gender-based discrimination, Maloney explained. “There has not been a committee hearing in either the House or Senate on the ERA since 1984, but the ERA is as relevant today as it has ever been” Maloney stated in her letter.

H.J. Res. 33 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States guaranteeing equal rights for men and women.

In her letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, the Congresswoman states, “Especially in light of the disturbing revelations of widespread incidents of sexual harassment and assault in both the private and public sectors, it is imperative that Congress seriously pursue actions to protect all employees from sexual predators and properly address claims of sexual misconduct. I firmly believe that passing the ERA is an essential component to changing a culture that has tolerated sexual harassment for decades…By holding a hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment, Congress can renew the momentum necessary to protect women’s rights with the full force of the Constitution.”

COUNCILMEMBERS DISAPPOINTED NO HOMEOWNERS TAX BREAK IN BUDGET: Council Members Paul Vallone, Barry Grodenchik, Justin Brannan, Steven Matteo, Joseph Borelli, and Mark Gjonaj released the following joint statement on the FY 2019 Executive Budget: 

“We are extremely disappointed that in the $89 billion budget Mayor de Blasio unveiled Thursday there is no property tax relief to help seniors, retirees, working and middle class families who are struggling to make ends meet, as their taxes have skyrocketed and their incomes have stagnated.

“There also is no indication of how this administration intends to address the glaring inequities of a property tax system that charges the owner of a modest home in our districts more than the owner of a multi-million dollar brownstone in Park Slope.

“We are all for making New York City more fair and that’s why we will continue to forcefully advocate for a property tax rebate throughout the budget negotiation process; homeowners in this city need property tax relief in a big way, and they need it now. I know we speak for just about every property owner in the five boroughs when we say, ‘C’mon man, give us a break!’”

MENG PROVISIONS IN FAA REAUTHORIZATION ACT SEEKING TO COMBAT NOISE: Congress Member Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced on April 27 that the FAA Reauthorization Act passed by the House that day includes several provisions she authored, including measures aimed at reducing excessive airplane noise over Queens and other impacted communities

Meng’s provisions include the Phase II Authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise Program (CLEEN 2), an initiative to develop technologies that reduce aircraft noise. The program also seeks to develop alternative jet fuels to reduce fuel emissions and improve fuel efficiency.

The goal is to have these improved technologies introduced to commercial aircrafts by 2026. The FAA will invest $100 million in Phase II of the program and this funding will be matched at least dollar-for-dollar by industry partners that include Boeing, Delta TechOps, GE, Honeywell Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls Royce, and other companies.

Meng also authored a measure in the legislation that would require the FAA to set a five-year strategy on ways to research and mitigate aircraft noise.

The FAA Reauthorization Act also includes provisions that mandate a robust community engagement process for new or adjusted flight paths and procedures, a study on the health impacts of flight noise in New York and other parts of the country, an update to noise exposure maps to determine eligibility for noise mitigation funding, and reviews of phasing out older aircrafts with loud engines.

In addition to the anti-noise provisions, Meng secured passage of several other items in the FAA bill. They include:

•   A provision that would require major airports to provide designated areas for pets to relieve themselves before they and their owners board a flight.

•   A provision that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to issue a report to Congress on each air carrier’s employee training policies regarding racial, ethnic, and religious nondiscrimination. The measure would also require the Secretary of Transportation to develop and share with air carriers best training practices that would be crafted in response to the GAO report.

The FAA Reauthorization Act passed by a vote of 393-13. The bill reauthorizes funding for the FAA through 2023.

CROWLEY: ‘COMPLETE EAST SIDE AND PENN STATION ACCESS PROJECTS’: Congress Member Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, issued the following statement calling for full completion of the East Side Access and Penn Station Access Projects:

“It’s a well-known fact that New York’s public transit system is struggling to accommodate its growing population, which is why we must work quickly to bolster and expand our city’s public transit infrastructure. In pursuit of that goal, I have been working with the MTA to prioritize expansion of the Metro-North rail line into the East Bronx.

“I appreciate that both the MTA and Amtrak are devoted to addressing the needs of commuters across New York, which is why I am calling for the completion of the ESA and Penn Station projects as soon as possible and for Amtrak to provide full details on scheduled outages and provide the manpower necessary for their completion. These projects are crucial to our efforts to expand public transit options for all New Yorkers and I’m glad to see the MTA is moving ahead to get it completed.”

 CARSON’S PROPOSED RENT HIKES ‘APPALLING’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) issued the following statement after US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced a proposal to increase the cost of rent for millions of Americans receiving federal housing subsidies:

“This proposal marks yet another contemptuous attack from the Trump administration against millions of Americans. But given the number of billionaires working in the Trump administration, it’s unsurprising that they would fail to understand that, for working families, every last dollar counts. And to insinuate that those receiving federal housing assistance aren’t already working hard to make ends meet is downright insulting.

“By tripling the cost of rent for struggling families, this proposal would inflict unimaginable hardships on Americans living life on the brink of financial instability and significantly increase the risk of homelessness and hunger among children and at-risk populations.

“Cities across America, like my hometown of New York City, are facing an affordable housing crisis. We should help our fellow Americans struggling to get by, not add to the burden of millions of parents wondering how they’ll keep a roof over their children’s heads. I urge my Republican colleagues to join Democrats in opposing this appalling proposal from President Trump and Secretary Carson.”

ADDABBO PREFERS CUOMO’S PLASTIC BAG BAN OVER BAG TAX: NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo released the following statement regarding Governor Cuomo’s proposed ban on plastic bags: “As a member of the Senate Environmental Committee, I am glad to see Governor Andrew Cuomo taking a stand against single-use plastic bags across New York State. His proposed bill is a great step forward in protecting our environment, and a positive step away from a bag tax that would push an extra cost onto consumers. I always believed the plastic bag issue could have been addressed without implementing a penalty on our residents. I look forward to working on this important environmental concern.”

CROWLEY APPLAUDS ‘JUST ACT’ COMPENSATING HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) joined US Senators Tammy Baldwin and Marco Rubio to applaud the passage of the JUST Act.

The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, introduced by Chairman Crowley and Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), will improve efforts assisting Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims by requiring the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries on the return of—or restitution for—wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets.

Crowley said, “More than 70 years after the horrors of the Holocaust, far too many survivors still haven’t seen their property returned or compensation granted for goods seized by the Nazi regime and others. I applaud my colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate for doing what is right by passing the JUST Act and recognizing the importance of bringing greater justice to Holocaust victims, survivors, and their families.” 

BILL TO MAKE RACING FAN ADVISORY COUNCIL PERMANENT APPROVED: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. recently joined with his Senate colleagues to approve legislation (S.3158) he co-sponsors to make the New York State Racing Fan Advisory Council a permanent part of the New York State Gaming Commission.

 “Several years ago, a temporary Racing Fan Advisory Council was put together to advise the state on how to improve and expand its racing industry, with a particular eye on attracting more people to the sport and celebrating its history,” said Addabbo, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. “As we move forward with racing and pari-mutuel wagering in our state, a permanent council may help lead the way in promoting this important segment of New York’s economy.”

Addabbo, whose Senate district includes Aqueduct Raceway, noted that New York’s equine industry has an estimated $4.2 billion impact on the state’s economy, and generates 33,000 full-time jobs. In addition to racing revenues, the economic impact includes state and local taxes generated by the industry, and the preservation of 1.3 million acres of open space by horse farms, training centers and riding stables.

 “Aqueduct Raceway and Resorts World Casino NYC have had a very positive impact on our local economy, tourism, the hospitality industry, and job opportunities for my constituents,” said Addabbo. “I expect Aqueduct will be included and featured in these efforts.”

The permanent council would include five members, none of whom could be employed by the NYS Gaming Commission; lobby on behalf of tracks, OTBs and horsemen’s associations, or be officers of any of these groups. The members would serve for five years, and the Senate and Assembly Racing Committees would each make one recommendation for membership. Past members have included law professors, historians, agricultural experts, and thoroughbred and harness racing enthusiasts. If the bill is enacted into law, the current members of the temporary council appointed in 2016 would remain seated.

Having passed the State Senate, the legislation is now under consideration by the Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering.

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

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