Weekend in review
Some of the stories that made the news from Fri., Mar. 3 through Sun., Mar. 5:
Amanda Purcell reported in the Register-Star firefighters from various companies in Columbia County battled low temperatures while fighting two house fires Sat., Mar. 4. In Hillsdale, firemen from Copake, Craryville, Austerlitz, Claverack, Ancram and Egremont, Massachusetts, were called out to a house fire on Route 22 in Hillsdale around 3 p.m. No injuries were reported. In Clermont, flames destroyed a mobile home on Lasher Road, near the border of Columbia and Duchess counties. The home became fully engulfed in flames shortly after 5 p.m. Fire companies from Clermont, Livingston and Tivoli responded.
Josefa Velasquez and Dan Goldberg reported at Politico New York the state does not yet have plans for what to do if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. Last week Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters there is no back-up plan. However, Cuomo's chief counsel, Alphonso David, two days later said the administration was looking into using state funds to help residents keep the financial help they currently receive from Obamacare. But on Fri., Mar. 3, David said the Cuomo administration is not yet pursuing proposals to reject the repeal and replacement of the ACA, given that Republicans in Washington have not put forward a single, specific proposal. Republicans in Congress have suggested changing the ACA’s tax credit from an income-based subsidy to tax credits based on age. According to a leaked draft of that plan, tax credits would range from $2,000 per year for people under 30 to $4,000 per year for people over 60. As of Jan. 31, 2016, nearly 150,000 people in New York relied on roughly $300 million in subsidies to purchase private health insurance from the state health exchange.
The Daily Freeman reported Meredith J. Kane was elected chair of The Olana Partnership’s Board of Trustees in January. Kane is serving her sixth year as a trustee. She will succeed David Redden, who stepped down after serving 10 years on the board. Kane is a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison. The board also elected three new trustees and re-elected six current trustees to three-year terms. The new trustees are Kate C. Gubelmann, Ricky Lark and Kelly M. Williams.
Jeanette Wolfberg reported in The Columbia Paper at a recent Hudson Board of Education budget workshop Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon presented a summary of what to expect in the district's 2017-18 budget. “We don’t have to make decisions tonight,” said Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier. “This is just an overview.” Voters will decide the fate of the spending plan on May 16. Carbon estimates spending during the upcoming school year will increase one percent, to $46.37 million, paid for by $21.95 million in state aid and $22.55 million in property tax revenue, plus additional revenue from unspecified sources. The board will hold further budget workshops on March 13 and March 27 at Hudson High School.
Emily Masters reported in the Times Union 65 percent of police and prosecutors statewide missed a mid-February deadline to report how many untested rape kits are collecting dust on their shelves. The list of police departments that failed to report included the city of Hudson, the towns of Cairo, Stockport, Windham, the villages of Athens, Catskill, Chatham, Coxsackie and Philmont, plus the Greene County District Attorney and the Greene County Sheriff's Office. The Columbia County District Attorney, Columbia County Sheriff's Office and towns of Durham and Greenport all reported. The Columbia County Sheriff's Office disclosed it currently has 9 untested rape kits in its possession. The other agencies were among the 45 percent in the Capitol Region to respond and disclose they they have no untested kits. A new state law meant to clear testing backlogs and mandate timely testing of rape kits obligates law enforcement to report the data. However, confusion about the deadline, how to count the kits and if reporting was mandatory may have led to a low participation rate.
Emilia Teasdale reported in The Columbia Paper the Chatham Village Board unanimously voted to raise water and sewer rates, beginning this month, after a public hearing where several residents questioned the need for the increase, Residents will now pay .045 cents per cubic foot of water used, and .045 cents for sewer service. The water rate outside of the village is now .09 cents per cubic foot for water, plus special new rates for Price Chopper and the Chatham School District. Mayor Tom Curran said increased costs are the reason for the rate hikes, with the village needing to build a tank at the open reservoir, which has been leaking 50,000 gallons a day for several years.
Matthew Hamilton reported at Capitol Confidential the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, in its annual report released Fri., Mar. 3, warned judges of the perils of social media. The commission cautioned that, “a judge must be wary of inviting or engaging in social media dialogue with lawyers, litigants, witnesses or others who may be involved in pending litigation.” A St. Lawrence County judge was admonished by the commission last year after the judge posted a Facebook critique of a case involving a local town council candidate. Last year, the commission processed more than 1,900 complaints, making it the third busiest year in its nearly 40-year history. Seventeen judges resigned from office either amid or after a commission investigation in 2016, while one was removed from office.
Amanda Purcell reported in The Daily Mail President Donald Trump's recent executive order to reverse regulations intended to protect U.S. rivers has sparked outrage from New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The Waters of the United States Rule was signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, and issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act. It gives the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water as well as in streams and wetlands that drain into those larger waters. Schneiderman is leading a coalition of attorneys general in opposition to the executive order. Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper, said the rollback could have an adverse effect on the Hudson River, which includes the shores of Columbia and Greene counties. "There are plenty of areas on the Hudson and its tributaries that would lose 45 years worth of protections if this illegal rule goes forward," Gallay said. The rule has faced criticism from farmers, real estate developers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. U.S. Rep. John Faso applauded Trump’s executive order, calling the rule a "dangerous expansion of the agency’s regulatory authority over 19th [Congressional] District family farms, businesses and property owners." The Kinderhook Republican said the rule unfairly targets farmers with miles of unnecessary red tape.