Tag Archives: democrats

Smith’s move could stymie State Senate Democrats


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Malcolm Smith #8

State Senator Malcolm Smith, representing southeast Queens, announced he joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in an allegiance with Republican representatives. This will possibly give the pact a tandem leadership of the chamber and stymie the Democrats, who seemingly took power in November’s election.

The tenured senator is now joining a coalition that will split power between two of the three sects in the Senate, with incumbent Senate Leader Dean Skelos switching every two weeks with Bronx IDC Senator Jeff Klein.

Klein’s spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Smith wants to focus more on policy than politicking, said spokesperson Hank Sheinkopf.

In 2009, two freshman Democrat state senators joined Republicans to vote for a change that would have effectively removed Smith as senate leader.

The two senators later retracted and sided back with Dems.

“As someone who has been a victim of a coup,” Sheinkopf said, “and has seen chaos, this would be the best way to ensure that there would be no chaos. He wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen again.”

The senator, whose district will no longer include the storm-ravaged Rockaways, wants to focus on better transit, among other issues concerning the state, Sheinkopf said.

Though Smith is joining a coalition that will be allied with Republican senators, Sheinkopf said Smith remains a Democrat.

And while some Democrats are cautiously optimistic, others are appalled by what is known of the plan so far. Senator Joseph Addabbo, one of the Queens senators in office during the 2009 leadership crisis, said the Senate is at a crossroads right now. If power is split between all three sects of the higher house, GOP, IDC and Democrats, then a true allied government could be productive. However, should there be what Addabbo called a continued blockage by Skelos against Democratic bills, constituents will suffer as a result and the progress of government will get nowhere.

The New York State Senate Democratic Conference released statements following the news of Smith’s move, and claimed Republicans ultimately hurt constituents by holding up the legislative process.

“This is not a coalition but a coup against all New Yorkers who voted for Democratic control of the Senate and a progressive state government,” said Democratic spokesperson Mike Murphy. “Sadly, the real victims of today’s announcement are the people of our state, whose clearly expressed desire for progress on a host of issues will now be scuttled.”

Senator Jose Peralta, also a candidate for borough president, said he always had a great relationship with Smith and looked forward to continuing that despite the move, focusing on borough-wide issues and doing whatever possible to enact legislation at the state level.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Senator Malcolm Smith in the legislature in Albany and in communities in Queens,” Peralta said. “While I am deeply disappointed that he will not be a member of the Senate Democratic Conference, I will work to keep open a line of communication between Senator Smith and the conference and am hopeful he will fight to enact long-overdue sensible gun legislation, raise the minimum wage, improve our schools and ensure access to decent, affordable housing for all New Yorkers.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in an editorial for the Albany Times-Union, noted that he would not support either side at this time, or discuss the actions of particular legislators.

He did note, however, that the Democrat-led senate, which held power from 2009 to 2011, had failed to pass much legislation and cited leadership crises during that time. In addition, the governor listed what legislation he supported, including a minimum wage increase and reform to the much-discussed stop-and-frisk policy.

“The Democratic Conference was in power for two years and squandered the opportunity, failing to pass any meaningful reform legislation despite repeated promises,” he wrote. “The Democratic Conference dysfunction was legendary and the current leadership has failed to come to a cooperative agreement with Mr. Klein’s IDC faction.”

Murphy, in a statement responding to the op-ed, said the governor’s agenda was almost a match to members of the conference. Democratic senators, he said, would continue to fight for New Yorkers’ wants and needs and jeer the Republicans for any missteps in constituents’ needs.

“The governor has now presented a similar agenda including many issues the new Republican Coalition has opposed,” he said. “Senate Democrats will continue to lead the fight on this progressive agenda, and we will hold the Senate Republican Coalition accountable until New Yorkers get the progressive change they deserve.”

What the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act means to Queens


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Last week, President Barack Obama’s landmark legislation to supply health care to most Americans was upheld by a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, and soon many uninsured Queens residents will have access to doctors, hospitals and preventive medicine.

The constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed in 2010, had been questioned by lawmakers because the law mandated that all Americans have health care or pay a fee.

However, Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, gave the surprising tiebreaker vote to upholding the law, deeming the penalty a tax, which Congress is normally allowed to enact.

“The courts looked at it in a constitutional manner and agree that what we did was constitutional,” said Congressmember Gregory Meeks, who represents parts of southeastern Queens. “The president’s achievement and what the Democratic controlled congress did is the right thing for America.”

Officials said the historic decision from the nation’s highest court will especially affect locals.

“The Supreme Court ruling to uphold significant sections of the patients’ bill of rights is a momentous feat for the future viability of Queens’ health care,” said Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, who sits on the Health Committee. “It is my hope that the reforms contained in the patients’ bill of rights will not only ensure the health and well being of our borough’s residents, but also enable us to expand our health care system in Queens”.

However, directly after the courts’ decision, local Republicans sided with party leaders, disclaiming the law’s benefits, and continuing bipartisan bickering over the controversial issue.

“Like most Americans, I am disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling today. ‘ObamaCare’ is expensive, expansive and unpopular,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran. “Even in upholding ‘ObamaCare,’ the Supreme Court held that it’s a tax — the biggest tax increase in American history. That’s the last thing we need in these economic times.”

But Obama later defended the mandate, citing two reasons.

“First, when uninsured people who can afford coverage get sick, and show up at the emergency room for care, the rest of us end up paying for their care in the form of higher premiums,” Obama said. “And second, if you ask insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions, but don’t require people who can afford it to buy their own insurance, some folks might wait until they’re sick to buy the care they need — which would also drive up everybody else’s premiums.”

To many people, ACA may seem confusing, because the law covers a significant range of changes in the insurance industry.

To break it down, the law forces insurance policies to become more secure and flexible for citizens that already have insurance.

Going forward, companies can’t impose lifetime limits on care or charge higher rates for children with pre-existing conditions.

Also, young adults that already receive coverage through their parents — approximately 77,800 of which are in New York — can remain on those plans until the age of 26.

In addition, starting in August, insurance companies will also be required to cover women’s preventive services, including contraception.

The law especially targets the more than 30 million Americans citizens that don’t have insurance by offering cheaper options.

These options and their prices will be clear by 2014, when each state will set up a range of affordable insurance choices in a marketplace known as “exchanges.”

With more than 2.7 million currently uninsured residents in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo established the New York Health Benefit Exchange in April, which will affect more than one million uninsured New Yorkers.

“We will continue to move forward with implementing the health exchange that will lower coverage costs for New York’s businesses and help ensure that uninsured New Yorkers have access to health care,” said Cuomo after the court’s decision.

Through these exchanges, individuals with pre-existing conditions will not be charged higher rates and they won’t lose coverage if they get sick.

All businesses, except those with fewer than 50 employees, are required to provide insurance to their workers.

But small businesses under the cutoff –340,000 of which are eligible in New York — that do offer insurance can quality for a 35 percent tax credit, which will increase to 50 percent in 2014 if they enroll through the exchanges.

Although the legislation has been upheld by the Supreme Court, officials in the Republican-led House of Representatives have vowed to trash the law in a vote on July 11, according to published reports.

Local Democrats are calling the ruling a sign that it’s time to move on.

“Republicans must act in the interest of Americans now, and put the politics aside,” Meeks said. “Instead of rhetoric about repealing the ACA, it is time for Republicans to work toward successful implementation.”

Politics aside, some locals in the business industry are saying now that the law has been upheld it’s time to work.

“The next three or four years is going to be a lot of work,” said Sher Sparano, president of the Benefits Advisory Service. “Now we have gotten over the hurdle of ‘does the law exist,’ now we have to roll up our sleeves and figure out the details of how the employers and employees move forward.”

 

Queens woman ‘married’ to multiple men in immigration scams


| mchan@queenscourier.com

roundup

Queens woman ‘married’ to multiple men in immigration scams

Anna Vargas thought she was happily married — she just didn’t know she was “married” to four guys.

The 37-year-old Queens mom has been the victim of an identity-theft nightmare, in which a parade of mysterious creeps arranged fake marriages by using her birth certificate which she lost some 16 years ago. Read more: New York Post

 

Police nab Queens barbershop shoot suspect using hi-tech face-detector

A violent thug was busted for shooting a man in a Queens barbershop after cops tracked him down by using cutting-edge facial recognition technology, police said.

Jordan Rodriguez, 37, stepped into Da Barbershop on Seneca Ave. in Fresh Pond to confront a man over a beef about 9:10 p.m. last Saturday, cops said. Rodriguez, toting a sawed-off shotgun, and his brother walked up to a man getting a haircut and said, “What are you going to do now?” Read more: Daily News

 

Coke’s not it: 16 workers sue, call giant ‘cesspool’ of racial discrimination 

Sixteen black and Hispanic production workers are suing Coca-Cola, claiming they have been forced to work in a “ cesspool of racial discrimination.”

The suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, accuses the company of relegating minorities to less favorable assignments, unfair disciplinary action and retaliation for complaining. Read more: Daily News

 

Queens Democrats Begin To Eye Congressman Ackerman’s Seat

Gary Ackerman’s announcement Thursday he would end his 30-year career in Congress perhaps caught no one quite as off-guard as Rory Lancman. Just hours earlier, the Queens state assemblyman announced he would no longer challenge Ackerman in a primary. Read more: NY1

 

 

Kony man goes wild

The creator of a viral Web video about African child soldiers was detained by San Diego police yesterday after he got naked and masturbated near a busy intersection.

After his run-in with cops Jason Russell, 33, was hospitalized for exhaustion, said Ben Keesey, the CEO of Invisible Children, the humanitarian group that made the “Kony 2012” video, which was released about two weeks ago. Read more: New York Post