Monday, February 28, 2011

Independent Democratic Conference
IDC: State Insurance Department Can Help Redesign Medicaid Now.  Independent Dems Call for Action on Klein law that will save $61 Million.
The Independent Democratic Conference today called on the State Insurance Department to take the first steps to streamline the Medicaid system by quickly completing regulations to implement a new law that is projected to create more than $61 million in savings.

The IDC also issued a report detailing more recommendations to reform Medicaid spending for Long Term Health in New York.

The measure was sponsored by Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, (D-Bronx/ Westchester), and signed into law on Dec. 20, 2010. It  allowed health insurance companies to offer life insurance policies in which a portion of the benefit can be used to cover long term care costs. Specifically, it allows an accelerated life insurance payout to go toward long term care if a person is confined to a nursing home for three months and was expected to remain in such a facility for the the rest of their lives.

The State Insurance Department needs to draft and issue guidelines governing these new long term care policies in order for them to be implemented.

“Having this law in full effect now will start the process of redirecting long term care costs away from New York's Medicaid system and, in just a few years, create more than $61 million in savings,” Senator Klein said. “The Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team has made it clear that they want to further expand insurance options in order to reign in Medicaid spending. I urge the State Insurance Department to do everything in their power to get the ball rolling now.” 

The intent of the law, which brings New York in line with every other state in the country,  is to ease the burden on the Medicaid system, where long term care costs frequently fall, by encouraging the use of long term care insurance.

Medicaid spending on long term care was at least $12.4 billion and accounted for 27 percent of all Medicaid spending in 2009. During that same time period, there were only 321,011 private long term care policies written in New York State, which has a population of 19 million. By contrast there were roughly 9 million life insurance policies.

The table below shows projected savings under Senator Klein's measure (S.7196), which became Chapter 563 of the laws of 2010.

# individual diverted from Medicaid
Average annual Medicaid costs to State & Localities

“This law is a good first step that will help not only streamline, but also strengthen New York's long term care system,” said Senator Diane Savino, (D-Staten Island/ Brooklyn), who was a co-sponsor of this legislation. “I, and the other members of the Independent Democratic Conference are committed to improving the efficiency of the system, while ensuring that the most vulnerable receive the help that they need.”

The IDC has made further recommendations to the State Insurance Department, including that they:
·         Investigate allowing additional forms of hybrid life insurance/long term care insurance policies to be written and sold in New York State. This step was also recommended by the Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team.
·         Explore joining the interstate compact allowing reciprocity between New York and other states participating in Partnership for Long Term Care programs.
·         Find ways to expand the New York Public Employee and Retirement Long Term Care Insurance Plan in order to build a large and effective pool of participants that have long term care insurance policies. This might include accepting Health Department recommendations to allow state employees to use sick time to buy long term care insurance policies and allowing for broader intervals of open enrollment  to subscribe to long term care insurance.
·         Examine ways to help self-employed workers and private companies and unions to create pools of long term care insurance as a way to give more individuals access to group long term care insurance.
“The Medicaid system has grown to the size that it has after years of doing the same old thing in government,” said Senator David Carlucci, (D-Rockland/ Orange). “We are going to need to think outside the box to fix Medicaid and put New York back on the right track.”
The Independent Democratic Conference also recommended changes to the Medicaid Long Term Care system that would make it more efficient and less costly. These changes include:
·         Creating a uniform standard to determine what long term care services are needed. Currently, no such standard exists. 
·         Streamlining the current Medicaid long term care program, which is currently made up of many different programs, many of them having very similar demographics.
·         Expanding already successful and less costly Medicaid managed long term care programs..
·         Find ways to better integrate informal caregivers with the long term care system and increase the support they receive. One way may be to implement a tax credit   program for these caregivers.
Many of these have also been recommended by the Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team.
“We believe these to be important and vital reforms,” said Senator David J. Valesky, (D-Oneida). “I, and my fellow members of the Independent Democratic Conference, are looking forward to working with our partners in government to move our Medicaid system into the 21st Century.”

NYC COBA President Norman Seabrook and Local Community Members Honored

  In celebration of Black History Month, State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/ Westchester) hosted a complimentary breakfast at Villa Barone Catering Hall Saturday morning. Norman I. Seabrook, President of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association delivered the keynote address. This year's celebration also honored everyday heroes from the education, business, civic and law enforcement communities. Honorees included: Monica Major, President of District 11 Community Education Council; Gregory Perry, President of the Westchester Square Merchants Association; Yolanda Robinson, Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Mount Vernon; Officer Jay Sturdivant of the NYPD’s 49th Precinct's Community Affairs Division; and  Al J. Everett, Deputy Chief of the Mount Vernon Fire Department.

“It is easy to recognize the significant contributions of African-Americans to the rich cultural fabric of our communities. African Americans have played a significant role in shaping both our national history and our magnificent city - whether in the classroom, on the beat, running businesses or in their dedication to public service and safety. It has been my great privilege to work with these exemplary members of our community that I consider everyday heroes - committed to working tirelessly for the benefit of us all,” said Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/ Westchester).

"I am honored to join Senator Klein and distinguished leaders from our communities in the Bronx to celebrate not just Black History month, but Black future everyday moving forward. We're proud to support those individuals who work diligently every day and who make countless sacrifices to make a positive difference in the lives of all of us no matter where they come from," said Norman I. Seabrook, President of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.

In addition, honorees and members of the community enjoyed a special live performance by the Trinity Baptist Church Choir.

 Pictured are Greg Perry, Monica Major, Senator Klein, Officer Jay Sturdivant, Yolanda Robinson, Deputy Chief Al Everett and Keynote Speaker Norman Seabrook) 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hall of Famer Duke Snider Passes Away

 Duke Snider, the Hall of Fame center fielder for the charmed “Boys of Summer” who helped the Dodgers bring their elusive and only World Series crown to Brooklyn, died early Sunday of what his family called natural causes. He was 84 years old, and you can read about the "Duke of Flatbush" and his baseball career here .
 This leaves only Willie Mays (age 79) as the remaining survivor of the threesome known as "The Mick" (Mickey Mantle), "Willie" (Willie Mays), and "The Duke" (Duke Snider).
Pedro Espada's Bedford Park Coop up For Sale

  The Daily News reports here that you too can live as former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. did, as his Bedford Park residence is up for sale. The asking price of $199,999.00 is said to be $25,000.00 less than what was paid only a few short years ago. The maintenance charges are said to be $675.00 a month. 
  A word of warning however, it is reported that the coop is still under investigation whether it was purchased illegally with Medicaid funds from his Soundview Healthcare Clinic.

Friday, February 25, 2011


   Thursday February 24th to a full house at DeWitt Clinton High School in the northwest Bronx, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. delivered his second “State of the Borough” address. During the speech, Borough President Diaz announced several initiatives his office will pursue in the upcoming year, such as bringing a first-class hotel to the Bronx, hosting the borough’s first ever education summit and expanding the successful “Peace in Our Streets” initiative against gun violence.

“Together, as ‘One Bronx,’ we come together today to offer a positive vision for the future of our borough,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “We come together to celebrate our successes while offering new ideas and concepts to build our borough for the future. In development, in housing, in business, in health, and in education, we are developing the ideas that will shape the future of our entire City, right here in the Bronx.”

During the speech, Borough President Diaz highlighted economic development in the Bronx. While highlighting specific cases, the borough president also noted that the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC), which serves as the economic development arm of his office, has pushed more than $32 million in funding into the borough’s economy to a wide variety of businesses. In addition, the BOEDC provided assistance, financial or otherwise, to almost 700 Bronx businesses in the last year.

“My administration has and will continue to make intelligent economic development a reality.  We have taken major steps to market the Bronx to new businesses, to support our existing businesses, and to grow the overall economy of our borough,” said Borough President Diaz.

Part of growing the new Bronx economy is bringing new business to the borough. Borough President Diaz spoke at length regarding the initial steps that have been undertaken to bring a first-class hotel to the area near Yankee Stadium.

“This development would serve as a new tourism hub for our borough, while creating hundreds of good jobs for Bronx residents and greatly enhancing the area surrounding Yankee Stadium,” said Borough President Diaz.

On the future of the Kingsbridge Armory, Borough President Diaz noted that the Kingsbridge Armory Task Force would put forward recommendations for the future of the historic structure in the spring. The borough president also challenged Mayor Michael Bloomberg to join him in making the redevelopment of the historic structure a reality.

“The report of this task force must be the cornerstone of a new RFP, and I invite the mayor to join with me to responsibly redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory,” said Borough President Diaz.

Borough President Diaz also continued his call for a new “living wage” law in New York City, one that would require developers who receive heavy taxpayer subsidies to do better by their employees. Statistics show that income disparity in New York City has increased dramatically over the past two decades. In addition, there is considerable research that shows that a “living wage” law would not harm business, and that such laws provide workers with the ability to both improve their financial situation and rely less on government assistance.

“It is time to hold hearings on this legislation, and for the City Council to bring it to a vote. The people of New York City cannot afford to wait,” said Borough President Diaz.

Borough President Diaz focused on education in the speech, as well. He noted that this fall, his office will host the borough’s first-ever education summit, which will bring together education leaders from across the nation to both discuss the problems facing our public schools and to develop ideas for the future.

“We will work to foster innovation while also making sure our public schools, once again, are the best in the nation,” said Borough President Diaz. “We will put forward new ideas to make sure all students— from our most gifted to those who need extra help and everyone in between— are being served by our public school system. Our children must be prepared to enter college and the workforce, and the way to make sure that happens is to guarantee that our public schools are the best they can possibly be.”

The borough president also noted that his office has continued its fight to make public schools safer, by continuing to lead the fight to remove PCBs, a dangerous chemical that was used in school construction for many years, from school buildings. Borough President Diaz’s commitment to make the Bronx safer and healthier extends outside of schools, as well. He noted during the speech that he has allocated funding to convert one Bronx building to cleaner burning fuel, a move that will keep the building affordable to tenants while also contributing to a greener Bronx.

In addition, Borough President Diaz announced that his office will seek to create, in conjunction with the City Council, a new law requiring a “health impact statement” be developed as part of major development projects. This initiative would ensure that new development does not have an adverse impact on the health and well-being of neighborhoods across the City.

In other funding, this year Borough President Diaz provided more than $12 million in funding for schools across the Bronx, funding that was used to provided critical improvements to the physical plant of Bronx public schools. In addition, the borough president was able to leverage almost $16 million in funding into $442 million in new housing development across the borough. Borough President Diaz also highlighted new park improvements that have been made in the Bronx, as part of the $37.6 million he allocated in total capital funding this year.

The Bronx saw some hardships this year, but Borough President Diaz noted that even in the most trying times the borough came together in a positive way. A spate of bias crimes last year has led to the formation of a new task force, to be made up of clergy and community leaders from all faiths, ethnicities and sexual orientations, designed to stand together in the face of future hate crimes. In addition, the borough president pointed to the success of his “Peace on the Streets” initiative, which works to end gun violence in the Bronx. During the speech, the borough president took time to recognize the hundreds of volunteers who assisted with this effort, and urged all Bronxites to join this effort when it restarts in the coming weeks.

“We reached thousands of Bronxites, and the message we heard from them was loud and clear: they are tired of being terrorized in their neighborhoods… they are tired of keeping their children inside, for fear that they will be struck down by a stray bullet… they are tired of the violence. I agree…enough is enough,” said Borough President Diaz.

The borough president closed his speech with a call to all Bronxites to come together, as “One Bronx,” to support efforts in all neighborhoods to make the borough a better place to live.

“It is time to let the world know once again that the Bronx is a place of success. We face challenges— in education, in the economy, in making our borough a greener place. But we are all committed to the rebirth and continuing revitalization of our Bronx, “One Bronx”— the place we call home,” said Borough President Diaz.

NYC COBA President Norman Seabrook to Give Keynote Address, Local Community Members Honored
   In celebration of Black History Month, State Senator Jeff Klein (D- Bronx/ Westchester) will host a complimentary breakfast at Villa Barone Catering Hall to honor everyday heroes. President of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, Norman I. Seabrook will deliver the keynote address. In addition, Klein will be honoring distinguished members of the civic, business and law enforcement community. Honorees and members of the community will enjoy a live performance by the Trinity Baptist Church Choir.

  Villa Barone Catering Hall, 737 Throggs Neck Expressway, Bronx
  "If you plan on attending you'll need to reserve your seat. Please 
  RSVP to 1-718-822-2049."

Dominican Heritage & African American Heritage Month Celebration


*Congressman Charles B. Rangel *Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer *NYS Senator Adriano Espaillat *NYS Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell *NYS Assemblyman Guillermo Linares *NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez *NYC Comptroller John Liu *NYC Councilman Robert Jackson

Cordially invite you to celebrate
Dominican Heritage Month
African American History Month
Friday, February 25, 2011
6:30 - 8:30 pm
Isabella Geriatric Center
515 Audubon Ave
(Corner of 192nd  Street)
RSVP to Aneiry Batista at 212-544-0173 or


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Strike Vote Moves Bronx Apartment Building Workers One Step Closer to a Work Stoppage

As their contract’s expiration approaches, Bronx building workers voted Wednesday to authorize a strike, if necessary, to protect good jobs throughout the borough. Failure to reach a new contract agreement by the March 15th deadline could lead to a strike of more than 3,000 Bronx apartment building workers at over 1,000 residential buildings.
“Undercutting the livelihoods of building workers not only hurts their families and our communities but could deny hundreds of thousands of tenants the services they depend on,” said Kyle Bragg, Vice President of 32BJ. “This strike vote shows we’re determined to keep the Bronx a place that working families can still afford to call home.”
Tonight’s vote came one week after workers rejected an unfair contract proposal by the Bronx Realty Advisory Board (BRAB), a real estate industry association representing Bronx building owners. The BRAB is seeking to strip away much needed benefits from these hard working men and women.
Contract negotiations between 32BJ SEIU and BRAB have been underway since February 8th, and several issues, including family health care and retirement savings, remain outstanding. The contract covers building superintendents, janitors, handypersons, porters, firepersons, doormen, elevator operators and garbage handlers.
“Nobody wants a strike, but we’re committed to do what it takes to get workers what they need,” said Bragg, “Working families need wages that keep pace with the city’s high cost of living.”
Workers are looking to maintain their benefits as well as moderate, cost of living wage increases. Under the current contract, the average Bronx apartment building workers’ wages range from $15.53/hr in the South Bronx to $17.07/hr in Riverdale, and they receive employer-paid family health care, pension and training in addition to vacation and sick leave.
“I voted yes for my family and for the families of all working people,” said Darryl Mosley, a Bronx doorman and father of two. “I feel like we’re being pushed out of the city with the rising cost of rents, mortgages, groceries, the subway, gas, you name it.”
Failure to reach an agreement, before the March 15th expiration, could lead to a strike directly affecting nearly 250,000 New Yorkers living in over 1,000 apartment, condo and co-op buildings in the Bronx.
With more than 70,000 members in New York, 32BJ is the largest private sector union in the state. For more information, visit

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

City Council Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus Quietly Elects Officers

Here is the link  to a story on the election  by Celeste Katz of the Daily News. 
Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera; was elected as Co-Chair with re-elected Manhattan Councilman Robert Jackson. Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn and Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan will serve as co-vice chairs. Debi Rose of Staten Island was elected treasurer, and Margaret Chin was selected for secretary.


Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will deliver his State of the Borough Address 2011 at the De Witt Clinton High School Campus on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 11:30 am.  

At the ceremony the Borough President will share the many accomplishment of the last year and will outline his goals for the coming year.

Thursday, February 24 --- 11:30 am 
De Witt Clinton High School Auditorium- 100 Mosholu Parkway South 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bronx BP Diaz Holds Sweethearts Luncheon for Senior Couples

  Thursday afternoon 40 couples each married over 50 years were the guests of BP Ruben Diaz Jr. for a "Sweethearts Luncheon" at Villa Barone in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx. Couples married as long as 62 years were on hand as the PS 51 Ballroom Dancers entertained them, had a filling lunch, and were greeted by the Bronx BP.
  The event was co-sponsored by HealthFirst who provide health coverage to young and old residents of the Bronx. With the new federal and state cuts to health care many are worried that eligible people for low cost or free health care may not find those services as facilitated enrollers will be the first to be cut. Without these vital people to connect those eligible with the needed services many community residents will not have the knowledge to find the health care services that they need.
BP Diaz with a few of the attendees.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Senator Rivera Releases Video, Urges Fellow Legislators to
Keep Their Campaign Promises to Pass Ethics Reform
54 of 62 current State Senators signed the
“New York Uprising Heroes of Reform” pledge during 2010 Campaign

Bronx, NY – Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) released a video today posted on, urging the 54 members of the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, to keep their campaign promises to reform Albany by passing former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s reform pledge. Senator Rivera introduced legislation that would make it mandatory for legislators to disclose all sources of income in order for their constituents to know whose interests their legislators are representing in Albany.

“New Yorkers are frustrated by the scandal, corruption and dysfunction that has plagued Albany for years and been a road block to passing common sense legislation time and time again,” Senator Rivera said. “Too often, politicians have put special interests or their own interests ahead of those that they serve. I am committed to passing reforms that will help restore New Yorkers' confidence in their government and elected officials because it is what our constituents deserve and Albany needs."

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is among the 54 Senators who have pledged to pass ethics reform. The Senate has been in session for almost five weeks and yet Senator Skelos has shown no interest in bringing this legislation to the floor. Senator Rivera is calling on his colleagues that have pledged to reform Albany to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote and expedite the passage of ethics reform.

During the 2010 campaign season, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch received a commitment from 54 of the 62 current Senators, pledging to pass his “New York Uprising Heroes of Reform” pledge. Mayor Koch’s reform pledge includes calling for the immediate passage of ethics reform that includes financial disclosure, campaign finance reform, independent redistricting, and budget reform legislation.

Here is the transcript of what Senator Rivera said.

“Last November, New Yorkers spoke loud and clear. They said “we’ve had enough of Albany’s dysfunctional and corrupt politicians.”

“My neighbors weren't being served. And instead of representing the people, the senator from our district represented the worst of government in Albany. I’m here to say we defeated him and I am ready to be an agent of reform.

“I have pledged my commitment to reform Albany, and 53 of my colleagues have done the same. We heard their message, we heard it loud and clear –  and now we must deliver.

“At the top of our list is ethics reform. Albany has seen its share of unethical politicians who stole taxpayer money, abused their offices and held themselves above the law. Common-sense legislation has been bogged down for decades because of partisan politics and special interests -- and for too long, money has had a louder voice than the people of the state from Western New York to the Bronx and out to Long Island.

“That's why I'm sponsoring a bill that will require comprehensive financial disclosure from all elected officials. So I say to all my colleagues, and the 53 other senators - Democrats and Republicans - who signed Mayor Koch's pledge – Keep Your Promise, Pass the Pledge and put government back where it belongs—in the hands of the great citizens of New York.”


  New York City Comptroller John C. Liu stated the following in response to inquiries about his reaction to Mayor Bloomberg’s FY 2012 Preliminary Budget Proposal: 
  “As New York City emerges from this recession, added tax revenues are certainly welcome but they are by no means a solution to our problems. Before layoffs are even considered, the City must find savings in our own backyard - including putting an end to runaway contracts that have spent upwards of billions of dollars to employ high-priced consultants. 
  “We will continue to identify savings potential at City agencies to ensure that the budget is not balanced in a way that punishes our students, or unfairly singles out our City’s employees. 
   “There are still many moving pieces and uncertainties in this process, especially at the State level. My office looks forward to reviewing the Mayor’s Preliminary report and presenting testimony in the coming weeks on our findings.”


  State Senator Jeff Klein (D- Bronx/Westchester) joined by Claire Buffie, Miss New York 2010 and Kameran "Kamie" Crawford, Miss Teen USA 2010, delivered Valentines to Veterans on Wednesday. As part of the annual event, Klein, Ms. Buffie and Ms. Crawford visited with veterans at the Bronx V.A. Hospital and presented them with gifts and cards from Bronx students. Other guests included members of the local American Legion Posts, AMVETS, Catholic War Veterans, Jewish War Veterans and local civic groups.

  “We can never repay our veterans for their selfless sacrifice but we can continue to recognize and honor their service to our country. I look forward to this event every year when we come together to celebrate our brave veterans to whom we owe an enormous debt of gratitude,” said Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/ Westchester).

   Schools participating in Klein's Valentine's for Veterans program include: P.S. 19 of Woodlawn, P.S. 83 of Morris Park, P.S. 108 and P.S. 71 of Pelham Bay, P.S./ M.S. 194, P.S. 14, P.S. 175 of City Island and P.S. 97.

   In addition, the P.S. 83 chorus and the SUNY Maritime Honor Guard entertained veterans with a selection of songs and music.

   Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie is 24 years old, and holds a B.F.A. in Visual Communications from Ball State University. She competed for the Miss America 2011 title in January, placing in the Top 12. In addition to holding the Miss New York 2010 title, Claire is also a photographer and designer. She was born in Indianapolis, Indiana.
   Miss Teen USA 2010, Kameran “Kamie” Crawford is 18 years old, and is a graduate from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland where she was captain of the varsity cheerleading team. Crawford represented Maryland in the Miss Teen USA 2010 pageant where she made history by being the first contestant from Maryland to win the title. Crawford plans to enroll in the University of Alabama next fall as a pre-med student after her reign is over. She hopes to become a dermatologist and have her own skincare and cosmetics line.
Senator Klein, Miss New York and Miss Teen USA with students from P.S. 83)


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tragic accident on Grand Concourse Claims Young Boys Life

 This morning an unidentified 11 year old fifth grader from PS 209 was hit by a car while crossing the Grand Concourse at E.183rd Street on his way to school. The boy was walking with his father and stepped into the roadway thinking the light had changed, and was unable to return safely to the sidewalk. Traffic was heavy at the time and the driver of car that hit the boy stopped immediately, but the young boy was already dead. There were no charges to the driver who had the right of way, but this accident will be remembered by many.
 It was years ago that then District 10 Superintendent Irma Zardoya had a rule that children not be zoned for schools that were on the other side of the Grand Concourse due to the dangers pf crossing the Grand Concourse. We wonder if that rule was changed after the reorganization of the DOE by Chancellor Klein.
City Comptroller Liu Holds Bronx Town Hall Meeting

Monday February 14th New York City Comptroller John Liu held a town hall meeting in the Bronx at the Bronx County Building. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. thanked Comptroller Liu for coming to the Bronx and talking to the people of the Bronx about any problems that they may have concerning the purview of the Comptroller's office.
Comptroller Liu discussed the process of auditing city agencies, and checking for any fraud that maybe or has occurred. One such audit turned up a number of city checks still being sent (and cashed) to people who have died. 
The comptroller said that there have been ten different audits of the Department of Education including one on the issue of school closings and funding. Other concerns raised and answered by the comptroller were on no bid contracts, overtime, nursing homes, and the filtration plant.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A message from State Senator Jeff Klein

Dear Friend,

Recently, I was named the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Alcohol and Substance Abuse.
I do not take this appointment lightly. Addiction is on the rise in our state and incidents of driving related injuries and deaths involving drugs and alcohol are all to common. I accepted the position with a promise to introduce legislation and foster bi-partisan ideas and debate that will ultimately create a healthier and safer New York.
During my career in public service, I have fought to protect minors and families from alcohol and drug abuse and stand up for communities that have been harmed by its side effects. 
I’ve sponsored legislation to require first-time alcohol and drug offenders to participate in rehabilitation and to make mandatory the use of ID scanners for all who seek to sell alcohol and tobacco products.
  In addition, I carry legislation that would make anyone caught selling IDs to minors responsible for an injury, death or damage caused by the minor who got drunk using one of those illegal IDs.  
I believe that when a New Yorker walks into a bar to enjoy a drink with good friends they shouldn’t have to worry about being the victim. That’s why I’ve introduced a bill that prohibits the possession of firearms in, or on, the grounds of a place that serves alcoholic beverages. 
   After three Westchester teens were rushed to the emergency room with alcohol poisoning last summer, I led the fight to ban dangerous caffeinated alcoholic beverages from our stores and get them out of the hands of minors in New York State. 
   Earlier this year, I worked with Craigslist to make sure we removed all online postings seeking to illegally sell these drinks to minors. 
   I’ve worked closely with the NYPD and the State Liquor Authority to crackdown on troublesome and noisy bars and nightclubs in our communities and worked with the Department of Health to investigate and root out “pill mills” that put powerful drugs like Oxycontin in the hands of children and young adults. 
   During the last legislative session, we took the first step toward helping and healing thousands of New Yorkers by reforming this state's Draconian Rockefeller drug laws. As chairman, I will be examining the effectiveness of these reforms and will see where further improvements can be made to help those battling addiction, and to protect our communities from the twin scourges of alcohol and substance abuse.
   Additionally, I will continue to investigate the alarming trend of beverages with high alcoholic content being sold cheaply in our stores and within easy access to minors.
   I also pledge to fight prescription drug abuse before it starts by giving pharmacists access to the Department of Health database, so they can see when a person is filing multiple prescriptions at multiple locations. 
   I believe that, through this committee, we will save New Yorkers from further anguish, pain and injury.
   If you have any suggestions, feedback, or ideas, to share related to alcohol and drug abuse, or on any other issue, please contact my office to share them at (718) 822-2049. 
State Senator Jeff KleinRepresenting the 34th Senate District (Bronx/Westchester)

Monday, February 14, 2011

IDC Releases School Mandate Relief Plan

Independent Democratic Conference 

Regional Collective Bargaining among measures to lower costs, preserve educational quality.


  The Independent Democratic Conference today introduced a mandate relief package that will help schools reduce costs, maintain educational quality and ultimately help with the implementation of a tax cap.

   "Mandate relief is a key component of the Independent Democratic Conference’s plans to reduce the tax burden on New Yorkers,” Senator David J. Valesky, (D-Oneida), said. “If we are asking school districts to reduce spending, it only makes sense to provide them with tools to maximize efficiency and minimize the pressure caused by unfunded state mandates."

   The IDC previously released a mandate relief package for local governments.
The legislative package includes:
  Allowing Regional Collective Bargaining  

 Currently, each of the nearly 700 school districts in New York separately negotiate their own collective bargaining agreements. This is despite the fact that teachers, and some other employees, are organized at the state level. The IDC is introducing legislation that will level the playing field. It will create a voluntary system to allow neighboring districts to band together, share information better and jointly negotiate future contracts that will end up saving taxpayer money.  

  Giving New Flexibility in Purchasing Contracts 
  New York is currently one of only three states that do not allow cooperative contract use. Allowing schools and local municipalities to join out-of-state and national procurement cooperatives has proven successful in other states and has led to significant cost savings. The IDC has introduced legislation (S.624) to give school districts and local governmental entities the ability to consider favorable contractual purchasing conditions outside New York State and to "piggy-back" on to those contracts. Cooperative contracts provide a 10 to 15 percent cost savings per contract. Reform of these purchasing rules has the ability to save New York taxpayers $2 billion per-year, according to the New York State School Board Association.
  Freeing Up Excess Reserve Funds 
  A 2008 audit by the State Comptroller's Office found that school districts have collected as much as $407 million more than was needed for their Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve funds. These funds, used to pay employees for accrued leave time due to them when they leave district employment, currently have restrictions placed on them that prohibit even excess money from being used for other purposes. The IDC has introduced legislation, (S.1524), that would allow districts with excess funds in their EBALR accounts to use those funds to help support schools and lower the tax levy. The IDC recommends that, if this measure becomes law, these excess funds be used to pay one-time expenses such as capital projects -- pay off debt, or finance other post-employment benefits that would provide taxpayers relief today and reduce future costs. 
  Breaking Down Barriers to Share Services and Consolidate Healthcare Initiatives  
  The IDC has introduced legislation (S.2843) that streamlines the process for schools and other local governments to join together to consolidate administration and healthcare administration operations. These efforts would cut down on duplicative services, increase purchasing power in order to drive down costs, and allow schools access to the Healthy NY program. On average, Healthy NY is 7 percent cheaper than other health insurance products.
  This package is a road map that will help control costs, maintain our educational system, and, with a tax cap, make sure we live within our means,” Senator Jeffry D. Klein, (D-Bronx/ Westchester), said. “I am looking forward to working with the rest of the Independent Democratic Conference and our partners in government to build bi-partisan support for this critically important legislation.”
Additionally, the IDC makes the following recommendations to the Governor's Mandate Relief Design Team:
  • Enforce current laws that allow school districts to be customers of the New York Power Authority, making them eligible for lower energy-related costs. Currently, not all districts who seek this benefit are receiving them.
  • Return curriculum decisions to local districts.
  • Revamp the Payment In Lieu of Taxes process to ensure that any PILOT agreement includes an equitable payment to the local school district.

     It's time to put aside the explosive rhetoric and work as a team with our educators and school administrators to do more with less,” Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland) said. “No one wants to lessen the quality of our education and working together we can continue to lower costs while improving results. These common sense solutions will allow school districts to make the best use of their financial resources without treating our taxpayers like limitless cash machines.”