Tag Archive | "New York State Assembly"

Hope for “Zone Pricing” Law to Lower East End Gas Prices

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The New York State Assembly Committee on Economic Development has approved legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. that strengthens New York State’s Gasoline Zone Pricing Law originally enacted in 2008.

“This legislation would end the unfair practice of ‘Big Oil’ companies establishing arbitrary prices for gasoline based upon geographical location without regard to cost,” Mr. Thiele said in a press release. Historically, big oil companies have charged higher prices on the South Fork as well as other areas such as Westchester County without regard to cost. The law passed in 2008 was a first step to reduce the differential in gas prices based on geography. However, the State Attorney General’s Office has requested amendments to permit him to more vigorously enforce the law.”

Mr. Thiele said he hoped for a vote on the legislation in the full Assembly by the end of June. The Assembly passed the bill in 2012, but it failed to pass the Senate. The bill is now sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Ken LaValle.

Assembly Passes Tax Extension for East Hampton

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The New York State Assembly passed legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. this week that permits Suffolk County to extend the property tax payment deadline for residents of East Hampton Town this year to protect those residents from any penalties.

A computer system error in the town’s tax receiver’s office resulted in more than 5,000 property tax bills from being sent out in time to make the January 10 payment deadline. Because many residents did not receive their tax bills on time, the town approached Assemblyman Thiele, who sponsored the legislation to extend the deadline to January 31 and waive any interest and penalties.

“I appreciate the efforts of Assemblyman Fred Thiele passing legislation to extend the penalty deadline in light of issues that occurred in the town tax receiver’s office in January,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell.

The bill has passed both houses of the legislature and must be presented to the governor for his signature. Once the bill becomes law, the Suffolk County Legislature must pass a resolution adopting the provisions within 30 days.

Thiele Proposes Larger Penalties for Code Violations

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. is co-sponsoring legislation with State Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski of Rockland County that would increase the penalties for building code violations when the condition is deemed an imminent threat to the safety and welfare of the building’s occupants by the local government.

The bill provides for graduated penalties for repeat offenders. A first-time violation would carry a fine of no less than $1,000 and no more than $5,000. A second violation would carry a fine of no less than $5,000 and no more than $10,000. A third violation would result in a fine not less than $10,000 per day of violation or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both.

“The current law allows for a wide range of discretion in handing down penalties for failure to correct building code violations,” said Assemblyman Thiele, a former Southampton Town supervisor and town attorney. “The penalty structure is often viewed by violators as nothing more than a cost of doing business. However, some violations create an immediate threat to the safety of the occupants and emergency responders. These violations must be taken more seriously in order to deter this conduct and protect the public safety. This bill will implement minimum fines for violations that put lives in danger and will make property owners more accountable.”

In addition to the new legislation increasing penalties, Mr. Thiele also has sponsored a bill that would give local justice courts the power to issue injunctions to stop serious building and zoning violations. Currently, local governments must go to state Supreme Court to obtain such relief.

Thiele: Local Power Plants Should be Permitted

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced this week he has introduced legislation in the State Assembly which would permit local governments — county, city, town or village — on Long Island to consider the creation of municipal power companies.

There are over 40 municipalities across the state which have established municipal power companies, including a few on Long Island such as the villages of Greenport, Freeport, and Rockville Centre. Since 1986, local governments on Long Island have been prohibited from forming a new municipal utility by state law. The reason: the law that created the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), a state authority, preempts counties, towns, villages, and cities from establishing a municipal power company within LIPA’s service area.

“The original intent of LIPA was twofold: (1) to prevent the unsafe Shoreham Nuclear power Station from operating, and (2) to eliminate LILCO, a private utility and replace it with a public authority governed by a board elected by the people of Long Island,” said Thiele in a press release. “The second goal, a true public utility governed by Long Islanders, has never been fulfilled as it was envisioned in 1986. It has never been governed by Long Islanders, and it has never been a ‘real’ public utility. It has never been more than a ‘shell’ corporation operated by political appointees who then contracted out operations to another private company. The perversion of this intent has meant disaster for Long Island, most recently manifested by the LIPA response to Superstorm Sandy.”

“It is clear that the intent of the 1986 law and the goal of a state public utility for Long Island are not going to be fulfilled,” added Thiele. “LIPA will remain as an empty shell and the day to day operations of Long Island’s electric service will be performed by an out-of-state private utility company. The details of this proposal are still to be worked out. Whether this model will result in an accountable and transparent management structure that will provide reliable power and long term stable rates is also unclear. However, the possibility of public power should not be fully abandoned and the home rule powers of local government on Long Island should be restored. My bill would do both. In the future, Long Islanders should have the ability to choose municipal power, if they believe it would be superior to the proposed near-privatization model currently under consideration.”

“We should never limit any future options that could improve electric service for Long Islanders,” he added. “Long Island should not be treated differently than the rest of the state.”

 

State Tax Credits for Historic Preservation to be Expanded

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In a move New York State Assemblyman and Sag Harbor resident Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said was aimed at promoting preservation on the East End while also encouraging job growth, last week the Assembly passed legislation that will increase the maximum award available under the historic preservation tax code from $5 million to $12 million.

According to Thiele, the bill, which he sponsored, is expected to become law.

“Increasing the tax credit for builders and developers who want to do business on the East End may give them the added incentive they need to move forward on these projects and create jobs,” said Thiele in a press release issued last week. “The Assembly’s legislation opens up a bigger market for developers and investors and is another sign that New York is open for business. Additionally, the enhanced tax credit will preserve historic buildings, reduce blight and get more East End residents working.”
According to Thiele, prior to this legislation, the historic preservation tax credit was capped at $5 million per project and has been used by developers across the state to renovate and restore buildings that suffer from long-time neglect. Increasing the tax credit to $12 million creates a greater incentive for developers, said Thiele, and will make it more desirable to restore large, historic projects that may be financially cost prohibitive otherwise.

State to Get Tough on Bullies

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The New York State Assembly has passed a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele aimed at cracking down on bullying and cyber-bullying in public schools, according to a press release issued on Tuesday.

Expanding on the Dignity for All Students Act, the legislation will establish a mandatory reporting system for all incidents of bullying and provide training for school staff.

According to Thiele, the legislation is expected to be passed by the state Senate and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“In today’s age of 24-hour connectivity and social networking, there is no escape for students who are subjected to cyber-bullying,” said Thiele. “Bullying that begins in school can follow them home and contribute to low self esteem, academic problems, delinquent behavior, and, tragically, violence and suicide. These new guidelines for combatting cyber-bullying will ensure a safe and secure learning environment for all our students both in and out of school.”

Under the legislation, all school staff will be required to report any incident of bullying or cyber-bullying to the principal or superintendent within one school day of the occurrence and submit a written report of the incident within three school days. Parents and students will also be able to submit reports and school administrations will be required to investigate every incident.

Schools will also be required to establish official guidelines for age-appropriate responses to harassment, bullying or discrimination, with detailed remedies and procedures.

The legislation also includes guidelines for teacher and staff training programs. All students and staff from kindergarten through 12th grade will have to attend bullying education classes and receive Internet instruction, added Thiele.

According to Thiele, in New York State nearly 16-percent of all students and nearly 21-percent of girls are subject to cyber-bullying through email, chat rooms, instant messaging, social network sites and through texting and other electronic devices each year.

“This legislation is a major step in the Assembly’s ongoing efforts to improve education and promote a safe and secure learning environment,” said Thiele. “No child should have to fear continued harassment and embarrassment from cyber-bullying. This legislation ensures parents, students and staff all have the tools they need to combat this serious issue.”

State Looks to Crack Down on Prescription Drug Abuse

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The New York State Assembly has passed legislation sponsored by East End Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. aimed at cracking down on prescription drug abuse across the state. The legislation would rely on the first real-time prescription-drug database in the country and stronger regulations over some controlled substances.

On Tuesday, the state senate adopted the legislation as well and according to Thiele it has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Prescription-drug abuse is an increasingly serious problem that can have devastating effects on families,” said Thiele, adding that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over 15,000 people die each year from overdoses of prescription drug painkillers. “It’s often very easy for a person to get the same prescription from two different doctors filled at separate pharmacies, without the doctors or pharmacists knowing. This legislation would prevent that from happening and subsequently keep dangerous doses of drugs out of the hands of abusers.”


Specifically, this new law requires the Department of Health (DOH) to establish and maintain a real-time controlled substance database. It would also require doctors to review a patient’s controlled substance history on that database prior to prescribing certain medicines. Patients would have access to their prescription histories and would be able to dispute inaccurate information. The legislation requires practitioners to issue electronic-only prescriptions beginning December 31, 2014, with waivers and case-specific exemptions possible under certain circumstances.

The law also moves the drug Hydrocodone into a higher classification of controlled substance, limiting it to an initial prescription of 30-days and not the current five-refill allowance for first time patients. The bill would also add the prescription drug Tramadol to a higher classification on the controlled substance list.

New York State Assembly Passes Bill to Ease Tax Filing Burden on Small Farms and Wineries

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A law proposed by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. to exempt farm wineries and craft breweries from what he terms “a burdensome tax filing requirement” was unanimously passed by the Assembly this week.

Under the current law, all beer, wine and liquor wholesalers are required to report sales made to restaurants, bars and other retailers to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Farm wineries and craft breweries were included in the definition of a wholesaler who had to comply with this law. Thiele’s legislation, which Governor Andrew Cuomo made part of his 2012 legislative program, exempts farm wineries and craft breweries from complying with the law, which Thiele said was a costly process and a burdensome paperwork requirement.

This week, Thiele said the restrictions already placed on farm wineries and craft breweries — farm wineries cannot produce more than 150,000 gallons annually, craft breweries are restricted to 35,000 gallons each year — it is difficult for them to afford this requirement. He added that farm wineries and craft breweries will still be required to maintain sales records through requirements imposed on them by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) and that the Department of Taxation and Finance can request those records.

“Farm wineries and craft breweries are small and mostly family operations that have struggled to comply with this needless filing requirement,” said Thiele. “The burden and cost on business far outweighs any benefit to the state. There are other ways that the State Tax Department can obtain this information. In particular, this legislation will benefit the farm winery operations on the East End. Our wineries can better use their time to grow their businesses and promote their product, rather than filling out costly paperwork.”

The legislation was supported by the Long Island Farm Bureau and is currently in the State Senate Finance Committee where it awaits further action.

Bishop Nabs Behan Endorsement

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On Monday morning, decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former East Hampton Town Republican Chairman John Behan announced his endorsement of incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop. Bishop, a Democrat, is facing Republican, Conservative and Independence Party candidate Randy Altschuler in the race for U.S. Congress this fall.

Altschuler is seeking to unseat Bishop for the second time. Two years ago he lost his first run for political office by fewer than 600-votes — one of the narrowest margins of victory in a Congressional race in 2010.

Behan was the East End’s representative in the New York State Assembly from 1978 to 1995 and has earned iconic status for his work, politically and in veterans’ affairs. Behan was a driving force behind the establishment of the New York State Assembly’s Veterans Affairs Committee and also served as Director of the state’s Division of Veterans’ Affairs from 1995 to 1998.

Behan was the chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee in 2009, stepping down in 2010 and leaving the committee for good in 2011. Last year, Behan’s wife, Marilyn, ran unsuccessfully as an Independence Party candidate for a seat on the East Hampton Town Board.

During his announcement, at the new Montauk eatery La Bodega on Monday morning, Behan attempted to dispel rumors that the endorsement was a result of his ire with the East Hampton Republican Committee for not supporting his wife as a candidate for East Hampton Town Board. While Behan said he remained critical of that decision, and cited the failure of the committee to elect two new town board members, the endorsement of Bishop was about people, not politics.

“I like a guy who is homegrown and knows the district like the back of his hand,” said Behan. “That is Tim Bishop. He works hard for veterans too.”

“Tim Bishop is a native East Ender who understands our local issues and works across the aisle to deliver results for our community — especially our fishermen and farmers,” added Behan in a press release issued after Monday’s announcement. “In addition, hundreds of local veterans are better off today as a direct result of his dedicated efforts, and I am also proud to endorse him based on respect for veterans and hard work on their behalf.”

“John Behan’s service to our nation and our East End Community is unparalleled, and I am honored and humbled to accept his endorsement of my re-election,” said Congressman Bishop. “John always put public service above politics, and this is also an endorsement of my bipartisan approach to working with local officials and my success in bringing federal resources to the table to solve local problems.”

“Today’s endorsement was really about local politics, and has no impact on the tremendous momentum Randy has right now,” said Altschuler campaign manager Diana Weir, another East Hampton political heavyweight. “We released a specific 10-point jobs plan focused on fixing Long Island’s economy; we have won endorsements from the New York State Independence Party, the Suffolk County Conservative Party and the Suffolk County Republican Party; and our primary opponent just dropped out of the race allowing us to focus 100 percent on the general election where voters will be faced with a clear choice between a self-made businessman and job creator like Randy Altschuler and a career bureaucrat turned politician who has destroyed jobs on Long Island like Tim Bishop.”

“Of course Randy Altschuler doesn’t understand the importance of local endorsements,” said Bishop campaign spokesman Robert Pierce. “He isn’t local. He moved to Long Island to run for office a few years ago. John Behan is a man of honor and integrity. He has dedicated his entire life to serving his country and the people of Eastern Long Island. Congressman Bishop is proud of this endorsement by an East End icon. Both John Behan and Congressman Bishop agree that bipartisanship is good for middle class Suffolk County families.”

Thiele Votes for Minimum Wage Increase

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Last week, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. supported the New York State Assembly in the passage of legislation that would increase minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour beginning in January 2013. The law also increases minimum wage for food-service workers who receive tips from $5 to $5.86 per hour. Both wage rates would then be indexed with inflation beginning in January 2014, said Thiele.

The bill now awaits action by the State Senate.

“During this difficult economic time, raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do,” said Thiele in a press release issued on Thursday, May 14. “Simply put, people who work full time shouldn’t be poor. The Assembly’s legislation would help make sure that New Yorkers living on minimum wage salaries can actually survive on the minimum wage. I strongly urge the Senate to pass this crucial measure.”

Thiele said that according to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, 78-percent of New Yorkers support raising minimum wage, with 52-percent supporting a higher increase than the rate the Assembly has adopted.

“Over the past five years, New York’s minimum wage has only increased $0.10 cents per hour, which is not enough for East End families to pay for things like rent, heat, gas, food and prescription drugs,” said Thiele. “By increasing the minimum wage, the quality of life for more than 1 million New Yorkers will be improved.”

Currently, the neighboring states of Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts — as well as 15 other states across the country and the District of Columbia — all have higher minimum wages than New York.