Election: NY State Senate Control Still in Doubt; Four New Members of Congress from New York

The New York State Assembly will again have 107 Democrats and 43 Republicans.  In the Senate,  two races are undecided on Long Island with a Democrat ahead in one and a Republican leading in the other.  The count of absentee ballots could take several weeks before a winner is known in one race on Long Island separated by just 33 votes.  If the current leaders in the two unresolved races win, there will be 32 Democrats  and 31 Republicans.  However, one of the Democrats, Simcha Felder, has always caucused with the Republicans and would again give them outright majority.

The Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) has seven members and they have also worked with the Republicans in the past.  If the Democrats in the IDC and the mainline caucus were to join and entice Felder to join them, they would have the majority.   Republicans re-elected John Flanagan as their leader and Andrea Stewart-Cousins will remain as the leader of the mainline Democrats.

New York State has four new members of Congress:  Democrat Thomas Suozzi who replaces Steve Israel, Democrat Adriano Espiallat who replaces Charles Rangel and Republicans John Faso who replaces Chris Gibson and Claudia Tenney who replaces Richard Hanna.  Democrats had hoped to pick up several House seats in New York but failed to do so.

We Can Defeat Paul Ryan’s Plans for Medicare Private Vouchers

Here we go again.  The privatizers are going to be back in charge and they are already getting their plans ready for Medicare and Social Security.  Their plans aren’t supported by the general public and we will need to fight and prove that by defeating their proposals.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said after the election he intends to push for his plan to privatize Medicare by turning it into a voucher program.  Apparently he didn’t get the message that economic anxiety in the middle class was the story of this election.  Turning the guarantee of Medicare coverage into a voucher that will be capped offers no security and probably will lead to major increases in costs for older and disabled persons.

I am sure we will hear all kinds of bromides about how this change is necessary and won’t hurt people.  It will make the system more efficient.  However, the proposal is being made in order to cut funding for Medicare by forcing beneficiaries to have to fend with a set amount of money.   There will almost certainly be no attempt to restrain what insurers charge for the coverage as well as what drug companies.  We will be told that competition will keep prices in line.  With less money in the system insurers will raise their rates as they look to cherry pick those the healthier persons who cost less to cover.  As always, those with the greatest needs and costs will be hurt the most.

Of course, we won’t hear much about how the private insurers will spend loads of money on advertising and overhead plus high salaries to their executives.  They will spend a lot less of the Medicare dollar on patients than the federal Medicare program does now.

Ryan’s proposal may not even have the support of Donald Trump.  His own members in Congress will also have to worry about a backlash, just like the one that occurred the last time he pushed this and like when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security in 2005.   We will wait to see exactly what is proposed but it is not likely to be good.  The way to win this battle is to organize with the facts and prove how it will make life worse for Medicare beneficiaries. When that happens, as it did before, even many Republicans in states like New York refused to go along.

NY Senate Control up for Grabs in Election; Key Congressional Races in Play

Those who follow state politics have lots to focus on heading into next week’s general election.    Democrats are hoping to pick up several seats in New York State to wittle down the 30 seat national advantage of Republicans in the House.  There are many hotly contested races for Congress in the state with the one between Democrat Zephyr Teachout and Republican John Faso drawing the most money and attention.  A new poll today shows Teachout leading by 3% to fill the seat of retiring Republican Chris Gibson.  The seat had been previously held by Democrats Scott Murphy and Kirsten Gillibrand, though it was slightly altered in 2010 re-districting.  It stretches from the eastern part of the state along the Hudson River out toward Cooperstown.   Another big race is to succeed the retiring Republican Richard Hanna in central New York.   Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney is the Republican candidate and leads  in the polls against Democrat Kim Myers and a third party candidate.   Former Army officer Mike Derrick, a Democrat, is facing Republican incumbent Elise Stefanik and Green candidate  Matt Funicello in the North Country. There are a few big races on Long Island with Republican State Senator Jack Martins taking on former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi who has led in the polls.

Control of the New York State Senate is again up for grabs and the results of who will be in control will again depend on which way the Independent Democrat Caucus goes.   Senator Jeff Klein, the leader of that caucus, has often worked with Republicans to run the chamber. The independent caucus might actually grow in numbers after the election with some candidates saying they will join it if they win.  Governor Andrew Cuomo has finally begun to aggressively campaign for Democratic control.  His past efforts were often criticized for not being enthusiastic enough about winning the chamber back for his party.

Albany lobbyists in the health field are watching the race between longtime Republican Senator Kemp Hannon, chair of the Health Committee, and Democrat Ryan Cronin who lost to Hannon four years ago by a small margin.   Hannon has the support of many hospital leaders and workers.  Democrats are hoping to win not only Hannon’s seat on Long Island but are aggressively challenging others including first term incumbent Michael Venditto who won the seat vacated by Charles Fuschillo when he became head of the Alzheimers Foundation of America.  A scandal on Long Island that led to the arrest of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in October is putting Republicans are on the defensive, coming less than a year after the conviction of former  Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island.

Upstate, Democrat Terry Gipson is trying to win back his seat in the Hudson Valley that he lost to Senator Sue Serrino two years ago.  Assemblyman James Tedisco is trying to win the seat of retiring Senator Hugh Farley.  Sara Niccoli is trying to unseat Republican George Amedore in a district to the west and south of Albany.  These are among several other races upstate that are being hotly contested.

If the mainline and independent Democrats win an outright majority, and they only need one new seat to do that, they will be under great pressure to unite and take control of the chamber.

Albany County Embarks on Age Friendly Community Status

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy held a press conference at his annual Senior Summit on October 26 to announce  that the county has been designated as the 101st community in the country to receive “age friendly” certification from AARP and the World Health Organization.  The county is now going to form a committee to begin the process of reviewing guidelines and benchmarks that are suggested for communities that want to enact policies and programs that are deemed age friendly.

AARP serves as the United States partner with the World Health Organization (WHO) which has organized the age friendly designations and encouraged communities around the world to apply for this status.  There are over 200 communities worldwide which has been designated.

Over 250 seniors and staff from provider agencies attended the third annual summit that McCoy’s office has convened with the Albany County Office for the Aging.  The event was held at St. Sophia’s Church in Albany which is in an area designated as  a “neighborhood NORC” or Naturally Occurring Retirement Community as designated and funded by the State Office for the Aging.

I was pleased along with Dr. Pat Binzer to be asked to co-chair the county’s age friendly initiative.  We will be forming a committee to begin meeting soon.  In my remarks at the press conference, I noted that Albany County is “age friendly” already as evidenced by the large turnout and the new designation by the WHO provides a framework for the grassroots activism  in the area.   Ultimately, it is the commitment and support of neighbors,  nonprofits, businesses and government at the community and neighborhood levels that makes it possible for older residents to be able to have a good quality of life.