Budget amendments would advance much of Cuomo’s 2018 agenda

Courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 30-day amendments to the 2019 Executive Budget would provide funding for early voting, better protect children from sex offenders, ban the sale of synthetic marijuana and prohibit sexual contact between police and those in custody, among other measures.

The governor’s 30-day amendments would provide approximately $7 million for counties to offer early voting at at least one polling site for 12 days leading up to Election Day. Voters would have at least eight hours on a weekday and five hours on weekends to cast early ballots.

The amended budget would also provide flu vaccines to all children regardless of their family’s ability to pay. In the wake of one of the worst flu outbreaks in recent memory, the governor’s legislation codifies Executive Order No. 176 — issued earlier this year — that requires pharmacists administer flu vaccines to children ages 2-18 and permanently suspends the section of Education Law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone under age 18.

The governor also wants to restrict sex offenders whose victims are under the age of 13 from traveling or living near schools where young children go to learn, and ban offenders from living in temporary or emergency housing or shelters where families also reside.

The commissioner of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision would be required to obtain a list of schools from the Education Department and distribute that list to probation and parole departments to ensure sex offenders stay away from those locations.

Banning the sale of synthetic marijuana has been difficult because manufacturers routinely change the formulas to bypass state and local laws that bans certain chemicals. The governor’s budget amendment adds 36 different chemical compositions to the state’s controlled substances list. The 36 compounds, commonly referred to as K2, are already listed on the federal schedule of controlled substances but are only banned in certain New York state counties. This action ensures manufactures and sellers in all New York’s counties are subject to the same criminal penalties.

Based on recommendations from the Fix NYC Advisory Panel, Cuomo hopes to create a pilot program to enforce “block the box” traffic violations. This project would use intersection monitoring systems south of 60th Street in Manhattan to reduce traffic violations that “clog city streets and wreak havoc on traffic flow.”

In order to advance operations and identify problems to address that will create a better New York City, The New York State Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles will also conduct a comprehensive review of the “operations, regulation, oversight, licensing and safety requirements pertaining to commuter, intercity, charter and tour buses that contribute to congestion in Manhattan.”

If implemented, the Fix NYC panel would also be taking on new tasks such as making recommendations to the Taxi and Limousine Commission regarding specific equipment that all taxi-cabs and for-hire vehicles should have for purposes of “instituting a surcharge on trips originating or terminating within an established geographic area.” All taxi-cabs and for-hire vehicles will have uniform technology, as per the standards set by the TLC.

To address the City’s placard program problem, Fix NYC will be expected to issue recommendations on how best to avoid the growth of overuse and abuse. Mayor Bill de Blasio has been expressing his frustrations concerning this issue since last May, reminding placard holders that “public employees are not above the law.” The panel will look to redesign and rewrite criteria for issuance or reissuance in order to curb abuse.

On the social change front, Cuomo is hoping close the loophole that allows the use of the “gay panic defense” in court in the New York judicial system. The “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense was used successfully to acquit a first-degree murder case in Cook County, Illinois in 2009. In Jan. 2018, Illinois became the second state to bar the use of this defense after California banned it in 2014.

Cuomo’s amendments also pertain to the prison system and law enforcement. Legislation would grant the Corrections Commissioner a greater ability to discipline prison employees who have committed serious acts of misconduct and update hiring guidelines to keep prospective employees who do not meet strict criteria from being hired.

Proposed amendments to the budget would also make it legally impossible for a prisoner to consent to sexual contact while under arrest, in detention or in custody, essentially outlawing all sexual encounters between prisoners, police or corrections officers.

To help with changes related to the new “Raise-the-Age” policies, the budget amendments would give local social services districts, probation departments and not-for-profits that provide juvenile residential placement services to financing options through the state Dormitory Authority. Additionally, this action will finance the construction or retrofitting of specialized detention facilities in anticipation of Raise the Age. Projected costs for these projects range from $10 million to $50 million or more.

In an attempt to crack down on physician misconduct, the state Health Commissioner would be authorized to order physicians charged with misconduct related to their medical practice to stop practicing medicine based on public risk associated with them. The Health Commissioner would also have authorization to obtain warrants to search an accused physician’s home, office and belongings. The time allotted to provide relevant documentation would be reduced.

Cuomo’s proposed amendments also focus on initiatives meant to protect New Yorkers from federal tax reforms. Protection from to federal tax reforms are designed to decouple the state tax code from the federal tax code, so New York taxpayers are not subjected to a $441 million State tax increase from the federal government’s decision to cap the itemized deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000.

According to the state’s Division of the Budget, without the 30-day amendments’ federal tax reform protections, single filers would not be able to take the standard deduction on their State return, leaving New York taxpayers subject to an $840 million annual State tax increase beginning in FY 2020.

For New York State Employers, the ability to opt-into a new Employer Compensation Expense Tax system (ECET) will be available. This proposal is to be phased in over three years beginning on Jan. 1, 2019 and is designed to give employers the opportunity to reduce their employees federal taxes.

Cuomo is also looking to create legislation that implements two new state-operated charitable funds to accept deductible charitable contributions primarily for the purposes of “improving health care and education in New York.”

These deductibles can be claimed on federal and state tax returns, and taxpayers who itemize deductions can also claim a “State tax credit equal to 85 percent of the donation amount for the tax year after the donation is made.” School districts, counties, towns, cities, and villages will be authorized to create charitable funds for education, health care, and other charitable purposes. Individuals who donate will be provided a credit equal to 95 percent of the donation for a reduction in local property taxes.