CSEA joins advocates in calling for an end to hunger, income inequality in New York

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Sara Niccoli, executive director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, calls on state and federal officials to do more to end hunger and income inequality in the state, as hunger, community, CSEA and other labor advocates look on.

ALBANY — CSEA joined leading hunger advocates in Albany Nov. 26 in calling on state and federal officials to do more to end hunger.

“Thanksgiving is the one day a year where communities unite to make sure no one goes hungry,” said Mark Dunlea, executive director of the Hunger Action Network. “Unfortunately, hunger is a 365-day a year problem and the problem has only gotten worse over Governor (Andrew) Cuomo’s term.”

“The problem of poverty and hunger in New York state is not caused by a lack of resources or wealth but simply a failure of leadership,” Sara Niccoli, executive director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, said. “We have a jobs problem.”

An astonishing 40 percent of the families seen at food pantries in New York state are the working poor, and the recent decimation of the federally-funded SNAP (food stamp) program has made matters worse with 3 million New Yorkers affected by the cuts.

As Congress debates more cuts, New York needs to step up and do more.

Advocates say yesterday’s announcement of increased state funding for food pantries is a good start, but Cuomo needs to “lead the charge since the problem has gotten worse during his time as governor.”

 

Federal Issues Report

Week ending November 22, 2013. Headlines include: Budget Deadline Looming, Senate Approves Historic Rules Change, Health Care Spending Slows Down, Affordable Care Act Makes Coverage More Affordable for Vast Majority, House Panel Challenges Rule to Give Home Care Workers Overtime, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus Floats Tax Reform Proposals, and Immigration Reform’s Fate Still Up in the Air.

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Federal Issues Report

Week Ending November 22, 2013

Congress is in recess until December 2, when the House returns. The next Federal Legislative Report will be on December 6.

Budget Deadline Looming

This week, budget conference negotiations continued behind closed doors with conference co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) talking on a daily basis in an effort to reach a deal. However, Congress adjourned this week for the Thanksgiving holidays, and the House and Senate will not both be in session again until December 9, five days prior to the December 13 deadline to reach an agreement.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urged his House colleagues to stick to the Ryan budget’s low spending levels and to resist efforts to change or replace the across-the-board sequester cuts.  Senior GOP chairs of the House Appropriations subcommittees, however, released a letter to budget conferees urging changes in the sequester, in a tacit recognition that spending bills crafted at sequester levels were too low to garner enough votes to pass.

Senate Approves Historic Rules Change

The Senate approved an historic rules change on Thursday that eliminates the use of the filibuster for all presidential nominees except those to the U.S. Supreme Court. In doing so, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) invoked the long-threatened “nuclear option,” meaning he called for a vote to change the Senate rules by a simple majority. It passed, 52 to 48. All Republicans and three Democrats – Sens. Carl Levin (MI), Joe Manchin (WV) and Mark Pryor (AR) – voted against changing the rules. The unprecedented rules change means that President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to get a vote on the Senate floor.

Both parties have threatened to change the rules in recent years — but Reid said he felt compelled to finally pull the trigger after what he described as unprecedented use of the filibuster to block President Obama’s three nominees to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Senate’s new rules will also pave the way toward smoother confirmations for two more key Obama nominees: Janet Yellen for Chair of the Federal Reserve Board and Jeh Johnson for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), nominated to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency, will also likely benefit. The Senate has scheduled a vote on D.C. Circuit Court nominee Patricia Millard in December;  subsequent votes on the remaining two nominees to fill the D.C. Circuit Court bench, Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins, are expected soon thereafter.

Health Care Spending Slows Down

The White House Council of Economic Advisors released a report this week that found that health care spending in Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance has slowed to the lowest rate on record.  Per capita spending has grown at an average annual rate of 1.3% during the three years since 2010.  While the report indicates that there are many reasons for the slower growth, provisions in the Affordable Care Act are a significant factor.

Affordable Care Act Makes Coverage More Affordable for Vast Majority

A new report by Families USA shows that 71% of those in the individual insurance market will get help paying for health coverage through the exchanges.  Just under 6% of the non-elderly population, or about 15 million people, obtain their health coverage through the individual market, rather than through an employer.  The vast majority will be eligible for tax credits to help pay for coverage or will be eligible for Medicaid.  Despite the disruption in the individual market, including policy cancellations, it is clear that the majority stand to gain more affordable coverage through the Affordable Care Act.   

House Panel Challenges Rule to Give Home Care Workers Overtime

The Worker Protections Subcommittee of the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing November 20 on the recent final Department of Labor (DOL) rule that extends the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation’s workers who provide in-home supports and services to elderly people and people with disabilities. The final rule goes into effect January 2015.  During the hearing Reps. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) helped to dispel some myths about the roles, most notably that it would turn family friends who on occasion look in on a neighbor, into employees.  This is specious, as the rule does not change current law defining “employer” or “employee.”  For DOL factsheets on the rule go to: http://www.dol.gov/whd/homecare/factsheets.htm

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus Floats Tax Reform Proposals

This week, Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) floated drafts of three tax reform proposals covering international taxes, tax administration, and cost recovery and tax accounting rules. This is an attempt to jumpstart Congress’ dormant tax reform process, which has been superseded by congressional debate on the troubled Obamacare website rollout and deliberations of the House-Senate Budget Committee Conference aimed at avoiding another federal government shutdown. House GOP leaders have encouraged House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) to delay tax reform.

Although Baucus’ plan closes several significant offshore tax loopholes that incentivize corporations to send jobs and shift profits overseas, his overall plan is inadequate and permits too many loopholes to remain.

There is little chance tax reform will reach the House or Senate floor before next year and some think action will wait until after the November 2014 elections.

Immigration Reform’s Fate Still Up in the Air

While immigration reform remains stalled in the House of Representatives, reform advocates have been bringing increased pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other GOP leaders to allow a vote so that House and Senate legislation can be reconciled into a bill President Obama can sign.  Since last week, several immigration reform advocates have been “Fasting for Families” in a tent on the National Mall.  They have received visits from numerous members of Congress as well as Vice President Biden.  Other activities targeted at House leadership this week included delivery of a turkey and wine to Speaker Boehner to remind him that these Thanksgiving items are made possible by immigrant labor, and demonstrations in front of House offices, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA).

Speaker Boehner said on Thursday that the House will move piecemeal immigration reform bills, but no action has been taken for several months.  His commitment to passing meaningful immigration reform legislation is questionable given that he declared recently that the House will not allow any bill it passes to be reconciled with the Senate bill (S. 744) which passed with broad bipartisan support last June.  

103rd Annual Delegates Meeting concludes

See award recipients
See photos from the Annual Delegates Meeting
Learn about the Don’t Zone Out – It Can Wait campaign
Learn how CSEA is working to raise awareness of the value of strong communities

Help protect public mental health services

CSEA warns state lawmakers on Cuomo’s flawed Mental Health proposal
Read morecamp-runamuck
Read the news release
Read more about the governor’s plan to close Sagamore Children’s Psychiatric Center
Read CSEA’s full testimony

Help protect mental health services
The state Office of Mental Health has released a flawed “Regional Centers of Excellence” plan to redesign how mental health services are provided in the state.
New! Watch a recent “60 Minutes” episode regarding concerns about inadequate mental health services.
Read more

This Week in Albany

Week ending November 22, 2013

Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Second Quarter Pension Results

Under the leadership of Comptroller DiNapoli, the New York State Common Retirement Fund posted a 4.61 percent rate of return for the second quarter of 2013, raising the Fund’s value to an estimated $160.4 billion.

State Agency Overtime Could Hit Record by End of Year

In the first nine months of 2013, state agencies spent $462 million on overtime costs, an increase of $65 million from the same period last year. If that trend continues, the state could spend a record $600 million on overtime costs by the end of the year.

The agencies with the largest increase in overtime costs were the Department of Transportation (63%), the Department of Corrections (20%), the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (10%), and the Office of Mental Health (8%).

CSEA Submits Testimony at State Parks Hearing

CSEA submitted testimony at a hearing held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Tourism regarding the future of the state park system.

CSEA’s testimony raised concerns regarding the lack of investment in park staff, as well as opposition to attempts that would outsource the operations of state parks.

A copy of the full testimony is available on CSEA’s website.

Happy Holidays

“This Week in Albany” will return in two weeks. We wish everyone celebrating a safe and happy Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

This Week in Albany

Week ending November 22, 2013

Headlines include:

  • Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Second Quarter Pension Results
  • State Agency Overtime Could Hit Record by End of Year
  • CSEA Submits Testimony at State Parks Hearing
  • Happy Holidays

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Stand in solidarity with Wal-Mart workers on Black Friday!

2013_Black-Friday-Protest[1]Wal-Mart workers continue to face a working environment full of intimidation, low wages, no health benefits and no unions. Make a stand in support of local Wal-Mart workers on Black Friday!

Join the Capital District Area Labor Federation and supporters of working people for a Black Friday Protest. at 11 a.m., Friday, Nov. 29 at the Glenmont Wal-Mart at 311 Route 9W in Glenmont.
Learn more

This protest is one of many that will be held at Wal-Mart stores across the country on Black Friday. To find an event near you, visit blackfridayprotests.org.

CSEA Submits Testimony at State Assembly Hearing on State Parks

On November 21, 2013, CSEA submitted testimony at a hearing being held by the Assembly Standing Committee on Tourism regarding the future of the state park system.

CSEA’s testimony raised concerns regarding the lack of investment in park staff, as well as opposition of attempts to outsource the operations of state parks.

In recent years, the Office of Parks has drafted and pushed legislation to lease publicly owned buildings and properties at state parks and historic sites. CSEA views these actions as an attempt to outsource the operations of state parks.

A copy of the full testimony is available on CSEA’s website.


Federal Issues Report

Week ending November 15, 2013.

Headlines include: Budget Conference Committee Meets, But No Closer to Consensus, Rocky Rollout of Affordable Care Act, President Proposes Regulatory Fix to Address Health Coverage Cancellations; House Debates Bill that Would Drive Up Cost of Coverage in Health Insurance Exchanges, House Vote Unlikely This Year on Immigration Reform Legislation, Early Learning Bill Introduced to Fund Universal Pre-K and Child Care Partnerships, Senate Republicans Block Another Presidential Nominee; “Nuclear Option” on the Table,  Federal Unemployment Insurance Benefits Program Due to Expire, GOP Senators Introduce Bill to Eliminate Traditional Pensions for New Federal Employees.

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