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This Week in Albany

Week ending March 31, 2017

Budget Update

At the time of this email, legislators were still working to finalize a state budget for the Fiscal Year beginning on April 1. 

While most issues remain outstanding, it is expected that the budget will contain funds to provide a wage increase to non-profit direct care workers, increased aid to school districts, and investments into water infrastructure.

The Governor and legislature continue to negotiate a plan to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, a plan for “free” tuition at public colleges, and allowing ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate upstate.

Furthermore, CSEA is continuing to advocate for increased investments in state-operated OPWDD and OMH services, and to see the Governor’s local government shared services scheme significantly amended so as to protect local services and jobs. Significant progress has been made on these issues in the past months, but nothing is finalized until all budget bills have been passed.

Stay tuned to the Legislative & Political Action Department’s website for more information on the state budget as it becomes available.


Update to Free Identity Protection Services for Empire Plan Enrollees

As noted in previous articles in the Workforce, Anthem BlueCross BlueShield, the parent company of The Empire Plan Hospital Program administrator, offers free identity protection services to all current Empire Plan enrollees through AllClear ID.    For more information, call 1-855-227-9830 or go to https://anthemcares.allclearid.com.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has also asked Anthem to provide additional credit protection to minors under the age of 18 as of January 27, 2015 in the form of credit freezes.

Credit Freeze for Minors

Anthem has partnered with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) and will cover the cost of a one-time freeze and one-time removal at each of these credit bureaus.

Highlights:  The Program offers a one-time credit freeze and one-time credit freeze removal at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus for children affected by the cyber-attack to:

  • Parents or legal guardians of children under the age of 18 as of January 27, 2015 who are not yet 18 as of February 24, 2017
  • Minors who are now adults – children under 18 on January 27, 2015 who are 18 or older as of February 24, 2017

Anthem will begin mailing letters to parents or legal guardians and adult children on February 24, 2017 and expects all letters to be mailed by the end of May.

This Week in Albany

Week ending March 24, 2017

Budget Update

State budget negotiations have started to heat up as lawmakers approach the April 1 deadline. This week, joint legislative conference committees met to discuss areas of agreement and disagreement across all areas of the budget. The legislative leaders and the Governor have also started three-way negotiations.

The legislature will be in session all next week as lawmakers and the Governor work towards a final budget agreement. As these negotiations continue, CSEA will continue to advocate for our budget priorities, including increased support for state agencies, especially the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Mental Health, and protections for municipalities against threats of consolidation and cuts.

Visit the Legislative & Political Action Department’s website for more information on CSEA’s budget priorities.  

Health Care Reform

CSEA members have been contacting their members of Congress asking them to oppose the American Health Care Act. This legislation would cut $6.9 billion in funding to New York State over the next four years, and an additional $2.4 billion annually starting in 2020. These cuts would affect all CSEA members, not just those that work in health care. The loss of funding would force the state and local governments to cut services and layoff employees. Its a bad policy for New York State.

The House of Representatives was scheduled to take a vote on this legislation Friday afternoon but suddenly pulled the legislation because they did not have enough votes to pass it. Please stay tuned for more information.

Gorsuch Hearings Begin

The confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began this week with Gorsuch testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Once approved by the Judiciary Committee he will need to be approved by the full Senate, where it is unclear if he will have the 60 votes needed for confirmation. Without 60 votes, Judge Gorsuch could still be confirmed if the Senate rules are changed to allow for a simple majority vote.

106th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

In 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory killed 126 workers who were unable to escape due to unsafe working conditions. While tragic, the incident lead to increased awareness of workplace safety issues and led to many crucial reforms.


This Week in Albany

Week ending March 17, 2017

One House Budgets Released

The Senate and Assembly have each released their “one-house” budget proposals, laying out each house’s priorities and positions in budget negotiations.

While many of CSEA’s top concerns have been addressed in the one-house proposals, it is important that CSEA members continue to advocate for their issues. None of these positions are final until an agreement has been reached with the Governor on a final budget.

The following is a brief summary of how the houses have responded to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget proposal regarding major concerns of CSEA.

Retirees/Future Retirees

Executive Proposals: Reduce State contributions to the costs of health insurance premiums for state employees that retiree on or after October 1, 2017. The proposal would create a tiered system of State contributions based on years of service and paygrade. In addition, the Governor proposed capping Medicare Part B premium reimbursements for NYSHIP retirees and eliminating such reimbursements for higher income retirees.

One-House Proposals: The Senate and Assembly have each rejected these proposals.

 

OPWDD and OMH

Executive Proposal: Reduce the OPWDD and OMH workforces by over 600 FTEs.
One-House Proposals: Both houses included language that would provide that a state agency must maintain staffing levels from the year prior if a high percentage of its employees are working overtime.

Executive Proposal: Close 240 State-operated beds within OMH
One-House Proposals: The Senate rejected the proposed bed closures outright. The Assembly would lower the number to 100 beds.

One-House Proposals: The Senate’s proposal includes language that would put CSEA’s OPWDD care pilots into law and require that the services be brought up.

 

Local Governments

Executive Proposal: Require every county outside of New York City to prepare a plan for consolidating and eliminating services provided by municipalities within the county. The plan would be put to voters in the November 2017 election.
One-House Proposals: The Senate and Assembly have each rejected this proposal.

Executive Proposal: Freeze Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) funding for local governments. This funding has been held flat since 2011-12. Further, the release of these funds would only take place if a locality has complied with the Governor’s consolidation plan.
One-House Proposals: The Assembly proposes a total of nearly $778 million in AIM funding. The Senate accepts the proposed funding in the Executive Budget. Both houses rejected the Governor’s consolidation plan and holding AIM funding hostage.

 

Other Issues

School funding: Both houses have proposed school aid increases above that proposed by the Executive.

Millionaire’s Tax: The Assembly has proposed a more progressive Millionaire’s Tax than that proposed by the Governor. The Senate’s proposal does not include the Millionaire’s Tax.

START-UP NY: Both houses have rejected the Governor’s proposed renaming and expansion of START-UP NY. The Senate’s proposal would end the program in 2018.


Federal Budget Blueprint Released

The Trump Administration released its first budget proposal this week.

The proposal calls for a massive increase in defense spending with corresponding cuts to domestic non-defense programs. Several agencies are facing massive, double digit reductions in spending, including Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Department of State, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture, the Commerce Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

This proposal would devastate funding that CSEA members depend on and would have a serious negative impact on New York.

Stay tuned for more information on the federal budget proposal as it becomes available.


At a Glance

The legislature will be in session for four days next week as budget negotiations enter their final stages. Joint budget conference committees, where both houses of the legislature meet to find common ground, are expected to begin on Monday. A final state budget is due by April 1.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on the American Health Care Act, the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act. This proposal would cost New York several billions of dollars every year due to a massive reduction in federal support, especially for Medicaid. Click here for a summary of that legislation.


This Week in Albany

Week ending March 10, 2017

CSEA Members Make Their Voices Heard

CSEA members who work for the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) came to Albany on Tuesday to lobby state legislators on Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget proposal.The Governor’s budget calls for the reduction of over 600 positions in these two agencies through attrition, along with the continued reduction of state-operated treatment beds within OMH.

CSEA members stressed to their legislators that the continued reduction of staff has already led to exorbitant levels of overtime. Staffing issues have become so severe in these agencies that workers show up to work never knowing when they will be able to leave. CSEA members just want to be able to go home.

CSEA is calling on the legislature to restore the proposed employee reductions and keep state-operated treatment beds open. It is important that CSEA members and activists continue to talk to their legislators about the importance of these issues to CSEA members and the clients that they serve.

Budget Update

Details of the Senate and Assembly “one-house” budget proposals started to be released this week.

The Assembly’s budget proposal is expected to include small business tax cuts and increased investments in economic development tax credits. There are fewer details available on the Senate’s proposal, but it is expected that it will leave out all tax and fee increases, including the proposed extension of the Millionaire’s Tax.

Full one-house budgets are expected to be released over the weekend or early next week. Once each house has released its budget proposal, negotiations can begin between the two houses and the Governor to find agreement on a final budget. CSEA will continue to fight to have our concerns addressed in any final budget agreement.

Affordable Care Act Replacement Bill Released

On March 6, the House of Representatives introduced the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This legislation would repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This legislation would cut funding to state Medicaid programs, allow premiums to greatly increase for the elderly, and would free employers from having any obligation to provide health insurance. A full summary can be read here.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee began meeting on March 8 to consider this legislation. It is expected that a final vote will be taken by the House during the week of March 20.

CSEA has significant concerns with this legislation. Most pressing is the loss of Medicaid funding, which will cost New York State $2.4 billion annually starting in 2020. These cuts will affect all CSEA members, regardless of if they work in the healthcare field. Over the coming weeks CSEA will be lobbying members of Congress to protect this vital funding and to ensure that millions of Americans do not lose their health care coverage.

At a Glance

The legislature will be in session for three days next week, while each house is expected to release and vote on their one-house budget proposals before the end of the week. A final budget is due by April 1.


Federal Issues Alert: Health Care

Affordable Care Act Replacement Bill Released

On March 6, the House of Representatives introduced the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This legislation would repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This legislation would cut funding to state Medicaid programs, allow premiums to greatly increase for the elderly, and would free employers from having any obligation to provide health insurance. A full summary can be read here.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee began meeting on March 8 to consider this legislation. It is expected that a final vote will be taken by the House during the week of March 20.

CSEA has significant concerns with this legislation. Most pressing is the loss of Medicaid funding, which will cost New York State $2.4 billion annually starting in 2020. These cuts will affect all CSEA members, regardless of if they work in the healthcare field. Over the coming weeks CSEA will be lobbying members of Congress to protect this vital funding and to ensure that millions of Americans do not lose their health care coverage.


CSEA Monroe County Unit Approves New Contract

CATlogoround1 - CopyRochester– A majority of members of the CSEA Monroe County Employees Unit 7400 voted this evening to ratify the terms and conditions of a new collective bargaining agreement that was reached on February 1. Approximately 1,800 county employees represented by CSEA have been working without a contract since the previous deal expired on December 31, 2013. The vote was a mail-in ballot conducted February 14 through March 1. A previous tentative agreement was narrowly rejected by membership in October of 2016.

The new five-year deal guarantees a 10 percent cost of living increase over the life of the contract plus other bonuses. Effective after complete ratification, all employees shall receive modest increases and bonuses in their annual base salary over time to be paid 60 days following the Monroe County Legislature’s and County Executive’s final approval of the agreement.

Depending on an employee’s hire date, some employees represented by CSEA under this contract will pay a slightly higher contribution percentage for healthcare over time. Effective July 1, 2017, employees must have 15 years of continuous service with the County to qualify for retiree health insurance.

“We would like to express our sincere appreciation to our CSEA members, staff and county management team for their commitment to the negotiations process,” said CSEA Unit President Jim D’Amico. He added, “The new agreement required compromise and sacrifice on both sides and we believe it’s respectful to taxpayers, management and employees alike.”

The new contract will expire December 31, 2021.

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 CSEA is New York State’s leading union, representing employees of New York State and its counties, towns, villages, school districts, library systems, authorities and public corporations. Together with a growing population of private sector members and retirees, CSEA forms a union 300,000 strong. It is also the largest affiliate (and Local 1000) of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) which, in turn, is one of the largest affiliates of the AFL-CIO.

Southern Region college scholarship process begins

graduation_capAgain this year, the CSEA Southern Region will present several college scholarships to graduating seniors whose parent or guardian is a CSEA member from this region. Money for the scholarships is raised through various CSEA fundraisers throughout the year, including our annual golf classic.

Click here to download a copy of the application. The deadline for submissions is April 22, 2017.

Don’t forget that in addition to these scholarships, many other scholarship opportunities are available through our union. The main CSEA website maintains a list of national and statewide scholarships, including ones from AFSCME (our international union).

Some individual CSEA locals and units often offer scholarships, as well. Ask your local or unit president for more information.

This Week in Albany

Week ending March 3, 2017

State Budget Update

The legislature and Executive have agreed that revenue for the next fiscal year will be $200 million higher than projected in the Executive Budget. This is an important first step in budget negotiations, as the total value of a final budget has now been agreed to.

The Senate and Assembly are expected to release their “one-house” versions of their budget proposals around March 13. From there, negotiations will proceed with a final budget due April 1.

Special Elections Set

Governor Cuomo has called for a special election on May 23 to fill two legislative vacancies.

Senate District 30 (Manhattan) was vacated by Bill Perkins (D), who was elected to the New York City Council. Assembly District 9 (Nassau County) was vacated by Joe Saladino (R), who was appointed as Oyster Bay Town Supervisor.

Federal Update

President Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress this week. The speech gave a broad outline of the President’s agenda for the coming year.

Further, information on President Trump’s first budget proposal started to be released this week.While few details are available, the President plans on calling for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, which would require corresponding cuts to non-defense spending that heavily funds programs and services staffed by CSEA members.

CSEA will continue to monitor developments at the federal level and their potential impacts on New York.