TIMELINES 3/27/14

County Legislature requests state relief for residents using Tappan Zee Bridge

The county legislature passed a resolution last week calling on the State to provide toll breaks for Rockland and Orange residents who use the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The bill, sponsored by Legislator Christopher Carey, came in response to a state decision to revise Verrazano Bridge toll schedules, reducing tolls for Staten Island residents to $5.50, a 63 percent discount. Carey hopes to match the discount to provide assistance when the new Tappan Zee Bridge is built and an anticipated rise in tolls hits commuters.

In response, Carey has been pushing for what he says is an equitable arrangement with Hudson Valley counties. Carey suggested a five dollar toll for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, dropping a projected $14 toll down by the same 63 percent figure as the Verrazano.

 

Cuomo holds summit for New York veterans and military families

Governor Andrew Cuomo took part in the state’s first Veterans and Military Families Summit on March 20, kicking off a discussion on services for active duty and former military members and their families.

The Summit, which was attended by veterans’ groups, military representatives, private businesses and educational administrators, focused on ways to assist veterans in areas which include housin, employment, education, federal and state benefits, mental health and service coordination.

Among the major benefits annnounnced for vets were a $50 million committmment from the State of New York Mortgage Agency for mortgage assistance, a veterans contracting program to aid vet-owned businesses, and in-state tuition for vets at all SUNY and CUNY schools. A strike force to help end the federal claims backlog for bennefits was also announced.

New York currently has about 900,000 veterans, including 88,000 who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The state also boasts 33,000 active duty military personnel and 30,000 National Guard and Reserve personnel.

 

State comptroller audit reveals costly failures in tracking equipment used during Superstorm Sandy

The first in a series of state audits by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has revealed missteps in the tracking of equipment meant to keep polling stations open in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The audit showed the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) purchased $1.2 million in generators, lights and heaters for polling stations. However, the DHSES did not develop a plan to identify and track equipment during the crisis or recover it when it was no longer needed.

About half of the equipment was never received or recovered. Some of the lower-cost equipment was redistributed to local fire houses while DHSES recovered more expensive items.

DHSES has acknowledged and accepted the findings. They are currently consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international auditing and consulting firm which will assist the Divison with future emergency resource management.

 

Surveyed economists believe economy will pick up in 2014

A survey of 48 leading economists conducted by the National Assocition for Business Economics suggests that in spite of a somewhat sluggish beginning to the year, experts are optimistic about economic growth in the coming months.

The majority of polled economists believed growth might pick up to above 3 percent during 2014. The majority also believed consumer spending could increase to 2.6 percent rather than the 2.4 percent predicted in December and January.

Optimism extended to Federal Reserve forecasts, with 57 percent of economists saying the Fed was likely to end bond purchases in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year. A third of respondents were enthusiastic enough to say the Fed was likely to raise short-term interest rates this year.

Economists might have reason to expect national improvement. Bad weather across the U.S. temporarily hampered growth, but labor and housing markets have kept up their gradual improvement and consumer confidence is slowly building.

 

New Jersey considers gun magazine ban

The New Jersey Legislature is advancing a bill similar to regulations passed in New York State which limit the magazine capacity of firearms.

Bill A2006 would make the possession of magazines which carry more than 10 rounds illegal, a proovision similar to a key facet of the New York SAFE Act which passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. A2006 passed the State Assembly on March 20 and is expected to go before the State Senate for a vote.

Though the law is progressing, it is expected to face significant challenges. A2006 was initially proposed last year, but failed to get past the Senate after Senate President Stephen Sweeney refused to bring it up for a vote.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has not announced whether or not he will sign the bill, but did suggest at a town hall the week prior to the Assembly’s passage that given his track record of vetoing bills more than any governor in recent history, his signature on A2006 was not a certainty.

 

Landslide in Washington leaves communities searching for survivors

A landslide north of Seattle, Washington tore the rural landscape of Washington on Saturday, leaving at least 14 dead.

The landslide in Snohomish County hit the small towns of Oso and Darrington, which have a combined population of 1,530 people. At least seven were injured and the number of people unaccounted for reached 176 by Monday. The landslide also cut off State Road 530 to Darrington and partially obstructed the Stillaguamish River.

The disaster was caused by heavy rains which saturated groundwater until the soil began to move. The result was a movement of earth 4,400 feet wide, with debris 30 to 40 feet deep in some areas.

 

Vatican Chief Justice lashes out at Obama, calls policies “Anti-Christian”

Vatican Chief Justice and former Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke sharply criticized President Barack Obama in an interview with Polonia Christiana Magazine, saying his policies were hostile to Christianity.

Burke characterized Obama as a “totally secularized man” whose seemed to increasingly disregard Christians. He cited the Affordable Care Act as a restriction of religious practice for its birth control mandate as one of the major issues with Obama’s policies regarding religious expression.

“In a democracy, such a lack of awareness is deadly,” Burke said. “It leads to the loss of the freedom which a democratic government exists to protect.”

Burke was not entirely pessimistic, however. He referred to the pro-life movement in the U.S. as an increasingly vocal movement which has been “growing ever stronger” and stands a real chance at overturning abortion in the United States.

County Legislature requests state relief for residents using Tappan Zee Bridge

The county legislature passed a resolution last week calling on the State to provide toll breaks for Rockland and Orange residents who use the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The bill, sponsored by Legislator Christopher Carey, came in response to a state decision to revise Verrazano Bridge toll schedules, reducing tolls for Staten Island residents to $5.50, a 63 percent discount. Carey hopes to match the discount to provide assistance when the new Tappan Zee Bridge is built and an anticipated rise in tolls hits commuters.

In response, Carey has been pushing for what he says is an equitable arrangement with Hudson Valley counties. Carey suggested a five dollar toll for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, dropping a projected $14 toll down by the same 63 percent figure as the Verrazano.

 

Cuomo holds summit for New York veterans and military families

Governor Andrew Cuomo took part in the state’s first Veterans and Military Families Summit on March 20, kicking off a discussion on services for active duty and former military members and their families.

The Summit, which was attended by veterans’ groups, military representatives, private businesses and educational administrators, focused on ways to assist veterans in areas which include housin, employment, education, federal and state benefits, mental health and service coordination.

Among the major benefits annnounnced for vets were a $50 million committmment from the State of New York Mortgage Agency for mortgage assistance, a veterans contracting program to aid vet-owned businesses, and in-state tuition for vets at all SUNY and CUNY schools. A strike force to help end the federal claims backlog for bennefits was also announced.

New York currently has about 900,000 veterans, including 88,000 who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The state also boasts 33,000 active duty military personnel and 30,000 National Guard and Reserve personnel.

 

State comptroller audit reveals costly failures in tracking equipment used during Superstorm Sandy

The first in a series of state audits by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has revealed missteps in the tracking of equipment meant to keep polling stations open in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The audit showed the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) purchased $1.2 million in generators, lights and heaters for polling stations. However, the DHSES did not develop a plan to identify and track equipment during the crisis or recover it when it was no longer needed.

About half of the equipment was never received or recovered. Some of the lower-cost equipment was redistributed to local fire houses while DHSES recovered more expensive items.

DHSES has acknowledged and accepted the findings. They are currently consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international auditing and consulting firm which will assist the Divison with future emergency resource management.

 

Surveyed economists believe economy will pick up in 2014

A survey of 48 leading economists conducted by the National Assocition for Business Economics suggests that in spite of a somewhat sluggish beginning to the year, experts are optimistic about economic growth in the coming months.

The majority of polled economists believed growth might pick up to above 3 percent during 2014. The majority also believed consumer spending could increase to 2.6 percent rather than the 2.4 percent predicted in December and January.

Optimism extended to Federal Reserve forecasts, with 57 percent of economists saying the Fed was likely to end bond purchases in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year. A third of respondents were enthusiastic enough to say the Fed was likely to raise short-term interest rates this year.

Economists might have reason to expect national improvement. Bad weather across the U.S. temporarily hampered growth, but labor and housing markets have kept up their gradual improvement and consumer confidence is slowly building.

 

New Jersey considers gun magazine ban

The New Jersey Legislature is advancing a bill similar to regulations passed in New York State which limit the magazine capacity of firearms.

Bill A2006 would make the possession of magazines which carry more than 10 rounds illegal, a proovision similar to a key facet of the New York SAFE Act which passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. A2006 passed the State Assembly on March 20 and is expected to go before the State Senate for a vote.

Though the law is progressing, it is expected to face significant challenges. A2006 was initially proposed last year, but failed to get past the Senate after Senate President Stephen Sweeney refused to bring it up for a vote.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has not announced whether or not he will sign the bill, but did suggest at a town hall the week prior to the Assembly’s passage that given his track record of vetoing bills more than any governor in recent history, his signature on A2006 was not a certainty.

 

Landslide in Washington leaves communities searching for survivors

A landslide north of Seattle, Washington tore the rural landscape of Washington on Saturday, leaving at least 14 dead.

The landslide in Snohomish County hit the small towns of Oso and Darrington, which have a combined population of 1,530 people. At least seven were injured and the number of people unaccounted for reached 176 by Monday. The landslide also cut off State Road 530 to Darrington and partially obstructed the Stillaguamish River.

The disaster was caused by heavy rains which saturated groundwater until the soil began to move. The result was a movement of earth 4,400 feet wide, with debris 30 to 40 feet deep in some areas.

 

Vatican Chief Justice lashes out at Obama, calls policies “Anti-Christian”

Vatican Chief Justice and former Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke sharply criticized President Barack Obama in an interview with Polonia Christiana Magazine, saying his policies were hostile to Christianity.

Burke characterized Obama as a “totally secularized man” whose seemed to increasingly disregard Christians. He cited the Affordable Care Act as a restriction of religious practice for its birth control mandate as one of the major issues with Obama’s policies regarding religious expression.

“In a democracy, such a lack of awareness is deadly,” Burke said. “It leads to the loss of the freedom which a democratic government exists to protect.”

Burke was not entirely pessimistic, however. He referred to the pro-life movement in the U.S. as an increasingly vocal movement which has been “growing ever stronger” and stands a real chance at overturning abortion in the United States.

 

State legislators push for Rockland’s inclusion in manufacturers’ tax cut

State Assembly members James Skoufis, Ellen Jaffee and Ken Zebrowski are spearheading a charge to include Rockland among the upstate counties eligible for a manufacturers tax cut.

The cut, which was proposed as a stimulus for business growth in economically stagnant upstate regions, would allow upstate counties to draw in manufacturers which had previously been lost over the past decades. However, Rockland and other Hudson Valley regions are not included in the cut, leading the legislators to petition Governor Andrew Cuomo for the opportunity.

Like many other locations in New York, Rockland has lost a number of manufaccturing jobs over the years. Within the past few years Pfizer and Novartis, which were major employers in the county, decided to transfer operations out of the county.

 

Safeway plans switch to exclusive use of palm oil

In a recent decision, Safeway Supermarkets announced a switch over to the exclusive use of eco-friendly palm oil in its brand products.

Safeway will now be tasked with requesting palm oil sources which have not been obtained through deforestation, account for all palm oil use in branded items for June 2014, source one million pounds of palm oil and submit annual reports on its progress toward a goal of 100 percent use of the oil. The steps are meant to eliminate the chain’s use of unsustainable palm oil which is often obtained through deforestation.

The decision was finalized with an agreement between Safeway and the New York State Common Retirement Fund. The Fund, a major shareholder in the supermarket chain, agreed to withdraw a sustainable palm oil shareholder proposal in exchange for the switch.

 

 

Malaysia Flight 370 relative pursues legal action against Boeing

A lawsuit may be filed in a U.S. court against Boeing for the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370, which is presumed to have crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean after an Austraalian satellite discovered images of possible wreckage.

The suit, filed by the father of an Indonesian passenger residing in the United States, could initiate a discovery process, the first step in a potential lawsuit. If signs of wrongdoing are found during the process, Boeing could be liable for damages which could total several million dollars.

Malaysia Airlines also faces the possibility of dishing out up to $40 million to the families. The airline hass been struggling financially in recent years and such a settlement could be a serious blow.

Relatives of the flight’s passengers have been vocal about their frustration with the investigation and a perceived lack of transparency. Though Malaysia Airlines has promised $5,000 for each family, it has not slowed public protests