- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

The Auburn Citizen on the possibility of increasing the salaries of state lawmakers.

Oct. 19

A special commission in Albany has been studying the possibility of recommending increasing the pay of state lawmakers, many of whom believe they deserve a raise.

Lawmakers haven’t gotten a bump in their base salary - $79,500 - since 1999. So while it may be time to adjust that salary, the proposal to put the base salary at $116,900 can’t be looked at in a vacuum.

Lawmakers get a daily stipend to cover meals and lodging whenever they’re in Albany and most get stipends for chairing various committees that elevate their base pay by several thousand dollars. And don’t forget that legislator is a part-time job, and many lawmakers hold other jobs back in their home districts.

In what may be an indication of how embarrassing it must feel for legislators to be asking for a pay raise, a planned hearing on the issue this week in Albany was called off at the last minute because not a single lawmaker signed up to give testimony on the proposal.

If they are embarrassed, they should be.

If legislators are serious about getting raises, they need to recognize that the model in Albany isn’t working the way it should. They need to recognize that much of the corruption that exists there can be tied to the fact that so many lawmakers over the years have had outside ties to business that comes before the Legislature.

Members of the Assembly and Senate should get a larger salary - but only when they agree to make their positions full-time - and agree to accept no outside income.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/2esl69k

The Niagara Gazette on New York’s election numbers and what they mean for the Republican Party.

Oct. 21

New Yorkers with only a smattering of how politics work know that the Empire State is a blue state. In a word, it’s traditionally controlled by Democrats on Election Day. And that’s more evident than ever as the 2016 presidential election approaches. There have been exceptions, of course, such as three-term incumbent Gov. Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, losing his re-election bid in 1994 to George E. Pataki, a Republican.

According to the latest Siena College poll, an accurate barometer of voter opinion for years, Hillary Clinton is now 24 points ahead of Donald Trump - 54 percent to 30 percent - in the New York state race for the White House.

A major factor for that sharp spike, as pollster spokesman Steve Greenberg explains, is the independent voters shifting over to Clinton’s camp. What recently was a two-point lead among those independents for Clinton has mushroomed to a 17-point advantage. In late September, for example, the independents were virtually evenly divided, with 39 percent for Clinton and 37 percent for Trump. It should be noted that the most recent poll was taken shortly after an issue erupted over Trump’s alleged sexual harassment and assault of women. Greenberg is convinced that Clinton’s current winning margin is due mostly to party enrollment too.

Trump can hardly expect to seriously compete in New York - as his supporters including Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, chair of the GOP candidate’s state campaign, had hoped - since he has generally ignored any plans for upstate or downstate visits on the trail.

Meanwhile, state Republican Party Chair Ed Cox is indeed unrealistic when he thinks that Trump could win the state. And Cox is definitely off base comparing the GOP candidate’s chances with Ronald Reagan’s success in 1980.

“Reagan was not expected to carry New York,” Cox correctly states, but then again Trump is no Reagan.

Another of Cox’s predictions, that Trump could win 30 percent of the vote in Brooklyn and Manhattan is also a stretch. For the record, nearly 70 percent of New Yorkers view him unfavorably.

It should come as no surprise that the Siena poll shows that the Clinton supporters will also probably vote Democratic in the second race on that ballot, which pits U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democrat, against Wendy Long, the Republican. At last count, the poll has the incumbent with 66 percent to 27 percent for Long.

As for what impact the presidential race might have on the state Legislature - the entire 263 Assembly and Senate seats are at stake - Greenberg concludes it shouldn’t result in significant change. In fact, based on the poll, voters are on path to return most of the incumbents to Capitol Hill.

That doesn’t seem to address a perceived growing concern over the need for reform in Albany.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/2f5aaQG

The New York Times on Affordable Care Act premium increases and fixing flaws in the program.

Oct. 25

The Affordable Care Act has improved and expanded health insurance to cover millions more Americans. But it is far from perfect, and the sharp increase in premiums for plans sold under the program shows some of the problems that the next president and Congress need to fix.

Premiums will increase by 25 percent on average for midlevel plans next year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, but most Americans will be largely insulated from price increases by federal subsidies. About 85 percent of the 10.5 million people who bought insurance through the online health exchanges this year received subsidies; that proportion is likely to increase in 2017 as premiums rise.

Premiums are going up because many insurers underpriced plans when they started selling policies in 2013; not enough healthy, younger people signed up; and those who did used more medical care than the insurers had anticipated. As a result, companies like UnitedHealth and Aetna have stopped selling health plans in many parts of the country and the providers that remain have raised prices. Premiums have gone up most in states like Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma and Tennessee that have three or fewer insurers selling Affordable Care Act plans.

Premiums are rising much more modestly in states where there is more robust competition among insurers. For example, the average cost of the second-lowest “Silver” level plan, the benchmark used by federal officials to analyze the market, will increase by 7 percent in California, 5 percent in New Jersey and 2 percent in Ohio.

Even with the big premium increases, health experts say that plans on the exchanges generally cost less and provide access to more medical care than the plans that they replaced. All told, the law has helped 20 million people gain coverage, including those who became eligible for Medicaid and young adults allowed to stay on their parents’ policies, pushing the portion of the population without insurance to less than 10 percent for the first time in history. (About 150 million people are insured through employer plans.)

With open enrollment starting on Nov. 1and ending on Jan. 31, the federal and state governments ought to make every effort to increase enrollment to spread the insurance risk over a larger population. For instance, of the 27.2 million people who still do not have health insurance, about 5.3 million are eligible for federal tax subsidies and may not realize it, according to a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. People without health insurance will have a tax penalty of about $700 a year in 2017, up from about $400 in 2016. One way to lift enrollment would be to increase the penalty.

Congress and the next president could further strengthen the health care law by offering subsidies to middle-income families who currently receive little or no help. Lawmakers should also consider applying to the health care exchanges the kind of reinsurance program Congress has used to encourage insurers to participate in Medicare’s Part D prescription drug benefit program. The Affordable Care Act’s flaws are fixable, but only if politicians from both parties work together in good faith.

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https://goo.gl/rqKdbD

The Gloversville Leader-Herald on the battle to liberate Mosul from ISIS in northern Iraq.

Oct. 21

Iraqi officials announced during the weekend that the long-awaited major offensive to liberate Mosul from Islamic State terrorists was getting underway. Good. It is about time.

Mosul, in northern Iraq, is the last major bastion of ISIS in that country. No doubt the terrorists will fight hard and viciously to make the battle as bloody as possible. And no doubt they will massacre civilians left in the city.

Iraqi officials may well view the offensive as an important public relations move. ISIS has held Mosul since June 2014, reaping propaganda victories from being able to turn back government offensives to liberate the city.

But much more is at stake in Mosul.

It is unknown precisely how many ISIS fighters are defending the city. Clearly, however, the number is substantial. Allowing any of them to escape, perhaps fleeing to Syria, would be a mistake.

U.S. involvement in the offensive is limited. In addition to providing airstrikes, American troops will be using artillery against ISIS fighters in Mosul.

In addition to encouraging Iraqi officials to erect barriers around Mosul to prevent ISIS fighters from escaping, U.S. military leaders should do all in their power to kill terrorists before they can flee.

Mosul is a situation in which simply winning the battle is not enough.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/2e878Gr

The Utica Observer-Dispatch on wondering what would have happened if no one noticed Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest.

Oct. 23

One can’t help wonder how San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick might have reacted had nobody said anything about his quiet protest against racial oppression and police brutality by not standing during the playing of the National Anthem before football games.

One thing is certain: Kaepernick has delivered a message, and continues to do so, joined in recent weeks by several of his teammates.

Some say they’re jerks for snubbing America. They have disgraced our nation, opponents say, and they should be made to stand up.

No, they shouldn’t.

Once upon a time, there was a symbol of loyalty and nationalism that was required of all citizens. It was adopted by the Nazi Party in the 1930s and was performed by extending the right arm in the air with a straightened hand, often accompanied by the chant, “Heil Hitler!” It was mandatory for all German citizens as a demonstration of loyalty to the nation, the party and its leader, Adolf Hitler, perhaps the most despicable man in history.

Americans fought and destroyed Hitler and his Third Reich so its citizens would never be required to perform such obligatory gestures. That includes standing for the National Anthem.

We stand for the Anthem out of respect for this nation and the people who died to preserve the freedoms we enjoy. And one of those freedoms is the right to protest.

Protest has long been a part of who we are. In fact, were it not for protests, our nation might never have come to be. With a rally cry of “No taxation without representation,” colonists argued that they were being taxed by the British but were not allowed representation in the British parliament. They later formed militias, assaulted tax collectors, dumped tea and, eventually, declared - and won - independence.

Since, freedom, including protest, has been written into the law of the land. The very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution says Congress shall make no law “… abridging … “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Kaepernick began his protest before a preseason game when he sat down during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” when people traditionally stand. He explained that “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.” He later opted to kneel during the anthem, saying his decision to switch was an attempt to show more respect to former and current U.S. military members while still protesting the anthem after having a conversation with former NFL player and U.S. military veteran Nate Boyer.

Many people have refused to accept Kaepernick’s right to his peaceful protest. In Buffalo this past week, vendors sold shirts with Kaepernick’s image. One said: “Wanted: Notorious Disgrace to America,” and with a picture of Kaepernick throwing a pass and a bullseye aimed at his chest. Another featured a drawing of a kneeling Kaepernick with the words, “Shut Up and Stand Up!” printed.

But all was not lost. One group of about 25 Buffalo Bills fans held a rally outside the stadium in his support. Also, a number of U.S. military veterans has voiced support using the social media hashtag “veterans for Kaepernick”.

Kaepernick has said that he knew the consequences of what could come from his action beforehand and was prepared for it.

Consequences would be far greater in a country that would deny Kaepernick a voice. We need to think about that.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/2dTQe0w

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