- Associated Press - Saturday, November 26, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - In the latest developments in New York state government, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new response to hate crimes, indictments in an ongoing federal corruption case were unsealed and the state’s medical marijuana program was expanded.

A guide to the week’s top stories from Albany:

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HATE CRIMES INVESTIGATION

Cuomo announced that the New York State Police is creating a special unit to investigate reports of hate crimes.

The Democratic governor also announced plans to create a legal defense fund for immigrants who cannot afford an attorney and said he will introduce legislation expanding the protections under the state’s human rights law to cover all public and private school students statewide.

Cuomo announced the three initiatives Sunday at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Manhattan as part of a plan to combat hate crimes in the aftermath of the divisive presidential election.

“We will never allow fear and intolerance to tear at the fabric of who we are,” Cuomo said. Cuomo’s plan is a response to what he called the “ugly political discourse” that didn’t end with Republican Donald Trump’s win over Democrat Hillary Clinton in this month’s election.

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INDICTMENTS IN CORRUPTION CASE

One of Cuomo’s former top advisers has been indicted along with seven others in an ongoing federal corruption case.

The indictment was unsealed Tuesday in New York City. It charges Joseph Percoco and his co-defendants with crimes including fraud conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

The case’s most serious allegations are against Percoco, formerly Cuomo’s executive deputy secretary and one of his most loyal advisers.

A criminal complaint from September alleges Percoco took more than $315,000 in bribes from 2012 through 2016 from Syracuse-based COR Development and Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company looking to build a power plant in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Percoco’s attorney says the case is “a real turkey.” Other defendants, including former SUNY Polytechnic Institute leader Alain Kaloyeros, also have denied the charges.

Cuomo hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in connection with the case.

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MEDICAL MARIJUANA EXPANDS

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants will soon be able to certify patients for medical marijuana.

Health Commissioner Howard Zucker says more than 10,500 patients have been certified by more than 740 registered physicians to date. The state Health Department says it has filed amendments to medical marijuana regulations to allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to participate in the program in an effort to improve patient access.

The agency says it’s continuing its review of using medical marijuana for chronic pain and a decision is expected by the end of the month.

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STATE WINS NUCLEAR PLANT SUIT

New York’s Department of State has the right to review federal relicensing applications for the Indian Point nuclear power facility on the lower Hudson River to ensure compliance with coastal management protections, the state’s highest court ruled Monday.

Cuomo praised the unanimous decision by the Court of Appeals, saying the Indian Point relicensing application with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission was inconsistent with New York’s long-standing Coastal Management Program requirements.

“Indian Point is antiquated and does not belong on the Hudson River in close proximity to New York City,” said Cuomo, who has long argued Indian Point’s two nuclear reactors, 35 miles north of Manhattan in Buchanan, should be shut down.

Jerry Nappi, spokesman for plant-owner Entergy, says the company is reviewing the decision to determine next steps, which could include refiling its application for a state Coastal Zone Management permit.

Entergy has continued operating the facility pending federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission action on its 2007 application for a new 20-year license.

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