- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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

(Plattsburgh) Press-Republican on using bipartisanship while discussing health care.

June 27

When Republican Congressman Steve Scalise was shot June 14 on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, lawmakers from both major parties called for unity.

They said anger and partisan politics had created too agitated a state in this country and that it was time to set acrimony aside and work together for the good of the American people.

Now, not even two weeks later, Republicans and Democrats are bickering over a Senate health-care proposal to replace Obamacare, instead of getting together to come up with something that will actually work.

In the meantime, Obama’s Affordable Care Act is barely hanging on. Whether that is the fault of the unstable atmosphere created by GOP bashing is besides the point, at this stage.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that competition in many state insurance marketplaces has dwindled to one insurer and that premium increases well over 20 percent are expected in 2018.

Yet many Democrats are clinging desperately to Obamacare, admitting it’s not perfect and that changes are needed but not contributing enough toward finding a solution.

Republicans, on the other hand, are rushing forward, seemingly hell-bent on replacing Obamacare, even if their plan has major flaws.

It won’t be an easy fix. Obamacare was a revolutionary change that brought coverage to millions of previously uninsured people, bridged gaps and eliminated unfair rules.

But its flaws are showing, and repair requires careful consideration, thorough research and compromise.

There’s no reason to race to get a plan passed. Open discussion and bipartisan work groups in both Houses of Congress, with expert outside, stakeholder input, are needed to devise a workable, affordable plan that still ensures coverage for all.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) voted for the House version of the plan, but the Senate has made major revisions. Though she won’t be casting a vote this time around, constituents in the 21st District are still eager to hear her opinion on it.

“We anticipate there will be changes made to the Senate bill before it moves to the floor for a vote,” spokesman Tom Flanagin said Monday in response to Press-Republican questions.

“Just as Congresswoman Stefanik worked to improve the House bill before it came up for a vote, we expect senators to debate and possibly amend this draft before it is finalized.”

He reminded that in the House, Stefanik “fought to add language to ensure members of Congress live by the same rules as everyone else, … to have $15 billion added for maternity care and worked to support our county governments by adding language to reduce the burdensome Medicaid mandate.”

He said Stefanik is encouraged that the Senate plan “repeals costly Obamacare taxes while preserving protections for those with pre-existing conditions” and said she “would like to see more done in the Senate bill to address funding for opioid addiction treatment and maternity care.”

President Donald Trump said Sunday: “It would be so great if the Democrats and Republicans could get together, wrap their arms around it and come up something that everybody’s happy with.”

On this one, he’s right on target. Americans are tired of the nonstop political fighting and frightened about the prospects of losing health coverage or having it become unaffordable.

Only with all minds pitching in can Congress devise a realistic and permanent solution.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2tlH7yo

The (Gloversville) Leader-Herald on constructive activities for students during the summer recess.

June 28

With students getting out of local schools for vacation, their brains are shifting into summer gear, thinking about camps, jobs, taking trips, swimming, hanging out with friends and lounging around the house.

We hope their summer includes at least these four things:

Lots of reading. The public libraries in this area are wonderful, and we hope they get plenty of use.

A healthy dose of chores, so kids will gain a good work ethic and be contributing, responsible members of their households

Fun, because the happy childhood memories of summer are priceless, the foundations on which our future happiness is built

Relaxation - without screen-based entertainment - to give them time to think and rest, and for their minds to wander.

Well-read, hard-working, happy, thoughtful children will become the next generation of wonderful community members.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2tqfoNr

(Utica) Observer Dispatch on a bill that would expand medical benefits for volunteer firefighters who are diagnosed with cancers that are linked to their service.

June 28

Finally. After much hemming and hawing, the state Legislature finally did the right thing and passed legislation to expand medical benefits for volunteer firefighters who are diagnosed with certain forms of cancer linked to their duties.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should sign the bill into law without delay.

The legislation was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, and co-sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica. Lawmakers approved the bill in the waning days of the legislative session, which ended last week.

Unlike full-time career firefighters, volunteer firefighters across the state do not currently receive benefit coverage if they are diagnosed with cancer, despite the fact that much of the toxic fire and smoke they are exposed to on a regular basis are known to cause many of the cancers these volunteers are later diagnosed with.

The legislation, if signed into law, would create the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act. That would make a volunteer firefighter eligible for enhanced cancer disability benefits if the volunteer has served for at least five years as an interior firefighter, and has successfully passed a physical examination upon entering the volunteer service that initially did not show any signs of cancer.

If the volunteer firefighter develops cancer - including melanoma, digestive, hematological, lymphatic, urinary, prostate, neurological, breast and reproductive cancers - this legislation would allow the qualified volunteer to be eligible for a lump sum payment of $25,000. If the volunteer is totally disabled, a monthly benefit of $1,500 per month would be payable up to 36 consecutive months. In the case of death, the volunteer firefighters’ family will be eligible for an accidental death benefit in the amount of $50,000.

These expanded benefits would be covered by local fire departments, fire districts or municipalities.

This is the right thing to do. Volunteer firefighters perform an invaluable service to their communities, answering calls 24/7 in all kinds of weather, interrupting family gatherings and other personal time - all in the name of public safety. In doing so, they often put themselves in harm’s way, which can include exposure to cancer-causing toxins few, if any, of us rarely encounter.

We would pray no volunteer firefighter ever needs to take advantage of this. But it needs to be there for them. They are there for us.

Sign the bill, governor.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2tZAuir

The (Syracuse) Post-Standard on making meaningful improvements to the Central New York region with funds from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

June 23

The Upstate Revitalization Initiative - a pot of $500 million in state money — is supposed to help transform the Central New York economy for the 21st century. Eighteen months ago, Central New York won a statewide competition for the money with a plan for heavy investments in drones, agriculture, transportation and logistics, veteran services, job training and poverty-fighting measures. That strategic plan remains worthy but the execution so far has been underwhelming.

The URI’s high-flown promises remain just that, promises. The 40 or so chosen investments so far are heavy on run-of-the-mill office retrofits, equipment purchases and apartment projects. They are light on the transformational projects with the potential to create a lot of jobs and raise prosperity across the region.

Some URI projects — such as a highway ramp that will ease traffic congestion at the Lakeview Amphitheater and the New York State Fair and paving for a parking lot at the Amp — have nothing to do with the master plan for the region’s economy.

The URI is supposed to be more than a convenient pot of money to tap for routine needs. Rather, it is meant to support “transformative” ideas that couldn’t happen without large, sustained taxpayer investment.

So far, a couple of ideas have not worked out. Momentum for a proposed inland port in DeWitt stalled when the project ran into disinformation and political opposition. An indoor farm proposed for Cicero fell through. Because URI money is not disbursed up front, taxpayers haven’t lost a dime.

More promising is the region’s investment in a drone testing corridor, a bid to grab a piece of a multi-billion-dollar industry still in its infancy. Half of the $500 million URI award is earmarked for drones and associated technology. This is how government money ought to be spent on behalf of private business. To operate safely, drones need the government to create a regulatory framework, set national standards and create new aviation infrastructure. The government also has technical knowledge from taxpayer-funded military and space research that can help the U.S. drone industry grow and prosper.

Contrast that with the 40 projects approved for URI funding through January 2017 - many for projects that look like they could have been done without taxpayer assistance. Eight grants involve renovations of mixed-use buildings or new construction - a hot commodity in and around downtown Syracuse. A $330,000 award went to build a paint bay at a metalworking company that’s been around for 64 years. Another $1.1 million was allocated to a Cortland insurance agency for new offices, with no indication new jobs would follow.

Terakeet, a 150-person internet marketing firm in Syracuse, is in line for a $600,000 state grant if it spends $3 million to expand its offices and hire 200 more workers. It could receive another $4.3 million in tax credits if it keeps those workers for eight years. There is no regional benefit to paying for one company’s office furniture and computers in the advertising and marketing industry. We work with many small- and medium-sized marketing firms in the region. How is it fair to other companies and individuals who don’t get a state subsidy but still pay New York’s exorbitant taxes? The point here is not to pick on Terakeet but to provide a contrast between the transformative and the merely ordinary.

We recognize that the URI is still in its early stages. One-fifth of the $500 million is already committed. The decision-makers in charge of the remaining hundreds of millions of dollars need to make a hard turn back to the URI’s original intent - smart, regionally focused and - here’s that word again — transformative investments that will attract even greater private investment.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2snDiEp

Newsday on present and upcoming Supreme Court battles concerning religious liberties.

June 26

As a nation, we are always testing the limits of religious liberty and the strength of the wall between church and state. How far does the First Amendment right to freely exercise our faith extend before it crashes into the amendment’s other protection that the government not favor one set of religious beliefs?

This constitutional struggle comes in waves, and with the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, now on the U.S. Supreme Court, rulings released Monday indicate that we are entering another era of resetting boundaries. As the nation becomes more pluralistic, these boundaries must be tread cautiously.

The court ruled 7-2 that Missouri unlawfully denied a Lutheran Church that operates a preschool from participating in a state program that provided nonprofit groups with funds to improve playground safety. The majority said this was a neutral government program and not really about religion at all. In a bizarre footnote that likely highlights brewing philosophical fights behind the scenes, the court even went out of its way to say the case was just about “playground resurfacing.” It’s hard to argue with the logic there. But in a separate opinion, Gorsuch argued that it was really a major ruling for religious liberty.

That sets the stage for a 5-year-old case involving a baker in Colorado who refused a custom wedding cake order from a gay couple, claiming that same-sex marriage violated his religious beliefs. Gay rights advocates compare such views with a restaurant still refusing to serve a black customer after Jim Crow laws have been knocked down. The case had been ignored since January, with the court unable to find the fourth vote to earn it a review. On Monday it got one, presumably from Gorsuch. The case, which is anything but neutral, will be argued in the fall.

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Online: https://nwsdy.li/2tlB2ls


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