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Editorial Roundup: New York

Advance Media New York. February 4, 2024. Editorial: In NY, it’s best of times for sports gambling, worst of times for cannabis It’s looking more and more like New York got mobile sports betting right.

Advance Media New York. February 4, 2024.

Editorial: In NY, it’s best of times for sports gambling, worst of times for cannabis

It’s looking more and more like New York got mobile sports betting right. Wish we could say the same for the rollout of recreational cannabis.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last week that New York state raked in $862 million in taxes on mobile sports wagers last year, in only its second year of operation.

In that short time, the state’s overall handle (the total amount wagered) of $35.7 billion ranks only behind New Jersey, with $44.2 billion, and Nevada, with $36 billion. That’s remarkable, considering sports betting has been legal in Nevada for more than a decade and in New Jersey for five and a half years.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that banned betting on sports in 46 states. The Legislature dithered and New York did not allow mobile sports betting until January 2022, nearly four years later. Now 30 states have it.

New York left some serious money on the table by taking so long to jump on the sports betting gravy train. But it’s catching up fast. The state has nine of the top 10 all-time monthly sports handles nationwide, Hochul said.

Nine operators are licensed to offer mobile sports wagering in the state. They seem not at all deterred by the 51% tax rate on gross gaming revenues — among the highest in the nation.

The money raised by gambling taxes goes to support education across the state, except for annual set-asides of $5 million targeted for sports programs for underserved young people and $6 million for gambling education and treatment. Over the past 12 years, gaming revenues (including casinos and the lottery) have accounted for one of every eight state dollars spent on education, the state Comptroller reported.

Adult-use cannabis was supposed to be another cash cow for state government, with 40% targeted to education. Bur the program is still tied up in knots through a combination of bad law and poor execution, as our sister publication New York Cannabis Insider has documented.

Hochul acknowledged as much in a recent editorial board meeting with her hometown Buffalo News.

“It’s a disaster,” she said of the rollout. “I will not defend that for one second.”

Hochul blamed the law passed by the Legislature, saying it lacks the teeth to go after unlicensed sellers of cannabis that have proliferated in the absence of a legal market. The governor plans to ask lawmakers to increase the penalties as a deterrent to illegal sales. She also wants local police to have the power to stop the sale of unlicensed, untaxed cannabis.

The governor also blamed the structure of the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board. Each has its own paid leader, creating confusion and indecisiveness.

Hochul rejected the idea of just starting over. But she needs to do something dramatic to get New York’s adult-use cannabis industry going.

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New York Post. February 1, 2024.

Editorial: Hochul’s right: Fighting the mob on the waterfront never goes out of style

The city’s dockworkers union wants to stop Gov. Hochul’s plan for a new Waterfront Commission to fight organized-crime corruption.

The Jersey branch of the the International Longshoremen’s Association last year got Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy to shutter the bi-state Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor; now the New York union hopes to block Hochul’s sequel.

“We are no longer in 1953 with Marlon Brando ‘On the Waterfront,’” fumes ILA spokesman James “Cadillac” McMahon, claiming New York shouldn’t spend $5 million to keep the port clean.

Sorry, Cadillac: Mob influence on the waterfront isn’t dead.

The old commission was central to prosecutions against organized crime in and around local ports, including the 2021 conviction of a Gambino capo on fraud and racketeering charges.

It also ensured fair hiring (of women and minorities), with the ILA accused in recent years of excluding applicants for union membership because of their race, national origin or sex.

Good on Hochul for realizing a cop is still needed to walk the New York Harbor beat.

Five million dollars is a small price to save consumers from paying a mob tax on goods leaving or entering the port, and to keep organized crime from winning a seat in local union councils.

It’s one thing for legislators to stand with unions, quite another to side with the mob: Indeed, New York’s honest unions should be using their Albany sway to back Hochul here, and help keep the labor movement clean.

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Albany Times Union. February 6, 2024.

Editorial: Limo task force needs more road

The state mismanaged almost every aspect of a panel formed to address the causes of the 2018 disaster. Now it’s trying to shut it down for good.

If the response of New York’s elected officials to the 2018 limousine crash in Schoharie County could be metaphorically embodied in a vehicle, its engine would by turns roar and then conk out at the worst possible moments. It would, frankly, be an embarrassment to see it parked in state government’s figurative driveway.

It is no wonder, then, that New York wants to permanently scrap the Stretch Limousine Passenger Safety Task Force, which was created in the wake of the disaster that killed 20 people, as well as in response to previous fatalities enabled by irresponsible operators and lackluster regulation. State officials took far too long to select the 11 panel members, a failure that pushed back the release of its mandated report — but at least those failings could be blamed at least in part on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Less excusable was the rush to pump out its final recommendations in September 2022 in a secret meeting before the anticipated release of what — just weeks later — turned out to be a scathing report on the disaster by the state Inspector General’s office. It found abundant breakdowns by the state Departments of Motor Vehicles and Transportation, agencies that had considerable control over the operations of the limo safety panel. DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder had tried to placate the members of the task force at the time by assuring them they would convene after the report came out to discuss whether additional recommendations were needed. That meeting never happened, and Mr. Schroeder has refused to explain why not.

As the Times Union’s Larry Rulison has reported, the DMV commissioner could have faced at least a few questions about this when he appeared before this year’s joint budget hearings, but he managed to walk away from that session offering nothing more than a few platitudes about his agency’s commitment to safety.

Those seeking more rigor will be heartened by the efforts of state Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, and others to extend the life of the task force despite the apparent desire of Gov. Kathy Hochul and the likes of Mr. Schroeder to see this episode — deadly to people and deeply shameful to executive-branch agencies — wrapped up and filed away. Last month, Mr. Kennedy and the Transportation Committee he chairs approved legislation that would extend the life of the task force through 2025. At the same time, the committee advanced a series of bills responsive to the task force’s 2022 recommendations — a package the Assembly failed to advance last year. Ms. Hochul has said she supports those measures but doesn’t see the need to extend the task force’s lifespan.

Well, if extending the task force’s mandate through the end of 2025 is such a hassle, how about at least allowing for the one final meeting that Mr. Schroeder promised in advance of the IG’s damning report about his agency? The state has plenty of conference rooms standing empty on most business days, and we have no doubt that most of the panel members — including those who lost loved ones to fly-by-night operators and sloppy state enforcement — would be happy to cover their own transportation costs.

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Dunkirk Evening Observer. February 3, 2024.

Editorial: NEW YORK STATE: Brooks-TLC needs Hochul’s answer

Late last week, state Gov. Kathy Hochul made a stop in Buffalo to announce major funding for Western New York projects. Some of the initiatives announced included a $400 million AI consortium at the State University at Buffalo, nearly $20 million for three communities — including $4.5 million for Gowanda.

Overall, it was an exciting day for the region. Except for maybe Brooks-TLC Hospital System.

As the institution enters into its eighth year of waiting for a promised $70 million for a new facility, the state continues to show the money for numerous efforts that have very little history.

Brooks-TLC, however, just sits on the sidelines — and waits.

“It is time to right the wrongs of the past, and we are doing so by continuing our commitment to re-building and uplifting the communities around the state.” Hochul said in her stop last week in Buffalo. “These investments will help to revitalize our beautiful downtowns, create jobs to support the local economy, and provide New Yorkers with more opportunities and options for a fulfilling life ahead.”

One of the “wrongs” that needs to be corrected revolves around one of this region’s health-care facilities that serves some 70,000 residents from Brocton to Evans. The $70 million that has been set aside has, unfortunately, become a bad soap opera.

Our region has been patient through all this. There is growing support from community leaders for the build to take place.

New York state and Hochul need to make it happen — now. Otherwise, the delay — and empty promise — will be her legacy to an area she always said she fully supports.

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Wall Street Journal. February 2, 2024.

Editorial: Hochul Can Stop Another NYPD Assault

Migrants are freed in New York City after beating cops. It’s time for the Governor to fire the Manhattan district attorney.

The latest news from Gotham is that five migrants who allegedly assaulted a pair of New York City cops last weekend were arrested, charged with assault, and then released on their own recognizance. This should be a wake-up call, but then again these kinds of stories grace the New York Post all the time without changing politicians’ behavior.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is at least criticizing the decision to let the suspects go. “I’m looking to judges and prosecutors to do the right thing,” she said, according to NBC. “We have changed bail laws. We have different laws now as a result of what we did in 2022, in the 2023 budgets, and we’re seeing a decline in repeat offenders.”

What else could she do? Well, she could move to fire Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “The governor may remove any elective sheriff, county clerk, district attorney or register,” the New York state constitution says, “but before so doing the governor shall give to such officer a copy of the charges against him or her and an opportunity of being heard in his or her defense.”

Ms. Hochul knows this and has parried the idea before. “This individual has only been on the job a very short time,” she said in January of 2022. “I’m not prepared to undo the will of the people.” How long a tenure is long enough to see that Mr. Bragg is failing to protect New Yorkers from criminals?

The assault of the NYPD officers happened at about 8:30 in the evening near the lights of Times Square, not in the dead of night in some far-flung corner of the city. The New York Post talked to locals and visitors around the migrant shelter there. “There’s drug dealing almost all day long,” one worker said. “Tables with watches set up. You see stolen clothes coming in. At night you see fights going on in the street.”

Or here’s more testimony. “It’s a joke,” said the manager of a building nearby. “There’s no incentive for cops to make arrests because these guys don’t go to jail and there’s no incentive for these guys to stop selling drugs.” Mr. Bragg has a progressive ideological mental block, but the people of New York understand the problem, which isn’t all that complicated. Whose side is Ms. Hochul on?

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The Associated Press