Hank Gross

Hudson Valley Correspondent
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WHITE PLAINS – The Westchester County Board of Legislators Monday night authorized the county to reserve 50 percent of the county’s almost $7.9 million federal funds for use by local municipalities for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.

Legislature Majority Leader Peter Harkham said the measure, when signed by the county executive, would allow eligible municipalities to submit spending proposals that would use Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds to implement Green Community Program projects for properties.

KINGSTON – Proposal Number One on this year’s ballot pertains to a constitutional amendment that would allow casino gambling in New York State.

State Senator John Bonacic, (R, Mount Hope) as chairman of the Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering is more intimate with the issues than most other officials.  Bonacic outlined the proposed amendment and detailed the ramifications at the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Kingston Thursday morning.

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MIDDLETOWN – An increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums and pension costs for city employees will make it tough for Middletown to develop a 2014 budget, Mayor Joseph DeStefano said. But, he is optimistic that he will be able to bring in a spending plan under the state’s 1.66 percent tax cap.

DeStefano put much of the blame on state officials.

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POUGHKEEPSIE – Dutchess County government’s financial picture is better than last year’s, but not as good as it was prior to the recession in 2007. That word came Thursday from county Budget Director Valerie Sommerville, who briefed the Budget and Finance Committee of the county legislature.

Sommerville told lawmakers the expected economic recovery has not been as rapid as anticipated.

POUGHKEEPSIE – Steven Rector, the acting Dutchess County Human Resources commissioner, is County Executive Marcus Molinaro’s choice to be full commissioner.  Rector has been “a trusted adviser for a long time,” the county executive said.

Rector was his legislative director for two years when Molinaro was a state assemblyman.

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ALBANY – Legislation that would prohibit smoking outdoors on the grounds of hospitals and residential healthcare facilities has been signed into law by the governor.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D, Suffern), prohibits smoking outdoors including within 15 feet of a building entrance or exit or within 15 feet of the entrance to or exit from the grounds.

At residential health care facilities, patients or guests of patients, will be allowed to smoke outdoors in a designated smoking area.

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WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D, NY16) wants to know why gasoline pump prices, which appeared to have stabilized and even dropped slightly earlier this summer, have risen again.

Lowey notes that oil company profits continue to climb at a time when people holding minimum wage jobs cannot afford to drive to work.

The House member said part of a solution is to require higher gas mileage on automobiles.

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KINGSTON – As the clock keeps ticking, the likelihood of the governor calling a special session of the legislature diminishes and that means any hope of passing legislation to allow Ulster County to keep its sales tax at its current level fades.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill said if it does not make it before lawmakers this fall, it will come up early next year. But, county officials say they need the one percent sales tax exemption ASAP or the county will lose about $5 million in revenue.

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POUGHKEEPSIE – Democrat current and past staff of the Dutchess County Board of Elections have charged that the 46 felony count indictment against Democrat Elections Commissioner Frances Knapp was “politically orchestrated” by the Republican Party.

An email electronically signed by Victoria Perry, Knapp’s current deputy, and Daniel French, her former deputy, as well as Kim Ferese, Ira Margulies, Steve Gold, David Gill, Kelly Hetrick, Devon DeFiore, Alida Ransom, Debbie Tierney, Ron Tice, Laura Weinel and Beth Sweeny, was sent from Perry’s personal email account.

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ALBANY – Hudson Valley Assembly Members Frank Skartados (D, Milton) and Didi Barrett (D, Hudson) have expressed their concern over a rate hike at Metro-North train station parking lots.

The two lawmakers wrote to MTA and Metro-North officials saying the hikes are unfair to families, especially those struggling to make ends meet.

They said the rate hike and an earlier recent one, “create an unfair burden for Hudson Valley families who rely on the MTA,” said Barrett.

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