News from our elected representatives

Attorney General Letitia James announces $62.5 million in settlement credits for Spectrum customers

Attorney General Letitia James

Attorney General Letitia James announced that Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) has started to issue credits to New York consumers as required by Charter Communications, Inc.’s Dec. 17, 2018 settlement agreement. The settlement agreement resulted from an action brought by the Office of the Attorney General alleging that the company failed to deliver customers the reliable and fast internet service it had promised.

Under the terms of the settlement, Charter is required to issue monetary relief to qualified subscribers and offer video streaming services, described below, at no charge. In all, qualified subscribers will receive $62.5 million in bill credits. Subscribers do not have to fill out any paperwork to obtain the credit, but must contact Spectrum to receive the streaming services.

“Today, New Yorkers will start to receive the tens of millions of dollars and additional services owed to them due to the company’s failure to provide quality services to its customers,” said James. “In issuing the largest-ever consumer payout by an internet service provider, my office is proud to set a higher standard for the way that internet providers accurately market services.”

Spectrum will also offer the following streaming services to approximately 2.2 million current internet subscribers at no extra charge:

Current subscribers who subscribe to both internet and cable television from Spectrum will have a choice of either three months of HBO or six months of Showtime. (Note: This benefit is available to subscribers who do not already subscribe to both of the offered services through Spectrum.)

Internet-only subscribers will get one month of Spectrum TV Choice streaming service—in which subscribers can (depending on their location) access broadcast television and a choice of 10 pay TV networks—as well as access to Showtime for one month.

Consumers will have until May 30, 2019, to select the no extra charge premium services they want. Consumers should call Spectrum at 833.422.8795 for further information.

James wants to ensure that all eligible subscribers are able to receive the no cost streaming services; we encourage subscribers to share their experience redeeming the offer by completing this survey.

Current internet service subscribers who leased a DOCSIS 2.0 modem on a tier of 20 Mbps or higher or an 802.11n wireless router on a tier of 200 Mbps or higher, or who subscribed to a legacy Time Warner Cable plan of 100 Mbps or higher (as of Feb. 1, 2017) will receive a credit of $75. Further, subscribers who leased a DOCSIS 2.0 modem on a tier of 20 Mbps or higher for 24 months or more will receive an additional credit.

Brindisi meets with Upstate New Yorkers struggling with cable rate hikes, slow internet speeds; doubles down on commitment to hold companies accountable

Brindisi bill would require cable and internet companies fined by a public service commission to report to FCC

Continuing his work to hold Charter/Spectrum accountable, Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) held a roundtable in Binghamton to hear from NY-22 residents about challenges they have experienced with their cable and internet providers. Brindisi recently introduced a bill, the Transparency for Cable Consumers Act, to improve transparency and hold cable and internet companies accountable.

The TCCA will require companies fined by a state public service commission to file an annual report with the Federal Communications Commission, providing details on what they charge consumers, what broadband internet speeds they provide and other information. Brindisi has heard from thousands of constituents unhappy about frequent rate hikes and poor customer service.

“We’ve heard from small business owners, seniors, farmers and families frustrated with the service they receive from their cable and internet providers,” said Brindisi. “Crawling internet speeds can take away people’s connection to jobs, health care, information and important online services. It’s not just an inconvenience; it hurts our way of life.”

“My cable bill recently went up a lot, and I am extremely frustrated with my cable provider, Spectrum,” said Laura Lutz of Binghamton. “I have trouble understanding how telecommunications companies are able to regularly raise rates on their customers with no advance warning. I’ve reached out to Congressman Brindisi’s office on this issue and am glad he is taking action to make them more accountable.”

In New York state, Charter Communications was fined $2 million after the company failed to meet its obligation to expand broadband by its required deadline. Broadband internet is crucial to economic development and vibrant communities; 80 percent of Americans without high-speed broadband live in rural communities.

In January, Brindisi demanded the FCC outline its plans to hold Charter/Spectrum accountable and the steps it will take to ensure Upstate New Yorkers finally have access to affordable high-speed broadband. In response to his letter, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote that the FCC may impose additional sanctions and conditions should the FCC find that Charter is failing to meet its obligations to expand broadband access.

Brindisi also co-sponsored the ACCESS BROADBAND Act (H.R. 1328), bipartisan legislation to improve the federal government’s management of broadband resources. The bill would establish a dedicated government office to track the federal dollars given to cable companies, expand broadband access and streamline the application process for local governments seeking funding for broadband expansion.

Brindisi taking NY-22 voices to Congress; Agriculture Advisory Council made up of local farmers, agriculture partners; helps guide congressman’s work on House Agriculture Committee

Brindisi committed to solving real challenges facing rural New Yorkers

Joined by members of his Agriculture Advisory Council, Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) recently announced his upcoming rural agenda and his priorities on the House Agriculture Committee.

Brindisi’s plan, “Working for Rural New York,” focuses on solving problems rural New Yorkers face including supporting local farmers and producers, investing in infrastructure and rural broadband and improving health care for rural New Yorkers.

“From Windsor to Sandy Creek, rural New York is made up of hardworking men and women who know how to solve problems and get things done,” Brindisi said. “Too often, however, our rural communities are left behind by a broken system that puts politics over solutions.  From lack of broadband access to skyrocketing health care costs, it’s time to finally address the real challenges rural New Yorkers face.”

Brindisi held his first Agriculture Advisory Council meeting in Cortland. The body is made up of dairy farmers, farm bureau members, apple producers and other agriculture partners who help guide Brindisi’s work on the Agriculture Committee and in Congress.

“I am pleased to serve on Congressman Brindisi’s Agriculture Advisory Committee,” said Victoria Giarratano, executive director, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County. “It is important to communicate with our federal elected officials the needs and challenges that our local farmers and producers find important to their economic vitality. Cornell Cooperative Extension works to strengthen agriculture and food systems throughout the region and to support agribusinesses through our research-based, integrated, food systems platform.”

“Our local agriculture is paramount to our wellness, and positive economic impact for Upstate New York,” said Mark Bordeau, senior food service director, Broome Tioga BOCES. “I am pleased that Congressman Brindisi recognizes the importance of our agriculture community and has a newly formed advisory committee, consisting of a diverse group of members, to assist in developing the direction of policy.  I am humbled to have been asked and look forward to participating in this important committee’s discussions.”

“It is important that youth be represented on the Ag Committee for we are the future of agriculture,” said Chelsie Fuller, current Tioga County Dairy Princess. “There needs to be a strong commitment to youth development in Agriculture. It is equally important that farmers, lawmakers, and educators promote a positive image of dairy and all agriculture.  We also need to ensure government does not regulate farmers out of existence.”

Following first Veterans Advisory Council meeting, Brindisi announces “Serving Upstate New York Veterans” plan

“Serving Upstate New York Veterans” supports rural New York veterans, improves health care, increases economic opportunity, connects veterans with resources, services

Brindisi working in congress to deliver results for the nearly 50,000 veterans in NY-22

Joined by members of his Veterans Advisory Council, Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) announced his veterans agenda and priorities on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Brindisi’s plan focuses on delivering results for Upstate New York veterans by improving veterans health care and access to care for rural New York veterans, increasing economic opportunity for veterans, and connecting veterans with the resources and support they need.

“One of our most important duties as Americans is taking care of those who bravely fought for our freedoms and way of life,” Brindisi said. “Almost 50,000 men and women across New York’s 22nd Congressional District answered the call to serve, and they deserve access to the best jobs, education, health care, and community services.”

Congressman Brindisi held his first Veterans’ Advisory Council meeting; the council is made up of veterans service officers, Military Officers Association of America members, family members and caregivers to veterans who help guide Brindisi’s work on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and in Congress. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is known as one of the most bipartisan committees in Congress.

“Food insecurity among our veteran and active duty population is staggering,” said Rich Synek, founder and executive director of Feed Our Vets in Utica. “There have been many organizations and media outlets that have done stories on this issue to no avail with the Veterans Administration.  I appreciate the opportunity to be a voice for our veterans with the Veterans Advisory Committee.”

“One of the main goals of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 944 is to have a Veterans Cemetery in our region,” said Thomas Buono, President, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 944 of Utica. “We need this final resting place for our local veterans.  I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this and other important issues as part of the advisory committee.”

“My interests in this committee’s work is based on the past 10 years of helping and watching my son navigate the VA medical system,” said Kathleen Rinaldo, Board of Directors member, Veterans Outreach Center in Utica. “I am eager to contribute to the discussions and learn from others as a member of the committee.”

Gillibrand, Senate colleagues call on king of Saudi Arabia to immediately release political prisoners

Many political prisoners held by Saudi government, including American citizen Walid Fitaihi, are held on dubious charges or without a fair trial for long periods of time

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) with eight Senate colleagues, announced their call for the king of Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally release prisoners held by the Saudi government. Reputable international organizations have detailed the arbitrary detention of political activists and peaceful dissidents, some sentenced through political trials and others held without trial for long periods of time. This includes Walid Fitaihi, an American citizen and Harvard-trained physician who has been imprisoned since November 2017 and who has been reportedly tortured. Along with Fitaihi, the Senators also called for the release of writer Raif Badawi, human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair and women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Samar Badawi, among many others.

“The brutality of the Khashoggi killing and Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, as well as the continued detention of political prisoners threaten not only Saudi Arabia’s regional role but also the future of the U.S.-Saudi relationship,” the Senators wrote to King Salman.  “We will continue to closely watch Saudi action—or inaction—on human rights as Congress considers measures related to the Middle East. Our shared interests must be underscored by support for basic values and freedoms, as anything else will not be sustainable.”

In their letter to Salman, the Senators also raised their concerns about the Saudi government’s systematic human rights abuses, including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Senators called for a full accounting of the murder by Saudi authorities.

Along with Senator Gillibrand, the letter to King Salman was also signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Brindisi meets with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson during visit to Rome Lab (w/2 PIX)

Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) met with United States Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson as part of her visit to Rome Lab. Brindisi released the following statement after the meeting:

“One of the first things I did as a member of Congress was go to Rome Labs and meet with Col. Lawrence for an update on the innovative, groundbreaking work they are doing in New York’s 22nd congressional district,” Brindisi said. “After my visit, I invited Secretary Wilson to come to Rome Lab, and I am grateful she was able to join us today.

“Rome Lab’s work is critical to our country’s safety and security, and they are a huge driver of our local economy, bringing good-paying, competitive jobs to our region. I look forward to continuing to work with the Air Force and Rome Lab to ensure they have the resources and support they need to continue their critical research and keep our country safe.”

May passes Finger Lakes Community Preservation Act

Senator Rachel May

Finger Lakes bill S2270 to prohibit the siting of new incinerators in the Finger Lakes region passed Senate and Assembly. Senator Rachel May (SD-53) successfully passed the Finger Lakes Community Preservation Act (62-0, unofficial) to prevent the construction of any new incinerators in the Finger Lakes Region. The bill was co-sponsored this session by Senator Helming (SD-54).

The Finger Lakes Community Preservation Act prevents a waste-to-energy facility from receiving approvals if it poses risk to public health and safety within an environmentally sensitive area; is within 10 miles of a priority waterbody which is a critical source of drinking water, a tourism driver and has vulnerabilities to harmful algal blooms; is within a thriving agriculture-tourism region; or is within 50 miles of a state approved landfill of other solid waste management facilities.

“The Finger Lakes are just outside my district, but pollution and natural beauty don’t adhere to political boundaries,” May said. “I was happy to partner with Senator Helming to ensure that we are protecting our state’s natural beauty. The Finger Lakes region is home to thriving wine country, beautiful and productive farmland, and drinking water sources for many of our cities and towns across Upstate. It is vital that we work collaboratively to ensure our natural resources are cared for and we are protecting our growing local economies from large outside corporate interests.”

The bill is retroactively effective Feb. 1, 2018, ensuring that the bill will not apply to any facility in operation as of that date.

10 Republican county chairs endorse Baker, Blaise & Masler for three state Supreme Court judge seats in 2019 election (w/3 PIX)

This week, the Republican County Chairs of the 10 counties comprising the Sixth Judicial District met to formally endorsed Oliver Blaise, III, Chris Baker and Mark Masler in this year’s election for three open spots for the New York State Supreme Court. The Sixth Judicial District encompasses all of Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga and Tompkins counties.

Blaise, 47, is a partner at Coughlin & Gerhart in Binghamton and has been an attorney for more than two decades, serving as general or litigation counsel to municipalities, fire districts, fire companies and school districts. He has performed trial and appellate work in municipal and commercial cases, intellectual property, real property and personal injury litigation in state and federal courts and administrative agencies.

The part-time Republican election commissioner with the Broome County Board of Elections, Blaise and his wife Dalya are parents of four children, and he is active with United Way and Sertoma Club in Binghamton.

“The decisions made in State Supreme Court can affect everyone who lives and works in the 10 counties of the Sixth Judicial District, and residents need an experienced and capable judiciary serving them,” Blaise said. “I will be a fair, effective and responsive judge, and work to meet the highest standards of judicial service needed for our region.”

Judge Chris Baker, 49, serves as a Chemung County Court Judge and Acting State Supreme Court Justice. Since taking office in 2016, Judge Baker has presided over thousands of cases covering all aspects of the law. Prior to being elected to County Court, he served as the Confidential Attorney, Counselor and Principal Law Clerk for State Supreme Court Judge O’Shea, whom he is running to succeed. He was born and raised in Elmira, and lives with his wife, Karen, and their two sons on the same street where he grew up.

“State Supreme Court is one of the most critical positions in our legal system, having a direct impact on the lives of countless New Yorkers every day,” said Baker. “I’m honored to have the support of the ten Republican Chairs and their respective County Committees as I run to serve the people of the Sixth Judicial District.”

Born in Broome County, Mark Masler went to Cornell University where he studied agriculture and earned a degree in business management. After college, Mark and his wife Bernice operated a family dairy farm for seven years. Masler graduated from Cornell Law School in 1993, before embarking on a 25-year legal career. He was formerly a partner at Harris Beach PLLC and currently serves as the attorney and principal law clerk to Justice Phillip R. Rumsey. Masler and Bernice have lived in Cortland County for 35 years. They have four children and one grandchild.

“Serving as a Supreme Court Justice requires an understanding of the job, but also the ability to be fair and impartial,” Masler said. “I believe that my experience of working closely with Justice Rumsey for over 10 years as his attorney and principal law clerk is the best preparation to succeed him. I have gained knowledge of the entire range of subjects considered by the Supreme Court by assisting him with all aspects of the work of the court, including the conduct of jury trials and by drafting over 900 decisions.

“I’m grateful for the support of the ten Republican County Chairs and their respective committees, and look forward to working with them over the course of this campaign to ensure we are successful on election day.”

Three seats for State Supreme Court in the Sixth Judicial District will be on the ballot in this year’s election due to the retirements of Judges Ferris Lebous of Broome County, Judith O’Shea of Chemung County and Phillip Rumsey of Cortland County.

The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 5.

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