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New traffic tolls among issues N.Y. lawmakers will address in 2019

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Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins laughs with Sen. Michael Gianaris, her new deputy, left, after being named as state Senate majority leader during a news conference at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol Wednesday where for the first time in a decade, Democrats will control both the Assembly, Senate and governor's office.  (Will Waldron/The Albany Times Union via AP)

ALBANY, N.Y. — Legalized marijuana, sports betting and new traffic tolls in Manhattan are just some of the measures Democrats believe they can push through the New York Legislature in a 2019 session that begins this week with their party in control of both chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in a decade.

Lawmakers swept into office in a backlash against President Donald Trump’s plan to fight back against his policies on immigration, the environment and healthcare, while also seeking to catch up to neighbors such as Massachusetts, which has already legalized marijuana, and New Jersey, which has approved sports betting.

Other items on their wish list include expanding state health care programs, codifying protections for abortion rights, reforming antiquated voting laws and eliminating cash bail for criminal defendants.

“People will finally get the government they have been voting for for so many years,” predicted Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers, the first woman to lead a legislative body in New York.

First up when lawmakers convened Wednesday may be the Child Victims Act, a long-debated bill that would extend the statute of limitations for child molestation and create a one-year window for victims to sue over old abuse claims now barred by the statute of limitations. The measure has repeatedly passed the state Assembly only to be blocked by the Senate’s Republican leaders under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church.

Cuomo wants to include marijuana legalization in the state budget, due by April 1, a remarkably short time frame for such a complicated issue. Regardless of what form legalization may take, many lawmakers want a phased-in approach similar to the one adopted in Massachusetts, where personal possession and cultivation of marijuana were legalized long before the first retail shops were allowed to open.

Approving new congestion tolls for New York City will be just as politically challenging. Supporters, including environmental groups, transit advocates and even local chambers of commerce, argue that new surcharges on vehicles entering the busiest parts of Manhattan are the best way to discourage driving while raising billions to repair and modernize the city’s subways. Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports the idea. But the details — how high will the toll be, will local commuters and small businesses get a discount? — could undermine the push.

Riders and transportation advocates say Albany must find some way to fund subway repairs or else the nation’s largest city will have to live with a system that has fallen far behind its peers in other global cities.

“New York City’s subways are falling apart. Service disruptions and frequent delays have become all too common, contributing to what has become a daily nightmare for many of New York City’s riders,” said Jaqi Cohen, of the Stranghangers Campaign, a coalition of subway riders.

The six-month session is likely to test Cuomo’s certitude and the sincerity of lawmakers who now have the chance to enact policies they’ve spent years talking about. Last year’s elections sent a wave of new, liberal lawmakers from New York City to Albany, where they may butt heads with Capitol insiders and more moderate lawmakers from the suburbs and upstate. Cuomo may find himself in the middle, forced to balance the ambitions of liberals with the realities of governing a state with 20 million people and a $168 billion budget.

And don’t forget the Republicans, who promise to do what they can to force the governing party to the bargaining table. That includes GOP senators still smarting from November’s defeat.

“Even though Senate Republicans now make up the minority of this chamber,” said Sen. John Flanagan, the Republican minority leader, “our voice on issues important to hardworking middle-class families will be more critical than ever.”

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Bendix Spicer Bowling Green brake plant receives platinum wellness award

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Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake recently received a Platinum Award from the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville. Left to right are Andria Keating, BSFB health and wellness coordinator; award presenter Jim Frazier, vice president of medical affairs for Norton Healthcare; and Matt Schwartz, chair of the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville. (Courtesy: BENDIX SPICER FOUNDATION BRAKE)

ELYRIA, Ohio — Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake (BSFB) has always been committed to helping employees and families improve their health and wellness at work, at home and in retirement.

Through its efforts to continually improve its resources for employee health, the BSFB Manufacturing Plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, recently received a Platinum Award from the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville for exceptional commitment to employee well-being, integration of wellness into the workplace culture, and exemplary leadership in managing employee benefits.

The council’s annual conference, which took place last month, recognizes organizations in Kentucky that strive to create cultures of health through wellness policies and programs. Each employer is assessed according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Worksite Health ScoreCard, which helps organizations review their health promotion programs to find gaps and prioritize the prevention of chronic conditions.

To earn a Platinum Award, the highest distinction, employers must meet stringent requirements, such as demonstrating management support, program variety, and community engagement, and reaching targeted improvement levels. The recognition is often given to previous award recipients honored earlier at the bronze, silver or gold levels.

Thanks to its inventive health efforts, Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake received the top award as a first-time honoree, according to .

Among its contributing efforts, Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake was recognized for partnering with the Kentucky Cancer Program and the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center in an innovative workplace health initiative. The partnership received a grant to cover the cost of qualified employees’ lung health screenings and participation in the Kentucky Cancer Registry. In addition, the grant helped to provide educational posters, classes on screenings, and radon prevention programs.

“We are proud to continue Bendix’s long-standing commitment to the well-being of our employees,” said Andria Keating, health and wellness coordinator at the Bowling Green facility. “The rate of lung cancer in Kentucky is one of the highest in the United States. Through our partnerships with distinguished cancer centers in the state, we hope to give our employees the resources and education they need for early detection and prevention.”

In earning a Platinum Award, the company also scored with distinction on the CDC Worksite Health ScoreCard, based on the success of its well-rounded wellness efforts. Those efforts are driven by the Bendix Be Healthy program, aimed at making healthy living easier and more convenient for employees and their families by emphasizing prevention and early detection of health issues, and support of employees seeking care. Bendix Be Healthy focuses on biometric screenings, preventative screenings, health fairs, tobacco cessation, weight management, lifestyle changes, emotional well-being, and financial wellness.

The vibrant wellness program in place at the Bowling Green facility is part of an active, multifaceted, employee-focused company culture that combines opportunities to learn, grow, and participate in health and wellness, community volunteerism, and employee team-building activities.

 

 

 

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Woman charged with attempted murder after truck-driver fiancé fired

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Natalie Williams, 32, is facing attempted murder charges, police say, after allegedly shooting several times at her fiancé’s former employer and his family at a truck stop parking lot. (Photo courtesy: SLIDELL POLICE DEPARTMENT)

SLIDELL, La. — A 32-year-old woman was charged with attempted murder after a shooting incident at a truck stop on Friday that is believed to have occurred in reaction to the woman’s fiancé being fired from his job as a professional truck driver.

The incident occurred at a TravelCenters of America truck stop just off Interstate 10 in Slidell, about 3 miles northeast of Lake Pontchartrain.

According to local reports, Slidell Police said they received several 911 calls at about 2:30 p.m. about a woman shooting at people in the truck stop parking lot. When they arrived they quickly found Natalie Williams, a resident of nearby Mandeville, hiding in a wooded area near the truck stop.

Police also found a couple that told them Williams had shot at them and their 1-year-old son. According to the police report, the man told them that he owned a trucking company and he had met up with Williams and her fiancé in the rear parking lot at the truck stop, where he had fired Williams’ fiancé for poor job performance and informed them that he was evicting them from the 18-wheeler.

The man told police that Williams then went to the truck, got a gun and started shooting at him, then fired several shots into the cab of the truck he arrived in and in which his fiancé and the child were still seated.

Police said no one was injured in the shooting.

According to St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office records, Williams remains behind bars as of Tuesday, with bail set at $150,000.

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Michigan Democrat wants businesses, trucks to pay more for road repair

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Michigan House Minority Leader Christine Greig says new ideas need to be brought to the table for how to fund road repairs in the state. She and her colleagues have introduced a proposal that would increase corporate taxes and institute a 6-cents-a-mile tax on heavy trucks and a bridge toll on tractor trailers. (AP: David Eggert)

LANSING, Mich. — With state Republicans lawmakers firmly opposed to a 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax hike, Democrats want businesses to do more to help fix the state’s roads.

A new $1.2 billion proposal from House Democrats would raise the state’s corporate tax, create a new 6-cents-a-mile tax for heavy trucks and charge bridge tolls to tractor trailers. It also includes portions of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget plan, such as raising taxes on certain businesses so they are taxed the same as traditional corporations and restoring tax breaks for pensioners.

House Minority Leader Christine Greig said Democrats agree with the Democratic governor’s call for $2.5 billion in new revenue and know that a fuel tax increase would likely be part of any final deal.

“We just felt it was important that we brought other ideas in since we haven’t seen anything other than a shell game and shifting around revenue from the Republicans, but yet they’ve said that they’re not going to support a 45-cent gas increase. So let’s put some new ideas on the table to get us to the $2.5 billion,” she said Friday.

By releasing the plan, Democrats risked looking like they oppose Whitmer’s fuel tax hike, which Republicans, who control the Legislature, have said is going nowhere and which Democrats have not introduced as legislation. Greig said Democrats are “100% supportive” of generating new revenue and their proposal is based on feedback from constituents.

“We just think that if you’re really struggling to a negotiation, that implies that you bring a bunch of different ideas and come up with a compromise,” she said.

Some in the business lobby have said raising gasoline and diesel taxes is simple and fair because everyone pays, including companies that move goods or have employees on the roads. But Greig said what they pay is not “proportionate.”

“To attract business, to attract talent, to keep our communities strong that support businesses, we have to have good roads and bridges,” she said, noting that businesses saw a $1 billion-plus tax cut under a 2011 overhaul enacted by Republicans. “Since that happened, we’ve seen our roads and infrastructure deteriorate. We’ve seen our ranking in schools drop nationally. So something is not right. To put this all on the backs of individuals is shortsighted.”

Increasing the 6% corporate income tax to 8.5% and raising taxes on flow-through entities, Greig said, would lead to businesses paying $800 million more annually — but still less than they were before the 2011 change. Assessing a vehicle-miles-traveled tax on the two heaviest classes of trucks would generate $390 million from those who cause the most road damage, she said, while the bridge tolls — based on a unique program in Rhode Island — would raise about $50 million.

Road-funding and budget negotiations are expected to extend into the summer as legislators scale back their voting days starting this coming week.

Greig urged the business community to “come to the table and say, ‘We will accept contributing more directly to the solution.’”

Republicans and business groups oppose raising business taxes, however, saying lower taxes help the economy. To soften the impact of a 45-cent gas tax increase by easing the tax burden on seniors, Whitmer has proposed boosting taxes on 150,000 corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies whose income is passed through to the entities’ owners and taxed at the personal rate of 4.25 percent. The Senate’s Republican leader has called it “stupid.”

So far, the main component to emerge from Republicans’ road-funding work is a budget plan in the House that would ultimately ensure $850 million in sales tax being collected at the pump goes to roads, without raising taxes. The revenue now primarily is dedicated to schools and municipalities.

Greig said it is “confusing” that a portion of fuel taxes funds other priorities and she has no problem “cleaning up revenue streams.” But new revenue should be generated to replace it, she said.

“They’re not doing that. That’s the problem,” she said. “We’re basically doing it on the backs of local governments and kids, frankly.”

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