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George Pataki Super PAC Opens Office In New Hampshire

By Freeman Klopott, Bloomberg News (TNS)

The super PAC headed by George Pataki opened an office in New Hampshire Thursday, as the former three-term New York governor considers a run for president.

Pataki, a Republican, also has formed a steering committee composed of civic leaders and elected officials in New Hampshire, which will hold the first presidential primary early next year, according to an emailed statement from We the People, Not Washington, his political action committee.

He said the members of the committee share in his goals to reduce the size of government, simplify the tax code and allow people their individual freedoms.

“New Hampshire is in the spotlight every four years and with their help we can put this agenda in the spotlight, too,” Pataki said in the statement.

Pataki, 69, has traveled to the Granite State more than a half-dozen times since September. Earlier this week, he said it’s a good bet that he’ll formally declare his candidacy. He also considered running in 2008 and 2012.

Photo: iprimages via Flickr

New York’s Heastie Set To Lead Assembly As First Black Speaker

By Freeman Klopott, Bloomberg News (TNS)

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Assemblyman Carl Heastie of the Bronx, a former budget analyst, is poised to become the chamber’s next speaker after winning a Democratic battle to replace Sheldon Silver.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle of Rochester, considered a leading contender, threw his support behind Heastie on Friday. He joined almost all the New York City Democratic delegation, which controls more than one-third of the 150-member Assembly. Heastie, 47, would be first black lawmaker to hold the post, one of the most powerful positions in the state.

“I have the utmost confidence in his ability to unite our members and move the institution forward,” Morelle said by e- mail. “He will have my full support.”

Morelle has been leading the chamber’s Democrats since Silver’s Jan. 22 arrest on federal corruption charges. Silver held the post for 21 years before he was delivered a Jan. 27 ultimatum by his party to resign or face ouster. Cathy Nolan, an assemblywoman from Queens, remains in the race, though almost all the Assembly members from her borough are backing Heastie.

Morelle is set to become interim speaker Feb. 2, when Silver will either resign or be forced out. A vote to permanently replace him has been scheduled for Feb. 10.

As speaker, Heastie will have to calm an Assembly jarred by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation into the legislature, which led to Silver’s arrest on allegations that he ran two separate kickback schemes for 15 years, netting as much as $6 million. He’ll also face the immediate challenge of negotiating the budget before a March 31 deadline with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican.

Silver, who has said he’ll be exonerated, kept his hold on the Assembly in large part by playing the tough deal-maker. The 70-year-old liberal stalwart has helped Cuomo, also a Democrat, win over a chamber whose members don’t always agree with the governor’s limits on spending and worker benefits.

Before being elected to the Assembly in 2000, Heastie was a budget analyst for the New York City’s comptroller’s office. He also heads the chamber’s Labor Committee. In 2013, Silver designated him as the point man for successful negotiations to raise the minimum wage.

Photo: Paul Sableman via Flickr

Ebola Aid Workers Said To Get Protections In Cuomo’s New York Budget

By Freeman Klopott, Bloomberg News (TNS)

NEW YORK — Governor Andrew Cuomo will propose a bill of rights for health-care workers and volunteers returning to New York after treating Ebola victims in Africa that’s designed to protect them from housing, credit and other discrimination.

The plan will be part of the fiscal 2016 budget that Cuomo is set to introduce Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the governor’s plan who asked not to be identified. It will also include a measure to cover the costs of lost wages for workers placed in 21-day quarantines, provided they aren’t already receiving help from their sponsoring agency.

Another change would protect the jobs and benefits of those who fight the deadly virus overseas, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the plan.

The proposals would expand and codify into law policies Cuomo laid out in October after Craig Spencer, a New York City emergency-room doctor who had been treating Ebola in Guinea, was diagnosed with the virus after returning home.

“Public health in West Africa and the public health in New York are interconnected and both must be addressed,” Cuomo, a 57-year-old Democrat, said at the time.

The day before showing symptoms of the disease and being rushed to the hospital, Spencer went bowling, rode the subway and took an Uber car. His pre-symptom movements prompted the administrations of Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s to issue 21-day quarantine orders for anyone who was in the presence of infected people — even if they were wearing protective gear.

U.S. government officials have been struggling to calm fears of contagion while not penalizing aid workers who venture to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which have been at the center of the epidemic.

The deadly scourge began in December 2013 in a remote area of Guinea, near the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone. Since then, Ebola has sickened more than 21,000 people in eight countries and killed 8,468, according to data released by the World Health Organization on Jan. 16.

At the time the governors’ quarantine orders were issued, they differed from those released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which required quarantines only for those exposed to the virus. Ebola is spread only through direct contact with bodily fluids.

Both Cuomo and Christie were criticized by health-care groups and President Barack Obama, who said the governors’ tougher quarantine requirements would discourage aid workers from traveling to the region.

Cuomo said the strict guidelines were warranted for the New York City metro area, where the density of the population and reliance on public transportation could help the disease spread more quickly.

The New York governor, who started his second term Jan. 1, said the protections for aid workers and the salary subsidy for those quarantined would continue to encourage their work abroad.
Bloomberg reporter Jason Gale in Sydney contrinbuted to this report.

Photo: Pat Arnow via Flickr