Cuomo Orders State-Run Health Insurance Exchange

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has decided not to wait on the legislature to establish a state-wide health insurance exchange. He’s started the state-run operation through an executive order.

Federal law requires a centralized place for people to buy health insurance as part of president Obama’s national healthcare law. New York could lose Federal funding if action isn’t taken, or the Federal government will set up an exchange on its own.

The governor claims the exchange will reduce the cost of coverage for individuals and small businesses.

New York’s legislature has been hesitant to set anything up, or make commitments to an exchange while Obama care is being challenged in US courts.


Walton Man Arrested After Fleeing Police

A Walton man is has been arrested after a bizarre chase through the countryside.

Delaware County Sheriff’s deputies noticed a car on State Route 357 near the village of Franklin last evening with no front license plate.

Deputies allege they attempted to stop the car, and 23-year old David E. Hopkins drove his car backwards to flee, hit a mailbox, turned around and headed for Interstate-88 toward Oneonta and would not stop.

State troopers used devices called stingers thrown in the road to deflate Hopkins’ front tires and stop him.

He’s been charged with reckless driving and a number of other traffic violations, along with leaving the scene of a property accident, and no front plate. No explanation has been given for his flight.

Hopkins was sent to the Delaware County correctional facility in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Olive Bans Hydrofracking

Another upstate New York community has decided there will be no hydrofracking for natural gas within its borders.

The Ulster County town of Olive, near one of New York City’s reservoirs, has voted to ban high-volume hydrofracturing.

The practice is already banned by New York State law, but the town board is reported as wanting to take a stand on the issue. Olive joins 50 other local governments within new york state to forbid hydrofracturing.

Hydrofracking Under Environmental Review

NYS is currently conducting an environmental review and researching a regulatory process before deciding on how and where the practice may be allowed.

Fifteen environmental groups have presented the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation with a petition. They’re asking the state to disapprove of a proposal to use liquid propane for hydrofracturing. They want an extensive study on the procedure before companies begin.

The groups are calling on a full environmental impact statement for the procedure, which injects liquid propane into the ground instead of water and chemicals to free up natural gas trapped in shale.

Energy companies in Tioga County have proposed using propane, which is already used in other regions. There has been no formal application to start the drilling process, but the DEC says the LPG operation is already covered under a 1992 study of oil and gas wells.

Silver Wants State Minimum Wage Hike

Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will hold public hearings on his proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage soon. He wants to hike the hourly rate from $7.25 an hour to $8.50, and he wants to attach the minimum wage rate to the consumer price index, allowing the pay scale to rise and fall with inflation.

The only hearing in central New York will be held in Syracuse at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24th, at City Hall.

Two other meetings are scheduled later in the month in Buffalo and Manhattan.

Silver and assembly supporters of a higher minimum wage want to hear comments on the proposal before proceeding with legislation. There is no support for the idea in the Republican-controlled Senate.

State Parks to Receive Repair Funding

There’s money in the state budget to fix up some of New York State’s parks.

There’s $89 million in a fund for capitol projects within the the state parks system.

The Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest and most-visited park. It’s will receive $25 million to fix things up for its 8-million visitors per year.

The Jones Beach State Park on Long Island will receive $33.6 million for repairs, two parks in New York City will get nearly $10 million, and $5 million will be spent to fix a leaky pool at the Rockland Lake State Park that’s very popular with visitors from New York City.

Two dozen parks across the state will share nearly $13 million dollars.

New York’s parks system has suffered from a lack of care over the last few decades. Officials say there’s another billion dollars worth of repairs and upgrades that still need to be done. A number of parks were threatened with closure two years ago because of budget cuts.

Chenango County Hospice Seeks Volunteers

If you can spare a couple of hours a week, Hospice of Chenango County is offering an opportunity to join in a 24-hour course on death and dying that focuses on the emotional and spiritual aspects of terminal illness. Volunteer coordinator Kendall Drexler says they have created a legacy program where hospice patients can record messages for their family.

Hospice volunteer training begins April 30 and runs from 5:30-8:30 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday through May 23. If interested, call Kendall Drexler at least two weeks before the starting date to have a pre-training interview. Call Hospice at 334-3556.