The battle for New York’s 19th Congressional District has focused on Republican Rep. John Faso’s vote last year to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and a fierce dispute over how the House Republicans’ bill would have affected health premiums for older enrollees and coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
At least four TV ads with that theme have hit the airwaves in the last two weeks, two from Democratic groups that say the GOP proposal – which the House passed but never became law – would have let health insurers raise premiums for customers over 50 and refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Both feature video of a poignant moment in which Andrea Mitchell, a constituent who had survived a brain tumor, confronted Faso and demanded he defend the Affordable Care Act’s protection for people like herself with pre-existing conditions.
Faso hugged Mitchell and said, “I promise” – a pledge that his challenger, Antonio Delgado, and Democratic groups contend he violated by supporting the Republican repeal-and-replace bill.
(The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee attributed the decision to campaign donations, saying in a commercial that Faso “sold us out for thousands in corporate contributions.”)
Faso fired back with his own ad on Wednesday, accusing Delgado and “his liberal allies” of repeating misleading claims about an “age tax” (state law in New York would have prevented insurers from charging older customers more) and suggesting their tactic was meant to conceal Delgado’s support for single-payer health care.
“What’s Delgado hiding?” the ad asks. “He supports moving to a government healthcare plan that would eliminate employer paid coverage.”
Faso had an earlier ad in which his wife, Mary Frances, talked about her own battle with cancer and says, “John knows first-hand how important healthcare is for families. The truth is he voted to guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and to protect seniors on Medicare.”
Mitchell weighed in with her own web video responding directly to Faso after his campaign said the Republican health bill wouldn’t have jeopardized her coverage because she’s enrolled in Medicaid.
She gives an emotional account of her health struggles, how the Affordable Care Act helped her and how its repeal would imperil her care.
Basile wants tax relief where power plants close
Republican Senate candidate Tom Basile proposed Thursday that the state fund $200 million a year to provide tax relief to school districts and municipalities that have lost revenue or been forced to pay settlements because a power plant closed or won a court case to cut its tax bills.
Basile invoked the closure of the coal-fired Lovett power plant units in Stony Point in 2007 and 2008, and a tax challenge by the plant’s owners, Mirant, that he said had forced the North Rockland School District to repay Mirant $12 million a year in past taxes.
The state forced Mirant to close the plant because of its air pollution.
“New York’s failed energy policies have decimated our tax bases in so many areas,” Basile said in a press release.
“Albany’s tax and regulate agenda has seriously cost Haverstraw and Stony Point residents and has left us with land that generates pennies-on-the-dollar compared to its previous tax levy.”
Basile, a Stony Point councilman who’s running for the 39th Senate District seat that Bill Larkin is vacating, said that school districts and municipalities that get state grants through his proposed fund would have to lower their tax levies by an equal amount.
Districts and municipalities could apply for state funding equal to the amount of their debt payments to the power plant owner, plus the amount of revenue they lost when a plant’s assessment was lowered.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan supported the idea in Basile’s press release. “This is a serious issue on Long Island with the LIPA tax certiorari decision and it is a problem that is impacting more and more areas throughout the state,” he said.
“The North Rockland School District taxpayers have borne the brunt of this problem and the state needs to step in and address this issue now to help alleviate this massive burden.”
The head of the North Rockland Teachers Association issued a scathing response to Basile and Flanagan, saying that Assemblyman James Skoufis, the Woodbury Democrat competing with Basile for the 39th Senate District seat, pushed for aid for North Rockland this year and was blocked by Senate Republicans.
“We see this for what it is, a con job trying to get votes in November,” association President Debbie Brennan said in a press release.
“Assemblyman James Skoufis, on the other hand, has been a champion on this issue and a willing partner in trying to help our schools and taxpayers. He has been working on legislation that would resolve this issue sustainably, only to see it blocked by Sen. Flanagan. Republican Tom Basile would be more of the same.”
Planned Parenthood slams Basile for GOP attack mailer
Planned Parenthood went after Republican Senate candidate Tom Basile last week for a campaign mailer that accuses Democratic opponent James Skoufis of supporting a “radical expansion of abortion” for voting for the Reproductive Health Act as an assemblyman.
The group called the claims in the mailer from the New York Republican State Committee a smear against “commonsense legislation preserving Roe v. Wade’s protections for our state’s women.”
“James Skoufis knows that politics has no place in the exam room,” Robin Chappelle Golston, chairwoman of Planned Parenthood Empire State Votes PAC, said in a press release.
“While Tom Basile has the luxury of ignoring the reality of our reproductive health care, our state’s women do not. We don’t need extremist politicians spouting falsehoods rather than protecting Roe v. Wade and women’s lives. The simple fact is control of our reproductive health care and rights is absolutely essential to women.”
The Democratic-controlled Assembly has passed the Reproductive Health Act each of the last two years, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports it, but the Republican-controlled Senate has stopped it in committee.
It could become law next year if Democrats win a Senate majority in November elections – a prospect that Democratic candidates have used to help make their case to voters.
The bill would replace a 1970 law that predated the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision by three years and that legalized abortion in New York up to the 24th week of pregnancy.
The new version would allow abortions beyond that pregnancy stage if “there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”
It would move the abortion right to the health code instead of the penal code, where it was inserted in 1970 as an exception to homicide.
The GOP mailer against Skoufis warned that the bill would “allow late-term abortions up to the moment of birth.”
On the other side, it showed a photo of a newborn’s feet and asked, “Regardless of your position on abortion, can’t we all agree that late-term, partial-birth abortions are wrong?”
Planned Parenthood’s response says that while 90 percent of abortions take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, serious complications can arise at any stage, for which women need access to abortion.
“Implying that women and their medical providers would thoughtlessly make the deeply personal decision to end a pregnancy is insulting as well as completely erroneous,” the statement read.
Candice Giove, a Republican campaign spokeswoman, said in an emailed response on Thursday that “James Skoufis and Planned Parenthood know that Roe is the law of the land in New York, and they know that in 2016 the state’s Attorney General wrote a legal opinion validating that. The only thing that’s extremist is Skoufis’ support of the Reproductive Health Act, which goes beyond the parameters set by the landmark Supreme Court Case by allowing non-doctors including, nurses, nurse practitioners and doulas, to perform abortions from 24 weeks up until the moment of birth.”
Republicans also object that moving the right to abortion out of the penal code would prevent authorities from charging someone for killing a fetus by assaulting a pregnant woman.
Planned Parenthood New York State Votes PAC said by email: “Because our state law was written 3 years prior to Roe, our law falls short of the constitutional protections of Roe which affirms access to care to preserve both a women’s life and health. It also places the regulation of abortion in the penal code. Abortion is health care, not a crime, and therefore it should be treated as such.”
The organization said only 1.2 percent of abortions in the U.S. take place after 21 weeks of pregnancy, citing a 2013 statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As for allowing health-care workers other than doctors to perform abortions, it said that the medical field has changed since 1970, and that early abortion care is within the scope of professional practice for licensed and trained nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed midwives.
“Removing the outdated physician language from the penal code would clarify that physicians and APCs can provide early abortion care within their competency and licensure,” the statement read.
“This would ensure that women, especially those in rural areas and low-income women, have greater access to safe and early abortion care.”