Editorial Roundup: New York

 New York Post. May 15, 2024. Editorial: Stop letting the skeevy legal lending industry make bank off New Yorkers It’s time to crack down on the skeevy lending practice that’s draining New Yorkers’ wallets. It’s good news that a coalition of business, labor and government groups are calling on state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and city [[{“value”:”

New York Post. May 15, 2024.

Editorial: Stop letting the skeevy legal lending industry make bank off New Yorkers

It’s time to crack down on the skeevy lending practice that’s draining New Yorkers’ wallets.

It’s good news that a coalition of business, labor and government groups are calling on state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and city Comptroller Brad Lander to look into whether state pension funds may be supporting third-party litigation funding (TPLF) — and urging divestment if they do.

But more needs to be done: The shady, unregulated industry needs to be reined in hard.

Even in cases where a plaintiff has a legitimate complaint, this racket isn’t much better than loan-sharking: Investors offer cash advances to cover living expenses and other costs while a lawsuit settlement is pending — and then charge sky-high interest rates of up to 200% if the plaintiff wins.

The most vulnerable plaintiffs, who can’t cover bills while they wait for a payout, are the most likely to take this raw deal.

And there’s plenty of evidence that such lending also encourages frivolous lawsuits by offering plaintiffs who don’t have a strong case (and the law firms that go out of their way to find people willing to sign onto bogus lawsuits ) a win-win situation: If the lawsuit fails, plaintiffs pay nothing.

This raises conflict-of-interest concerns — as lawyers might be tempted to prioritize investors’ interests of over plaintiffs’ when considering a settlement — and national-security concerns, as foreign actors could use TPLF to tie up US businesses in lawsuits or try to access industry secrets through discovery.

And if that’s not enough, New Yorkers are paying through the nose for this practice: The increase in lawsuits has sent insurance costs through the roof, which is passed onto consumers.

Look at real estate, where such lawsuits have created “a general liability crisis” that has driven up the cost of building, warns Brian Sampson, president of Associated Builders and Contractors, which in March joined the Real Estate Board of New York in supporting reforms proposed by state Sens. Leroy Comrie and Jessica Ramos that would attempt to rein in litigation lending.

That’s not the only way third-party litigation funding is costing New Yorkers: It also encourages lawsuits (however flimsy) against the city: Settling cases fueled by cash advances could be costing taxpayers upward of $7 million per year.

It’s hardly a surprise that business leaders and city workers alike would prefer that state pensions don’t contribute to a parasitic cottage industry that makes big bucks by squeezing businesses, municipal budgets and regular New Yorkers.

Pull this leech off New York.

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Jamestown Post-Journal. May 14, 2024.

Editorial: Illegal Marijuana Sales A Problem With No End In Sight

State Taxation and Finance officials have conducted numerous adult use cannabis inspections in Jamestown and Ellicott.

So far, they’ve only cited one business, a smoke shop on East Second Street that state officials found were selling illegal adult-use cannabis.

We have no doubt there are more shops selling cannabis illegally. We also have no doubt there is still a thriving black market for marijuana. There are too many people in the Jamestown area using marijuana for the sales to be coming from legal shops that largely don’t exist here yet.

Stop us if you’ve heard this before – there are two problems the state has to deal with. The first is getting its legal market up and running, in a way that competes with the less expensive and less regulated unlicensed sellers. The second is protecting its legal market by eradicating the black market. Since the black market has existed for decades despite the threat of police action, we don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Why do people drive to Salamanca, Steamburg, Onoville or Irving for gas and cigarettes? The products are cheaper. It’s worth the inconvenience if you can save enough money to make the time investment worth your while.

The governor and her minions can talk all they want about cracking down on pot dealers that operate without a license. Just like bootleg alcohol and moonshine runners during Prohibition, as long as there is money to be made selling products people want, there will be an illegal market. Letters, visits from the government and fines will merely be a part of doing business – because it’s still cheaper than living within the structure the state has set up for marijuana sales.

We’ve seen a few news releases regarding illegal marijuana shops in Jamestown. They won’t be the last.

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Dunkirk Evening Observer. May 13, 2024.

Editorial: STATE: Increase penalties on child manslaughter

Society cannot prevent the maltreatment of children no matter how hard it tries.

Not even a veritable army of Child Protective Services workers would be enough to be able to prevent the abuse inflicted on some children by the adults in their lives.

Knowing that we cannot prevent adults from shirking their responsibility to care for the children in their care, we agree with Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Schenectady, that those who cause the death of a child should face a tougher penalty.

Last week – only weeks after a Jamestown man allegedly caused the death of an 16-month-old child in his care – Santabarbara introduced A.10066. The bill will increase manslaughter crimes that result in the death of a child from a Class B or Class C felony to a class A-1 felony, ensuring such cases receive the maximum sentence under state sentencing guidelines.

“This bill ensures that those responsible for neglect or abuse leading to the death of a child must face the toughest penalties and full accountability under the law,” Santabarbara wrote in his legislative justification.

Children can be challenging. Parenting or caring for young children is stressful and difficult at times. But there should be no acceptable display of frustration or stress that results in the death of a child. Adults who break the bond of trust with a child placed under their care should face a higher level of criminal charge.

With all that said, we hope there is something missing in our society. Too often new parents or caregivers find themselves in over their heads with little idea or training on how to handle a child properly. Part of prenatal care or post-birth care has to be to help parents protect their children.

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Albany Times Union. May 15, 2024.

Editorial: Uncap this bottle bill

Raising fees is a smart step the Legislature can take to address growing crisis in plastic pollution

Without a doubt, plastic pollution has proliferated beyond what the crafters of the state’s original 1982 Bottle Bill could have imagined.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the single-use beverages we consume, accounting for about 150 plastic bottles per person annually.

New York, to its credit, has long had the Bottle Bill, a bottle and can redemption program that most hail as the most effective anti-litter program in state history.

Unfortunately, the state Legislature has for too long left the industry to fend for itself. It is estimated that more than 100 recycling and redemption centers have closed in recent years, largely due to the lack of a handling fee increase since 2009.

That handling fee comes out of the collection of the 5-cent container deposit, which hasn’t been raised since 1983 when the first containers started being recycled. Deposit fees are passed on to consumers in the purchase price of beverages, but those who redeem the containers get that money back.

The Legislature has the opportunity to raise the deposit fee to a mere 10 cents, which would allow the handling fee to also rise.

If the deposit fee is increased, consumers who redeem their containers would still get their whole deposit returned to them. Unclaimed deposits go to the state.

The state-licensed facilities that accept redeemable beverage containers — known as recycling and redemption centers — have been begging for this increase for years, and converged on the Capitol in January to make the case that the increase from 3.5 cents to 6 cents would save the industry.

Opponents of the recent push, including labor leaders, have argued that the increase could impact consumers’ choices since items might cost more, which might mean fewer purchases, which in turn might mean job losses. Given the number of polls that show overwhelming majorities of New Yorkers support efforts to reduce plastic pollution and that a failure to raise the handling fee will definitely impact the jobs in the redemption industry, this argument doesn’t hold water or any other beverage.

We have no doubt that some members of the Legislature are worried any cost increase might be seen as a de facto tax increase that might affect their reelection chances. That perception seems woefully shortsighted: Would they rather be seen as proponents of increased litter from unredeemed containers, or fans of job losses as redemption centers continue to fold?

In addition to costing jobs, closed redemption centers would result in fewer locations for consumers to redeem and recycle beverage containers. And that leads to greater chances for more litter — especially plastics.

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Oneonta Daily Star. May 15, 2024.

Editorial: Feed the needy, not the dumpster

Poverty and food insecurity are two words rarely uttered outside non-profit board rooms and hunger coalitions, but for those people in the counties which lie in our coverage area who struggle with food insecurity (Feeding America estimates 12 to 13%), those words impact every moment of their lives.

The reality is, though we may live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there lies a paradoxical truth many choose to ignore: while many go hungry, mountains of food and goods are wasted daily.

It’s time for a change — and local retailers can do be the ones to do it.

Restaurants, retailers and big box stores possess an untapped potential to alleviate poverty and foster community well-being by redirecting surplus and slightly damaged goods away from the landfill and toward those in need.

The scale of food and product waste is staggering.

Recently, TikTok users have gone as far as dumpster diving to highlight the issue. Chains such as Home Depot, Bath and Body Works, Michaels, TJ Maxx, Ulta Beauty, Dunkin Donuts and many others are notorious for trashing unsold items.

And so our readers who may have seen this on social media are aware, dumpster diving may be legal in New York state (with some caveats), but trespassing is not. It is also dangerous. Please don’t do that.

To be fair to our local businesses: we have received no reports of our local chain stores participating in this practice and we want to make that clear. We hope they are choosing a more responsible disposal method and are keeping sustainability in mind.

In the United States, it’s estimated that around 30 to 40% of the food supply is wasted, amounting to about 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food each year.

What if we could turn that waste into a lifeline for those struggling to make ends meet?

Restaurants and grocery stores can partner with local food banks or charities to redirect surplus food to those in need. Instead of letting perfectly edible food items or unsold apparel rot in dumpsters, they can be redistributed to shelters, community kitchens, the Salvation Army or directly to individuals facing food insecurity and poverty. By doing so, businesses not only reduce waste but also provide vital nourishment and much-needed clothing to the most vulnerable members of society.

Businesses can go beyond traditional forms of donation by investing in sustainable initiatives that empower individuals to lift themselves out of poverty. For instance, instead of discarding unsold produce, retailers can donate vegetable-producing plants to community gardens or low-income households to nurture back to life. Oneonta already has a community garden in place. Perhaps it’s time to expand the garden to allow local garden clubs to grow in free plots for produce donation.

Of course, implementing such initiatives requires a concerted effort and collaboration between businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies. We hope this writing will move them to do just that.

At the end of the day, while many are wondering how they will afford coats, shoes and food for their children, it is clear that us there is a solution. It is also clear we are doing this to each other.

The time has come for businesses to recognize their role in addressing the pervasive issue of poverty. By donating surplus goods, investing in sustainable initiatives, and collaborating with local communities, they have the power to transform waste into opportunity and make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who need it most. It’s not just a moral imperative — it’s a chance to build a brighter future for everyone.

END

The Associated Press

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