Statewide DWI crackdown planned for this weekend

Area police agencies will be participating in a statewide STOP-DWI Crackdown this weekend in connection with St. Patrick’s Day. State Police, county sheriff’s deputies, and local police will be out in force all weekend in an effort to reduce the number of drunk drivers. The St. Patrick’s Day weekend crackdown is one of many held across the state during holiday weekends. If you will be drinking this weekend, have a plan and don’t drink and drive.

Cuomo announces Paid Family Leave Program

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced the details of the state’s new paid family leave program, which will take effect in 2018. The law will provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees to take care of a new child, a close relative with a serious health condition, or relieve the pressures when a family member is called to active military duty. The program is mandatory for all private employers and will be fully funded by employees through payroll deductions beginning in July of this year. The paid family leave program will be phased in over the next four years, starting with a maximum of 8 weeks at 50 percent of your salary next year. By 2021, those numbers will increase to 12 weeks at 67 percent of salary. More information can be found on the program’s website:

Free fishing this weekend in NYS

Dust off your fishing poles and tackle gear because this weekend is free fishing days in New York. The almost annual Crappie Derby has been scratched again this weekend but that doesn’t mean no fishing in the Southern Tier. The first of several free fishing events in New York state is scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday. New York residents and non-residents are permitted to fish for free without a fishing license at any of the state’s 7,500 lakes and ponds or 70,000 miles of rivers and streams. The free Fishing Days began in 1991 to give people who might not fish a chance to try it at no cost, to possibly introduce people to a new hobby and to encourage people to support fishing by eventually purchasing a New York State fishing license.

NY Republicans announce legislation to help pay for college

Republican members of the New York Assembly unveiled a comprehensive bill package yesterday which they say would help state residents afford the cost of college and also set up a tax deduction for those paying back student loans. The proposal expands the existing Tuition Assistance Program by making more households eligible, increasing the maximum award, and making TAP available to graduate students. The “Affordable College for All” initiative would also offer a broad tax deduction to New Yorkers paying back student loans. The Republicans say the governor’s plan to offer free tuition would cost too much, not help those in private schools, and fail to lessen the burden on those struggling to pay back loans. The legislation will now be considered by the full Assembly.

NYSP issued more than 4,000 tickets during crackdown over Super Bowl weekend

New York State Police issued more than 4,000 tickets during a special STOP-DWI campaign over Super Bowl weekend. State Police increased patrols and conducted sobriety checks over a 38-hour crackdown from Saturday, Feb. 4 through the early morning hours of Monday, Feb. 6. In Troop C, which covers the Southern Tier, troopers issued 348 tickets including seven for DWI.

NY Senate approves ride-sharing services

The New York State Senate has passed a bill that would allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City. The senate legislation would collect less taxes than the governor’s proposal, taxing riders by 2 percent instead of 5.5 percent and get rid of a 4 percent sales tax on transactions. The new revenue would be used for infrastructure projects. Senator Fred Akshar voted in favor of the measure, saying ride-sharing services would improve the quality of life for the Southern Tier and give residents more job opportunities. The Senate bill would require background checks for drivers and zero-tolerance drug and alcohol polices. It will now be considered by the Assembly.

NY AG files lawsuit against Charter/Spectrum

Saying customers have been ripped off, New York’s Attorney General has announced a lawsuit against Time Warner Cable and new owners Charter Communications, saying they have not provided the Internet speeds that were promised to customers. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed the suit yesterday, saying that Charter and Time Warner have defrauded state residents since 2012 with Internet and WiFi speeds far below what was promised. His suit seeks restitution for 5 million subscribers and to force the company to make upgrades. Charter acquired Time Warner in 2015 and has rebranded the utility as Spectrum. They responded in a statement saying they have made substantial investments to improve equipment since taking over the company and are disappointed in the allegations.

Akshar announces Community Heroes Protection Act

State Senator Fred Akshar and others announced new legislation yesterday that will designate crimes against first responders as hate crimes if they are shown to be motivated by the victims’ profession. Akshar, a former undersheriff at the Broome County Sheriff’s Office, was joined by legislative colleagues and first responders in Albany to announce the Community Heroes Protection Act. Crimes committed against police, firefighters, EMS, or other first responders would be increased in severity if judged to be hate crimes according to the new legislation. For instance, if someone is accused of a Class D felony, but it occurred because the victim was a police officer, then that will automatically become a Class C felony under the proposal. It will now be considered by the state legislature.