Monday, January 30, 2023

Local leaders call on Gov. Hochul to crack down on ‘sticker stores’

Finger Lakes Daily News
State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats), Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning), and Assemblyman Chris Friend (R,C-Big Flats) on (January 12) joined regional law enforcement representatives and other local leaders to call on Governor Kathy Hochul and the Democrat leaders of the State Legislature to approve legislation and crack down on the proliferation of businesses, commonly known as “sticker stores,” illegally dispensing and selling marijuana throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide.

O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend currently sponsor legislation (S9365/A9815, Note: This legislation is being reintroduced and will receive new bill numbers for the 2023 legislative session) that, if enacted, would strengthen existing law, outlaw sticker stores, and establish criminal and civil penalties for violators. Any civil penalties collected by the state would be remitted to the county of the violating establishment.

They called on Hochul and the Democrat leaders of the Senate and Assembly to immediately enact the legislation.

In a joint statement, O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend said, “New York State needs to stop the proliferation of illegal marijuana ‘sticker stores’ throughout the region we represent and statewide. These illegal operations diminish the quality of life and risk the safety of the communities and neighborhoods where they operate. New York State is establishing a legal and appropriately regulated network of adult-use recreational marijuana dispensaries, with all the necessary safeguards. While we opposed the legalization of marijuana from the outset, if it’s going to go forward, it needs to take place under a legally established system with the appropriate oversight. We need to make it clear that these illegal sticker stores cannot operate and that there are criminal and civil consequences for any owners who continue to do so.”

Calling on Hochul to step up state efforts to shut down the illegal operations, including the enactment of the legislation they sponsor, the area state legislators were joined in Watkins Glen today by the following regional law enforcement representatives and local leaders: Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey; Schuyler County Administrator Fonda Chronis; Schuyler County District Attorney Joe Fazzary; Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman; Schuyler County Legislator Phil Barnes; Chemung County Sheriff William Schrom; Chemung County Executive Assistant District Attorney Wayne Witherwax; Chemung County Legislator Bill McCarthy; Steuben County Sheriff James Allard; Steuben County Legislator Hilda Lando; Tioga County Sheriff Gary Howard; Tioga County District Attorney Kirk Martin; Penn Yan Police Chief Thomas Dunham; and Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Opioid distributor Teva to pay up to $116,000 in settlement with Schuyler County

A major drug distributor and its subsidiaries will pay Schuyler County up to $116,000 to settle claims it contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis in that county, under a resolution approved by the Schuyler County Legislature at a special meeting.

Meeting on Monday (January 23), the legislature voted unanimously to accept the settlement and authorized Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to execute the necessary legal documents.

According to the resolution, distributor Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and its subsidiaries (Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., the Actavis Generic Entities, and Anda, Inc.), agreed to the settlement with the county in exchange for being released from a pending lawsuit filed by the county, as well as later claims brought by the New York State Attorney General’s office.

The agreement calls for Teva to pay the county over seventeen annual installments, with payments expected to begin later this year, Getman said.

According to Getman, the settlement funds can be used for a variety of purposes.

“Potential uses include supporting police and first responders, treating opioid addiction, funding social services and similar anti-drug efforts,” Getman explained.

The agreement also commits Teva to critical injunctive relief, Getman noted, including:

• A ban on high-dose opioids and prescription savings programs;
• Prohibitions on marketing opioids and funding third parties that promote opioids;
• Restrictions on political lobbying; and
• Disclosure of Teva opioid product clinical data.

The motion authorizing Getman to accept the settlement was made by County Legislator Phil Barnes (R, Watkins Glen) and seconded by Legislator Michael Lausell (D, Hector).

The Teva agreement is the latest opioid settlement Schuyler County has been a part of in the past five years. In 2021, the county legislature authorized Getman to accept up to $121,000 from Johnson & Johnson and up to $546,000 from distributors McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation to treat, reduce and prevent opioid use through a court settlement with the opioid maker. A similar agreement, for $41,000, was obtained from defendant Actavis, Inc. in early 2022. Like the Teva agreement, payments to the county are scheduled to be made over time.

The settlements stem from a 2018 lawsuit the county filed against approximately thirty defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. The lawsuit alleged the defendants had long known that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last-resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of opioids’ long-term use.

Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for fraudulent marketing practices.

After the counties sued, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office brought its own lawsuit on behalf of the state. In November, 2022, Attorney General Letitia James announced a tentative deal with Teva that will deliver up to $523 million to New York state to combat the opioid epidemic.

In October 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency due to the consequences of the opioid crisis facing the nation. That year, more than 70,000 individuals nationally and nearly 4,000 New Yorkers lost their lives to a drug overdose.

Schuyler County’s lawsuit against a number of other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come.

Said Getman: “One cannot put a price on lives lost and families torn apart, but with the more than $824,000 expected to be delivered to Schuyler County from these lawsuits, we can provide the County with financial assistance to continue this battle and hold these companies responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic.”

County Administrator Fonda Chronis agreed: "County officials have expended significant resources to help its residents battle opioid addiction and prevent further deaths. By voting to go forward with this settlement, the County Legislature hopes to lessen the burden to taxpayers for expenses related to the opioid crisis."

Schuyler County’s latest salvo in the fight against opioid companies comes shortly after the New York State Department of Health released its Quarterly Opioid Report for January 2023, showing a 14% increase in 2021 overdose deaths involving opioids compared to 2020. That report, comparing state totals for 2021 to 2020 data, noted a 14% increase in overdose deaths involving opioids, with 4,766 deaths statewide in 2021. The report notes that fentanyl has contributed to an increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years, is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, and is now involved in the majority of overdose deaths in New York State.

In November, Teva issued a statement describing the settlement as "enabling us to put these cases behind us and continue to focus on the patients we serve every day.”

Monday, January 23, 2023

New York enacts ‘right to repair’ bill for electronic devices

New York Daily News:
Finding ways to fix smartphones and other electronic devices will soon be a little easier for New Yorkers (under) a bill that will eventually require manufacturers to make diagnostic manuals, tools and other parts necessary for repairs available to the public and independent service shops.

The measure, considered the first so-called “right to repair” law in the country, will only apply to products made or sold after July 1, 2023.

The new law will cover digital electronic products, such as phones, tablets and IT equipment, and require companies provide access to the parts, tools and information needed to repair equipment.

Environmental advocates celebrated the legislative victory and said the new law will help reduce the threat from toxic chemicals found in many of the devices when they are prematurely discarded.

However, at least one “right to repair” advocate has declared that changes made to the bill by Gov. Kathy Hochul have rendered the law “functionally toothless”:
Right to Repair advocate Louis Rossmann has made a bitter YouTube video expressly saying that Governor Hochul's statement is "the exact opposite of what's going to happen with this bill because of how it was amended."

Central to Rossmann's argument is that the purpose of Right to Repair is to allow consumers to fix or replace individual components that have broken. As passed, he argues that the bill effectively allows companies free reign to declare a single component as unrepairable, and instead offer a costly assembly of several related parts.

"[The] manufacturer will tell you that when you have a bad $28 chip on your motherboard that what you need to do is replace the $745 Motherboard," he says.

For a complete copy of the new law, click here.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Ronald Reagan:
"Each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us -- if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King's dream comes true, and in his words, "All of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning. . . land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

(President Reagan, Coretta Scott King, Bob Dole and others at the signing ceremony for HR 3706 making the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday. 11/2/1983)

Monday, January 9, 2023

Civil Rights and Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: 2023 Disability Law Series

The New York State Government Law Center and the Institute for Aging and Disability Law are hosting the 2023 Disability Law Series: Civil Rights and Individuals with Developmental Disabilities.

The five two-hour forums will explore:

• January 12, 1 p.m.: Overview of Civil Rights and People with Developmental Disabilities
• February 9, 1 p.m.: Consent in Health Care Decisions
• March 9, 1 p.m.: Consent of Adults in Adoption and Marriage Decisions
• March 30, 1 p.m.: Challenges in Guardianship for People with Developmental Disabilities and Strategies to Address Them
• April 13, 1 p.m.: Protecting the Civil Rights of People with Developmental Disabilities: Potential Statutory Reforms
Each forum is free, open to the public, and will take place via Zoom. CLE credits will be available for practicing attorneys. Pre-registration is required.

For more information, including registration, click here.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Second Amendment Legal Update, January 2023

A monthly update, prepared for the Schuyler County Chapter of S.C.O.P.E. NY, a statewide 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the 2nd Amendment rights for the residents of New York State. For a complete copy of this month's report, click here.

Monday, December 26, 2022

New year, new laws: Legal changes affecting New Yorkers

Nexstar Media Inc. reports on a number of changes to legislation look out for in 2023:
• Social Security payments get a boost: About 70 million Americans can expect to see an increase in their monthly Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for 2023.
• Minimum wage is going up: Minimum wage will be jumping to $14.20 — up a dollar from $13.20 — for most upstate workers.
• New York’s Paid Family Leave Law is expanding: Federally, 1993’s Family and Medical Leave Act gives workers the right to take twelve unpaid workweeks off for a birth or adoption, for a serious health condition, or to care for a seriously ill spouse, child, or parent. 2023 brings siblings into the mix.
• E-waste recycling is getting cheaper: Starting January 1, most manufacturers who make or sell their own tech in New York State will now have to provide and pay for “free and convenient” e-waste recycling for New Yorker

Other changes going into effect include:

• New York Collegiate Athletic Participation Compensation Act: College athletes can receive compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness without the risk of having to give up their scholarships or eligibility.
• Telemarketing calls: This new law requires telemarketers to give customers the option to be added to their do-not-call list immediately after the telemarketer says their name and company.
• Lactation rooms in airports: The new law requires airports to provide a nursing space for breastfeeding mothers.
• Electric Vehicle Rights Act: Prohibits homeowners’ associations from preventing homeowners from installing EV charging stations on their properties.
• Pedestrian and bicyclist safety: This law requires new drivers to learn about pedestrian and bicyclist safety awareness as part of their pre-licensing course.
• Polling places: This law allows registered voters to cast their ballot at the wrong polling place as long as they are in the correct county and State Assembly district.
• Brianna’s Law: Beginning January 1, 2023, those born on or after January 1, 1983 need the boating safety certificate to operate mechanically propelled boats.

Monday, December 12, 2022

New York State Bar Association sues to raise assigned counsel pay

New York State Bar Association Commences Lawsuit To Raise 18-B Rates
Through this legal action, the New York State Bar Association is seeking a pay rate of $158 per hour retroactive to Feb. 2, 2022 in the 57 counties outside of New York City for what is commonly referred to as 18-B lawyers. Pay has remained at $60 per hour for misdemeanors and $75 for felonies since 2004. By comparison, assigned counsel rates in the federal courts in New York in those same years have been raised 14 times to the current rate of $158 per hour.

“The New York State Bar Association has long supported sufficient pay for assigned counsel,” said Sherry Levin Wallach, president of the association. “Failing to provide adequate compensation for representation to children and indigent adults is a flagrant violation of the U.S. and New York State constitutions.”

“Rates have only been increased once in 35 years, which is a travesty. While we welcome the higher rates in New York City as a result of Justice Headley’s decision, it should be applied statewide. There is now a significant discrepancy in pay across the state for assigned counsel resulting in attorneys not being able to accept court appointed assignments. Ultimately, it is the clients — children and indigent adults — who suffer because their constitutional rights are not being protected,” she said.

The failure to raise rates in 18 years has led to fewer attorneys who are willing to take on the cases. Those who remain are overburdened and don’t have sufficient time to devote to each case.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Second Amendment Legal Update, December 2022

A monthly update, prepared for the Schuyler County Chapter of S.C.O.P.E. NY, a statewide 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the 2nd Amendment rights for the residents of New York State. For a complete copy of this month's report, click here.