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Warren County Democratic Chairwoman Lynn Boecher said it is unfortunate that U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand did not break through in the Democratic presidential field because she was a strong candidate.

“She’s tenacious. I think she’s tough. I think she has the necessary grit that’s needed to call out what’s wrong, but she’s a pragmatist. I think she knows how to come across the table to find solutions,” Becher said.

Gillibrand quit the race after she failed to qualify for the next Democratic debate. Candidates needed to reach 2% support in four national polls or polls in early primary states and achieve 130,000 unique donors. Gillibrand did not achieve either benchmark.

Boecher cited Gillibrand’s work in making sure the 9/11 first-responders got their medical care. That was one of seven bills that Gillibrand told a recent Democratic picnic that she sponsored or co-sponsored that have been signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Boecher said she believes that Gillibrand should have highlighted that fact.

Boecher said it was difficult for Gillibrand to get traction. She had banked on being the voice of women and focusing on women’s issues, but there were six other women in the race.

Boecher is glad that the senator bowed out after she saw the handwriting on the wall, and she said she believes Gillibrand has grown with the experience.

“It had to be pretty bittersweet,” she said. I think her voice will strengthen now in that she’s off the 20 on the stage.”

“Fifteen of the 20 on the stage need to get the hell off the stage,” Boecher added.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, issued a statement about Gillibrand’s departure from the race, saying: “Senator Gillibrand is a great talent, a rising star in the Democratic Party and a good friend. The people of New York are fortunate to have her back full time.”

Political discussion series

SUNY Adirondack and Crandall Public Library are partnering for a monthly reading and discussion series titled “Politics and Community Today” beginning on Sept. 18.

The series focuses on books that explore the American identity and put the current political climate into context, according to a news release.

Wendy Johnston, associate professor of political science, will serve as facilitator. The series is part of the “Democracy in Dialogue” project, which is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The schedule is as follows:

  • Sept. 18: “Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education” by Danielle Allen at 12:30 p.m. in Room 128 of Bryan Hall on the SUNY Adirondack campus.
  • Oct. 7: “Indecision” by Benjamin Kunkel at 12:30 p.m. in Room 202 of Adirondack Hall on the SUNY Adirondack campus.
  • Nov 4: “Between Past and Future” by Hannah Arendt at 6:30 p.m. in the Holden Room at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls.
  • Dec. 16: “The Book of Daniel” by E.L. Doctorow at 6:30 p.m. in the Holden Room at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls.
  • Jan. 22: “The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison,” edited by John Callahan, at 12:30 p.m. at SUNY Adirondack (location to be determined).

Copies of the books for this series are available to borrow from the SUNY Adirondack Library and Crandall Public Library. Participants are encouraged — but are not required — to read the books before each event.

For more information, contact Wendy Johnston at 518-832-7729 or johnstonw@sunyacc.edu.

Surprise medical bills

A so-called “dark money” organization called Doctor-Patient Unity has been running radio commercials asking U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, not to support any legislation combating surprise medical bills that would place a limit on the amount of money health care providers can charge to out-of-network patients.

Customers incur these bills because their provider is not in their health insurance company’s network.

Doctor-Patient Unity has spent at least $2.3 million worth of television commercials targeting senators. The group was formed in July in Virginia and does not list its members, according to Open Secrets.org.

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The group says: “We advocate on behalf of doctors and patients for their right to determine the appropriate medical care without the influence of insurance companies,” according to its website.

Senators are currently reviewing the Lower Heath Care Costs Act, which would set the rates for which providers would be reimbursed for out-of-network emergency care. Hospital and physician groups oppose the legislation, according to Open Secrets.

Stefanik is an original co-sponsor of the Protecting People from Surprise Medical Bills Act. The legislation prohibits health care providers and insurers from billing patients for unanticipated care for which they are not covered, according to a June 27 news release from Stefanik. It also would make patients be responsible for only cost sharing. The bill would also provide a fair arbitration and negotiation process for disputes on medical claims modeled after New York state’s arbitration dispute model.

“Unfortunately, having health insurance coverage does not fully protect Americans from surprise medical bills,” Stefanik said in a news release. “Access to quality health care is already an issue for many North Country families, and being inundated with surprise medical bills only adds to the frustration of our health care system. This bipartisan bill not only prohibits extra billing, but it implements a transparent and fair arbitration process for any billing disputes with providers or insurers. I’m proud to cosponsor this bill and continue my record of advocacy for affordable and accessible health care in our region.”

Cobb criticizes Stefanik donor

Democratic NY-21 congresssional seat challenger Tedra Cobb issued a news release last Tuesday highlighting the fact that Johnson & Johnson is a contributor to Rep. Stefanik’s campaign. The company was ordered by an Oklahoma judge to pay $572 million to settle claims that its opioid products got people addicted.

Cobb called on Stefanik to return the $45,500 she says she has taken from opioid manufacturers and distributors.

“Families in Northern New York are struggling to combat addiction and are desperate for help,” Cobb said. “We have some of the highest opioid death rates per capita in New York state and instead of finding ways to help these families, Elise Stefanik continues to side with drug manufacturers and their profits. She relies on them to fund her re-election bids at the expense of our families. Today, I am asking Stefanik to explain her votes against people who suffer from opioid addiction and to return any and all campaign contributions from those who profit from the opioid crisis.”

Cobb has pledged not to take corporate PAC money. Last month, she said Stefanik should return a contribution from Amgen, which agreed to a $25 million settlement for a Medicare kickback scheme.

Stefanik spokesman Lenny Alcivar did not return a message seeking comment.

Prisoner pay raise

Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, last week criticized Gov. Cuomo’s comments indicating support for a pay raise for inmate workers.

Cuomo was quoted in an Albany Times Union story saying he would be amenable to a higher minimum wage for inmates, who currently earn between 10 cents and $1.14 per hour.

Stec said there is already a bill in the Assembly introduced by a New York City legislator that would give inmate workers a cost-of-living adjustment every five years.

“Hardworking middle-class New Yorkers are being taxed out of the state they love, and this is the type of issue that the governor decides to focus on,” Stec said in a news release. “He is truly misguided and out of touch. Under this administration, we have focused far too much time on making the lives of convicted felons better rather than working to ease the tax burden of law-abiding residents.”

Stec said Cuomo should be focusing on fixing outdated infrastructure, lowering high taxes and improving the state’s outdated infrastructure.

Erin’s Law signed

Gov. Cuomo has signed Erin’s Law to help prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The law, which takes effect July 1, 2020, requires public schools to teach classes in kindergarten through eighth grade about preventing sexual abuse and exploitation. It is named after sexual abuse survivor and activist Erin Merryn.

The law mandates that the classes include practical and age-appropriate instruction on how to recognize the warning signs of abuse and exploitation and how to find help.

“Many children who have been a victim of these horrific crimes or who are still suffering from abuse don’t have the information or emotional tools they need to fight back,” Cuomo said in a news release. “By requiring schools to teach kids how to recognize and ultimately thwart this heinous behavior, we are giving our most vulnerable New Yorkers a voice and empowering them to protect themselves.”

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Michael Goot covers politics, business, Glens Falls and Lake George. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog at http://poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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