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2013 NY Constitutional Admendments
First Amendment
Role of Government
Role of Law
Second Amendment

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Google Maps: Sales Tax Rates In New York

The average sales tax rate in New York State is 8.0%. Saratoga, Washington and Warren Counties have the state's lowest sales taxes at 7%. The highest sales tax upstate is Oneida County at 8.75%, the highest downstate is New York City at 8 7/8%, which includes the Metropolitan Transit Region surcharge of 3/8th of a percent.

Data Source: NYS Tax and Finance, Form 718, Sales Tax Rates by County and City.

I believe that democracy functions best when there is a wide variety of ideas, and that people are allowed to peacefully protest to communicate their views. Protest is an important part of our democracy, it allows people to communicate their message, and also provides a method of publicly venting frustration over dysfunction in government. In democracy, there are always winners and losers, and not everybody can get their way. But they can voice their opinions.

I dislike anybody who condemns either those who protesting for or against the removal of the General Robert Lee monument. Certainly there are arguments on both side of the monument debate. He’s a historical figure, a very successful general, who ended up fighting on the losing side of the war. Industrialization and the big cities of the north won. Slavery and the other agrarian traditions of the south lost. But he was joined by millions of other Americans that agreed with him, and in the south, succession was the widely supported choice. On the other hand, I can understand why many African Americans feel a monument to General Robert Lee is deeply offensive, and they would like it removed from their city. Many African Americans view the monument as a tacit endorsement of slavery, segregation, and other racist and outdated ideas. They are on the winning side of the battle; they got the local government to agree to remove it.

I’m not one to take stand on the issue, except to defend the right to protest. I get why the pro-statue and anti-statue activists are marching. I think it’s good that their voices are being heard, and the debate is being furthered. Many historical statues in our country are old and represented dated values, and we should reconsider their placement on our public grounds. Even long revered public figures have their flaws – indeed the Phillip Sheridan statue in Albany isn’t without it’s criticism. He burned whole villages, turned his forces against civilians and murdered whole tribes of Native Americans. We need more review of outdated statues in public places, with replacement with more contemporary figures that are closer to today’s values. Statues and the outdated values they represent shouldn’t last forever. I am certainly not against one participating in politics if they so choose. It’s important the public’s voice is heard in its governance. Certainly, the pro-statue position is not a popular one, especially in the north, when for so many generations people have been taught that the actions of the south were evil.

Protests shouldn’t be allowed to spill into violence. That’s why we have laws and police that enforce the laws that prohibit violence and punish those who engage in violence. But like it or not, protests often bring together angry minds, and sometimes violence occurs at protests. Police can’t break up a lawful assembly, and indeed they can only watch and discourage violence. Protesters do need to take a deep breath, follow the laws that are currently in effect, and peacefully protest. Every city has sidewalks, parks, greens, and other public spaces where like minded people can get together an assemble. When you take a stand on an issue, there is likely to be somebody on the opposition.

While protests go on, life in an city grinds on. Protesters should refrain from unlawful crossings and blocking of streets, and should they interfere with either pedestrian or motor vehicle traffic, they must either be asked to move or be prosecuted for disorderly conduct or other offenses. Protesters can not be allowed to stop traffic, especially when emergency vehicles need to get through. Protesters should not be allowed to block access to businesses, shops, medical facilities, or people’s homes. But they certainly can hold up signs, hand out literature, and inform people of consequences of the businesses they are choosing to engage in. I have no problem protesters with yelling at people who choose to shop at Walmart on Black Friday, military leaders, war veterans returning from Vietnam or those going to an abortion clinic. People have a right to get their message out, as questionable as it may be. 

Law enforcement has an important role to protect the right of peaceful protest, and to keep the peace. Some people, angry about the loud voices of the opposition may choose to violently attack their opposition. This is never acceptable. It’s the job of police to monitor protesters, to ensure they have an opportunity to get their voices heard while retaining all their protections of safety and well-being as provided under the law, and that ensure protesters have the opportunity to get their message out in a lawful way that doesn’t impact ordinary commerce of a city, beyond the rubbernecking of passing drivers and pedestrians.

Google Maps: Median Property Tax By County

A major cost of living in New York State is taxes. We have very high property taxes, but then again does much of New England. The median property tax bill in Albany County, NY is $4,200, while the median property tax bill in the mountain country of Webster County, WV is $268. In much of the south, especially away from the oceans and metropolitan areas, property taxes are much lower then in our area. You can understand why many people, especially seniors to choose to move to lower tax states.

Data Source: MORTGAGE STATUS BY AGGREGATE REAL ESTATE TAXES PAID (DOLLARS). Universe: Owner-occupied housing units, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

Gun ownership emerges as a divide, can shape political behavior, study finds

"While this 'gun divide' mimics growing partisan division in the country, it is more than that," said Mark Joslyn, professor of political science and the study's lead author. "Gun ownership may include an identity, a long-standing culture that shares identifiable traits and behaviors. The identity appears to have strengthened in recent years, and opposition to it has grown as well."

Joslyn said typically researchers looked at "what guns do," and therefore, past research has examined the association between crime and violence and the prevalence or availability of guns. However, Joslyn and his co-authors, as part of their recent study published in Social Science Quarterly, examined what guns mean to individuals and how this can shape political behavior.

"In addition, it appears non-gun owners are especially sensitive to recent polarization trends, favoring Democratic candidates in a substantially greater degree than in the past decades," Joslyn said. "So while we believe the electoral choices of gun owners is important, much of the increase in differences between gun and non-gun owners occurred because of the choices of non-gun owners."

Gun owners more likely to be politically active, says Pew Research Center

"In addition to the political implications tied to the issue, the Pew survey also revealed deep cultural divides on guns."

"About half of gun owners said all or most of their friends also own guns, compared to just 1-in-10 non-gun owners who said the same."

"And in the long-running debate over guns and crime levels, more than half of gun owners — 54 percent — said they think more Americans owning guns would reduce crime, while 23 percent of non-gun owners said the same."

"Mr. Gottlieb said gun control advocates are the ones looking to play up such divisions."

“This divide has been created by media and politicians who are hostile to gun ownership who use terms like gun violence epidemic when in fact crimes committed where guns are used is in fact down,” he said."

Rockefeller announces new peace proposal

"On July 13, 1968, Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, a Republican presidential candidate, reveals a four-stage peace plan that, he argues, could end the war in six months if North Vietnam assented to it. The proposal called for a mutual troop pullback and interposition of a neutral peacekeeping force, followed by the withdrawal of all North Vietnamese and most Allied units from South Vietnam; free elections under international supervision; and direct negotiations between North and South Vietnam on reunification."

Federal Funding Provided to NY State by Source

Medicaid matching grants and other funding is the largest part of federal assistance received by the state, totaling $33.5 billion or 63.2% of all federal funding. It is followed by Essential Plan Funding, which is the low-income insurance provided by the Affordable Care Act (aka "Medicaid Expansion Funding") at $3.75 billion or 7.0% of the state's federal funding. Next is TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, aka welfare, at $3.65 billion or 6.9% of the state's share of federal funding. Federal education aid to the state is $2.72 billion or 5.1% of the state's federal funding.

Data Source: FPI, Federal Funding Brief.

Prominent Democratic Fundraisers Realign to Lobby for Trump’s Agenda

"Lobbying records show that some Democratic fundraisers, who raised record amounts of campaign cash for Clinton, are now retained by top telecom interests to help repeal the strong net neutrality protections established during the Obama administration."

"Others are working on behalf of for-profit prisons on detention issues, while others still are paid to help corporate interests pushing alongside Trump to weaken financial regulations. At least one prominent Clinton backer is working for a health insurance company on a provision that was included in the House Republican bill to gut the Affordable Care Act."

"While Republican lobbyists are more in demand, liberal lobbyists are doing brisk business that has them reaching out to fellow Democrats to endorse — or at least tamp down vocal opposition to — Trump agenda items."