Parker accused of shoving advocate at Capitol

Source: Politics

With help from Shawn Ness

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Michael Carey, an advocate for disabled patients and a regular presence at the state Capitol, said he was pushed by state Sen. Kevin Parker.
Labor chairs of the state Legislature want to do more to protect retail workers.
Efforts to move migrants upstate to five counties has been slow going.
There was a new graduating class of the State Police today.

CAPITOL FIGHT: State Sen. Kevin Parker allegedly shoved disability rights advocate Michael Carey before the start of the Senate Energy Committee meeting today, according to Carey and two other individuals who witnessed the altercation.

Carey, who is known to be vocal with lawmakers, shared with POLITICO a copy of a police report he filed, which can be read here.

In it, Carey alleges the lawmaker got in his face and screamed “I don’t care,” before putting his hands on him twice and shoving him in front of a room full of people, according to the report and a subsequent interview.

At the same time the incident was unfolding, shouting can be heard on the recording of the elections committee happening next door on the Capitol’s first floor.

Parker did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Playbook.

He is known for his explosive outbursts and physical altercations, which include allegedly shoving a legislative staffer, breaking a New York Post photographer’s camera and cursing out other lawmakers. Carey said he had been completely unaware of that history, which includes being convicted of a misdemeanor for the altercation with the Post photographer.

“This is multiple situations,” Carey said. “He’s a danger to other people. He was a danger to me.”

The disability advocate said the incident started minutes before the committee meeting, when he asked Parker to cosponsor a 911 civil rights bill, which he is trying to make law in memory of his son who died in 2007 at a group home.

When Parker, chair of the energy committee, said he was looking into the matter, Carey said he told Parker the issue was analogous to Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight against discrimination and reminded Parker of his son’s death. Parker then yelled “I don’t care” when Carey brought up his dead son and got inches away from Carey’s face before shoving him, according to Carey.

Witnesses, who were granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, said Carey was also shouting at Parker during the incident.

Carey then said he left the meeting and requested a State Police officer come to the scene. He asked the officer to inform Parker that if he apologized to Carey he would not press charges. Parker did not apologize and instead invoked his right to counsel, Carey said.

“I was kind of shocked, he didn’t apologize,” he said.

State Sen. Mario R. Mattera, a Long Island Republican who serves as the ranking member on the Energy Committee, also said he witnessed the altercation but declined to go into detail.

“There was tensions, yes, there was tensions, and it was unfortunate in a lot of ways, but that’s something that Senator Parker and that gentleman need to get through, and hopefully they can,” Mattera said.

He also said it was inappropriate for Carey to take up the issue of the bill at the committee meeting instead of trying to speak with Parker in his office.

Carey said he wants a restraining order against the senator.

“I understand when people don’t deal with anger issues, they’ll go on to hurt other people,” Carey said. — Jason Beeferman

RETAIL CRIME IS NOT OVER: Gov. Kathy Hochul pushed hard to get a budget deal that included cracking down on retail theft, but the Legislature’s labor chairs said that state government needs to go further to protect workers.

“There were some things done in the budget regarding retail workers that were punitive and all about law enforcement,” Assemblymember Harry Bronson, a Rochester Democrat, said. “We need more than that.”

The budget upgraded assaults on retail workers from a misdemeanor to a felony. It also created dedicated retail theft teams for state and local law enforcement and added $5 million in tax breaks for store security cameras and other anti-theft expenses.

But labor advocates say they need more proactive, instead of “punitive,” measures to protect retail workers.

They’re pushing for the Retail Worker Safety Act, sponsored by Bronson and state Sen. Jessica Ramos, that would require retailers in the state to train employees on de-escalation and violence prevention tactics.

The two lawmakers also rallied for three other labor bills this week: to reduce warehouse worker injuries; to set standards for extreme temperatures while working in agriculture, construction and other industries and a third to oversee nail salon workers’ rights.

“We have a very important decision to make on whether we’re going to tilt the scales towards the workers or we’re going to continue to allow for the scale to be tilted towards the bosses,” Ramos said Tuesday at a rally at the Capitol. “And I say no to that. I say, ‘Yes’ to protections for the workers.”

The Retail Council of New York State is working to counter Ramos and Bronson’s Retail Worker Safety Act.

“The costly mandates proposed in the bill — including onerous recordkeeping requirements, panic buttons and additional security guards — will do little, if anything, to address recidivists entering stores with the intent to engage in illegal activity such as shoplifting and assault,” Melissa O’Connor, the group’s president, wrote in a memorandum of opposition.

Justin Henry, a spokesperson for Hochul, did not comment on the labor chairs’ bills, but instead pointed to Hochul’s comments on the retail theft earlier this month:

“No one wants to see the shops in their neighborhood boarded up because business owners simply say, ‘I can’t do this anymore. It’s just not working. It’s not worth it,’” Hochul said at a post-budget retail theft press conference. “That threatens the very vitality of these communities, which I will stop at nothing to protect.” — Jason Beeferman

MIGRANT RELOCATION: After the state launched a program to relocate migrant families moving to New York City to upstate regions last August, it has only relocated 283 families, according to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which administers the program. Read the full story here.

Only five counties have received families: Albany, Erie, Monroe, Westchester and Suffolk; all of which have below-average housing vacancy rates. Nearly 1,000 families have been put on a waiting list or were deemed ineligible after being referred to the program.

“We’re pretty much maxed out. We’ve been maxed out. I only have 320,000 residents in this county, and we already have a housing crisis,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy. “We’re having issues putting people in housing.”

And plans to offer bonuses and incentives to landlords to join in on the program have not been very successful. Despite those woes, the state is still committed to relocating families.

“OTDA is committed to assisting migrant families that choose to relocate through the Migrant Relocation Assistance Program,” the agency said in a statement. — Shawn Ness

GRAD SZN: The State Police force is now up to 4,977 officers after Hochul congratulated 228 new troopers after they graduated from the academy today.

“Today’s graduates have dedicated themselves to a life of public service and are making a commitment to serve and protect all New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement.

Three different awards were also presented to a select few graduates. Nicholas Krafft was given the Academic Performance Award; Matthew Grant was given the Firearms Proficiency Award; and Dominick Battaglia was given the Investigator Joseph T. Aversa Physical Fitness Award.

“Today’s ceremony is one of our finest traditions and introduces a new generation of highly trained men and women to the New York State Police. These new Troopers will serve New Yorkers with honor, integrity, and bravery, and I welcome them to our ranks,” state police superintendent Steven James said in a statement. — Shawn Ness

POLL OBSERVER PUSH: Advocates are calling on lawmakers to pass a bill to let nonpartisan groups be certified to send neutral observers to poll sites on Election Day.

“In this highly polarized context, having neutral eyes on the ground to be able to verify what’s actually happening in our polling places, which 99 percent of the time is organized and exactly as we want to it be, helps to increase transparency and to improve the public’s faith in elections,” Common Cause New York executive director Susan Lerner said.

She noted that under current law, the only people who can be certified to be observers are picked by candidates and parties.

“This seems to be a pretty straightforward and commonsense solution to a problem that occasionally arises, where a voter is improperly turned away for whatever reason,” said state Sen. James Skoufis, who sponsors the bill with Assemblymember Amy Paulin. — Bill Mahoney

MIGRANT CRISIS: Assemblymember Ed Ra and other lawmakers in the GOP minority conference are calling for a legislative hearing with New York City officials and organizations that are under contract to provide migrant-related services.

The Times Union reported on Monday about ongoing concerns with one of the key vendors, DocGo.

“This year, the state budget allocated $2.4 billion to address the migrant crisis, a considerable expansion of an expenditure for New York’s taxpayers to shoulder. Without the guardrails needed for fiscal responsibility, these funds are at risk of the fraud and abuse we have become accustomed to with emergency government contracts that lack transparency and oversight guidance,” Ra, a Long Island Republican, said in a statement.

Republicans are also calling for the passage of one of Ra’s bills that would mandate the reporting and auditing on how money for migrant programs are being spent. It is co-sponsored by fellow Republicans. — Shawn Ness

— Two New York Democrats have reintroduced a federal bill that restricts the public’s access to body armor one day after the two-year anniversary of the Buffalo Tops shooting. (State of Politics)

— State legislators are working on passing a bill to incentivize emergency medical service providers to keep working. (Times Union)

— The Seneca Nation of Indians is still in tense negotiations with the state on its compact. (POLITICO Pro)

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