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Capitol Watch: Cuomo wants new law on domestic terrorism

By DAVID KLEPPERAugust 17, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York government news, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to create a new crime of domestic terrorism for mass shootings or other large-scale violent acts motivated by bias.

The Democrat says his proposal to lawmakers would cover acts like the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, where authorities say the shooter targeted Mexicans.

Here’s a look at the idea, and other stories making news:

DOMESTIC TERROR LAW: New York already has specific laws on terrorism, murder and hate crimes, but Cuomo says his proposal is needed because of a disturbing rise in homegrown violent extremism.

Cuomo cited the El Paso shooting, as well as mass shootings in recent years at synagogues, a gay nightclub in Orlando and an African-American church in South Carolina as evidence that violent extremists in the U.S. are a growing threat.

The proposed Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act would apply to mass-casualty incidents resulting in death and injury that targeted victims based on their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or expression, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Those found guilty of the crime would be subject to sentences of life in prison without parole — the same penalty prescribed in the state’s existing anti-terror law.

That law was written at a time when terrorism was considered primarily an external threat, Cuomo said.

“We have an enemy within, an American cancer, where one cell in the body politic attacks the other cells in the body,” Cuomo said in a speech Thursday to members of the New York City Bar Association.

“It spreads in the hidden corners of the internet, and from the highest positions in the land, and it infects sick and hate-filled hearts. This new violent epidemic is hate-fueled American-on-American terrorism.”

Top lawmakers have signed on to Cuomo’s idea. The Legislature isn’t scheduled to return to Albany until January.

PAID FAMILY LEAVE: More than 128,000 New Yorkers took advantage of the state’s new paid family leave program in 2018, its first full year.

That’s according to a new report on the initiative, which lawmakers approved in 2016 as a way to help workers care for a relative without going without a paycheck.

The program has been slowly phased-in in New York, and is funded by a payroll deduction that for most New Yorkers amounts to a few dollars per paycheck. Payments are capped at 55% of a worker’s average weekly wage.

In 2019, workers may take up to 10 weeks of paid-leave to care for a new child or a family member with a serious health condition. Workers can also use the benefit to relieve the burden when a family member in the military is deployed overseas.

Most of those who have taken paid leave so far in New York make less than $60,000 a year, according to the state’s analysis. More than 30% of claims were filed by individuals who earn less than $40,000 per year.

When the program is fully phased in in 2021 workers will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave capped at two-thirds of their average weekly wage.

Paid leave was a big priority for AARP. The organization’s New York State Director, Beth Finkel, said the benefit gives “critical support” to people forced to juggle work with caring for a loved one. Finkel said New Yorkers provide the equivalent of an estimated $31 billion worth of care for family members each year.

“Family caregivers in the workforce are grateful that they no longer have to choose between their job and caring for a family member,” Finkel said of the law.

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