Political Potpourri: Recchia Probes Schools, Medicaid Payments

March 8, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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What does the city schools system have with to do with Medicaid, the government-funded health care program? Actually, plenty, according to Bensonhurst Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr., who said the New York City Department of Education (DOE) is supposed to receive reimbursements from the federal government in connection to special education students.

There are concerns, however, that the DOE has failed to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements since 2005, Recchia said.

On March 1, the Council’s Finance Committee, chaired by Recchia, and the Council’s Education Committee, headed by Robert Jackson, held a joint hearing to address the concerns.

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The purpose of the hearing was to learn more about the DOE’s current process of collecting Medicaid reimbursements, and whether sufficient improvements have been made to overcome past errors, Recchia said.

“It confounds me that the DOE could let this slide, knowing the decisions we had to face last year. As our city schools have endured years of harsh budget cuts and teacher layoffs, the DOE has been idle in their efforts to claim possibly hundreds of millions of dollars for services that the taxpayers of New York City have already paid for. This is egregiously unacceptable and I, along with the City Council, will work to make sure our city receives the funds it’s entitled to,” Recchia said.

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Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the charismatic leader of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, has been honored by the New York State Senate in the wake of his elevation to the rank of cardinal by Pope Benedict.
State Sen. Marty Golden was among the senators pushing for passage of a resolution honoring Cardinal Dolan.

“Today, Roman Catholics and people of faith across our great city and state stand together to show our thanks to a man who has given so much to his community and the people of New York,” Golden, who is Catholic, said, “I am proud to have co-sponsored this resolution, passed today by the state Senate, to simply say thank you and congratulations to a man whose life is an example of how to live as a servant of God. He is someone to whom I personally look up and I look forward to working with him for the betterment of all people.”

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Looking to save money when you’re buying spring and summer clothes? Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny has good news for you!

Beginning April 1, clothing, footwear and related items sold for less than $110 each will be exempt from the state’s 4-percent sales tax.

The tax-free offer applies to all items purchased in person, over the internet, by phone, or by mail.

The qualifying amount for the exemption has doubled since last year, when it applied to apparel at or below $55.

“This savings is good news for hardworking families and local businesses – and it can’t come at a better time,” Brook-Krasny said. “While the economy is slowly regaining its strength, working and middle-class families are still getting back on their feet. The sales tax cut — which will save taxpayers $210 million — will provide much-needed help with clothing and footwear expenses.

“The exemption will help working families afford necessities, as well as energize our local economy by giving consumers more incentive to shop. It will also provide businesses with an influx of customers, including shoppers from neighboring states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” Brook-Krasny said.

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Radio host and Conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham was among those in attendance at a fundraiser held Feb. 27 in support of Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.

Malliotakis, a first-term legislator representing Brooklyn and Staten Island, is up for re-election this year. During her first term in the state Assembly, Malliotakis has received numerous awards and recognition including being named a ‘Rising Star’ by Capital News, the Hispanic Coalition of New York, and The Greek America Foundation.

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Speaking of rising stars, the young and dynamic Kevin Peter Carroll, who is running for his second term as the Democratic district leader of Bay Ridge, has won the endorsement of the Brooklyn Democrats for Change Club.

Carroll currently serves as the Democratic district leader of the 60th Assembly District, but the district’s number may be changed to 64 if the proposed new maps for Assembly districts are approved.

Carroll rose to fame two years ago, when he defeated longtime Democratic leader Ralph Perfetto in the primary.

Many political observers in Bay Ridge are wondering when Justin Brannan, another dynamic, young politico, will make a run for public office. Brannan serves as press spokesman for Councilman Vincent Gentile.

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Speaking of Gentile, he joined colleague David Greenfield at a rally on the steps of City Hall to demand an investigation into water bills.

Greenfield is leading the charge to call for an investigation into issues with water bills caused by inaccuracies with recently-installed automated meter readers (AMRs) in many homes and businesses.

In some cases, customers have received bills that are two or three times higher than they were before the city began installing these AMRs in 2009 as part of a $250 million project, Greenfield and Gentile said.

Greenfield is asking the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to immediately conduct an investigation into the meters and questionable bills and to thoroughly explain billing spikes and irregularities to customers.

“The complaints I have been hearing from residents and business owners regarding their water bills are shocking and need to be investigated immediately. We need to be sure that this technology is reliable and that customers are not being overcharged,” Greenfield said.

Gentile added, “Ever since the digital water meters were installed, we’ve received calls from constituents whose water bills suddenly skyrocketed for absolutely no reason. There needs to be some sort of recourse for these people to fight the bills they feel are unfounded. Taxpayers have a right to question these charges.”

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