September 29, 2023

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In the News-New York State

NY Attorney General Sets Sights on Amazon

Leads Multistate Coalition & Joins Feds in Suit Against Amazon for Illegally Maintaining Monopoly Power

New York Attorney General Letitia James, leading a bipartisan multistate coalition of 17 attorneys general, joined the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in suing Amazon, alleging that the online retail and technology company is a monopolist that uses a set of interlocking anticompetitive strategies to illegally maintain its monopoly power. 

The lawsuit alleges that Amazon’s actions allow it to stop rivals and sellers from lowering prices, degrade quality for shoppers, overcharge sellers, stifle innovation, and prevent rivals from fairly competing against Amazon.

“Amazon illegally raised prices for consumers and took advantage of online sellers in its storefront and they should be held accountable,” said Attorney General James. “Amazon’s monopolistic behavior is hurting consumers, online sellers, competition, and the overall economy. Today my office is leading a multistate coalition in joining the FTC to put an end to Amazon’s abusive and manipulative practices to protect consumers and small businesses nationwide. Every company, big or small, must abide by the law and my office is not afraid to hold those that don’t to account.”

The coalition alleges that Amazon’s anticompetitive conduct occurs in two markets — the online superstore market that serves shoppers and the market for online marketplace services purchased by sellers. These tactics include:

  • Anti-discounting measures that punish sellers and deter other online retailers from offering prices lower than Amazon, keeping prices higher for products across the internet. For example, if Amazon discovers that a seller is offering lower-priced goods elsewhere, Amazon can bury discounting sellers so far down in Amazon’s search results that they become effectively invisible.
  • Conditioning sellers’ ability to obtain “Prime” eligibility for their products — a virtual necessity for doing business on Amazon — on sellers using Amazon’s costly fulfillment service, which has made it substantially more expensive for sellers on Amazon to also offer their products on other platforms. This unlawful coercion has limited competitors’ ability to effectively compete against Amazon.

According to the Attorney General, Amazon’s illegal, exclusionary conduct makes it impossible for competitors to gain a foothold. This includes:

  • Degrading the customer experience by replacing relevant, organic search results with paid advertisements — and deliberately increasing ads that worsen search quality and frustrate both shoppers seeking products and sellers who are promised a return on their advertising purchase.
  • Favoring Amazon’s search results to preference Amazon’s own products over ones that Amazon knows are of better quality.
  • Charging numerous fees on the hundreds of thousands of sellers that currently have no choice but to rely on Amazon to stay in business. These fees range from a monthly fee sellers must pay for each item sold, to advertising fees that have become virtually necessary for sellers to do business. Combined, all of these fees force many sellers to pay close to 50 percent of their total revenues to Amazon. These fees harm not only sellers but also shoppers, who pay increased prices for thousands of products sold on or off Amazon.

Attorney General James, FTC, and the multistate coalition are seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that would prohibit Amazon from engaging in its unlawful conduct and to restore competition.

Joining Attorney General James and the FTC’s complaint are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

Governor Hochul Signs Legislative Package to Extend Protections Against Human Trafficking 

Governor Kathy Hochul this week signed a legislative package that expands the New York State Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking and ensures transportation hubs across the state are displaying information that may be of use to victims.

“Human trafficking is a nightmare no one should have to experience – even one victim is too many,” Governor Hochul said.

Assemblymember Grace Lee (Manhattan) and Senator Roxanne Persaud (Brooklyn) sponsored Chapter 460 which extends the Interagency Human Trafficking Task Force for an additional four years to ensure its work to prevent, reduce, and assist human trafficking survivors continues uninterrupted. 

Under the new law, the New York Secretary of State will be added to the Task Force, joining  the current membership which includes the commissioners of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Department of Health, the Office of Mental Health, the Department of Labor, the Office of Children and Family Services, and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports; the director of the Office of Victim Services; the executive director of the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence;  and the superintendent of the New York State Police.

In addition, the Task Force’s charge will be expanded under Chapter 497 which directs it to investigate connections between social media and human trafficking.  This law was sponsored by Senator Cordell Cleare (Manhattan) and AM Linda Rosenthal (Manhattan).

Senators Cleare and Lea Webb (Binghamton) partnered with AM Amy Paulin (Scarsdale) on legislation focusing on providing information in transportation hubs:

  • Chapter 491, sponsored by AM Paulin and Senator Cleare, requires MTA facilities to post information that may be of use to victims of human trafficking.
  • Chapter 492, sponsored by AM Paulin and Senator Webb, requires truck stops to post human trafficking information in lactation rooms. 
  • Chapters 490 and 493, sponsored by AM Paulin and Senator Webb, require Port Authority airports and commercial service airports to post information for human trafficking services in lactation rooms.
  • Chapters 494 and 495, sponsored by AM Paulin and Senator Cleare, require service areas maintained and operated by the New York State Thruway Authority and the Port Authority Bus terminations to provide information regarding services in lactation rooms. 

 Chapters of the Laws of 2023

Chapter 484 – Sponsored by AM Carroll/Senator Hoylman-Sigal – Requires disclosure of information concerning flood insurance on property condition disclosure statements.

Chapter 485 – Sponsored by AM Carroll/Senator Kavanagh– Extends and updates the solar electric generating system and electric storage system tax abatements for New York City.

Chapter 487 – Sponsored by Senator Mayer/AM Otia – Directs the Department of Environmental Conservation to adopt policies and regulations to establish nature-based solutions as the preferred alternative for stabilizing tidal shorelines.

Chapter 488 – Sponsored by AM Lavine/Senator Thomas – Allows approved assessing units and special assessing units in the county of Nassau to adjust their current base proportions.

In the News-New York City      

Comptroller DiNapoli: Transparency Needed as NYC Moves Forward with Difficult Budget Choices

New York City is planning significant steps to reduce city-funded spending by as much as 15% in response to substantial budget gaps fueled by escalating costs in the years ahead. However, the city’s ability to cut spending is limited to what it has discretion and control over, according to a report released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The report urges the city to use greater transparency for nondiscretionary costs that it does not have direct control over to help the public, policymakers and its funding partners understand what’s at stake.

“As New York City navigates very difficult budget choices, it should be transparent over what spending can and cannot be adjusted,” Comptroller DiNapoli said. “While the city’s financial condition entering this fiscal year was strong, unfunded programs and the unprecedented influx of asylum seekers poses very real fiscal and operational challenges. The city is limited in where it can make adjustments, and all stakeholders will benefit if it makes clear what can actually be changed and where cuts are likely to impact them.”

Given the size of the mayor’s plan to trim costs, the report cautions that certain services will likely be adversely impacted, and previously planned service expansions could be jeopardized. The city has benefited in recent years from higher-than-projected revenue collections and slower growth in non-discretionary spending, but these favorable fiscal conditions may not last.

As of the city fiscal year (FY) 2022, approximately 40% of the city’s spending was nondiscretionary. These costs, which the city has little ability to change, include pensions, fringe benefits, Medicaid, debt service, public assistance and other legally or contractually-required payments. Nondiscretionary spending rose to $41.6 billion in FY 2022.  As a share of total funds, however, this spending has declined, reflecting a slowdown in the annual growth in pension contributions as well as the state’s takeover of growth in the local share of Medicaid.

The declining share has allowed the city to allocate funding for services where it has greater control over spending, including those that are legally required. These include basic municipal services such as education, public safety, and sanitation, as well as cultural events, 3-K education services, and the Fair Fares program. Comptroller DiNapoli estimates that the share of the FY 2024 budget that is controllable accounts for more than three-fifths of projected spending for that year (about $69 billion, excluding budgetary reserves). About 40% of the controllable spending is allocated to education and another third is split between social services and the uniformed agencies.

The report also identifies some expenses as “quasi controllable,” where spending may be legally or contractually required, but the city can potentially exert some control. However, current operational needs, or a lack of lower-cost alternatives, have historically prevented the city from avoiding unplanned city-funded costs. These include services for asylum seekers, educational costs related to special education, charter schools, and transportation, the Family Homeless and Eviction Prevention Supplement Program, and overtime. The largest parts of that quasi-controllable spending, as a share of total spending, has risen from 5.5% in FY 2015 to 8.7% in FY 2023 and is expected to increase during the financial plan period.

Bills Passed by the City Council

Introduction 279-A — Sponsored by Majority Leader Keith Powers Requires the City to only purchase zero emissions light- and medium-duty vehicles after 2025, and zero emissions heavy-duty vehicles after 2028. It would also require the city to ensure that its entire fleet of municipal vehicles is converted to zero emissions vehicles by 2035 with earlier goals for some vehicle types. The legislation also requires the training of city workers on the repair and maintenance of these new vehicles and reporting on workforce development.

Introduction 349 — Sponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams — Requires the Department of Correction to screen all individuals in custody who self-report lack of a high school diploma or its equivalent for dyslexia, and offer evidence-based interventions.

Introduction 743 — Sponsored by Council Member Rafael Salamanca — Requires that City employees who issue summonses or notices of violation provide a pre-printed, handwritten, or electronic business card including the employee’s name and agency, a telephone number and e-mail address as well as the relevant 3-1-1 customer service number, and an indication that this contact information may be used to submit comments about the encounter with the city employee. If a business card is not available, employees could instead provide the identifying information verbally.

Introduction 906-A — Sponsored by Council Member Justin Brannan — Requires an agency or office designated by the Mayor to offer off-street parking for tractor trailers and commercial trucks at three or more locations citywide by 2025.


State Enters MOU with U.S. Department of Energy to Accelerate Clean Energy Financing

Governor Kathy Hochul this week announced a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to facilitate clean energy financing for large-scale renewable projects. 

The MOU will allow New York State to leverage the DOE Loan Programs Office (LPO) and strengthen the cooperation between Federal and State energy departments, supporting New York’s goal to obtain 70 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

NYSERDA and DOE have defined a process to facilitate the review of applications from utility scale solar, onshore, and offshore wind clean energy projects applying for financing through the LPO. This would include projects already under contract with NYSERDA, as well as those that will contract with NYSERDA in the future.

Under the Title 17 Loan Guarantee Program, LPO may, subject to obtaining required credit approvals, provide financing to eligible projects for up to 80 percent of eligible project costs for up to 30 years, dependent on project needs and expected asset life.

State Education Department Prohibits Use of Facial Recognition Technology in Schools

New York State is prohibiting the purchase or use of facial recognition technology in schools, the state Department of Education announced this week.

Commissioner Betty Rosa said schools can opt to use other kinds of biometric identifying technology such as fingerprint identification, as long as privacy, civil rights, and parental input are considered.

The Commissioner indicated that SED based its determination on the recommendations of a biometrics report conducted by the Office of Information Technology Services that outlined serious concerns regarding facial recognition technology and acknowledged that “the risks of the use of FRT in an educational setting may outweigh the benefits.”

New York has $100 Million Available for Zero-Emission School Buses

Governor Kathy Hochul this week announced $100 million will be made available statewide for zero-emission school buses in the first round of funding available under the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022. 

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) released the program rules, officially launching the pre-application process through which bus manufacturers and dealers can apply to qualify for the New York School Bus Incentive Program (NYSBIP). The program rules will guide the total Bond Act allotment of $500 million for zero-emission school buses and infrastructure. The application process to receive funding will open on Wednesday, November 29, 2023. 

The NYSBIP is the State incentive program that provides discounts to eligible school bus fleet operators that purchase zero-emission battery electric (BEV) or hydrogen fuel cell electric (FCEV) school buses and associated charging infrastructure. Incentives for school buses will be disbursed directly to dealers and manufacturers to offset some or all of the difference in purchase price between zero-emission school buses and comparable diesel or gas-powered buses. Charging infrastructure incentives will also be issued directly to the fleet owner (the school district or their contractor).

Mayor Adams Gives New Yorkers Ability To Use City-Funded Rental Assistance Vouchers Across New York State

CityFHEPS voucher holders will now be able to utilize their voucher to obtain permanent, affordable housing not only within New York City but also in any county or locality across New York State, according to New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

The program — established under the CityFHEPS rule — allows individuals and families to rent apartments at competitive market-rate rents based on the federal Section 8 Payment Standards. To support local housing markets outside of New York City, CityFHEPS payment standards will be adjusted based on the fair market rent levels of each locality, and all apartments will be required to pass a physical or virtual walkthrough, in accordance with existing DSS policy.

In response to the Mayor Adams’ announcement, Oneida County has issued an emergency order that bars the acceptance of newly-expanded New York City rental housing vouchers without the authorization of County Executive Anthony Picente, according to published reports.

Earlier this year Oneida and several other upstate counties put in place states of emergency that prohibit hotels and shelters from accepting migrants from New York City. 

“We are at capacity. The homeless problem doesn’t just exist in big cities like New York and in Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo. They are here in Utica and Rome as well,” County Executive Picente said, in published reports.

Mayor Adams Appoints Elijah Hutchinson As Executive Director Of Mayor’s Office Of Climate And Environmental Justice

New York City Mayor Eric Adams this week announced the appointment of Elijah M. Hutchinson as executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ).   Hutchinson will lead the Adams administration’s strategy for creating “a healthy, resilient, sustainable city,” including the implementation of “PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done.”

MOCEJ leads the city’s efforts to ensure that New York City is both reducing its emissions and preparing to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Victoria Cerullo, the acting executive director, will transition to a senior role with First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright’s team.

Hutchinson led coastal resilience and new greenway initiatives as vice president for waterfronts at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). He established the resilience practice at NYCEDC, working to integrate climate, resiliency, hazard mitigation, and sustainability into a multibillion-dollar portfolio of neighborhood infrastructure, open space, transportation, and mixed-use development projects. He helped launch the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resilience project — which includes Brooklyn Bridge-Montgomery Coastal Resilience, Seaport Coastal Resilience, the FiDi-Seaport Master Plan, and Battery Coastal Resilience.

He has a master’s in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.

Writers Guild Wins New Contract, Ending 148 Day Strike

After nearly 150 days on strike, the Writers Guild of America this week reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on a new three-year Minimum Basic Agreement.

The WGAW Board and WGAE Council both approved the agreement which now goes to both guilds’ memberships for a ratification vote from October 2nd through October 9th. The WGAW Board and WGAE Council also voted to end the strike as of 12:01 am on Wednesday.

Highlights of the deal include specific rules about the use of artificial intelligence, pay increases up to 5%, increased health and pension contributions, and increased residuals and transparency for streaming content.

“What we have won in this contract—most particularly, everything we have gained since May 2nd—is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days,” said the WGA Negotiating Commitment in a statement posted to the union’s website. “It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal. We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional—with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”

Coming Up

New York State

Tuesday, October 3rd

To Examine Whether the Current Continuum of Care is Meeting the Needs of Survivors of Gender-Based and Domestic Violence with Pertinent Human Services Agencies, Advocates, and Service Providers

Joint – New York State Senate Standing Committee on Social Services & Women’s Issues

Van Buren Hearing Room A, Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor, Albany, 10 a.m.


Thursday, October 5th

Special Meeting of the Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Council

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

Alfred E. Smith Building, 80 S. Swan Street, 118 Crime Stat Room, Albany, 10 a.m.

New York City

Tuesday, October 3rd

Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections, Committee Room – City Hall, 10 a.m.


Wednesday, October 4th

Joint – Committee on Health & Subcommittee on COVID Recovery and Resiliency, Committee Room – City Hall, 10 a.m.

Oversight – Analyzing the Summertime Surge in Covid-19 Cases.

Committee on Finance, Council Chambers – City Hall, 10 a.m.

Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, Committee Room – City Hall, 1 p.m.


Thursday, October 5th

Committee on Finance, Committee Room – City Hall, 10 a.m.

City Council, Council Chambers – City Hall, 1:30 p.m.


Friday, October 6th

Joint – Committee on Education, General Welfare, & Criminal Justice, Council Chambers, 10 a.m.

Oversight – Educational Programming in Detention Facilities.

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