A taste of SALT
Rep. Tom Suozzi is optimistic that New Yorkers will be able to deduct their state and local taxes, including those Long Island school and property tax bills, from their 2021 federal income tax returns next year.
"I am talking about it so much that my colleagues are threatening me to get a court order to make me shut up," Suozzi said. He noted that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and many major House committee chairs are from high-tax states that would benefit from the repeal of the $10,000 cap on local tax deductions.
"There are too many people in Washington who want this to happen," Suozzi said, predicting that the opposition from red state representatives on the right and progressives on the left can be overcome.
The CD3 rep and former Nassau County executive assesses the Washington timetable this way: First, the huge infrastructure bill will move through the Senate, followed by the massive $3.5 trillion budget bill. Pelosi said she will hold votes on both bills at the same time, but the House is not returning to Washington until after the Jewish holidays in mid-September. By then the House will also have to vote on lifting the debt ceiling. In the intersection of the craziness and late-night wheeling and dealing, the SALT fix will happen.
"Everything else pales in comparison," said Suozzi. "SALT is an existential issue for Long Island and New York."
— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli
Rice’s anti-DUI plan finds a lane in infrastructure bill
If there has been one constant in Rep. Kathleen Rice’s professional life, it’s her attempts to punish and prevent drunken driving.
In her time as Nassau County district attorney, impaired driving was a huge priority, and her groundbreaking DWI-related murder convictions landed her national attention, including a segment on "60 Minutes" in 2008.
Now another idea she’s been pushing, a federal law demanding the development of technology to be included in every new vehicle that will stop cars and trucks from operating for drunken drivers, may be sneaking its way into law.
Weighing in at 2,702 pages, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill now before the Senate includes hundreds of plans, programs and initiatives.
Nestled in on page 1,067 is "Sec. 24220. Advanced Impaired Driving Technology." It spells out the problem:
- There were 10,142 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in the United States in which drivers had a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher
- Blood alcohol content of .15 or higher was present in 68% of those
- The economic cost of such accidents in 2010 was estimated at $44 billion
- It’s estimated drunk- and impaired-driving technology could prevent 95% of such fatalities
And then it spells out the solution: "Advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology must be standard equipment in all new passenger vehicles."
The law gives the secretary of transportation three years to issue the final rules on the systems, and allows for a period of not less than two years and not more than three years for auto manufacturers to comply.
Asked about the progress, Rice told The Point in a statement, "I’m pleased the bipartisan infrastructure deal brings us another step closer to requiring drunk-driving prevention technology in all new manufactured vehicles. It is unconscionable that we would continue to let drunk driving tragedies occur when we have the technology to put them to an end."
But as with so many things that come out of Washington, the news is not as concretely good as it might seem. The law seems to concede how big a challenge it is to implement such passive systems, which measure intoxication not through forced blowing through a tube but through skin sensors or air sensors that check automatically. The current system used for frequent DWI offenders, alcohol-interlock devices drivers must blow in, are not what the bill mandates.
The final lines of the section state that if this part of the law hasn’t been finalized 10 years after passage, the secretary of transportation must submit an explanation to Congress of why the change has been held up and how and when it will be completed.
So passage would be progress, or at least a step on the road to progress, but it will also signal the beginning of a tough journey, not its end.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
Going it alone
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Blocking and tackling
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has refused to set mask and vaccine mandates, barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume this month, and signed legislation limiting local officials from imposing their own restrictions — and Florida just broke its records for one-day COVID-19 cases and current hospitalizations. One seldom gets such a clear example of cause and effect.
- The former head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany acknowledged that the diocese sent priests accused of sexual abuse to private treatment but did not report them to police. The only surprising part of that admission is that they sent the priests for treatment.
- The partisan Republican audit of Arizona’s 2020 presidential vote has been "botched" — that’s according to two conservative GOP state senators in Arizona. Anyone still think this is a fair and objective review?
- The Taliban is capturing large swaths of Afghanistan in a brutal military campaign and thousands of Afghans are fleeing the country in fear. And so, the past again is present, 20 years later.
- How do gun-control proponents react to news of an ammunition shortage in the U.S. — delight that gun owners are having trouble buying ammo or alarm that apparently that much ammo is already out there?
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says there are enough votes in the House to block the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill if the much-larger reconciliation infrastructure bill isn’t also passed by the Senate. Which means she has enough votes to make sure no infrastructure bills are signed into law.
- Whistleblower complaints detail a culture of fear and intimidation among staff at the Long Island Power Authority. And we thought the only people who feared or were intimidated by LIPA were its customers.
— Michael Dobie @mwdobie