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Opinion

Pressing the issue

Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!

Rep. Christopher Collins of Buffalo, seen on July

Rep. Christopher Collins of Buffalo, seen on July 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Good afternoon and welcome to The Point!

Daily Point

Congressman indicted

The hammer dropped on Rep. Chris Collins, who was charged Wednesday with insider trading for tipping family members off about a pharmaceutical stock that would soon tank because of failed clinical tests on a key drug.

Like other indicted politicians before him, the Republican from the Buffalo area is free to continue his re-election campaign and plead his case before the voters. Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island was successful with this move in 2014, although he eventually had to resign after pleading guilty to tax fraud.

But if Collins stays in the race, will Democrats get one step closer to taking back the House?

Democrats would love to overthrow Collins en route, given the fact that he was the first congressman to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2016, and for his involvement in the so-called Faso-Collins amendment to the Republican health care legislation in 2017 that would have meant budgetary headaches around the state. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo included Collins in his list of targeted congressional Republicans last June.

Don’t voters dislike representatives with the smell of sleazy-seeming financial self-enrichment?

Still, Democratic challenger Nate McMurray is facing an uphill battle. On the monetary front, his total receipts from January to the end of June were a paltry $133,975 vs. $1,278,748 for Collins.

Trump won the conservative gerrymandered district decisively in 2016.

In 2014 and 2016, Collins more than doubled his opponents’ vote tallies. In his first win in 2012, he inched by his opponent, a sitting member of Congress, by around 5,000 votes. That opponent was current Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who passed on the chance to run against Collins this cycle when Cuomo was reportedly casting about for a new running mate.

The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball, two national campaign ratings groups, after the indictment increased their rating of the competitiveness of the race to Likely Republican.

“It’s the most Republican district in New York," said Kyle Kondik, Sabato's managing editor. "That said, this is a serious development and Collins had a close race in 2012, so you can’t foreclose the possibility of an upset.”

Mark Chiusano

Talking Point

How your reps feel about the press

President Donald Trump’s strategic and determined effort to discredit an independent press continues, although 85 percent of Americans in a recent public opinion survey agree that “freedom of the press is essential for American democracy.”

However, a deep dive into the polling by Ipsos shows that Trump’s message might be gaining traction. Twenty-six percent agree that the president “should have the authority to close down news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” For those identifying themselves as Republicans, 43 percent say he should have that power.

To get a better understanding of the views of Long Island’s elected federal officials, the Newsday editorial board asked them to respond to two questions:

(1) Do you believe the press is “the enemy of the people”?

(2) Do you think the rhetoric used by the president is dangerous?

Their responses, which are unedited, provide an intriguing insight into their views of the role of the press in our political systems. Spoiler alert: While no one thinks the press is the enemy of the people, some elected officials had concerns about the flaws of the press in their day-to-day coverage. Some views are expansive and one is parochial.

Read them here:

Isobel Van Hagen

Pencil Point

Enemy of the people

Pointing Out

Workers of the world, divide!

Trying to topple Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s run for a third term in a Democratic primary, self-described socialist challenger Cynthia Nixon released a 25-page economic position paper Tuesday that advocates giving the state’s public-sector unions the right to strike.

But that’s a change many of those unions, fairly happy with the status quo, might not want.

Enacted in 1967, the Taylor Law gave public employees the right to bargain collectively, but in return banned strikes by those workers. It also created a state Public Employment Relations Board to mediate disputes to ensure labor peace.

Then, in 1974, an amendment gave firefighter and police unions a nice win: mandatory arbitration. Now contract disputes could be decided by mediators and imposed on municipalities.

Then, in 1982, another amendment, “Triborough,” prohibited a public employer from altering any provision of an expired labor agreement until a new agreement is reached.

As a result, the bargaining position of New York’s public employees is uncommonly strong, and their pay and benefits, particularly for police and teachers, particularly on Long Island, are . . . uh . . . generous.

So would they like the right to strike that Nixon wants to grant them?

According to one former police labor leader, the answer is NO: “That’s not a good idea for the public or the union, to have cops strike. That’s why we have binding arbitration, so we don’t have to strike.”

Nixon’s position paper does not exclude any public unions from that right to strike, but perhaps sensing a building backlash, Nixon’s spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, told the New York Post Tuesday that Nixon “is open to exempting certain essential employees” — such as police officers and firefighters.

At the busy New York State United Teachers headquarters, where political endorsements are dominating the workload, spokesman Carl Korn said of Nixon’s supposed gifts to unions, “We haven’t even had a conversation about that as far as I know. It’s not on anyone’s radar.”

Nor, now, is endorsing in the gubernatorial race. Neither Nixon, who has been so vocal in support of unions, nor Cuomo, with whom NYSUT has battled, got the nod. The union announced Wednesday it will endorse no candidate in the governor’s race.

NYSUT also announced it will withhold its endorsement from every Republican state senator, as well as five Democratic ones, who supported a bill championed by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to increase the number of charter schools.

In New York’s public-sector labor battles, the big fights center around the small print, not paradigm shifts like amending the Taylor Law.

Lane Filler

Columns