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Editorials from around New York

By The Associated PressApril 18, 2019

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

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The Wall Street Journal on Yemen and the War Powers Act

April 17

President Trump isn’t known for eloquent defenses of his foreign policy, but on Tuesday he stood up for a crucial American principle. His veto of a congressional demand that the U.S. withdraw support from the Saudis in their war in Yemen keeps responsibility for foreign policy in the White House, where it belongs.

Lest anyone forget_and Congress seems to_the Saudis are leading a coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Tehran aspires to use its proxies to build an arc of influence across the Middle East. Yemen is an inviting target since it controls the passage from the Red Sea into the Arabian Sea, and offers a convenient base from which to launch rockets into Saudi Arabia.

These facts don’t make the war in Yemen less of a humanitarian disaster, or the Saudis more savory as allies. But they explain why both the Obama and Trump Administrations concluded the U.S. has a stake in supporting Saudi Arabia in this fight.

This is true despite the murder of U.S.-resident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, perhaps with the knowledge of Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the country’s de facto leader. That event and Mr. Trump’s evident lack of concern beyond raw national interest inspired a rebellion even among some Senate Republicans, who joined Democrats in invoking the discredited War Powers Act to force the U.S. to stop offering Riyadh intelligence and other support.

This is a case study in why that 1973 law, passed over the veto of a weakened Richard Nixon and resisted by every Administration since, is a bad idea. Congress has repeatedly supported Administration efforts to deter Iran, yet it now also wants to grandstand over the Khashoggi murder in the middle of a violent proxy battle with Tehran. The Founders vested broad foreign-policy responsibility in the executive to avoid precisely such waffling and confusion while still holding the President accountable to voters.

Mr. Trump reminded Congress of this constitutional principle in his veto message: “This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future.” Voters can pass their own verdict on Mr. Trump’s foreign policy in the 2020 election, as the Framers intended.

Online: https://on.wsj.com/2PdSNf5

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Newsday on the Military Enhanced Recognition Incentive and Tribute program

April 17

The financial cost to New York for finally passing a law that says people brought here illegally as young children can access financial aid for state colleges is estimated at $27 million annually. It’s a price Democrats were glad to commit to pay once they took over the State Senate this year, and rightfully so. New York will be better off for it.

But now the political price of the Sen. Jose Peralta Dream Act is clear. Any time Democrats hesitate to approve a plan Republicans support, the GOP will howl that New York is paying millions to send immigrants here illegally to college but they won’t fund (fill in the blank).

Republicans test-drove this strategy last week when some Assembly Democrats tabled a bill to fund college for spouses and dependents of military members killed or severely disabled on duty outside of a war zone. Children and spouses of military members killed or severely disabled in war zones already were covered in the $2.7 million Military Enhanced Recognition Incentive and Tribute program (MERIT) included in the recently approved state budget, which is how such spending is funded when the program, and not the political optics, are the priority.

The tabling of the GOP bill by Democrats, who said it was outside of the budget and didn’t contain data on how much it would cost, was technically correct but politically foolish. After Republican legislators exploded with indignation, a plan from Senate Democrats to expand the program next year so it could be budgeted properly didn’t help, and the issue caught fire. It became an inferno when President Donald Trump tweeted, “In New York State, Democrats blocked a Bill expanding College Tuition for Gold Star families after approving aid for illegal immigrants. No wonder so many people are leaving N.Y. Very Sad!”

A spokesman for Senate Republicans pointed out that when they controlled the chamber last year, the same bill passed 62-0. But that vote included every Democratic senator and took place six weeks after the budget agreement that could have funded it was signed. Asked why Senate Republicans never included this measure — clearly a bipartisan slam dunk when handled properly — in their budget proposals or demanded it in end-of-session negotiations when they controlled the chamber, that spokesman had no answer.

Allowing dependents of New York military members killed or severely disabled in the line of duty outside of combat zones access to college funding is worthy, and it’s going to happen. The controversy ended Wednesday when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order to expand the MERIT program to include this group. But no one has been able to say how many such dependents there are or project how much funding is needed. For his announcement, Cuomo appeared with Mecca Nelson of Brooklyn, whose husband died in combat in Iraq and whose family was already covered by the existing program.

The Gold Star imbroglio is an apt lesson on today’s political climate. The cynical play by the state’s Republicans got them both the reaction they wanted and the policy they claimed to seek. The state’s Democrats found themselves outmaneuvered and smeared for standing in the way of a meritorious policy they didn’t actually oppose.

Online: https://nwsdy.li/2DkSM41

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The Daily Star on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

A state senator from Queens is leading an effort to bring the rights of farmworkers on par with other workers in the state.

Sen. Jessica Ramos has introduced the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, which would grant collective bargaining rights, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits and overtime pay to farmworkers.

“In New York, there is a Jim Crow-era law still on our books that denies human beings — mostly black and Latino, tax-paying New Yorkers — parity with nearly every other worker in this state,” Ramos, who heads the Senate Labor Committee, said in a statement.

On the face of it, we agree. Why shouldn’t the people who produce our food get the same benefits as other workers?

But the reality of the situation is much deeper. The impact these changes would have on small family farms could be devastating, if enacted on their own.

“It is imperative urban lawmakers understand rural issues and the reality that exists on farms for farmworkers before they vote on the legislation,” the Farm Bureau said in a statement.

The farm lobby opposes the proposed mandates, noting harvesting crops is time-sensitive work conducted amid unpredictable weather conditions. Some farmers have said they would have to consider cutting jobs or closing their operations should the mandates be imposed on them.

That is why it is important that all sides be heard.

Three hearings are scheduled on the bill — in Morrisville in Madison County, Loch Sheldrake in Sullivan County and in Smithtown on Long Island.

We agree with several Republican lawmakers who say more hearings are needed — especially in northern and western areas of the state.

“Considering the grave harm it could have on our state’s small family farms, hard-working farm employees and consumers, it’s unfathomable that entire geographic regions and sectors of agriculture are excluded from the discussion,” Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said.

Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, urged that hearings on the Ramos bill be conducted “all across the state.”

“This is an issue that could severely impact our agricultural industry, causing a ripple effect throughout the state’s economy,” Little said.

In a joint statement, Ramos and Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee who represents a portion of Delaware County, said they anticipate “a balanced and respectful discussion” and noted they will accept written testimony as well.

But it is sometimes hard to get the full message across in the written word.

Little, Ott and the Farm Bureau cite an analysis by Farm Credit East that suggests the legislation would reduce net farm income in New York by 23 percent.

That is something our struggling family farms can’t handle.

Chenango County Farm Bureau President Bradd Vickers said he recently traveled to Albany with Duane Martin, his counterpart at the Delaware County Farm Bureau, to lobby against the legislation.

“It’s not about what works down in the city,” he said. “It’s about what works for farmers and the ones doing the work.”

If the state enacts this legislation, something has to be done to help the small farms. And the people who can offer these suggestions are the farmers themselves. They know what works and what doesn’t.

Perhaps subsidies and tax credits can be altered to help farmers absorb the costs. Or the additional costs can be passed along to the consumers.

“There’s a disconnect between producers and consumers,” Vickers said. “The consumer, in general, has no idea what it takes to produce their food.”

Which is a shame. If people truly understood and appreciated what it takes to produce the food we eat, the farm owners and farmworkers could all get the pay and benefits they deserve.

Online: https://bit.ly/2PgSeB3

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The New York Times on David Bernhardt as the new secretary of the interior

April 17

Last Thursday, the Senate voted 56-to-41 to confirm David Bernhardt, President Trump’s pick for secretary of the interior. Four days later, the department’s inspector general opened an ethics investigation into the new chief for potential “conflict of interest and other violations.”

On one level, it is refreshing that Mr. Bernhardt is not under fire for the sort of unseemly personal grifting attributed to previous Trump officials. His predecessor, Ryan Zinke, whose tenure inspired some 15 ethics investigations, left office in January still dogged by a half-dozen inquiries, including whether he inappropriately profited from a Montana land deal involving the energy giant Halliburton. Mr. Bernhardt has not wasted taxpayer money on private air travel like Tom Price, the former secretary of health and human services. Neither has he used his department’s staff to run personal errands, solicited jobs for his wife, nor spent public funds on a $43,000 soundproof phone booth à la Scott Pruitt, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The questions swirling around Mr. Bernhardt are of a more traditional, more prosaic variety that tends to arise when an agency is led by people skeptical of or actively hostile to its mission. With his close ties to fossil-fuel interests, Mr. Bernhardt was an obvious pick for President Trump, who describes his agenda as “energy dominance,” no matter the environmental cost. In this way, the new secretary is in the mold of other industry defenders, like Mr. Zinke and Mr. Pruitt; Andrew Wheeler, the current E.P.A. chief; and Jeffrey Clark, the former energy-industry lawyer and climate-change skeptic in charge of the Justice Department’s environment and natural resources division.

As deputy secretary, Mr. Bernhardt indeed labored to realize Mr. Trump’s vision. As The Times noted, he “has been the central policy architect not only of the administration’s efforts to open public land to energy companies, but also of a plan to loosen key provisions of the Endangered Species Act and to weaken safety and environmental rules on oil and gas drilling equipment.”

During his hearing, Mr. Bernhardt assured senators that, as secretary, he would continue to “tirelessly promote President Trump’s goals for the Department of the Interior.”

There is little doubt of this. What does need to be determined is if Mr. Bernhardt has crossed legal or ethical lines in pursuit of those goals.

Even by the standards of the ethically elastic Trump administration, this is impressive.

A former oil and gas lobbyist, Mr. Bernhardt has been under scrutiny since joining the Interior Department in 2017 as its deputy secretary. Many of the complaints now under review were revealed in a trio of investigations by The Times, which detailed allegations that Mr. Bernhardt continued to work as a lobbyist for months after filing documents claiming to have ended such work, blocked the release of a department report on the toxic effects of certain pesticides on hundreds of endangered species and used his office to champion policies favored by former clients. Separately, CNN reported that, during his tenure, the department “made at least 15 policy changes, decisions or proposals that would directly benefit Bernhardt’s former clients.”

Fresh questions are also emerging about Mr. Bernhardt’s possible violation of public-records laws. This week, the department acknowledged that aides had intentionally omitted meetings with industry groups from his public schedule and that, contrary to previous claims, his private schedule is kept on a lone Google document regularly overwritten by his staff. The National Archives and Records Administration has felt moved to get involved.

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, argued for Mr. Bernhardt’s confirmation to be delayed until some of the ethical clouds could be dispelled. That idea went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. When the inspector general’s office announced its inquiry, Mr. Wyden was quick to gloat, “We now have an interior secretary who has been on the job for one full business day and is already under investigation.”

Online: https://nyti.ms/2v9miFw

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The Syracuse Post-Standard on paying college basketball players

April 11

We’ve reached the end of another college basketball season after a thrilling NCAA Tournament. As always, the dollars flowed between the NCAA, TV networks, sponsors and the colleges. In fact, the only ones who didn’t make any money were the players playing the games.

The NCAA had a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal with Turner and CBS through 2024 to televise the tournament. In 2016, the deal was extended through 2032 for another $8.8 billion.

The average total pay for this year’s Final Four coaches is $3,426,891 (this doesn’t include possible bonus pay), according to USA Today’s salary database.

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo: $4,157,562

Virginia’s Tony Bennett: $4,150,000

Texas Tech’s Chris Beard: $2,800,000

Auburn’s Bruce Pearl: $2,600,000

The NCAA makes sure the money finds plenty of people, just not the players.

We’ve heard all of the arguments against paying players: They get full scholarships, they get great exposure, they get an amazing college experience.

That’s all wonderful. You know what they also deserve — a cut of the money they help bring in.

For the 2017-18 season, the Syracuse University basketball program generated $31.8 million in revenue, according to financial data that the university provides to the federal government annually. That was the third-highest total in Division I. The school spent over $14.7 million, including $2.7 million in compensation for head coach Jim Boeheim. That left a surplus of $17 million.

Yes, the school uses some of that $17 million surplus to fund its non-revenue sports. However, there should be plenty of money left over to pay players.

In the NBA, players have negotiated to get 49% of basketball-related income. As a thought-experiment, Business Insider takes the NBA model and uses it to assess the value of what a college player would be worth if they were permitted any financial rights by their schools. That formula calculates the value of an average Syracuse scholarship player at $1.2 million in 2017-18.

How would that system work? Just like any other pro sports league where teams decide how to spend money on players. Tyus Battle might make more money than the eighth man on the bench. That seems to work just fine in the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and the NHL.

In addition to no pay-for-play, the NCAA also doesn’t allow players to profit off their names and likenesses.

Shortly after Battle declared he was leaving Syracuse to enter the NBA, he signed autographs for money at Destiny USA. The only reason he couldn’t have done this while he was in school was because of the tyranny of the NCAA.

The star SU players clearly have value in our community and should have every opportunity, like Boeheim and the other coaches you constantly see in commercials, to capitalize on that value. For most players, who won’t go on to be stars or even play in the NBA, it’s when they are most marketable.

Paying players would fundamentally change college sports — and that’s OK.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Guf4CE

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