Cuomo’s Seven Round Limit on Gun Magazines to be Indefinitely Lifted
One of the signature pieces of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act, the seven round limit on gun magazines, has been scrapped according to Senate Republicans. In a win for gun rights proponents who claimed the SAFE Act was pushed through the legislature hastily and with little critical discussion, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R – Long Island) explained there would be an “indefinite postponement” on the issue through an amendment to the state budget. According to Skelos, the removal was pursued because no handgun manufacturer produces magazines with capacities of seven rounds or less. Earlier this month Cuomo had suggested that though ten round magazines will still be available, gun owners will be legally allowed to load only seven rounds into each. A statement has not been issued by Cuomo’s office regarding the amendment or its impact on the seven round limit in ten round magazines. Other parts of the SAFE Act including stronger regulations on assault weapons and weapon purchases, will not be affected when the state budget will come up for a vote on March 28 and go into effect on April 1.

Rockland DA Announces Work With Federal Officials on Electronic Communications Privacy
Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe announced on March 27 that representatives with his office were sharing law enforcement concerns to the U.S. Congress on the Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Investigative Technology Support Center director Josh Landers offered information before the Senate’s March 19 subcommittee alongside representatives from groups such as Google and the Department of Justice regarding the ECPA. Congress is currently proposing alterations to the ECPA, which was passed into law in 1986 and has not been updated since 2001. The proposed changes include revised search warrant requirements for electronic communications, the elimination of the “180-Day” requirement outlining regulations on emails of varying ages and required notification of those whose emails have been subject to searches.

Environmental Groups Announce Support for Tappan Zee Bridge Plan
In a turnaround from their previously critical position, Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson announced support for the project to rebuild the Tappan Zee Bridge. The support comes in response to a state Department of Environmental Conservation permit and the addition of $2 million worth of safeguards which aim to protect marine life, appoint an independent monitor to evaluate construction activities and restore a secondary river channel in Columbia County. The addition will bring the total cost of the bridge’s mitigation fund up to $10 million but will prevent lawsuits by satisfying environmental critics with the two organizations. Much of Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson’s attention was directed at protections for Atlantic and short-nose sturgeons, endangered fish species which they said could be impacted by dredging activities. The permit requires the study of these fish populations as well as the replacement of disturbed oyster beds and the removal of invasive species.

Rockland to Receive Twelve Percent State Boost in Highway and Bridge Repair Funds
As part of the state’s 2013-2014 budget, Rockland County will receive a twelve percent increase in funds designated for road and bridge repairs, according to an announcement by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 25. The $158,552 increase comes as part of a larger $75 million increase for repair funds statewide. This boost brings the total funds set for Rockland to about $1.4 million, though Orangetown and Clarkstown will benefit especially from the increases, which total to about twenty seven percent boosts each. The funding comes as part of the state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) Program, which the Legislature established in 1981 to set aside money for localities. Funds go directly to counties, towns, villages and cities, which use them to make improvements to existing infrastructure, and the measure is the first state funding increase for the program since 2008-2009.

Strawtown Students Participate in March Forward Activities
The Rockland County School health and Wellness Initiative sponsored a program involving Strawtown Elementary students in walking activities to raise awareness of the importance of health and wellness. The March Forward Program involved three hundred student participants who were joined parents and teachers as they participated in a twenty minute walk around the circular driveway of Strawtown Elementary School. Participants chose to move at different paces which included jogs and runs, though they were told there was no race involved and the goal was to stay moving as long as they wished. The event was organized in conjunction with Strawtown physical education teacher John Fitzgerald, who explained that students, who were told to prepare for the event by bringing athletic gear, seemed to look forward to the event.

Pearl River Man Arrested on Home Improvement Store Theft Charges
Pearl River resident Matthew Mullen was arrested Monday morning on charges related to multiple thefts of over $1,600 in copper wiring from a home improvement store in Orangeburg, according to Orangetown Police. Mullen, 34, was wanted on a warrant and apprehended by Orangetown police. He allegedly stole wiring from the Lowes Hardware Store on Route 303 on three separate occasions in November and December 2012 and was stopped on two occasions by store employees. As he awaits a hearing in the Orangetown Justice Court, Mullen faces several counts of petty larceny and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

Hazardous Materials Team Responds to Fuel Spill
Rockland County’s Hazardous Materials Team responded to a Tuesday evening call from the Spring Valley Fire Department 17 requesting aid in cleaning a truck leaking diesel on Route 59. At 8:19 p.m., Spring Valley fire personnel were called to the scene of a truck leaking the fuel. Though an Office of Fire and Emergency Services press statement made no mention of a blaze, the unit did succeed in containing the leak with speedy dry and absorbent pads long enough to contact and wait for Rockland HAZMAT. Upon arrival, HAZMAT removed the remaining fuel from the damaged tank and completed the cleanup. No injuries or damage to other vehicles was reported.

New Legislation Requires Certain Gas Stations to have Backup Generators
State senator David Carlucci (D – Rockland/Ossining) recently announced the senate passage of a resolution mandating key gas stations downstate to have emergency transfer switches and access to generators which can be used in case of emergencies. The resolution, which was modeled after similar disaster preparedness requirements in hurricane-prone states such as Florida, comes in response to issues raised during post-Sandy gas shortages which were aggravated by gas stations’ inability to maintain enough power to satisfy consumer demands. In addition to the mandate, the legislation carries requirements for the transfer pre-wiring and generators, financial incentives for compliant stations, and penalties for those who do not comply. The resolution is now expected to move on to a vote in the State Assembly. Governor Cuomo announced funding for the program would be included in 30-day budget amendments to the Executive Budget, but if the situation changes and the funding is not available, these requirements will not apply.

In Florida, Violent Crime Goes Down as Concealed Carry Goes Up
Within the span of four years, violent crime in the state of Florida dropped significantly, according to new figures from an ABC News report. The statistics show that between 2007 and 2011, violent crime involving handguns dropped thirty three percent as the number of concealed carry permits skyrocketed by ninety percent. The numbers proved encouraging to gun advocates such as Sean Caranna of Florida Carry Inc., who explained that he was “happy to have facts and statistics put into these debates.” Gun control proponents criticized the results, claiming the lack of definite correlation between crime rates and gun permits, climbing rates of murder involving firearms and an additional twenty six percent drop in violent crimes overall which might suggest other factors contributing to the findings.

Supreme Court Rules Use of Drug-Sniffing Dog is Unconstitutional
The use of a drug dog outside the residence of a suspect did not establish reasonable suspicion to search the house without a warrant, according to a narrow split decision by U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The Justices voting for the search’s illegality included an unusual mixture of conservatives and liberals, with Justice Anthony Scalia writing the majority opinion and Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joining him in opposing the search. Justices John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito dissented from the majority opinion. The court based its support for a previous Florida Supreme Court ruling by arguing the search of Miami-Dade County resident Joelis Jardines’ by a dog sniffing outside the door of his house was a search using a law enforcement tool which extended beyond the plain view standard police to which warrantless police were bound.

Former East Ramapo Superintendent of Schools Set to Retire
Ira E. Oustatcher, who led the East Ramapo School District toward the tail end of a long year career and often fought the East Ramapo school board for public school student education, retired last week after a long, accomplished career. A Bronx native who graduated from Queens College and initially became an economics teacher, Oustacher’s career spanned over four decades and included teaching and administrative positions in Rockland, Westchester, and New Jersey schools. He was particularly well-known for his tenure as Superintendent of Schools for East Ramapo from April 2008 to March 2011, where he often came into conflict with the school board before the board voted to remove him, replacing him with then special student srvices director Joel Klein. Reflecting upon the end of his career in an interview with the Journal news, Oustacher wished his students the best and explained that in retirement, he planned a wide array of activities ranging from travel, rehabilitate housing for low-income families, take up boating and learn how to be a sous-chef.

Government Spends More Money on Disability than Welfare and Food Stamps Combined
According to an investigative study by Planet Money reporter Chana Joffe-Walt, past figures suggesting a decrease in public assistance failed to reveal a deeper issue of pervasive disability fraud, with disability claimants far outstripping recipients of other public programs. Joffe-Walt found disabled former workers, who are not counted in unemployment figures, far outstrip recipients of food stamps and social security, with up to a quarter of some county populations receiving disability benefits. Compared to about 150,000 new unemployed each month, there are about 250,000 new disability recipients for the same time period. Much of the change might be traced to the states, many of which often found it cheaper to transfer state welfare recipients to disability services, which was covered by federal funds and would not impact state finances. As a result, disability became what Joffe-Wait called “a de facto welfare program for people without a lot of education or job skills.”

Legislators Move to Exempt County Sales Tax on Commercial Solar Energy Systems
The Rockland County Legislature passed a resolution to amend county tax law to exempt local sales tax on the sale and installation of commercial solar energy systems equipment. The resolution, which was introduced by Legislator Alden H. Wolfe, mirrors the NYS sales tax exemption that took effect in early January of this year.“This is the next logical step in continuing to build incentive for commercial establishments to install solar energy systems,” said Legislator Wolfe. “This complements the state sales tax exemption and the Federal depreciation allowance and is an incentive similar to that which applies to homeowners.”

Cuomo Administration Gets Twelve Seat Suite at New Buffalo Bills Stadium
Plans to renovate the Buffalo Bills’ stadium may include a 12-seat luxury suite for Governor Cuomo’s administration in exchange for promises to keep the team in Buffalo, according to a recent report from the New York Times.The suite, which is part of a larger $130 million deal to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium, would be billed the “I ♥ NY Hospitality Center” and would cater to public officials. The state is slated to pay $54 million for the stadium as a whole, while Erie County will pay $41 million and the Bills will pay the difference of $35 million.According to the Cuomo Administration, the use of taxpayer dollars to build the box is legitimate because it furthers New York’s interests by promoting the state. Kenneth Adams of the Empire State Development Corporation, which will control the box, explained the box was a method to attract business to the state by demonstrating its capacity to create investment opportunities and jobs. Critics have contended the box is an unnecessary government perk and a waste of taxpayer money.

17-Year-Old Prodigy Creates $1 Million Tech Startup
Nick D’Aloisio, 17, has been scouted by tech giants and will soon work with Yahoo! thanks to his demonstrated ability as a startup businessman. D’Aloisio, who hails from England, created Summly, a news search app which piqued the interest of Yahoo!. Following months of negotiations, Summly sold for $30 million, ten percent of which would be paid in stocks.The deal also netted D’Aloisio a job at the company’s London office as the company’s youngest employee, while Yahoo! benefitted from the further expansion of their services onto mobile devices. Incredibly, the prestigious position will be his first job.

Biden Hotel Visit Costs $585,000 Per Night
The Hotel Intercontinental Paris Le Grand in Europe received a hefty $585,000 for hosting Vice President Joe Biden for a single night in February, according to a contract between the business and vice president.According to the State Department, the fees covered a broad range of services specialized for Biden, most of which seem to be security-related. The expenses included accommodations for military, communications, secret service and other staff members, many of whom traveled to the hotel in advance to make preparations for the vice president’s stay.This is not the only large bill Biden has racked up overseas. The president and his entourage also cost taxpayers a lower but still six figure dollar amount of $459,338 during his stay in London.

NYC Man Convicted of Lying to FBI about Terrorism Training
Former Staten Island resident Abdel Hameed Shehadeh was found guilty in a Brooklyn federal court on charges related to lying to the FBI about terrorist training. Shehadeh told friends about a desire to die waging violent jihad against U.S. military forces overseas and bought a one-way ticket to Islamabad, Pakistan, where he hoped to be recruited and attend a terrorist training camp. The ticket purchase caught the attention of the FBI, who questioned him about the purchase, which Shehadeh insisted was to travel abroad for religious instruction If sentenced, Shehadeh faces 21 years in prison.

West Point Employee’s Meatball Theft Becomes Federal Theft
Housekeeper Estelle Casimir, 56, was suspended from her job at Newburgh-based Watson Services and charged with larceny and possession of stolen property for pilfering a bag of frozen meatballs from her position at the West Point mess hall. Given the charges will be argued before a military court, the charges carry federal weight Superiors confronted Casimir after she attempted to stash the meatballs in a grocery bag, after which she was arrested by military police. Casimir’s actions raised suspicion given that she was assigned to cleaning rather than food-handling duties and was in an area where she was not designated to work. If convicted, Casimir faces a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in a federal stockade for each count. She is due to appear in court on April 19. Putnam County DA Comments on Personal Trainer’s Rape Charges Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy defended his handling of the rape case against his former live-in personal trainer Alexander Hossu, 35, saying he handed the case off to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. The commentary comes in response to allegations from Putnam County Sheriff Donald Smith, who claimed Levy attempted to use his office to influence the investigation into the case. Smith recently requested the aid of federal officials to explore the possibility of a probe into Levy’s conduct. Hossu, a Romanian immigrant, stands charged with two counts of first-degree rape involving the 12-year-old daughter of one of his clients. A March 27 felony hearing was scheduled, but the case was moved to May.

Clarkstown Contractor Charged with Grand Larceny
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe announced on Thursday that Clarkstown contractor Peter Provenza has been charged with second degree Grand Larceny for the alleged theft of $100,000 from a client. Provenza was arrested on March 27 for abandoning an incomplete $480,000 project in December 2011 after being given $300,000 by the victim. Attempts by the victim to recover the money were met with no success. According to New York State lien law, such funds become a trust and can only be spent on costs incurred from the project and any failure to return the funds on demand or account for their use qualifies as larceny. The defendant was arraigned on March 27 and is due in court on April 22. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in state prison.

Nanuet Home Destroyed by Fire
A Nanuet home on Fredric Street was hit by fire on Thursday morning, destroying the building and temporarily closing the busy Old Nyack Turnpike but leaving no injuries or deaths. Fire officials explained the fire, which began at around 7 a.m., spread quickly and took the entire house before firefighters could control the blaze. The cause of the fire was initially reported as being the boiler or furnace, but an investigation is ongoing and no final determination has been issued. The fire might have been exacerbated by nonfunctioning smoke detectors which were found in the home. Two individuals escaped the building with no injuries. Though the house sustained serious internal damage and the roof was destroyed, no damage to surrounding homes was reported.

EPA Demands Patrick Farm Developers Investigate Wetlands
The U.S. Environmental protection Agency recently issued a demand to developers with Scenic Development of Monsey, New York demanding they receive outside aid in mapping potentially protected wetlands at the site of their proposed development at Patrick Farm. The EPA’s request means developers must consult with the Army Corps of Engineers to examine the site. Until the ACOE comes to a decision, the developers cannot receive a sewer connection for their project of four hundred and ten high density multi-family units and eighty seven single family homes. This clearance adds to other pending approvals from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation. The move is a step forward for Ramapo opponents to the project, who have concerns about the potential environmental impact at the site and accused developers of deliberately presenting skewed wetland mapping information to the Ramapo Planning Board.

Four Arrested in Spring Valley on Various Felony Charges
During a particularly busy week, Spring Valley Police announced the arrest of four individuals for offenses related to four separate incidents including larceny, assault, and sexual abuse. In the most egregious case, Gary Morris, 28, was arrested for allegedly touching a ten year old girl inappropriately during a service at French Speaking Baptist Church on March 17. He was charged with felony sexual abuse in the first degree. Mark Ugonna Anagboso, 28, was charged with defrauding a Monsey woman out of nine thousand dollars worth of forged and fraudulent checks, which he instructed her to deposit in her checking account. For this, he stands accused of possession of a forged instrument in the first degree and grand larceny in the third degree. Two incidents of assault were reported, as well. Miordha Joseph, 23, was accused of stabbing her boyfriend during a domestic dispute on Saturday, while Mainor Moran-Garcia, 32, was arrested for allegedly stabbing another man in the hand during a fight. Both were charged with assault and criminal possession of a deadly weapon.