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December 4, 2017 - 9:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today made the following statement after the United States Senate passed tax reform legislation:
 
“Now that the Senate has passed tax reform, we are one step closer to delivering on a once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace our outdated and complicated tax code. By doubling the standard deduction, lowering tax rates, and enhancing the family tax credit, families in Western New York will be able to keep more of what they earn.

"Tax reform will unleash America’s competitiveness and bring jobs and profits back home, where they belong. While there are differences in the House and Senate versions of the legislation, we will find common ground in conference and get this important bill to President Trump’s desk.”

November 17, 2017 - 6:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, notify.

collinsethics162017inset.jpgIt's not technically accurate to say the House Ethics Committee is investigating his involvement with Innate Immunotherapeutics, Rep. Chris Collins said today while in Batavia.

There have been questions about Collins and his alleged "insider trading" related to the Australia-based pharmaceutical company for more than a year.

The issue was first raised, Collins said, by Rep. Louis Slaughter, which led to an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

The three charges investigated by OSCE were dropped but the investigators referred two additional points of inquiry to the House Ethics Committee.

That, Collins said, is not an investigation.

"The Ethics Committee hasn't done anything," Collins said. "So to people who say I'm being investigated by ethics, I would say ethics is reviewing the OSCE, what I call 'the mall cops' report.' That doesn't mean they're investigating. And what didn't they do -- they did not appoint a subcommittee to look into it. If they thought there was wrongdoing they would have appointed a subcommittee to look into this."

Collins called the initial three points of contention and the two new issues a "nothing burger."

The points initially raised by Slaughter, he said, were that he had insider information about the progress of a clinical trial that he shared, that he facilitated discounted stock trading for congressional members, and that he supported a bill, the 21st Century Cures Act, because it benefited Innate.

To the first charge, Collins said, the clinical trial was a double-blind trial with nobody at Innate, including him, getting any idea of the potential results until the trial was completed and the results were released in July.

He couldn't have provided information on the trial to anybody because there was no information to provide.

As to the alleged illegal discount, Collins said, "We got this discount. The Office of Congressional Ethics totally dismissed that because it was available to every investor."

The allegation that Innate might someday come to the United States, and therefore benefit from the 21st Century Cures Act, was so preposterous, Collins said, that OSCE dismissed it without giving it serious consideration.

"That was such an outlandish allegation it wasn't even investigated," he said.

Out of the all the documents and emails reviewed by the OSCE, the staff came up with two more items it referred to the House Ethics Committee. One was that Collins allegedly communicated non-public information in emails to other investors and that he provided insider information about Innate to staff at the National Institute of Health.

In emails, Collins said he mentioned that the clinical trial had 93 participants. It was public knowledge that the trial would have at least 90 participants and the fact that there was 93 wasn't material to the value of the stock, he said.

He also shared his personal view that the trial would be done by a certain date, and then another date after that, and then a date after that, and in all cases he was wrong, he said.

"It was just my personal subjective opinion," he said.

'"Our CEO has done an affidavit saying he looked at those emails and there was nothing non-public in them," Collins said. "There was nothing significant in them."

As for the number of participants, he said, it's standard practice to sign up more participants than needed for a trial because some patients always drop out. The count of 93 vs. 90 really meant nothing to the value of the trial and it wasn't considered a secret by the company.

"Anyone who had called our office and asked how many people were recruited, we would not have even considered that confidential information and would have shared it," Collins said.

Significantly, Collins said, none of the people whom Collins shared information with through the emails bought or sold shares after receiving the information.

"If no one traded on it, even if I did share nonpublic information, there's no crime," Collins said.

The NIH meeting, Collins said, was part of a two-hour tour of the facility that he initially forgot about when the issue came up again a couple of years later.

The so-called insider information provided by Collins was an introduction of one scientist to another. It's common practice, Collins said, for NIH scientists to share information with outside scientists.

"There was a scientist in the one meeting who was looking at biomarkers and other indications from multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease, and some things (some aspects of the research) that there are no hard science measures on," Collins said. "It looks like this. It looks like that. Boom. Boom. Boom Boom Boom.

"And I said, 'you know, you might want to talk to our scientists because we're finding the same frustration in finding scientific measures of secondary progressive M.S. because there aren't any -- it's quality of life, patient-reported outcomes, doctor-observed things that are subjective, not objective, not scientific.

" 'You might want to want to talk to Jill. You guys should share some information.' And this woman said, 'I think it makes a lot of sense,' because that's what they do with the NIH. They talk to companies all the time."

The OSCE didn't even give Collins a chance to respond before forwarding the issue to the ethics committee, he said.

"My attorneys have subsequently done that, to point out that part of the role of the NIH is to meet with outside scientists," Collins said.

Now that these issues are in the hands' of the ethics committee staff, there isn't much Collins can do but sit and wait, he said.

It's possible there will be an investigation, but Collins said he knows of members of Congress who have waited for years while the committee did nothing on complaints brought to them, and didn't even publicly acknowledge when the case was dropped.

"Here's the most frustrating part," Collins said, "they may never look at this. This could be hanging over my head as a 'nothing burger' because they're not even investigating it."

November 17, 2017 - 4:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, taxes, news, notify.

collinsregovnov162017.jpg

(Photo: Chris Collins during a meeting today at the Job Development Center in Batavia.)

Rep. Chris Collins thinks he has the proof he needs to label Gov. Andrew Cuomo now and forevermore a pathological liar.

Following a meeting with county employment officials at the Job Development Center in Batavia, Collins took questions for reporters and in response to comments by Cuomo that the recently passed House tax reform bill will cost New Yorkers money, Collins immediately launched into a prolonged attack on Cuomo for claiming he had spoken with Collins about the bill.

"He attributed a quote to me that said that I said the reason I voted for the tax act was that I was pressured by Republican leadership," Collins said. "As I said, and it’s in The New York Times today, 'liar, liar pants on fire.' In seven years, I’ve never spoken to the governor. I certainly did not speak to him on this. Aand the outrageousness of him even fabricating a quote will tell you, if he will lie about something like that, he will not hesitate to lie about our tax plan."

The Batavian reached out to the governor's office for a response and received this statement:

The Governor's point was the Republican congress members he spoke to said they were under pressure from their political leadership‎ to vote yes‎. Collins and the rest of the New York Congress members who voted for their donors and against their own constituents can try to deflect from this irresponsible vote, but it's the Governor who stood up for New York taxpayers and always will.

Contrary to Cuomo's assertions about the reforms, the changes in the tax code will save most of his constitutes money Collins promised.

"I have said I will stake my career, my election next year, on the fact that 95 percent of the folks in GLOW and Erie County will pay less in taxes," Collins said. "If you do, then vote for me, and if you don’t, then don’t vote for me."

He challenged Cuomo to make the same pledge.

"If under our plan you pay more, then the governor was right and you should re-elect him, but next year when 95 percent of my constituents pay less, I would expect them to vote against our governor because he’s lying to them," Collins said.

Why isn't every single taxpayer in the NY-27 saving money? Collins explained it this way: If you're a married couple with no kids, with $80,000 in current state and local taxes, making $300,000 a year, living in a $1.5 million home, then, he said, you might pay $1,000 more in taxes.

Collins said most of his constituents will be quite happy when they get their first paycheck after Jan. 15 if the House bill passes the Senate -- and the Senate has its own ideas about how to change the tax code -- and they see their withholding has gone down.

"(The governor) is lying and he’s deliberately lying," Collins said. "He lied again and he exposed himself by talking about this and then attributing a quote to me. That’s beyond outrageous. I think he’s lost it.

"Now, from this day forward I can remind people, he is a pathological liar," Collins added.

November 17, 2017 - 12:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Job Bureau, chris collins, news, notify, NY-27.

collinsjobcenternov2017.jpg

Rep. Chris Collins toured the offices of the county's Job Development Bureau this morning to learn more about the work the department does to help people in Genesee County find jobs.

The tour, led by Jay Lazarony, GLOW Workforce Development Board executive director, focused on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (oWOIA), which is a federal program designed to help youth and those with significant barriers to employment find and retain high-quality jobs and careers.

Many of the clients who enter the program have not developed the job skills that help them retain jobs.

Lazarony told the story of one woman who entered the program who had been working as a home health care aide but couldn't stay in a job. The training she received helped her understand what it takes to hold onto a job and also provided her with the skills to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. The program helped her with the expense of travel, shoes, and scrubs. She eventually landed a full-time job at the Genesee County Nursing Home and now she's studying to become a Registered Nurse.

"This is the stuff that we can do with that funding, is give people a great start," Lazarony told Collins.

Collins said he appreciated the insight because so often the programs that pass before congressional members for review are just numbers on a page but the tour helped him see how the program benefits people.

So far in 2017, the center has helped 989 clients, including 141 through WIOA. A total of 137 veterans have been assisted.

There have been 1,322 people placed in jobs in Genesee County through the department's services.

Collins also learned about on-the-job-training programs through 13 participating businesses, occupational training programs, 38 on-site employer-specific job recruitment sessions, and the Summer Youth Employment program that placed 39 high school students in jobs at 23 work sites this summer.

Sometimes the clients of the center need ongoing help, said Scott Gage, director of the bureau.

"We’ll actually stay with them for 12 months after they leave us," Gage said. "We can mediate anything going on with the business, help this person out with issues. We’ve got a lot of community partners we rely on to help us out, social service agencies that will help us out in a number of ways and there’s no funding involved. They provide services and we access those services."

There are currently more than 600 job listings on file with the bureau and most of those are good-paying jobs, Gage said. With local unemployment at about 4 percent, it's proving hard for companies to find skilled workers.

The tight job market is helping to bring some people into the workforce who until now had opted out, Lazarony said. He said two recent clients the bureau has placed in jobs have worked their way up to full-time employment. They were in their mid-20s when they first came in and had never worked any type of job in their lives. They weren't part of the system at all. They just lived at home and didn't work.

There are other long-term unemployed who rely on the state's Safety Net program and they can be hard to assist, Gage said. They're capable of working, but they also have other underlying issues, such as disabilities, and sometimes they've just given up. That's a challenge, Gage said.

Collins observed that "Anybody who wants to get a job can get a job. It may not be at the wage they want, or the hours they want, or the job they want, but they can get a job."

Changes in aid programs initiated by Congress might change some of that, Collins said.

"As we continue down that road you’re going to start to see people lined up out your door," Collins said.

collinsjobcenternov2017-2.jpg

collinsjobcenternov2017-3.jpg

November 16, 2017 - 11:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release: 

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today voted for H.R. 1, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which will provide historic tax relief to families across America and spur economic growth. 

“With today’s vote, President Trump and House Republicans have seized this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform our nation’s tax code,” Collins said. “Since this plan was introduced, I have crunched the numbers and know that this bill will allow families in Western New York and the Finger Lakes to keep more of what they earn, while unleashing America’s competitiveness to bring jobs and profits back home, where they belong.”

The legislation passed by the House today lowers tax rates, collapses tax brackets, increases the child tax credit and doubles the standard deduction, which will allow families to keep more of their paychecks.

Most families are likely to use the new standard deduction, no longer needing to itemize deductions. For those who still choose to itemize, House Republicans have maintained important deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and state and local property taxes up to $10,000.

“Families that are struggling to make ends meet will see more cash in their pockets to help with everyday expenses,” Collins said. “This tax reform will also have an overwhelming impact on our nation’s economy that will create jobs and increase wages.”

Currently, the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. H.R. 1 will lower this rate to be competitive with other industrialized nations. Additionally, the plan lowers the tax rate on small businesses to the lowest it has been since World War II.

Collins added: “Unfortunately, career politicians like Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer have not been truthful over the past few weeks as they look out for New York City millionaires and try to keep more of my constituents’ hard earned money for their wasteful spending.

"I am only looking out for the people of Western New York and the Finger Lakes, and their wallets. The tax reform package ultimately sent to President Trump’s desk will improve the lives of my constituents and will truly Make America Great Again.”

Based upon average family household income, average home value, an estimated mortgage interest of 4 percent, and respective state and property taxes, a family of four in the follow counties under the House Republican tax plan would save an average of:

Erie: $1,845.60
Genesee: $1,637.50
Livingston: $1,736.40
Monroe: $1,872.76
Niagara: $1,703
Ontario: $1,836.52
Orleans: $1,362.64
Wyoming: $1,509.28
 
For more information on H.R. 1, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, click here.

November 2, 2017 - 2:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, taxes, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) applauded legislation to update our nation’s tax code that was released today by House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady. Collins cited the fact that this legislation will provide tax relief to hardworking families across America, create jobs, and grow our nation’s economy.

“Passing comprehensive tax reform will be one of the most important accomplishments we will see under President Trump,” Collins said. “Making America more competitive on the world stage will truly 'Make America Great Again' and allow more Americans to achieve the American Dream. Our nation is struggling and we need to fix the broken, outdated tax system that has burdened hard-working individuals and has crushed our economy.”

The plan outlined by House Republicans will strengthen the American middle class by doubling the standard deduction, and for those who want to itemize deductions to continue to write off property taxes, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions. The legislation also reduces rates for middle-class Americans, eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and enhances the Child Tax Credit.

“Tax reform is essential in order to grow our economy for our children and grandchildren’s generations,” Collins said. “I am confident that we will get this bill to President Trump’s desk and will see explosive economic growth.”

The framework puts America’s corporate tax rate below the average of other industrialized countries and promotes greater investment in American manufacturing. Collins supports reducing the minimum tax rate for small businesses and corporations in order to increase American competitiveness, create jobs and grow the nation’s economy.

For more information on H.R. 1, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, click here.

October 30, 2017 - 7:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, chris collins, NY-27, taxes.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement applauding Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady’s decision to include a state and local property tax deduction in the House Republican tax reform bill.

"I am pleased that Chairman Brady has agreed to keep the SALT property tax deduction in the new tax reform legislation. It goes to show you that leadership does listen to the concerns we as members point out. Now, New York taxpayers are poised for a big victory when federal tax reform provides them with more money in their pockets and better economic opportunity. It’s time for Andrew Cuomo to follow our lead and deliver comprehensive tax reform when it comes to the state income and property taxes New Yorkers pay."

The Ways and Means Committee is expected to release its tax reform legislation on Wednesday. For more information on the unified framework for fixing our broken tax code, click here.

Here's CNN's story on the status of the deductions.

October 26, 2017 - 12:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Today Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement after voting in support of the Senate-passed budget that paves the way for tax reform:

“Passing the budget was essential to getting tax reform completed without the threat of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. We have set the stage to pass a tax reform bill that will drop corporate tax rates, put the United States on an equal playing field with the rest of the world, and lower the tax burden on small businesses. My colleagues and I are committed to sending President Trump a tax reform package in the coming weeks that will lead to explosive economic growth, create jobs and put money back in the pockets of working families.”

The budget passed 216-212. Here's more from the Washington Post.

October 24, 2017 - 1:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, notify.

There are eight people who have active files with the Federal Elections Commission, making them eligible for a primary campaign in June 2018 for New York's 27th congressional district.

Rep. Chris Collins is the incumbent and is one of the eight who has filed.

Not all who have filed are running, but even among the announced candidates, an incumbent being targeted by both primary and general election challengers is unusual.

His campaign chief Chris Grant said he isn't worried.

"We live in very fluid political times, so people, especially on the Democratic side, whip themselves into a frenzy because they believe, wrongly, that the country agrees with their progressive, extremist positions and then they run into the reality of running against an incumbent congressman who is very popular in his district," Grant said. "I'm not surprised by any of it."

The seven people with FEC filings are:

  • Kevin Aleong, who has no party affiliation but does have a campaign website;
  • James Banks, a Republican, whom we wrote about yesterday;
  • David Bellavia, who ran against and lost to Collins in a primary in 2012, and has yet to express his intentions for 2018;
  • Sean Bunny, a Democrat, who has said he's running but has yet to make an appearance in Genesee County;
  • Erin Cole, a Democrat who has reportedly dropped out of the race;
  • Michael McHale, a Republican who ran in 2006 but has made no announcement about 2018; and,
  • Nicholas Stankevich, a Democrat who was in Batavia yesterday to announce his candidacy.

Frank Smierciak II, a 26-year-old Republican, has also announced his intention to challenge Collins in the primary and got a lot of attention from the media for running at such a young age, but he has yet to file with the FEC.

The fact there are Republican challengers also isn't a concern, Grant said.

"Every cycle now, people get into the fall of an off-year election and they think there is an opportunity and then the reality of qualifying for the ballot and running a real campaign rears its ugly head before they reach February, March, and April," Grant said.

Collins is popular in his district, even with an ethics investigation hanging around, and it hasn't hurt Collins at all that he was an early and vocal supporter for Donald Trump for president and continues to be loyal to Trump.

Trump is perhaps more popular in the NY-27 than any district in New York.

"It's not Trump," Grant said. "It's because of what Trump said, Trump's message."

Collins was out in front on the issues that drew people in the 27th to Trump, Grant said, such as "destructive trade agreements, and jobs being shipped overseas, and a Washington culture of elitism that ignores the people in districts like the New York 27."

Challengers to Collins are perhaps a bit out of touch with reality in the 27th District, Grant suggested.

"I think all of these candidates watch way too much cable news, pay too much to the Acela corridor press and whip themselves into a frenzy about a race they can’t win," Grant said. 

He added, "The progressive resistance movement is nonsense. It's so out of touch with what middle-class working families care about. It just shows they don't understand what people care about in the district."

As for Bellavia, the one candidate who might come into a race with some name recognition, Grant had no insight on whether he's actually running.

Last night, The Batavian emailed Bellavia, a resident of Batavia, about the FEC filing and his only response, "You noticed that?" He didn't respond to a follow-up message pressing for more clarity and confirmation.

"David's his own man and we respect him and we respect his service (Bellavia is an Iraq War vet), but we're going to fight hard for every vote in the New York 27," Grant said.

October 24, 2017 - 11:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Nicholas Stankevich, NY-27, batavia, news.

stankevichannounceoct2017.jpg

With a promise to focus on people and jobs, a Mumford resident, Nicholas Stankevich, stepped behind a lectern placed in front of the entrance of Batavia High School yesterday and announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the 27th Congressional District.

Stankevich has just finished a tour of the school led by Pat Burk, chairman of the Batavia City Schools District trustees.

Burk said he was endorsing Stankevich because the candidate would support education and favor policies that continued the flow of funds from the federal Department of Education to local school districts.

"Districts require a certain level of cooperation and funding from the federal government in order to provide for many of our neediest students," Burk said. "Programs that are called upon daily to aid and assist our children are in jeopardy under current conditions and this administration."

Burk then discussed some of the programs that assist students and educators that are threatened, including Medicaid, nutrition programs and programs to promote new technology and training.

"Nick Stankevich will work with our local educational leaders to understand the needs of our students and the families that we serve," Burk said. "He will work to maintain a high level of funding that is needed to provide for our neediest children."

When asked for specifics on his education policy, Stankevich said that's a work in progress.

"There is this is a lot of work to be done," Stankevich said. "It's holding people accountable. And like I said before, as the campaign goes on we'll get into more specifics on legislation."

As he said before, he doesn't yet have specifics on his "people and jobs" platform.

"As we unfold more and as the campaign goes along we will be releasing specific policies and specifically to jobs," he said.

A lifelong resident of Western New York, Stankevich described himself as both an educator and small businessman. His first business, of five, was a swim school, which he said he ran successfully for 12 years. Currently, he is in charge of marketing for his parents' bed and breakfast in Mumford. He holds an MBA from the Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management in Los Angeles. On his LinkedIn profile, he also lists himself as cofounder (with his brother Jason) and CEO of a startup technology company based in Los Angeles, Instrekt. The company describes itself on Crunchbase as,"... an Airbnb style, trusted community-driven marketplace for people to list, discover, and book activity-based lessons around the world."

His experience, he said, prepares him to focus on jobs, jobs for people.

"There are many different ways to do economic development and mine would be more of a people-first approach that helps the community," he said.

He said he decided to run because he sees so many problems around us.

"Just stepping outside your door, looking down the street," Stankevich said. "You know there's there's a lot to be done in all of our communities and I believe that we need new leadership and we need a new direction."

October 23, 2017 - 6:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, James Banks, news.

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James Banks says he's just an average grandfather from Western New York who wants to see if somebody who is just a regular guy can get elected to represent all of the 27th Congressional District, not just a favored portion of it, or if monied-interests will win out again.

He's running a low-key campaign to try to upset Chris Collins in the NY-27 primary.

He stopped in Batavia today to discuss his nascent campaign and political ambitions.

Banks has nothing against Collins personally, though he does believe he could represent the district better in Washington.

"I think Mr. Collins is a great businessman," Banks said. "As such, he's a risk taker. I have great respect for him. He was a great county executive in Erie County. He's a family man. I have no personal conflict with Mr. Collins all."

However ... 

"He has seemed to indicate that he does not have an obligation to be responsive to his constituents in terms of holding a town hall or some kind of communication, regular communication work, where he's going to hear the good and the bad and the ugly," Banks said, "where he can just realize that it's people not trying to attack him personally but just trying to participate in government."

Banks is a lifelong Republican from Lancaster who voted for Ronald Reagan when he cast his first presidential ballot in 1980. He's worked in industrial sales for 25 years, which has enabled him to travel extensively throughout WNY so he knows the district well, he said. 

This is his first attempt to win public office.

On policies, he describes himself as a fiscal conservative.

"I think the debt that we have incurred is a great danger to our country and that it ought to be addressed and, really, brought under control," Banks said. "How we do that? I don't pretend to have all the answers but I would make that a priority."

He also favors free trade.

"I'm a free market capitalist," Banks said. "I think that the approach of alienating many of our best customers around the world is a little bit shortsighted. As a salesman, I'm always looking for more customers, not fewer customers."

He doesn't oppose a border wall if officials conclude that's the best way to secure our borders, but he recognizes that immigrants built this country and there should be a place for them in 21st Century America.

"I went down to Journeys End Refugee Services in Buffalo, which has been there a long time bringing legal immigrants into the country and helping them set up a new life," Banks said. "I can't even imagine the places that these people came from.

"When you hear about the stories of Rwanda, South Sudan, and I've met people from Pakistan, from Iraq, I can't even imagine what those people have gone through to get to America.

"I think we should be more welcoming. And I think it's good economics.

"At the end of the day you get great people coming in who may look a little bit different than you or have different beliefs, but you all share the core beliefs that you love your family, you love your community. You love your state you love your country."

He's not interested in making decisions for other people on how they live their lives.

On abortion, he said, "I've actually read the opinion, Roe versus Wade and I've kind of weighed that against the 14th Amendment, which protects citizens and persons. So it's a tough question, but I'm not the guy who's going to go to a young lady in distress and try to lecture her on the most difficult choice she can ever be faced with. That is best left to her, her parents, her preacher, her doctor, her relationship with God."

On gay rights, he said, "It's really none of my business. I'm concerned with myself and my own relationship with my wife of 35 years."

He does think we should watch over our environment.

"I think it's a no-brainer that if we don't have a healthy environment to live in, then basically nothing else matters," he said. "I'm not a climate fanatic but I I try to do my part in terms of recycling. But it's a huge mistake and to deny that we have challenges -- that is foolish."

He is a fan of the beauty of Western New York and he isn't a fan of people on the national stage who run it down.

"When you look at Clarence, Orchard Park, Hamburg, the suburbs around Rochester, the Finger Lakes, this is an awesome place to live," Banks said. "When I hear a presidential candidate, as in the last election besmirching our home by saying Western New York is a disaster or Upstate New York is a disaster -- just look at Buffalo look at Rochester, look at Syracuse look at Albany, it's a disaster, I kind of take that personally.

"You know this is my home. It's your home. Do we have problems? Absolutely. Should we work together to solve them? Yes. I have no doubt, you know, but it is far from a disaster."

Banks hasn't formally announced his candidacy yet. He is looking for volunteers to help pass around petitions so he can qualify for the primary ballot. Banks said he can be contacted through the LinkedIn page he's set up for the campaign.

October 17, 2017 - 11:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Charles Schumer, chris collins, NY-27, news.

Sen. Charles Schumer is using the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to draw attention to the potential impact of the GOP-proposed tax plan would have on WNY, including in the congressional district of Rep. Chris Collins.

Schumer said that in the NY-27, 29 percent of taxpayers take a deduction for paying state and local taxes for an average deduction of $12,125.

The GOP plan calls for the elimination of the deduction. 

“Eliminating the state and local deduction, while slashing taxes for the wealthy and huge corporations, will hurt middle-class taxpayers, and various attempts at a ‘compromise’ are just as bad," Schumer said in a release. "If the Republicans cap the state and local deduction too high, they will still blow a huge hole in the deficit. Cap it too low, and they’ll continue socking it to the middle class. And forcing people to choose between the state and local deduction and other deductions is like offering to taxpayers to cut off one hand or the other."

We asked Schumer's office for data on Genesee County and locally, a press aide provided a link to the Tax Foundation, which shows the average state and local tax deduction for Genesee County is $2,257. (The formula for this calculation appears to be different then the calculation presented by Schumer's office in the second paragraph above. That formula is the average of the 29 percent taking the deductions; this formula, according to the article, is an average of all filers in the county.)

To claim the deduction, filers must itemize their deductions, which might include things like health care costs, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions. 

Filers who don't itemize can take the standard deduction, which is currently $6,350 for single filers and $12,700 for married couples.

The current GOP tax plan calls for simplifying deductions and increasing the amount of the standard deduction. 

Collins expressed support for elimination of the state and local tax deduction in an interview with The Batavian last year when we produced our series on Trump, trade and the local economy.

“When Vice President Pence arrives in Buffalo today, I hope he’s prepared to explain why he wants to hike taxes on thousands of middle-class families in the Buffalo area and across the country," Schumer said. "It hurts the middle class; it hammers the New York economy; and, it undermines property values."

October 13, 2017 - 3:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Turn 27 Blue believes that the breaking news about Rep. Chris Collins' serious ethics issues makes it absolutely clear that the voters of New York's 27th District deserve better from their member of Congress.

The coalition of grassroots leadership and the eight-county Democratic chairs who make up Turn 27 Blue call on Mr. Collins to leave all corporate boards on which he serves and divest himself of all investments that create potential conflicts of interest and begin immediately to do the job he was elected to do: serve as our congressman and actually represent us rather than his portfolio.

"It has never been more obvious that the term 'Representative' is misapplied when it comes to Chris Collins, and the decision released today by the House Ethics Committee to continue its investigation of him reinforces that," said Judith Hunter, the Livingston County Democratic chair. "His actions prove that his priorities are his own bottom line and those of his cronies', not the interests of the hard-working voters of New York 27."

Jeremy Zellner, the Erie County Democratic chair, pointed out that, "Just because an investment goes bust doesn't mean you didn't try to use your public office for personal gain. Failing doesn't make it all OK. And Collins continues to this day to pad his own pockets but not deliver for Western New York."

"I wish I were in a position to make laws for my own personal benefit, but I'm not. Chris Collins shouldn't be, either. And he shouldn't be trying to 'make millionaires' out of his buddies," said Amber Hainey, of GLOW Progressives. "He should be focused on the ordinary people of this district, not just the rich and powerful he sees as his constituency."

Jeanne Crane, Democratic Chair of Orleans County, noted that Collins' statements about his ethics troubles have all focused on Congresswoman Louise Slaughter's role in bringing the original complaint, even though ordinary citizens also filed their own complaints.

"My part of Orleans County used to be represented by Congresswoman Slaughter, and I know how hard and how long she worked to get the STOCK Act against insider trading by members of the House and Senate passed," Crane said. "No wonder she is furious that a neighboring member of Congress would so recklessly violate the spirit of that law.

"You know, just shrieking the words 'witch hunt' over and over again doesn't change the fact that the Office of Congressional Ethics felt the evidence was serious enough to warrant a full investigation of Mr. Collins, and today the House Ethics Committee agreed."

September 28, 2017 - 4:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Bethany, news, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today announced $785,000 in federal funding for the Town of Bethany. This $785,000 was awarded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Water and Waste Disposable Loans and Grants Program. The Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program provide funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary waste disposal, and stormwater drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.

“The USDA’s Water and Waste Disposable Loan and Grant Program is a prudent use of federal funding that helps rural communities here in Western New York provide reliable access to clean water for its residents,” said Congressman Chris Collins. “Constructing Water District #2 has been a top priority for the Town, so this funding is certainly welcome news for Bethany residents.

"I was glad to work with Supervisor Hyde to secure this critical USDA funding that will undoubtedly improve the quality of life both in Bethany and in Genesee County.”

The Town of Bethany has been awarded a USDA Rural Development loan of $785,000, which will be used to address health code issues associated with a number of the Town’s water wells. In addition, the Town of Bethany intends to create Water District #2, a project that is estimated to cost $1,354,000, which will extend public water service to 40 residential and one other user in the Town who currently do not have access to safe potable water.

“First and foremost I want to thank Congressman Collins for his support of this critical USDA program,” said Carl Hyde, J.R., Bethany town supervisor. “Because of this funding, residents of Bethany will now have access to clean drinking water and I am glad to know Congressman Collins supports keeping the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program intact.”

To learn more about the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, including eligibility requirements, please click here.

September 27, 2017 - 4:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement in support of the U.S. House of Representatives Republican framework on tax reform that was released today:

“Updating our nation’s tax code will be one of the most important accomplishments we will see under President Trump. The House Republican framework is what will truly make America Great Again by making our country more competitive around the world and allowing families to keep more of what they earn.

"Lower corporate tax rates and repatriation of dollars that are overseas will directly stimulate investment and job growth in Western New York and around our country. It’s time for Congress to follow President Trump’s lead and fix the broken, outdated tax system that has burdened hard-working individuals and has crushed our economy."

For more information on the House Republican tax reform framework, click here.

September 26, 2017 - 12:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, agriculture, business.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) met with United States Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta today to discuss expanding the H-2A Agricultural Visa program. This program allows agriculture employers to hire workers on a temporary basis to fill seasonal jobs. 

Under the current program, America’s agricultural employers that require year-round workers are met with challenges as it relates to finding a legal, experienced workforce. The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy. Both crop and livestock farmers depend on affordable labor, yet an oversight in the H-2A program has put the latter at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining workers.

“I’ve talked with hard-working farmers across Western New York who are struggling because they are unable to retain year-round workers,” Collins said. “Our dairy farmers especially are burdened with an H-2A program that does not allow them to hire the individuals they need to milk cows, feed livestock, and maintain the herd.” 

The agriculture industry is vital to the Western New York economy. Collins’ Congressional District includes almost 5,000 farms, which produce more than $1 billion of products sold each year.

Collins said one area of the H-2A program that needs improvement includes changing eligibility to include year-round agricultural operations such as dairy, nursery, and fresh-cut operations. The meeting with Secretary Acosta was based on the fact that the Department of Labor (USDOL) has the ability to make rule changes that would immediately amend program guidelines.  

“I urged Secretary Acosta to take action on this issue now. Western New York’s and America’s farmers can’t continue to be burdened by these ineffective rules and regulations while waiting for Congress to act,” Collins added.

Collins was joined by Members of Congress from across the United States who also discussed streamlining the H-2A application process. Recommendations presented would reduce redundancies and improve operating efficiencies.  

“I am committed to working with President Trump, Secretary Acosta and my colleagues in Congress to make the necessary reforms that are good for our agriculture industry, and in turn, good for our economy.”

September 24, 2017 - 3:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, agriculture, batavia, news, notify.

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Local farmers and other members of the agriculture industry were briefed Saturday on various legislative issues by Rep. Chris Collins and a member of his staff.

The topics discussed included immigration, the new farm bill, the Waters of the U.S. rule and even a couple of non-agricultural items. The meeting was held at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office on East Main Street, Batavia.

Legislative Assistant Taylor Kloustin provided an update on key issues Collins is working on, including the H2A work visa program, workforce legislation, the upcoming effort to pass a new farm bill, and Waters of the U.S. rules.

Collins is meeting next week with the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, to discuss immigration issues, most notably expanding the H2A visa program to allow workers from other countries to stay in the United States all year long when employed in certain farm jobs, such as dairy and livestock.

She said Collins is also interested in seeing the program revised for temporary workers so that they can get back into the country easier once they've established ongoing employment, such as a TSA-like precheck, perhaps with a biometric ID card.

There's also legislation pending that would move responsibility for farm labor from the Department of Labor to the USDA, which Kloustin said is an agency more familiar with the needs of farmers for labor.

The committee working on the Farm Bill renewal is expected to have language in place by November.

Collins is chair of the specialty crops caucus so his office is working with United Fresh on setting up a specialty crops awareness program in November for House staffers working on the Farm Bill so they can better understand the needs of specialty crop growers.

Dean Norton, an Elba dairy farmer, was one of those who brought the conversation back during the Q&A time to the Waters of the U.S. rule. The rule was approved during the Obama Administration and Trump has rescinded it by executive order. Farmers were upset by the bill because it could be used to regulate the smallest bodies of water on farms.

Norton and other farmers noted that what can be undone by executive order can be reimplemented by executive order in the next administration. They encouraged Collins to pursue legislation that would make Trump's order permanent.

Craig Yunker, CEO CY Farms, expressed concern about the direction the Trump Administration is taking on trade. He's particularly concerned about the seeming protectionist positions of Peter Navarro, a trade advisor to the Trump Administration. Yunker said with the United States pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership there are already trade problems with Japan.

Collins said there's a lot of uncertainty about what will happen with trade during the Trump Administration because we're only eight months into his presidency. He thinks Trump has the right people around him, though, to handle the issue.

"Trump very clear at the U.N.," Collins said. "It’s America first; he’s going to look out for America’s interest. He is going to expect other countries to do their fair share. He's looking for fair trade.

"My worry is your worry," Collins added. "Typically, the retaliation is on ag. That’s the gotcha. Whether it’s Canada or whether it’s Mexico or whether it’s something like apples going to Asia, we do know they retaliate using ag. I share that concern, but the administration knows this. They’re smart guys. To me, it’s too early to tell."

Maureen Torrey, of Torrey Farms, a large grower of produce, said her big concern remains trade restrictions in Canada, which makes it harder to sell U.S.-grown produce north of the border, even though there is no restriction on produce from Canada being sold here.

"It’s pretty sad that within five miles of the border you have 95 percent the population of Canada and the only time I can sell is if they don’t have it and then I have to go through a process to have them to say 'yes, you can ship something', " Torry said. "We need to get that door a little bit more open."

One farmer wondered if the bipartisan spirit displayed by Trump when he reached a deal a couple of weeks ago with Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi is something the GOP leadership in both houses will pick up on and follow.

"To be honest I think Trump is going to lead it from start to finish," Collins said.

While Trump's deal on the debt ceiling and relief for the victims of Harvey and Irma may have shocked and even upset some members of Congress, the leadership is going to have to fall in line, Collins said. 

"I think he's telling Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, 'You better get behind me,' " Collins said. " 'I'm the president. I'm the CEO.' "

Collins said he's solidly behind the president on this point and thinks a lot of what the president wants to get done this congressional term, most notably tax reform, will require bipartisan effort. Even within the GOP, he noted, there are too many divergent interests for the Republicans to act unilaterally. 

"I applauded him for doing what he did, though others just thought it was the worst thing that ever could have happened," Collins said. "There are a lot of folks that want to protect their own turf, if you will, and they didn’t like it. But as I’ve said, 'How did we do on health care?' Not so good, and that’s something we unanimously agreed on until the rubber hit the road and the document’s there. That’s the whole problem."

The other non-farm issue to come up was North Korea.  

" 'Rocket Man', " Collins said with a chuckle. "I’ve got to give Trump credit. He is so good with nicknames. I think Rocket Man is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s poking at Kim Jong-un. It’s getting under his skin. And it’s appropriate. He’s going to be Rocket Man from now on.”

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Dean Norton, dairy farmer from Elba.

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September 23, 2017 - 4:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, Le Roy, news, NY-27, SAFE Act, 2nd Amendment.

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About 70 members of rod and gun clubs in Genesee County were at the Northwoods Sportsman Club in Le Roy this afternoon to fire one shot each at noon to protest the SAFE Act and express support for Rep. Chris Collins' bill to block the SAFE Act at the Federal level.

Both Collins and State Senator Micheal Ranzenhofer were on hand to participate in the "Shot Heard Around New York" event at precisely noon today.

Collins said his bill, the Second Amendment Guarantee Act, has a good chance at passage if it gets out of the Judiciary Committee for a vote on the House floor because the NRA has said it will score the vote if it comes to a floor vote.

Even though New York's SAFE Act is the impetus for the bill, many members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, recognize this isn't just a New York issue because their states could also pass bills that violate the Second Amendment.

"I absolutely support the 10th Amendment, states' rights," Collins said. "Some folks have said this is a Federal preemption of sorts, and I’ve tried to remind them what we’re doing here is preventing a state from restricting Second Amendment rights; just like a state cannot restrict First Amendment rights, a state cannot restrict religious freedom, and they should not be able to do as New York has done -- restrict Second Amendment rights."

The bill has not been popular in Albany, Collins said.

"Andrew Cuomo knows this is a real fight because we know how he does things," Collins said. "He threw a tantrum in his office. The report we got back was there were objects being thrown through the area. That’s typical of what we’ve heard of the governor.

"He knows once we get this passed he can sue us all day long, but we’re going to make sure it’s written in a way that we’re simply saying that a state cannot preempt federal law when it comes to restrictions or requirements on long guns."

Ranzenhofer thanks Collins for his efforts.

"Every year issues come before us and we stop a lot of bad legislation from coming through, but we need your help on this particular piece of legislation," Ranzenhofer said. "You know with our governor, he is not going to sign a repeal bill.

"That’s why I’m so thankful that Congressman Collins is leading this fight in Congress because when you can’t do it directly this is the option that we have, doing it at the Federal level and saying 'New York State, this is not going to happen.' "

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September 22, 2017 - 11:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron, news, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today announced $2,220,000 in federal funding for the Village of Wyoming and $2,858,000 in federal funding for the Town of Byron. This $5,078,000 was awarded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Water and Waste Disposable Loans and Grants Program.

The Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary waste disposal, and stormwater drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.
 
“Communities throughout all of Western New York deserve reliable access to clean drinking water,” Congressman Chris Collins said. “Constructing and maintaining water systems oftentimes are costly projects, but the Water and Waste Disposable Loan and Grant Program provides federal assistance to ensure rural communities, like the Town of Byron and Village of Wyoming, are still able to provide clean water for their residents. I’m proud to announce this $5,078,000 award and I know it will help residents of both communities grow stronger and healthier.”

The Town of Byron has been awarded a USDA Rural Development loan of $2,108,000 and a grant of $750,000, both of which will be used to address the lack of clean, accessible drinking water in the area. The Town of Byron intends to create Water District #8, a project which is estimated to cost $2,858,000, will extend public water service to 107 residential users in the town who currently do not have access to safe potable water.

“On behalf of the Town of Byron, myself, and residents of the affected area, we greatly appreciate the work that Congressman Collins has done on our behalf,” said Peter Yasses, Byron Town supervisor. “Most of the residents have had to haul drinking water in, and so this funding will address that issue and ensure we can provide adequate fire protection as well.”

The Village of Wyoming has been awarded a USDA Rural Development loan of $1,554,000 and a grant of $666,000 to assist with fund restorations and replacements to local water systems. The Village of Wyoming intends to address ongoing issues with on-site wastewater systems, which have been causing groundwater quality impairments within the Village’s public water supply.

This project, which is projected to cost $2,220,000, will provide a secondary source of water to 163 residential and commercial users and will ensure the Village’s water supply is preserved and protected.

“This is something our Village needed, as we have less than 500 village residents and only one water well,” said Nate Norton, Village of Wyoming mayor. “This USDA funding will allow us to redo our water system, which has been a priority of ours for years. This will have a significant and direct impact on the quality of life of for here in Wyoming and we thank the Congressman for his support. We look forward to improving our water systems in the near future.”

To learn more about the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, including eligibility requirements, please click here.

September 13, 2017 - 8:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, fire services.

Press release:

Today the House unanimously passed legislation introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) that would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and maintain a registry to collect data regarding the incidence of cancer in firefighters. H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, is the first step in addressing the detrimental health effects firefighters may experience when responding to fire emergencies.

“Sixteen years ago yesterday, on September 11th, 2001, we witnessed a horrible tragedy that will leave an impression on generations of Americans forever,” Congressman Collins said. “Through this tragedy, we witnessed the heroic actions of America’s brave first responders working and volunteering in the days and weeks to come. We lost many first responders during those attacks of 9/11 and we continue to lose more every year from ongoing health effects."

“Passage of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act is a major step towards improving the health and safety of our brave firefighters across the nation who head into danger despite the risks and keep our communities safe," said Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), who co-authored the bill. "The least we can do is seek to better understand the connections between the job firefighters do and risk of cancer, so we can then help mitigate those risks.”

A 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) determined that U.S. firefighters had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and related deaths than the general population. This study’s findings were determined by a small sample size, reflecting the enormous gap in research when it comes to the incidence of cancer in these men and women. Collins’ Firefighter Cancer Registry Act would ensure greater and more specific data was collected by establishing a comprehensive database.

“After NIOSH’s 2015 study, it was clear something needed to be done to ensure our nation’s firefighters had the best resources and equipment available to mitigate potential future health risks. This bill will help us study this deadly trend and the information we gather will determine what needs to be done to improve safety protocols for these brave men and women," added Collins.

If signed into law, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act would authorize $2 million in federal funds to the CDC from FY2018 to FY2022. Data gathered would include a number of potential risk factors, including but not limited to the status of the firefighter (volunteer, paid-on-call, or career), number of years on the job, the number of incidents attended, and the type of incidence. The collection of this data would allow for improved equipment, enhanced safety protocols and preventative techniques for our firefighters.

Earlier today, Congressman Collins spoke to the importance of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act on the House Floor

“This registry will go a long way towards improving quality of life for the men and women who devote themselves to saving lives,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (OR-02). “Coming from a region of the country currently being ravaged by wildfires, I am constantly appreciative of the men and women who go into these dangerous situations of fire and smoke to protect others. This national registry is another way for us to do more to protect them.” 

"The IAFC thanks Representatives Collins and Pascrell for their leadership in securing passage of H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017,” said Chief Thomas Jenkins, International Association of Fire Chiefs president and chairman of the board. “This legislation will help researchers to better understand the link between firefighting and cancer and help the nation’s fire service fight this significant health threat."

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act was advanced out of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on June 29, 2017 and was passed out of full committee on July 27, 2017. The next step in advancing this legislation is passage in the Senate.

For more information on H.R. 931, Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, click here.

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