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Council Speaker Responds to the Supreme Court Ruling on Obama's Health Care Bill The U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act 5-4 last Thursday. The decision will reportedly insure up to 30 million Americans who are currently uninsured. Council Speaker Christine Quinn expressed her happiness with the ruling in a statement released that day. "The court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is great news for our city, state and nation. Now that the Supreme Court has recognized the right to universal access to affordable health care, it is time for the extreme right to drop their attacks and start working constructively to help meet the law's principal objectives: providing all Americans with access to the best health care in the world while bringing down the costs of our health care system." Mayor, Council Deliver 'On-Time, Balanced Budget' Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council passed a $68.5 billion budget for 2013 that will save some children's programs and 20 fire companies. "Working with our partners in the Council, we've again produced an on-time, balanced budget for our city that doesn't raise taxes on New Yorkers and that preserves the essential services that keep our city strong," Bloomberg said. "These actions?have allowed us avoid the severe service cuts that many other cities are facing." According to Bloomberg's press release, the budget increase will allow the city to add about 1,000 teachers to the school system and about $150 million to after-school programs. Funding for cultural institutions will be increased by roughly $50 million, slightly more than in 2012, with the city citing the institutions' effect on tourism as a reason for the boost. The city also expects to see $635 million in taxi medallion revenue in 2013. "We face a significant challenge again next year, but given the effective and fiscally responsible partnership we've had with the Council, and the leadership we know we can rely on from Speaker Christine Quinn, I'm confident we'll meet any challenges that arise," Bloomberg added. Bath Salts and Synthetic Marijuana Now Illegal The U.S. Senate passed new legislation last Wednesday that will ban certain chemicals found in specific types of the drugs known as "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana. The ban will head to President Barack Obama for final consent. The bill particularly targeted MDPV and mephedrone, two active ingredients found in bath salts. The salts aren't your grandmother's bath time treat, though-they are sold online, in smoke shops and convenience stores under brand names like Zoom, Red Dove, Legal Phunk and Vanilla Sky. When ingested, they cause hallucinations similar to the effects of cocaine or meth. The bill will also ban 20 primary components that make up synthetic marijuana. The substance, also known as Spice, K2 or Blaze, is sold in smoke shops and delis under names like Killer Buzz and Aroma. Synthetic marijuana is essentially a mixture of plants and herbs like bay bean, blue lotus and red clover that are sprayed with chemicals. While the drug is reported to have similar effects to natural marijuana, it goes undetected on drug tests and has increased in popularity over the last two years. Sen. Charles Schumer fought to ban these substances, citing a rash of recent crimes committed by people who were under their influence. Earlier last month, a man in Texas under the influence of synthetic marijuana attacked his family members and the family dog. A teen in Iowa committed suicide after smoking K2, and a 17-year-old stabbed his schoolmate while high on the substance. Recently, a 42-year-old man who had taken bath salts bit a chunk off another individual's face in Louisiana. "This bill closes loopholes that have allowed manufacturers to circumvent local and state bans and it ensures you can't simply cross state lines to buy these deadly poisons," said Schumer, who had previously expressed concern over differing state laws about the drugs. "We have seen bath salts involved in some of the most heinous crimes in recent months. With the president's signature, we can eradicate these toxins once and for all." Julie Menin Leaves CB1 After a seven-year stint as chair of Community Board 1, Julie Menin left her post last Tuesday with plans to run for Manhattan borough president in 2013. Catherine McVay Hughes, who is currently serving as vice chair, plans to fill Menin's spot, running unopposed for the position. Hughes has lived a block away from the World Trade Center site for 24 years and has been a vocal supporter and advocate for WTC construction safety. Highlights from Menin's time as chair include helping raise $1 million to open Manhattan Youth's Downtown Community Center. She also formed a housing committee to protect the existing stock of affordable housing in the downtown area. According to the New York Times, Menin has already raised more than $450,000 to run for Manhattan borough president. Current Borough President Scott Stringer is focusing on a run for New York City mayor.

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