Benjamin Victorious In Senate Special, Gives Dems 32 Seats

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic state Senate candidate Brian Benjamin cruised to victory in an open seat on Tuesday, giving his party 32 enrolled members in the chamber.

While 32 is the magic number to get anything done, it’s largely symbolic for now, considering the alignment of Democrat Simcha Felder with the Senate GOP and the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, which remains at odds with mainline lawmakers in the Senate.

In short, the situation is largely unchanged from before Democrat Bill Perkins won an open seat on the city Council and left. Benjamin is filling that vacancy.

Still, Senate Democrats and their allies who have been pressuring the IDC believe holding 32 seats isn’t just symbolic, but a statement that New Yorkers writ large want a Democratic chamber.

“With his election we once again have 32 Democrats in the chamber and should have a Democratic Majority that can give New Yorkers the progressive government they deserve,” said Mike Gianaris, the deputy minority leader. “I look forward to working with Brian as he fights for more funding for our schools, affordable housing and quality health care for all.”

IDC Leader Jeff Klein has countered in recent days will calls for votes on key liberal issues such as abortion rights and protections for transgender New Yorkers, inferring the bills still wouldn’t pass amid opposition from lawmakers like Sen. Ruben Diaz, a socially conservative Democrat from the Bronx.

Democrats Score Upset Win On Long Island

From the Morning Memo:

It was a good night for Democrats in the 9th Assembly district on Long Island, where Christine Pellegrino scored an upset victory in a special election to fill the seat vacated by a Republican.

Labor groups had focused on flipping the seat, expanding the already behemoth Democratic majority in the state Assembly and adding another woman to the increasingly diverse conference.

Pellegrino ran in part on her resume as a teacher — and opposition to the Common Core education standards as she pushed for local control for standards.

“Christine’s message resonates – it’s time to send a teacher, mom and opt-out leader to Albany to make public education policy,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “She’s one of us and we’re very proud today. NYSUT volunteers made thousands of phone calls and knocked on countless doors to convince 9th District residents that Christine would put the community’s needs ahead of anything else – and they listened.”

Democrats in both chambers have sought to make gains in battleground Long Island districts over the last several election cycles. In the Senate, Democrats have gain two seats in suburban districts that had once been held by Republicans.

The hope for the party — out of power in Congress and the White House following a weak down-ballot performance nationally in 2016 — will gain amid potential backlash to President Donald Trump.

“Bold progressive populism that puts working people’s issues front and center — this is how we win in Trump country,” said Working Families Party State Director Bill Lipton. “This is an amazing night for the New York State United Teachers and the entire progressive movement.”

Great Lakes Funding Still Not In Trump Budget

From the Morning Memo:

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative remained a casualty of President Donald Trump’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget, released Tuesday.

Trump’s plan does not include any funding for the program which helps to clean up pollution, fight invasive species and preserve wetlands.

Over the past several years it’s received about $300 million annually. Not-for-profit Citizens Campaign for the Environment criticized the proposal while pointing out Congress rejected less drastic cuts to the program just weeks ago.

“From keeping Asian carp out of lakes, to restoring critical habitat, to cleaning up the Buffalo River, the GLRI has been a game-changer for clean water and Western New York’s economy. It’s easy to understand why the Great Lakes have resounding bipartisan support in Congress. Yet, if the proposed cuts were adopted, progress to restore the lakes would be stopped dead in its tracks. We are counting on Congress to stand up for the Great Lakes yet again, because none of their constituents voted to make Lake Erie dead again,” Executive Director Brian Smith said.

In fact, Western New York Congressman and Trump supporter Chris Collins has repeatedly promised to defend the program since the cuts became apparent in the initial proposal in March. He did again Tuesday.

“As I said before, Congress will have vital say in this budget process and my top priority is always about fighting for my constituents. I am committed to protecting programs like NIH funding, Community Block Grants, Meals on Wheels, Great Lakes funding, among others, that play an important role in strengthening our community,” he said.

Still, Collins said the president’s budget shows a commitment to balancing the budget over the next decade, shrinking government and cutting taxes.

“As we focus on creating jobs, reducing the national debt, and keeping Americans safe, it is clear that difficult decisions will need to be made. Ultimately, it is up to Congress to make these funding decisions. My constituents know that I will continue fighting for their best interests above all else,” he said.

 

Siena Poll: Cuomo’s Numbers On The Rise

New York voters are giving high marks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, rewarding him with his highest favorability rating since June 2014 and putting his job performance rating once again above water, according to a Siena College poll released Wednesday morning.

The poll found Cuomo holds a 61 percent to 31 percent favorability rating, up from a 54 pecent to 37 percent rating in April. Meanwhile, 53 percent of voters are ready to re-election him, with 36 percent backing a generic “someone else.”

Cuomo’s job performance rating has climbed back to 51 percent, with 46 percent holding a negative view. That’s a swing from last month, when only 47 percent of voters held a positive view of Cuomo’s job performance.

The strong poll numbers for Cuomo come more than a month after lawmakers approved a state budget that was 10 days late. But the budget included a range of issues popular voters, including a plan that would allow for free college tuition to families earning less than $125,000 a year for SUNY and CUNY institutions.

At the same time, Cuomo has railed against Republicans in Congress in opposition to the plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and make other budget cuts that could impact New York.

Still, on eight key issues facing the state, voters only give Cuomo a positive job performance on the issues of higher education and human rights. He received a negative rating on matters that include taxes, infrastructure, K-12 education, criminal justice, and the economy, in which a majority say he’s doing either a fair or poor job.

On infrastructure, for example, only 37 percent of voters give Cuomo a positive review — a sentiment that comes amid ongoing troubles at Penn Station and with the MTA’s subway service.

When it comes to establishing a constitutional convention — which voters will consider this November in a referendum — the vast majority haven’t heard anything about it. But most voters, 62 percent to 22 percent, support the idea.

The poll of 770 registered voters was conducted from May 15 through May 21. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

SNY0517 Crosstabs 052417 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Here And Now

Good morning! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in western New York today as well as Oswego County before heading to Albany County. A pair of special elections in the Senate and Assembly went to Democrats last night.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is back in the Bronx today.

Your schedule:

At 10 a.m., Cuomo will be joined by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul for a Buffalo waterfront boat tour. Canalside, 44 Prime Street, Buffalo. Note from the governor’s office: “Press must arrive no later than 9:30 a.m. Please wear clothing appropriate for the weather. The boat trip will last approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, returning at 11:20 a.m. You will be with us for the duration of the trip. Press are also advised that satellite trucks will not be accommodated.”

Also at 10 a.m., Mayor de Blasio will hold a photo spray, Bronx County Courthouse – Room 123 Conference Room, 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx.

Also starting at 10 a.m., the New York Bicycling Coalition, in partnership with national groups PeopleForBikes and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association will hold an electric bike demonstration, Capital Plaza, State Street, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., a coalition of good-government and environmental groups as well as state lawmakers will push for the Senate to pass New York’s Environmental Bill of Rights. LCA Pressroom 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., de Blasio will deliver remarks, Concourse Village Elementary School, 750 Concourse Village West, Bronx.

At 1 p.m., Cuomo will make an announcement, Salmon River Fish Hatchery, 2133 County Route 22, Altmar.

At 2 p.m., First Lady Chirlane McCray will deliver remarks, R.A.I.N. Boston Secor Neighborhood Senior Center, 3540 Bivona Street, Bronx.

At 3 p.m., the Senate’s task force on heroin and opioid addiction will hold a public forum, Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Room U104 of the Union Building (the Large Lounge), 2805 State Highway 67, Johnstown.

At 5:30 p.m., de Blasio will hold a graffiti cleaning session, 1741 Lafayette Avenue, Bronx.

At 6 p.m., Sen. Liz Krueger will host a conversation with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, discussing his work to challenge Trump Administration policies on a host of issues from immigration to the environment to civil and voting rights. CUNY Graduate Center, Porshansky Auditorium, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

At 7 p.m., de Blasio will hold a town hall event, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, 1980 Lafayette Avenue, Bronx.

Headlines:

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombing in Manchester at a pop concert as the British government goes on high alert amid concerns another attack is eminent.

President Trump during a call with Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte praised his government’s efforts to violently crackdown on drug dealers those suspected of working with them.

In the same call according to a transcript obtained first by the Washington Post, Trump also called the leader of North Korea “a madman with nuclear weapons.”

House Republicans did not fully embrace Trump’s budget proposals with its deep cuts in social services spending, but find alternatives amid their long-standing push to enact new tax cuts.

The House GOP is also pushing to keep a border-adjusted tax alive amid opposition from the Trump White House.

The budget as backed by Trump could lead to balanced spending in the coming years, but the administration failed to include a cost for its deep cuts in taxes.

As he left Israel, Trump insisted the United States is committed to bringing a peace deal to the region, but avoided saying how an agreement might be struck.

Trump continued his first international trip with a meeting at Vatican City with Pope Francis, who has been critical of the president’s policies.

Trump’s budget also includes plans for one-time revenues from oil and gas while making cuts to programs that would lead to the development of long-term energies.

As possible talks loom for revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico and Canada both are calling for three-way discussions on overhauling the deal.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued subpoenas for businesses tied to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who is the focal point of an investigation into possible collusion between Russian agents and the Trump presidential campaign.

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner had been in line for getting book deal, but that’s been scuttled following his guilty plea in a case involving lewd material sent to a minor, leading to possible jail time.

Democrat Brian Benjamin has won an open state Senate seat in Harlem, filling a vacancy left by Bill Perkins and giving his party 32 enrolled members in the chamber once again.

Despite Benjamin’s victory, Democrats do not have a working majority in the Senate, a sore point as the war between the IDC and mainline conference intensifies.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein remains at odds with mainline Democrats as the riff deepens amid a controversy over the use of paid stipends for non-committee chairs.

Democrats scored an upset win on Tuesday in a special election to fill a Long Island Assembly seat that had been held by Republican Joseph Saladino.

State lawmakers only have a few weeks to act before Mayor Bill de Blasio will lose his legal authority to run the city’s school system. But Republicans in the State Senate are hardly riding in to the mayor’s rescue.

The Assembly backs a plan in an omnibus bill passed this week that explicitly links an extension of mayoral control to tax extensions for local governments outside of New York City, pressuring Senate Republicans to act.

The Port Authority says Concourse C at LaGuardia Airport Terminal B was evacuated Tuesday evening due to a security concern.

The potential impact of President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, which was unveiled Tuesday, set Mayor Bill de Blasio off and had him once again denouncing the New Yorker in the White House.

Democrats who represent upstate New York congressional districts also blasted the proposal from the Trump administration as detrimental.

Cuomo on Tuesday laid out his plan to get Penn Station and the MTA back on track.

A tourist from India visiting New York State carried measles along with them, potentially exposing others at four locations, according to the state Department of Health.

After the bombing in Manchester, New York officials are issuing assurances that concert venues are safe to attend.

The recent rain has certainly had a major impact on areas around Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Police in the city of Albany began rolling out their body camera program with a discussion about it during a public forum.

Keep this in mind next time you want a hot dog: A report finds food trucks that have set up shop in Manhattan are the dirtiest in New York City.

The state Senate has approved a bill that bans circuses and carnivals from using elephants, just as the Ringling Bros. circus closes down its tent.

Whoopi Goldberg is throwing her support behind legislation in the Legislature that would expand New York’s medical marijuana program to include those suffering from painful menstrual cramps.

Retail giant Target is set to pay a $18.5 million settlement with 47 states following a 2013 data breach.

An error that underpaid Uber drivers over the last 2-1/2 years will lead to the company paying out millions of dollars in lost wages.

Though it has a reputation for producing star prosecutors, the offices for the Southern District of New York is something of a shabby dump and smells bad due to an “outrageous amount of mold.”

Broadway, meanwhile, is going strong in New York City, recording a new high $1.45 billion in ticket sales thanks to high prices.

Amid plans to honor a controversial figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement, more corporate sponsors are backing out of the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Among Cuomo’s plans for bolstering subway service in New York City: Awarding $1 million “Genius” grants for those with the best idea at fixing problems along the transit lines.

Bill Hammond in The New York Post: “Albany Democrats never got the memo that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. They’re peddling a universal health-care plan they claim would not only cost nothing more, but leave the state $45 billion richer.”

A half-dozen African-American police officers in Buffalo say they were “blackballed” by their union after accepting provisional promotions from the police commissioner.

Legislature Approves Early Ride Hailing Bill

A bill that would allow ride hailing companies to operate outside of New York City before July 4 is heading to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly on Tuesday approved a bill that would bring ride hailing apps like Lyft and Uber to upstate and suburban communities 10 days earlier than the provision approved in last month’s budget agreement.

The vote in the Assembly follows up on the measure’s approval in the Republican-led Senate.

It’s clear yet whether Cuomo will sign the bill and it is being reviewed by his counsel’s office. A Cuomo spokesman said Tuesday the governor is “inclined to sign it” pending the review.

The measure was pushed by lawmakers following the late approval of the state budget, which pushed back the date the provision would have taken effect.

Without any action, ride hailing would have taken effect outside of New York City on July 9.

Extras

The British government has raised its threat level to critical, indicating concerns from officials that another terrorist attack may be eminent after a concert bombing killed 22 people.

The bomber, who died in the blast, was identified as a 22-year-old British man.

The former director of the CIA testified to Congress that Russian agents sought to manipulate the U.S. election and may have tried to enlist help from Americans.

Former CIA Director John Brennan said he had raised concerns last year that Russians had sought to recruit Trump campaign officials in an effort to influence the election, providing the most expansive public remarks to date from an official involved at the time.

The New Jersey Republican who had co-chaired the moderate Tuesday Group has resigned from the post after his roll in passing the American Health Care Act in the House caused an uproar within the bloc of lawmakers.

Good news for Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Voters in Hillside Lake have elected to dissolve a taxing district.

The FCC won’t be taking any action against Stephen Colbert for making a lewd joke about President Trump in a monologue.

A settlement reached between lobbying regulators and a non-profit entity Pledged 2 Protect won’t result in a fine, but it is likely to show real-estate firm Glenwood Management funded it to the tune of $690,000.

The Republican-led Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that allows Hoosick Falls to bond up to $1.5 million to pay for cleanup costs related to the PFOA water contamination in the village.

State lawmakers are once again eyeing bills considered to be “pension sweeteners” that benefit retirees backed by politically key labor unions.

A tourist from India visiting New York state carried measles along with them, potentially exposing others at four locations, according to the state Department of Health.

Democrats hope to win a vacant Senate seat in Harlem today that would bring their numbers to 32 in the Senate, but achieving a working majority is a bit more complicated than that.

On Long Island, voters there will get to fill an Assembly seat that opened up with Republican Joe Saladino was appoint Oyster Bay town supervisor.

Westcherster County may hesitant in allowing ride hailing apps to operate there because of the loss of revenue.

Fox News, rocked by series of scandals for nearly a year now, has fallen out of first place in primetime among cable news channels, being beat by MSNBC.

The CFO of Soupman, Inc., which licenses the “Soup Nazi” brand famous for an episode of Seinfeld, is in trouble with his federal taxes.

Billy Bush has reached out to the woman he and Trump were talking about in the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape and apologized.

Stewart-Cousins: Stipend Situation Either Legal Or Not

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a radio interview on Tuesday confirmed members of the Democratic conference met with Albany County District Attorney David Soares to discuss the controversy surrounding the awarding of committee chair stipends to vice chairs.

In the interview with The Capitol Pressroom on WCNY, Stewart-Cousins said it was important for the stipends to be reviewed by an independent source.

“I’ve always said that someone needs to get to the bottom of it because it’s taxpayer dollars,” she said. “It’s either in law or it’s not.”

She added a memo from the Senate Democrats concluded it was not.

The meeting with Soares was first reported by The Times Union on Monday evening.

Senate Democrats have called for an investigation into the arrangement in which seven state lawmakers, including three members of the Independent Democratic Conference, have received stipends and were listed as committee chairs on official payroll records sent to the comptroller’s office.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and IDC Leader Jeff Klein have insisted no wrongdoing took place.

“This practice which was uncovered by the Times has caught the attention of everyone, including New Yorkers who want to make sure they’re getting paid for the work they do,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Meanwhile, Democrats are poised today to gain a seat with the expected election of Brian Benjamin to an open Senate seat. Democrats will then have 32 enrolled members, but the Republicans will retain control with the aid of Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, an enrolled Democrat who sits with the Senate GOP.

Still, Democrats and liberals have sought to pressure the eight-member IDC to re-join their fold, insisting Felder would come along.

“People continue to send Democrats to the chamber,” she said. “They continue to send a majority to the chamber and somehow in the chamber what the people have asked for does not happen.”

IDC’s Title X Bill Gets Planned Parenthood Praise

A bill backed by the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate seeks to bolster Title X funding by requiring current levels be maintained should there be future federal budget cuts approved.

Title X funding provides money for groups like Planned Parenthood and other entities that offer family planning and preventative health services, including contraceptive and cancer screenings.

“Throughout my entire career I have always fought for women’s health services,” said Sen. Tony Avella, a Queens lawmaker who introduced the bill. “Title X funding provides family planning services including cancer screenings, contraceptive care, infertility services, among other important care. We will not let the federal government impact the health and wellness of women in New York, and I’m proud to sponsor legislation that ensures Title X funding remains at the same level if the federal government tries to play politics with women’s health needs.”

The proposal was praised by Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, with the group’s CEO saying it would help ensure women have access to health care.

“The Independent Democratic Conference understands family planning funding is not a political football. We applaud the IDC for recognizing that Federal attempts to dismantle our state’s health care delivery system is a non-starter in New York State,” said Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts President and CEO Robin Chappelle Goldstein.

The measure comes as the IDC and the mainline Senate Democrats are once again locked in a tense political feud over power in the state Senate.

Democrats and liberal advocacy groups have accuse the IDC of helping prop up Republican control of the Senate; IDC Leader Jeff Klein has pushed back by calling for votes on key liberal issues, a signal that even with 32 Democratic enrolled lawmakers, the votes may not be there for key issues such as women’s reproductive health.

Senate Democrats Want A NY Service Corps

Senate Democrats on Tuesday pushed a bill that would create a state service organization as President Donald Trump moves to dismantled the AmeriCorps program.

The bill would form the New York State Service Corps and extend a student loan forgiveness program to those who participate.

“Public service programs encourage investment in communities and incentivize Americans to help their neighbors in need. With Donald Trump proposal to defund the successful AmeriCorps program, we need to take bold action on the state level,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.

The measure was proposed by Sen. Daniel Squadron, who chairs the mainline conference’s policy committee.

“Service makes America great, but Donald Trump is threatening our nation’s service program,” Squadron said. “By expanding our state service corps, we can help with student loan debt, while giving young people the chance to serve and learn.”

In New York, the AmeriCorps program has led to the participation of 5,200 people who have performed public service projects and receive grants for tuition loan repayments.