Nick Reisman

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Uber Takes Up Cuomo’s ‘Upstate Matters’

Taking a cue from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for expanding ride-hailing services outside of New York City, Uber is calling on supporters to urge their lawmaker to back the measure through the “upstate matters” slogan the governor unveiled last week during the roll out of his 2017 agenda.

The company is releasing an email later today aimed at pushing the issue using the #upstatematters as a hashtag as the lobbying for the issue begins to heat up in the new legislative session.

“For years, New Yorkers like you have been calling for access to Uber in your communities, yet our state continues to be left behind New York City and the rest of the country,” the email states.

Cuomo in his regional State of the State addresses last week urged the passage of ride hailing legislation outside of New York City so that companies like Uber and Lyft can operate in upstate cities.

Cuomo framed it as an issue of fairness for upstate residents.

“Governor Cuomo has heard your demands and, last week, he introduced a proposal that would allow ridesharing services like Uber to operate across New York State,” Uber wrote in its email. “That would mean access to an easier commute, a safe ride home, and more freedom to get around Upstate cities, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley.”

The email adds: “Now it’s time for the Legislature to stop listening to special interests and realize that #UpstateMatters.”

Ride-hailing legislation has stalled over the last year in Albany as lawmakers seek to find ways of developing an insurance framework for the industry.

Cuomo’s Budget Due Today

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spending priorities are due to be released today, but for the moment he has nothing public planned on his schedule.

Cuomo is in Albany today and is set to brief individual conferences of lawmakers on the budget at the governor’s mansion, which will be privately held events.

The move likely means Cuomo could forgo what has become a traditional public presentation of a proposed budget by a governor.

Public budget presentations date back to at least the current governor’s father, Mario Cuomo, who one Albany hand on Monday noted would unveil the spending document in the ceremonial Red Room office on the second floor.

Under what had been current practice dating to at least George Pataki, budget day was a substantive event: A distillation of the state’s fiscal climate, the rate of Medicaid growth, the “school runs” for districts and a “budget school” delivered by the governor’s director of the Division of Budget.

In the last two years, Cuomo has combined both the State of the State and the budget presentation into one address.

Cuomo further eschewed tradition this year by not holding the State of the State at the Capitol (or, as has been his way since taking office in 2011, holding them in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center) but in a half dozen different events around the state geared around whichever region he was delivering the speech.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, seemed to be signaling today’s proceedings will be likely any other day in Albany, holding news conferences and passing legislation.

Assembly To Take Up RHA

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic-led Assembly today is expected to take up the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, a measure designed to bolster the state’s abortion laws that may take on new urgency given the coming Republican control of the federal government.

A news conference on the bill’s passage, which has stalled in the Republican-contorlled state Senate, will be held at 1:30.

Supporters of the bill contend it is aimed at codifying the Roe v. Wade decision in state, a necessary move should the Supreme Court ever reverse the decision.

Opponents have called the RHA an unnecessary expansion of existing abortion rights in the state.

A version of the bill was initially included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act, an omnibus package of measures that also included provisions aimed at pay equity and blocking gender discrimination in the workplace and housing.

Ultimately, only the RHA failed to be made law after Cuomo agreed to pass individual components of the legislative package.

The debate over the RHA has at times become an emotionally fraught one in Albany.

Last June, Republican Assemblyman Ron Castorina decided abortion as “African-American genocide” — a comment that led to a heated debate on the chamber floor.

Senate To Take Up Bag Tax Bill

From the Morning Memo:

The Republican-led Senate today plans to take up a measure that block New York City’s 5-cent surcharge on plastic bags from taking effect next month.

The bill is backed by Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who conferences with the Senate GOP in the chamber, as well as Republican Sen. Martin Golden and Tony Avella, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference and a declared candidate for mayor.

The bill to be taken up later today in the Senate would block any fees or taxes on carry-out merchandise shopping bags in New York City. Supporters of so-called bag taxes say the measures lessen the impact of plastic bags on the environment.

But opponents point to the burden the bag fees place on families.

“Many families have a hard time just getting by, paying for groceries, rent and heat, and now the Mayor wants to shake them down every time they shop just for the privilege of using a plastic bag,” Felder said in a statement.

“Mayor de Blasio, please do not nickel and dime New Yorkers with another tax. This will hurt lower- and middle-income families who already struggle. I’m asking New Yorkers to stand up and tell the Mayor that this bag tax has to go.”

The move is yet another effort by the Senate Republicans that appears squarely aimed at Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been at odds with the conference on issues the stem both from policy and politics.

But the potential repeal of the fee also has the support of more than two dozen members of the Democratic-led Assembly. The measure had been initially set to take effect in October, but was pushed back in an agreement reached with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

State GOP To Co-Host Inaugural Event Breakfast With Trump Group

The New York Republican Committee will co-host an inaugural breakfast with a pro-Donald Trump 501c(4) launched in the wake of his November victory, the state GOP on Monday announced.

The breakfast, to be held with the Great America Alliance on Thursday at the Lowes Madison Hotel in Washington, will be headlined by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

“We’re thrilled to welcome former Speaker Newt Gingrich to help kick-off the festivities of this historic inauguration,” said Chairman Ed Cox. “We were pleased to have him join us during the convention last summer and we’re all looking forward to welcoming him back to celebrate President-elect Trump.”

Trump is the first New York resident to be elected to the presidency since Franklin Roosevelt.

The state Republican Committee in New York helped Trump’s campaign in key swing states through mail campaign.

The committee along with the Great America Alliance will also work on a trio of events for inauguration week including a breakfast and a gala on Thursday and a parade viewing on Friday.

For 421a, What’s In A Name?

The lucrative real-estate tax abatement known as 421a is being replaced with something that looks a lot like the old program, albeit with a different name.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday unveiled legislation that revives the tax break aimed at building affordable housing and a wage component for projects in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

The old and relatively obscure tax break, which had expired and then tossed to real estate interests and construction labor unions to hash out, has been a key component of three corruption investigations. It’s generated $1 billion in subsidies for developers annually, some of whom have been Albany’s most generous campaign donors.

The new proposed program isn’t called 421a, after its section of the tax code. Now it’s been dubbed “Affordable New York.”

Indeed, there wasn’t much different in the announcement from Sunday and the agreement announced in November by the Real Estate Board of New York and construction labor groups.

Cuomo in a radio interview with businessman John Catsimatidis spoke of 421a in the past tense while touting what he said are improvements in the new legislation.

“It will create about 2,500 units per year of affordable housing, about 9,000 units total, and it’s actually, in my opinion, a better program than the old 421-a,” Cuomo said. “This has increased the length of affordability 40 years, and it’s actually made it more affordable for people to qualify.”

The portion of the pre-taped interview itself, in which it sounded like Catsimatidis had switched to talking to the governor on a cell phone, on the Sunday morning radio show appeared tacked on at the end.

Cuomo Advances COA Nominee

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday nominated attorney Rowan Wilson for a vacancy on the state’s highest court, the state Court of Appeals.

The announcement came hours after the Sunday midnight deadline to do so, but Cuomo’s office in an announcement said the nomination had been formally made before the end of the day.

Wilson, if approved by the GOP-led state Senate, would replace Judge Eugene Pigott, an appointee of Republican Gov. George Pataki, was required to step down at the end of December.

Wilson is a litigation partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and was among the seven possible nominees picked by a judicial screening panel last month from Cuomo to choose from to replace Pigott.

“The New York State Court of appeals embodies the highest values of government service, and I am confident Rowan Wilson will continue to articulate and uphold the principles of law and fairness that embody the best of New York,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“With decades of experience in complex commercial litigation and his leadership role in the firm’s pro bono work, I am confident he has the intellect, integrity, and compassion we need to continue moving New York forward. I am proud to nominate him to serve as an Associate Judge, and I look forward to his swift confirmation by the State Senate.”

Wilson, 56, is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School. If confirmed New York would have two sitting African-American judges serving simultaneously on the Court of Appeals. He would also be the first Long Island resident to serve on the court in more than two decades.

With Wilson’s confirmation, the seven member court would have been fully remade during the Cuomo administration with his nominees due to mandatory retirements.

Awaiting The Budget

From the Morning Memo:

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and most of state government is shut down for the day.

But the governor’s office is likely not closed up, given the proposed executive budget is due on Tuesday.

It’s still unclear how, exactly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will communicate the proposed spending plan for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Cuomo is expected to privately brief individual conferences on the budget proposal starting at around midday on Tuesday at the executive mansion.

More broadly, major questions remain on the budget itself: How will it propose to close a projected $3.5 billion spending gap? How will Cuomo continue to adhere to the self-imposed 2 percent limit on year over year spending increases? What will the rate of increase for Medicaid and education spending be in the plan? What will Cuomo do about the expiring high rates on the wealthy that Assembly Democrats want extended?

The budget is typically where the rubber meets the road for a governor’s priorities, which Cuomo laid out last week in a series of regional State of the State addresses. Chief among those issues for Cuomo to fund is a plan to phase out tuition costs for those families earning less than $125,000 and attending a state college.

Cuomo has virtually seen all of his budgets pass the in the Legislature on or before April 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year, and a trend he wants to see continue.

But lawmakers are increasing restive with Cuomo this year and some have privately pledged to take a stand against anything they find objectionable in the budget (lawmakers can add or subtract spending in a budget plan).

The question too is how much Cuomo wants to fight this winter amid souring feelings in Albany that lingered from the lack of a special session that, if held, would have produced a legislative pay increase.

Cuomo Says Pay Raise Failed Because It’s Unpopular

A legislative pay raise ultimately failed last month due to its unpopularity, especially in the Republican-led state Senate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a radio interview on Sunday morning.

“The problem with the pay raise at the end of the day, and I was open to it, but the fundamental problem was it was not popular,” Cuomo told John Catsimatidis, adding, “I don’t believe a Senate could pass a pay raise because it was unpopular.”

State lawmakers who had sought the first legislative pay increase since 1998 see it differently.

The Legislature initially agreed with Cuomo to create a commission that would recommend a potential pay increase for lawmakers as well as members of the governor’s cabinet.

In November, Cuomo’s appointees on the commission said they backed a pay increase, but would support a more significant hike should lawmakers return to Albany and pass a slate of ethics reforms, while also reauthorizing the pay panel for the remainder of the year.

Ultimately, lawmakers and Cuomo could not come to terms on a special session and the pay commission — as well as the salary hike plan — withered on the vine.

The drama led to charges that Cuomo meddled with the commission, but the governor has insisted he never sought to link the ethics legislation he proposed to the pay panel making a new recommendation.

Cuomo in the Sunday interview said he would still be supportive of a pay increase at the end of 2018, when the issue could once again resurface.

He hopes there are no “systemic scandals” and referenced the recent corruption arrests that have drawn in the Legislature, the comptroller’s office and his own executive chamber.

“I hope we can have two years without any scandal,” Cuomo said. “We’ve had more than our share of knuckleheads here. I think the mood will be different and New Yorkers will pay for performance.”

Cuomo ‘Flattered’ By 2020 Talk

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on Sunday said he was “flattered” by early talk of a potential White House bid in 2020, but insisted he was focused on his job as governor.

“I’m running for re-election as governor in 2018,” Cuomo said in the interview with businessman John Catsimatidis. “I hope that I’m blessed by the people of this state to have the chance to continue to serve. We have a lot of good things going here that I want to continue.”

He added: “The rumor is flattering, even if not true.”

Cuomo has in recent weeks turned his attention to emphasizing rhetoric and an agenda that is considered popular with the based of the Democratic Party, such as phasing out tuition costs at public colleges for those families earning less than $125,000 a year.

In announcing the agenda, Cuomo appeared alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose 2016 primary electrified the progressive base of the party.

The state Democratic Committee recently began advertising Cuomo’s proposal for SUNY in suburban Philadelphia alongside a picture of Sanders.

Cuomo has also pledged to make New York a “haven” for immigrants during Donald Trump’s administration while also decrying recent hate crimes and graffiti in the wake of the election.