Nick Reisman

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Felder Responds To Flanagan

From the Morning Memo:

Sen. Simcha Felder, the Democratic Brooklyn lawmaker who conferences with the Senate Republicans, said in a statement he disagreed with Majority Leader John Flanagan’s “statements about me” in an op/ed Flanagan released on Tuesday.

In the op/ed, the Republican majority leader had written the Senate GOP retain control of the chamber because of Felder’s presence in the conference, making the debate over Democratic control and reunification between the mainline conference and the Independent Democratic Conference a “moot point.”

“We have 32 members in our conference who caucus together and work together to improve the lives of the citizens of this state,” he wrote.

“That includes 31 Republicans and Senator Felder, a conservative Democrat who ran on the Republican and Conservative lines in his last election and has conferenced with us since he was first elected to the Senate.”

But Felder, in a statement released to State of Politics on Tuesday afternoon, noted unity among Democrats “will hurt the Republicans.”

“I read Senator Flanagan’s Op-Ed today and I don’t agree with his statements about me,” Felder said. “He is the leader of the Republicans in the New York State Senate and his opinion on future political matters are newsworthy. All I can say is that if Senator Flanagan believes that Democratic in-fighting will help Senate Republicans, then the reverse must also be true — Democratic unity will hurt the Republicans.”

Felder said he has no plans, at the moment, to change conferences.

Felder has been locked in a “you first” exchange with IDC Leader Jeff Klein since the spring. In essence, Felder won’t leave the GOP conference without the IDC backing some sort of a unification effort with the mainline conference.

It’s not clear what it would take for these dominoes to fall, however, and in what order for Democrats to assume a working majority in the Senate.

The IDC is being pressured by left-leaning advocacy groups to form a new alliance with the mainline conference of Democrats in the chamber, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo also coming under scrutiny to broker a deal with members of his own party.

DFS: Insurance Rates To Increase 14.6 Percent

Insurance rates on average will increase by 14.6 percent for individuals and more than 11 percent for group plans for the 3 million people who are enrolled in the state’s health care exchange, the Department of Financial Services on Tuesday announced.

The increase comes as insurance companies had sought a 17.7 percent increase in June, with most of the initial requests revised downard.

State insurance regulators said the increases were needed in order to potentially offset cuts from the federal government if changes to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, are approved.

“DFS has carefully examined the rates requested by health insurers to reduce the burden of excessive health insurance premium increases on New Yorkers while maintaining competitive markets in the face of rising national healthcare and pharmaceutical costs, compounded by ill-conceived Congressional attempts to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act,” said Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo in a statement.

The health exchange has 15 plans that offer individual coverage and 20 plans for those in small group coverage.

Tax credits for those eligible will decrease the rates by up to 5 percent when purchasing low-cost silver plans.

“Many consumers buying plans through the NY State of Health Marketplace will be eligible to receive federal tax credits, reducing the monthly cost of coverage,” said NY State of Health Executive Director, Donna Frescatore. “In many cases, after tax credits, consumers’ costs will be about the same or in some cases lower in 2018. Thousands of NY State of Health Assistors will again be available to help consumers shop the Marketplace for the best value.”

Efforts to repeal parts of the ACA have so far sputtered in Congress.

Silver Receives April 16 Trial Date

A second trial for ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will start April 16 and run through late May, a federal judge on Tuesday ruled.

Judge Valerie Caproni noted in her order the date is subject “to a decision from the Supreme Court” related to the definition of corruption charges.

Silver was convicted in 2016 of fraud and corruption charges stemming from referral fees he received as an attorney at Weitz & Luxenberg. The conviction was tossed earlier this year, however, due to jury instructions that did not comport with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of a “theft of honest services” charge.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York soon indicated they would seek a second trial for Silver, requesting one for the spring of next year.

Silver Trial by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Voter Roll Tick Tock

It took just over a month for President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity to gain access to New York’s voter rolls, according to documents obtained from Board of Elections through the Freedom of Information Law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had declared on June 30 the state would not share voter data with the commission, formed after Trump falsely declared he would have won the popular vote last year had it not been for the millions of illegally cast votes.

The statement came four days after Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity had written to New York Secretary of State Rossanna Rosado to request the voter information. Unlike many states, the secretary of state in New York does not maintain the state’s voter rolls or oversee elections.

The letter, signed by commission vice chair Kris Kobach, included a list of questions including what federal election law changes should be made to “enhance the integrity of federal elections” and if any convictions for “election-related crimes” have occurred in New York since the 2000 election.

On July 10, the federal voter commission sent an email to the state Board of Elections, asking the board to not release any voter information to the commission pending the outcome of a judicial ruling in a case challenging the commission’s work.

The Board of Elections, through spokesman John Conklin, responded with some bewilderment.

“The NY State Board of Elections never received any request for data from your organization as it was sent to the NY Secretary of State. In NY the Secretary of State has very little responsibility for elections,” the email stated. “It would be greatly appreciated if you would submit a letter to the attention of our Commissioners or our Co-executive directors at the below mailing address and this email address.”

Ultimately, the ruling landed in the Trump administration’s favor. The led to a July 26 letter from Kobach making a second, more formal request for information from the Board of Elections.

“I want to assure you that the Commission will not publicly release any personally identifiable information regarding any individual voter or any group of voters from the voter registration records you submit,” he wrote. “Individuals’ voter registration records will be kept confidential and secure throughout the duration of the Commission’s existence. Once the Commission’s analysis is complete, the Commission will dispose of the data as permitted by federal law.”

Two days a later, on July 28, a formal FOIL request by the election integrity commission was made for the state’s voter registration rolls.

On Aug. 2, the board announced at its meeting it would comply with the request.

“It’s going through the normal process, but my understanding is the process is moving forward with complying with it,” said Board of Elections spokesman Thomas Connolly.

July 26%2c 2017 Letter From Vice Chair Kris Kobach to New York by Nick Reisman on Scribd

July 26%2c 2017 Letter From Vice Chair Kris Kobach to New York by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Cuomo Pushes Bill Expanding Hate Crimes Laws

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced Tuesday he will introduce legislation that would add rioting and inciting to riot that target specific protected classes to offenses under the state’s hate crime laws.

The measure comes in response to the violent clashes on Saturday in Virginia that left a counter demonstrator and two state police officers dead.

“The ugly events that took place in Charlottesville must never be repeated, and in New York we’re going to stand united against hate in all of its forms,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“Our diversity is our strength and this legislation will help protect New Yorkers and send a clear signal that violence and discrimination have no place in our society. New York is one community and one family, and we will never stop fighting to ensure the safety and equal treatment of all New Yorkers.”

State law currently provides for charging a person with a hate crime if they commit an offense that is targeting specific victims based on their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

Cuomo’s bill would amend the existing law to add inciting a riot and rioting when directed a specific class.

Penalties would be increased from a class E felony to a D felony for rioting. Inciting a riot would have penalties increased to a class E felony.

Cuomo is also calling on lawmakers to amend the state’s human rights law to add protections for public school students against discrimination. On Monday, he signed legislation that bolster penalties for those who make bomb threats against community centers.

GOP Advocacy Group Unveils New Digital Campaign

From the Morning Memo:

A Republican-aligned advocacy group is ramping up a new $500,000 digital campaign this week with ads targeting 31 congressional districts — including three in New York — to boost GOP efforts on tax reform.

The American Action Network is airing the ads in the 19th, 22nd and 24th congressional districts in upstate New York — all considered key swing districts ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

“It’s time to cut taxes for working families. Congress must act on tax reform that will deliver more jobs, bigger paychecks, and allow the U.S. to compete with countries like China,” said Corry Bliss, AAN Executive Director.

“Polls show Americans are ready for tax reform, and AAN’s Middle-Class Growth Initiative will continue working to build momentum for a pro-growth tax code with lower rates. With this latest effort, across 31 congressional districts, we’re urging Americans to make their voices heard and urge their member of Congress to keep up the fight and make meaningful tax reform a reality.”

The ads will run for the next month, aimed at mobile users, and urge constituents to push House lawmakers to back tax reform legislation, which is expected to be part of a contentious debate in Washington once the summer recess ends.

For New York, the ads will be seen in the districts of Reps. John Faso, Claudia Tenney and John Katko — three Republicans believed to be potentially vulnerable in 2018 by the host of Democratic candidates lining up to challenge them.

The group previously announced a $3.5 million radio and TV campaign for tax reform.

Flanagan: Democratic Infighting Will Help Senate GOP

From the Morning Memo:

The idea of Democrats gain a governing majority in the state Senate is a “moot point” considering Republicans have a working majority in the chamber already, Republican leader John Flanagan wrote in an op/ed to State of Politics.

At the same time, Flanagan wrote the internecine fighting among Democrats will help Republicans retain and grow their power in the Senate.

“Democrat infighting, and the machinations being made by Senator Stewart-Cousins and Senator Gianaris about who would be in charge of a hypothetical Democrat Senate, are academic,” he said. “Republicans have the majority now and will have an even more robust one come 2019.”

The op/ed is Flanagan’s most extensive remarks since the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference this summer has been pressured by activists groups and the mainline conference to align themselves with the rest of their party in the Senate.

“No matter how many times the mainline Democrats or their radical allies on the left say Republicans don’t have a numerical majority, it’s just not true,” Flanagan wrote. “We have 32 members in our conference who caucus together and work together to improve the lives of the citizens of this state.”

Flanagan is referring to Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who conferences with the Senate GOP in the chamber. Felder has indicated he would side with Democrats, but only unless the IDC bolted from their alignment with the Senate Republicans.

The IDC, led by Bronx Democrat Jeff Klein, had worked in a coalition-stlye arrangement in the Senate for a two-year term. But the IDC has remained a key bloc of votes in the Senate, growing by several members in the last year and angering liberals anew after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

A new pressure point appeared last week, when billionaire political donor and charter school benefactor Dan Loeb criticized Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for harming people of color more than Ku Klux Klan. Loeb apologized and elected officials from both parities criticized the remarks.

Flanagan, meanwhile, expects to be able to grow his conference — and its narrow margin in the chamber — in next year’s elections.

It’s unclear, for now, where Republicans plan to play offense next year. But both parties will likely stake their battleground races in suburban districts once again, with the Hudson Valley and Long Island seats playing vital roles in determining who controls the Senate after next year.

De Blasio Campaign Compares Malliottakis To Trump, Again

The re-election campaign of Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday once again compared his GOP opponent, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, to President Trump.

At issue is Malliotakis’s response to the unrest in Virginia that led to the death of a counter protester and two State Police officers following a rally and demonstration by groups of white supremacists.

In the email, which urges supporters to add their names to a petition, the de Blasio campaign quotes Malliotakis’s response: “We shouldn’t be looking in any way to pit communities against each other, what we have to do is send the message that all lives matter.”

The email says Malliotakis’s echoed Trump’s “many sides” comment.

“This is not about pitting communities against each other. Only one community marched with Confederate and Nazi flags,” the email states. “Only one person drove a car into dozens of people. Assembly Member Malliotakis may be counting on the support, enthusiasm, and donations from those who propelled Trump to the presidency, but her refusal to simply condemn Trump’s “many sides” comment makes her unfit to lead the largest and most diverse city in America.”

This isn’t the first time de Blasio’s campaign has compared Malliotakis to Trump, who holds low approval ratings in Democratic heavy New York City.

The campaign earlier this summer released an email criticizing Malliotakis for meeting with Trump before he became president and a second one knocked her support from the Trump-supporting Mercer family.

DeFran Doesn’t Think Cuomo Should Return Loeb’s Money

Liberal activist groups last week called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to return thousands of dollars he has received in campaign contributions from Daniel Loeb, a billionaire who has come under criticism for racially charged remarks directed at Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

But one of the Republicans who is considering a run against the Democratic incumbent next year thinks Cuomo should not have to return the money: Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco.

“I don’t think that’s something that has to be done,” he said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom, adding, “It just keeps the story going and it keeps the story going. That’s just basic politics 101. I don’t think it matters a darn bit to the size of the war chest whether he gives that money back.”

Loeb in a since-deleted Facebook post wrote Stewart-Cousins has been worse for people of color than the Ku Klux Klan due to her stance on charter schools. Loeb’s comments drew rebukes from Republicans and Democrats as well as the governor.

DeFrancisco called them “outrageous.”

“Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a fine woman,” he said. “I don’t look at her that way, I don’t know if the governor would look at her that way.”

Over the last three years, Cuomo has received $85,000 in contributions from Loeb. Senate Republicans have benefited from $4 million in contributions directly or in dirtectl, including millions donated to New Yorkers For Balanced Albany, an independent expenditure committee that has supported Republican candidates.

Loeb has also given $50,000 to the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, which supports the Independent Democratic Conference in the chamber.

DeFran Backs Trump’s ‘Many Sides’ Comment (Updated)

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco in a radio interview on Monday said he agreed with President Donald Trump’s initial statement in the wake of the unrest in Charlottesville, suggesting there is violence on “many sides” that needs to stop.

Trump drew fire for the comment from Democrats and Republicans alike in part for its failure to condemn the white supremacists who marched on the city in protest of the removal of a statute of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. The president on Monday in a set of public remarks condemned hate groups.

But DeFrancisco on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom said the criticism of Trump is unfair.

“Every single event that happens seems to be categorized by a negative for Donald Trump,” the Syracuse Republican said. “What he said was that all sides of every issue got to stop the violence. I don’t see anything that’s wrong with that. If anybody believes there was only violence on one side ought to look at Berkeley and see what was going on with trying to stop speakers.”

The interpretation of Trump’s comments can be based “depending upon your point of view and political persuasion.”

“The statement in and of itself is something I definitely agree with and that is we can’t have violence on either side whether it’s trying to stop speakers or white supremacists, whether individuals who are just trying to stop a program the federal government is trying to put in place,” he said.

He also bristled when it was pointed out Trump has taken on targets like Sen. John McCain and others with more ferocity than far-right extremists groups.

“I can’t change that being a state senator in the state of New York,” he said. “I can just interpret what I think he meant.”

He added: “I just believe violence on all ends — Charlottesville, Berkeley, Ferguson — we’ve got to stop it.”

DeFrancisco is considering a run for governor in 2018 and, like many Republicans next year, will have to contend with Democrats trying to tie him to Trump and his unpredictable comments.

Updated: Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, criticized the remarks.

“Time and time again New Yorkers reject hate and if Senator DeFrancisco thinks Neo Nazis are one of ‘many sides’ to blame for the death and destruction in Charlottesville, he’s more out of touch and dangerous than anyone thought,” he said.