Nick Reisman

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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.

Senate Tweaks Procurement Bill

The bill that would re-authorized Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office to review key economic development spending passing through SUNY entities has been tweaked in the Republican-led Senate with a package of amendments.

The changes include increasing the the threshold for the comptroller’s review of a contract before it is officially executed. Another provision would apply much of the ethics provisions from the public officers law to state procurement officials.

Agencies and public authorities would be required to publish public information about procurement offerings for vendors as well in the Procurement Opportunities Newsletter.

It’s not yet clear if the Democratic-controlled Assembly will take up the changes.

The changes come as lawmakers have sought to push for returning power to DiNapoli’s office for procurement oversight following the arrests of prominent upstate developers, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the ex-president of SUNY Polytechnic stemming from an alleged effort to rig state bids on lucrative economic development projects.

Cuomo has not supported the measure, however, backing his own plan that would create new procurement oversight officials within agencies appointed by his office.

Cuomo Proposes State Takeover Of Penn Station

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday predicted a “summer of hell” awaits travelers passing through Penn Station when Amtrak plans to reduce service by 20 percent unless drastic measures are taken.

Among those proposals: Having the federal government approve a state takeover of the transit hub from Amtrak.

The proposal is among a menu of ideas back by Cuomo in recent days to alleviate the ongoing struggles at Penn, which includes asking President Donald Trump’s administration for federal aid in the wake of the ongoing repairs to upgrade tracks.

“We come in the spirit of cooperation and creativity and flexibility and we will work with the federal government,” Cuomo said during remarks at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. “This is not about politics.”

The remarks were among Cuomo’s most expansive to date amid ongoing transit infrastructure troubles in New York City, which in recent weeks has included delayed and overcrowded subways.

Cuomo has distanced himself partially from the troubles on the subway, though critics have pointed out he controls the majority of appoints at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Still, Cuomo has sought to invest heavily in mass transit infrastructure, spending $100 billion over the next five years on capital spending projects at the MTA.

“This is 50 years of lack of maintenance and repair coming home to roost,” he said.

For Penn Station, Cuomo decried what he said was a “looming emergency” akin to a disaster area.

“Even if Amtrak could get this done in six weeks, if you reduce trains coming into Penn by 20 percent it will be a summer of hell for commuters,” he said.

The plan backed by Cuomo would link the Penn Station and Farley Post Office makeover and tie the project to build a new tunnel between New York City and New Jersey, known as the Gateway Tunnel.

At the same time, Cuomo pitched the Trump administration on investing heavily in the tunnel project, noting the president had backed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

“What better single project could you have than this project?” Cuomo said.

Pension Fund Closes Out Fiscal Year At $192B

The state pension fund closed out the 2016-17 state fiscal year valued at $192 billion with an estimated rate of return 11.42 percent, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Tuesday said.

“Strong returns over the fiscal year, particularly in the fourth quarter, were driven by rising public equity markets,” DiNapoli said. “New York state’s pension fund is at a record value based on prudent long term asset allocation. We continue to manage one of best funded, best performing pension plans in the nation and that’s great news for the more than one million men and women who participate in it, as well as for New York taxpayers.”

Private equity funds resulted in a 7 percent rate of return, while real estate returned 10.68 percent, DiNapoli’s office said.

New York’s pension fund is the third largest in the country which will provide retirement benefits to more than 1 million active state and local government workers.

DiNapoli’s office moved to reduce employer contribution rates in 2013-14 through 2015-16, with rates remaining stable in the current fiscal year that began April 1.

Cuomo Decries ‘Abhorrent Assault’ In Manchester Bombing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday night announced plans to step up security at key locations in New York after a bombing in Manchester killed at least 22 people at a concert.

“Out of an abundance of caution, I have directed state law enforcement officials to step up security and patrols at high-profile locations across New York, including our airports, bridges, tunnels and mass transit systems,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“The safety of New Yorkers is priority number one, and we are in close contact with federal and local officials as we continue to remain vigilant in the wake of this tragedy.”

Cuomo called the bombing, which is being treated as an act of terrorism, “inexplicable” — especially considering it was aimed at a concert that attracted teen fans of the singer Ariana Grande.

“An attack on one is an attack on all, and New York stands in solidarity with the British people and our friends around the world against the forces of hate and terror,” Cuomo said.

The IDC Cold War Goes Hot Again

From the Morning Memo:

For the last six years, mainline Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate have with varying degrees of intensity waged a cold war for power in Albany.

Put on the back burner last year amid the possibility of Democrats faring well down battle in the presidential election, the fight is back to being a red hot one at the Capitol.

The mainline conference over the last several months has received reinforcements in the form of the labor-aligned Working Families Party, which released on Monday a “resistance” manifesto that urged the IDC to reconcile in order to pass sought-after liberal agenda measures.

Bolstering the argument for this today is the expected win of Democratic Senate candidate Brian Benjamin in a special election to fill a vacant Senate seat. His victory will bring Democrats to 32 enrolled members in the chamber, a majority, but that also includes Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a who sits with the Senate GOP.

“Truly affordable healthcare for all. Worker protections. Real protections for immigrants,” said WFP State Director Bill Lipton. “Criminal justice reform to end mass incarceration, and bringing our voting system into the 21st century. New Yorkers are demanding bold leadership to pass progressive reforms and stand up to President Trump.”

“But these ideas, and so many more, can’t happen until we have a unified, progressive government in Albany. Voters elected a Democratic majority, it’s long past time that we really had one.”

At the same time, the mainline conference has enlisted the support of online activists and liberal journalists to back their message in the press, much to the annoyance of the IDC.

Further poisoning the well in the eyes of the IDC have been calls from the leadership of the mainline conference for an investigation into the arrangement in which vice chairs of committee receive paid stipends normally reserved for committee chairmen, including three conference lawmakers.

Nevertheless, the push back against the six-year-old bloc led by Bronx Democrat Jeff Klein belies what has been growing success at the beginning of the year for conference, which now stands at eight members.

Amid calls for passing the progressive agenda that ranges from protections for health care, abortion rights and the public financing of campaigns, Klein and company reiterated on Monday votes should be indeed be held. Without saying so, the calculus there has been to show not all members of the mainline conference — i.e., the socially conservative Sen. Ruben Diaz, a city Council candidate — aren’t on board.

Klein, in a statement, said it’s on the WFP and the Alliance for Quality Education — a union-backed pressure group that has also drawn the ire of Gov. Andrew Cuomo — to push all Democrats on key issues.

“Above all the IDC prides itself on policy, and we are asking all duly elected Democrats to tell New Yorkers where they stand on key progressive issues,” Klein said. “AQE and the WFP should work to make sure every Democrat supports the progressive values they claim to cherish, instead of grandstanding.”

When the IDC was first formed, the idea of a split nationally for the Democratic Party was not being discussed. It was still three years away from Zephyr Teachout’s challenge against Cuomo from the left for the Democratic nomination. It was five years away from Sen. Bernie Sanders taking Hillary Clinton to the brink in the presidential election.

At the time, the IDC was formed in the traumatic wake of a tumultuous two-year majority for the Senate Democrats, whose leadership since the has entirely turned over.

The test now for both sides is which argument over the current two-year cycle will win: The Cuomo branded “Getting Things Done” in Albany versus the ideal of liberals holding power in the Trump era.

Bill Aims To Crack Down On ‘Double Dip’ In Asbestos Settlements

From the Morning Memo:

A major test for the power of the trial lawyers in Albany is coming up at the end of the legislative session with a push for a ill that seeks to end the practice of “double dipping” for recovering funds in asbestos-related injury lawsuits.

The measure is designed to end contradictory claims in different court settings that pop up for the same asbestos cases by placing new filing requirements on attorneys.

“I’m pleased to sponsor this bi-partisan bill in the Senate because I know it will promote transparency and accountability in the state’s asbestos litigation law,” said Sen. John Bonacic, the Republican who backs the bill in the state Senate.

The measure — which enjoys support from majority lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate — seeks to require anyone who has field a civil case in asbestos related illness complaints to file bankruptcy claims within 45 days.

By placing those requirements, the measure aimes to discourage attorneys from falsifying disclosure of their clients’ history of exposure.

In the Assembly, the bill is backed by Queens Democratic Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas.

“Transparency and fairness in the civil justice system are important for everyone,” she said. “I look forward to an open dialogue regarding these issues with all stakeholders.”

Here And Now

Good morning — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City, with plans to make an announcement at midday. Mayor Bill de Blasio is continuing his tour of the Bronx. President Trump’s overseas trip continues.

Your schedule:

At 8 a.m., Democratic state Senate candidate Brian Benjamin will vote in his special election, P.S. 175 with Congressman Charlie Rangel and Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference, New York City.

At 10:30 a.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio will hold constituent office hours, Bronx Supreme Courthouse Rotunda, 851 Grand Concourse, the Bronx.

At 11 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will attend the annual memorial for fallen EMS workers, Empire State Plaza, NYS EMS Memorial Site, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., First Lady Chirlane McCray will tour the Jericho Project Kingsbridge Terrace, 2701 Kingsbridge Terrace, the Bronx.

Also at 11 a.m., advocates will hold a press conference urging State Senate and Governor to take action on “Kalief’s Law.” Outside the Senate chambers, third floor Capitol, Albany.

At noon, Gov. Cuomo will make an announcement, The Graduate Center, CUNY Baisley Powell Elebash Recital Hall, 365 5th Avenue, New York City.

At 12:30 p.m., Mayor de Blasio will join Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Small Business Service for a tour, 186th St. & Arthur Avenue, the Bronx.

At 1 p.m., state parks officials will hold a preview of the new cabins at Moreau State Park, Moreau Lake State Park, 605 Old Saratoga Road, Gansevoort.

At 5 p.m., the Department for the Aging will join de Blasio for the Northeast Bronx Senior Center Gala, Villa Barone Manor, 737 Throggs Neck Expressway, the Bronx.

Headlines:

At least 22 people are dead following an explosion at a concert in Manchester for the American singer Ariana Grande.

Police consider the explosion to be a terrorist attack, which set off a chain reaction of panic in the arena.

Cell phone video taken moments after the explosion shows a chaotic scene in which people fled from the concert.

In New York City, law enforcement is stepping up its presence at key areas in the wake of the explosion.

The president this morning called the perpetrators of the bombing “evil losers in life.”

President Trump’s proposed budget seeks to make large cuts to social welfare programs and provide for a package of tax cuts aimed primarily at the rich.

Overall, the plan would reduce spending $4.5 trillion over the coming years, taking a scalpel to programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

Much of the budget’s impact would be felt in the states that supported Trump in his electoral victory this past November.

Though the Trump administration has rejected House Speaker Paul Ryan’s own tax plan, the Wisconsin Republican is sticking by the proposal, setting up a clash with the White House.

While his overseas trip could turn the page on his list of controversies back home, Trump has been compelled to bring them up with foreign dignitaries and the traveling press.

In Israel, Trump pushed for peace with the Palestinians, calling it a top priority and the greatest deal of all time if it could be achieved.

A top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee says former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn lied to Pentagon investigators over his income from companies linked to Russia and his contacts with officials.

Flynn plans to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights when asked to testify before Congress.

In March, Trump asked top intelligence officials at the NSA and the director of National Intelligence to declare publicly there was no collusion by Russians agents in the 2016 presidential campaign, which they both refused to do.

Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to the governor, is seeking to have his corruption case separated from that of the bid-rigging charges against his co-defendants, a half-dozen development executives.

Members of the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference are coming under increasing pressure from the left to rejoin with the mainline conference, though the bloc of eight lawmakers showed little signs on Monday they will do so.

The calls include a new push from the Working Families Party, which released a resistance manifesto on Monday in an effort to move forward with a progressive agenda in the Trump era.

Members of New York’s House delegation joined with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday to call for federal emergency funding for Penn Station amid ongoing delays caused by track upgrades by Amtrak.

Cuomo in a radio interview on Monday declared Penn Station was at a “tipping point” and in dire need of help.

The White House was non-committal in its response to the request for an aid package, saying the administration looks forward to an ongoing conversation on the issue.

Amtrak, meanwhile, is refusing to cede control of its operations at Penn to the Port Authority.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly and Republican-led state Senate are at odds over a plan to extend control of New York City for Mayor Bill de Blasio, which is due to expire next month.

Senate Republicans are nudging de Blasio to release more information on how the city spends its education money; the Assembly on Monday passed an omnibus bill that packages a two-year extender with a continuation of local government tax measures.

Cuomo’s twin daughters this weekend will graduate from Harvard and Brown — a development that make the governor, he says, feel old.

A campaign promoting medical marijuana has popped up in New York City subway ads, the first promotion of its kind.

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill will not attend the Puerto Rican Day Parade amid plans to honor a controversial figure this year.

O’Neill’s decision to no attend the parade comes amid growing backlash to honor the recently freed Oscar Lopez Rivera, a militant who had advocated for resistance against U.S. rule of the island.

National Guard units on Monday continued to assist homeowners amid ongoing flooding at Lake Ontario as residents continue to struggle with rising water levels.

Flooded communities in the area are set to receive $10 million aid as state officials continue to press for more help.

The aid package is meant to bolster shoreline communities and help with infrastructure ranging from water and sewer as well as sidewalks and walls damaged by the flooding.

Despite committing $100 billion in capital expenses over the next five years for the MTA, the money was spread around to the various transit agencies and is not considered enough to alleviate the current slowdowns and overcrowding on the subway system.

Amid ongoing concerns with staffing at New York City’s jails, the system is employing nearly 200 fewer civilians.

The New York City Police Department is refusing to comply with federal requests to detain undocumented immigrants.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara weighed in with his first official endorsement in a political campaign since his firing in March, backing a former assistant federal prosecutor who is running for Suffolk County district attorney.

A hearing for ex-Conservative Party leader Edward Walsh has been postponed as he may face new charges.

A mailer sent by the office of the Oyster Bay town supervisor is being criticized for appearing too much like a political mailer usually seen around election time.

New York officials will help with naturalization services for up to 1,500 immigrants, Cuomo’s office announced on Monday.

A bill in the Assembly seeks to clarify who can officiate marriages in New York and offer one-day officiant licenses for those who register online.

State lawmakers and New York regulators are increasingly wary of the operations of online lenders, saying the industry’s methods “sound deceptive at best.”

Senate Democrats met with officials last week at the Albany County district attorney’s office amid calls for an investigation into the Republican arrangement of giving stipends to committee vice chairs.

Longtime Albany activist Charlene Benton, who fought for clean air and against the crude oil trains running through city, has died.

Western New York Rep. Brian Higgins is increasingly taking on a national profile on key issues for Democrats like health care and taxes.

The University of Buffalo is conducting a new search for a vice president of fundraising to raise money for the state college campus.

Robert Kennedy III is dating the ex-wife of the CEO of Starz, one of the highest paid media moguls.

Once Again, Senate Backs Consolidated August Primary

The Republican-controlled Senate on Monday backed a bill that would consolidate New York’s state and federal primaries to an August date.

The Democratic-led Assembly, meanwhile, has continued to back holding both party primaries in June.

The impasse remains, resulting in the New York’s unusual and costly arrangement of holding two party primaries, one mandated by a federal court for U.S. Senate and House party contests in June; state and local primaries still held in September.

The duel primary structure dates back to a 2012 ruling in which a federal judge moved the state’s congressional-level primary to June in order to comply with the federal MOVE Act, which requires timely access to military and overseas absentee ballots.

An August primary date still fits within the parameters of the law and 14 other states held primaries that month last year.

“Having the right to vote and having access to vote are very different, and we want to make sure that everyone who has the right to vote has the capability and access to vote as well,” said Sen. Fred Akshar, the Republican who chairs the Senate Elections Committee. “These reforms not only cut costs to save taxpayers money, they ensure that our men and women serving in the military have their vote counted.”

All told, a consolidated primary would save at least $25 million.