Nick Reisman

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Hikind Urges Schumer To Drop Support For Ellison

Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind on Tuesday urged U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer to drop his endorsement of Rep. Keith Ellison to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Hikind, a conservative Democrat and Orthodox Jew, cited Ellison’s previous rhetoric on the Nation of Islam.

“Keith Ellison has disqualified himself from becoming the next chair of the DNC,” said Hikind in a statement. “Ellison is the most polarizing choice. Not only are his views radical, but they are divisive. Whether his embracing of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan or his support of the one-sided Goldstone Report, Ellison is clearly not the leader anyone should embrace.”

Hikind has launched an online petition to urge Schumer, who assumed the Senate minority leader post, to rescind the endorsement.

“Senator Schumer, are there no mainstream candidates to lead us?” asked Hikind. “Instead of bringing Democrats together, Ellison will further divide the Party. Senator Schumer, pull the plug on your support for Ellison. He will be a disaster for the Democratic Party,” said Hikind.

Hikind has come under criticism himself after appearing in blackface at a Purim celebration.

Billions Sought For Clean Water Projects

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to spend $2 billion on clean water infrastructure in New York. But over the next generation, that spending could actually be a lot more to keep New York’s water clean.

“The total figure for water and waste water over 20 years is $80 billion,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “It sounds like a huge number and it is a big number. But if you look at the ability of what we’ve been able to spend grant monies and loan monies in the last few years based on the work done to date.”

Seggos told lawmakers on Monday at a joint budget hearing he wants a good, working relationship with the federal government — a challenge he acknowledges given the new administration in Washington.

“No question there’s a huge need,” he said following the testimony. “We need the federal government to step up. We need our loan program to remain sound.”

Clean water issues are especially key in upstate New York, where communities like Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and Newburgh have dealt with the impact of chemical contamination in their drinking water. Cuomo included the water plan in his $152 billion budget proposal.

“We support, I say, in principle the governor’s idea that we need to put a lot of money towards insuring that,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “When we come out with our one-house resolution, we’ll state where we are.”

But lawmakers want some understanding of where that two billion would be directed and how it would be spent.

“I don’t see any reason in the world why we can’t come up with a good clear memorandum of understanding of where it should go,” Majority Leader John Flanagan said. “Should it be regional, looking at the DEC, the Health Department, even DOT.”

Seggos says he’s willing to work with lawmakers.

“This is a vital proposal for New York’s environment, for water resources in the state, and there’s no reason to think why we can’t reach a good understanding of how that money will be spent,” he said.

A report by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Monday identified at least $40 billion in needed repairs for water and sewer across New York.

Decision Day For Bag Fee

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is due to decide today whether he will allow a fee on carry-out bags in New York City to be implemented or if he will delay the implementation of the 5-cent surcharge.

That’s the choice Cuomo faces with a delay bill approved last week on his desk now and the fee set to take effect this week.

For now, it’s unclear which track Cuomo will take: Either anger environmental groups who want to cut down on waste or upset those — including Democrats — who believe the fee is a regressive tax.

As of Monday afternoon, most state lawmakers were in the dark as to what Cuomo plans to do.

“I’ve spoken to him and it’s pretty much the same things he said publicly,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “He’s troubled by the fee, he agrees with the goal that we all do that we’d like to see less of these plastic bags. he’s concerned about the impact particularly for low income New Yorkers. We’ll wait and see.”

Assembly Eyeing Ride Hailing After Break

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie expects his chamber will take up the Democratic conference’s own version of ride hailing legislation after the Legislature’s week off.

Lawmakers will not be in session next week, returning Feb. 28.

The Republican-led Senate previously approved a ride hailing measure that allows apps like Lyft and Uber to operate outside of New York City, imposing a lower tax on hails than the provision included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan.

In the Assembly, the issue has been a trickier one to navigate both insurance regulations as well as the concerns raised by traditional cab companies who have fought the ride hailing measures over the years.

“We’ll still have the meetings particular among the members not from New York City to see what direction we’d like to go,” he said. “There’s a lot of different ideas, a lot of different things to cover.”

Alcantara: ASC ‘Sat On The Sidelines’ During Election

Democratic Sen. Marisol Alcantara on Monday defended Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in a statement after he suggested the criticism of IDC members of color was rooted in racism.

In the statement Alcantara not only reiterates the charge of racism leveled at IDC critics, but adds Stewart-Cousins “sat on the sidelines” for her election to the Senate as the first Dominican woman.

The Democratic conference’s leadership typically does not officially become involved or endorse in primaries.

“When legislators of color make decisions based on helping their constituents, they are demonized and accused of having a financial motivation,” Alcantara said in a statement. “That’s what’s happening here, and it’s racist. The members of the Independent Democratic Conference supported me, the first female Dominican Senator ever elected to this body while Senator Stewart-Cousins, as usual, sat on the sidelines.

Klein Calls Criticism Of IDC Members ‘Racist’

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein echoed the views of IDC Sen. Marisol Alcantara on Monday, saying the criticism of the conference’s newest members is racist.

Klein was defending to reporters the three newest members of the IDC: Sens. Jesse Hamilton and Jose Peralta and the newly elected Alcantara.

Mainline conference Democrats have been critical of Peralta’s switch to the IDC last month and stories have appeared suggesting the Queens Democrat was in need of the financial perks that come with joining the conference.

Klein, speaking with reporters, said “I don’t think there’s any coincidence that when members of color join the IDC” they are attacked.

“All of a sudden now they’re being attacked, that somehow their decision was financially motivated because of child support payments or anything else,” Klein said. “That’s obnoxious, and yes, that is racist.”

The claim is in line with what Alcantara has accused critics of the IDC when knocking Peralta’s decision to join the conference.

“I think it’s like a racist statement that they are questioning the three people of color and they always bring up money,” she told The Daily News.

But Klein’s comments are yet another escalation in the ongoing feud between the IDC and the mainline conference, which re-ignited this year as Republicans retain control of the state Senate.

Though Democrats sought to broker a truce last year, Klein declined to form an alliance with the mainline conference.

Senate Republicans retain control with a governing majority of 32 members given their alignment with Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder who sits with the GOP conference, but is not an IDC member.

Democrats have knocked the IDC, insisting the party should unite given the new administration of Donald Trump in Washington.

“This is an outrageous and dangerous statement. The reality is we have a group of rogue Democrats who are empowering Trump Republicans, and blocking me from becoming the first woman and first African American woman Senate President or co-President,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “It is sad that they are now insulting and calling the protesters who are demanding Democratic control of the Senate racist. We need to work together to stand up for the people of New York and not throw around dangerous and offensive accusations. “

Assembly To Take Up Criminal Justice Package

The Democratic-led Assembly over the next two days will take up a package of a dozen bills aimed at reforming the criminal justice system in the state.

The measures include long-sought bills such as raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and enhancing grand jury transparency as well as enshrining a special prosecutor for cases in which civilians die in encounters with police.

“We think the system has been long in need of reform,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in an interview.

The bills face an unlikely path in the Republican-led Senate, where GOP lawmakers have been hesitant to embrace reform measures.

“It’s really about trying to show where the Assembly is,” Heastie said.

Senate Dems Push Their Version Of Raise The Age

Senate Democrats pushed on Monday for their version of legislation that would raise the age of criminal responsibility for non-violent offenders as the Legislature inches toward a potential agreement.

“Raise The Age must be more than a slogan or a way to score political points and headlines,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.

“The Senate Democrats have led the fight to Raise The Age in New York State, and Senator Velmanette Montgomery has sponsored this legislation for over 5 years. The Senate Republican-IDC Coalition need to accept the facts that incarcerating our non-violent youth with hardened, adult criminals is cruel, costly, and ineffective. The Senate Democrats will keep up the fight to Raise The Age and bring New York State in line with the rest of the nation.”

The effort by the mainline conference of Democrats comes as the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference last week also pushed for the stalled issue to move forward in the Legislature.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015 began moving some juvenile offenders to facilities away from the adult prison population.

The more complex task has been to expand Family Court in New York to handle the expected increase in cases.

“Raise the Age is a vital part of the Senate Democratic Conference’s vision for reforming juvenile justice in New York State,” Montgomery said.

“Under the leadership of Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Democrats continue to lead efforts to fundamentally change the way youth are treated in our criminal justice system. Raising the Age must be complemented with investments in alternatives to incarceration and educational and professional opportunities for our most vulnerable youth. Only then will we have a comprehensive approach that puts us on the path to ending mass incarceration and permanently ending the prison pipeline.”

Cuomo once again has included in the issue in his $152 billion spending proposal.

NY-23: Danks Burke Says She Isn’t Running

Leslie Danks Burke, a Democrat who unsuccessfully sought a state Senate seat in New York’s heavily Republican Southern Tier region, bowed out of the race for the 23rd congressional district.

The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Tom Reed.

In a statement, Danks Burke said it was “humbling” to be considered as a possible candidate for the House seat.

“I am removing myself early from the field of potential Congressional candidates to clear the way for others who may wish to step in, for our political leaders to find and encourage those candidates, and to continue my work in funneling citizen energy into a grassroots base for a bright future,” she said. “I hope to see a vigorous conversation unfold in the months ahead.”

Nevertheless, Danks Burke indicated she’ll continue to be a presence in the area’s political scene.

“Yet my heart lies with the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes and with the people of New York,” she said. “My team and I haven’t stopped the hard work we put in during the 2016 cycle to build lasting change from the bottom up, to a political system that costs taxpayer money and rewards corruption at the top. I have launched Trailblazers PAC to invest the energy and resources of my 2016 campaign into candidates for local office across the state who stand against pay-to-play politics and corruption.”

Seggos Defers To Cuomo On Bag Fee

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos did not break with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s concerns over a pending surcharge for carry-out bags in New York City.

“I think the governor has spoken for our position on this,” Seggos said during questioning from Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman. “We and he have recognized the environmental goals are laudable, but there are concerns about people who have to pay the fee and where that fee ends up.”

Seggos, who testified at the joint legislative hearing on environmental conservation issues in the state budget, acknowledged plastic bags remain an acute environmental issue and left the door open to potential action from his agency.

“Bags are a scourge, there’s no doubt about it,” Seggos said. “We’re seeing plastic in waterways all across the world. A lot of that’s from plastic bags.”

A bill now on Cuomo’s desk would delay the implementation of the bag fee by one year, a measure that passed both chambers last week and would likely kill the surcharge, which is due to take effect this week.