Nick Reisman

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Cuomo Praises ‘Pathbreaker’ Peralta

From the Morning Memo:

The passage of the Dream Act this year would be the culmination of the life’s work of the late Sen. Jose Peralta, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters after attending the memorial service for the Queens Democrat who died last week.

“He was tenacious on the Dream Act,” Cuomo said. “One of the advantages we’re going to have with a Democratic Senate is we’re going to get the Dream Act and that will fulfill a major promise of his life’s work.”

Peralta, 47, was the first Dominican-American elected to the state Senate and was a prominent advocate for the Dream Act, which would provide state tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants. The bill is likely to pass next year as Democrats return to Albany with a 17-seat majority in the state Senate.

Peralta, a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, lost his primary in September to Jessica Ramos. Democrats met in Albany on Monday to formally designate Andrea Stewart-Cousins the next majority leader; the conference held a moment of silence for Peralta.

“He believed in his community. He worked for his community,” Cuomo said. “He was the quintessential immigrant story, whether it’s Italian or Irish or Dominican. He was a pathbreaker as a Dominican elected official. He did a beautiful job.”

Stewart-Cousins Takes Wait-And-See Approach On Pay Panel

From the Morning Memo:

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is taking a cautious, wait-and-see approach on whether state lawmakers will receive their first pay increase in 20 years.

The pay commission will hold a meeting on Wednesday in Albany as part of the ongoing decision whether lawmakers should have their pay bumped from the current base salary of $79,500. Many earn more with leadership and committee stipends.

“I don’t know if the Legislature getting a big raise,” Stewart-Cousins said during a news conference on Monday at the Capitol. “Obviously it’s in the hands of the commission, so we’ll see what they’re suggesting.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others have pushed for the Legislature to end the practice of being a part-time position, banning or at least curbing outside income for state lawmakers.

Senate Democrats have backed bans on outside income in the past. But Stewart-Cousins said she would wait for what the commission will ultimately determine.

“We in our conference have had a bill that certainly limits outside income, so it’s not something that’s new, but, again, it’s in the commission’s hands,” she said.

Underwood Amicus Brief Challenges Whitaker Appointment

Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Monday filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting U.S. attorney general by President Donald Trump.

The brief is part of a Maryland case challenging the recess appointment by Trump being brought by a coalition of 15 attorneys general, including Underwood.

“The law is clear – and Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as Acting Attorney General is illegal, violating long-standing rules,” Underwood said in a statement. “Our coalition of Attorneys General will continue to do what’s necessary to protect the rule of law.”

The brief is in support of a motion that seeks to block Whitaker from exercising authority as the U.S. attorney general or to substitute deputy AG Rod Rosenstein as the defendant in an ongoing case between Maryland and the federal government over the Affordable Care Act.

The brief, along with New York, was backed by attorneys general in Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

AG Report: Professional Fundraisers Pocket A Third Of Donations

Nearly a third of money given to charitable causes and organizations are pocketed by professional fundraisers, according to a report released Monday by Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office.

The annual report, published ahead of Giving Tuesday, assesses New York charities, their spending and how their donation money is spent.

“New Yorkers are generous in their charitable giving – and they should know how their dollars are being spent,” Underwood said. “Too often, a large percentage of charitable dollars are pocketed by outside fundraisers rather than going to the cause itself. I urge all New Yorkers to be careful, and to report suspicious entities to my office.”

New Yorkers in 2017 gave nearly $1.2 billion in charitable gifts to 964 fundraising campaigns that were conducted by professional fundraisers. The charities netted $812 million, while fundraisers who helped raise the money received $372 million.

Professional fundraisers are regulated in New York and must register with the attorney general’s office. They must provide financial reporting breaking down the revenue raised and the expenses generated by a campaign.

The full report can be found here.

Stewart-Cousins Designated Majority Leader For Senate

Democratic Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Monday was formally designated the next majority leader in the state Senate by her colleagues in a conference that could have as many as 40 members at the start of the new year.

Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, will return as the number two lawmaker in the conference and serve as deputy majority leader. Sen. Jose Serrano of the Bronx will serve as conference chairman.

There’s still some sorting out to do, including the naming of committee chairs and the question of whether Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who is aligned with Republicans, will join the majority.

But the meeting of Democrats in Albany was a chance not just to take stock of next year, but make some history.

“This is a proud moment for me,” Stewart-Cousins said at a news conference shortly after the vote. “It’s certainly a moment that when I first came here I don’t think I ever dreamed of.”

The majority leader post in the state Senate is one of the most powerful positions in state government, holding sway over jobs, which bills come to the floor for a vote and a say in the budget talks.

Still, there are challenges.

She will lead one of the largest legislative majorities in the state Senate in decades, with members representing a range of constituencies from western New York to eastern Long Island.

Democrats have a full plate of long-sought legislative measures, including election reforms, the public financing of campaigns, the DREAM Act, gun control and a bolstering of abortion rights.

Potentially nettlesome issues include a single-payer health care measure several Democratic candidates campaigned on in support of, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been publicly cool toward. Asked about the bill on Monday in Albany, Stewart-Cousins said that issue, along with an extension of tax rates for upper income earners due to expire next year, is yet to be fully fleshed out by the conference.

“We’re not expecting collisions,” she said. “we’re expecting the opportunity to try and figure out the best way forward on these important issues to New Yorkers.”

And Stewart-Cousins will have a seat in the budget negotiations with Cuomo as well as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

“New York is an incredible place — 20 million people. So much diversity,” she said. “Women uphold half of this state. The fact that there has never been a woman in the room was troubling.”

A working Democratic majority was not always a given.

The party had been out of power in the Senate for a decade following a disastrous two-year stint in control that was marred by a legislative coup. All of the previous leaders of the conference are virtually out of office and some are serving time in prison for corruption.

But the damage from the dysfunction was done, with five lawmakers splitting into a faction called the Independent Democratic Conference, which aligned with Republicans, allowing the GOP to maintain control even when they were outnumbered by Democrats.

The election of President Donald Trump, however, changed that arrangement.

The IDC dissolved earlier this year amid political pressure from Democratic activists and Cuomo, who had been accused of preferring the IDC-GOP alignment. All but two former members of the IDC won their primary challenges this year.

“I think we’re going to work well,” said Sen. David Carlucci, a former member of the IDC. “We’ve had more representation upstate and the suburbs than we’ve had before. It’s a conference that doesn’t just represent one part of the state, but the entire state.”

Cuomo Urges NY House Dems To Fund Gateway, End SALT Cap

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter to Democrats in New York’s delegation in the House of Representatives on Monday urged them to push for funding for the Gateway tunnel and ending the $10,000 cap on state and local taxes.

He said tackling both issues would be a boon to New York and its taxpayers.

“It is governmental malpractice for everyone to agree that a transportation and economic crisis is looming but still no action is taken,” Cuomo wrote in the letter. “This transcends any political or parochial interest.”

New York elected four new members to the House, flipping three Republican-held seats in the Hudson Valley, central New York and on Staten Island in the process. Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley lost his primary bid to Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Cuomo has railed against President Donald Trump’s administration as well as the Republican-controlled Congress for the cap on state and local tax deductions, a provision that impacts high-tax states like New York.

A mechanism for working around the cap, essentially creating charitable organizations on the local level, is being reviewed by the Internal Revenue Service.

“I will continue to aggressively pursue the matter with the President and his administration directly but request your assistance,” Cuomo wrote. “Senate Minority Leader Schumer is well aware of the matter and the urgency and has been steadfastly working to get to an agreement.”

DiNapoli: Better Coordination Needed In Curtailing Opioid Use

Some Medicaid recipients in New York have received unnecessary or potentially dangerous opioid prescriptions outside of their addiction treatment efforts, a report released Monday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found.

The audit, part of a series of audits reviewing opioid use in New York, found programs offering treatment services have in many cases not checked to determine whether patients are receiving opioid prescriptions or coordinating with health care providers.

“New York and the rest of the country are facing an opioid addiction epidemic, and people’s lives are at stake,” DiNapoli said. “Programs designed to get individuals off highly addictive opioids can only be effective with proper vigilance. The state Department of Health should take steps to help treatment programs and health care providers work together to prevent overdoses that could lead to hospitalizations or death.”

Audtiors review Department of Health records from Oct. 1, 20134 through Sept. 30, 2017, finding more than 180,000 Medicaid recipients who received 208,198 prescriptions for opioid use through the program. At the same time, they were receiving opioids, often methadone, as part of a treatment for opioid use disorder.

Thirty-three percent of Medicaid recipietns in treatment programs are receiving prescription opioids outside of that program, with 3 percent of those patients having received medical care for an overdose within a month of obtaining a prescription.

Recommendations include having the Department of Health improve its scrutiny of opioid prescriptions for Medicaid recipients who are being treated for use disorders and issuing a guidance to remind treatment programs of their statutory and regulatory requirement to consult the I-STOP database.

Peralta GoFundMe Campaign Hits Goal

From the Morning Memo:

The death of Democratic state Sen. Jose Peralta last week at 47 brought a sad coda to the end of the year in New York politics and for that of his family.

But those who knew Peralta came to provide some help.

A GoFundMe campaign quickly reached its goal on Sunday of raising $25,000 to help Peralta’s family cover memorial service and visitation expenses. As of Monday morning, the effort has raised $34,360.

And who gave, too, is a sign that even the rough and tumble of the New York political world can be put on hold for a family in need.

Peralta was a member of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, a bloc of Democrats who had allied themselves with Republicans in the state Senate. The IDC dissolved earlier this year, but six of its eight former members lost their primary bids, including Peralta.

The fight over the IDC, stretching over the balance of the decade, was one of the more heated and politically fraught ones in state politics.

All that was set aside for the day.

In addition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $10,000 contribution, the GoFundMe campaign received donations from IDC critics like Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell. Republican Marc Molinaro, the GOP nominee for governor, also gave, as did Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is likely to become the next majority leader in the Senate.

The Parkside Group, the firm associated with the mainline conference of Democrats, also donated.

There were countless others, including Peralta’s former colleagues in the IDC and staffers who were on both sides of the fight.

Mario Cuomo would often talk about the “family of New York.” It can often resemble a dysfunctional family.

But for a day, the things can divide New York can be set aside.

Stewart-Cousins Poised To Become Majority Leader

From the Morning Memo:

Democrats in the state Senate meet today for what, on paper, will be a pro forma exercise: Formally electing a leader for the 2019-20 session of the Legislature.

But expected support for Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins will be history making. When the full Legislature convenes in January, she will be the first woman to lead a legislative majority in Albany. She was woman of color to lead a legislative conference in Albany when her colleagues elected her leader to replace John Sampson in 2012.

For Stewart-Cousins, it was a winding road. She narrowly lost her first bid for the state Senate in 2004, facing the longtime Republican incumbent Nick Spano that year. Two years later, she won the rematch race.

Stewart-Cousins will be the first woman in “the room” — Albany parlance for the top-level leaders meeting with the governor and Assembly speaker, giving her a voice in the state budget negotiations and the final shaping of legislation.

She’ll be entering the majority leader’s office with a conference of up to 40 members in the 63-seat Senate, a large advantage that is expected to lead to the quick passage of measures long sought by Democrats in New York, including the DREAM Act, voting reforms and a strengthening of abortion rights.

But it is also expected to come with challenges. The conference is a diverse one, with members from western New York, upstate cities, the Hudson Valley, suburban Long Island and the five boroughs.

Unity hasn’t been easy for Democrats to achieve in the past, though the conference’s leaders have long asserted the dysfunction that plagued the 2009-10 majority is gone.

Stewart-Cousins herself was elected leader six years ago in part because of her district’s geography: A large downstate city with suburban concerns, bordering New York City but not in New York City. It’s a balance Stewart-Cousins has said she knows she has to maintain.

Cuomo Donates $10K To Peralta Family Go Fund Me

Supporters of the late Sen. Jose Peralta this weekend set up a GoFundMe page to help offset expenses for his family.

One prominent donor so far: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who gave $10,000. The effort is aimed at helping the family cover funeral expenses as well as visitation services.

“Senator Peralta dedicated his life to serving New Yorkers, and the family of New York will come together to ensure he receives a fitting memorial,” Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday.‎ “As we continue to mourn his sudden passing, Senator Peralta’s family and loved ones remain in our thoughts and prayers.”

Peralta, a Queens Democrat, died on Wednesday evening unexpectedly at 47. Peralta, a prominent supporter of the DREAM Act in the state Senate, was the first Dominican-American elected to the chamber.

He lost his Democratic primary in September to Jessica Ramos.