Albany

Long Re-Elected Conservative Party Chair

Longtime Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long this weekend was unanimously re-elected to the post, the party announced on Saturday, giving him another two-year term.

The vote was held at the party’s bi-annual meeting in New York City.

“You are the pivotal part of promoting the Party, elected officials may come and go, but you and your support keeps the Party vibrant, strong and able to make a difference in New York State politics,” Long said in a statement.

The Conservative Party, while small, is seen as wielding considerable influence on Republican officeholders. The party’s endorsement is also considered key for any Republican running in a statewide election.

“Mike Long leads by example and while some call him a ‘Party Boss’ we know that is a role he has never played,” said the party’s vice chairman, Gerard Kassar. “Chairman Long listens and respects the leaders of the Party.”

Is State Government Learning Anything?

As a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a six-year prison sentence, it’s not clear what, if anything, state government can do to police itself.

And it’s likely the corruption cases won’t sway voters this fall.

“It’s hard to believe that Albany has learned anything,” said Blair Horner, the legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “If they have, they’ve been keeping it a secret. There have no meaningful measures to reduce the corruption in state government.”

Good-government advocates have so far failed to advance bills that would better track government contracts and create more oversight of economic development spending in order to crack down on bribery and bid rigging. And it does not appear voters are corruption weary.

“I think the public has become increasingly cynical about what they think can happen in Albany and they’re not holding elected officials to the highest standard,” Horner said.

Cuomo has insisted safeguards have been put in place since the initial arrests to prevent fraud and abuse.

It has been a veritable parade of corruption scandals in the last decade, impacting every floor of the Capitol. This year alone, the former leaders of both the state Senate and the state Assembly have been convicted of corruption charges.

“They often say it’s not the crime, but the cover-up,” said Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro. “In the case of this administration, it is the crime and the cover-up.”

Molinaro has sought to link Cuomo to the case of his former close aide Joe Percoco. Cuomo himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing or implicated, but Molinaro insists the governor should have known.

“The governor, when caught, always responds by claiming to have no knowledge. Didn’t know Joe Percoco, didn’t know Joe Percoco was making calls in the governor’s office when the governor was there,” Molinaro said.

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s re-election campaign released a TV ad accusing Molinaro of the similar pay-to-play allegations leveled against the administration.

Molinaro has blasted the attack, calling it an attempt to distract.

When The WFP Played Spoiler

From the Morning Memo:

The Working Families Party doesn’t want to play the spoiler role in the November gubernatorial election, its leadership has insisted, having Cynthia Nixon actively campaign to the detriment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and potentially to the benefit of Republican Marc Molinaro.

“In 20 years, the WFP has never played a spoiler role,” WFP State Director Bill Lipton told The Capitol Pressroom in April. “It’s not in our DNA.”

But Democrats have lost pivotal races in the past without the support of the WFP. It was 14 years ago, in 2004, when Republican Sen. Nick Spano was re-election with a razor-thin margin of 18 votes, defeating then-challenger Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

At the time, Spano had the WFP ballot, going 1,870 votes in the race.

Stewart-Cousins in a rematch two years later would go on to defeat Spano for the Westchester County seat and eventually become the chamber’s Democratic leader.

It’s not yet clear how the statewide ballot will sort itself out. The WFP endorsed Nixon and Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams in April over Cuomo.

Nixon’s camp has indicated it would want an apology for the actress over a mailer from the state Democratic Committee linking her to anti-Semitism.

The governor secured the Democratic nomination last Thursday, handily defeating Nixon. He has not given an indication as to whether he’d accept the ballot line.

The party has switched statewide before, backing Hillary Clinton after her primary victory in 2016 after endorsing Bernie Sanders.

But Cuomo carrying the WFP line, too, would potentially be beneficial to the WFP given the need for a ballot line to secure 50,000 votes in order to secure ballot status in the next election cycle.

Biz Council Releases Scorecard

Republicans in the state Assembly may be a long way from gaining power in the Democratic-dominated chamber, but they one thing in Albany they do control is the Business Council’s 2018 legislative scorecard.

The organization on Thursday released its ranking of votes and lawmakers, with 23 of the top 25 lawmakers on the list being members of the Assembly GOP.

Among the Senate Republicans, who hold a narrow majority in the upper house, all 32 members of the GOP conference scored above 50 percent, with most scoring more than 75 percent.

The scorecard assessed a half dozen votes in the Senate and 23 floor votes in the Assembly.

The Senate bills included several budget-related spending packages, including workers’ compensation reform and the extension of nearly $5 billion in HCRA taxes in 2018. The scorecard also assessed votes that sought to decouple the federal tax law changes from the state tax structure and regulatory reform.

In the Assembly, the organization reviewed votes concerning new mandates as well as the single-payer health care bill, which the Business Council opposes.

“This bi-annual scorecard contains familiar results,” said Heather Briccetti, the president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc. “Votes by the Senate and Assembly Republicans clearly demonstrate they are the most pro-growth, pro-jobs conferences. Interestingly, members of the Senate Democratic conference and the former IDC also scored relatively well, with bipartisan support shown for a number of our priority issues.”

BOE Says It Has Strengthened Security Ahead Of Primary Vote

The state Board of Elections on Wednesday said it has strengthened cyber security ahead of voting in tomorrow’s primary.

The board pointed to uniform cybersecurity training to county and state elections officials as well as a tested cyber security response plan with state and local officials as well.

“The new contract for risk assessment will help our counties identify any existing vulnerabilities and allow us to direct additional resources where necessary,” said Robert Brehm, the co-executive director of the Board of Elections.

“The intrusion detection devices, when finalized, will provide an additional layer of defense for the counties to assist in raising the alarm if malicious activity is detected either inside or outside of their networks.”

The enhanced and bolstered security comes after concerns that foreign actors, namely Russia, could attempt to influence the outcome of the election through a manipulation of the votes. Reports in other states have found hackers attempted to gain access to voting databases. There is no evidenced they were successful in changing the outcome of the 2016 election.

New York already has some built-in advantages to guard against hacking, including a prohibition on any wireless Internet or other connections to voting equipment and computers used by county boards for elections purposes, such as programming scanners must be used for single purpose.

At the same time, New York does not allow county boards to contract with outside vendors to program voting machines. And there is a requirement that three percent of voting machines are audited after each election.

“With the help of our federal and state representatives, we have significant new resources to address the cyber security needs not only for the State Board, but the county boards as well,” said Todd D. Valentine, Brehm’s counterpart at the board. “Once completed, the managed security services contract will be a formidable tool for our county colleagues,” continued Valentine, “it will include round-the-clock monitoring and management of IDS and firewalls, rigorous patch management, security assessments and audits and help in responding to emergencies.”

PEF Endorses Metzger In SD-42

The Public Employees Federation on Tuesday endorsed state Senate candidate Jen Metzer for the 42nd district in the Hudson Valley.

“We could not be prouder to support Jen Metzger for NY State Senate. She has an impressive record of getting things done as a town board member and as a director of Citizens for Local Power, and knows that when unions are strong, the middle-class is strong,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “With her support in the State Senate, we will have one more vote for guaranteed healthcare for all, good clean energy jobs, affordable education, and policies to end corruption in New York State. Our members know Jen Metzger will fight for us in Albany.”

Metzger is running for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. John Bonacic. She faces Pramilla Malick in the Thursday primary. The winner will face GOP candidate Annie Rabbit in the fall.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of the New York State Public Employees Federation, which represents 54,000 members in our state,” Metzger said.

“Together we will fight back against attacks on organized labor, and for a fair deal for working men and women that promotes safe working conditions, job security, decent benefits, and fights privatization.”

Hotline Available In Catholic Church Abuse Investigation

A hotline and online complaint form is available for survivors and victims of abuse as part Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s investigation into the sexual abuse of children within the New York dioceses of the Catholic Church.

The hotline can be called at 1-800-771-7755. An online complaint can be filed here.

On Thursday, Underwood also called for the passage of the Child Victims Act, a bill that would make it easier for victims and survivors of childhood abuse to file lawsuits. The measure has stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

“The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover ups in the dioceses. Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well – and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve,” Underwood said in a statement. “I urge all victims and anyone else with information to contact our hotline. And make no mistake: the only way that justice can fully and truly be served is for the legislature to finally pass the Child Victims Act.”

On Labor Day, Candidates Tout Labor Endorsements

From the Morning Memo:

It wouldn’t have been Labor Day without incumbent lawmakers touting their endorsements and backing from the state’s politically active unions.

Sen. Jeff Klein, the former leader of the Independent Democratic Conference facing a competitive primary challenge in the Bronx from Alessandra Biaggi, pointed to the dozen or so labor groups who have endorsed his campaign, including 1199SEIU, DC37 and the Public Employees Federation.

“Workers are the life-blood of America and New York State, and protecting their rights and interests is the fundamental responsibility of every legislator,” Klein said.

“It has been my honor to stand up for labor and to pass life-changing legislation for our workforce and their families. From passing the $15 Minimum Wage to Paid Family Leave, to passing legislation that staves off the devastating affects of the US Supreme Court Janus decision, I have always had the backs of working New Yorkers, and I will continue to fight and deliver when I return to Albany.”

Republican Sen. Elaine Phillips of Nassau County also pointed to her nod from PEF, the state’s second-largest public-sector labor union.

“I am proud to stand with hardworking men and women of organized labor, and pleased to have earned the support of dedicated public employees across Long Island and New York State,” said Phillips.

“Day after day, PEF members are the face of state and local governments, providing valuable and necessary services, caring for our most vulnerable children and senior citizens, providing technical and administrative expertise, safeguarding our tax dollars and keeping our state moving forward.”

Hudson Valley Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy was endorsed by the AFL-CIO, an umbrella labor union.

“For too long, workers have been left behind by politicians in Washington and Albany who give out corporate welfare tax-breaks to multinational corporations, as they automate and offshore jobs to make a quick buck,” Murphy said. “As the son of a labor leader, that will never, ever be me. This is one of, if not the most significant endorsements a candidate can earn, and I’m proud to stand with the State AFL-CIO, the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation and the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body as we work together to keep workplaces safe, protect worker’s wellbeing and their ability to make a living for themselves and their families.”

And Democratic candidate John Mannion, running for the Syracuse-area seat being vacated by Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco, touted his own labor union bona fides. After all, he was a local teachers union president.

“The workplace benefits and protections that so many of us, union and non-union alike, take for granted were paid for by the advocacy, determination, and tenacity of millions of union members,” Mannion said. “For decades, organized labor worked tirelessly to demand a minimum wage, workplace safety requirements, fair benefits, and to be treated with respect for their hard work.”

While union membership has fallen in other states, labor has remained a potent political force. Labor unions were credited with successfully mobilizing against a referendum for a constitutional convention in 2017, worried that such a move would put hard-won benefits at risk.

Syracuse’s Walsh On NYCOM’s Executive Committee

The New York Conference of Mayors on Thursday announced Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh had been appointed to its six-member executive committee.

“I look forward to working together with mayors and municipal officials from across New York State on issues that impact and affect our communities,” Walsh said in a statement. “I am grateful to have the opportunity to lead these efforts as a member of the Executive Committee, and I thank Mayor McCarthy for the appointment.”

Walsh was elected last year on an independent ballot line, succeeding Stephanie Miner as the city’s 54th mayor.

“Mayor Walsh’s skills as a pragmatic and collaborative leader will make him a strong asset as NYCOM pursues our statewide agenda,” said NYCOM President Gary McCarthy, the mayor of Schenectady. “I am excited to have Mayor Walsh join NYCOM’s leadership as we work to enhance our collective influence through regional advocacy and member engagement.”

DiNapoli: Employer Contribution Rates To Remain Largely The Same

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office announced Wednesday contribution rates for employers to the state pension fund will decline slightly, while the contribution to the police and fire pension system will remain the same.

The average contribution rate for employers in the retirement system is set to decline in the 2019-20 fiscal year from 14.9 percent to 14.6 percent of its payroll.

For the police and fire system will stay level at 23.5 percent of payroll.

“Solid investment returns help keep contribution rates stable and that provides predictability for employers as they plan their future budgets,” DiNapoli said. “New York State’s pension fund is one of the strongest and best funded in the country and protects the retirement security of our over one million members.”

The pension fund, valued at $207.4 billion, reported a 11.35 percent rate of return at the end of the fiscal year on March 31. It is 98 percent funded.

DiNapoli is up for re-election this year, facing Democrat-turned-Republican Jonathan Trichter.