Biz Council PAC Makes Legislative Endorsements

From the Morning Memo:

The Business Council’s political action committee on Thursday will formally unveil its endorsements for the state Legislature as the group seeks to push back what it sees as an attack on “pro-growth” efforts in the state.

“The 2018 elections are shaping up to be among the most important in our state’s history,” said Business Council Heather Briccetti .

“With pro-growth, pro-jobs messaging under attack on multiple fronts, and the competitive challenges facing New York’s business community, it is critically important that New York taxpayers elect lawmakers who understand the role business plays in our state’s economic health. The lawmakers and candidates endorsed by The Business Council PAC have demonstrated a commitment to the issues most important to our members.”

The group is backing largely Republican lawmakers in both the Assembly and the state Senate, endorsing GOP candidates running this year in key swing districts, including Bob Antonacci, Tom Basile, Elaine Phillips, Annie Rabbit, Marty Golden, Terrence Murphy, Sue Serino and Jeff Pravato, among others.

The PAC is supporting two Democratic lawmakers: Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Island lawmaker, and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who is allied with Republicans and helps them retain their narrow majority in the chamber.

Democrats hope a handful of races on Long Island, the Hudson Valley and one in central New York will give them a full majority next year and flip the chamber for the first since 2009.

The Business Council could face a range of legislative challenges next year, including the growing push for the adoption of a single-payer health care system in New York, which Democrats in the Legislature are running on as a top issue.

The full list of endorsements is after the jump. More >

Tax And Finance Reviewing Times Article

The state Department of Taxation and Finance is reviewing the reporting of The New York Times after the newspaper published an extensive review of President Donald Trump’s tax history.

“The Tax Department is reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation,” said spokesman Jim Gazzale.

The Times detailed in the 13,000-word story how Trump inherited millions of dollars from his father, some which appeared to have been disguised as payments for consulting jobs.

New York, through the Tax and Finance department and Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office, is already investigating the finances of the president’s family’s charity, the Trump Foundation.

Sexual Harassment Working Group: Blasey Ford Testimony Shows Need For Albany Hearings

The working group of former legislative aides who have been victims and survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault while working for the Legislature in a statement Monday said the testimony last week of Christine Blasey-Ford underscored the need for public hearings on the issue in state government.

“Just as this process is unfolding in Washington, the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo are at a critical juncture,” the panel said in a joint statement. “While they voice support for Dr. Blasey-Ford and the #BelieveSurvivors campaign, we urge them to show the same trust for survivors in New York, by implementing policies to protect New York’s workforce.”

Blasey-Ford testified last week to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegation and the FBI is investigating the incident as well as a separate allegation of misconduct.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group has for the last year called for hearings in Albany to discuss the impact of sexual misconduct in New York state government — a call that continued after the budget included provisions meant to strengthen sexual harassment rules that the group has said fell short.

“But New York State’s leaders must listen to survivors,” the statement said.

“Now, once again, the Sexual Harassment Working Group asks for public hearings to provide a forum where victims can give insight and information into processes they know all too well. Learning from victims’ experiences can help ensure that New York State’s policies are worker and victim-centered–and sharply contrast the process we are seeing in Washington.”

Bellone To Push For SALT Workaround In DC

From the Morning Memo:

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will travel to Washington in November to oppose potential regulations that would block New York and other states from enacting workarounds for the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions.

The trip comes as the Internal Revenue Service is considering regulations that would prohibit states from allowing local governments to create entities that essentially act as charitable organizations for taxpayers to contribute to and essentially bypass the cap.

A hearing on the issue will be held by the IRS on Nov. 5.

“We fought to stop Washington from passing a massive, unjustified tax increase on Long Islanders,” Bellone said.

“Now we will fight their illegal effort to prevent taxpayers from utilizing existing tax law to reduce their federal tax burden. If these efforts prove unsuccessful, and if these new IRS regulations are adopted, legal action is likely.”

State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the workaround earlier this year in the state budget in response to the December 2017 federal tax law that limited state and local tax deductions.

New Jersey, California and other high tax states impacted by the cap on deductions created similar vehicles in response. New York ranks among the highest property taxes in the country, with property owners in the New York City metropolitan region particularly hard hit by the cap.

Cuomo in particular has railed against capping deductions, calling it an “economic missile” aimed at New York that has the potential to reverse gains made on the state’s tax climate in recent years.

Settlement Reached With Uber Over Data Breach

Ride hailing company Uber Technologies was slapped with a record $148 million fine for a 2016 data breach, state Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Wednesday announced.

New York is due to receive about $5.1 million in the settlement, Underwood said.

“New Yorkers deserve to know that their personal information will be protected – period,” Underwood said. “This record settlement should send a clear message: we have zero tolerance for those who skirt the law and leave consumer and employee information vulnerable to exploitation. We’ll continue to fight to protect New Yorkers from weak data security and criminal hackers.”

The national settlement reached with all 50 states and the District of Columbia also requires the company to adopt a data breach notification plan and data security practices, along with a corporate integrity program.

The data breach dates back to November 2016, when hackers are believed to have stolen the personal information of 57 million people who have either used the app to hail a ride or the drivers themselves. Of those, 25 million were in the United States and 7.7 million were drivers.

Unshackle Upstate Releases Legislative Scorecard

From the Morning Memo:

The pro-business Unshackle Upstate on Tuesday will release its 2017-18 scorecard assessing legislative votes.

“As we head toward another critical Election Day, Upstate voters deserve to know which state lawmakers are actually working to strengthen our economy,” said Michael Kracker, the group’s executive director.

“Our new Legislative Scorecards set the record straight for voters by grading legislators based on their actions in Albany over the last two years. Voters who are concerned about jobs, taxes and the future of their community should take a long, hard look at their legislators’ grades before they head to the polls his November.”

The scorecard assessed a range of measures, votes, sponsorships and budget votes including regulatory measures, tax bills and mandates.

Nine Republicans in the state Senate received rankings of 100, while two Republicans and a Democrat — Assemblyman Robin Schimminger — received perfect scores.

“We encourage all voters across the Southern Tier to review Unshackle Upstate’s Legislative Scorecards before they step into the voting booth this year,” said Jennifer Conway, president and CEO of the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce.

2018 UU Scorecard Assembly Ranking by Nick Reisman on Scribd

2018 UU Scorecard Senate Ranking by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Mahoney Resigns Onondaga County Exec Post

Joanie Mahoney, the Onondaga County executive and a prominent Republican ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is resigning her post to become a top official at SUNY ESF.

Mahoney will be staying in office until the county budget is approved in October.

“This is not a decision that I made lightly. Serving as Onondaga County Executive is the greatest job and the highest honor I have had,” Mahoney said. “I am aware however, that no one is irreplaceable and we can also be served by a fresh perspective and a new set of eyes in the County Executive’s Office.”

First elected in 2007, Mahoney has been a prominent supporter for Cuomo, a Democrat who is seeking a third term this year. She has worked with Cuomo on issues ranging from the Thruway Authority to the state Fairgrounds in the county and has endorsed his bids for governor as well as his re-election.

The Mahoney-Cuomo alliance came as other prominent officials in central New York, including ex-Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Sen. John DeFrancisco battled with Cuomo over local government policy.

NFIB Releases Legislative Voting Record

From the Morning Memo:

The National Federation of Independent Business on Monday will release its 2017-18 legislative voting record, tracking bills and votes key to the organization’s members in New York.

The group assessed eight votes on bills in Democratic-led Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate out of more than 100 measures that had been tracked by the NFIB, including budget bills, regulatory actions and the New York Health Act.

“This past legislative session showed a marked improvement for small businesses across the Empire State as several NFIB priorities were acted upon and many of Albany’s worst proposals were ultimately defeated,” said Greg Biryla, NFIB New York state director.

“The Senate Majority championed worker’s compensation savings and delivered some positive reforms that will ease costs. The most potentially detrimental new or increased tax proposals were also avoided. While New York has a long way to go in creating a competitive, inviting small business environment, we are pleased to see NFIB’s voice was heard and legislators’ Voting Record scores reflect that.”

Sens. George Amedore, Tom Croci, Simcha Felder, Kathy Marchione, Robert Ort, Sue Serino and Jim Tedesco were given perfect scores. All are Republicans, save for Felder, who is a Democrat aligned with the GOP conference.

Republicans in the Assembly all received perfect scores, including lawmakers Michael Montesano, Angelo Morinello, Phillip Palmesano and Mary Beth Walsh.

Biryla said there was a lot more to do for the state’s business community.

“New York still taxes too much, regulates too much, mandates too much, and relies upon shortsighted, taxpayer-funded economic development incentives rather than working to create an economic climate that organically attracts small business investment and growth,” Biryla said.

“Progress is appreciated, but small businesses need lawmakers from both parties to stay razor-focused on the many challenges and cost drivers that continue to make New York uncompetitive.”

NEW YORK 2018_VR_final %28002%29 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

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.