Sep 5th - 1:54 pm
Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein reacted to Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’s comments today that she was “sad and surprised” to learn of a possible primary challenge backed by the IDC, saying he too, was sad and surprised.
“Leader Klein was equally sad and surprised to learn of the attempts to recruit candidates against him and other IDC members. It is refreshing to hear that Leader Stewart-Cousins has no plans to engage in primaries against the IDC, but her Deputy seems to have other plans. Unfortunately, Leader Cousins does not appear to call the shots within her own conference. With that being said, the IDC believes the best defense is a good offense and we are prepared to defend our seats.”
Gentle reader, this reporter would like to briefly remind you that it is September 2013, a full 14 months — 14! — before Election Day 2014. That’s all, please continue reading.
News broke last week that former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky had broke bread with Klein and discussed a possible run for the Senate against Stewart-Cousins next year. Brodsky, flattered by the attention, says he won’t run against the Yonkers Democrat.
Similarly last week, the potential candidacy of Councilman Ollie Koppell against Klein in a Democratic primary was also raised. Koppell hedged in an interview, saying such a move would be a “tough race.”
Aug 28th - 11:16 am
Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — the only black conference leader and first woman in state history to lead a legislative conference — released a statement this morning commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington:
“Today is the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington. The fact that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s vision is being marked by the first African-American President reminds us all of the power of his words and the collective efforts of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who joined his call for equal rights and opportunities for all Americans.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., addressing the crowd and the nation, spoke of a time when peace would reign and when compassion and understanding between all races would be a reality. He taught us that violence never brings permanent peace, hate never brings ever-lasting change, and only compassion, civility, and togetherness will rebuild a broken community.
Today is a reminder that if we recommit ourselves to the vision spoken of on that historic day that assured voting rights, equality, opportunity, fair pay, education and equal justice for all, we can achieve the beloved community embraced by Dr. King.”
Aug 26th - 1:16 pm
Recognizing the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement this afternoon used the occaision to make another push for the women’s agenda that failed in the Legislature this past session.
To recap, the Democratic-led Assembly approved the omnibus version of the bill, but the coalition-led Senate only approved nine of the 10 points in piecemeal fashion.
An effort by Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein to hold a vote for the abortion plank failed.
The result has split the women’s coalition that backed the agenda, with NARAL Pro-Choice New York pushing for the entire package and others now pushing for the remaining items.
The women’s agenda is expected to remain a hot-button issue heading into 2014, a statewide election year.
“Today is Women’s Equality Day when we commemorate the historic passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote. We have made great strides in achieving full equality for women here in New York but we still have much more work to do. I commend the Governor for his Women’s Equality Act legislation. It is unfortunate that the Senate was unable to pass the entire 10-point Act.
“Today should serve as a reminder to all New Yorkers that we have not yet realized the goal of protecting women’s rights, health and values. I look forward to fighting for and passing the Women’s Equality Act and other crucial protections for women’s rights next session.”
Jun 4th - 4:53 pm
Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins today called for a vote on the full women’s agenda, echoing the push from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that all 10 items of the package should be included.
The question over the agenda, as it has been since January, is whether Cuomo would jettison the abortion plank of the legislation in order to achieve a victory on the other nine provisions, which include measures designed to discrimination and domestic violence.
Not ever member in the mainline Democratic conference is necessairly on board with the proposal, however, which means the bill will need at least a handful of Republican votes.
In her statement, Stewart-Cousins says the proposal should not be viewed as a Democratic or a Republican one.
“All 10 points of this legislative package are crucial for the women of New York including the reproductive health legislation. This legislation simply reconciles state and federal law to protect a woman’s right to choose. In 1970, when the issue of reproductive health was first passed in New York, 12 Republican Senators joined a majority of their Democratic colleagues to support this landmark legislation. Women’s health and equality is not a Republican or Democratic issue. The women of New York deserve a vote on the entire Women’s Equality Act and deserve to know where their elected officials stand on these important issues.”
Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, will be a guest on Capital Tonight this evening at 8 and 11:30.
May 21st - 12:20 pm
ICYMI: Assemblyman Mickey Kearns – now officially a man without a country since he left the Democratic conference to protest Speaker Sheldon Silver’s handling of the Vito Lopez scandal – was reluctant during a CapTon interview to suggest a replacement for the speaker, whose resignation the freshman Buffalo lawmaker is the first majority member to publicly call for.
But Kearns did say he’s confident there is someone among his former colleagues capable of taking Silver’s place without causing too much chaos – perhaps even a woman.
“Listen, I’m not here to to make a king today,” Kearns said when I asked him the “if not Silver, then who” question. “I don’t know. But all I do know is that there’s 150 members of the Assembly. There has to be someone else there who can lead the Assembly.”
“I don’t know who that person is – he or she – it would be maybe a little refreshing to have a woman speaker. I’m not here to answer that. What I’m saying here today is: People at home should call and contact their legislators and ask them why they still remain to support them. (sic) You mentioned being a caucus of one. I’d rather be in a caucus where at least I have my dignity at the end of the day, and at least I have my conscience to go home to.”
There hasn’t been a contest for speaker since 1994 when Silver, then the 49-year-old head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, succeeded Saul Weprin after he suffered a severe troke and died. But there also hasn’t been a speaker from upstate in years – other than James Tallon, of Broome County, who held the post in an acting capacity for three days in 1991 in between Mel Miller’s felony conviction and Weprin’s election.
There has never been a woman speaker. There has never been a woman leader in the state Senate, either. Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who ousted Sen. John Sampson last December, is the first woman in Albany history to lead a legislative conference. It would be truly historic if there were two women leaders in Albany serving at the same time – one of whom bumped one of the man out of that infamous room where all the deals are made.
So, if there were to be a change in leadership in the Assembly – which, as Nick and the NYT pointed out earlier today is highly unlikely – Silver’s replacement would almost certainly have to come from New York City, given the downstate dominance of the Democratic conference. And since the chamber is so seniority-driven, there aren’t many women who would even be considered contenders – maybe Deborah Glick, Cathy Nolan or Helene Weinstein?
All of them – actually, all of the female Democratic conference members – are standing by Silver, so this discussion is, of course, purely academic.
I’m not sure who – woman or man – has a sufficient power base to win the glorified popularity contest that is the speaker’s race. The black and Puerto Rican caucus would certainly be a driving force in that election, but its members often have trouble staying united.
The lack of unity and dearth of members with clout and power in the conference is a big factor when it comes to Silver’s longevity. Because, of course, you can’t beat someone with no one.
May 7th - 1:40 pm
ICYMI: Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told me last night that she’s hopeful Sen. John Sampson is the last member of her conference who will face charges for wrongdoing, but she isn’t 100 percent confident there won’t be more where that came from.
“I want to say that I feel confident,” Stewart-Cousins told me. “I feel confident that the conference that we are today is a conference that is filled with committed public servants who understand what their role is and is more than capable of performing that role.”
“I hope that there would be no other allegations against any of the members of the Legislature, frankly, because I think that we’ve all been hit and it always disturbs the public trust when we are. So it doesn’t matter if it’s this conference or that. We are all unfortunately painted with the same brush when this happens.”
Given the accelerated rate of announcements by federal prosecutors of charges being brought against state lawmakers these days, most Capitol watchers believe Sampson is probably not the end of it. Up to this point, one corruption case has led to another as dirty pols flip on their colleagues or agree to work undercover for the feds in an attempt to lessen their own charges.
Stewart-Cousins said she got a “heads-up” from Sampson the day before he turned himself in to the FBI (in other words, Sunday) after she called him to inquire about reports on his imminent arrest in the NYC tabs. During that conversation she informed him she would not only be stripping him of his ranking committee posts, but also booting him from the conference altogether.
One thing she did not do, however, is call on Sampson to resign. I asked her why not, and she said the senator is an “adult” and has to make his own decisions.
May 6th - 10:32 am
Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has stripped Sen. John Sampson of his ranking committee posts in the chamber and is no longer a member of the conference, she announced in a news released this morning.
Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, ousted Sampson as leader of the mainline Democrats in the wake of the November elections.
Sampson had been the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
She called the latest corruption scandal to hit Albany “deeply disturbing” and a violation of the public trust.
“These allegations are deeply disturbing,” Stewart-Cousins said. “The alleged activity represents an offensive violation of the public trust for which there is no place in our government. Senator Sampson has been stripped of his ranking positions and all committee assignments. He has also informed us that in order to avoid being a distraction to the conference he will no longer conference with the Senate Democrats.”
With Sampson booted from the conference, he is now the second member of the Legislature to be without a formal conference. Sen. Malcolm Smith, who joined the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference last year, was kicked out of the IDC by Sen. Jeff Klein last month after he was arrested in a separate corruption case.
Mar 20th - 1:40 pm
Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement this afternoon proposed breaking a minimum wage increase out of the budget talks and passing it as a stand-alone measure.
The call comes as leiglsative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have seemingly reached a tentative agreement to raise the minimum wage to $9 over several phases. The $9 wage would take effect by the end of 2015.
But Stewart-Cosuins said the minimum wage needs to be indexed to the rate of inflation, which is a component of the bill passed by the Democratic-led Assembly earlier this month.
As usual, Senate Democrats point to having the necessary votes to passing the minimum wage increase now in the chamber.
“As details emerge it is clear that the current minimum wage proposal has some serious issues. While increasing the minimum wage to $9.00 is something that the Senate Democrats have long supported, we are disappointed that the current proposal doesn’t reach this level for three years, is not indexed to the rate of inflation and does not raise the wages of certain service workers. The Governor and the Assembly all originally proposed acceptable proposals, unfortunately the Senate Republicans have blocked these efforts. We propose removing this discussion from the budget and we stand ready to provide 27 votes for raising the minimum wage quicker, with indexing and for all low wage workers.”
Mar 1st - 4:47 pm
Rounding out a day of reactions (and lawsuits) to Thursday’s gun control rally, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins today penned an op/ed re-affirming her conference’s support for the measure and blasted the Senate GOP for knocking the measure.
In the essay, the Democratic lawmaker takes on the concerns over the message of necessity to waive the three-day aging process and takes up the argument from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office that it was the Legislature — in this case the Senate GOP — that had to technically ask for the message.
“On Thursday, in the shadows of our Capitol, Republican Senators pandered to a vocal minority in a manner that was duplicitous at best, hypocritical at worst. If these lawmakers are truly outraged by the passage of the NY SAFE-Act with a message of necessity, then perhaps these same Senators should focus their condemnation on themselves because they accepted the message of necessity.”
Earlier today, Republican Sen. Phil Boyle, who had voted for the law, said in a statment he was backing an effort to overturn the major provisions in it.
Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, announced Thursday afternoon she was introducing the repeal bill.
Feb 26th - 3:07 pm
With the extended mid-winter break for state lawmakers almost over and the budget due to be passed in about a month, a multi-pronged effort is beginning to make a final dash to approve a minimum wage hike.
Things started off with a YouTube video from Strong Economy for All, that was posted this morning on The New York Times’ City Room blog.
The group’s Executive Director Mike Kink told me the video of restaurant workers featuring the song “Money (That’s What I Want)” was done to highlight that industry and the need to raise the wage. The video also sought to shine a light on the restaurant owners who back the wage hike as well (one political consultant told me this is the “first” advocacy video this year to raise the minimum wage).
Later in the afternoon Assembly Democrats released an economic impact assessment of raising the minimum wage to $9 and tying future increases to the rate of inflation, known as indexing.
“The Assembly Majority has been a longstanding champion of workers’ rights and atop that list is the right of a worker to earn a dignified wage. No full-time worker who puts in an honest day’s work should live in poverty,” Silver said. “Certainly, no one could raise a family on this income without government assistance. The reality is that the current minimum wage is not sufficient to provide food and shelter let alone access to health care or retirement security.”
The report found that the wage increase would impact 925,000 workers in the state, with 87 percent of them working more than 20 hours per week.
Tomorrow, a renewed effort will come from the Senate Democrats, who will hold a news conference highlighting that the chamber has the necessary 32 votes (and possibly more) to pass the $9 minimum wage measure now.
It’s an attractive talking point for the Senate Democrats in part because it is designed to apply some pressure to the five-member Independent Democratic Conference now in a ruling majority with the Senate Republicans. The IDC, led by Sen. Jeff Klein, all back a wage increase.
Still, the wage increase, part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget, was complicated in part by President Obama’s proposal on the federal level. Cuomo’s plan would increase the wage from $7.25 to $8.75; Obama’s would make it $9 on the federal level, plus index future increases.
Senate Republicans took cover in this and suggested it may be better to wait on the federal level. Cuomo, who said he would like to see the wage raised on the federal level, said he would keep pushing in Albany as well.
The one card that the Senate GOP continues to play is pushing for surcharge in the 18a utility tax extension to be taken out of the budget and allowed to expire next year. The only complicating factor there, of course, is how to make up for the $200-million plus in revenue.