Assembly

More Sexual Harassment Funds Spent

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office on Thursday announced an additional $45,000 in payments related to either independent counsel for sexual harassment investigations or development policy for harassment situations was approved for the state Assembly.

The Assembly was given the approval for $42,000 in spending for Rossein Associates, a law firm that is developing sexual harassment policy for the chamber. At the same time, the law firm Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux was approved for a $3,000 payment after it was hired for outside counsel for independent investigates.

The firms were retained after then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was criticized for his handling of sexual harassment allegations leveled against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who later resigned after a report concluded he broke the public officers’ law.

In addition to the law firm payments, DiNapoli’s office announced $504,000 in spending was

Department of Economic Development was approved for a $504,000 payment to Mary Elizabeth Mooney for Brand USA’s development of multimedia advertising services.

Destito Calls On ‘Every Woman’ In Assembly To Pass Child Marriage Bill

RoAnn Destito, the commissioner of the Office of General Services and a former state lawmaker, directly called on women in the state Assembly to pass legislation that would outlaw child marriages in New York.

“The Senate has passed this bill and now the Assembly needs to act,” Destito said at a news conference in the Capitol called by Cuomo’s office on Tuesday morning.

“Every woman in the Assembly needs to vote yes on this legislation and ensure that it gets done. It is our duty to stand up and fight for these young women and girls and we must pass this bill to ensure they can lead long, healthy and happy lives.”

State law currently allows children as young as 14 to marry in New York. Those 14 and 15 can marry with judicial and parent approval. Those age 16 and 17 may do so with the consent of their parents.

The legislation stalled last year in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, though was introduced two days before the session adjourned.

Legislation, backed by Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza, would raise the minimum wage to 18 for marriage in New York. However, 17 year olds could marry with the consent of a judge and their parents.

Heastie: Members ‘Concerned’ Over Nuke Subsidy

A subsidy that would keep upstate nuclear plants from closing remains a source of concern for Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday said.

Opposition over the last several weeks to the subsidy, contained a broader plan meant to transition the state from fossil fuels, has grown over the last several weeks through a coalition of organizations that have highlighted the impact on utility ratepayers.

“I’d say the members are concerned,” Heastie said. “We want to make sure the state has enough power, but we also have a lot of unanswered questions about how the fee is derived, is the fee collected in a progressive way so there’s fairness to taxpayers. There’s just a lot of questions that haven’t been answered and we’d like to have those questions answered.”

The Assembly’s one-house budget resolution includes a proposal that would delay the implementation of the subsidy until a joint legislative hearing is held on the issue.

Heastie: Medicaid Plan A ‘Kick In The Stomach’

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called the proposal to have the state assume the full cost of Medicaid is a “kick in the stomach” to both New York’s finances and recipients who depend on the program.

“This would be a couple billion dollars on top of what we can already have,” Heastie said on Tuesday following the Legislature’s vote on the Board of Regents nominees. “If the federal government is going to give us a block grant, then it’s like a second kick in the stomach that we may get from the federal government.”

State lawmakers — including Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan — questioned the proposal on Tuesday as Reps. Chris Collins and John Faso in Washington seek to add the amendment to the overall American Health Care Act, a bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act.

The measure would enact the most sweeping form of mandate relief for New York state’s local governments, but Heastie insisted the proposal is more complicated.

“There’s a lot of things connected to the counties paying their share of Medicaid,” Heastie said. “Just to shift it to the state is not as simple as Congressman Collins would like to believe.”

Insurance Firm Once Again At Odds With Assembly Ride Share Bill

From the Morning Memo:

The American Transit Insurance Company in a letter sent Monday to top lawmakers in the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the Assembly’s version of a bill expanding ride hailing in upstate New York, saying the proposal’s coverage requirements are far too expensive.

“The bill imposes insurance coverage requirements of $1.5 million when a driver is on the way to pick up a passenger or there is a passenger in the car,” wrote the company’s general counsel, John Poklemba, in the letter. “That is 20 times higher than current upstate for-hire limits during trips.”

The letter urged lawmakers and Cuomo to also “re-examine” liability minimums and their impact on the industry.

“To make clear the abitrary and excessive coverage being proposed, it is important to note that the requirements that the Assembly is proposing here are substantially higher than is required to transport oil in a tanker,” the letter states. “We wonder how the state could possible assume that more risk is involved in the former to justify requiring $500,000 more coverage.”

The company had previously raised issues last June with ride sharing proposals it said had far too much coverag

The letter comes as lawmakers and Cuomo are sorting out differences in their ride-hailing proposals as the budget talks begin in earnest this week in Albany. The Assembly bill, introduced earlier this month, is yet to be taken up for a vote in the chamber, while the Senate passed its own version last month.

The Assembly’s ride-hail measure was not included in the one-house budget resolution.

“I’d say there’s been positive discourse,” Speaker Carl Heastie said, “but there’s no final decision on where to go in terms of the Uber or ride sharing issues.”

3 20 17 Andrew Cuomo Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Bill Would Require One SLA Member From NYC

From the Morning Memo:

A bill being introduced this week by Manhattan Sen. Brad Hoylman would require at least one member of the State Liquor Authority be a resident of New York City.

The measure is backed by Hoylman and Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, drawing inspiration from the majority of the state’s 3,147 liquor licenses originating in New York City.

In a statement, Hoylman said he wanted to create a “more equitable system” of license distribution in the state, with New York City in mind.

“New York City is responsible for more than half of all the approved alcohol licenses granted across our state,” he said. “Given the overwhelming complexities of granting alcohol licenses in a way that meets the needs of establishments as well as the kaleidoscopic interests of five boroughs, 59 community districts, and hundreds of neighborhoods, New Yorkers deserve a seat at the table when these important decisions are being made.”

The bill comes after Hoylman wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking that he appoint a New York City resident to fill a vacancy on the SLA following the retirement of Commissioner Kevin Kim in August.

“Many neighborhoods have a significantly higher density of licensed premises than anywhere else in New York State, and a New York City resident on the SLA would help inform the regulations of the SLA within NYC so we can continue to promote livable communities,” Glick said.

Legislative Leaders Give Chilly Reception To Consolidation Plan

The leaders in the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly on Monday indicated they would push to change Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to require local governments to develop ways of sharing services and scale back his efforts to expand his office’s powers over the state budget.

“I think that we are generally in agreement that there should be the prerogative of the Legislature over the Senate and Assembly and I think we have a number of disagreements with the executive over allowing too much power to go to his authority over the budget,” Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said.

Lawmakers met Monday afternoon for the start of the joint budget committee process — a meeting known in Albany as the “mothership” and initially held as a way of enhancing transparency in the opaque state budget process, but also a chance for lawmakers to lay out their public priorities in the talks.

While the Legislature has been loathe to surrender powers over making changes to the budget after its approved to Cuomo, the legislative leaders were also skeptical Cuomo’s consolidation plan would remain intact.

“It wasn’t in our one-house,” Speaker Carl Heastie said. “The governor maintains its one of his priorities. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not something that I’d say, at least in our conference, any of the members were too happy moving forward with that.”

The plan would require local governments to work with county officials to find ways of sharing services and consolidating costs with an effort of finding concrete ways of reducing property taxes. The plan would be considered by voters in a referendum this November.

Cuomo has long sought to consolidate and scale back the size of local governments in New York, which he has blamed for the state’s high property taxes — an assertion budget watchdogs say is more tied to the cost of programs like Medicaid or employee pensions.

At the same time, lawmakers contend Cuomo is dangling aid to municipalities over local governments to force the sharing of services — a claim the governor’s office denies.

“Local governments are just saying that’s not really an appropriate carrot or a stick and frankly they deserve that money and they do a lot of shared services now,” Flanagan said.

But Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein suggested there would be a compromise possible on the issue.

“If indeed there’s a way they can do these efficiencies and enjoy the benefit of the local level, I think that’s something we can discuss,” Klein said.

Heastie: No ‘Red Flags’ In Budget Talks

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday in an interview said there were no “red flags” at the moment that would prevent the budget from being passed before the start of the new fiscal year.

“I don’t have any red flags that I would say right now that I”m concerned about,” Heastie said after a Democratic conference meeting. “We’ve put out where we’re out, the Senate has put out right they’re at. The governor, we know where he’s been since the end of January and we’ll see where we’re at.”

The traditional motions of moving forward in the budget talks begin today as lawmakers will meet in their “mothership” conference committee meeting this afternoon.

“The conversations I’d say have been positive, but let’s see what the final budget looks like,” he said.

Still, a range of issues continue to remain unsettled as lawmakers sort out the details.

Among them is a juvenile justice reform policy of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18. It’s a measure wholly backed by Heastie, who wants to move cases involving 16 and 17-year-old defendants to Family Court. But in the Senate, narrowly divide with Republicans holding a slim majority, questions remain over the measure, and whether GOP lawmakers can back a bill that would do everything the Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo support.

The Senate did include in its one-house budget resolution an acknowledgement of the issue, but Heastie indicated it was vague.

“It really comes down to having the three words in there — raise the age — I’m not sure what that means because a lot of what really matters is how much are we’re going to treat the 16 and 17-year-olds as children and have things be determined in Family Court is really the question,” he said. “So, am I OK they put the words in? Yeah, but yeah how much substance is behind raise the age is really the issue.”

Advocates on Both Sides of Tax Issues Once Again at Odds

From the Morning Memo:

The state budget every year inevitably comes down to a fight over taxes and spending. And this year, advocates for taxing the rich and the business community are once again at odds over how to raise revenue.

“We need that revenue desperately not just for our roads and bridges, but to fund schools and a variety of other things,” said Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Ron Deutsch.

For anti-poverty organizations, a key policy debate has been extending an expiring tax rate on millionaires as well as increasing taxes on even wealthier people who make more than $5 million.

“I think there’s no question we have tremendous need throughout New York state,” Deutsch said. “You look at our upstate cities and we have 50 percent child poverty rates in areas like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse.”

Hiking taxes on the rich is backed by the Assembly Democrats in their one-house budget passed this week. The Senate takes the opposite approach, letting the higher rate on millionaires expire and giving them some tax relief.

“The Senate basically wants to provide a $3.7 billion tax cut to families in New York making more than $2 million a year. We think that’s morally unjust,” Deutsch said.

Business groups in New York see it differently, hoping the line is held on taxes and some regulatory reforms are included as well.

“There’s a lot of wants the governor has that are not in our purview,” said NFIB State Director Mike Durant. “The Albany way is to make trade, so we’ll see. Hopefully, some of the business reforms that are needed will be part of that package.”

Last year, the business community was stung by a minimum wage increase that will eventually hit $15, and the approval of paid family leave. Durant hopes the pendulum swings the other way this year.

“I think that there is definitely an opportunity that we feel confident that the Senate is going to be able to address some business issues in a final budget deal,” Durant said.

A marquee issue for businesses: reforming the state’s workers compensation laws, a long-sought effort that has stalled.

“I think that workers comp has proven to be the number one issue for NFIB, the business community writ large,” Durant said. “We’ll definitely be pushing for meaningful reform.”

The budget is expected to pass by March 31.

Language To Save WNY Psych Center In Budget Bills

From the Morning Memo:

For the last four months, several state legislators, mental health advocates, patients and family members have been fighting to keep the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center open.

The state Office of Mental Health has planned to close the facility and merge it with the adult center in Buffalo.

People opposed to this plan have tried a number of different avenues – from a survey campaign to threatening litigation to actually visiting legislators in Albany. Now Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, a Buffalo Democrat who has helped lead the charge, believes things are looking up.

Kearns is celebrating approval of language in the Assembly’s one-house budget that would prohibit the merger of the two facilities.

“This should make it clear to Governor Cuomo, and Office of Mental Health commissioner Ann Sullivan that not just myself, not just the WNY Delegation, but legislators from across the state see the negative effects moving the WNYCPC will have,” the assemblyman said in a statement.

“I applaud my colleagues in the Assembly for including this measure and keeping up the fight to block this egregious action to move the Children’s Psychiatric Center to the adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center.”

State Sen. Pat Gallivan has inserted the same language in the Senate Republicans’ one-house bill.