Rozic Seeks Gender Balance At Port Authority Board

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic is working with fellow state lawmakers in New Jersey to boost the number of women on the Port Authority’s board of commissioners, she said Friday in a statement.

At the same time, the Queens Democrat is backing legislation that aims to provide for greater gender balance on public authorities, IDAs and local development corporations.

The issue comes after the state Council on Women Girls released an agenda that includes increasing the number of women on state boards.

“Following stories about the lack of diversity on the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners in 2016, I decided to take an in depth look into women’s leadership positions across state boards,” said Assemblywoman Rozic. “Since then, three women have been appointed to PANYNJ’s board but New York has a long way to go in closing the gender leadership gap,” Rozic said. “I applaud Governor Cuomo for including this issue among his priorities this year and look forward to increased diversity on our public boards.”

The 12-member Port Authority Board of Commissioners has three women and no public state board in New York is composed of a majority of women.

Assembly Approves Emergency Access To Propane Bill

The Democratic-led Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation that would provide homeowners with more options for propane delivery when an emergency has been declared.

The bill, backed by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, would allow for the filling of a propane tank can be performed by a seller who is not the owner of the tank.

The measure came in response to some upstate residents, particularly in rural areas, who have not had timely access to propane refills during the winter months.

“It is simply unacceptable for families to be left without heat and unable to receive propane deliveries,” Santabarbara said. “With the cold temperatures expected to continue, we must do all we can to ensure no one is left behind.”

The bill also blocks a propane supplier from charging extra fees or penalties for filling the tank and bans companies that own the tanks from charging a penalty.

“No one should ever have to worry about being without heat during these cold winter months,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “That is why we have passed legislation to ensure that any individual or family heating their home with propane has options for filling their propane tanks when they need it most.”

DACC Has $2.2M In Cash On Hand

The Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee has $2.2 million in its war chest — a major boost for a conference that already enjoys a large majority in the Assembly.

The conference over the last six months raised $1 million, according to its filing.

At this point in the previous election cycle, January 2014, the conference had $1.8 million in cash and had raised $468,100 during the comparable time period.

Assembly Democrats have more than 100 members in the chamber, which they’ve held power in since the Watergate scandal created a Democratic wave.

Lawmaker Indicted On 11-Counts Of Fraud

A state lawmaker from Brooklyn was indicted on Tuesday on 11 counts of fraud and obstruction charges, in what federal prosecutors allege was a variety of schemes to defraud both the city of New York, the federal government and a bankruptcy proceeding.

Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, a Democrat elected to fill the seat held by Alec Brook-Krasny in 2015, is the latest state lawmaker to face charges of corruption. The new legislative session began in Albany last week.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District allege Harris defrauded a variety of government agencies, including the New York City Council, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as the New York City Build it Back program.

Part of the charges stem from her time as the executive director of a non-profit organization, with prosecutors claiming Harris defrauded $23,000 in discretionary funding for the Brooklyn-based group.

Separately, while a sitting state lawmaker, prosecutors allege Harris carried out “a nearly identifical scheme” that claimed funds from the city Council were being used on rental space, but where in fact diverted for personal use.

“As alleged in the indictment, the defendant defrauded government agencies out of tens of thousands of dollars in public funds and tried to fraudulently obtain even more,” said United States Attorney Richard Donoghue.

“She conducted her schemes victimizing the federal and New York City governments, and then obstructed a federal investigation into her crimes while a sitting New York State Assemblywoman. When she learned that law enforcement was investigating her various fraud schemes, she pressured witnesses to lie to the FBI and cover them up. This Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to ensuring that those who serve the public are held accountable under the law to the same extent as the people they are privileged to serve.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, said he was “disheartened” by the news of Harris’s indictment, which he learned about a press conference earlier on Tuesday morning. Flanagan said he was concerned that whenever someone is indicted in the Legislature it paints the rest of Albany with too broad a brush.

Brook-Krasny, Harris’s predecessor in the Assembly, was indicted in 2017 on Medicaid fraud charges.

Heastie: Education And Health Care Be Spared In Budget

The state can boost education and health care spending even as it tackles a $4 billion budget deficit, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters on Monday.

Heastie noted the deficit shrinks to $1.7 billion when spending is capped at a 2 percent increase from the previous fiscal year; Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed spending plans that do that.

“I think when you get past the governor’s desire to have a 2 percent growth increase, that’s not something we necessarily believe in, but if you start from there, the deficit becomes $1.7 billion,” he said. “I don’t believe we have to do any cutting in terms of education and health care.”

That added revenue to bolster the two costliest items in the budget could come from taxes proposed by the Assembly that Senate Republicans will almost certainly oppose. But when it comes to the possibility of a statewide payroll tax, Heastie is also open to the idea.

Cuomo suggested a payroll tax that replaces the state personal income tax is possible in order to act as a workaround for the $10,000 cap on state, local and property tax deductions.

“I know it’s going to have challenges,” Heastie said, “but I do think if it protects the taxpayers here in the state of New York from the actions of Washington, we should see if we can get it to work.”

Heastie Backs Bump Stock Sale Ban

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in his opening remarks on Monday for the 2018 legislative session backed a ban on bump stocks in New York, a device that was believed to have been used in the Las Vegas mass shooting last year.

“The list of tragedies and victims grows longer while Congress refuses to discuss gun control,” Heastie said in his remarks laying out his 2018 agenda.

“Lax gun laws are the reason handguns, bump stocks and military-grade assault rifles are crossing state lines and finding their way into our communities. We must take action as a state to curb this deadly pipeline. We have done so much to protect New Yorkers from gun violence, yet we are once again under attack from Washington with a proposal in Congress to allow citizens from other states to carry concealed weapons on our streets. This is unacceptable and we will fight it.”

Current state law bans the use of bump stocks or any device attached to a semiautomatic weapon that makes it simulate automatic fire. However, the sale or possession of the devices themselves in legal in the state, according to the attorney general’s office and the State Police.

Several lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban the possession of bump stocks in the state.

RWDSU Backs Mayer For Senate

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on Monday endorsed Democratic Senate candidate Shelley Mayer, who is seeking the open seat in Westchester Count that’s become a centerpiece for control of the chamber.

“Shelley Mayer is a proven advocate for working people. Her years in the New York Assembly have shown that she won’t rest until workers get the justice they need. We are proud to support her campaign for the State Senate today,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU president.

“Shelly stood with members of the RWDSU when A&P went bankrupt; she has stood with us to improve wages and working conditions for workers time and time again – and now we stand with her as she announces her run for the State Senate in New York. We know she will bring her strong values – values that put working people first – to the Senate, and we will work hard to ensure she is elected.”

Mayer, a Yonkers Democrat, is competing for the nod to run in a special election to fill the seat, vacated by Westchester County Executive George Latimer. Also vying for the seat include People for Bernie co-founder Kat Brezler and Bedford Supervisor Chris Burdick.

A special election is yet to be called.

“I am proud to receive the support of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union,” Mayer said. “I am committed to being a State Senator that our workers can rely on to fight for the issues that matter most – stronger schools, better wages, and better jobs. Together, we can create the necessary, progressive changes to make our community and New York stronger.”

Kolb Says Republicans Can Be Competitive Against Cuomo

From the Morning Memo:

Republican Brian Kolb in an interview Tuesday said he is confident Republicans can field a strong challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018, saying a range of issues will wear him down this year.

“I absolutely believe so because we’re running against Andrew Cuomo and his record,” he said.

Kolb, the Assembly minority leader, last month became the first Republican candidate to declare in the race for governor. He could be joined by former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, Sen. John DeFrancisco and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who are also considering bids.

Republicans had hoped Harry Wilson, a businessman from Westchester County and the party’s 2010 nominee for comptroller, would run, but he decline to do so.

Kolb believes Cuomo will face questions surrounding his economic development spending and the corruption trial of his former close aide, set to begin this month.

“What’s happened is the governor is traveling around spending taxpayer dollars, putting all these videos together to say how great I am. This is our money he’s handing out. It’s not his money,” he said. “The pay to play scandals will come full circle. There is a lot of material to have a conversation with the taxpayers and the voters of this state.”

Kolb Appoints Goodell Floor Leader Of Assembly Republicans

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb on Thursday tapped Assemblyman Andy Goodell to become the conference’s minority leader pro tempore, making him the GOP’s floor leader.

“I am proud to announce the appointment of Assemblyman Andy Goodell as our new Minority Leader Pro Tempore,” Kolb said in a statement. “Andy is an experienced legislator who has represented our Conference and his constituents with distinction. There is much work to be accomplished this year, and there is no doubt that Assemblyman Goodell will be an integral part of advancing our agenda during the 2018 Legislative Session.”

Goodell takes over from Assemblyman Tom McKevitt, who takes office next month as a Nassau County legislator.

“I am very pleased to accept this new role with the Assembly Minority Conference. I have worked hard over the years to make sure our voice is heard in Albany, and this new role will certainly enhance our voice on the floor of the Assembly,” Goodell said. “I would like to thank Leader Kolb for this opportunity to lead our Conference on the Assembly floor. It is more important than ever that we be the voice for a better New York. I look forward to working with my fellow legislators to get our great state moving in the right direction.”

Excelsior Scholarship Gets First Semester Report Card

From the Morning Memo:

The top education advisor in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Tuesday touted the newest college affordability program, the Excelsior Scholarship, during a legislative hearing on tuition aid and assistance.

Approved with much fanfare earlier this year, Excelsior helps supplement student aid packages, which some lawmakers call last dollar aid.

“We’re at over 210,000 students right now in New York state,” said Assistant Secretary for Education Daniel Fuller. “Fifty-three percent of our public college students are going to school tuition free. That’s a great, great achievement. This will grow and this will tell others that, most importantly, college is possible.”

More than half of the state’s public college and university students are attending school tuition free, thanks to a combination of grants and scholarships.

“It was marketed appropriately,” Fuller said. “It was free tuition, which is what we always said. But you also have to get in and out of college.”

State officials say 23,000 students are attending a SUNY or CUNY school with an Excelsior scholarship. Many of them have additional aid from programs like TAP and Pell.

“That’s a good thing for the state overall because we want to educate our students,” said Assemblywoman Pat Fahy. “The better educated, the better our economy, the better we can attract business.”

Some lawmakers say the state was initially slow in rolling out its promotional campaign to make prospective students aware of the aid.

“But given the program was brand new, kudos to the governor’s office for catching up and trying to get as much information out last year,” Fahy said.

Other lawmakers questioned the income requirements for the program and whether looking back two years was an accurate picture for families in need of the aid.

“We certainly heard from a number of people that if we had still been doing the prior year, they would have been eligible,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick.

In the first year of the program, families that earn up to $100,000 qualify. It will eventually phase in to families with $125,000 in total income.