Fighting For Children PAC Fetes Special Election Results

The political action committee that is pushing a bill that would make it easier for the survivors of sexual abuse to file lawsuits was two-for-two in last night’s special election contests.

The Fight For Children PAC had supported both Democrats Brian Benjamin and Christine Pellegrino in their Senate and Assembly races,.

Benjamin’s victory is not a surprise, given the Democratic domination of the upper Manhattan district. But it does provide Democrats with an enrolled numeric majority in the Senate, even if they are falling short of outright control of the chamber.

“Brian Benjamin easily won in the 30th District and the new Senator will be the 32 Democrat to serve in the Senate giving the democrats a Majority,” said Gary Greenberg, the Greene County businessman who founded the PAC.

Pellegrino, meanwhile, flipped a Republican district that had supported President Trump’s election.

“Christine Pellegrino Democrat huge upset win in the Republican 9th District has major implications for the Child Victims Act in NY,” Greenberg said. “Fighting for Children PAC endorsed Christine Pellegrino early and gave her much needed funding. Christine won in Majority Leader Flanagans and Sen Phil Boyles backyard sending a message to Republicans that the public wants action taken on stopping Child Sex Abuse in NY by passing a Child Victims Act.”

Democrats Score Upset Win On Long Island

From the Morning Memo:

It was a good night for Democrats in the 9th Assembly district on Long Island, where Christine Pellegrino scored an upset victory in a special election to fill the seat vacated by a Republican.

Labor groups had focused on flipping the seat, expanding the already behemoth Democratic majority in the state Assembly and adding another woman to the increasingly diverse conference.

Pellegrino ran in part on her resume as a teacher — and opposition to the Common Core education standards as she pushed for local control for standards.

“Christine’s message resonates – it’s time to send a teacher, mom and opt-out leader to Albany to make public education policy,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “She’s one of us and we’re very proud today. NYSUT volunteers made thousands of phone calls and knocked on countless doors to convince 9th District residents that Christine would put the community’s needs ahead of anything else – and they listened.”

Democrats in both chambers have sought to make gains in battleground Long Island districts over the last several election cycles. In the Senate, Democrats have gain two seats in suburban districts that had once been held by Republicans.

The hope for the party — out of power in Congress and the White House following a weak down-ballot performance nationally in 2016 — will gain amid potential backlash to President Donald Trump.

“Bold progressive populism that puts working people’s issues front and center — this is how we win in Trump country,” said Working Families Party State Director Bill Lipton. “This is an amazing night for the New York State United Teachers and the entire progressive movement.”

Legislature Approves Early Ride Hailing Bill

A bill that would allow ride hailing companies to operate outside of New York City before July 4 is heading to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly on Tuesday approved a bill that would bring ride hailing apps like Lyft and Uber to upstate and suburban communities 10 days earlier than the provision approved in last month’s budget agreement.

The vote in the Assembly follows up on the measure’s approval in the Republican-led Senate.

It’s clear yet whether Cuomo will sign the bill and it is being reviewed by his counsel’s office. A Cuomo spokesman said Tuesday the governor is “inclined to sign it” pending the review.

The measure was pushed by lawmakers following the late approval of the state budget, which pushed back the date the provision would have taken effect.

Without any action, ride hailing would have taken effect outside of New York City on July 9.

Assembly Re-Approves Mayoral Control, With Tax Extenders

The Democratic-led Assembly on Monday approved a two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools that was also packaged with a series of tax extensions and icentives for local governments.

In effect, Assembly Democrats are linking the two-year extension to the tax legislation, an early form of a mini-big ugly weeks before the mayoral control legislation is due to expire at the end of June. The Republican conference is largely composed of lawmakers from upstate and suburban districts that would be impacted by the tax extensions.

“These extensions are critical to every community across New York State,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “Cities and counties rely on these taxes to continue operating, and New York City schools need the continuity and predictability that mayoral control offers.”

The bill is the opening salvo in a debate over extending mayoral control, which the Republican-backed Senate is expected to support for 12 months.

Mayor Bill de Blasio since taking office has struggled with getting anything longer than a year-long expiration for the program, which had been championed by his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, and generally enjoys bipartisan support.

Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan on Monday, meanwhile, wrote a letter to de Blasio chastising what he said has been a lack of transparency from the mayor’s administration on education spending.

De Blasio has angered Republicans in the Senate with his past support for a Democratic-led chamber and actively worked to flip control, which ultimately led to an investigation from federal and city prosecutors without charges.

Pellegrino Endorsed By Dozens Of Women Lawmakers

Democratic Assembly candidate Christine Pellegrino this week was endorsed by dozens of women elected officials, including lawmakers in the chamber she hopes to join after the Tuesday special election.

“Christine Pellegrino has real-world experience in being a leader and a role model for so many,” said Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre. “She has the intellect and ability to bring people together to solve tough problems. Her successful career spent helping to create and build a number of movements for positive social change, would make her a fantastic fellow Assemblywoman.”

Pellegrino is vying for the Long Island Assembly seat vacated by Republican Joseph Saladino, who was appointed this year the Oyster Bay supervisor.

“I’m gratified that so many Assemblywomen have recognized my solid commitment to doing what’s best for our families,” Pellegrino said. “The Assembly is a nexus for women leaders– women who care about the environment, equality, and education. These women leaders are standing up for me because they know that I’ll stand with them when I get to Albany.”

All told, Pellegrino was endorsed by 39 elected women in the state Assembly. She has also netted a series of labor endorsements ahead of the special election.

She plans to push for issues ranging from child care access, pay equity and enhancing after-school programs if elected.

“I look forward to working with Christine on issues that impact all New Yorkers like education and healthcare. Christine’s passion for working families and dedication to women’s issues will be a great asset in the State Assembly,” said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, a Queens Democrat.

Assembly Backs Bill Restricting E-Cigarette Use

The Democratic-led Assembly on Wednesday backed legislation that would apply electronic cigarettes to the Clean Indoor Air Act.

The measure has been approved previously in the chamber, but comes as the Republican-controlled Senate is also considering the bill after it was approved last month by the Health Committee.

“While the state’s highly popular Clean Indoor Air Act has successfully reduced New Yorkers’ exposure to the dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke for more than a decade, the act unfortunately does not include the public use of electronic cigarettes,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “Under this legislation, electronic cigarettes will be subjected to the same restrictions on public use that are currently applied to smoking tobacco in order to protect the public from being exposed to e-cigarette vapors of which there are serious conerns about their impact on human health.”

The bill would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in indoor spaces that range from schools, workplaces, bars and restaurants. E-cigarettes could still be used in outdoor restaurants and seating areas were the current law allows tobacco smoking to occur.

Violations range from $1,000 to $2,000.

“We know that e-cigarettes emit vapor laced with nicotine, a highly addictive drug, volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, as well as heavy metals, including nickel, lead and tin, and the companies selling these products are using the same successful marketing strategies the tobacco companies used decades ago to get young people hooked on cigarettes,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the bill’s sponsor.

“This legislation is important because it will shield the public from being forced to breathe the dangerous vapor of an e-cigarette, and send the message to minors that e-cigarette usage could lead to a nicotine addiction and a lifetime of costly and debilitating health problems. It also will ensure the reasonable and popular clean indoor air standards that we fought to establish through the 2003 Clean Indoor Air Act are not jeopardized.”

Lawmakers this session also considering a bill that would raise the state’s tobacco purchasing age to 21.

Stipend System Falls Under Scrutiny

From the Morning Memo:

Falsely reporting senators as committee chairs so they can receive lucrative stipends has shined a light on a more commonplace practice in both the Senate and Assembly: The so-called lulu system of doling out extra pay for leadership positions.

“I think sometimes in Albany the people here forget whose money it is,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “It’s taxpayer dollars and we think it should be spent appropriately. Both houses should defend these leadership positions that have these vague and obscure titles.”

Some lawmakers hold rather oblique titles. For example, Senator Carl Marcellino holds the post of majority conference vice chairman. In the Assembly, there’s a deputy majority whip and an assistant majority whip. All come with stipends on top of the base $79,500 pay.

“I believe that all the members, Democrat or Republican, Assembly or Senate, are worthy of the compensation they receive,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.

Flanagan on Monday defended the procedure of falsely reporting leadership titles and the lulu system overall, saying it’s constitutional.

“There’s been litigation for the Senate to uphold the ability to run its own house,” he said. “The statute for stipends has been in place for years.”

The Assembly, too, defended its use of committee and leadership titles, which some good-government groups argue empowers leadership to hold sway over members.

“I think every one of the established lea dership positions or committee chairs do the relevant and they compensate for doing that extra work,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Sen. Tom O’Mara is one of the lawmakers who receives compensation for his role as vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, receiving $15,000 for the job.

But O’Mara says he’s advocated for key issues, such as highway funding.

“I would say the primary role I’ve had is I’ve been a leading advocate on CHIPs funding,” O’Mara said, “and infrastructure funding for many years now since I’ve been in the Senate.”

Heastie Says Assembly Stipend System Doesn’t Mirror Senate

Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said his chamber does not follow the same practice as the Republican-controlled state Senate when it comes to designating non-committee chairs as leaders of panels in order to receive paid stipends.

“I’m not sure how the Senate handles things, but for us anyone who is a chair of a committee or in a leadership position, they get the corresponding stipend that’s written in statute,” Heastie said. “I don’t really know what the Senate did, but ours in a straight process.”

He added that his chamber “just takes it to the letter of the law.”

The Senate has come under scrutiny for the practice of falsely designating seven lawmakers as committee chairs on payroll documents to the state comptroller when they do not actually hold that position.

Those lawmakers hold the post of “vice chair” in their Senate committees.

The Assembly, Heastie noted, does not have the vice chair position.

McLaughlin Considering Run For Rensselaer County Exec

Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin over the years has considered a number of potential races: state Senate, the House of Representatives and even toyed with running for governor.

Now McLaughlin, an outspoken lawmaker from Rensselaer County, says he is considering a bid for the open county executive post.

Incumbent Republican Kathy Jimino announced on Thursday she would not seek another term and would retire.

Speaking on Fred Dicker’s Talk-1300 radio show — when the Jimino news to him was just rumor — McLaughlin said he would consider a bid.

He later posted to Twitter his congratulations to Jimino and added: “I am ready to serve and STRONGLY considering it.”

If he decides to run, McLaughlin would be the latest in a line of state lawmakers to seek an exit from the Legislature as a number are seeking to run in off-year local elections for county executive races in Nassau and Westchester counties and other campaigns.

Heastie Huddles With Flanagan

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie huddled with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan for about 30 minutes on Wednesday to discuss the final weeks of the legislative session.

“We just shot the breeze. Nothing significant,” Heastie said when asked about meeting after leaving Flanagan’s office on the Senate side of the building. “We talked about the next six weeks of session, nothing specific.”

Pressed on whether they discussed issues like procurement reform or mayoral control of New York City schools — which expires in June — Heastie demurred.

“Nothing really specific, just six weeks left,” he said. “We have to talk about what to do toward the end of session, but there’s nothing really specific. We had gotten together since the budget was passed.”

The meeting comes as lawmakers have been largely left to their own devices since the budget was agreed to and approved in April.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has largely stayed outside of Albany for the last month and has said he largely got what he wanted in the spending plan, which included a plan to provide free tuition to SUNY and CUNY schools.

Cuomo told reporters he would largely take his cues from the Legislature.

“I’ll respond to the initiatives that the Legislature comes up with,” he said. “Frankly, everything big we wanted to get done we got done in the budget.”