Feb 26th - 10:13 am
Two New York Democrats this weekend won leadership posts at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting in Atlanta.
Assemblyman Michael Blake, a Bronx lawmaker and former aide in the Obama administration, won an at-large vice chairmanship in the DNC. At the same time, Queens Democratic Rep. Grace Meng won re-election as at-large vice chair.
Both Meng and Blake had been endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who stayed neutral in the closely watched vote for DNC chairman, ultimately won by former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a Buffalo native.
Cuomo, in a statement, congratulated Meng and Blake, but did not mention Perez, who defeated Minnesota Rep. Keith Eliison in the chair vote.
“Congratulations to New York’s own Congresswoman Grace Meng and Assemblyman Michael Blake on being elected Executive Vice Chairs of the Democratic National Committee. These proven leaders have the strong, progressive values we need to strengthen the Democratic Party and continue lifting up America’s working- and middle-class families,” Cuomo said.
“From investing in education and creating good-paying jobs to protecting immigrants’ rights and advancing issues of social justice, Congresswoman Meng and Assemblyman Blake will help lead the fight to ensure our nation remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for everyone. I’m proud of the progress they have achieved, and I look forward to working together to keep New York and our nation moving forward.”
Feb 24th - 11:15 am
Proposal aimed at phasing out tuition costs in several states, including New York, are considered “credit positive” for public colleges, especially community colleges, Moody’s Investor Service found Friday in a report.
“Early indications are that community colleges, to which most of the implemented programs have been targeted, will benefit from enrollment growth at the expense of regionally oriented four-year public universities,” the report states. “However, should students transfer into four-year public university programs after completing two year community colleges, the net effect may balance over time. Programs to date have been relatively small in scale, with accordingly modest credit impacts.”
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan would provide free tuition to students whose families earn less than $125,000 once fully phased in.
Tennessee, Rhode Island and San Francisco are considering proposals with similar goals.
“The number of programs and proposals is likely to grow because free-tuition programs meet several policy priorities of governments, including increasing higher education participation rates to cultivate a trained workforce while maintaining affordability,” the report found. “They tend to be relatively cost-effective for sponsoring governments because each of the programs use a ‘last-dollar’ model whereby the state subsidizes tuition costs after the student has exhausted all other available state and federal financial aid.”
Questions remain in Albany over Cuomo’s proposal and whether the $160 million price tag he has set for the plan goes far enough in the budget.
Cuomo introduced the proposal in January alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president last year and remains popular with the party’s base.
Feb 24th - 6:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
Senate Republicans are backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest effort to combat hate crimes in New York, which includes $25 million in grants to strengthen security at soft targets like day care and community centers.
“We stand with the Governor, Assembly and the people of New York in strongly condemning hate crimes and anti-semitism anywhere it exists, and look forward to taking decisive action to combat it,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. “Security has always been a top priority of our conference and we must ensure the state provides adequate resources to protect our citizens from these attacks or threats.”
Cuomo announced the measures, which includes a text messaging feature for the Division of Human Rights to report hate crime incidents, after yet another round of bomb threats Jewish Community Centers and at the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League in New York City.
Scrutiny has been further placed on anti-Semitic activity as President Donald Trump was slow to condemn both the incidents as well as the support he’s received from white supremacist groups during his campaign.
Trump this week forcefully condemned the incidents, saying the threats have to stop.
Feb 23rd - 4:50 pm
With heightened concerns over anti-Semitic acts in New York and around the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled a push to combat hate crimes.
Cuomo, who met with 50 religious leaders from across the state in New York City, announced a $25 million grant program for schools, community center and day care facilities that would bolster security. At the same time, New Yorkers can report hate crimes by texting “HATE” to 81336, which would direct them to the state Division of Human Rights.
And Cuomo plans to push for legislation that would expand the state’s human rights law that would include a public-private legal defense fund for immigrants.
The moves come following bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers in New York cities as well as a bomb threat this week aimed at the Anti-Defamation League’s offices in New York City.
“There is no place for hate or discrimination or bigotry in New York,” Cuomo said this afternoon. “And New Yorkers will come together with one voice, as one force, we will find the perpetrators of these hate crimes and it will stop. Period. And we hope that this message that we send in New York today echoes across this country. Because enough is enough.”
Feb 23rd - 2:14 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter to officials at the state Education Department on Thursday wrote that despite the shift in Title IX enforcement for transgender students by the Trump administration, nothing should change in New York.
“There can be no confusion in this State,” Cuomo wrote in the letter to Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “New York State schools must continue to enforce the law and protect transgender and gender non-conforming students.”
Cuomo pointed to the state’s Dignity for All Students Act, an anti-bullying measure that requires schools to protect students based on discrimination or harassment.
“No student should be confused about their rights or fearful of losing these important protections,” the letter states. “By immediately issuing this directive, the State will provide clarity to all school administrators and provide our transgender students with the reassurance they need to maximize their potential and understand their rights.”
The letter comes as the federal government through President Donald Trump’s administration will no long enforce the Obama-era guidance of protections for transgender students when it comes to issues such as lockroom or bathroom use based on gender identification.
The Trump administration has insisted the move is based on an interpretation of states’ rights. Nationally, individual states have come under fire to implementing measures considered hostile to the LGBTQ community. Cuomo, in turn, has instituted non-essential state travel bans to states like North Carolina.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers are expected to once again push for the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that is designed to block discrimination in the workplace or housing based on gender identity.
The measure has stalled in the Senate, but Cuomo has through executive action enforced aspects of the measure through existing human rights legislation.
Updated: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Elia in a joint statement reiterated support for enforcing current laws aimed at protecting students.
“The Trump Administration’s decision to rescind this guidance sends a dangerous and divisive message and threatens some of our most vulnerable young people,” Schneiderman said.
“But in New York State, the law remains the law — and school districts have independent duties to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment when they go to school. My office will use all the existing tools of federal, state, and local law to ensure that transgender kids are safe in their schools and are provided equal access to all programming and facilities consistent with their gender identity.”
Added Elia: “Transgender youth are valued members of our schools and communities across New York State, yet statistics show that more than half of them will attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday. So we must do everything in our power to create learning environments that are safe and welcoming for all. The guidance we have developed with Attorney General Schneiderman and our partners underscores the value we place on respecting all students and indeed all people.”
Feb 23rd - 1:48 pm
Rockland County Executive Ed Day on Thursday became the latest local government leader to embrace Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to consolidate and share services on the local level in order to reduce property taxes.
But the same day Cuomo was in Rockland County to tout the latest round of support for the plan, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Sen. Sue Serino and members of the Civil Service Employees Association criticized it.
“This proposal spits in the face of home rule in New York State,” said CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo. “Only residents should have a say in services provided by their local government. Residents of Town A should have no vote over what Town B or City C is proposing. What our local governments truly need is the first increase in AIM (Aid and Incentive to Municipalities) funding in years, not more money wasted on an ill-conceived program.”
Cuomo wants county officials — either the elected executive or appoint administer — work with local governments to develop plans that would combine services or consolidate towns, villages and cities. The proposal would then be up to voters in a referendum this fall to consider.
The property tax plan is contained in Cuomo’s $152 billion budget proposal.
Local consolidation has long been a pet policy Cuomo dating back to his time as attorney general. Cuomo has also repeatedly contended the volume of local government is the main driver of property taxes in New York, though fiscal watchdogs have disagreed.
Cuomo’s plan has won the support from Long Island county executives Ed Mangano of Nassau and Steve Bellone of Suffolk, as well as Broome County’s Jason Garnar.
On Thursday, he picked up support from Day, a Republican who had previously been said to consider a run against Cuomo in 2018.
“Property taxes remain the most burdensome tax on home- and business-owners in the Mid-Hudson Valley and across New York, and this bold initiative will empower local governments to work together to find real solutions to lower costs, cut property taxes and improve government efficiency,” Cuomo said. “I commend these local leaders and look forward to working together to develop plans to deliver real relief to property taxpayers.”
Molinaro, a Republican who is mulling a run for governor next year, did not question the push to share services, but suggested the effort was meant to “scapegoat” local leaders.
“We all must work to share services and lower the cost of living for New Yorkers,” he said. “We are willing to be a partner in this effort but not a scapegoat. We, will do our part but New York must address the massive amount of state spending it forces onto the backs of property taxpayers.”
Serino, who would have a vote over whether the consolidation plan moves forward at all through the budget, questioned the linkage to aid to municipalities, which has been flat during Cuomo’s tenure.
“As someone who has served in local government before being elected to the Senate, I know from firsthand experience that Dutchess County has gone above and beyond to improve efficiency, cut spending and share services to reduce costs,” said Senator Sue Serino.
“I have seen just how hard our local governments work to squeeze blood from a stone to ensure that our taxpayers’ dollars go further and for that, they should be commended, not penalized. As we work toward a final budget, I know that there are difficult decisions to be made that strike a balance between funding critical services and saving taxpayer dollars. More can and should be done to reduce the local tax burden and I will continue to make property tax reduction a priority.”
Feb 23rd - 6:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
The same day he appeared with 1199SEIU, the politically influential health care union, to preserve the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political operation released emails to supporters urging them to “stand up and fight” to protect the law.
In the email released Wednesday afternoon, Cuomo wrote Democrats need to model their opposition after Republicans when they sought to derail the legislative agenda of Democratic presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
“Democrats need to take a page out of the Republican Party’s book from when they disagreed with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama,” the email states. “We need fight Trump every step of the way.”
Its a tonal shift for Cuomo, in part, who has decried gridlock in Washington and touted his own work with Republicans in Albany to accomplish a legislative agenda that otherwise would be difficult for conservatives to approve.
Cuomo has come under fire from his own party and liberals for his willingness, too, to make compromises on key issues.
Now, Cuomo doesn’t want Democrats in Washington to accommodate Republican demands.
“Right now is not a time to make a deal. It’s not a time to get political,” he wrote. “It’s time to get principled and remember who you are, who you represent, and who you’re fighting for. That’s what Democrats are all about.”
Feb 22nd - 3:07 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday at a rally in the Bronx with the influential labor union 1199SEIU gave a staunch defense by Cuomo of the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping health care law that Republicans in Congress have vowed to repeal under President Donald Trump.
New York was among the states that participated in the expansion of Medicaid, which now could be subject to block grants based on Republican-backed plans in Congress. Cuomo said a shift in Medicaid spending would be “devastating” to the state.
“We’re not going to let it happen. There are 129 million with pre-existing illnesses that now have health insurance that would lose their health insurance if they have their way and we’re not going to let that happen,” Cuomo said. “There are millions of young people who are under 26 years old and now have coverage on their family policy that would lose it, and we’re not going to let that happen. That is not our reality. We say that healthcare is a human right and it doesn’t depend on whether you’re rich or whether you’re poor or where you live.”
At the same time, Cuomo pressured congressional Democrats to “stand up” and fight efforts to repeal the law.
“They better show us what they’re made of because there is no going back,” he said. “They have to learn – they have to stand up and learn from what the republicans did when they didn’t agree with something.”
Cuomo also touted his 2017 agenda, which includes a proposal to provide free tuition to qualifying families than earn less than $125,000 a year at public colleges and universities in New York.
Cuomo said he was pushing for a tax cut aimed at middle-income earners that was previously approved in last year’s spending plan.
“We’re trying to pass a middle class tax cut,” Cuomo said according to a transcription of the remarks released by his office. “The other side says we’re not middle class, we’re making more, and why should we worry about that?”
The tax cut approved last year begins to take effect in the coming fiscal year, which starts April 1, and is phased in over several years.
Cuomo has suggested before the middle class tax cut has to be paid for with an extension of higher rates on those who earn more than $1 million, due to expire at the end of the year.
Feb 22nd - 2:20 pm
The State Police will investigate a series of bomb threats aimed at Jewish Community Centers across New York as well as the Anti-Defamation League, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement on Wednesday.
The call aimed at the Anti-Defamation League is the latest in a string of threats aimed at Jewish organizations.
None of the threats directed at JCCs in Buffalo, New York City, Albany and Syracuse were substantiated and no one has been hurt. But the threats, coupled with other hoax calls to JCCs elsewhere in the country, have fueled concerns over a rise in anti-Semitism.
“We are treating these incidents for what they are – as crimes – and we will not allow them to go unpunished,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“Today I have directed the New York State Police to coordinate with federal and local law enforcement to launch a full investigation into this latest incident. Make no mistake, we will find these perpetrators and hold them fully accountable for their actions. My administration has also been in direct contact with the Anti-Defamation League to ensure that they have the necessary resources and personnel to guarantee the safety of their employees and location.”
The Division of Human Rights has a toll-free hotline, (888) 392-3644, for New Yorkers to report bias or discriminatory acts.
President Donald Trump, who has been criticized for not firmly distancing himself from the support he’s received of fringe supremacist groups, in a statement delivered this week condemned the threats at the JCCs.
Feb 22nd - 6:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand does not plan to run for president in 2020, but did talk up the candidacy of another New York Democrat: Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“I am entirely focused on running in 2018,” Gillibrand said in a NY1 interview.
She plans to serve the full six year term if re-elected.
“I feel honored and privileged I get to serve this state as their U.S. senator.”
As for the short list for the Democratic nomination, Gillibrand expects there to be a “a dozen candidates” and Cuomo would make a great one.
“He’d be a great candidate, he’s a great governor,” she said, citing his support for paid family leave and the push to legalize same-sex marriage in 2011. “He’s done great things in our state.”
Both Gillibrand and the governor will be on the statewide ticket next year: Cuomo has said he is seeking a third term as governor in 2018. Gillibrand worked with Cuomo in the Department of Housing and Urban Development during President Bill Clinton’s administration.
Gillibrand insisted in the interview on Tuesday she is not interested in a White House bid, even as she rises to a new level of prominence in the Senate by opposing nearly all of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominations.
But Gillibrand, a former upstate House member who was elevated to the Senate by Gov. David Paterson in 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton upon her nomination as secretary of state.
Gillibrand has previously demurred five years ago on a White House bid ahead of 2016, when Clinton was at the time widely expected to be the frontrunner for the party’s nomination. At the time, she also suggested Cuomo would make a great candidate, then, too.