Cuomo Tells Senate GOP He Held His Fire For Democrats

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to smooth over his relationship with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, telling them in a closed-door budget briefing at the executive mansion that he could have done a lot more to help his own party gain control of the chamber, but didn’t.

The conversation was relayed to reporters by freshman Sen. Jim Tedisco, who said GOP lawmakers brought up Cuomo’s efforts in the campaign season in endorsing Democrats running in a handful of key races.

“He said you can’t call that campaigning,” Tedisco said. “He mentioned he had $19 million in the bank. He mentioned that he could have used that money very aggressively and that he didn’t. He mentioned that he could have done a lot more in campaigning and that he didn’t. But he also mentioned that there are realities and that he’s a Democrat and we’re Republicans.”

Liberals and some Democrats have been derisive of Cuomo’s efforts over the years to help the mainline Democratic conference gain control of the chamber.

The balance of power in the Senate is essentially unchanged this year with Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder remaining in the GOP fold. Cuomo bowed out of an effort to push the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference to align with mainline Democrats in the Senate. The IDC remains in a governing coalition with the Senate GOP.

Still, Republicans in the Senate who have worked well with Cuomo over the years have been increasingly aggressive when criticizing Cuomo’s policies.

“I think the candor that took place in there was a little bit surprising,” Tedisco said. “He said we’ve worked together, we’ve been very successful.”

Assembly To Take Up RHA

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic-led Assembly today is expected to take up the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, a measure designed to bolster the state’s abortion laws that may take on new urgency given the coming Republican control of the federal government.

A news conference on the bill’s passage, which has stalled in the Republican-contorlled state Senate, will be held at 1:30.

Supporters of the bill contend it is aimed at codifying the Roe v. Wade decision in state, a necessary move should the Supreme Court ever reverse the decision.

Opponents have called the RHA an unnecessary expansion of existing abortion rights in the state.

A version of the bill was initially included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act, an omnibus package of measures that also included provisions aimed at pay equity and blocking gender discrimination in the workplace and housing.

Ultimately, only the RHA failed to be made law after Cuomo agreed to pass individual components of the legislative package.

The debate over the RHA has at times become an emotionally fraught one in Albany.

Last June, Republican Assemblyman Ron Castorina decided abortion as “African-American genocide” — a comment that led to a heated debate on the chamber floor.

Legislative Leaders Want Details On Indian Point Closure

The top leaders in the Senate and Assembly want more details on the impact of the proposed closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant by April 2021.

As backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the facility in Westchester County would wind down operations over the next several years, with renewable energy as a replacement for the 2,000 megawatts generated by the plant, which is the predominate supplier for New York City and the surrounding area.

“The fact that it supplies about 25 percent of the power to the city of New York amongst other places, it shows us there’s going to have to be a real plan on how you’re going to have make up that kind of generation,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

“We’ll see what the details are, but it’s a tremendous supply of energy for downstate New York. We’ll have to see what the substitute is for that.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan was more critical, questioning why the Cuomo administration sought no input from local elected officials, who fret about the impact closure will have on jobs and the tax base in Buchanan, where the plant is located.

“I have to look at in more detail, but the notion this thing was negotiated without the input of a lot of different people, including local elected officials and Westchester County people is problematic,” Flanagan said. “We need to have good, reliable energy sources.”

It’s unclear if the closure would require a vote of the Legislature, but Flanagan indicated more discussion is needed before the plan is to take effect.

“Just on a visceral reaction it strikes me there should be more input from some of the people that are affected,” he said. “It’s going to have major ramifications.”

Lawmakers Gauge Impact Of ACA Repeal On New York

From the Morning Memo:

Elected officials from New York on both the state and federal level are concerned about the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act on the state’s coffers.

“Whatever we can do within the state’s ability to protecting health care, we should be doing that,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie this week in Albany.

And it’s a bipartisan concern, as raised by Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan in the Senate, who said he’ll be watching for what impact the repeal could have on the state budget and Medicaid spending.

“At the national level, that was a critical issue during the campaign,” Flanagan said. “I think the federal government not only wants to, but has almost created an obligation to try and change some of this stuff.

And according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the end of the ACA would spell a $3.7 billion hit on the state budget. New York’s lawmakers in Washington are also watching for what repeal and replace might mean.

“I intend to really drill down closely on this issue to ascertain the impact on New York,” said Rep. John Faso, a Republican from the 19th congressional district.

New York was among the states that took part in the expansion of Medicaid under the program. But Faso says he’s also interested in reducing the burden of the program on local governments.

“One of the things I campaigned upon was eliminating the local share that federal law permits a local share of Medicaid costs,” Faso said, “and New York is one of the only states in the country that does this, and it really hurts our property taxpayers.”

But a full repeal of the ACA is expected to take some time. And some Republicans, like Rep. Claudia Tenney, acknowledge some aspects of the law may be carried over.

“It’s going to take a while to roll this back and come up with a truly helpful, consumer-driven plan that provides insurance with all the things we want to have with pre-existing conditions, to provide for the needy and the poor through Medicaid,” said Tenney, a Republican from the 22nd District.

President-elect Donald Trump has said components like covering pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ plans could be preserved.

Stewart-Cousins: Cuomo’s Proposals Mirror Senate Dem Agenda

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement Thursday credited her conference with previously championing the agenda Gov. Andrew Cuomo has so far unveiled this week.

Cuomo this week has proposed a plan to provide free tuition to SUNY schools to qualifying income earners, revamp JFK Airport and, today, announced a plan to double the child care tax credit for those who earn between $50,000 and $125,000 a year.

In a statement, Stewart-Cousins noted the child care tax proposal has been opposed in the past the Senate Republicans, linking the need to pass the measure to a unifying Democrats in the chamber — a fight Cuomo bowed out of last month.

“So far the first three proposals of the Governor’s State of the State have mirrored proposals long supported and put forth by the Democratic Conference,” she said. “Today’s affordable child care proposal is similar to a plan first put forward by Senator Squadron and the Democratic Policy Group. This innovative proposal was blocked by the Senate Majority. The Senate Democrats have led the fight to help struggling New York families and reduce child care costs. With every passing day it is clear why we need all Democrats to unite and form a majority.”

Stewart-Cousins: Free College? Senate Dems Want That

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is using Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s free college tuition plan as yet another example of how much more the governor might be able to accomplish if only his fellow Democrats controlled the upper house.

“Senate Democrats have led the fight to make a quality higher education affordable to all New York students, and our Higher Education Ranking Member Senator Toby Stavisky has carried a bill to accomplish just this goal,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “This is perfect example of why the Democrats that comprise a majority of the Senate should unite. It is clear that initiatives like this would pass in a Democratic Majority.”

Stavisky’s legislation has been kicking around since at least 2013. The Senate Democrats, Stewart-Cousins noted, just this past May authored a white paper on college affordability (or the lack thereof), which was also a big deal in the 2016 presidential race – hence, Cuomo’s appearance today with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who made free tuition a cornerstone of his campaign.

The Senate Republicans haven’t said anything about the free tuition plan yet, but the Legislature would need to approve it, and – notably – the administration has yet to say specifically how it plans to pay for it.

As Cuomo increasingly seeks to position himself at the national level, potentially with an eye on a future White House run, by embracing a host of liberal policy proposals, look for the Senate Democrats and their allies to keep up the “we could accomplish so much more together” drumbeat, even though at this point it’s pretty much a done deal that the Republicans and the IDC have renewed their power-sharing relationship.

The college tuition proposal is the first of what will likely be a string of pre-State of the State policy announcements leading up to the governor’s regional speeches next week. Cuomo today provided an on-line registration portal for members of the public who might like to attend those speeches, revealing the dates and general locations where they will be delivered, but not specific times or locales.

Cuomo wasted no time in starting to drum up public support for this proposal, sending out an email touting this “first-in-the-nation” plan and how it is an effort to build on his administration’s efforts over the past six years to “ease the burden on middle class families throughout New York.”

“From cutting property taxes to alleviating student loan debt, we’re continually striving to improve lives and increase economic opportunity for middle class New Yorkers,” Cuomo wrote. “This year, we’re taking another big step toward that goal: Today, alongside Senator Bernie Sanders, I unveiled a plan to offer free tuition at SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges. New York is the State of Opportunity and a college education must be accessible to all, not a luxury that only the wealthy can afford.”

There’s a link where email recipients are urged to show their support for the governor’s free tuition proposal – a handy way to collect supporters’ names for future contact (and perhaps fundraising appeals as the 2018 re-election campaign gears up).

Klein And Flanagan Announce Coalition

Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein will continue what has been a mutually beneficial partnership in the state Senate through coalition government in the chamber.

The announcement, released widely on Monday, was first reported this morning by The Daily News.

The continuation of the GOP-IDC partnership is not wholly surprising, though it follows a period of sustained public pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the IDC by allies of the mainline Democratic conference in the Senate to unify the party.

But Democratic unity in the Senate has been difficult to come by: Democrats failed to achieve a net gain of a seat in the chamber, despite hoping to run competitive races in suburban districts.

At the same time, Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat, plans to continue to conference with the Senate Republicans.

Mainline Democrats have sought to make the argument that Democratic unity in the Senate is nevertheless vital given GOP control of Congress and the presidency following the victory of Donald Trump in November.

Klein’s conference, first formed in 2011, continued to grow this year, now with seven members following the addition of Brooklyn Sen. Jesse Hamilton and incoming Sen. Marisol Alcantara, bringing the number of lawmakers in the IDC to seven.

Klein has pointed to IDC successes in the Senate, including minimum wage increases and a successful push for the creation of paid family leave.

“The Independent Democratic Conference is joining this majority coalition because, as pragmatic progressives, we know how important it is to engage and get things done,” Klein said. “This bipartisan coalition will represent every county across New York, ensuring that every New Yorker has a voice in the Senate.”

While Flanagan and the Senate Republicans maintain a razor-thin majority, they’ll likely need the backing of Klein’s IDC going forward should a vacancy arise.

“New Yorkers want Democrats and Republicans to work together to get results, and that’s exactly what we’ve done over the last 6 years in partnership with Senator Klein and members of the Independent Democratic Conference,” Flanagan said in a statement.

IDC Pushes Raise The Age

From the Morning Memo:

And speaking of criminal justice issues, the Independent Democratic Conference is reviving an issue that once again fell by the wayside in the 2016 legislative session: Raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York.

In a report released by the conference, the lawmakers point to the cost benefit of no longer imprisoning 16 and 17-year-old offenders.

“The impact that the current age of criminal responsibility has on 16- and 17-year-olds affects them for the rest of their lives. Whether it’s increasing the chance to advance academically or secure employment, it is clear that raising the age of responsibility will have a great societal benefit,” said Jeff Klein, the IDC leader.

“The report issued by the Independent Democratic Conference shows that in addition to this societal benefit the state will see a fiscal benefit as well. This legislative session we will work with advocates and stakeholders to find a legislative solution to this issue.”

The report released by the ID found the state could reach an annual savings of $117.1 million through the criminal justice reform based on the reduction of costs such as detention, transportation and court hearings as well as probation and parole.

The issue has been difficult to pass through the GOP-led Senate in the years since Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed changes based on a juvenile justice report he received.

RWDSU’s Appelbaum Backs Blake For DNC Vice Chair

As Democratic state Assemblyman Michael Blake seeks the vice chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, his bid is getting a boost from the leader of the retail workers’ union.

Blake, a Bronx lawmaker, was given the nod by the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum.

“Michael Blake has the passion, beliefs and ability to engage people that are so important for rebuilding our party,” Appelbaum said. “We need to be able to articulate our core values to the American public and that is Michael’s greatest strength. I’ve seen him do it as a legislator, and, I know he can do it as a DNC Vice-Chair. As a union leader and DNC Executive Committee member, I am proud to endorse Michael Blake for DNC Vice-Chair.”

Blake was previously given the nod for the post by Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon and current DNC Vice-Chair RT Rybak in the last week.

Lawmakers Cautious On Ride-Hailing Timeline

From the Morning Memo:

With an aggressive lobbying effort, apparently strong public support and even the endorsement of the governor, you’d think a bill to legalize ride-hailing services in upstate would pass pretty quickly whenever legislators end up returning to Albany.

Maybe that’s not such a sure thing. Savvy lawmakers continue to say they’re hopeful legislation can be passed ASAP, but they refuse to venture a guess as to exactly when that will occur.

“I’m not going to make any predictions on that, but it’s very much on the minds of the governor as well as the legislators,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

State Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer, an Amherst Republican, echoed the LG’s sentiment.

“One of the things I’ve learned early on is not to predict,” he said. “My hope is (ride-hailing will pass) early in the session. I am very much in favor of it as are many of my colleagues, especially upstate.”

At the moment, everything is in flux as legislative leaders and the governor try to hammer out a special session deal that may or may not include a measure to legalize ride hailing apps outside New York City. And in true Albany style, everything remains possible until it’s not anymore.

“Everything is in negotiation right now,” Hochul said. “There’s absolutely no finality to any part of it.”

The latest wrinkle is a proposal to add a surcharge for each ride, with the money generated going to support public transportation. Legislators have different opinions on where the money should go though, with some saying it should fund existing transit services, and others calling for it to be invested in much-needed infrastructure projects.

Ranzenhofer said he believes the potential revenue should go toward funding roads and bridges, but he doesn’t think this issue will be a deal-breaker. One thing the senator said he does know for sure is that his constituents are very keen on being able to use apps like Uber and Lyft.

Earlier this month, he launched an online petition to measure public interest. On the first day alone, about 2,700 people signed, which Ranznehofer deemed “phenomenal.”