Feb 10th - 3:42 pm
Members of the Independent Democratic Conference on Friday backed a package of measures designed to enhance and bolster labor protections in New York.
At the same time, the IDC formally declared their opposition to a constitutional convention in 2019, which voters will decide via referendum this year.
“As a longtime labor organizer and as a student of history, I am well aware of the importance of the labor movement in building the middle class in this country,” said Sen. Marisol Alcantara, a Manhattan Democrat elected last year.
“It is past time that we stopped talking about how to manage the decline of organized labor and started talking about how to revitalize it for the changing conditions of the 21st century. I will fight to ensure dignity and a living wage for all New York State workers, and will stand strongly against any attempts by the federal government to undermine unions.”
The measures are designed to protect New York laborers against a potential expansion of right-to-work laws nationwide. There are 28 states that have right-to-work statutes, which labor unions have vehemently opposed.
“The attacks on labor across this country through right-to-work laws has had a devastating effect on the lives of workers,” said IDC Leader Jeff Klein. “Now, with Vice President Mike Pence, a staunch defender of these laws, in the White House we have seen a push to expand them nationally by Congress. We will not stand by idly. The IDC will oppose any law that attempts to disenfranchise labor unions in this state and I urge my colleagues at the national level to do the same.”
The proposal was framed as an effort to push back against the “anti-worker” policies of President Donald Trump’s administration, which comes as the IDC itself has been accused by liberal advocacy organizations and some fellow Democrats for enabling Senate Republicans in Albany.
The IDC has grown to eight members in recent weeks, but the Senate Republican conference has 32 members with the addition of Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder, who sits with the GOP in the chamber.
The measures include calls for federal lawmakers to block RTW legislation and prohibit state funding to organizations like the National Right to Work Foundation that backs implementation of such laws.
A constitutional convention, which voters can determine every seven years through a statewide referendum, has been opposed by labor unions who worry labor protections and collective bargaining rights could be altered.
Sep 21st - 5:59 am
Last week’s victory by Marisol Alcantara in the four-way Democratic primary to succeed outgoing Sen. Adriando Espaillat was a win for IDC Leader Jeff Klein, as Alcantara confirmed that she plans to join his breakaway conference and not the so-called “regular” Democrats in Albany come January.
Since then, there has been much speculation that Klein is again preparing to flex his growing political muscle in favor of the Senate Republicans, should they require his assistance in maintaining control of the chamber after the November elections.
But Alcantara is playing her cards close to the vest when it comes to whether she’s prepared to support a power-sharing deal that keeps the regular Democrats in the minority, deftly side stepping the question during a CapTon interview last night by saying:
“You know, I’m the Democrat nominee. What I am prepared to do is to go to Albany to fight for the DREAM Act, fight for licenses for the undocumented, fight for the people in my district and the state of New York.”
When I noted that many DREAM Act supporters blame Klein for the death of the measure on the Senate floor in 2014, Alcantara replied:
“I don’t know what happened when Jeff Klein was there. All I know is that is one of my main priorities to go to Albany and push for the DREAM Act. It’s a shame that a place like Texas has a DREAM Act and we don’t have one in New York. This is one of the most progressive states in the country.”
No one is questioning Alcantara’s progressive credentials. Aside from a long history in the labor movement as an organizer for the state Nurses Association, she was also a delegate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the New York presidential primary.
As a result, some regular Democrats are scratching their heads over whey Alcantara would join up with the IDC – a group that Klein’s erstwhile colleagues argue actually prevents the passage of more progressive measures in the Senate.
As it turns out, her motivation was simple: The IDC supported her when she felt no one else was willing to do so.
Alcantara said she reached out to “everyone you can think of” when she was mulling a Senate run, and the “one person who was receptive” to the idea of her running for office was Sen. Diane Savino, a Staten Island Democrat and former labor organizer herself, who is currently the IDC’s lone female member.
Alcantara noted that should she win in November, as is widely expected, then she will make history was the first Dominican woman in the chamber.
She would also be the first Latina elected to the Senate since the departure of the late former Sen. Olga Mendez, a Bronx Democrat who often sided with Republicans and officially changed her registration to the GOP in 2002, in 2004.
Mendez, the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the state Legislature in New York history, was defeated that year by Sen. Jose Serrano.
Aug 18th - 1:27 pm
The five-member Independent Democratic Conference would grow by one should Marisol Alcantara win the race to succeed state Sen. Adriano Espaillat.
Sources confirmed this week Alcantara, a labor organizer, would join the conference if elected. Alcantara this week was endorsed by the IDC, led by Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat.
In a statement, Alcantara praised the IDC on a variety of policies the conference has pushed, including paid family leave and universal pre-Kindergarten.
“For 20 years, I have been working in the trenches in Albany on behalf of organized labor to bring about progressive legislation,” Alcantara said in a statement.
“I witnessed an increase in the minimum wage twice, paid family leave, and Universal Pre-K for NYC–all possible because of the IDC’s influence. When I am elected I look forward to going to Albany to continue to push for progressive legislation critical to the people of the 31st district.”
Alcantara joining the ranks of the IDC would be a key step for the conference to bolster their clout in Albany heading into the 2017 legislative session. Senate Republicans hold a narrow majority in the chamber, while Democrats expect to do well in suburban and upstate swing districts with Hillary Clinton atop the party’s ticket this year.
The IDC in the past has aligned with Senate Republicans to form a majority coalition, but could forge a similar arrangement with the mainline Democratic conference.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I am and will continue to be a fierce advocate for the progressive policies I’ve fought for my entire life,” Alcantara added.
“And, most importantly, I will be a strong and independent voice for tenants and families throughout the district. I will put my credentials of fighting for progressive causes up against my two opponents any day of the week–one of whom lobbied for a Republican mayor in Albany, and another who paved the way for an unprecedented third term for a Republican mayor.”
Alcantara next month faces former Eric Schneiderman aide Micah Lasher and former city Councilman Robert Jackson in a primary.
Apr 11th - 4:10 pm
They say Albany is a transient place, and each year I am reminded of that fact as people do their time here and then move on to something else. ( I know that kinda makes it sound like a prison sentence, but hey, if the shoe fits…).
The latest such transition comes out of the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate as Chief of Staff John Emrick gets ready to depart Albany. I first met Emrick in 2012 as he and members of the IDC were preparing for what would become their major test of power in the chamber. After the November elections, the IDC forged a deal with Senate Republicans for control of the upper house.
That relationship remains in place to this day, albeit with some changes after the 2014 elections. Keep in mind…there are plenty of people who are deeply offended by that relationship, notably the mainline Senate Democrats. But that was the moment when IDC Leader Jeff Klein truly established his five member conference as an independent force in the New York State legislature, and Emrick was key to making it all happen.
Emrick is almost never without a fantastic Albany story to tell. It sometimes takes him a minute to get warmed up, as he stares at you with those innocent, droopy eyes of his. But once you get him going, there are few people as clever and entertaining. Yes, Emrick is nothing if not dialed in to what is happening here at the haunted mansion on the hill we like to call the State Capitol. Emrick says of his departure:
“It’s with a heavy heart that I leave the IDC, whose members and staff, have become my second family. After years of dedicated public service it’s time for me to spend more time with my family, whose lives I miss each day that I spend away from home. This is an exciting time to take on a new political role and work with the IDC. Senator Klein, Valesky, Savino, Carlucci and Avella, together, change New York for the better. I have been proud to work with them, as they lead the way in the State Senate, and look forward to seeing the conference thrive.”
And IDC Leader Jeff Klein says:
“As the Independent Democratic Conference’s Chief of Staff, John has always been loyal and dedicated to the IDC, a stable third conference, that will continue to focus on governing for the people of New York. His brilliance, vision and Democratic ideals enhanced our conference and made a difference for all New Yorkers. I wish him all the best and look forward to working with him closely in a new capacity during one of the most important political seasons that will determine the direction of the Senate.
Emrick won’t be going far. For the remainder of the year he will be doing campaign work for the IDC, but will be based mostly out of New York City. With his wife, Cassie, having just received a promotion at CBS, it has been a real strain on the two kids with having one parent working all the time and the other up in Albany. That’s why he’d like to be closer to home. But Emrick is sanguine about the transition, acknowledging to me just moments ago that people up in Albany can sometimes become like a surrogate family in what sometimes feel like weeks away from one’s actual home. I couldn’t agree more.
Dana Carotenuto will take the reins as chief of staff for the IDC. She is currently deputy COS and policy director. She was the architect of Klein’s Paid family Leave Program. Be strong, Dana.
Mar 9th - 10:38 am
The Independent Democratic Conference on Wednesday released a platform designed to increase student diversity at specialized high schools in New York City.
The proposal is aimed at boosting resources for students in underrepresented groups at the elementary and middle-school levels that act as feeder institutions for the high schools.
At the same time, the IDC released a report that found disproportionate levels of black and Latino students applying for and enrolling in New York City’s specialized high schools.
“A Specialized High School might be a great fit for so many of New York City’s underrepresented students, but we will never know if we don’t ensure that every student has the resources to prepare and apply,” said IDC Leader Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat. “While studies have shown that changing the admissions process will not increase diversity, we know that increasing access to resources from an early age will.”
The IDC backs a boost in outreach coordinators, the creation of test preparation programs for every school district and the creation of a pipeline program in middle schools for specialized high schools. At the same time, the IDC proposal would increase the gifted and talented programs made available.
“Bridging the deep diversity gap that exists in our schools starts with strengthening our students’ foundations,” said IDC Sen. Tony Avella of Queens. “Studies have shown that simply changing the admissions process would do nothing to address the lack of diversity at our city’s most prestigious schools.”
Mar 3rd - 4:04 pm
A report released by Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein and New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres on Thursday found the city’s public housing units are in dire need of repair, with problems ranging from mold on the walls, leaking ceilings and peeling paint.
“We cannot sit back while damage is done to our best affordable housing stock,” Klein said in a statement. “That is why we are proposing the NYCHA 2020 Public Housing Revitalization Plan, which would increase funding to provide safe, healthy conditions to residents, while reforming NYCHA’s operations and increasing transparency. NYCHA’s system may be broken, but we are ready to fix it.”
The report found buildings under the auspices of the New York City Housing Authority are in a state of dangerous disrepair. A survey found 63 percent of residents reported that something is damaged or broken in their unit, including falling ceilings in bathrooms and kitchens as well as broken intercoms. Half of the tenants surveyed said they have deal with a broken intercom for more than five years.
Most residents — 51 percent — said they feel unsafe in their building given the conditions.
A whopping 60 percent of residents say mold is a current or past issue, with nearly 19 percent saying their complaints are never responded to.
And if tenants call for help, 79 percent of residents say they receive incorrect information.
Despite having $100 million NYCHA repairs allocated in the budget, the lawmakers say more work is needed to fix the conditions. The report says surplus funding from the Batter Park City Authority should be dedicated to NYCHA, which would bring $400 million over the next decade.
Klein also wants to strengthen transparency at NYCHA by giving the city Council oversight of the entity.
Feb 26th - 3:42 pm
The Independent Democratic Conference on Friday called for an increase in funding for child care subsidies along with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union.
The conference released a report that found married couples spent 12.6 percent of their income on child care, while single parents are spending 45.1 percent — compounding an ever-increasing cost in living for housing in the New York City.
“For New York’s working parents, the biggest bite out of their budget, after housing, is safe, quality child care,” said IDC Leader Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat. “In this city, a married couple pays 13 percent of their annual income – higher than any other state in the nation. New York’s parents shouldn’t be forced to make hard choices between leaving the workforce or dedicating their hard-earned paycheck just to child care. That is why I am proud to fight for access to safe, quality child care through the proposals laid out in this report.”
The IDC’s plan would include a strengthening of the Facilitated Enrollment Child Care subsidy by hiking funding to $25 million and would expand those eligible for the program to within 400 percent of the federal poverty line. That would increase the number of families impact and provide services to 2,571 children.
At the same time, the report backed funding of child care subsidies at an additional $190 million, with total spending at $1.166 billion. The IDC wants to increase funding for the Child Care Block Grant by $100 million, which would create an additional 13,000 slots in child care centers.
And the conference backs $90 million in spending for new federal mandates for background clearances, licensing and regulatory compliance along with training.
Two tax credits would be created, including one that would expand the child and dependent care as well as create a families child tax credit.
Feb 22nd - 4:33 pm
The Independent Democratic Conference on Monday unveiled an agenda aimed at improving quality of life and health care issues for the elderly.
The proposal, called the Seniors First Initiative, lays out a package of financial measures aimed at shoring up housing costs for the elderly, either for those who own homes or rent.
At the same time, the IDC is backing a bill supported by Staten Island Sen. Diane Savino that would provide for relief for seniors from high utility bills as well as creating a consumer advocate for utility issues.
The conference backs the creation of a savings program that would create retirement accounts, automatically enrolling workers in a payroll deduction IRA when a retirement plan is not offered.
The IDC unveiled its program with a survey on the issues facing senior citizens in the state, which found only 37 percent of seniors are “confident” in their retirement savings. Over 45 percent say they pay more than $300 in utility costs alone, while 75 percent believe the money they pay for utilities is too expensive.
Housing costs are also a concern: 60 percent say they are paying more than $1,000 a month for homeowner costs, with 39 percent saying that sometimes, often or always they have difficulty paying the rent or other housing costs.
“Each and every one of our seniors worked, raised families, contributed to their communities, and made New York State a better place,” said Sen. Jeff Klein, the IDC leader. “Now, as they enter their golden years, they deserve to live comfortably ,and independently.”
The plan for the elderly was part of a broader partnership between the IDC, AARP New York, New York State Alliance for Retired Americans, the New York Statewide Senior Action Council, LiveOn New York, the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, Lifespan, Protectseniors.org, and the Association of Belltel Retirees.
“To paraphrase a common saying, a society can be judged based on how it treats those who are most in need,” said Sen. Tony Avella. “There are many victims of New York’s rising costs, but, as this survey has shown, seniors in particular struggle to make ends meet.”
Feb 12th - 2:46 pm
The Independent Democratic Conference unveiled on Friday a multi-million dollar package of education police measures that would be aimed at expanding after school offerings, create community schools and provide for universal access to full-day kindergarten.
“New York State’s students deserve rich learning opportunities that seal their future success,” said Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat. “Afterschool programs and the expansion of community schools place students in innovative learning environments well beyond traditional classroom hours, keeping them focused and performing at higher levels. The best investment we can make is in our children which is why the IDC wants to implement its 50 hour Learning Week proposal.”
The package includes $550 million for afterschool and a $155 million proposal for community schools. The full-day kindergarten plan would cost $60 million.
The conference also released a report on the education proposals, saying that spending $1 on education initiatives like afterschool would ultimately save $3 in the long run.
Here’s the full report:
Oct 1st - 12:47 pm
Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, who traveled to the White House this week to meet with President Obama and a host of state lawmakers from around the country, said he is hopeful for a bipartisan agreement on the minimum wage as well as paid family leave.
Klein was at the White House for the conference of state legislators along with Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat.
“I’m very optimistic that we can get these things done,” he said after the conference on Wednesday. “We can do it in a bipartisan fashion like increasing the minimum wage, like making sure we have paid family leave. These things are extremely important.”
Klein and the five-member IDC played a key role when state lawmakers last agreed on a minimum wage increase. At the time, the IDC and the Senate Republicans shared power in a majority coalition when none of the conferences had a clear numeric advantage in the chamber. More >