John Emrick Leaving IDC

They say Albany is a transitive 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.



IDC: Increase Diversity In NYC Specialized High Schools

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.”

IDC Specialized High Schools Gifted and Talented (1) by Nick Reisman

Klein: NYC Public Housing Is Crumbling

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.

Klein Torres IDC NYCHA Report March 3 .pdf by Nick Reisman

IDC: Increase Child Care Subsidies

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.

NY 2020 Reducing Child Care Costs.pdf by Nick Reisman

IDC Unveils Affordability Plan For Seniors

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,, 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.”

IDC Seniors First Report by Nick Reisman

IDC Unveils Education Plan

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:

IDC 50 Hour Learning Week Report by Nick Reisman

Klein Sees Bipartisan Hope For Minimum Wage Increase

kleinwhitehouseIndependent 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 >

Two IDC Proposals In Senate One-House Budget

The Republican-led Senate’s one-house budget resolution will include two jobs programs first proposed by the Independent Democratic Conference, according to a source familiar with the agreement.

The resolution will include both the Empire Public Works Revolving Loan Fund and the Community Jobs Program.

Both are proposals unveiled by the IDC and its leader, Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein.

Including the programs in the Senate’s one-house budget resolution is more than a nod for IDC Leader Jeff Klein, who held the power of Senate co-president for two years and had veto power over which bills came to the floor for a vote.

After Republicans won a full majority in the Senate last year, Klein was stripped of much of that power.

But Klein is being kept close by the GOP conference, with rules being passed this year that require his breakaway faction to be consulted on issues facing the Senate. Klein is also included in the closed-door leaders meetings negotiating the state budget.

The Empire Public Works Revolving Loan Fund is aimed at creating 97,000 jobs. It would help fund long-term infrastructure and transit projects as well as help upgrade water and sewer system in need of repair.

Under that plan, the state could invest in projects for multiple years given that it seeks to maximize the amount of financeable infrastructure. Loans for the program range from $250,000 and $750 million.

Projects that would be eligible for funding under that loan fund include the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement and those projects under the direction of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Community Jobs Program, meanwhile, is aimed at creating 41,700 jobs and would require a one-time $1.5 billion allocation. Grants range from $50,000 to $10 million. The program would seek to bring those into the workforce who have had trouble finding jobs.

Those receiving grants under the program would have to demonstrate how they plan to hire long-term, unemployed people who are on public assistance or those entering the workforce for the first time.

In 2013, as Senate co-president, Klein was able to secure language in the Senate’s one-house budget resolution that wedged the door open to a minimum wage increase that was eventually approved.

Klein Releases New Deal-Inspired Jobs Plan

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Thursday released a jobs plan that he says is modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program.

The jobs package proposes using $5 billion in financial settlement funds for infrastructure projects with the creation of the Empire Public Works Revolving Loan Fund and the Community Jobs Program.

The creation of those funds is expecting to create 97,000 jobs and 40,000 jobs respectively.

“A New Deal for New York will help revitalize our crumbling infrastructure while providing a hand up for thousands of New Yorkers who want nothing more than the opportunity to work, save, and provide for their families,” Klein said in a statement. “This plan takes a page out of the Roosevelt era that helped lift millions of Americans out of the shadows during the Great Depression and modernizes it to meet the challenges of a 21st century workforce. We have the sufficient resources and labor at our disposal and I am confident this plan will have a positive ripple effect throughout our state for many years to come.”

Potential projects for funding under the programs include the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge as well construction in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Upstate Transit Authorities, local governments, state agencies and other public authorities.

Local water and sewer districts could also apply for upgrades to their system within the fund.

The $1.5 billion Community Jobs Program would provide job training opportunities while investing in projects like helping rebuild parks, libraries and other small-business development projects.

The IDC, Not Dead Yet

From the Morning Memo:

The Independent Democratic Conference may not wield the same influence they did in the 2013-14 legislative session, but they are not totally in the political wilderness.

On Thursday, the IDC made sure to trumpet their new committee chairs, which come despite Republicans holding a 33-seat majority.

The IDC will hold the gavel on the Banks, Ethics and Social Services committees in the Senate.

But in a little-noticed move, the IDC exerted his numbers in a tangible way this week.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in the Senate approved the education tax credit, which provides a credit for those who make donations that help schools.

Republicans were down two members that day: Sens. Tom Libous and Bill Larkin, both listed as excused.

As such, the IDC, with its five members, would be providing the needed votes to pass the bill.

Ultimately, the situation turned a little hypothetical, considering Democrats in the mainline conference voted yes on the measure as well, which ultimately passed 44 to 16.

Still, when it comes to more contentious votes down the road in the session, the GOP will likely continue to need the IDC’s bloc of votes.