State GOP, Senate Dems, Spar Over Ellison

As The Daily News reported this morning, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is appearing at a fundraiser this spring for mainline Democrats in the state Senate — drawing the ire of New York Republicans in the process.

Ellison, who ran unsuccessfully for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, has been complimentary of the Nation of Islam and its controversial leader, Louis Farrakhan, which he has since repudiated.

Ellison had faced similar charges of anti-Semitism during his bid for the DNC chairmanship, but had been supported by prominent Democrats like U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.

“It’s shocking that Senate Democrats would invite and embrace someone who has a long history of anti-Semitic leanings to headline their event,” said New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox.

“Regardless of Party, New York is home to nearly two million Jews, and to embrace someone with that history is deeply offensive and disturbing. Mr. Ellison was caught making anti-Israel statements at a past private fundraiser–is that what the New York Senate Democrats are looking for? This invitation speaks volumes about their values, and is more proof they are wrong for New York.”

In response, Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy blasted New York Republicans for supporting President Donald Trump.

“This is ironic coming from a party that embraces Donald Trump, who leads the most hateful administration in modern American history,” he said.

Katko Declines AG Run

Republican Rep. John Katko will run for re-election and not state attorney general, his office said on Monday in a statement.

The Daily News reported this morning Katko, a moderate central New York Republican in a swing district, had been named as a possible opponent to Democratic incumbent Eric Schneiderman.

“Given his background as a federal prosecutor and record in Congress, Rep. Katko has been approached,” said spokeswoman Erin O’Connor. “He is honored to be considered but is focused on representing Central New York in Congress and will seek reelection in NY24 in 2018.”

Katko was first elected to the battleground House seat in 2014, which had reliably changed hands between the two parties for several election cycles. However, Katko, a former federal prosecutor, was able to win what has been an elusive second term for the district last year.

Senate Gets Workers Comp Reform

From the Morning Memo:

Last year, business groups in Albany, for the most part, were not fans of the budget’s minimum wage increases hitting $15 and 12 weeks of paid family leave.

This year brought them some relief with a workers’ compensation reform plan that had been pushed by the Senate Republicans and survived into the final agreement, approved on Sunday by lawmakers.

The subject is a dense one, but key for business organizations, especially the Business Council, which had sought the legislation after the last package passed more than a decade ago.

The changes include an expedited hearing process, the capping classification of the maximum medical improvement at 2-1/2 years through the create of a credit to employers and a panel that will study independent medical examinations.

At the same time, there are changes to formulas for the prescription drug formulary and new medical impairment guidelines.

“These changes will create meaningful savings for all employers in the state,” the Business Council wrote in an email to its members this weekend.

Allowing ride hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City and infrastructure spending were also pushed by business groups, but workers’ compensation legislation was considered especially key for Senate Republicans this year, who agreed to an extension of the millionaires tax rate expiring at the end of the year as well as a college tuition plan backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“We applaud the members of the Senate Republican Conference for championing these reforms and taking significant steps to ease the cost burden borne by every employer in the state – especially Upstate,” said Greg Biryla, the executive director of the Rochester-based Unshackle Upstate.

“More work remains to truly get New York’s third highest-in-the-nation costs under control. We must continue to work with our elected leaders to ensure we have an affordable system that continues to protect workers across New York.”

Senate Republicans Cast Blame Over Raise The Age

In statement after statement on Monday afternoon, Senate Republicans took a tough-on-crime posture when it came to raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, blaming Assembly Democrats for pushing for an expansive number of charges that would be tried in Family Court.

“Unfortunately, the Governor and the Assembly Speaker care more about keeping teenage drug gang members, murderers and rapists out of jail than they do about funding our public schools, providing tax relief for our families and rebuilding our infrastructure,” said Sen. Tom Croci, a Long Island Republican.

Added Rochester-area Sen. Rich Funke: “Some of these politicians want to treat violent felons, murderers, and rapists as kids under the law. Instead, I believe we need a Raise the Age plan that protects public safety first. I remain committed to securing a budget that brings ridesharing upstate, rejects millions in proposed taxes and fees, and fully-funds our region’s top priorities, like job training, education, and public safety.”

Ditto for Sen. Fred Akshar, a former police officer.

“Shame on the New York City Democrats who are willing to compromise public safety by not holding violent 16 and 17 year olds accountable for rape and murder,” he said. “These are violent individuals who prey upon our communities and didn’t simply ‘make a mistake.'”

An Assembly spokesman noted on Monday afternoon these claims aren’t true, that the talks did not center around felonies like rape and murder. Lawmakers were at odds over what constitutes a violent crime. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie used the example in a gaggle with reporters of a brick being thrown at a car window.

“Disgusting,” Assembly Democratic spokesman Michael Whyland wrote on Twitter in response to Croci’s statement. “Shame someone in the Legislature like this Senator is so misinformed- violent crimes like this haven’t been part of negotiations.”

Republicans may be trying to stake out ground now on why a full budget isn’t in place now, blaming Democrats for their approach on crime on an issue that lawmakers involve insist they are very close on.

One issue with an extender bill now is the efforts made over the last week may be undone following the lack of a deal on a broader budget.

Senate GOP Boosts Charter Schools, No ‘Concrete’ Talks On Taxes Yet

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week insisted he won’t seek a broad-based tax hike in this year’s budget, even as he sounds the alarm over potential cuts from the federal government.

“I don’t want to raise taxes,” Cuomo said during a stop at the State Museum.

But advocates for the poor who are pushing back against income inequality say Cuomo should back a tax hike in order to help bolster the state’s revenue amid the potential for billions of dollars in cuts.

“The only way to respond to cuts coming from President Trump and the GOP Congress is to look at fair share tax revenues,” said Michael Kink, the executive director of Strong Economy for All.

For now, lawmakers say after meeting behind closed doors with Cuomo that the talks continue.

“I think that right now the discussion has been a lot more on the policy and some one the spending items,” Heastie said Wednesday after meeting with Cuomo for more than an hour. “I don’t know if we’ve had a concrete conversation yet on revenue.”

Assembly Democrats want to hike taxes on the rich, those who make more than $5 million. Cuomo backs the extension of an expiring tax rate, which Senate Republicans want to sunset.

“No final resolution,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said after the leaders meeting with Cuomo of the millionaires tax, “but I’m very confident we’ll get there.”

The money raised by the taxes in part would go toward a potential boost in education spending, an apparent sticking point in the talks as lawmakers and Cuomo fight over what’s known as foundation aid in the budget.

“There’s a lot of talk about higher ed this year,” said Assemblywoman Pat Fahy of Albany, “but we need to make sure we don’t lose the focus on K-12.”

Complicating matters is the Senate GOP push to bolster charter schools — putting them at odds with Democrats in the Assembly.

“It’s a very expensive area,” Flanagan said. “I believe we’ll find more foundation aid for charter schools because they are public schools.”

Cuomo has proposed a $960 million increase in education aid, but typically lawmakers successfully add even more spending for schools in the state.

Flanagan: Violent Crime Definitions ‘Absolutely’ Part Of Raise The Age Talks

Defining a “violent” crime that would be prosecuted in criminal court versus family court are “absolutely” part of the talks surrounding raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said on Monday following a closed-door leaders meeting.

“Some of these crimes are pretty egregious,” Flanagan said. “That’s absolutely part of the discussion right now.”

The Assembly maintains the Senate isn’t simply seeking too broad a definition for categorizing violent crimes, however, but over classifying certain offenses.

“Issue isn’t violent offenses,” said Assembly spokesman Michael Whyland ion a Twitter post. “Senate wants non-violent offenses to go through an adult criminal procedure.”

Lawmakers are debating how to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York, currently at 16, to 18.

It’s a top concern for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who has sought to move cases involving those under 18 into family courts. The long-sought issue remains problematic for Senate Republicans, however, who question which offenses should be diverted to family court.

Potentially key to the talks has been Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, who told reporters prior to the meeting lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are “taking a very balanced approach.”

“I think we’re coming together and I think it’s just a matter of what say the judge has, what say the DA has,” he said.

The meeting in Cuomo’s office on the second floor of the Capitol lasted less than an hour. Heastie emerged first, quickly walking out of the office to declared there was nothing new to report.

Flanagan insisted the negotiations remain open for a broad agreement and not a “bare bones” deal at this time and there’s no discussion of going the budget extender route.

“I’d rather raise my arms in victory than throw up my hands,” Flanagan said. “I think we have an excellent chance of getting things done on time.

Gallivan Says He’s Hopeful For Raise The Age Agreement

The key Republican lawmaker involved involved in talks surrounding juvenile justice reform said Monday he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached this week on raising the age of criminal responsibility as part of a broader budget agreement.

But disagreements remain over how to try and even define violent crimes that would not be included in family court proceedings for defendants under the age of 18.

Lawmakers have been going through various criminal offenses to determine which crimes should be deemed violent enough to continue prosecuting in criminal court.

“I would say that’s the threshold issue: Violent crimes and violent individuals are people are who prey upon our communities and those are people we should rightfully be afraid of,” said Sen. Pat Gallivan, a western New York Republican. “Many of us believe there should be some level of accountability which in some cases includes prison sentences.”

The effort stems from having 16 and 17-year-old defendants to either family or juvenile diversion courts. The issue is a top priority to have resolved this week for the Democratic-led Assembly and its speaker, Bronx Democrat Carl Heastie.

Republicans, however, have been hesitant to embrace a wide menu of crimes that would be considered for diversion to a different, non-criminal court.

“My goal is try of figure out a way to do that while at the same time we protect public safety, we protect communities and we protect victims rights,” Gallivan said. “The conversation revolves around all those things.”

Nevertheless, Gallivan insisted talks have gone well. He met Friday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top legislative leaders to discuss the issue. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan last week after that meeting suggested several measures were being spoken of as a package.

“I’m hopeful that it can be (agreed to) and I would say the conversations that I’ve been a part of have been very productive,” Gallivan said.

Siena Poll: NYers Want To Keep Obamacare

A majority of New York voters opposed the passage of the American Health Care Act, the Republican-backed measure that failed to gain enough votes for passage last week in the House of Representatives, according to a Siena College poll released on Monday.

At the same time, most voters approve of keeping and improving the still-in-place Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, by a wide margin, the poll found.

The poll comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo railed against the passage of the AHCA, an effort that ramped up last week after Republicans added a provision that would have required the state to assume the counties’ share of Medicaid costs.

Cuomo’s approval and favorably ratings both declined from last month’s poll, though many of the policies he is pursuing in the state budget plan remain popular.

The poll found New York voters opposed the American Health Care Act, which would have overhauled the current ACA, 56 percent to 27 percent.

At the same time, a broader margin, 67 percent to 30 recent, said they wanted to keep the Affordable Care Act in place.

Regionally, support for the Affordable Care Act is strongest in New York City, where 75 percent of voters want to keep it. However, 60 percent of voters in upstate New York and 62 percent in the suburban counties outside of New York City want to keep the measure in place, the poll found.

Not surprisingly, 69 percent of Republican voters want the measure repealed.

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday declared Obamacare is the “law of the land” and will be for the “foreseeable future.”

Still, New Yorkers are mixed on the results of the current health care law. Most, 75 percent, believe it has expanded access to health care. But a near majority, 49 percent, believe it has also hurt small businesses’ efforts in being profitable.

Cuomo, a vocal opponent of the measure, saw his popularity dip from last month.

The poll found his favorability rating stands at 54 percent to 30 percent, a decline from February when it stood at 60 percent to 34 percent. His job performance rating has dipped below water again, standing at 47 percent to 52 percent. In February, 50 percent of voters had a positive view of the governor’s job performance.

President Donald Trump’s favorability rating in his home state continued to decline to 33 percent to 63 percent. His job performance rating stands at only 27 percent in the deeply Democratic state.

On key issues facing Cuomo in this week’s end-game budget talks — extending a tax rate due to expire on millionaires, allowing ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City and free tuition for SUNY and CUNY schools — there continued to be majority support among voters.

The DREAM Act, a proposal that would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, and a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18, showed support of just over 50 percent among voters.

The poll of 791 registered New Yorkers was conducted from March 19 through March 23. It has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

SNY0317 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman on Scribd

GOP Delegation Members Knock Cuomo

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to blast away at the effort to have the state take on county-level Medicaid costs, Republican House members from New York are pushing back.

In a joint statement released Friday by the offices of Reps. John Faso, Tom Reed, Elise Stefanik, Claudia Tenney and Lee Zeldin, Cuomo is criticized for his rhetoric in opposing the amendment in the overall American Health Care Act.

Faso, Reed, Tenney and Zeldin are confirmed yes votes on the bill; Stefanik is believed to be on the fence, though she announced earlier this morning funding for health benefit services such as maternity care would be included in the bill.

Cuomo has knocked the amendment as having the potential of giving New Yorkers a major tax increase, a claim the lawmakers cast doubt on in their statement.

“Our Medicaid mandate relief amendment would save homeowners and businesses hundreds of dollars on their annual property tax bill,” Faso said. “This is considered normal budgeting in virtually every other state. In New York, Governor Cuomo has responded with over-the-top threats and calls to raise taxes on the middle class by 26 percent. If 49 other governors can manage Medicaid without sticking homeowners with the bill, why can’t Mr. Cuomo?”

Zeldin, who earlier this year didn’t completely rule out a run for governor himself in 2018, said in his statement, “It’s disappointing and disturbing that Governor Cuomo has resorted to these disgusting and willfully untruthful tactics. This is all while the Governor always fails to state absolutely any acknowledgment whatsoever that Obamacare is flawed.”

Stefanik: $15B In Benefits Care In AHCA

Republican U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik on Friday morning announced she had and a coalition of lawmakers had negotiated $15 billion in benefits care such as maternity, mental health and substance abuse treatment for the House GOP-backed health care bill.

In a statement Friday morning, Stefanik said the money would come from the Patient and State Stability Fund, with supplemental funding in order to receive additional resources for new mothers, those struggling with addiction or mental health problems.

The measure is described as helping provide funding while the “nation transitions” to the new health law, should it pass.

House Speaker Paul Ryan in a statement said he agreed to the amendment.

The inclusion of the amendment is potentially key as the House GOP’s leadership seeks to stitch together enough votes for passage of the bill, known as the American Health Care Act, on Friday.

Stefanik, a North Country lawmaker and the co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, is a potentially pivotal vote for the legislation.

“Throughout negotiations with Congressional leadership and the White House, I have insisted that protections for maternity care must be included in any final package,” Stefanik said. “I spoke out in support of protections for mothers and children in meetings at the White House and with the House Leadership and Committee Chairs who have drafted this replacement legislation. I am pleased that I was able to secure this critical amendment.”

Stefanik’s planned vote had not been clear on the bill, and Republicans canceled a planned vote Thursday on the legislation, rescheduling it to today.

It’s not yet clear if House Republicans have enough votes for the passage of the bill. Two New York congressmen — Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins — have tried to bring around upstate members with a provision that would require state government pick up the county share of the Medicaid program.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration have railed against the Faso-Collins amendment and its potential impact on the state’s finances. The measure wouldn’t take effect until 2020.