Flanagan Backs Cuomo On Bag Tax Block

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Gov. Andrew Cuomo haven’t seen eye to eye on much so far this year following the crumbling of negotiations over holding a special session in December.

But on Tuesday evening, it was the Republican leader in a statement praising Cuomo for signing a bill that blocks the implementation of a 5-cent fee on plastic bags in New York City — a measure that had been pushed by the GOP conference, most prominently Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who aligns with the Republicans and is a key vote.

“I want to thank Governor Cuomo for doing the right thing and signing our common-sense, bipartisan bill to stop the implementation of the New York City bag tax,” Flanagan said in the statement. “The measure to overturn this tax was passed overwhelmingly by both houses, proving that the overall issue was never about protecting the environment.”

The bill, which delays the fee taking effect for a year, presented a quandary for the governor: Environmental groups wanted the fee in order to cut down on plastic waste; lawmakers from both parties viewed the fee as a regressive tax.

“If allowed to go forward, this onerous bag tax would have hurt low- and middle-income residents the most, making it even more difficult to make ends meet in what is already the most expensive city in the world,” Flanagan said in his statement.

A veto would have stirred talk of an override, a potentially embarrassing development for Cuomo in Albany.

Instead, Cuomo backed the bill and released a 1,000 word essay on a new initiative meant to cut down on plastic litter and waste through a task force.

Environmental groups were less enthusiastic in their response.

In the Trump-age, state government’s role cannot begin and end with blocking the work of local governments,” said Peter Iwanowicz, the executive director of the Environmental Advocates of New York. “While it’s been an open secret that Governor Cuomo did not want to deal with this legislation, as the state’s chief executive, he has the opportunity and, now, the responsibility to lead.”

Flanagan: MOU Needed For Clean Water Bond Act

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan called for a memorandum of understanding on Monday that would delineate where and how money would be spent for clean water infrastructure.

Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican, suggested an MOU was needed so the money would be spent toward where the need is greatest in the state.

“This is why we have this type of process and I don’t see any reason in the world why we can’t come up with a good clear memorandum of understanding of where it should go,” Flanagan told reporters after addressing the New York Conference of Mayors on Monday at the Albany Hilton. “Should it be regional? That probably should be a part of it. We should be looking at the DEC, even the DOT, there’s a lot of opportunities for information to be provided.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year is backing a $2 billion clean water act, with the money likely be raised through bonding, which would require a voting referendum.

The money is being pushed for after a series of high-profile water contamination issues in small upstate communities, including Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh.

Dems Attack Astorino Over ‘Feud’ Case

State Democrats on Wednesday knocked Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino as the county settled with a former fraud investigator who said she was dismissed from her job due to a political feud.

The county settled a lawsuit with Dhyalma Vazquez, a former county employee, who claimed she was dismissed due to her involvement with the Independence Party in Westchester County, a ballot line whose chairman has been sharply criticized by Astorino.

The county settled for $380,000.

“It’s shameful and shocking that taxpayers are on the hook for Rob Astorino’s political retribution,” Basil Smikle, the state Democratic Committee executive director. “It’s unconscionable that Westchester residents, who already pay the highest property taxes in the nation, will be further burdened by Astorino’s petty politics. The people of Westchester have had enough. I call on Rob Astorino to do the right thing and reimburse the county and its residents for this abuse of his power and pledge to do so today.”

The knock comes as Astorino is considering a second run for governor next year against Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term.

A spokeswoman for Astorino noted the county executive wasn’t party to the settlement.

“Governor Cuomo’s attack dog needs to do his homework,” said spokeswoman Jessica Proud. “The County Executive wasn’t party to this settlement. The judge dismissed all claims against him as without merit.”

The Daily News reported Monday Cuomo has been seeking Democratic recruits to challenge Astorino as he runs for re-election this year.

Flanagan: Sanctuary State Bill Illegal

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan derided the bill narrowly approved this week by the Democratic-led Assembly that designates New York as a sanctuary state as illegal and unconstitutional.

The measure, among other things, would prohibit coordination with state and local police agencies when it comes to federal immigration enforcement.

“I’m pretty sure that’s not only illegal, it’s unconstitutional,” Flanagan said on Tuesday.

At the same time, Flanagan pointed to the measure passing by only two votes in the chamber. The bill was approved early Tuesday evening, but with votes against it cast by moderate, suburban and rural Democratic members of the Assembly majority.

“Small? 77-58. That’s virtually no margin,” he said. “But that’s OK. I think that’s an indication there’s a significant number of problems with the bill.”

The immigration package approved by the Assembly was backed in response to the immigration policies being pushed by President Donald Trump and his new administration in Washington.

The Assembly also re-approved their support for the DREAM Act, a measure that provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.

The bill has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have campaigned against its passage.

“Our members are very strongly opposed to the DREAM Act,” Flanagan said on Tuesday. “My priority and I think really the position of our members is let’s make sure we’re taking care of the hard-working members of the struggling middle class.”

Molinaro Releases Ride-Hailing Petition

As he mulls a bid for governor next year, Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has released a petition calling for ride hailing expansion outside of New York City.

“Cities throughout America, including New York City, are allowed the convenience of ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft,” Molinaro said. “The same can’t be said about Upstate New York. Sadly, Albany does not allow these economy companies to do business here.”

Petitions like these can serve the purpose of building lists of voters and supporters who are interested in key issues, in this case allowing Uber and Lyft in upstate New York.

“Ride sharing means jobs, it’s an important transportation option in the fight against drunk driving and can also provide vital service to seniors and those with special needs,” Molinaro said.

The GOP-led Senate today is expected to take up legislation that would allow ride hailing north of New York City with a 2 percent tax on hails. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget includes ride hailing as well, but with a 5 percent tax.

Squeaky Wheel Gets Grease

From the Morning Memo:

Regular memo readers will recall an item last week on Oneida County Executive Tony Picente, a Republican who crossed party lines in 2014 to endorse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid, but was wondering whether the political fallout from that move was worth it.

Picente was upset over what he viewed as the governor’s snubbing of the Mohawk Valley.

He noted Cuomo’s failure to make a personal appearance after the loss of an Austrian company from the Nano Utica project, or mention the state’s ongoing support of the Marcy site during one of his regional State of the State address – none of which was delivered anywhere close to Utica.

Apparently, someone on the second floor of the state Capitol is reading Morning Memo, because not long after we went to “print” – both here and on our blog, – Picente said he got a call from the governor.

And that wasn’t the only conversation the two have had in recent days.

In fact, according to Picente, he had three opportunities to speak with the governor in less than a week, first on the phone, then in a private meeting when Picente came to Albany Monday for the winter legislative conference held by the state Association of Counties, and then again when all the county officials attending that event were hosted by Cuomo for dinner at the executive mansion.

“The decision was made for the community because I did not gain in any way shape or form politically from that,” Picente said of his 2014 endorsement during a CapTon interview last night.

“I took grief at that time, and I still take grief from time to time from my party. The governor and I really had a good relationship. The silence of the last couple weeks disturbed me even more so…I did the decision for what I believe was the right reasons, and those were to move my community forward, and as they started to get slowed down – look, we get angry like everybody else, and we get frustrated – and it needed to be cleared up.”

Picente said the mending of fences between himself and Cuomo will not stop him from being “aggressive” in advocating for his community going forward, and he will also continue to push for more local input in the future of the Marcy site.

Picente also said he and his fellow county officials told the governor at dinner Tuesday night that they were upset by his proposed local government consolidation measures in the 2017-18 budget, and they came away comforted.

“His outline of this was a lot different from what he presented at the State of the State,” Picente said. “…as we listened to it, and listening to our concerns as well about the method in which we go about this gave us a little more comfort. So I know we all walked away from that meeting with the governor, listening to him directly talking to us and not that crowds at the State of the State, we felt better about it, we understand it a little bit more.”

Picente stressed that local officials have been working on consolidation, and took offense at what was perceived as an effort by Cuomo to force them to do more.

On an unrelated matter, Picente noted that he had attended an event in support of the sizable immigrant community in Oneida County, particularly Utica, which has a long history of welcoming refugees, though it is not an official sanctuary city.

Picente said he disagrees with the rollout of the president’s recent immigrant-related executive orders, though he understands the desire to protect the U.S. from terrorists.

“I support the refugees,” he said. “We’ve had great success with the refugee population in restoring communities, restoring homes and restoring businesses…I’m upset at the way this was rolled out.”

State GOP Names New Finance Chair

The state Republican Committee on Wednesday announcement the appointment of Chele Chiavacci Farley as its new chairwoman for finance.

Her appointment comes as Republicans hope to unseat New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this year and look to the 2018 race for governor as Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo seeks a third term.

“Chele Chiavacci Farley is a whip-smart and respected professional who brings a wealth of connections to the position of New York City finance chair,” said State GOP Chairman Ed Cox. “As one one of New York City’s known and respected residents, she will utilize her longstanding community and professional ties to build out our fundraising operation heading into what will be the most important national election in 2017. We are fortunate to have Chele as an ambassador of our Party and to help ensure we have the resources to defeat Bill de Blasio.”

Chiavacci Farley is a partner and managing director at Mistral Capital International, a private equity firm based in New York City.

“I’m thrilled to accept the position of New York City Finance Chair for the State Republican Party,” said Chele Chiavacci Farley in a statement. “We just helped elect a Republican President, and now we are turning our sights to New York City, where we must make Bill de Blasio a one-term mayor. There is a real sense of excitement out there and I’m honored to take on the important task of making sure the Party has the resources it needs to reach voters about a better path forward for our great city.”

Griffo: Legislature Shouldn’t Help Sanctuary Cities

Republican Sen. Joe Griffo in a lengthy statement on Tuesday said the state Legislature should not be in the position of aiding sanctuary cities that lose federal funding.

“Cities are the most basic level of government within the state and nation, and they are not islands unto themselves that can pick and choose which laws they want to follow,” Griffo said. “We are a society of laws, and no city has the authority, ability or right to designate itself as something it’s not by circumventing federal law, no matter the cause.”

Several cities in New York have designated themselves as “sanctuary” communities, pledging to not coordinated with federal law enforcement when it comes to acting on immigration actions. Those communities include New York City, Albany and Syracuse and could face a cut in federal funding should they not comply with enforcement efforts.

“Any city that chooses to violate federal law by identifying itself as a ‘sanctuary city’ risks the consequence of losing millions of dollars in federal funding, and I do not believe the State Legislature has the duty to help those municipalities cover their losses if they do not honor the laws of our land,” Griffo said. “The acceptance of any disregard for our laws, no matter the intentions, sets a troubling precedent that can only invite further erosion of any legal authority.”

Griffo, who represents an area that includes refugee communities like Utica, said he understands the need to protect migrants who come to the U.S. for safety.

“I represent a district that has a significant population of immigrants and refugees, so I have seen firsthand the positive cultural, social and economic impact that such a diverse population has had on our society. We are proud to be a beacon of hope for those people who are either fleeing oppression and violence in their homelands, or simply seizing an opportunity to pursue the American Dream in our neighborhoods,” he said. “Despite the challenges that may arise from the President’s order, I am confident that our generous community will continue to proudly welcome new people from all across the globe, with warmth and compassion.”

Flanagan Calls de Blasio’s Mansion Tax ‘A Non-Starter’

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Tuesday called Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed tax on home sales of more than $2 million “a non-starter.”

The tax would apply a 2.5 percent property transfer surcharge on home sales of more than $2 million, generating $336 million and fund affordable housing for the elderly. The tax would be subject to state approval.

Flanagan met with de Blasio during the New York City mayor’s trip to Albany on Monday to discuss the impact of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $152 billion spending plan, and the proposal was not mentioned.

“I met with the mayor yesterday and that certainly did not come up in the conversation,” said Flanagan, whose conference has been at odds with the liberal mayor. “You’ve hard me say this before, we don’t like raising taxes, we like cutting taxes. In my opinion, a mansion tax is a non-starter.”

The Democratic-led Assembly’s proposal to increase tax rates on those who earn more than $5 million and extend rates on those earning more than $1 million is similarly opposed, Flanagan said.

“I completely disagree,” he said of the Assembly plan.

Flanagan met for about 20 minutes on Tuesday with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in his office off the Assembly chamber floor. He declined to discuss the meeting, saying the two legislative leaders talk frequently.

Potential GOP Statewide Candidates Criticize Rollout Of Trump EO

From the Morning Memo:

The potential Republican candidates for governor on Monday criticized the roll out of President Donald Trump’s executive order halting immigration and refugees, but at the same time spoke of the need for security in the U.S.

Likely statewide candidates Harry Wilson, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino addressed the Conservative Party’s annual political action conference as they consider campaigns for governor next year.

But talk also turned to one New York Republican who once considered a bid for governor himself, only to successfully and improbably win the presidency.

Molinaro called on the immigration policies being put in place by the new administration to be evenly meted out.

“I think the concerns need to be addressed. I mean, there’s no question the rollout could have been better,” he said, while calling the order “hasty.”

“I’m hopeful our federal representatives will work to ensure that rights are protected and this is fairly applied.”

Astorino, the GOP nominee in 2014, is also considering a second bid. He said he supported the order, noting that it expires for refugees after four months and from the seven predominantly Muslim countries after three months.

At the same time, Astorino said it wasn’t a “Muslim ban.”

“There are many, many countries that are not under this ban that are Muslim majority,” he said.

“This order needs to be fleshed out. I don’t think it was rolled out the right way. Ultimately I think it was the right thing to do for a period of time.”

Wilson, meanwhile, said security was key, but added he is “staunchly pro-immigration” given his own family’s history.

“I think the travel ban is a blanket solution, usually blanket solutions are not good,” he said. “I think the order is overly broad.”