Aug 25th - 6:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli next Monday will throw his support behind Democratic Senate candidate Leslie Danks Burke, her campaign announced.
DiNapoli’s endorsement is expected to take place at a fundraiser in Corning at the United Steel Workers Union Hall. Danks Burke is challenging Republican Sen. Tom O’Mara this fall for the Southern Tier-area Senate seat.
“As the state’s top fiscal watchdog, Comptroller DiNapoli is expected to make the case for Danks Burke as the best choice in November to help local farms, encourage small business growth, and ensure quality, affordable education for all families,” the Danks Burke campaign said in a statement.
The endorsement of Danks Burke by DiNapoli comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signaled he would help Democrats gain majority control of the state Senate this election cycle.
Cuomo has been criticized in the past for not doing enough to aid Democratic candidates and the party in taking a full majority in the chamber, which Republicans have narrow control of in part due to their alliance with Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder.
Aug 24th - 1:35 pm
As state lawmakers in the coming weeks prepare to hold water quality hearings in Hoosick Falls, Albany and on Long Island, Democratic Senate candidate Amber Small on Wednesday called for hearings to be held in Buffalo as well.
“We are home to New York’s largest freshwater basin yet water quality problems plague us in Western New York,” Small said in a statement. “There should be hearings here to tackle this issue. It is a slap in the face to not hold a hearing—to not even give concerned residents the opportunity to have their voices heard. Shame on Albany.”
The Republican-led Senate next Tuesday plans to hold a hearing Hoosick Falls following a water contamination in the village as well as nearby Petersburgh.
Joint legislative hearings from the Senate and Assembly Health and Environmental Conservation committees will be held in September on statewide water issues as well, with plans to hold them on Long Island and in the Legislative Office Building in Albany.
But Small insists the issue shouldn’t be focused on in a handful of areas in New York.
“Water quality is not an isolated problem,” she said. “It is a regional issue that we cannot afford to ignore. Our campaign will continue to bring constant attention to this issue. Just a few weeks ago we presented a plan for regional solutions and called upon the state to provide the dedicated financing that all of our local communities need to upgrade their aging sewer and water infrastructure.”
Small is running for the Buffalo-area Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Marc Panepinto. She faces Republican Chris Jacobs.
Aug 24th - 12:15 pm
A prominent LGBT Democratic organization on Wednesday endorsed Democratic state Senate hopeful Micah Lasher, who faces a hotly contested primary for the seat being vacated by Adriano Espaillat.
The Gay & Lesbian Independent Democrats gave their nod to Lasher, a former aide to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and later Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“Micah has been an unwavering friend of the LGBT community for over a decade, and his support for critical legislation that would ensure equal rights for all New Yorkers makes him an ideal candidate to succeed State Senator Adriano Espaillat,” said GLID President Anthony Hayes.
The group pointed to Lasher’s work in the attorney general’s office as well as the legislative affairs director for Bloomberg in their endorsement announcement, saying he’s worked on key issues for the LGBT community, such as a bill that would ban so-called gay conversion therapy.
“Micah knows the legislative process better than anyone, and he knows how to get things done to help advance LGBT rights and protect the gains we’ve made in recent years,” Hayes said in a statement.
Espaillat is running for the Senate seat held by Rep. Charlie Rangel after winning a crowded Democratic primary in June.
The race to replace him in the Senate includes Democrats Marisol Alcantara and former city Councilman Robert Jackson.
Aug 24th - 6:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
A pro-business group’s legislative ratings for individual state lawmakers took a hit this year after a legislative session of difficult votes for businesses in New York, ranging from a minimum wage increase to 12 weeks of paid family leave.
The ratings from the National Federation of Independent Business especially hit the Republican-led Senate, where the GOP conference out of solidarity approved a budget bill containing the minimum wage increase after a contentious internal debate.
“The scores, particularly within the State Senate, trend significantly lower when compared to past sessions,” said NFIB state director Mike Durant.
A passing grade for the NFIB is 70 percent and the highest scoring lawmaker in the Senate was Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, a Democrat who sits with the GOP conference in the chamber. Felder scored an 83.
In the Assembly, the Republican conference generally scored best, with multiple members receiving a 100 percent score. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, a western New York lawmaker, was the highest scoring Democrat in the chamber based on NFIB review.
In addition to the minimum wage provision, NFIB also considered bills aimed at strengthening the state’s cap on property taxes, a measure aimed at bolstering laws governing the employment of farm laborers and the bill to create universal health care among their criteria for the ratings.
But the $15 minimum wage, as pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year after he set the wage for fast-food workers through a Department of Labor board, proved to be an especially bitter pill for some business groups to swallow.
The wage increase set the minimum wage to $15 in New York City and the surrounding suburban counties, to be phased in over the next several years. North of Westchester County, the wage will hit $12.50 and then be subject to an economic review by the Division of Budget.
Both the wage hike and the paid-family leave program were included in the 2015-16 state budget.
Republicans in the state Senate were ultimately able to secure a sizable tax cut aimed at middle-income earners in the budget alongside the wage measure. Business groups opposed to the wage measure, however, insisted the tax cut did not offset the cost of the $15 minimum wage.
“When analyzing the legislative session from a macro perspective it is very clear that the high profile issues, like minimum wage and paid leave, negatively impact small business while there are limited efforts to enact real, meaningful reform,” Durant said.
“Frankly, small business in New York needs more than lip service from Albany. There needs to be a more concerted effort to not only promote Main Street, but to push for high impact legislative reforms to the cost drivers that already hamper job creators. Until then, small business in New York will only continue to tread water, at best.”
Aug 24th - 6:15 am
From the Morning Memo:
Constituents of Republican Sen. Kathy Marchione this week received a mailer from her Senate office detailing the lawmaker’s efforts on clean water following water contaminations in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh.
“The recent public health crisis in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh is a critical reminder of the need to be vigilant about protecting our public health and safety,” the mailer states, “and making smart investments in water quality and environmental protection.”
The mailer touts the scheduled hearing on water quality in Hoosick Falls on Tuesday in the village, which has been rocked by a contamination of the chemical PFOA in the village’s drinking water. Nearby Petersburgh, too, has discovered a chemical contamination in its municipal water supply as well.
The mailer also points to border water issues, including Marchione’s co-sponsorship of a bill that would require testing of tap water in schools for lead, as well as her supporting for increasing funding for the Environmental Protection Fund by nearly 70 percent, as proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
And she pledges to “deliver an additional $200 million over the next two years” to upgrade municipal water infrastructure.
Marchione had come under criticism for initially not pushing for hearings on water quality issues in the wake of the Hoosick Falls contamination and the subsequent fallout, including the creation of a state Superfund site by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Ultimately, the Republican-led Senate agreed to hold the hearings following weeks of mounting public pressure. Joint Senate and Assembly hearings on statewide water concerns will also be held in September.
Aug 24th - 6:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
The campaign of Democratic Sen. Gustavo Rivera is calling on rival Democrat Fernando Cabrera to explain the use of campaign funds seemingly designated for the general election for use in next month’s primary.
The Rivera campaign in particular is pointing to contributions of $7,000 and $11,000 from businessman Roger Hertog, a conservative philanthropist who has been bankrolling efforts against Democratic legislative incumbents this year.
State election law requires that donations are capped at $7,000. But the Rivera camp says Cabrera’s closing balance in a pre-election filing shows a balance of $2,931 — suggesting some of the larger contribution was used.
River in a statement called for a Board of Elections investigation.
“It is no secret that Fernando Cabrera is willing to break the law and ignore the values of Bronxites to try to advance his own political career and his right-wing ideals,” River said. “He is not only taking money from an individual that is notorious for funding right-wing attacks on Black Lives Matter, criminal justice reforms and anti-poverty programs, but he is also illegally using these funds.”
Messages left with the Cabrera campaign were not returned.
Aug 23rd - 4:16 pm
Among the payments approved by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office in recent weeks was a $9,000 fee for a law firm representing the state Senate in a personnel matter.
A Senate spokesman declined to comment on the hiring of Kraus & Zuchlewski LLP, citing the unnamed personnel matter.
The firm has been hired in the past by the Senate in order to handle a harassment complaint in the office of Sen. Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat, in 2012. Avella himself was not the target of the complaint.
Democratic Sen. Marc Panepinto of Buffalo abruptly announced this year he would not seek another term in the chamber, at the time citing a “personnel matter” as well as allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Assembly, too, continues to spend on legal fees related to sexual harassment investigations.
DiNapoli’s office reported a combined $85,000 was approved to two firms that have represented the chamber in the ongoing review of harassment policy. The law firms were retained following a spate of sexual harassment scandals involving state lawmakers.
Aug 23rd - 3:51 pm
Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon’s re-election bid on Tuesday was endorsed by the Civil Service Employees Association, the state’s largest public-workers union.
“I’m extremely pleased to receive the endorsement of the CSEA and their members,” Hannon said. “They have had a great impact on the lives of New Yorkers since they were first founded in 1910, and their mission and values are a testament to the strength and commitment of their members.”
Hannon is running for re-election in a Nassau County Senate district Democrats have long coveted, especially in presidential election years when his margins of victory are often smaller than in non-presidential cycles.
This year Hannon is being challenged by Democrat Ryan Cronin in one of a handful of battleground Senate districts playing out in the suburbs and in upstate New York.
“CSEA members need elected officials who fight for working people so they can earn wages that keep up with their ever increasing costs,” said Danny Donahue, the CSEA President. “We need elected official who will fight to maintain good jobs that benefit our communities. CSEA knows that building strong communities starts with good economic and tax policies that benefit everyone as opposed to just those at the top.”
Aug 23rd - 2:50 pm
The state’s highest court on Tuesday disqualified Democratic state Senate candidate Steven Glickman from the race for the 55th district, leaving Republican incumbent Rich Funke unopposed.
The Court of Appeals in its ruling upheld an earlier state Supreme Court ruling that found Glickman was not eligible to run for state office given he did not meet New York’s five-year residency requirement.
Glickman had registered to vote in Washington, D.C., establishing that city as his primary residency. He did not register to vote in New York until last year.
“These factors clearly demonstrate that Glickman broke the chain of New York electoral residency which did not recommence until he registered to vote in New York in 2015,” the court found. “Thus, he cannot claim New York residency for the past five years as required by the State Constitution properly invalidated the designating petitions on that basis.”
The ruling gives Senate Republicans, who face electoral headwinds this cycle given the presidential election and their narrow majority in the chamber, one less district to defend this November.
Funke was first in elected in 2014, unseating Democratic incumbent Ted O’Brien, who had flipped the Republican held seat only two years earlier. The Rochester-area district had long been a top target for Senate Democrats when it was represented by Sen. Jim Alesi, who chose to retire in 2012.
“This ruling is a win for common sense and the State Constitution and a loss for out-of-towners who don’t follow the rules. The case is now closed,” said Funke campaign spokesman Jesse Sleezer.
Aug 23rd - 11:51 am
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on Tuesday gave his nod to Democratic state Senate hopeful Marisol Alcantara as she vies for the district being vacated by Adriano Espaillat.
“From organizing voter registration drives, to helping tenants facing eviction navigate city bureaucracy, to standing with workers on the picket line, to passionately advocating for education funding, Marisol Alcantara has spent her career fighting for the issues that New Yorkers care about,” he said in a statement.
“Marisol has done the tough and unglamorous organizing work needed to bring change because she’s committed to helping tenants, seniors, immigrants and working families. In the Senate, she’ll be ready on day one to fight for stronger rent laws, the DREAM Act, campaign finance reform and tough new environmental safeguards.”
Alcantara, a labor organizer, faces fellow Democrats Micha Lasher, a former top aide to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and ex-city Councilman Robert Jackson in a primary next month.
Alcantara has racked up a series of endorsements over the last several weeks, lining up the backing of Espaillat himself, who is running for the House district being vacated by Rep. Charlie Rangel. She has also been endorsed by former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and the Transit Workers Union Local 100.
Also, Alcantara has the backing of the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate, which is she is expected to join should she win.