State Senate

Senate GOP Backs Cuomo’s Push Against Bias Crimes

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Republicans are backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest effort to combat hate crimes in New York, which includes $25 million in grants to strengthen security at soft targets like day care and community centers.

“We stand with the Governor, Assembly and the people of New York in strongly condemning hate crimes and anti-semitism anywhere it exists, and look forward to taking decisive action to combat it,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. “Security has always been a top priority of our conference and we must ensure the state provides adequate resources to protect our citizens from these attacks or threats.”

Cuomo announced the measures, which includes a text messaging feature for the Division of Human Rights to report hate crime incidents, after yet another round of bomb threats Jewish Community Centers and at the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League in New York City.

Scrutiny has been further placed on anti-Semitic activity as President Donald Trump was slow to condemn both the incidents as well as the support he’s received from white supremacist groups during his campaign.

Trump this week forcefully condemned the incidents, saying the threats have to stop.

Hoylman Blasts Trump Admin’s Rescinding Of Transgender Protections

Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman in a statement released Wednesday night blasted the move by President Donald Trump’s administration to rescind the Title IX enforcement of protections for transgender students.

In the statement, the state lawmaker called Trump “a shameless bully.”

“By undermining Title IX protections for transgender students, Trump would allow all of America to follow the bogus ‘bathroom bills’ coming out of North Carolina and Texas, which are premised on the outrageous assertion that transgender people are sexual predators,” Hoylman said. “The reality is that upwards of 50 percent of transgender people are themselves the victims of sexual violence. Schools must offer a safe haven for all children – period. Trump’s new federal guidance obliterates that basic standard.”

Hoylman is the only openly gay member of the state Senate.

The Trump administration maintains the move is designed to allow states to set their own policies regarding transgender students. It is also likely to stoke calls from Democrats for the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that has stalled in the Senate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo through executive action has moved to add protections for transgender New Yorkers in housing and the workplace through the state’s Human Rights law.

Flanagan: Cuomo ‘Usurping’ Legislature’s Role

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Wednesday in a radio interview continued his criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to shift more budgetary authority to the executive branch after the spending plan is approved, charging the governor is “usurping” the role of the Legislature.

“A lot of our members in both houses on both sides of the aisle feel that he is usurping the independent role of not only the New York State Assembly but the New York State Senate,” Flanagan said in an interview on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom.

“We have a constitutional functional perspective and operational status here that we’re not going to simply give away.”

Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have not embraced the proposal by Cuomo to make mid-year changes to the budget through the Division of Budget, an arm of the governor’s administration, without first seeking legislative input.

The language was included as Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan does not include provisions for a potential repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act and its impact on the state’s finances.

Governors typically have more power during the budget-making process than in the course of developing and signing legislation approved by the Senate and Assembly.

In the interview, Flanagan indicated he would oppose the changes in the negotiations.

This isn’t the first time Flanagan expressed alarm with Cuomo’s proposal to shift more authority in the budget process to his office. Flanagan on Wednesday said he’s fought similar battles with the governor before on the basics of being an equal branch of government. Earlier this month, Cuomo’s office questioned Flanagan’s motives in opposing the changes, accusing him of wanting more discretion over legislative pork and a return to member items.

Flanagan called the statement “hogwash.”

“It’s not fit for the type of Legislature that we should have,” he said, “the type of relationship that should go back and forth between the executive and the Assembly and the Senate.”

Transgender Advocates Urge GENDA Vote

LGBTQ advocates this week sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan urging him to hold a vote on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a measure designed to provide legal protections for transgender individuals.

The letter came before President Donald Trump’s administration moved to drop the Obama-era enforcement of an interpretation of Title IX that in essence provided protections for transgender students nationally.

“You will recall that transgender advocates from Long Island and around the state have pleaded for your support of GENDA for years,” the letter, released by Julie Grey-Owens of GENDA 2017.

“You consistently told advocates and constituents that you would support the bill if it was ever brought to the Senate floor for a vote. As Senate Majority Leader, you have the power to move this desperately needed legislation to the Senate floor. The fact that for fourteen years the New York State Senate has failed to bring GENDA to the floor for a vote is an embarrassment to all New Yorkers who value equality.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015 through executive action announced the state would enforce protections for transgender people to curb discrimination in housing and the workplace. Cuomo’s move was criticized at the time by Flanagan, who knockd the governor for cutting the Legislature out of the process even as GENDA has stalled in the GOP-led Senate.

Advocates for the transgender community were angered when a prominent LGBTQ group, the Empire State Pride Agenda, announced it was disbanding, citing the governor’s regulatory action as a significant victory.

Flanagan Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Flanagan: Anti-Bag Bills Too Broad

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Wednesday suggested he would be opposed to efforts to curb plastic bag usage statewide, saying proposed legislation on the local level has been written too broadly.

“​It’s not simply a ban on plastic bags,” Flanagan told reporters in Albany. “It was plastic bags, it was paper bags. It was a five cent charge and going to the retailer. It wasn’t even going to something laudable like the environment. So when someone says they want to ban plastic bags, that’s not what the legislation says, whether it’s on the county level or in New York City.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month approved legislation that delayed the implementation of a 5-cent fee on carry-out bags in New York City, a move that effectively killed the locally backed legislation by the city Council. But Cuomo also plans to tackle the issue of bag usage statewide through a task force, amid the expected outcry from environmental groups who had pushed for the bag fee.

Now some state lawmakers want to see a broader effort to push back against plastic bag usage in New York, though it remains unlikely to pass the Republican-led state Senate.

IDC Continues Raise The Age Push With Lippman

The Independent Democratic Conference on Tuesday continued to press the case for raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18, a measure the group’s leader, Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, insists is a key priority in the new year.

On Tuesday, Klein, along with Sen. David Carlucci in Ossining pushed the issue alongside former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Jonathan Lippman.

The roundtable event was held in the Westchester County town of Ossining, home to New York’s Sing Sing prison.

“By raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 we can reduce the rate of recidivism in young adults to give more of them the chance they deserve to succeed in the future,” Carlucci said in a statement. “Bringing together advocates and experts will give us a plan to fight for the change that will benefit the entire state because it saves lives and saves money.”

The raise the age issue is a key one for liberals and Democratic lawmakers in Albany. The IDC, which has grown to eight members in recent weeks, has come under fire from mainline Democrats and some liberal activists for their alignment with Senate Republicans. So making a strong push for a criminal justice reform measure could help alleviate some of the political pressure the IDC faces.

Still, enacting the policy has not been easy, even as Republicans have signaled sympathy with moving those under the age of 18 charged with certain crimes out of criminal courts. The proposal has stalled for several years after Gov. Andrew Cuomo first announced his support for a plan in his 2015 State of the State address.

Cuomo has since moved some juvenile inmates out of adult prisons and into separate facilities. But the issue for criminal courts — and how to expand family courts in the process — remains.

Klein, in a statement, said the IDC’s efforts of roundtable discussions and hearings makes him feel “confident we will develop thorough, well thought out legislation to finally raise the age in New York.”

Stewart-Cousins: Threats Against JCCs ‘Unacceptable’

Following another round of bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers across the country and in New York, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called the episode “absolutely unacceptable” in a statement released on Tuesday.

“The threats made against Jewish Community Centers are absolutely unacceptable and these hateful actions have no place in New York or the United States,” she said. “We must stand united in the face of bigotry and hatred.”

A wave of threats leveled at JCCs occurred first at the end of January, with a new round of threats this week, forcing dozens of facilities to close.

Senate Dems To Long Island

From the Morning Memo:

Democrats from the mainline conference on Thursday are trekking to Long Beach for a news conference on water quality, including Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Sens. John Brooks, Todd Kaminsky and Daniel Squadron.

While the issue is a common theme for state lawmakers to hit these days, it’s also a feather in the cap for Senate Democrats to hold an event on Long Island, what has been a traditionally Republican stronghold for the state Senate.

Democrats for years struggled to crack the so-called “Long Island 9” — the districts that comprise suburban Nassau and Suffolk counties and key to the Republican majority in the Senate.

Underscoring the importance of Long Island, Republican majority leaders — Ralph Marino, Dean Skelos and John Flanagan to name a few — are often Long Islanders.

Democrats were able to last break into the majority in 2008 with victories on Long Island, including Craig Johnson and Brian Foley.

Both would lose their seats in the 2010 wave year following a tumultuous single-term stint in the majority for the Democrats.

But Democrats have been able to win two seats on Long Island in the last year, with corruption cases to thank.

First, it was the special election to fill Skelos’s seat, who was ousted from office when he was found guilty of federal corruption charges stemming for helping his son’s business interests. Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, has held the moderate-leaning Nassau County district.

In November, Brooks narrowly defeated incumbent freshman Micheal Venditto, whose father Oyster Bay town Supervisor John Venditto, was arrested on corruption charges weeks before the election. The younger Venditto is not implicated in the case.

Still, Democrats are not in majority control in the Senate.

They’ve lost a member this week with the election Bill Perkins to the New York City Council. Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat, conferences with the Republicans. The Independent Democratic Conference — formed in the wake of the party’s 2010 legislative losses — now has eight members, leading to a round of public recriminations and acrimony in Albany between the two warring factions.

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.”

IDC Pushes For Carried Interest Loophole Closure

The Independent Democratic Conference on Tuesday endorsed an effort to have New York enter into a multi-state compact that would seek to close a tax loophole that benefits hedge funds.

The goal is to close the carried interest loophole by imposing a 19.6 surcharge on income that falls under that category — typically hedge fund investors who have taken advantage of the relatively obscure section of the tax code.

The IDC framed the issue around generating more income for the state, which the conference pegged at an extra $3.5 billion.

“It is clear from this report wealthy private equity and hedge fund managers are taking advantage of the system and pocketing money that should be owed to the state,” said IDC Leader Jeff Klein. “The legislation we have proposed will impose additional fees to income categorized as carried interest. This much needed additional tax revenue would help the state eliminate the current $3.5 billion budget deficit that exists.”

The IDC unveiled their push at a Capitol news conference outside of the Senate chamber flanked by leaders of the state’s politically active teachers unions, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and New York State United Teachers union Vice President Andy Pallotta as well as the “Patriotic Millionaires” who support increasing taxes on the rich.

Seizing on the issue adds a populist policy concern to the IDC’s agenda in 2017 as the conference has faced criticism from mainline Democrats over their partnership with the Senate Republican conference.

At the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan would continue higher tax rates on those who earn more than $1 million a year, a measure that has been met with opposition from GOP lawmakers.

In the Assembly, Democrats there are backing a tax hike on those who earn more than $5 million.