State Senate

Stewart-Cousins To Attend March For Women In NYC

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will attend the New York City Women’s March to be held on Saturday, her office said.

The demonstration is one of many that will be in across the country a day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. A major demonstration will also be held in Washington, D.C.

“New York has always been a beacon of hope and justice. We have been at the forefront of protecting civil rights, women’s rights, public education and American values,” Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “The Women’s March on NYC will send a strong message that we will continue to fight any attacks on these bedrock American principals.”

The goal of the demonstration is meant to provide “solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

Marcellino Named Majority Whip

Sen. Carl Marcellino was named Thursday to the majority whip post vacated by retired ex-Sen. Michael Nozzolio.

In doing so, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is turning to a fellow Long Islander who he also appointed chairman of the Senate Education Committee in 2015.

“I am honored that Senator Flanagan has placed his trust in me to hold this important leadership position,” Marcellino said in a statement.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to help advance our Conference’s goals and deliver the votes we need in the Senate to pass critical legislation that will create jobs, reduce the tax burden and provide record support for our schools.”

Marcellino’s previous leadership position was vice chairman of the Senate Republican conference.

Republicans Question Policy In Budget

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Republicans are uneasy with the inclusion of broad policy concerns in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending proposal.

Cuomo in his budget plan included issues such his slate of ethics reforms and criminal justice law changes that have little fiscal impact.

“I don’t think that’s the appropriate place for it, but it’s his prerogative,” said Sen. Patrick Gallivan.

The governor’s maximum leverage during the year comes during budget season and it’s not unusual for him to include language in the Article VII bills that aim to see controversial measures approved with a much easier path.

Nevertheless, it rankled some Republicans who may be at odds with the policies, including Finance Chairwoman Cathy Young.

“The Senate strongly disagrees that policy should be included in the state budget and there is a lot of policy language interwoven in the appropriations bills,” she said. “We believe that the state budget should be focused on the state budget and fiscal issues such as education, infrastructure, our hospitals and nusring homes.”

Klein To Report $1.5M In Cash On Hand, Leading Senate Leaders

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein is set to report more than $1.5 million in cash on hand — an amount of money in the bank that is larger than his fellow conference leaders in the state Senate.

At the same time, the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, the IDC’s campaign committee, will report $962,712 in its fundraising account and $412,339 in a field account — also dwarfing the other conferences’ cash on hand.

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has $709,657, while Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has reported $247,294.

The mainline Democrats’ fundraising includes $101,566 in housekeeping and $19,801 in its field.

Republicans have reported $100,761 and $229,278 in their main account.

Unlike the Senate Republicans and mainline Senate Democrats, most of the IDC did not face competitive challenges to their membership in general election races (Sens. David Carlucci and Tony Avella did face challenges and had Klein’s support). The IDC did back Marisol Alcantara, the eventual winner in a crowded Democratic primary to replace Adriano Espaillat, who replaced Rep. Charlie Rangel in Congress.

Alcantara joined the IDC upon her election to the Senate and the conference now has seven members with the addition of Sen. Jesse Hamilton.

Sampson Sentenced To 5 Years

John Sampson, the 51-year-old former leader of the Democratic conference in the state Senate, was sentenced on Wednesday afternoon to five years in prison for his corruption conviction in 2015.

Sampson, an ex-Brooklyn lawmaker, was found guilty of obstruction of justice and two counts of lying to federal investigators.

He had initially faced up to 20 years in prison.

“I apologize for my actions, but most of all I apologize for not respecting others,” Sampson told a federal judge at sentencing.

Sampson became Democratic leader in the wake of the 2009 leadership coup in the Senate, with Pedro Espada retaining the all-but-ceremonial post of majority leader.

Sampson represented parts of a Brooklyn district from 1997 through 2015.

Klein Thinks Senate GOP Will Come Around On Millionaires Tax

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein believes the Senate GOP will come around to backing the continuation of a surcharge on the wealthy in order to fund education spending, a phase out of tuition costs and potentially cuts to business taxes.

“I’m sure they’re going to realize we need the revenue that comes from that high earner tax,” Klein said in an interview on Wednesday, a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a budget that keeps the expiring tax rates in place, but seeks to reduce rates for middle income earners starting at $40,000.

“My position is the same as the governor’s,” Klein said. “I think we have to keep the tax as is.”

The seven-member Independent Democratic Conference is retaining its alignment with the Senate Republican conference, who are retaining a narrow majority in the chamber with the help of Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who sits with the GOP.

Klein has worked well with the Senate Republicans and has pointed to IDC victories in the chamber under the arrangement, including increases in the minimum wage.

Majority Leader John Flanagan reiterated on Wednesday his opposition to continuing the tax.

But Klein backed Cuomo’s assertion that keeping the surcharge is key to the overall budget plan.

“I think we need that revenue,” Klein said. “We’ve done that several years ago and by the way the same time we raised the taxes on the high earners, we lowered it for middle income earners.”

The Coming Tax Fight

The inclusion of extending high tax rates on wealthy earners in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2017-18 budget proposal has the potential to set up an ideological fight over economics with Republicans in the state Senate.

“We do not agree with that,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “It will be a major source of discussion.”

It’s an unusual place for Cuomo to be as he has sought to make the state more business friendly and through his rhetoric has been adverse to increasing taxes.

But Cuomo and Senate Republicans have done this before, partially preserving tax rates on the rich at the end of 2011 while engineering a rate cut for middle income earners.

Senate lawmakers who left a private briefing with Cuomo this afternoon indicated they think this is a tax hike.

“We’re not going to support tax increases in the New York state Senate,” said Sen. Jim Tedisco. “We’ve got regulations, we’ve got mandates. It’s not a true millionaires tax. It impacts our small businesses which creates jobs.”

There are still places in which Republicans and Cuomo can agree, including cutting taxes on those who earn less than $300,000 as well as contending with property taxes.

“Those would be the two most important parts,” Flanagan said. “I hope the governor would find it in his way to support the spending cap at the state level. We should make it statutory.”

At the same time, Flanagan said keeping those tax rates in place would only lead to more people leaving the state.

“I believe in cutting taxes. I’m trying to create jobs in an environment of economic development policy that actually helps people,” he said. “I know it’s very easy to say tax people who are wealthy, a lot of those people can move tomorrow.”

Cuomo Tells Senate GOP He Held His Fire For Democrats

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to smooth over his relationship with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, telling them in a closed-door budget briefing at the executive mansion that he could have done a lot more to help his own party gain control of the chamber, but didn’t.

The conversation was relayed to reporters by freshman Sen. Jim Tedisco, who said GOP lawmakers brought up Cuomo’s efforts in the campaign season in endorsing Democrats running in a handful of key races.

“He said you can’t call that campaigning,” Tedisco said. “He mentioned he had $19 million in the bank. He mentioned that he could have used that money very aggressively and that he didn’t. He mentioned that he could have done a lot more in campaigning and that he didn’t. But he also mentioned that there are realities and that he’s a Democrat and we’re Republicans.”

Liberals and some Democrats have been derisive of Cuomo’s efforts over the years to help the mainline Democratic conference gain control of the chamber.

The balance of power in the Senate is essentially unchanged this year with Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder remaining in the GOP fold. Cuomo bowed out of an effort to push the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference to align with mainline Democrats in the Senate. The IDC remains in a governing coalition with the Senate GOP.

Still, Republicans in the Senate who have worked well with Cuomo over the years have been increasingly aggressive when criticizing Cuomo’s policies.

“I think the candor that took place in there was a little bit surprising,” Tedisco said. “He said we’ve worked together, we’ve been very successful.”

Senate To Take Up Bag Tax Bill

From the Morning Memo:

The Republican-led Senate today plans to take up a measure that block New York City’s 5-cent surcharge on plastic bags from taking effect next month.

The bill is backed by Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who conferences with the Senate GOP in the chamber, as well as Republican Sen. Martin Golden and Tony Avella, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference and a declared candidate for mayor.

The bill to be taken up later today in the Senate would block any fees or taxes on carry-out merchandise shopping bags in New York City. Supporters of so-called bag taxes say the measures lessen the impact of plastic bags on the environment.

But opponents point to the burden the bag fees place on families.

“Many families have a hard time just getting by, paying for groceries, rent and heat, and now the Mayor wants to shake them down every time they shop just for the privilege of using a plastic bag,” Felder said in a statement.

“Mayor de Blasio, please do not nickel and dime New Yorkers with another tax. This will hurt lower- and middle-income families who already struggle. I’m asking New Yorkers to stand up and tell the Mayor that this bag tax has to go.”

The move is yet another effort by the Senate Republicans that appears squarely aimed at Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been at odds with the conference on issues the stem both from policy and politics.

But the potential repeal of the fee also has the support of more than two dozen members of the Democratic-led Assembly. The measure had been initially set to take effect in October, but was pushed back in an agreement reached with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

New IDCers Get Committee Posts

From the Morning Memo:

The newest members of the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate have been handed the gavel of committee chairmanships in Albany.

Freshman IDC Sen. Marisol Alcantara, who replaced Rep. Adriano Espaillat in the chamber, will be chairwoman of the Senate Labor Committee.

Jesse Hamilton, a former member of the mainline Democratic conference who left for the IDC late last year, will be chairman of the Senate Banks Committee.

“As our conference grows, I’m proud that Independent Democratic Conference all of our members will continue to lead the way by serving on key Senate committees where they will shape policy and legislation that matters to all New Yorkers,” said Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, the IDC leader. “I congratulate my members on their new positions and their deep dedication to this state.”

Sen. David Carlucci will be chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection panel.

Sen. Diane Savino will be a vice chairwoman of the Finance and the Code Committees, having previously served as chair of Labor and Banks.