State Senate

Bill Would Address Loss Of Federal Property Tax Deductions

Sen. David Carlucci unveiled a bill on Friday that would allow property owners to deduct property taxes from their state income taxes should the federal government approved the end of the state deduction.

The federal policy, also opposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is backed by President Donald Trump and is seen as impacting high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, as well as Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, have also raised concerns with ending the deduction provision.

Carlucci, meanwhile, released a report that assessed the impact of ending the deduction, finding it cost $21 billion more in taxes.

“Donald Trump’s tax plan would rob middle-class New Yorkers and force some residents who already pay the highest property taxes in the nation, to pay even more,” Carlucci said.

“With State taxation rates impacted by federal policy, the elimination of this deduction would amount to a double tax on New Yorkers who struggle to make ends meet as it is. If Washington’s out of touch leadership takes this tax deduction away from New Yorkers, it would cost a shocking $21 billion throughout the State. Taxpayers can’t afford to lose this deduction and New York has to continue to be a safety net to Washington’s destructive direction.”

Taxing Times by Nick Reisman on Scribd

IDC Responds To Felder, Challenges Him On Policy

A day after Sen. Simcha Felder called on Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein to return to the mainline conference fold in the Senate, the eight-member bloc responded a letter sent Thursday, challenging the Brooklyn Democrat on key policy issues.

In the letter obtained by Capital Tonight, the IDC rights that Felder’s “clarion call” for Democrats to unite in the Senate “means nothing” if they don’t line up on the issues.

“At a time when President Trump is declaring a war on women, the LGBT communities and our immigrant communities, it is imperative that we unite around issues that will protect New Yorkers and their rights,” the letter signed by all eight members of the IDC and delivered to Felder’s office.

“You might not support all of these issues, but it is important to know where you stand and where all Democrats stand on a woman’s right to choose, GENDA, single payer health care, contraceptive coverage, family planning funding, campaign finance reform and the DREAM Act.”

The letter dovetails with what the IDC has long asserted in the Senate: Even with a workable Democratic majority of 32 members, the passage of a left-leaning agenda is not a guarantee given the conservative social views of some lawmakers, including Felder and Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Bronx Democrat.

Democrats now have 32 enrolled members in the Senate, a numeric majority. But Felder’s membership in the Republican conference gives the GOP a working majority.

Still, the IDC has come under increasing pressure in recent days to return to the mainline conference in order to empower Democrats in the chamber. Left-leaning pressure groups and the Working Families Party have sought to push the IDC back to the fold of regular Democrats, a push that was joined on Wednesday by the Democratic National Committee and Rep. Keith Ellison.

Felder has insisted the “onus” is on Klein return to the Democratic conference and has given no indications he will bolt from the Republican majority.

Felder Letter 5.25 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Boyle Gets County GOP Nod For Sheriff

From the Morning Memo:

Sen. Phil Boyle was endorsed Wednesday evening by the Suffolk County Republican Committee for the county sheriff’s post as his campaign gains steam.

The endorsement follows the backing Boyle received from the local Conservative Party, which had sought out an alternative candidate after the incumbent sheriff testified in a case that saw the conviction of a local party official.

Boyle’s possible election to the sheriff’s office could open up an open seat on suburban Long Island, where Democrats have sought to make in roads in recent years.

Boyle himself has no direct law enforcement experience, but the county Republicans touted his work on combating heroin addiction while in the Senate.

“As the Chairman of the Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, Phil traveled the State gathering information on the devastating heroin epidemic that has wreaked havoc across New York,” the committee said in its endorsement announcement. “The Task Force’s work resulted in proposing and passing 11 anti-heroin bills that were later signed into law by the Governor.”

WFP, IDC Spar Over The Senate

From the Morning Memo:

Since its formation six years ago, the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate is perhaps facing its most intense calls to align themselves with their fellow Democrats in the chamber.

The IDC lawmakers do not appear to be on the verge of bolting anytime soon, even as the Working Families Party, leaders at the Democratic National Committee and even Sen. Simcha Felder have sought to apply an unusual amount of public pressure in recent days on the eight-member bloc.

The push comes after the election of Brian Benjamin, an upper Manhattan Democrat, in a special election on Tuesday, which gave Democrats 32 enrolled members in the Senate.

The election, not a surprise given the heavily Democratic district, was followed by Felder releasing a letter to IDC Leader Jeff Klein urging him to “unconditionally” rejoin the mainline conference in the Senate. Felder is a registered Democrat who conferences with the Senate GOP, providing them with a 32nd member for a working majority.

It’s not clear if Felder plans to leave the Republican fold, where he has enjoyed the perks of the majority conference, including a committee chairmanship. The Felder-Klein dynamic is quickly devolving into a matter of “no, you first”-style game of chicken.

Despite the new developments, the argument is in essence unchanged: The IDC says it can get things done in the Senate with Republicans, liberals insist better deals would be available under Democratic control.

The WFP, meanwhile, has released a series of flyers at IDC offices around the state urging constituents to apply their own pressure to the lawmakers.

In a Capital Tonight interview on Wednesday, Sen. David Carlucci, a founding IDC member, reiterated the conference’s desire to, above all, get tangible accomplishments.

“We’ve got to work together, we’ve got to reach across the aisle,” Carlucci said, who was pushing an amendment to the constitution to guarantee a clean environment.

“We can’t be obsessed with, hey, this is a Democratic issue, this is a Republican issue. My point with the Independent Democratic Conference has been I’m going to work with any party if they agree with me on the issues that help people in the communities.”

The IDC has touted their policy victories in a Republican-controlled Senate, which includes multiple minimum wage increases and, just this year, an agreement on juvenile justice reform through raising the age of criminal responsibility. Both are measures that passed despite initial Republican opposition.

“They didn’t happen with just one party,” Carlucci said. “As long as we have this very narrowly divided chamber in the Senate, it’s going to take bipartisan effort to get real results for the people of New York.”

WFP State Director Bill Lipton in a separate interview, however, disagreed, saying those issues bubbled to the surface at the Capitol thanks to a sustained effort from advocates.

“I’m dismissive of that argument,” he said. “The WFP believes there was a grassroots movement we were a part of that worked on those campaigns.”

Liberals have long asserted that more can and could have been done on those issues, even as Klein and the IDC question whether all the votes would be available for policy goals the left wants to see accomplished.

“I don’t think the IDC played a definitive role in any of that,” Lipton said, “and I think a progressive majority in the state Senate could have gotten much better raise the age legislation passed, could have gotten a much stronger minimum wage bill, not to mention all the stuff that’s left undone.”

IDC Rebuffs Unity Calls (Updated)

The Independent Democratic Conference on Wednesday isn’t interested in going anywhere until there is the ability to take concrete action on key issues for the left such as women’s rights and bolstering the rights of immigrants.

The IDC is rebuffing calls for unity from Democrats and liberal pressure groups to re-join the mainline conference of Democrats in the state Senate — calls that have intensified after the election of Brian Benjamin, who gives Democrats a numerical majority in the chamber.

“Thirty two is not a magic number unless there are 32 Democrats who are ready to stand up and unite on policies that combat Donald Trump,” said IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove.

Republicans retain power in the Senate with the membership of Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat. Felder on Wednesday raised eyebrows in Albany with a letter that urged IDC Leader Jeff Klein to return to the Democratic fold.

Updated: Senate Republicans released a statement in response to Felder’s call for Klein to join the mainline group of Democrats.

“Senator Felder is a valued and trusted member of our conference, and working together we have been able to accomplish many great things for for the people of his district and all of New York State,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.

But the IDC has pointed out throughout the week the votes for bills backed by liberals won’t necessarily materialize, even with a narrow Democratic majority in the Senate.

“Until we achieve unity and stand up for women, immigrants, and the most vulnerable New Yorkers, all talk about a majority is nothing more than meaningless rhetoric on the part of failed leadership,” Giove said. “The Independent Democratic Conference has made its positions and its values clear. We are asking every other Senator to do the same. It’s time to call the roll”

In Letter, Felder Calls On IDC To Join Mainline Dems (Updated)

Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder just made things a bit more complicated in the state Senate.

Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who has aligned himself with the Senate Republicans since he was first elected in 2012, sent a letter to the leader of the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference on Wednesday urging them to “unconditionally” join with the mainline group of Democrats in the state Senate.

The letter was first reported by The New York Times and obtained by Spectrum News by a source.

The development comes a day after Democrat Brian Benjamin won a Harlem-area Senate seat in a special election, pushing the number of enrolled Democrats to 32 lawmakers.

Updated: In a statement, IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove noted Felder is not tipping his hand on where he stands on the issues a coalition of liberals would like to see approved if the Democrats gain the majority.

“It’s telling that Simcha Felder didn’t sign the pledge,” she said. “We now see where he stands on these seven crucial issues.”

In a separate letter, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins pointed to Benjamin’s election on Tuesday, urging Klein to rejoin the conference.

“We need you to join with the Senate Democratic Conference to ensure that our conferences control the New York State Senate,” she wrote in the letter. “Only by signing this pledge will we succeed in accomplishing many of your stated goals.”

Democrats, however, are denied an outright majority because of the fractured nature of the chamber. Felder has provided a key 32nd member for the Senate Republicans in the 63-member state Senate.

A variety of pressure groups have urged the IDC, first formed in 2011, to join with Democrats in the Senate and essentially end Republican rule — a push that has been made all the more urgent for liberals following Donald Trump’s election to the presidency.

“With 32 Democrats again in the Senate Chamber, we have the opportunity to pass progressive legislation to resist Donald Trump and serve as a beacon to a weary nation,” Stewart-Cousins wrote in the letter.

The Senate is the last lever of power the GOP holds statewide in New York.

But Klein has sought to point out with the release of a video this week that even with 32 Democrats, votes would not necessarily be available for enacting key pieces of the liberal agenda, such as strengthening abortion rights.

Felder has over the years worked well with Senate Republicans, who have empowered him with plumb committee post overseeing education issues for New York City.

Adding more fuel to the fire that has ignited in the Senate in recent weeks has been a controversy over paid stipends to lawmakers, including three IDC members, who hold the title of vice chair, but receive money usually designated for a committee chairman.

Democrats have called for an investigation into the arrangement, and federal, state and Albany County prosecutors have looked into the issue.

Simcha by Nick Reisman on Scribd

ASC Letters by Nick Reisman on Scribd

National Dems Call For Senate Unity

Officials at the Democratic National Committee — including Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison — issued a series of statements on Wednesday urging unity among Democrats in the state Senate.

The push is part of a broader effort to achieve a working 32-member majority for the conference, a process that is deepening following the election of Democrat Brian Benjamin to an open Manhattan Senate seat.

After Tuesday’s special election, Democrats will once again make up a majority of New York’s State Senate, giving New York the opportunity to become the seventh state in the nation with a completely Democratic state government,” Ellison said in the statement. “To accomplish that, the Democratic Party, which stands for working families, must unite in New York and everywhere.”

Ellison, who had lost his bid for DNC chairman against former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, had drawn the ire last week of liberal activists in New York when he posed for a selfie with IDC Sen. Marisol Alcantara. Ellison’s office had insisted the photo was a form of outreach with an IDC member.

“Americans are seeing threats to their health care, fair wages and access to the ballot box,” Ellison said. “If this assault is going to be stopped, then Democrats must come together and fight for working people together. That’s why I am willing to do whatever might be helpful to bring together a Democratic majority in the New York State Senate.”

At the same time, Rep. Grace Meng and Assemblyman Michael Blake, elected DNC vice chairs this year, also made the same call, adding that Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder — who is not an IDC member and sits directly with the Senate GOP — should also join the mainline fold.

​”For New Yorkers to have policies that create jobs with better wages and promote equity in all that we do; for the good of the country that needs us united as a party, it is time for Sen. Simcha Felder and members of the Independent Democratic Conference to end their alliance with the GOP and rejoin the mainline State Senate Democratic Coalition,” Blake said.

Fighting For Children PAC Fetes Special Election Results

The political action committee that is pushing a bill that would make it easier for the survivors of sexual abuse to file lawsuits was two-for-two in last night’s special election contests.

The Fight For Children PAC had supported both Democrats Brian Benjamin and Christine Pellegrino in their Senate and Assembly races,.

Benjamin’s victory is not a surprise, given the Democratic domination of the upper Manhattan district. But it does provide Democrats with an enrolled numeric majority in the Senate, even if they are falling short of outright control of the chamber.

“Brian Benjamin easily won in the 30th District and the new Senator will be the 32 Democrat to serve in the Senate giving the democrats a Majority,” said Gary Greenberg, the Greene County businessman who founded the PAC.

Pellegrino, meanwhile, flipped a Republican district that had supported President Trump’s election.

“Christine Pellegrino Democrat huge upset win in the Republican 9th District has major implications for the Child Victims Act in NY,” Greenberg said. “Fighting for Children PAC endorsed Christine Pellegrino early and gave her much needed funding. Christine won in Majority Leader Flanagans and Sen Phil Boyles backyard sending a message to Republicans that the public wants action taken on stopping Child Sex Abuse in NY by passing a Child Victims Act.”

Benjamin Victorious In Senate Special, Gives Dems 32 Seats

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic state Senate candidate Brian Benjamin cruised to victory in an open seat on Tuesday, giving his party 32 enrolled members in the chamber.

While 32 is the magic number to get anything done, it’s largely symbolic for now, considering the alignment of Democrat Simcha Felder with the Senate GOP and the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, which remains at odds with mainline lawmakers in the Senate.

In short, the situation is largely unchanged from before Democrat Bill Perkins won an open seat on the city Council and left. Benjamin is filling that vacancy.

Still, Senate Democrats and their allies who have been pressuring the IDC believe holding 32 seats isn’t just symbolic, but a statement that New Yorkers writ large want a Democratic chamber.

“With his election we once again have 32 Democrats in the chamber and should have a Democratic Majority that can give New Yorkers the progressive government they deserve,” said Mike Gianaris, the deputy minority leader. “I look forward to working with Brian as he fights for more funding for our schools, affordable housing and quality health care for all.”

IDC Leader Jeff Klein has countered in recent days will calls for votes on key liberal issues such as abortion rights and protections for transgender New Yorkers, inferring the bills still wouldn’t pass amid opposition from lawmakers like Sen. Ruben Diaz, a socially conservative Democrat from the Bronx.

Stewart-Cousins: Stipend Situation Either Legal Or Not

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a radio interview on Tuesday confirmed members of the Democratic conference met with Albany County District Attorney David Soares to discuss the controversy surrounding the awarding of committee chair stipends to vice chairs.

In the interview with The Capitol Pressroom on WCNY, Stewart-Cousins said it was important for the stipends to be reviewed by an independent source.

“I’ve always said that someone needs to get to the bottom of it because it’s taxpayer dollars,” she said. “It’s either in law or it’s not.”

She added a memo from the Senate Democrats concluded it was not.

The meeting with Soares was first reported by The Times Union on Monday evening.

Senate Democrats have called for an investigation into the arrangement in which seven state lawmakers, including three members of the Independent Democratic Conference, have received stipends and were listed as committee chairs on official payroll records sent to the comptroller’s office.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and IDC Leader Jeff Klein have insisted no wrongdoing took place.

“This practice which was uncovered by the Times has caught the attention of everyone, including New Yorkers who want to make sure they’re getting paid for the work they do,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Meanwhile, Democrats are poised today to gain a seat with the expected election of Brian Benjamin to an open Senate seat. Democrats will then have 32 enrolled members, but the Republicans will retain control with the aid of Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, an enrolled Democrat who sits with the Senate GOP.

Still, Democrats and liberals have sought to pressure the eight-member IDC to re-join their fold, insisting Felder would come along.

“People continue to send Democrats to the chamber,” she said. “They continue to send a majority to the chamber and somehow in the chamber what the people have asked for does not happen.”