State Senate

Gounardes Pushes Golden For Gun Control Bill

Democratic state Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes on Friday pushed Republican incumbent Martin Golden to take up a package of gun control measures in the wake of a Florida school shooting earlier this week.

The measures would extend background check times from three days to 10, create a gun violence research institute and block anyone from purchasing a gun who has been convicted of a hate crime.

Another bill would create “red flag” cases that would lead to a person temporarily suspending their weapons based on behavioral issues and a ban on the possession or sale of bump stocks.

“The mass shooting in Parkland, Florida – the 18th at a school this year alone – lays bare the all-too-tragic reality that all face: we are not doing enough to keep violent weapons out of the hands of those who are a threat and danger to public safety,” said Gounardes, referring to a statistic on school shootings by the Everytown gun control group that has been disputed as inaccurate.

“I fully support the efforts of spearheaded by courageous members of the State Senate to pass common sense gun laws in New York and today I’m asking all of my supporters to call Senator Golden’s office and ask him to do the same.”

Golden, meanwhile, has called for the introduction of scanner technology in schools to prevent to detect guns being brought in to the facilities.

On Friday, Golden in a statement once again pushed for the technology to be deployed across New York City.

“Each student being educated in our schools deserves to be learning in an environment free from fear,” he said. “‘Smart’ scanners and law enforcement in every school will go a long way in giving parents and students peace of mind.”

Passage of new gun control legislation in the Republican-led Senate is unlikely given the fallout surrounding the passage of the SAFE Act in 2013.

RWDSU Backs Peralta For Re-Election

The union that represents retail and department store workers on Thursday endorsed Sen. Jose Peralta, a Queens lawmaker and member of the Independent Democratic Conference.

In a statement, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum pointed to Peralta’s support for legislation such as strengthening the Wage Theft Prevention Act and pushing for on-call scheduling reform.

At the same time, Appelbaum called for unity between the IDC and mainline Democratic factions in the state Senate.

“We support Jose’s campaign and we stand with him as he has with us,” he said. “We also strongly believe that it is time for the Democrats in the state senate to re-unite so that we can finally enact the progressive legislation which working people so desperately need. That should be our most important goal.”

And he called on the Democratic primary challengers to “stand aside for now” to give the unity plan agreed to last year a chance to work.

“All Democrats should be supporting the unity plan – and should not be supporting the primary challengers who could unravel it,” Appelbaum said.

Peralta faces Jessica Ramos in the Democratic nomination. Ramos was among the Democrats challenging IDC lawmakers to be endorsed by the Working Families Party earlier in the day.

“My progressive ideals will always go hand in hand with working families, and my legislative record speak for itself, from pushing to pass the Paid Family Leave program to increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Peralta said. “Thank you RWDSU for your support, and I look forward to continue working together with you and all the members.”

Golden Renews Push For Scanner Technology In Schools After Shooting

Republican Sen. Martin Golden on Thursday renewed a call for introducing scanner technology in schools, saying money should be set aside in the budget in the wake of a school shooting in Florida that killed 17 people.

“The recent school shooting in Florida highlights the need for this technology to be in New York State’s schools before there is a tragedy,” Golden said. “Schools have become soft targets when it comes to security. By putting this technology in our schools, along with a member of law enforcement, we will be giving parents and students peace of mind.”

Golden said the technology is better than regular metal detectors and can be deployed inobtrusivley to detect iron, nickel, cobalt, their alloys and electrically conductive metals such as copper.

“It is important how we protect our students,” Golden said. “When you compare these scanners with traditional metal detectors, the difference is like night and day. We need to protect our students without making them feel as if they are passing through a TSA checkpoint on their way to class. This technology does just that.”

It’s doubtful Republicans in the narrowly divided state Senate will be receptive to new calls for gun control in New York. A bill that would ban bump stocks, devices that help a semiautomatic gun mimic automatic fire, has not gained momentum in the chamber.

Rosendale Councilwoman Files To Run For State Senate

A Democratic councilwoman from the Ulster County town of Rosendale on Thursday launched a bid to take on Republican Sen. John Bonacic this year.

Jennifer Metzer, filed paperwork on Wednesday and is expected to make a formal announcement for her candidacy in March.

“There is a pervasive sense that State government is corrupt and is not serving the interests of the people as well as it should,” Metzer said. “We need new representatives in the Legislature who are there for the sole purpose of improving the lives of New Yorkers, and addressing the challenges our communities face.”

Metzger, 53, is in her second term on the town council and is the director of a non-profit organization that represents small businesses and individuals at the New York State Public Service Commission.

The 42nd Senate district in the Hudson Valley is one of several seats Democrats in the state Senate hope to be competitive in this fall, with others around the New York City metropolitan area and on Long Island.

State Dems Go On Attack Mode With Senate GOP

The state Democratic Committee, an entity controlled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, released a lengthy attack on Senate Republicans over their rhetorical opposition to a proposed payroll tax and a push to end START-UP NY, a controversial economic development program.

“It is abundantly clear from the Republican Senate’s posturing over the past few weeks‎ that they have forsaken any pretense of governing and shifted to a purely political agenda,” the state released by state Democratic Committee Executive Geoff Berman said.

“They have adopted an extreme conservative agenda following the Trump and Ryan model. They have abandoned any sense of professional responsibility as elected officials for campaign posters and partisan zealotry. They clearly adopted the Trump government shutdown strategy and have begun the DeFrancisco campaign with the taxpayers of New York stuck making the first contributions.”

The statement was a long one — nearly 700 words — making it more of an essay against Republicans in the chamber who have for the last seven years largely worked well with Cuomo.

“The Governor will not allow them to adopt the Washington hyper-partisan posture that will savage New York values and taxpayers,” the statement read.

“They will need to be willing to shutdown government before they are allowed to damage the state. They have clearly decided to follow the Washington model and abandon their professional responsibility as elected officials for the hyper-partisan tactics of Trump’s scorched earth approach. New Yorkers will not accept it.”

It’s important to note this is February, making it a rather unusual time for campaigning to play such a prominent role and the rhetoric to grow this heated (although sometimes break ups do occur on Valentine’s Day). No one has officially even been nominated to take Cuomo on this fall as he seeks a third term.

And it’s key to also point out that this fight is helpful to both Cuomo and Flanagan, who have been viewed skeptically by the bases of their respective parties — exactly the kind of situation the governor has said he has wanted to avoid in Albany when comparing it favorably to the partisan gridlock of Washington.

On Twitter, DeFrancisco’s account questioned whether a Cuomo spokesman was using his government account to throw a jab at the GOP candidate for governor.

DeFrancisco, meanwhile, kept the focus on the corruption trial of Joe Percoco, the former close aide to the governor who is accused of fraud and bribery.

“The ongoing corruption trial in New York is demonstrating exactly how this governor and his inner circle of advisors think,” DeFrancisco said.

“I’ll come right out and say it: Mr. Cuomo’s economic development programs carry the stench of a shake-down scheme. Bidders on state projects were encouraged to donate generously to the governor’s campaigns, while taxpayers were made to foot the bill for TV ads extolling progress in New York that wasn’t actually occurring. You couldn’t draw this up any better on a chalkboard.”

DeFran Says Senate GOP Becoming More Aggressive Against Cuomo

Republicans in the state Senate are becoming “more aggressive” this year in challenging the policies of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Deputy Majority Leader John DeFranciso said Wednesday in a radio interview.

“There’s definitely a greater tenacity in the Republican Senate,” he told Fred Dicker on “Focus On The State Capitol.” “We’ve helped around the edges over the years. But there’s a growing feeling from the Republican senators this is not enough. We’ve got come out strong and we’ve did.”

DeFrancisco, a Republican candidate for governor, pointed to a push by GOP lawmakers, including Majority Leader John Flanagan, to end the START-UP New York program, which was created by Cuomo and has been criticized for its spending on advertising, but producing a lower number of jobs than initially projected.

DeFrancisco compared his situation to Republican Rob Astorino’s unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014, when then-Majority Leader Dean Skelos was seen as less-than-supportive of the GOP nominee in order to stay on good terms with Cuomo.

Over the last several weeks, DeFrancisco has rolled out a series of endorsements from his colleagues in the Senate, including Flanagan this week. Flanagan, a Suffolk County lawmaker, could be instrumental in bringing the county GOP committee on board for DeFrancisco, which would be a major boost to his securing the nomination.

Flanagan defeated DeFrancisco in the internal conference vote in 2015 to succeed Skelos as majority leader.

“That’s huge when you’ve got to worry about an entire state,” he said. “Astorino didn’t have that luxury. So, John’s endorsement is really big.”

Cuomo Versus Senate Republicans

From the Morning Memo:

For years, Senate Republicans were seen in Albany as a vestigial appendage of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

That perception is an outdated one.

The Senate GOP and its leader, John Flanagan, have fired clear shots across Cuomo’s bow in recent weeks, including opposition to a proposed payroll tax to circumvent a federal cap on state and local tax deductions, an end to the governor’s START-UP NY program, and the coalescing of support for one of their own to take on the governor this fall, Sen. John DeFrancisco.

In turn, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi in a blistering statement released Tuesday evening said both Flanagan and DeFrancisco are cut from same ideological cloth.

“It’s no surprise that Senator Flanagan supports Senator DeFrancisco and adopted his policies,” he said. “He is following the same ideology that brought Senator Flanagan to support Trump, who is hostile to New York’s values and inflicted pain on all New Yorkers by raising their taxes and suppressing their individual rights and liberties.”

Azzopardi went further, knocking Flanagan’s opposition to Cuomo-backed tax increases, pointing to a surcharge proposed for health insurance companies who benefitted from the federal tax law.

“The state has a $4 billion deficit, and even the Senator’s fuzzy math can’t fund necessary services to New Yorkers. Flanagan now want to protect the 40 percent Trump windfall tax cut to health insurance companies and opioid manufacturers, which will mean cuts to education and Medicaid,” he said.

And, perhaps most eyebrow-raising of all, Azzopardi tied Flanagan to his scandal-scarred predecessor, Dean Skelos as well as coup instigator Pedro Espada (a job already deployed against DeFrancisco by the state Democratic Committee).

“They oppose women’s rights, LBGTQ rights, immigrant rights, union rights and taxpayers’ rights,” he said. “The only thing we know Flanagan supports are double dipping elected officials who voted for large increases in state spending, installed Pedro Espada and Dean Skelos as their leaders and gave state grants to themselves and their families.”

For a time traveler from, say, the first or early second term of the Cuomo administration, a spokesman attacking Senate Republicans and their leader on the record would be highly unusual.

But it’s part of a drift between Cuomo and Flanagan publicly on issues that comes in part due to their parties and colleagues pulling them in opposite rhetorical directions.

The endorsement of DeFrancisco for governor is a show of unity for the two lawmakers who competed for the majority leader post. Flanagan insisted the endorsement won’t make it difficult to negotiate the budget with Cuomo, who is seeking a third term.

“Absolutely not. We’ll have it out,” Flanagan said. “We’ll pass the budget on time.”

The race for majority leader nearly three years ago highlighted internal fissures in the normally uniform Senate GOP conference between upstate and downstate lawmakers.

Virtually united on issues like property taxes and school aid, the split broadly stemmed from taking a harder line with Cuomo, a Democrat whose gun control policies and increasing emphasis on liberal issues has been anathema to the Republican base, especially among upstate GOP voters.

Liberals have accused Cuomo over the years of working too closely with Republicans in the Senate. But last year, Cuomo backed a plan to unify the Democratic factions in the chamber and help the party take over.

Cuomo, who is seeking re-election this year, has decried the “extreme conservative” tilt of Republicans nationally, while praising the relative moderation of GOP politicians back in New York, allowing him to find a comfortable middle ground and notch victories.

A push against Republicans in the narrowly divided state could help him score points with activists on the left who view him skeptically. Likewise, a fight with Cuomo could help Flanagan’s standing with the sizable bloc of conference members who backed DeFrancisco’s majority leader bid.

Flanagan, a Suffolk lawmaker, led a news conference on Tuesday in Albany that called for an end to START-UP NY, a program that creates tax-free zones in exchange for job creations. Critics contend the program hasn’t created enough jobs and its promotions on TV have been used to boost Cuomo.

“That alone should make us a take a hard look and say ‘do we even need this program?'” Flanagan said. “I think that money is far better redirected to tourism and things of that nature.”

It was just one example of how Senate Republicans in recent weeks have taken an increasingly hard line against Cuomo, a Democrat who has worked well with them during his time in office.

The GOP conference also remains skeptical of the governor’s plan to circumvent the SALT cap through a payroll tax and expanded charitable contribution deduction, and Flanagan doubts whether it can be done in the budget.

“I mean, my visceral reaction is I think all of our colleagues are opposed to that. But the governor is putting it out there,” Flanagan said. “It’s his prerogative. Do I think it can get done by the end of March? No.”

The worsening dynamic between Republicans and Cuomo could benefit Senate Democrats, who are seeking to gain a working majority in the Senate as early as the spring, pending the outcome of two special elections.

“In an age when Donald Trump is president, when the policies coming out of Washington are targeting New York specifically because we’re a blue state,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat. “The Republicans in the Senate who defend Trump are out of step with the people.”

Cut Spending? Flanagan Suggests ‘Reorienting’ Spending

Senate Republicans don’t want to raise taxes in the budget. That much is clear.

But what about cutting spending in order to have the budget in balance, as is legally required?

“Some of it can be reorienting spending as opposed to making cuts,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan at a news conference this morning unveiling a GOP-backed tax and regulatory cutting plan. “But this is not easy. It’s not an easy year. I’m not going to suggest to the contrary.”

Lawmakers no matter the party have been loathe to make broad-based spending cuts, especially in an election year. Oxen like education and health care are rarely gored during even-numbered years in Albany, even with deficits.

This year, lawmakers must close a $4.4 billion shortfall, which shrinks to $1.7 billion when spending is kept a less than 2 percent increase (Republicans have wanted to make that limit — imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo since he took office — a legally required one).

Getting lawmakers to identify areas where they would cut spending is not a fruitful exercise.

“That’s why we have this deliberative process called the budget hearings and we are conferencing these issues,” Flanagan said when asked about spending cuts.

Meanwhile, Republicans want to cut taxes for businesses by $495 million and create a STAR program for small businesses worth $275 million while also providing tax relief with the goal of boosting manufacturing in the state. The START-UP NY program would also be mothballed under the Senate GOP plan, but the money would be redirected to promoting tourism.

“We don’t want to raise taxes, people are taxed enough,” Flanagan said. “The governor will lambaste the federal government for raising taxes and yet he’ll raise taxes to the tune of almost $3 billion in his own budget.”

Senate Moves State Primary To Sept. 13

The state Senate on approved a measure that moves state and local primaries two days in advance to Sept. 13, a Thursday, and off Sept. 11.

In addition to the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the state primary this year would also fall on the last day of Rosh Hashanah.

“We live in a great democracy where the right to vote is a privilege we don’t take lightly,” said Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who conferences with the Republicans in the chamber. “Today, we have done our part to guarantee all voters their right to vote. New Yorkers, who would find it impossible, or difficult to do both, will be able to observe the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, or the solemn day of 9/11, without concern.”

Support for moving the primary away from Sept. 11 has been historically bipartisan in Albany and the Democratic-led Assembly has previously approved a bill to move the date. The measure now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

“Changing this year’s primary date is absolutely necessary,” said Sen.. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat. “It is unjust to ask voters to choose between their civic duty and their observance of a sacred holiday. It is my responsibility to encourage and empower citizens to engage in our democratic process. Therefore, I will do everything in my power to remove any hindrance from participating in our elections.”

What has been a heavier lift for Albany is unifying the two primary dates for state and local elections and congressional races, the latter scheduled in June by a federal court order. Republicans have backed an August date for the primary, which Democratic lawmakers have rejected.

Senate Republicans Take Aim At START-UP

Republicans in the state Senate on Tuesday unveiled a package of measures designed to reduce taxes and regulations — and end the START-UP New York program, an economic development program created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The $44.5 million in advertising money used to promote the program would be “redirected” to tourism promotion” under the plan unveiled by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.

“I think we should be spending more on tourism,” Flanagan said. “I think there’s an exponential return in so doing.”

The START-UP New York program was created as a way to boost job growth, especially in the upstate regions, through tax-free zones near and on college campuses. The program has been criticized for its cost and the expense in promoting it and other economic development efforts on TV.

“They acknowledged that only 756 jobs that have been created,” Falangan said. “That alone, that alone should make us take a hard look and say ‘do we really need this program.'”

The push to curtail or end START-UP has been telegraphed by Republicans and Flanagan over the last several months as they have grown increasingly restive over the effectiveness of the program.

At the same time, Republicans want to cut taxes for businesses by $495 million and create a STAR program for small businesses worth $275 million while also providing tax relief with the goal of boosting manufacturing in the state.

Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate scoffed at the Republican tax proposals, which come as Cuomo is seeking $1 billion in tax and fee hikes in order to close a budget shortfall.

“For 50 years the Republicans have controlled the Senate and that has resulted in higher taxes, more fees and higher unemployment,” said Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. “They have stood by and allowed their Trump allies in Washington to take direct aim at New York’s middle class. We need real solutions to lower taxes for middle class New Yorkers not just empty promises and fake rhetoric.”

But the proposals were praised by Senate GOP allies in the business community.

“Employers and taxpayers across Upstate New York have struggled under the weight of New York’s massive tax burden for far too long. The measures contained in this proposal will boost businesses so they can grow and create jobs in Upstate communities,” said Greg Biryla of Unshackle Upstate.

“It’s no secret that New York’s regulatory environment places a big strain on small businesses. Cutting Albany’s red tape will free up more time and resources so small businesses can focus on what they do best.”