State Senate

Flanagan To Remain Republican Leader

Sen. John Flanagan will remain the leader of the Republican conference in the state Senate as the conference will move to the minority for the first time since 2009.

Flanagan received 14 votes, with nine members backing Sen. Cathy Young, a western New York lawmaker who led the conference’s political fundraising efforts.

Republicans lost eight seats this month and could have as few as 23 members in the 63-member chamber next year.

“Right now we’re at a pivotal moment and we need to make adjustments to how we go along,” Young said after the vote. “We all need to work together. We need to unify behind each other because we certainly have some very challenging times ahead.”

The vote was preceded by a debate among Republicans over whether there is a need to have an upstate lawmaker lead the conference after a decade of a Long Island member at the top post. Flanagan, who gained the backing of both upstate members and his two fellow Long Islanders in the GOP conference, insisted he would be able to work as a statewide leader.

“I don’t mince my words. If I think the governor is doing something great, I’ll say so,” Flanagan said. “But I’m scared to death what’s coming.”

With Democrats holding large majorities in the state Senate and the Assembly, lawmakers are expected next year to push for a variety of measures, including single-payer health care, tax increases on the rich and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants — proposals Republicans have campaigned against.

“The governor owns this. He’s all in on all of this,” Flanagan said. “I will match my ability to articulate our positions with anybody.”

Senate GOP To Decide Future Of Conference

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Republicans will meet today to determine the future course of its conference as they prepare for life in the minority: Either keep John Flanagan leader or go potentially with an upstate member like Sen. Cathy Young.

Flanagan is seeking re-election with a smaller and far more diminished GOP bloc in the state Senate after the party lost key races on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley on Election Day.

Young has the public backing of a handful of upstate legislators who did not back Flanagan’s first push for majority leader in 2015, when he replaced the scandal-scarred Dean Skelos.

Republicans haven’t had an upstate resident lead them since Sen. Joe Bruno’s tenure, which ended in 2008.

Conservatives have chafed at the leadership of Long Island Republicans, which they allege has created a relationship with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo far too amenable on issues like spending, taxes, the minimum wage and gun control.

But Cuomo’s relationship with Senate Republicans in the last several years has soured as Democrats appeared likely to gain a working majority in the chamber and the governor faced pressure from liberals to help the party gain power.

Nevertheless, Flanagan could still be re-elected leader later today. He has the backing of Sen. Fred Akshar, a Binghamton Republican who had been considered a potential successor.

Where Does Felder Go?

From the Morning Memo:

A minor drama erupted earlier this year when the Independent Democratic Conference decided to dissolve itself and rejoin the Democratic fold in the state Senate: What would freelancer Simcha Felder.

The Brooklyn lawmaker and registered Democrat ultimately stayed put in the Republican conference, where GOP lawmakers, terrified of losing majority control, virtually walked on egg shells around him, making sure to heap praise on him in public.

Felder could destroy their world, so best to keep him happy.

Felder’s decision to stay with the Republicans in the state Senate ultimately did little to shift the balance of power in the chamber. In the end, that was up to the voters.

And the verdict was a landslide for Democrats last Tuesday, with the party taking eight seats, including long-sought districts on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley.

Now, Felder can either be number 24 in the Republican minority or number 40 in a large Democratic majority.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the incoming majority leader, in a WBAI radio interview on Thursday said she had spoken recently to Felder about potentially switching to the Democratic conference. She remained non-committal on if anything will come of the sit-down.

He is not likely to get the same kind of sweeteners Republicans were able to procure for him, like the creation of a specialized subcommittee for New York City education, which enabled him to expedite measures he wanted to see passed, like those meant to aid yeshivas.

And Democrats are likely wary of Felder’s stances on social issues, mindful of their experience with Ruben Diaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister who in the state Senate was opposed to bills strengthening LGBT rights and abortion laws. He is now on the New York City council.

But Felder has maintained his plan would be to go wherever is best for his constituents and there is little upside to being in the minority in Albany.

Stewart-Cousins: Concerns Over Amazon Should Be Addressed

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a radio interview on Wednesday said there are “major questions and concerns” surrounding the billions of dollars in tax incentives for web retail giant Amazon’s move to Long Island City in Queens that should be addressed.

“It is really hard to ignore the concerns that are being raised regarding the use of taxpayer money and the lack of transparency and the impact it will have on the local community,” she said in an interview on WBAI’s Max & Murphy podcast. “It’s certainly raised to this level because it looks like on the one hand a huge opportunity, but there are also major questions and concerns that will have to be addressed.”

Politico reported earlier in the day that there is a mechanism that could hinder the approval of the some of the incentives and land use: The Public Authorities Control Board, a little-known entity that Democrats, once in the majority next year, could wield a veto over its approval.

Amazon’s move to Long Island City has been sharply opposed by Sen. Michael Gianaris, the likely deputy majority leader in the 2019 legislative session and a Stewart-Cousins lieutenant.

Amazon selected both Queens and northern Virginia for the site of its second headquarters. The company stands to receive at least $1.5 billion in incentives over 10 years for 25,000 jobs created. Within 15 years, the package grows to $1.7 billion tied to the creation of 40,000.

Senate Republicans To Meet Friday

Republicans in the state Senate on Friday will meet in Albany to discuss their re-organization and transition to the minority in 2019.

But the conference is also expected to consider whether it will change leaders as Sen. Cathy Young is running to replace Sen. John Flanagan for the conference’s top post in the minority.

Young has received backing from groups like the New York Rifle And Pistol Association as well as Sen. Rich Funke. Sen. Robert Ortt, another western New York lawmaker, has called for the next leader to be from an upstate district.

But Flanagan, a Long Island Republican who has led the conference since 2015, has said he can unite both upstate and downstate factions. He has the support of Sen. Fred Akshar.

Republicans this month lost eight seats on Election Day and are expected to enter the 2019 session with as few as 23 members in the 63-member chamber.

Flanagan Criticizes Amazon Deal

Sen. John Flanagan in a statement on Wednesday ripped the tax breaks and incentives that lured Amazon to Long Island City in Queens, calling past efforts to spur job creation through similar means “a colossal failure.”

Flanagan, a Long Island lawmaker fighting to keep his leadership post in the state Senate, said there is “no long-term strategy” for economic development in the state.

“Why isn’t the Governor talking about lowering taxes across the board so New York is more attractive to companies looking to relocate and existing businesses can grow and thrive here?” Flanagan said. “Why isn’t he talking about reducing energy costs to bring down the overall cost of doing business in our state? Why won’t he do anything to eliminate the endless regulations that are holding job creators back? If he really wants to create jobs and opportunity, and isn’t just chasing a headline, this is still the best path forward.”

Senate Republicans have in the past largely embraced the efforts tying tax credits and incentives to job creation, backing a variety of efforts like the START-UP NY program and other economic development projects.

Amazon’s promise to pledge up to 25,000 jobs within 10 years and 40,000 within 15 years could lead to $3 billion in tax incentives.

As the Republican conference’s relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo soured, Flanagan and lawmakers backed efforts to scrutinize economic development spending through mechanisms like a database of deals and restoring oversight of state contracting.

“Meanwhile, this deal was put together by the Governor with zero legislative input,” Flanagan said. “After the scandals and self-dealing we’ve witnessed from this administration, do we really want the Governor operating with no oversight? We need procurement reform and the so-called ‘database of deals’ so the public can have full faith and trust in the actions of its elected officials. Those bills should be passed by the Legislature immediately upon its return.”

Akshar: Flanagan ‘Best And Only Choice’ For Minority Leader

Sen. Fred Akshar formally endorsed Sen. John Flanagan to become the Republican minority leader next year in the state Senate.

Flanagan, the current majority leader, is competing for the post with Sen. Cathy Young in a leadership fight that stems in part from a debate over power between upstate and downstate lawmakers in the Legislature.

“The only way we can ensure that our upstate communities continue to have a voice is through a united front based on good policy, fierce advocacy, strong leadership and the ability to bring people together,” Akshar said.

“John Flanagan’s expertise in each of those categories makes him the best and only choice for Minority Leader. His ability to listen to the needs of his members regardless of where they’re from and work together to translate those needs into tangible results has been essential to our past successes. It will be essential to navigating a new New York driven more by politics and reacting to President Trump than by good policy and responding to the needs of the people we serve.”

Akshar is a Republican from the Binghamton area and at the moment remains the most prominent voice backing Flanagan’s push to remain leader of the GOP conference, which lost eight seats last Tuesday.

Republican Sens. Robert Ortt and Rich Funke have called for a change in leadership, with Funke backing Young’s candidacy.

Flanagan himself insisted he was not seeking the Suffolk County executive post next year and is running for leader.

“His ability to recruit good candidates and raise millions in support of those candidates will be essential to retaking the Majority in 2020,” Akshar said.

“I’m a member who proudly represents a diverse upstate community and one who whole-heartedly supports John Flanagan’s leadership. I urge my colleagues from the Eastern tip of Long Island to Jamestown to join me in that support as we work together to ensure that the path forward for our conference and the people we represent is one of strength, unity and real results.”

Senate Republicans Vie For Upstate Approval

From the Morning Memo:

Upstate Republicans and their allies, long felt shut out of the process in state government, are pushing for the next leader in the Senate GOP conference to be from outside of the New York City metropolitan area.

“With the loss of all the Republican Senate seats on Long Island, the power base has shifted. It’s no longer on Long Island, it’s upstate,” said Tom King of the Rifle and Pistol Association.

King is backing Sen. Cathy Young of western New York to replace Long Island Senator John Flanagan, as the top Republican in the chamber.

King in an interview on Tuesday said it’s a matter of giving upstate representation a prominent voice in Albany.

“We need an upstate leader in the Senate, even if she is the minority leader, to rebuild and focus on 2020 and try to get some of the seats back,” King said.

The last Republican leader in the state Senate was Joe Bruno, who stepped down in 2008. Since then, conservatives have fumed at the passage of gun control legislations like the SAFE Act.

“I think almost all of the politicians in New York have lost an upstate focus. Look at what’s going on with the economies, the SAFE Act, and all of the towns, the infrastructure; everything is kind of going to pot in upstate New York,” King said.

Democrats are poised to take control of the Legislature next year, with the party holding a dominant majority in the state Assembly and a 17-seat advantage in the Senate, which had been defined by a narrow divide with Republicans for the last decade.

Statewide, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is from western New York. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is from the Capital Region. Among Republicans, the sole upstate leader is Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who lives in Canandaigua.

So far, at least two Republican lawmakers have called for Flanagan to step aside: Sens. Rich Funke and Robert Ortt. Flanagan does have the backing of Sen. Fred Akshar of the Binghamton area.

Both appeared together earlier this week.

“I am so grateful, so grateful to have Senator Akshar as part of our team,” Flanagan said at an event for the minor league baseball team The Rumble Ponies. “He has been extraordinary, instrumental, pun intended, a great team player.”

Flanagan was in Albany on Tuesday but would not speak on camera.

“I believe I am the one candidate who can unite upstate and downstate and chart a credible path to a future Republican majority,” he in a statement. “To do so, we must recruit strong candidates who can compete and win in every region of the state, including upstate, the suburbs and, yes, even in New York City.”

Flanagan Says He Can Unite Upstate And Downstate

Sen. John Flanagan in a statement on Tuesday insisted he could unite the upstate and downstate factions in the Republican conference as he runs to keep the leadership post in the chamber.

At the same time, Flanagan also said he has “no interest” in running for Suffolk County executive.

“I believe I am the one candidate who can unite Upstate and downstate and chart a credible path to a future Republican Majority,” Flanagan said. “To do so, we must recruit strong candidates who can compete and win in every region of the state, including Upstate, the suburbs and, yes, even in New York City.”

Flanagan became majority leader in 2015. His chief rival for retaining the leadership is Sen. Cathy Young, the chairwoman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

Republicans last week lost eight seats in the 63-member chamber and controlling majority in the Senate for the first time in a decade.

Flanagan called the election “historically difficult” and attributed to a “national wave that favored Democrats.”

“As Republicans, we are going to spend the next two years aggressively highlighting the differences that exist between ourselves and the incoming Democrat Majority,” Flanagan said.

“We are going to make a case for reducing taxes so it’s far easier to live in New York, helping businesses create new jobs so there are opportunities for families and for young people, and we’re going to stay hard at work on the issues that truly matter to middle-class families – – like making higher education more affordable, bringing about safer streets and stronger communities, helping individuals overcome the scourge of heroin and opioids, ensuring clean water, combating Lyme disease, and so much more.”

So far, at least two Republicans — Sens. Rich Funke and Robert Ortt — have publicly announced they want to see a change in leadership. Flanagan has the public backing of Sen. Fred Akshar of the Binghamton area.

“I have been speaking openly and honestly with my Republican colleagues from around the state about the qualities they want in their leader, and I have been pleased with those initial discussions,” Flanagan said. “What lies ahead will not be easy, but I believe I am uniquely prepared to take up and lead this important fight on behalf of the extraordinary men and women of our Senate Republican Conference.”

Ortt Wants Upstate Leadership In Senate

Sen. Robert Ortt in a statement on Tuesday said he wanted an upstate lawmaker to serve as the next Republican leader in the state Senate.

Republicans have lost their working majority in the state Senate and are expected to have as few as 23 members come January 2019.

But the Republicans left are predominantly concentrated north of the New York City metropolitan area.

“In light of the drubbing the New York State Senate Republicans took on election night, the balance of power in the State Legislature and the Senate Republican Conference has shifted,” said Ortt, a western New York lawmaker.

“Upstate New York and the people who live north of Westchester County stand to lose the most due to this new power dynamic. Because of this change, it is paramount that the leader of the Senate Republicans is an individual who is representative of the party’s new upstate majority and mirrors the makeup of its members. We need someone who not only has a plan to regain the majority in the Senate, but who can also advance the issues of protecting our second amendment rights, supporting our small businesses and farmers, and re-energizing our upstate economy in the face of a Democratic majority that threatens all of them.”

The statement comes as Sen. John Flanagan, the current Republican leader and a Long Islander, is facing a leadership challenge from Sen. Cathy Young of Olean in western New York.

Republicans have not had an upstate leader since Sen. Joe Bruno held the post.