State Senate

Jacobs Criticizes Trump Decision Not To Declare Opioid Crisis A National Emergency

From the Morning Memo:

A Republican state Senator from western New York is criticizing the Trump administration for not declaring the heroin and opioid crisis a national emergency. A commission he had organized had recommended doing just that.

The commission said a state of emergency would give the Executive Branch more tools to deal with the problem and put pressure Congress to approve more funding.

“You, Mr. President, are the only person who can bring this type of intensity to the emergency and we believe you have the will to do so and to do so immediately,” the commission members wrote.

Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, believes the administration made a mistake in not following the recommendation. He said if this is not a national crisis, he doesn’t know what is.

“Currently 142 Americans are dying every day due to overdoses and two-thirds of those are due to heroin/opioids,” he said.  “That number of deaths is equivalent to a Sept. 11 tragedy every three weeks.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has promised to treat the opioid issue as an emergency but told reporters earlier this week the declaration is typically reserved for time-limited problems like the Zika outbreak or Hurricane Sandy. He said Trump is not permanently ruling out the option though.

“When you have the capacity of Yankee stadium or Dodger stadium dying every single year in this nation, that’s a crisis that has to be given incredible attention, and the president is giving it that attention,” Price said.

Jacobs is the co-chair of the state Senate Heroin Task Force.

SD-26: Kavanagh Launches Bid For Squadron’s Senate Seat

Democratic Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh on Wednesday launched his campaign for the soon-to-be vacant Senate seat of Daniel Squadron, who is leaving office at the end of the week.

“I am running for State Senate to fight for our communities in Manhattan and Brooklyn and create the progressive, reform-minded Senate that New Yorkers deserve,” Kavanagh said in a statement.

“For 11 years in the Assembly, I have advocated for my constituents and stood up when government in Albany has failed to function as it should. As a State Senator, I will fight for the things that matter to New Yorkers: strengthening rent laws and preserving affordable housing, increasing access to quality schools, safeguarding the environment, promoting economic and social justice, preventing violence in our communities, and creating a fairer and more accessible political process.”

Kavanagh has been an increasingly influential member of the chamber and was among the Democratic lawmakers who negotiated the passage of the SAFE Act, a package of gun control measures. He was also briefly considered a potential candidate to replace Sheldon Silver as speaker of the Assembly.

The Senate district includes parts of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Those also interested in running include Lincoln Restler, an aide in the de Blasio administration, and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, who holds the seat once represented by Silver.

Miner Knocks Senate Structure

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner in a radio interview on Wednesday critiqued the leadership structure of the state Senate, saying Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins should be the majority leader, given the numerical advantage held by Democrats in the chamber.

“The opportunity is to bring someone to the table who deserves to be at the table,” she said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “It’s more important that Andrea be at the table because she is the leader of the Democrats in the Senate. What it is stopping is having a richer discussion that impacts the policy of New Yorkers.”

Miner, a former co-chair of the state Democratic Committee, is considering a campaign for governor next year, setting her potentially on a primary collision course with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom she has differed with on a variety of issues.

She criticized Cuomo’s explanation that he can’t broker “a marriage” between the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference and the mainline Democratic conference in the Senate, calling it a “glib line.”

“I can appreciate the glibness when people ask him about it,” she said. “But the bottom line is this is not a marriage, this is a political relationship.”

She added: “He’s done with gay marriage and he’s done with budgets and he can do it with this as well.”

The New York Times reported this morning a meeting earlier this year between Cuomo and Stewart-Cousins led to the governor criticizing Senate Democrats for not understanding suburban voters, leading Stewart-Cousins to accuse him of only seeing her as a black woman and not a Westchester lawmaker.

The Senate is controlled by Republicans, who maintain a majority with the aid of Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, who conferences with the Senate GOP. But the IDC, which has grown to eight members in recent months, has played an increasingly key role in the narrowly divided chamber.

This has led to increased consternation with liberal advocates in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election last year.

Miner, meanwhile, said she’s still considering a run for governor, but set no timetable for when she will decide.

A potential bid by actress Cynthia Nixon, she said, won’t impact her decision.

“These decisions are deeply personal decisions,” she said. “You have to have the fire in the belly and the desire to do it. It’s a grueling process and exhilarating if you make it for the right reasons.”

Squadron Resigning Senate Seat

Sen. Daniel Squadron is resigning his seat in the state Senate effective Friday to join a national policy group organizing in opposition to the influence of the Koch brothers and other monied interests in politics on the state and local level.

The group is expected to include Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs and businessman Adam Pritzker.

“It is not possible to devote myself to this goal and serve my constituents at the level they deserve,” Squadron wrote in a Daily News op/ed posted this morning announcing his resignation.

“For this reason, I am announcing my resignation from the state Senate. My decision will not impact the partisan balance of the chamber. The 26th District is safely Democratic, and I am stepping aside with enough time to ensure it will be filled on election day this November. And I will remain committed to doing all I can to support an empowered Democratic majority.”

Squadron’s Senate seat is safely Democratic, but he joins several lawmakers in the mainline conference who are seeking to leave the chamber, including Republican Sen. Phil Boyle and Democratic Sens. George Latimer and Ruben Diaz Sr., who are running for local elected office.

A former aide to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, Squadron was elected in 2008 and has become a reliably wonky and liberal voice in the Senate chamber. In the Daily News op/ed, he expressed frustration with the functioning of the narrowly divided chamber, which is controlled by Republicans.

He unsuccessfully ran for New York City public advocate in 2013, losing the Democratic primary nod to Letitia James.

“I have many truly exceptional colleagues, in the Senate Democratic Conference and across the Legislature,” Squadron wrote. “But rank-and-file legislators face structural barriers, including ‘three men in a room’ decisionmaking, loophole-riddled campaign finance rules and a governor-controlled budget process.”

Flanagan and de Blasio Break Bread

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had lunch on Tuesday with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — breaking together political opposites who have sparred on a variety of issues.

“Great to have lunch with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan,” de Blasio tweeted.

Currently, Flanagan and de Blasio are at odds on a new proposal from the mayor’s office that would increase taxes on upper income earners in order to bolster the New York City subway system. Flanagan has indicated the tax plan is a non-starter for his GOP conference.

Flanagan’s conference has been decidedly cool, if not hostile, to de Blasio over the years, most recently questioning his oversight of New York City’s public school system during the mayoral control debate, which was resolved in an extraordinary session in July.

The bad blood grew worse early on when de Blasio sought to unseat Republicans in key swing districts, making the relationship with the Senate Republicans tense.

Skelos Looks To Silver In Appeal

Lawyers for ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos this week filed papers in federal court citing a Supreme Court ruling that ultimately helped win former Speaker Sheldon Silver a new trial.

Skelos is appealing his 2015 convictions on charges of bribery, fraud and extortion, which automatically booted him from the state Senate.

The court case involves the former Virginia governor who successfully argued at the Supreme Court his conviction should be tossed because he did not exchange gifts for direct “official acts.”

Silver, who was arrested on corruption charges just months prior to Skelos, had his conviction tossed this summer when a judge determined the jury was given incorrect instructions.

Silver is expected to be retried in the spring of 2018.

Flanagan: ‘Raising Taxes Is Not The Answer’

Senate Republicans released their second statement in as many days on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to increase taxes on the rich to alleviate transit problems on the subway system.

And they’re still against the plan.

The statement from Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan backs the city using a $4 billion surplus to contribute more to the MTA.

“I’m pleased Mayor de Blasio recognizes that additional funds contributed by the city would further that goal, but raising taxes is not the answer,” Flanagan said.

“Since the fiscal crisis, Senate Republicans have successfully advocated for policies that cut taxes and make our state more affordable, leading to improved economic growth. In addition, the state has upped its share of Medicaid costs, subsidized hospitals with new capital funds, and increased education funding to record levels.”

The Senate GOP conference in 2010 was able to regain power, in part, by campaigning on the issue of a commuter tax for suburban communities. While the de Blasio plan is limited to New York City, it still requires approval in Albany. Senate Republicans have balked at tax hikes in the past, though some tax actions in recent years have led to an increase in revenue for the state.

Senate Dems Eye Boyle Seat

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats are eagerly eyeing the district represented by Republican Phil Boyle on Long Island, who is likely to become the next sheriff of Suffolk County.

A Democratic source said the party is hopeful the Boyle seat will be another notch for the party on Long Island, which has enjoyed success with the elections of Sens. Todd Kaminsky and John Brooks.

The Daily News, however, reported this morning Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer has cut a deal to keep the seat out of competition, which Schaffer denies.

The source said several candidates are being considered to run for the Boyle seat. At the same time, Democrats say they are ready to run a candidate this year should Boyle win his September primary and resign the seat in the Senate in order for Republicans, potentially to run someone in the November general election.

Republicans, however, remain confident the Boyle seat will be retained, noting at the same time a vacancy is yet to be created.

Still, any potential for an open seat in the narrowly divided Senate can turn into a life-or-death struggle back in Albany. Republicans hold majority control of the chamber with the aid of Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who sits with the GOP conference in the chamber.

Beth Garvey, Counsel To Senate GOP, Is Leaving

The top counsel to the Senate Republican Conference is leaving the post, Majority Leader John Flanagan said on Friday in a statement.

Beth Garvey had held the position for the last four years and Flanagan praised her as “integral part of the work our Senate Republican Majority accomplished on behalf of the hardworking taxpayers and families of New York.”

Garvey will remain on staff for the next six weeks in a transitional period. A permanent replacement has not yet been named.

Flanagan pointed to Shawn McKinnon, the Senate Finance secretary, has having the ability to “ably lead us forward.”

Garvey’s departure is no small thing, considering the reliance by lawmakers on staff with institutional knowledge of state government during legislative and budget negotiations.

DeFran Plays 2018 Close To The Vest

From the Morning Memo:

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco confirmed during a CapTon interview last night that he is indeed considering a run for governor in 2018, but he refused to be nailed down to a date certain by which he’ll make a decision about whether to formally throw his hat into the ring.

He’s also refusing to be say whether he’ll seek re-election to his current post, should a statewide run not be in the cards.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do; I’m not confirming what I’m going to do,” the senator said.

“I just want to see what happens as a result of this,” the Central New York Republican added. “…I’m not lusting for this position, nor do I have some kind of compulsion to be the Number One politician in the state of New York.”

“I think things have to change,” the senator continued. “I’m going out there to explain what I feel about things. If people buy it, fine. If they don’t, if there’s another candidate, God bless that candidate.”

There’s been speculation for some time that DeFrancisco might be mulling retirement from the Senate, and that talk intensified when he lost his bid to lead the GOP conference to Long Island Sen. John Flanagan, who, for what it’s worth, has also been mentioned as a potential gubernatorial contender in 2018.

As he has done consistently since Flanagan tapped him to be his deputy, DeFrancisco insisted there is no friction between himself and the majority leader, though the two have not seen eye-to-eye on several key policy proposals. Also, upstate conservatives who consider Flanagan too moderate continue to feel the sting of their preferred majority leader’s loss.

DeFrancisco, who has never been shy in his criticism of Cuomo, said he won’t run in a GOP primary for governor, should one materialize, nor is he particularly interested in facing off against Democratic Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, whom he counts as a friend, and whose name surfaced this week as a potential primary challenger to the governor next year.

You can watch the entire interview with DeFrancisco here.