State Senate

Seward: Ride Hailing Can Get Done In Budget

From the Morning Memo:

Sen. Jim Seward, the lead Senate sponsor of a bill that would expand ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft outside of New York City, said in an interview on Wednesday he remains confident the measure would be accomplished in the final budget agreement.

The Senate and Assembly have each submitted differing proposals as stand-alone bills for ride hailing expansion provisions, both of which also differ from the plan backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the state budget proposal.

The Senate version was approved last month while the Assembly’s bill, which provides for local control for regulating the apps, was introduced earlier in March.

“I’m cautiously optimistic we can get the ride sharing bill done in the budget,” said Seward, the chamber’s Insurance Committee chairman. “We need to bring the Assembly along. I think the budget is a good way to deal with this issue. We’re focused on helping the economy, particularly upstate.”

It remains unclear if the Assembly will hold a vote on the bill backed there by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a Democrat from the Hudson Valley.

Regulating ride hailing outside of New York City has been a push for the better part of a year now and had been previously discussed in the context of a special session late last year that never materialized as talks broke down.

While the goal line seemingly keeps moving on lawmakers, Seward said the push from constituents has been key for individual legislators to come to a deal.

“They’re clamoring for this to happen,” he said. “I think the budget is a perfect way to accomplish this.”

Debate In Senate Underscores IDC-Dem Feud

The heated debate over a non-binding budget resolution in the Senate that morphed into claims of “white privilege” is, naturally, be interpreted different ways by the leadership of the Independent Democratic Conference and the mainline Democrats.

Earlier on Thursday, Sen. Marisol Alcantara of the IDC accused mainline lawmaker Sen. Mike Gianaris of exercising white privilege after he criticized the IDC, quoting a Daily News editorial that blasted the group for supporting Trump Republicans.

“Sen. Alcantara is very passionate,” said Sen. Jeff Klein, the IDC leader. “She takes her job and her community and her heritage very seriously. She’s a great member and I think she was set off by someone who I think was playing politics on the floor of the Senate, who was name calling instead of debating ideas and she responded in kind.”

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said she was taken aback by the rhetoric.

“I think we were really all surprised by the tone and tenor,” she said, adding the conference was more concerned with getting their own budget resolution read into the record.

“There was no call for any accusations of racism or classism,” Stewart-Cousins added. “We’re not here doing that. We’re here really to take into consideration the needs of New Yorkers and pushing those needs forward.”

The exchange, if anything, showed the IDC-Democratic war is not abating anytime soon, despite last year’s efforts to bridge the divide between the two competing factions.

Alcantara Accuses Gianaris Of ‘White Privilege’ (Updated)

The debate over the Independent Democratic Conference’s budget resolution in the Senate on Wednesday took a heated turn when IDC Sen. Marisol Alcantara accused Deputy Minority Leader Mike Gianaris of “white privilege.”

Alcantara was taking issue with Gianaris needling the eight-member IDC, which has worked closely with Senate Republicans over the years, and quoted The Daily News which accused the IDC being in agreement with “Trump Republicans” in the chamber.

In her remarks, Alcantara said Gianaris is a “white man with a degree from Harvard.”

“I would like to know how many times my colleague has been called the n-word or a spic,” she said.

The comments led to an outcry from first Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco and later Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who urged calm in the debate over the resolution.

Democrats earlier in the day denounced the IDC and the Republican conference for not allowing votes on their own stand-alone budget resolution. Democratic members later noted the conference is led by an African-American woman, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Alcantara was first elected last year, and is one of three new members in the eight-member IDC.

Updated: Gianaris responded at the end of the resolution vote, pointing to his family’s own experience in Greece against the Nazis.

“I went to public school,” Gianaris said. “The very schools that I attended are being underfunded in this budget.”

He added: “I’m going to speak about it. I’m going to speak loudly about it. There’s no reason to make personal attacks, especially when they have no idea what they’re talking about.”

One Area Of Legislative Agreement: Funding For Direct Care

When asked Thursday about areas of agreement, the top legislative leaders in the Senate and Assembly both pointed to funding wages for direct care workers.

The one-house budget resolutions being voted on Thursday by both chambers backs $45 million in funding for direct care workers, money that has been long sought for a campaign of advocacy groups pushing for the fundnig.

“Probably the area where everyone seems to agree is on direct care workers,” Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said. “It’s the right thing to do for starts, but that’s like motherhood and apple pie to a lot of our members.”

Added Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: “I think that’s a place where we all agree.”

The money is aimed at providing wage increases over the next six years to direct care workers, who provide support for the developmentally disabled and other vulnerable populations.

Mainline Dems In Kerfuffle Over Competing Resolutions

Democrats in the mainline conference in the state Senate on Wednesday blasted majority Republicans for blocking their effort to have a vote on their own budget resolution.

The mainline conference was crying foul, in part, because the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference was allowed to submit their own resolution for the budget.

Resolutions are non-binding in the budget talks and the Republican budget proposal will be adopted today by the chamber.

But mainline Democrats say the IDC’s proposal — which breaks with Senate Republicans on extending a tax rate for millionaires and backing the DREAM Act — is a “Republican-light budget proposal.”

“These budget resolutions are basically the same thing with two big changes and a series of smaller changes,” Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, said of the Republican and IDC resolutions. “It does not provide foundation aid for the CFE decision to make our education system whole. It does not provide free tuition, in fact it rejects the governor’s free tuition which we would like to see go even further.”

Democrats said it was unfair their proposal couldn’t be entered into the record, which they insisted was allowed in the past.

“Clearly we are running into an era in this chamber that is unprecedented,” said Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Yonkers. “I think it’s extremely bad for democracy.”

The IDC and the mainline conference have once again reignited their long-simmering feud, which has over the last six years erupted at times over claims the eight-member conference has propped up a narrow GOP majority.

IDC lawmakers, including Sen. Jeff Klein, have pointed to a range of liberal policy victories in recent years they say was accomplished with help from their conference, such as a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave last year.

The feud was largely a dormant one last year as Democrats had hoped to win enough legislative seats in the Senate to gain control and potential broker a new coalition.

Instead, Republicans maintained control of the Senate with the aid of Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat aligned with the GOP, who is not an Independent Democratic Conference member.

The IDC this year has only grown in size, meanwhile, adding three new members — Sens. Marisol Alcantara, Jesse Hamilton and Jose Peralta.

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Wednesday said the IDC-backed resolution was not a sign the two conferences were at odds.

“Those are policy differences we have and have had,” Flanagan said. “I’ve unabashed in saying we will have discussions in all of these subjects. We’re already having them.”

Flanagan: Cuomo Budget Ad Is Not Helping

The TV ad backed by the state Democratic Committee pushing for the passage of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending proposal is not helpful, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said Wednesday.

The ad, part of a six-figure spending campaign, takes a swipe at Senate Republicans for their opposition to extending an expiring tax rate on millionaires, saying they want to give the rich a “tax break.”

“I’m not going to sweat stuff like that,” Flanagan said. “I don’t think it’s particularly helpful. I’ll go out and make comments, I will be diplomatic and courteous, respectful and yet I can disagree. I don’t think it’s a wise investment. I certainly wouldn’t do it with the money I had.”

Flanagan’s conference is passing on Wednesday a budget resolution that does not include support for extending the tax rates. The Democratic-controlled Assembly is passing a measure that keeps the rate and hikes taxes on those making $5 million and more.

Flanagan was skeptical the tax extension was needed, however, pointing to the revenue it would generate.

“In extending it, his own financial plan says there’s going to be a $5 billion surplus,” he said. “I don’t know why we have to do that.”

Flanagan also remains concerned with Cuomo’s proposal to reduce property taxes through shared services on the local level, questioning a provision he says would deny municipalities state aid (the Cuomo administration disputes this is in there).

And he is staunchly opposed with Cuomo’s plan to make mid-year changes to the state budget without the consent of lawmakers. Like the Assembly, Flanagan said he wants that out of the budget.

“I would say it’s more than one step too far,” Flanagan said. “Our members are stridently opposed to the governor’s approach. I think I’m on solid ground saying the Assembly feels the same way.”

IDC Introduces Its Own One-House Resolution

The eight-member Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate on Wednesday is unveiling its own budget resolution separate from the Republican conference.

The measure includes language in support of raising the age of criminal responsibility, support for the extension of tax rates on millionaires that expire at the end of the year and the backing of the DREAM Act, a measure that provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.

The resolution includes issues Senate Republicans are either broadly opposed to — such as the DREAM Act — or have had concerns about, including juvenile justice reform for 16 and 17-year-old defendants.

The move marks the first time the IDC has backed a separate budget resolution, a non-binding aspirational document that lays out goals for the budget negotiations, since its formation in 2011.

The IDC, however, insisted the one-house budget resolution of its own should not be read as a break with the Senate GOP as liberal advocacy groups press for juvenile justice reform and other long-sought issues this session.

Instead, IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx indicated in a statement this was aimed at furthering the policy debate with about two weeks to go before a budget agreement is expected.

“The state’s budget is due on April 1 and members of the IDC are committed to ensuring that the final document addresses the concerns of our constituents and all New Yorkers,” Klein said.

“We are committed to advance progressive issues and this is the logical step for a conference that’s growing in size Our one-house sets a clear slate of positions that will serve as a foundation during four-way negotiations during the budget debate.”

Raising the age of criminal responsibility has shaped up to be an especially key policy goal for the IDC.

In its resolution, the IDC includes language “that the state should assist in ensuring that 16 and 17 year olds receive the treatment and programming they need in order to avoid the repeated cycle of mass incarceration that many of our youth experience today. At the same time, we must ensure that the victims of crimes and the effect of criminal actions against society as a whole are also taken into consideration as we weigh changes to criminal justice policy.”

Meanwhile, the resolution also “expresses particular concern about 16 and 17 year old inmates incarcerated at the Rikers Island facility.”

Klein is one of the four men in the room negotiating the budget agreement alongside Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In addition to the more high-profile policy issues in the budget talks, the IDC’s resolution also includes an elimination of the personal income tax for New York City residents earning $45,000 and less, efforts to make college more affordable and reduce student debt and support for a multi-state effort to close a “loophole” in carried interest.

Senate Republicans have worked well with the IDC, forming a majority power-sharing coalition when for a two-year term between 2013 and 2014. Senate Republicans maintain a majority with Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who sits with the GOP conference.

IDC One Housw by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Senate Dems Want Stronger Language For Raise The Age

From the Morning Memo:

Mainline Democrats in the state Senate want to see stronger language for supporting raising the age of criminal responsibility, saying a mere expression of the issue won’t go far enough in the Republican-backed one-house budget resolution.

“Our kids deserve better than fake reforms and hollow talk,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement.

“We need to raise the age and that means actually raising the age and ensuring that we treat our children as children and not just put them in different types of criminal courts or prisons. The Senate Democrats will stand up for New York children and we will not allow half-measures to take the place of real reforms.”

Added Laurie Parise, the executive director of Youth Represent, “We applaud the Senate Democratic Conference for championing Raise the Age legislation that will make us all safer by promoting successful reentry after criminal justice involvement and treating kids like kids.”

Raising the age of criminal responsibility has stalled in the Legislature over the last several years as juvenile justice reform advocates push the state to become one of the last to treat 16 and 17-year-olds as juveniles in most criminal proceedings.

The issue is being raised in the resolution as Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein is pushing to have the provision included in the final budget agreement, insisting that he and his eight-member conference will not support a spending plan that fails to include raise the age.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has also called the issue a key one for him in the budget, saying in a WCNY interview on Tuesday he wanted an agreement that would ensure 16 and 17-year-old defendants were adjudicated in Family Court, not through a diversion court that would create a “separate class” of juvenile defendants.

But Klein’s push in the narrowly divided Republican-led Senate for the policy is being closely watched this year as liberal advocates once again put scrutiny on the IDC and their working relationship with Senate Republicans. Klein and the IDC have argued their arrangement has led to a number of victories for liberals, most recently a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave program.

Cuomo Admin Blasts Senate Over Economic Development

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers in both chambers are proposing mechanisms to rein in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development efforts, reject a rebranding of the START-UP NY program and provide more oversight of the Regional Economic Development Councils.

While those efforts are opposed by the Cuomo administration, officials were also upset to see Republican Sen. Marty Golden in particular call for what amounted to a doubling down of START-UP NY and the development councils during a forum in Brooklyn.

Golden, according to Politico, called for an expansion of a film tax credit to include video game production as well.

“We have to get out of our own way, we have to stop putting limitations on START-UP,” he said. “New Jersey is eating our lunch.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi in a statement knocked the call to expand the program in New York City while the Senate GOP conference is discussing restraints while in Albany.

“Senator Golden says one thing in New York City and does something else in Albany,” Azzopardi said. “In Albany his Senate Conference is trying to kill the Start UP , the film credit and Regional Economic Development Council programs‎ that he supposedly supports when he’s in New York City.” ‎

Senate Dems Unveil Budget Priorities

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats on Tuesday will release a package of budget priorities for the 2017-18 spending plan due at the end of the month backing measures ranging from boosting funding for services to the homeless, ride hailing upstate and a college affordability plan.

The proposals come as the majority conferences in the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly are releasing their one-house budget resolutions.

Senate Democrats back plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, want to see a package of ethics measures approved, and restore funding for elementary and secondary schools.

Meanwhile, the conference wants to see the MTA receive full funding and skirt budgetary “sweeps” of its finances.

“The State Budget should be more than a fiscal document, it is also an opportunity for us to enact real reforms and protections against Donald Trump’s agenda,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “New Yorkers deserve better than a budget full of half-measures, fake reforms, and inadequate action on the issues facing our communities. The Senate Democratic proposals will provide New Yorkers with the progressive action and economic development they deserve.”

The proposals were praised by labor officials and by the union-aligned Working Families Party.

“We applaud the Senate Democrats for standing up for a more progressive budget that gets to the heart of what New Yorkers really need, including worker protections and good jobs, affordable housing, quality public education and access to quality health care. They are priorities for working families and should be the priorities in Albany as well.”