State Senate

Labor And Disability Groups Question Ride Hailing Push

From the Morning Memo:

A coalition of labor and disability groups are raising concerns over the end-of-year push for ride hailing, pointing to wage issues for drivers and accessibility problems for passengers.

In a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, the groups urge a living wage for drivers and question ride-sharing app Uber’s commitment to accessibility to those in wheelchairs.

At the same time, the groups want lawmakers to block any ride-hailing measure that does not require a minimum wage provision for drivers.

“We cannot let the progress we have made together and the promise of a decent life for all those who work hard, be undermined by pressure from multi-billion dollar companies like Uber who are taking a page out of the Trump playbook and turning good jobs into bad jobs,” the letter states.

Signing onto the letter include groups ranging from the Working Families Party and their affiliated organizations and labor unions as well as groups that advocate on behalf of the disabled.

“The race-to-the-bottom model Uber is asking you to support will also come at the expense of safety and wheelchair accessibility. Their favored legislation will allow them bypass rules put in place by localities upon the industry that protect local interests and quality standards and set insurance and training requirements,” the letter states. “In addition, the legislation they favor would discriminate against people who have disabilities by not mandating wheelchair-accessibility standards.”

The pushback comes as lawmakers and Cuomo consider an expansion of ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft outside of New York City in a potential special session of the Legislature before the end of the year.

The letter being released Thursday from the labor and disability groups appears aimed at Democrats who hold the majority in the Assembly.

But at least one Republican in the state Senate is also raising issues with draft legislation being circulated at the Capitol would use ride hailing to fund public transportation — a provision that’s opposed by Sen. Joe Griffo.

“I have serious concerns that the Governor is reportedly proposing to impose a fee on all users of ride-sharing services throughout Upstate New York in order to fund public transit systems,” Griffo said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

“I understand that this approach is used in other states, but I believe it is wrong and unfair to impose essentially a new tax on upstate New Yorkers without doing the same for anyone in New York City. Instead of trying to squeeze every penny out of hard-working upstate residents, the Governor should be reprioritizing budget issues so that we can fund public transit systems through more appropriate budgetary means, starting with the legislation he vetoed that would have helped identify more long-term funding sources for upstate transit systems.”

Uber Push Back Letter_12.21.2016 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Felder On The Defensive

From the Morning Memo:

Members of a group calling itself “Senate District 17 Jews Against Trump” showed up at the district office of Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder yesterday, bearing a petition signed by 65 people who purportedly feel the lawmaker is siding with President-elect Donald Trump by caucusing with the Republicans instead of his fellow Democrats in Albany.

A handful of the petitioners stood outside the senator’s office waving signs that read “Jews Against Trump,” which, according to a press release from Felder’s office, did not sit well with passersby in the Jewish-dominated neighborhood. (The senator himself is an observant Jew).

The release also included a statement from the senator. He insisted that a “majority” of people who have contacted his office have been supportive of his decision to continue to sit with the Republicans, enabling them to maintain control of the chamber despite the fact that they are numerically outnumbered by Democrats.

“This has nothing to do with President-Elect Trump,” Felder insisted. “For the last four years, I’ve caucused with the Republicans because, irrespective of party affiliation, I never give up on trying to do what’s best for the people I represent. Parties are not a religion. I won’t be intimidated by those who feel differently.”

The anti-Felder protestors are not the first to employ Trump in their efforts to achieve a Democratic-controlled Senate since the Nov. 8 elections.

Liberal groups have repeatedly called on the governor to use his influence to convince the seven-member IDC to rejoin the so-called “regular” Democrats in the chamber.

They’ve warned that Cuomo he indeed has national aspirations and a desire to stand up to the president-elect, the failure to do so will be remembered by the left, (with which the governor has had a shaky relationship for years), come primary time.

And the Senate Democrats themselves issued a statement last month condemning Felder for sticking with the GOP, saying through a spokesman that “any Democrat who joins with Donald Trump’s Republican Party enables his continuing assault on immigrants, women, people of color, people of different faiths and our shared American values.”

WFP Pushes Alcantara To Join With Mainline Dems

As Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder has for now refused to budge from his plan to stick with the Senate Republicans, the Working Families Party on Wednesday turned its pressure campaign toward Sen.-elect Marisol Alcantara.

Elected to replace Adriano Espaillat in the chamber, Alcantara is joining the Independent Democratic Conference, which would be at seven members come the new year.

And the statement from the WFP comes as her primary opponents from September have called on her to back the mainline conference as well.

“With Trump and Republican extremists days away from taking full power in Washington and setting fire to the Constitution and our social safety net, this is no time for Albany politics as usual,” said WFP state director Bill Lipton.

“Millions of New York’s working families are in immediate danger right now. If Governor Cuomo wants to take the national fight to Trump, he must start in his own backyard by uniting a Democratic State Senate majority that will resist these attacks. We second Micah Lasher and Robert Jackson’s call on Senator-elect Alcantara to caucus with Senate Democrats, and call again on every Democratic Senator to do the same. After winning a numerical majority in November, the idea that any one of them would join a coalition that empowers Trump Republicans is unthinkable.”

The odds of Alcantara defecting to the mainline conference are slim, however. The IDC helped bankroll Alcantara’s bid for the chamber in the hotly contested primary.

“Marisol Alcantara won a highly contested campaign against these two failed candidates because the voters trusted her to do everything in her power to change the way Albany works,” said Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the IDC. “She will fulfill the commitment she made during her campaign to be an agent for change on behalf of the people of the people of this state.”

Hoylman Pushes For Documents In PFOA Contamination

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman this month is renewing his push for the Senate Republicans to release documents that came in response to subpoenas issued to the companies believed responsible for the PFOA contamination in upstate New York drinking water.

Hoylman is urging the release of the documents following the subpoenas issued to aint-Gobain Performance Plastics, Taconic Plastics and Honeywell International.

“Over 100 days ago by the terms of subpoenas issued by the New York State Senate, Saint-Gobain, Taconic Plastics and Honeywell were to have handed over documents related to the water contamination crises they helped create,” Hoylman said. “Yet, today we’re no closer to learning the truth of corporate involvement in the largest water contamination crisis in state history.”

At the same time, Hoylman in a statement said the release of the documents is all the more necessary after two of the companies reached a settlement with the village of Hoosick Falls, one of the communities impacted by the PFOA contamination.

“The undisclosed settlement terms between the Village of Hoosick Falls and Saint-Gobain and Honeywell announced last week make it more imperative than ever that the Senate release information about the role these companies played in poisoning the water for over 10,000 New Yorkers,” he said.

The lawmaker has unveiled a clock to count the days since the subpoenas were issued and were answered by a Sept. 12 deadline.

Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif in a statement said conversations with the companies was ongoing.

“We continue to be actively engaged with the companies to ensure production of what was requested,” he said.

ASC Congratulates Brooks

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Friday praised the victory of John Brooks in the 8th Senate district on Long Island.

Brooks won a narrowly contested race against Sen. Michael Venditto, a Republican freshman.

Venditto’s victory was considered more or less assured before the arrest of his father, Oyster Bay town Supervisor John Venditto, on corruption charges. Michael Venditto himself was not charged, but the arrest reoriented the contours of the race against Brooks.

Here’s Stewart-Cousins’s statement:

“I congratulate John Brooks on his victory and welcome him to the Democratic Conference in the State Senate. John will be a strong voice for Long Island. We look forward to working with him to move our state forward.

“With the certification of John’s election, Senate Democrats have gained two Senators on Long Island in less than a year and once again a majority of the State Senate are Democrats.

“By electing a Democratic majority for the third time in four years, New Yorkers made clear their desire for change in Albany. All Democrats have a responsibility to work together so our state can enact real ethics reforms, safeguard voter rights, address crushing income inequality and protect vulnerable populations from the hostility of the incoming federal administration.”

Gianaris: Senate Dems ‘Looking Beyond 32’

From the Morning Memo:

With John Brooks set to be certified today in the 8th Senate district, Democrats in the chamber’s mainline conference are now looking to add even more members “in the near future.”

“This is the only Senate race or congressional race in which an incumbent was ousted in a very difficult year for Democrats,” said Queens Sen. Michael Gianaris. ”

Brooks defeated Republican incumbent Michael Venditto in the Long Island Senate race and a judge has ordered the result be certified today.

The victory means there are now 32 enrolled Democrats in the Senate — a numerical majority in the 63-member chamber. But the Senate is not so simple.

Seven Democrats are the start of the new year will sit in the Independent Democratic Conference. Another, Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, is aligned with the Republican conference.

Gianaris, the leader of the mainline conference’s campaign arm, said there was still the hope Democrats could be united in the chamber.

“We now have two senators on Long Island so we can officially declare the Long Island 9 a thing of the past,” he said. “We’re excited to have this race finally certified. We’re going to advocate as a conference for Democratic conference. The one thing is we think all Democrats should work togetehr to express a common interest and the will of the people on Election Day.”

Even so, Gianaris indicated he was taking a longer view of the Senate landscape, suggesting vacancies or competitive races could occur that would once again open up the chance of expanding the conference.

“If that doesn’t come to pass, we think there will be more opportunities to increase that number beyond 32,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who during the campaign pushed for down-ballot candidates in Senate races and helped fundraise, has been pushed over the last several weeks by liberal groups and mainline conference leaders to get involved in the disputed leadership. He indicated last week he has no desire to do so.

“They have tensions and personal animus and factions that pre-date my election that have nothing to do with me and they’re going to have to work that out themselves,” he said last week.

Felder has also shown no desire in changing his mind about where he’ll sit in the Senate.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein, meanwhile, called the public effort to involve Cuomo a “circus.”

“The math is clear. Democrats should be controlling the Senate,” Gianaris said. “We’re trying to make that happen as fast as we can. But the larger point is we’re advocating for that to happen before the leader vote in January. It’s either going to happen then or in the near future when there are more opportunities.”

Senate Dems: Brooks Could Be Delcared Winner Friday

Senate Democrats expect a Nassau County judge on Friday to certify their candidate in the 8th Senate district has unseated Republican incumbent Michael Venditto.

Democrats on Thursday afternoon said the legal challenge to the count in the last outstanding Senate race gave John Brooks a 257-vote lead in the race over Venditto.

The judge in the case has ordered the race to be certified on Friday — a move that could be delayed should Republicans press forward with a legal challenge.

A Brooks win would solidify the claim the mainline Democratic conference leadership has been making for the last several weeks: A numerical 32-lawmaker majority in the Senate should be enough to hand them control of the chamber.

Democrats and liberal groups have sought to apply pressure to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to broker a truce between the various factions of the Senate within the party, including the mainline conference, the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a registered Democrat who sits with the Senate GOP.

Cuomo last week in Albany bowed out of the internal leadership fight, saying the relationships are far too complex to easily fix.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx has blasted the effort to have Cuomo negotiate the leadership of a separate branch of government, saying the battle for control has descended into a “circus.”

Stewart-Cousins, An Elector, Wants Intelligence Briefing Before Vote

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement on Wednesday signed on to a letter calling for an official intelligence briefing of the members of the electoral college before next week’s vote.

Stewart-Cousins is an electoral herself and will cast her vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who handily won New York in November.

But allegations in recent weeks have arisen over the role Russian intelligence played in potentially hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee and top advisors to the Clinton campaign, including campaign manager John Podesta.

No evidence has emerged that efforts to corrupt the vote tabulations in key swing states by outside hackers has emerged, however.

“The integrity of our American Democratic process must not be violated by foreign actors to disenfranchise the electorate,” Stewart-Cousins said. “The issues raised by our intelligence services regarding potential interference by Russian State officials in the past Presidential Election are deeply troubling. That is why, as an Elector, I have signed on to the bipartisan letter calling for an official intelligence briefing before the Electoral College selects a President later this month. We have a Constitutional responsibility to the American public to ensure there was no manipulation of our Presidential Election before we certify a winner.”

The electoral college members in New York meet next week at the state Capitol.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday called for a thorough U.S. Senate investigation of the hacking claims, calling the allegations “frightening.”

Senate Leader Mum On Special Session

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in Albany on Tuesday was mum over whether a special session of the Legislature would occur before of the end of the year.

Flanagan was in Albany participating in a new member orientation. He did not stop to speak with several reporters camped outside of the Senate chamber, walking quickly back to his third-floor office.

“Yeah, I think there’s always a chance we could back — ongoing discussion, no resolution,” Flanagan said.

Among the issues Senate Republicans may want to see addressed? Flanagan rattled off several: “economic development, workforce development, job training. We’re open to having any discussions.”

Asked if constitutional amendments that would ban private-sector pay for lawmakers and create term limits were still part of the talks, Flanagan said they were not.

Top lawmakers in both chambers have been tight-lipped about whether the Legislature will reconvene this month in a session that would potential pave the way for the first legislative pay increase since 1998.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, meanwhile, expressed frustration over what he saw was a shifting set of priorities dictated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who initially proposed the amendments, as well as urged lawmakers to fund a hate crimes task force and back a memorandum of understanding for affordable housing money.

On Friday, a Cuomo administration source added another issue on the wish list: Expanding ride-hailing services outside of New York City.

“The list keeps changing periodically,” DeFrancisco said. “I hear things one day and then it changes the next. It’s a moving target and we’re running out of time so it may all be moot.”

Though administration officials have insisted the pay raise — which could still be accomplished through the re-approval of a pay commission — should be contingent on the passage of other measures, DeFrancsico said Cuomo was trying to link everything together.

“My only concern is whatever comes up is that they be separate bills so you make a yea or nay vote on whatever the bill is and what happens, happens,” he said.

DeFrancisco reiterated his call for a straight vote on a pay raise, which he thinks would pass both the Senate and Assembly.

“I just think there should be an up or no vote on it,” he said. “I think it would pass both houses, but I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen because the governor is happening for something in return and to me that sounds pretty close to pay to play.”

At the same time, DeFrancisco was skeptical there was any need to return to Albany before the start of the year, a pay raise notwithstanding.

“We’re going to be back in three weeks,” he said, referring to the regularly scheduled start of the session. “None of them are that important. The only thing they’re being raised is because the only one that has to be done if it’s going to be done is the pay raise. So instead of letting it go on the merits, the governor is trying to get a pound of flesh for something he wants. I don’t think that’s necessary at all.”

Tedisco Says He Opposes A Special Session

Republican Sen.-elect Jim Tedisco on Tuesday said lawmakers should resist reconvening this month at the Capitol for an end-of-year session of the Legislature.

In an interview, Tedisco said he wanted the Legislature to take its time on issues that matter like ethics reform and taxes.

Lawmakers are considering a return to Albany that could potentially pave the way for the first legislative salary increase since 1998. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had hoped the Legislature would take up a pair of constitutional amendments that would set term limits and ban outside income.

But Tedisco, a member of the Assembly until he is sworn into the Legislature’s upper house, says there should be a more deliberative approach.

“I don’t think we should come back at all. You shouldn’t have a rush to judgment. Ethics is important, it’s probably number one, and then tax relief,” he said. “I don’t think we should be rushing to judgment or being threatened to come back to do that with a pay raise. Don’t put coal under the taxpayers’ Christmas tree.”

Tedisco would also be a vote against a straight up-or-down vote on a pay increase. He has introduced a bill that would prohibit “lameduck” or post-election sessions of the Legislature from approving a pay increase.

“There shouldn’t be a quid pro quo as it involves to anything as it relates to a pay raise,” he said. “If you want to come back and do ethics, it should be thought-out ethics, important ethics, that make a difference for our constituents.”