State Senate

Senate Takes Up Parole Board Reform Measures

Republicans on Tuesday in Albany continued to protest the release of convicted cop killer Herman Bell, backing a package of reform measures for the state Parole Board.

“The only conclusion one can reach from these irresponsible and dangerous actions is that New York’s parole system under Governor Cuomo is broken,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said in a statement.

“To address this pressing need for change, the Senate will take up a series of parole reform measures today that give victims’ families and law enforcement a voice every step of the way, and ensure convicted criminals serve sentences which more accurately reflect the serious nature of their crimes.”

Cuomo has said publicly he did not agree with the release of Bell last month.

Republicans have previously vowed to commit to a stronger vetting process for the members of the state Parole Board, who the governor nominates and the Senate confirms.

“Meanwhile, the state Senate under my leadership will reject any Parole Board nominees put forward by Governor Cuomo who share his vision of putting the rights of violent convicted criminals ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Flanagan said in the statement on Tuesday. “The safety and security of the people of New York must come first.”

Stewart-Cousins To Felder: ‘Why Wait?’

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Tuesday once again urged Sen. Simcha Felder to join the Democratic conference, saying a “blue wave” would sweep the party into party this November.

“I’m urging him to be with us and there’s a blue wave, I believe there will certainly be more Democrats next year,” she said. “So, why wait?”

As reported earlier this morning on State of Politics, the state Democratic Committee and Gov. Andrew Cuomo plan to back a primary challenge to Felder, a registered Democrat who is aligned with Republicans, unless he switches to the other side of the aisle.

Felder remains the key 32nd member for Republicans in the Senate to retain power.

“He’s not asked anything of me and I’ve promised him we’d work with him and all the Democrats to put together an agenda that’s beneficial to all New Yorkers,” Stewart-Cousins said. “I think Senator Felder is proven to be someone who marches to his own drum. I think he realizes that we’re on the cusp of something great.”

Felder announced last week he would remain with the Republican conference in the Senate as Democrats retained two seats in special elections for districts in the Bronx and Westchester County. The party once again has a mathematical majority in the chamber.

Senate Dems, Unified, Pushing Voting Reforms

Senate Democrats held their first news conference Tuesday since a unity deal took effect last month that united the party in the chamber and led to the dissolution of the Independent Democratic Conference.

The topic: making it easier to vote in New York and turning around the state’s low voter turnout.

“It shouldn’t be an obstacle course,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins while flanked by Sen. Jeff Klein, the former IDC leader-turned-deputy, and Sen. Mike Gianaris. “It shouldn’t be a weigh to gage whether you are enthusiastic. It is a responsibility, it is a privilege and we in the Senate Democratic conference once again call on our colleagues across the aisle to make sure New York is no long 41st.”

The bills include measures aimed at early voting in New York, making it easier to vote through an absentee ballot with “no excuse” voting, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-old future voters, and making it easier to change a party ahead of a primary.

Additional bills would expand language options and consolidation state and federal primaries, which are currently held in September and June, respectively.

The measures have been pushed before to little success in the Senate, narrowly led by Republicans with the aid of Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who conferences with Republicans.

“These I think are very common sense solutions,” Klein said, “and I think these issues are important to us in the Democratic conference should be important to any senator.”

Updated: Senate Republican spokeswoman Candice Giove responded in a statement.

“There is no evidence that the so-called ‘reforms’ advanced today by Senate Democrats will encourage voter participation in any meaningful way,” she said. “However, we do know these proposals will dramatically increase costs for local county boards of election, putting even more pressure on taxpayers. As the head of the Democrat Senate Campaign Committee, it’s unfortunate that Senator Gianaris continues to politicize this issue, but frankly we’re not surprised.”

Phillips Touts Gun Control Bill As Cuomo Approves It

Republican Sen. Elaine Phillips on Tuesday celebrated the ceremonial signing of a bill by GOv. Andrew Cuomo that tightens gun restrictions on those who have been convicted of domestic violence.

Phillips represents a battleground Senate district on Long Island and has been a proponent of the gun control legislation that was approved as standalone bill during the passage of the state budget.

“Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when their abuser owns a firearm. By keeping firearms out of the hands of those who are convicted of domestic violence, we are protecting victims who are known to be at risk and will undoubtedly save numerous lives,” she said.

“This measure also gives our state’s court system better guidelines and provides for both the surrender of firearms upon a domestic violence crime and a provision to return the firearms if the order of protection is lifted.”

Phillips said she is unable to attend Cuomo’s signing of the bill given the legislative session in Albany.

State Dems Look To Fuel Felder Primary Opponent

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is backing a push by the state Democratic Committee to find a primary opponent against Sen. Simcha Felder, the Brooklyn Democrat who conferences with Republicans in the state Senate and is a pivotal member of the GOP’s retained majority in the chamber.

A source with direct knowledge involved in the effort said Monday evening that state Democrats are trying to find and identify the “best possible candidate” to run in the Senate district. That candidate could still be Felder’s declared primary opponent, Blake Morris, but Democrats are open to finding other candidates who could competitively run in the district.

Regardless, the source vowed that if Felder does not conference with Democrats in the Senate, he’ll face a primary with “the full weight of the party” behind it.

Felder, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Senate Democrats on Monday sworn in two new lawmakers: Sens. Shelley Mayer and Luis Sepulveda, seats the party retained in last week’s special elections in the Bronx and Westchester County. The party now has a mathematical majority in the chamber.

As voting was underway last week, Felder declared he would remain with Republicans in the Senate at least through the end of the legislative session in June, giving the GOP the needed 32nd member in the 63-seat Senate.

Cuomo last week publicly urged Felder to reconsider the decision to stay with Republicans, saying “these are not usual days” but declined to say what pressure he would apply to the lawmaker to make the switch.

Cuomo in recent weeks has stepped up public efforts on behalf of Democrats running for the state Senate. He publicly campaigned for Meyer and Sepulveda in April and last week appeared at a rally for Democrat Anna Kaplan, who is running in a swing district on Long Island.

Gun Control Group Giffords Backs ‘Iron Pipeline’ Bill

The gun control group Giffords on Monday endorsed legislation that would have law enforcement agencies publish online the source of guns used in crimes committed in New York.

The bill is meant to crack down on the so-called “Iron Pipeline” of illegal weapons that flow into the state.

“For decades, Congress has complied with the gun lobby’s demand for no new federal research into the public health crisis that gun violence has created. But leaders in New York are stepping up and defying the NRA and listening to the will of the people,” said David Chipman, Senior Policy Advisor of Giffords. “More states should join New York in moving proactive measures like this forward because the sad reality is that too many people fall victim to gunfire every single day. Our law enforcement officials and public servants need research to most effectively understand how to help communities and keep them safer. This example of courage should be followed by others.”

The group was founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the survivor of an assassination attempt, and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly.

The bill is sponsored by Queens Democratic Sen. Mike Gianaris.

“Stopping the ‘Iron Pipeline’ is possible if New York leads the way. Despite having among the toughest gun laws in the country, our state experiences too many gun-related crimes due to firearms originating elsewhere,” Gianaris said. “While the federal government will not take action to combat gun violence, New York should use data to expose states that are part of the problem.”

Giove To Senate Republicans

Candice Giove, the former New York Post reporter who was the spokeswoman from the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference has been appointed the deputy communications director for the Senate Republican conference.

“Candice Giove is a skilled communications professional who will strengthen and supplement efforts to communicate our message directly to the public,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said in a statement.

“Our Senate Republican Majority is the voice of hardworking taxpayers, of small businessmen and women looking to create jobs, of working people who want to provide for their families, of moms and dads who want their kids to be safe and of citizens who just want a better quality of life. Our priorities are the priorities of New York’s middle-class families, and we have to make sure they know it. On behalf of all of the members of our conference, I welcome Candice to the team.”

The IDC moved to disband earlier this month and rejoin the Democratic fold, part of a broader unification effort in the state Senate. The party still remains out of power in the chamber, with Sen. Simcha Felder backing Republicans.

Giove is expected to be based in New York City.

“Majority Leader Flanagan and his members understand the importance of an affordable New York to keep our middle class flourishing,” Giove said. “I thank Majority Leader Flanagan and the Republican Majority for providing me with an opportunity to advance issues that have a positive impact on hardworking New Yorkers and their families.”

Flanagan: The Senate Will Do A Lot, Cuomo Is Wrong

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement Monday accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of having “already thrown in the towel” on the end of the legislative session and insisted the Republican-controlled chamber has a busy agenda between now and June 20, the final scheduled end to the legislative session.

Flanagan was reacting Cuomo’s comments on Wednesday when he said the Senate will likely “do nothing for the rest of the session” and predicted “no movement on any of the major issues.”

“The Governor is wrong,” Flanagan said. “With eight weeks remaining, we have an obligation to act on important legislation that will improve the quality of life for the hardworking constituents we represent.”

He pointed to a package of bills aimed at curtailing heroin and opioid addiction that is being approved today.

“If the Governor and Assembly want to do something meaningful, they can start by joining us in facing down the dangerous drug dealers pedaling heroin and opioids to our children, getting them hooked and ruining their lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans officially fell into a mathematical minority on Monday with the swearing in of Democratic Sens. Shelley Mayer and Luis Sepvulveda, who both won special elections last Tuesday. Republicans are retaining the majority with the help of Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who conferences with the GOP.

“I also hope that our colleagues across the aisle will take a strong look around today now that all of our seats are filled, and that it will serve as a reminder of what the majority of New Yorkers demand,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “New Yorkers are frustrated with the lack of progress on issues like voting reforms, gun violence prevention, women’s rights, and so many more that have been held up by the Senate Republicans for far too long.”

Cuomo Endorses Democrat Kaplan In SD-7

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday continued his spate of endorsements for Democrats running in swing seats, backing Democratic candidate Anna Kaplan in Long Island’s 7th district.

Kaplan is vying to unseat Republican Sen. Elaine Phillips in the western Nassau County district that has been the focus of several key races over the years.

“Anna Kaplan has the determination, talent, and experience we need to deliver progressive change for New Yorkers and fight back against Trump’s extreme conservative agenda,” Cuomo said.

“New York is the progressive beacon for the nation and we are going to work every day until November to elect more Democrats, because this state sees a different future – one filled with hope, fairness and opportunity for all. Anna Kaplan is the right person to lead the charge in Albany, and I’m proud to endorse her for State Senate.”

Cuomo last weekend campaign for Democrat Shelley Mayer, who won a special election on Tuesday to retain a Westchester County district for the party.

“We are living in time where the federal government is being dismantled on behalf of special interests and the powerless are being victimized by the powerful,” Kaplan said. “Luckily in New York, Governor Cuomo is leading the way and setting an example for the nation – from fighting the GOP tax bill which deliberately targets New Yorkers, to free college tuition for middle class families and passing the strongest gun laws in the country. I am grateful for the Governor’s support, and look forward to continuing the fight to improve the lives of all New Yorkers.”

Flanagan Says He’s Confident GOP Will Keep Senate, Despite Retirements

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement Friday said he is confident his party will maintain control of the Senate as three of his members this week announced their retirements.

“I am confident that our Republican Majority will field excellent candidates in each of these districts, which have all been represented by Republicans for many many years,” he said.

“New Yorkers know that our Majority is the only thing standing in the way of the New York City politicians implementing an agenda that will hurt our economy and make life more difficult for hardworking middle-class taxpayers. We will succeed in November and maintain our Majority so the true priorities of New Yorkers continue to be put first.”

Sens. Kathy Marchione, John DeFrancisco and John Bonacic in the last three days have announced they will not seek re-election next year.

Republicans have shown to be adept at keeping power in Senate, their last lever of influence statewide in New York.

The party once again has 31 out of 63 enrolled Republicans in the Senate, but they continue their alliance with Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder.

But trouble for the party is potentially on the horizon. The alliance between the Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference is over, with the IDC dissolving this month and joining the mainline Democratic conference fold.

Democrats, too, hope this will be a wave year for the party given the unpopularity of the Republican president, Donald Trump.

“Clearly the Republicans see the writing on the wall,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. “Democrats have gained ten seats in 2 weeks, while three Senate Republicans have abandoned ship in just three days. And I am sure there are more to come.”