State Senate

Teachout Fundraises Off IDC, IDC Fires Back

Democratic former congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout released a fundraising email this morning slamming the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate.

Teachout, who has pushed for a Democratic majority with campaign donations and in her public appearances, is raising funds for the political action committee, the Anti-Corruption League.

“The IDC is a group of eight New York State Senators who run for office as Democrats, but work with the Republicans to block progressive legislation,” she wrote in the email. “Along with ‘Democrat’ Senator Felder, who caucuses with the Republicans, these Senators hand control to the Republican minority. This is fundamentally corrupt and must change.”

Senate Republicans have a working majority in the chamber with the aid of Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who conferences with GOP lawmakers. The IDC, however, remains a key bloc of votes in the Senate and its leader, Sen. Jeff Klein, is part of the budget negotiations.

IDC spokeswoman Candice Giove in a statement blasted Teachout in response.

“It is presumptuous and offensive for this so-called ‘Democrat,’ Zephyr Teachout, to assume constituents in Independent Democratic Conference districts are ill-informed and uneducated,” she said.

“This elitist thinking presumes that if they just inform unsophisticated voters they will vote their way. Ms. Teachout owes an apology to informed voters who made a choice to send those senators to Albany. It is a fundamental flaw of the Senate’s Democratic minority conference to continue to assume these voters are uneducated and they need to rethink these positions if they ever want to be in a majority.”

The state Senate next year will likely once again be a flash point in 2018 when all 213 seats in the Legislature are up for election.

Otis Won’t Seek Senate Seat

Democratic Assemblyman Steve Otis in a phone interview Thursday afternoon said he will not seek the Senate seat being vacated by Westchester County Executive-elect George Latimer.

“For me, and this is really the position I took a number of months ago, I’ve consistently said I am very eager to stay in the Assembly and continue to do well,” Otis said. “To switch houses would diminsh the ability of me to make a difference. That’s where my heart is and it hasn’t changed since Election Day.”

Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer told The USA Today Network on Thursday she was considering a run for the suburban Westchester County district, which includes parts of Yonkers and the Sound Shore area. Kat Brezler, a teacher and a co-founder of People for Bernie, a Bernie Sanders organization, is also a potential candidate for the seat.

Otis called Mayer “a great colleague, a very effective legislator.”

“She would be good, but we’ll have to see who the full mix of candidates are,” he said. “I am sure we will have a strong candidate and put together a strong campaign so that seat stays in good hands.”

The district has been long sought by Republicans and it has been the focus of several expensive races since a 2012 redistricting plan.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is yet to formally declare a special election for the seat.

Dems, GOP See Hope For Senate Control Next Year

Suburban politics will once again be a major factor in the battle for control of the state Senate.

That much Republicans and Democrats can agree on as they vie for control of the narrowly divided Senate chamber next year.

For Democrats, the victories in the county executive races in Westchester and Nassau counties by George Latimer and Laura Curran spell the potential for a wave next year. Republicans, however, see institutional and historic advantages: They generally pick up seats in a gubernatorial election year.

Democrats, potentially as early as March in a special election, will have to defend the seat being vacated by George Latimer, the county executive-elect in Westchester.

The seat was redrawn in 2012 by Republicans and designed with one GOP candidate in mind: Bob Cohen. But Latimer was able to hang on in a series of costly elections. Republicans in part hope that with Latimer out of the equation, the district will flip to the GOP side.

Sen. Mike Gianaris, the Democrat who chairs the conference’s fundraising efforts, expects the seat will stay in the Democratic column.

“This has made clear that the suburbs are the crest of the Democratic wave that’s moving throughout the country,” Gianaris said in an interview. “To see both Latimer and Curran win their county exec races means the typical Senate races in those areas are headed in our direction.”

Republicans hope to play offense with two seats held on Long Island by Democrats: Sens. Todd Kaminsky and John Brooks.

Kaminsky, elected to fill the chair held by disgraced former Majority Leader Dean Skelos, won a special election and won a full term in a presidential election year.

Brooks was narrowly elected and unseated a Republican lawmaker whose father had been arrested in a county corruption probe.

“Senate Republicans have strong records of achievement on issues that are critical to New Yorkers’ quality of life, such as good-paying jobs, tax relief, and protecting families from gang violence and terrorism,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. “Our Senators are strong, and as we have in the past two gubernatorial elections, we fully expect to grow our majority by winning seats in 2018.”

For Democrats, the seats they will target will include those districts held by Sens. Elaine Phillips, Carl Marcellino and Kemp Hannon. All three districts have been in the sights of Democrats before, but have been tough nuts to crack in previous election years.

Hanging over it all is the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, which has grown in size over the last year. Senate Republicans maintain a numerical majority with the help of Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder who is not an IDC member.

Still, the IDC remains an important bloc in the Senate and has gone through cycles of pressure campaigns from liberal groups to form an alliance with mainline Democrats.

“This is not the time for Democrats to be empowering Republicans,” Gianaris said. “Hopefully those who are doing that see the writing on the wall and work with us.”

DeFran Has No Interest In LG Post

Sen. John DeFrancisco would rather stay as the deputy majority leader in the state Senate than run for lieutenant governor next year, he said in a radio interview on Tuesday.

DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, is considering a run for governor next year and plans to make a decision before the start of 2018, he told Fred Dicker on his Talk-1300 radio show earlier in the morning.

But he would not be tempted into taking the bottom half of the ticket as the running mate, potentially to a more moderate downstate nominee.

“I’m not interested in that at all, I’ve already told Ed Cox that,” he said.

DeFrancisco remains undecided on whether he would seek re-election to the state Senate should he fail to get the gubernatorial nomination. Much of his decision making over his political future could be clarified today based on whether Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is re-election.

Astorino, the party’s 2014 nominee for governor, is believed to be considering a second run against incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year.

“I think it would be probably very difficult for him to run,” DeFrancisco said of Astorino should he lose re-election to a third term.

DeFrancisco said he saw the political landscape in 2018 similar to the 1994 race that saw Cuomo’s father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, lose re-election to a little known state senator, George Pataki.

The difference, he agreed, was the backing from U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato that Pataki was able to ride into the Executive Mansion.

“I see a very similar situation now. People are upset. His manner of doing business is really just not appreciated on the left or on the right,” DeFrancisco said. “I don’t know who the Al D’Amato is this year, but there are probably a lot of people throughout the country who would like that to stop.”

Felder: Staff Every NYC School With Armed Officer

Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder is reviving a push to have armed police officers posted at every school in New York City following last week’s terrorist attack that killed 8 people.

“What are we waiting for?” said Felder, a Democrat who conferences with the Senate Republicans in Albany.

“We just had a terrorist plow through innocent people on a crowded bike path. Footsteps away were thousands of students walking straight into the carnage; what else has to happen before we realize times have changed?”

Such proposals have been made before, including in the form of a bill Felder introduce earlier this year, in the wake of security concerns and are considered unrealistic to fully carry out.

“The most effective solution is my proposed legislation to have a trained, armed, and courageous NYPD officer standing in front, guarding our children whenever they’re in school,” Felder said.

“Every school needs the protection of a hero like Police Officer Nash standing at its front door; it is time to give them what they need.”

The attack on a bike path was conducted near several schools in Manhattan, including the prestigious Stuyvesant High School.

Savino Blasts Shuttering Of Local News Sites

Staten Island Sen. Diane Savino knocked the decision by businessman Joe Ricketts to shuttering the local news sites in New York City that he owned just days after its staff voted to unionize.

The abrupt decision to end the websites DNAinfo and Gothamist led to the firing or more than 100 reporters in New York City and other communities in the country that provided hyper local coverage of neighborhoods.

Savino, who has been critical of the press when it comes to its coverage of her and the Independent Democratic Conference, blasted Ricketts for engaging in “union-busting tactics” that are un-American.

“Joe Ricketts took a sledgehammer to destroy two news outlets whose reporters decided to collectively stand together for their rights,” said Savino, a former union official before she was elected to the Legislature.

“While Gothamist and DNAinfo reporters weren’t always kind to me, or my colleagues, I will always defend the rights of these journalists who rightly decided to unionize. What has happened to them is downright un-American. To retaliate in such a brutal fashion against people exercising their constitutional right to band together for mutual aid and protection is an assault on all of us. Shame on Joe Ricketts and everyone associated with his company.”

Flanagan: Keeping SALT Deduction About Fairness

Preserving the deduction of state and local taxes is not a partisan issue, but about basic fairness to states like New York, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said Wednesday in a statement.

Flanagan in the statement reiterated his opposition to ending or modifying deductions for state and local taxes, saying he’s been urging federal elected officials to oppose the plan.

“After months of discussion and debate in Washington, I feel even more strongly today that any final tax plan that strips away our ability to deduct state and local taxes is a bad deal for New York,” Flanagan said. “This is not a partisan issue – – it is an issue of fundamental fairness that will greatly affect the quality-of-life for millions of middle-class taxpayers.”

Seven New York Republicans in the House of Representatives last week voted against the Republican-backed budget plan, with several citing concerns over the end to deductions.

A potential compromise would be to end deductions for state taxes, but keep them for property taxes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has opposed the plan, has said any compromise is not good enough and would still impact the state.

Flanagan, meanwhile, echoed much of what Cuomo has said — that New York sends more to the federal government in taxes than what it has gotten back in spending. Cuomo on Tuesday sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to oppose limits on state and local deductions.

“As a state, we already send significantly more to the federal government than we receive in return,” he said. “And, despite the gains we have made at the state level, New Yorkers still pay too much in taxes.

“New York taxpayers need and deserve real relief, not another tax obligation. I strongly urge the President and Congress to enact real tax cuts and to protect the hardworking people who live here.”

Flanagan Names New Appointments Director

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Tuesday named Michelle Cameron to the post of director of majority appointments.

The job puts Cameron in charge of working with lawmakers and the governor’s office in filling appointed positions in state government that are made directly or in advice of majority lawmakers.

Cameron previously worked as a senior legislative analyst to Sen. Joe Robach and has worked in state government for more than a decade.

“I am pleased to welcome Michelle to our team and know she will make an outstanding addition,” Flanagan said. “I am confident she has what it takes to streamline and improve our appointments process and will serve the members of the Senate Majority extraordinarily well in this new capacity.”

After Weinstein Scandal, Lawmaker Calls To End Film Tax Breaks

A Republican state lawmaker on Friday called for the end to film tax breaks after the revelations of sexual harassment and abuse by producer Harvey Weinstein.

The company Weistein founded, has received $5 million tax benefits to film and produce in New York.

As the state faces a potential $4 billion budget deficit next year, let this serve as a timely catalyst to eliminate taxpayers’ $420 million-a-year giveaway to the film and television industry,” said Sen. Robert Ortt. “It will be a flawed argument – morally and fiscally – if the Governor and Legislature continue corporate Hollywood welfare while cutting funding for disability programs, mental health treatment, opioid and addiction services, or education aid.”

Weinstein isn’t the only Hollywood producer to face allegations from multiple women. Amazon Studios fired its head, Roy Price, after he was accused of misconduct.

Other figures in the world of media and politics — including journalist Mark Halperin and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly — have faced accusations of sexual harassment and assault.

Flanagan Names Seward To Lyme Task Force

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Thursday named Sen. Jim Seward to join a legislative panel on Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses.

The state has already committed $400,000 in the budget for education and research on prevention efforts.

“We know more today than ever before about these debilitating ailments and are making strides in prevention and treatment,” Seward said. “However, it is clear that Lyme disease and other TBDs are spreading to new areas of the state – I hear from constituents regularly who have been infected – and we need to intensify our efforts.”

Flanagan pointed Seward’s work as chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, which he said will help craft prevention plans on the panel.

“As Chair of the Insurance Committee and representative of an area where tick-borne illnesses continue to spread, Senator Seward brings a valuable perspective that will help increase public awareness and prevent Lyme disease in
Central New York and all throughout the Upstate region,” Flanagan said. “The Task Force works tirelessly on enhancing research, prevention, diagnosis and treatment for harmful tick-borne illnesses.”