State Senate

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.”

Senate Republicans Introduce Test Decoupling Same-As

Republicans in the state Senate have introduced a “same as” bill that would decouple state-based standardized examinations from teacher and principle evaluations — suggesting the measure strongly backed by the state’s teachers union stands a strong chance of advancing in Albany.

“Testing should not be the ‘Holy Grail’ of our educational system but just one measurement out of a holistic set of ways to evaluate a child’s development,” said Sen. James Tedisco, a Republican from the Albany area. “Research indicates that any Value Added Measure (VAM) that utilizes one measurement to an inordinate level such as the 50 percent level as it in in law now is ineffective in correlating a teacher’s effectiveness as it relates to student learning.”

The bill was first announced Thursday in the Assembly, with Democrats backing legislation that would replace state-created or written examinations with alternative assessments for school districts that do not use state tests, with regulations set by the state Education Department.

The bill would overhaul a key component of a contentious education reform bill that was pushed through by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015, much to the consternation of the New York State United Teachers.

But this year, Cuomo has sought to bolster his ties with organized labor both in the private and public sectors, with the teachers union being a major politically active constituency, especially in Democratic primary politics.

Brabenec Eyes Bonancic Seat

Soon after Sen. John Bonacic announced his retirement plans at the end of the current term on Friday, Assemblyman Karl Brabenec indicated he would be interested in running for the seat.

“I’ve served the 98th Assembly District for the past three-and-a-half years. Six of our towns are also in the 42nd Senate District, and I won those towns with 75 percent of the vote in the last
election,” said Brabenec, a Republican. “I’ve run in and won ten elections since 2007. I know how to campaign. I work hard, and I know what it takes to win.”

The seat is likely to be hotly fought over this November by Republicans and Democrats alike given the enrollment numbers in the district and the narrow divide in the Senate.

“It’s crucial that Republicans retain control of the State Senate. We need a candidate who’s serious, who’s ready to go and able to win,” Brabenec said. “I’ll be reaching out to party leaders and elected officials over the next few days; I’ve already spoken with many of them. I’ll decide soon.”

Bonacic Becomes 3rd Republican To Retire From Senate

Longtime Republican Sen. John Bonacic on Friday became the third Republican lawmaker this week to announce his plans to retire from the state Senate.

“I have decided that I will not seek re-election to the New York State Senate,” Bonacic said in an emailed statement. ”

“Next to being called Pat’s husband and Melissa and Scott’s father and a grandfather to three more, serving in the State Senate has been the honor of my life. The twenty years I have spent in the Senate have been rewarding both personally and professionally, despite the frustrations that all of us experience in any career. Twenty years, though, is enough, and I look forward to spending quality time with my bride, Pat, and my children and grandchildren.”

Bonacic, the chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee, is also considered one of the more moderate members of the Senate GOP conference.

The announcement comes two days after Sen. Kathy Marchione, a Republican who represents the area around the Capital Region, abruptly said she would retire after six years in the Senate. Sen. John DeFrancisco, the deputy majority leader who is suspending his bid for governor, is also not seeking re-election.

Marchione’s seat is considered a safe Republican district, but Bonacic’s district has been one Democrats have eyed for several election cycles, but are yet to flip.

Democrats are counting on a “blue wave” to sweep down-ballot candidates running this year into office and potentially gain a working majority in the state Senate.

Senate Democrats retained two open seats in a Tuesday special election, giving them a numeric 32-member majority in the chamber, but Sen. Simcha Felder will continue to conference with Republicans, keeping the GOP in control.

Dems, GOP Spin Marchione Retirement

The retirement of Sen. Kathy Marchione is being seen as an opportunity of bigger things to come for Democrats, but being brushed off by Republicans.

For Democrats, Marchione’s decision to not seek re-election to her Senate seat, a district that encompasses a largely conservative area around the Capital District, could be a harbinger of a wave of retirements for Republicans.

“Senate Republicans are seeing the writing on the wall and realizing their grip on power is crumbling In the last two weeks the Senate Democratic Conference has grown by 10 members and a blue wave is sweeping across the state that will net us even more seats in November,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. “In the coming weeks you will see more and more Republican members jumping off their sinking ship.”

Not so, say Republicans, who are confident they will keep the seat, which was once held by Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

“We respect Senator Marchione’s decision and wish her well,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif. “She has been an outstanding public servant for many years in both local and state government, and she will be missed by all of her colleagues. This seat was once represented by Senator Bruno, and two other Republicans since then. The New York City Democrats are not going to be taken seriously here but they’re welcome to try. We will field a strong candidate who will win in November.”

The bottom line is this: Republicans are likely to keep the Marchione seat in their column. It’s a safe, Republican seat that Democrats have not been very competitive in over the last decade since Bruno’s retirement. Marchione was first elected after winning a Republican primary against Sen. Roy McDonald, one of the GOP lawmakers who voted in favor of the legalization of same-sex marriage.

At the same time, the concern that some Republicans in less safe seats — including those who represent districts on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley — will present more of a problem for the GOP to maintain their narrow majority in the chamber.

Post-Special, Senate Republicans Look To Play Offense

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Republicans are retaining power in the chamber despite falling into a numerical minority, thanks to the assist of Sen. Simcha Felder.

The party is 0-for-2 in Tuesday’s special election, failing once again to flip a suburban Senate seat that has been the source of several expensive races.

At the same time, retirements of lawmakers are starting to be announced: Sen. Kathy Marchione on Wednesday night announced she would not seek another term, opening up a district that encompasses the suburban Capital Region.

But Republicans in the Senate this year are still hopeful they can play offense in some areas this year. A GOP source familiar with the planning says one seat being eyed is the district represented by Sen. David Valesky, a former member of the now-dissolved Independent Democratic Conference.

Valesky was first elected to what had been a Republican-held swing district in the Syracuse area, making him a perennial target for Republicans. After Valesky joined the IDC, those serious efforts to take Valesky out quietly died away.

Now with the IDC no more and its lawmakers back to the mainline Democratic fold, Valesky’s district could once again be on the table for the GOP.

“Feeling is that with Valesky facing at least a primary in what may potentially become a 3 way race in November, that this seat could end up being very competitive,” the source said. “A couple of Republicans residing in the district have proven themselves to be very adept at attracting swing and even traditional Democratic voters and could be coaxed into making a run.”

The hope for Senate Republicans in part is that a unified Senate Democratic conference could help pull the chamber toward the New York City center of power, diluting upstate lawmakers’ influence (it’s worth noting that Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic leader, is from a suburban district, not New York City. Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan represents a Long Island district).

“Voters in this upstate district would also be most susceptible to the argument that Democrat reunification and a Democrat Majority in the Senate (and therefore give downstate control of the entire state government) would lead to NYC getting everything at the expense of upstate and Central New York,” the source said. “This is one to keep an eye on.”