State Senate

Ortt: No ‘Sanctuary’ Campuses For SUNY

Republican Sen. Rob Ortt on Monday released a letter to State University of New York officials calling on them reject public college campuses as having “sanctuary” status for undocumented immigrants.

“I would find it extremely difficult to tell a hard-working student, or a working class family, that they will not realize their dream of attending college because we lost federal aid when the state decided to make a needless political statement,” Ortt said in a statement.

A “sanctuary” campus is a college campus that adopts policies intended to protect undocumented students, similar to the designation of a “sanctuary” city.

There is a campaign underway, backed by the SUNY Student Assembly, to designate sanctuary status on public college campuses. The movement picked up steam following the election of Republican Donald Trump in November’s presidential election.

“I worry about the message this would send to college students. This policy would tell students, in their formative years, that their college and their state condones violating the law,” Ortt said. “I believe that such a message would run contrary to our mission of developing the next generation of citizens. Many campuses are already free from opposing viewpoints; they shouldn’t also be free of the rule of law.”

Flanagan Appoints New Finance Committee Secretary

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Friday announced Shawn MacKinnon, a 20-year Senate veteran, has been appointed the secretary of the powerful Finance Committee.

MacKinnon replaces Mike Paoli who is retiring after 27 years of working for the Senate as the top aide on the committee.

“Shawn possesses exceptional budgeting talents and leadership skills that will help our Majority conference continue to create better opportunities for hardworking New Yorkers,” Flanagan said in a statement. “I have been fortunate to partner with Shawn in developing important fiscal policies in the past, and I’m confident his expertise will be invaluable throughout the budget process that begins just a few short weeks from now.”

MacKinnon was most recently the deputy secretary of the Finance Committee and his work has focused on education funding, having worked with Flanagan when he was chairman of the Education Committee.

“Shawn is an effective negotiator and knowledgeable budget professional who will ensure that our Majority’s priorities to create jobs and build stronger communities are achieved,” said Finance Chair Cathy Young. “I look forward to working with him in his new leadership capacity and helping to pass a responsible budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers.”

Senate Bill Would Allow Use Of ‘Familial’ DNA Search

Republican Sen. Phil Boyle on Friday announced a bill that would allow the searching of the DNA database for familial searches in an effort to solve violent crimes.

Boyle, a Long Island lawmaker, wrote the legislation after speaking with the father of Karina Vetrano, the Queens jogger who was sexually assaulted and murdered.

“Having worked on DNA- related legislation for over 25 years, I see the use of ‘familial’ DNA testing as the next significant step in assisting our law enforcement officials in solving these sickening crimes and getting these violent criminals off our streets,” Boyle said. “We cannot allow any ambiguity in our state laws to delay use of this important crime-fighting tool any longer.”

The use of familial DNA searches uses a crime scene profile that is run through the DNA databank with the intent of finding a list of genetically similar profiles. In turn, that information is use an investigative tool to find family members of the close matches.

Klein: Senate Leadership Debate ‘A Circus’

Decrying that the fight over control of the state Senate has devolved into “a circus,” Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein blasted the efforts from mainline Democrats in getting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intercede in who controls the chamber.

Klein, a Bronx Democrat who leads the growing, seven-member conference, sharply rebuked the efforts over the last several days by mainline Democrats to unify the conference by involving Cuomo and putting public pressure on him through various left-leaning advocacy groups and the Working Families Party.

“The debate over who controls the New York State Senate has become a circus,” Klein said. “I will not have any part of it. It is the kind of dysfunctional public display that has voters asking where is the leadership needed to get this state moving forward.”

Klein is a key individual for mainline Democrats to win over should they achieve a governing, 32-member majority. But the party is split among various factions within the chamber, even if Republican incumbent Michael Venditto ends up losing a razor-thin Senate race on Long Island to Democrat John Brooks, which is now the subject of a court challenge.

With a Brooks win possible, Senate Democrats have publicly pushed Cuomo to broker a compromise with the IDC and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who has signaled he will once again align himself with Republicans in the chamber.

But Klein in his statement blasted that approach, saying it’s not up to a separate branch of government to determine who is in control of the Senate.

“I find it embarrassing for anyone to suggest that the New York State Senate is incapable of choosing its own leadership,” Klein said.

“Asking the executive branch to step over its boundaries and dictate control of the State Senate runs counter to the separation of powers that is necessary in a functioning state government. The role of each Senator elected by their constituents is to make the difficult decisions to ensure the New York State Senate is ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead. I intend to fulfill that responsibility.”

Klein formed the IDC in 2011, citing frustrations with the Democratic conference in the Senate. He has worked closely and allied the conference with the Senate Republicans, forming a governing majority when the GOP fell into a numerical minority for two years.

But even if Republicans end up a net gain of a seat in the 63-member Senate, the GOP conference will likely continue to need the IDC as key allies on issues.

Dems Continue To Press Unity Argument, Point To History

From the Morning Memo:

A day after Senate Democrats huddled at a hotel and catering house outside of Albany amid a public pressure campaign to bridge the divide within the party in the chamber, black Democratic officials are joining the push.

Mainline Senate Democrats today are releasing statements from former Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields, Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins and Sen. James Sanders.

Their argument: A Democratic-controlled Senate would make history with Andrea Stewart-Cousins as majority leader.

Steawart-Cousins would be the first African-American woman to lead a majority conference in state government.

The overall push to unite the Democratic factions — and pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the process — began last week after John Brooks declared victory in the hotly contested 8th Senate district over Republican Michael Venditto.

Senate Republican officials are challenging the results in court and the race may not be decided for the next several weeks.

Still, Democrats are using the paper ballot results in the race to point to 32 enrolled party members in the chamber — potentially a working majority.

“The elections are over and there are 32 Democrats in the Senate,” Fields said in a statement. “New York is on the cusp of making history, Andrea Stewart-Cousins should be the first woman, and first African American woman, to ever lead a Majority Conference in the New York Legislature. Her accession would send a strong message to the rest of the state and the Country that we are a party that respects diversity and are ready to stand up for all New Yorkers.”

She added, “The time has come for every Democrat in the State Senate to unify, stand and work together to ensure our state leads in progressive governance, fairness and the respect of voters’ decisions.”

Jenkins, a potential candidate for county executive against Cuomo rival Republican Rob Astorino, said it was “vital” for Democrats to gain power in Albany given the GOP’s empowerment in Washington.

“There is a numerical majority of Democrats in the Senate, but it will take real leadership from the party establishment to ensure they all work together,” he said. “Andrea Stewart-Cousins has proven that she will be a terrific Senate Majority Leader, and we must not allow petty agendas to deprive New Yorkers of the Senate Democratic Majority which they overwhelmingly voted for.”

Sanders, meanwhile, took specific aim at both Cuomo, the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference and Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, a Democrat who plans to align with Republicans.

“It’s time for the eight breakaway Democratic Senators to take a decisive stance against the Trump Republican agenda and join with their Democratic colleagues to form a majority,” he said. “It is time for Governor Cuomo to provide the leadership needed to unite us. We have the power to overcome this hate, but it can only be done if we have all hands on deck.”

Senate Dems Defend Leadership

Mainline Democrats in the state Senate on Wednesday defended the leadership of their conference as former Democratic Committee Executive Director Charlie King explicitly raises calls for their replacement.

“To me, it’s clear in the Senate we have strong Democratic leadership that’s work toward a majority,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Democrat from Brooklyn. “I don’t think the circular firing squad helps.”

King on Wednesday at a news conference in New York City suggested a change in leadership of the conference — effectively having the mainline lawmakers in the conference dump Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and her deputy, Queens Sen. Mike Gianaris — could lead to a reunification of Democrats in the chamber.

The call came amid a growing side saga between the Senate Democrats and King, an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor has been pushed in recent days to broker a unity effort in the state Senate that would enable Democrats to regain majority control, which they last held from 2008 to 2010.

King has emerged as a response vehicle of sorts for the governor, holding a counter news conference in Manhattan as protesters from an assortment of liberal groups demonstrated outside of the governor’s office. Cuomo’s office today disavowed King’s news conference in New York City, saying the first they heard about it was when he alerted the media.

Senate Democrats huddled on Wednesday at the Century House in suburban Albany, a catering hall and hotel venue, as they continue a push to gain a majority advantage in the chamber. It takes 32 members of the Senate to form a majority and, should John Brooks win a still-contested race on Long Island, they would have the numbers to do so.

But Democrats are divided, with the Independent Democratic Conference growing to seven members next month and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder continuing to align himself with the Senate Republicans.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, were quick to counter the call for Stewart-Cousins and Gianaris to step aside.

“We’ve had a leadership that has moved us forward and put us on the edge of power. We’re about to take the power in New York state,” said Sen. James Sanders. “At the end of the day, it’s the Democrats who are sitting in the room who will make that decision to change the leaders. If there are Democrats who believe there should be a different leadership, I encourage them to come on home. But in order to do that we need to be in the same room.”

He added: “Can’t we all just get along?”

For her part, Stewart-Cousins, who would be the first African-American woman to lead a majority conference in state government, indicated she has no plans to step aside, saying such calls are an effort to sidetrack from the real issue at hand.

“I’m surprised that the question of bringing Democrats together would just bring people out to challenge the fact that this could be a unified party,” she said. “That’s the only conversation we’re having. I think we can all work together to implement the will of the majority.”

Senate Dems Knock King And His Firms Ties To Senate GOP

Senate Democrats on Wednesday criticized an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pointing to his firms ties to a super PAC that backed Senate Republicans.

The latest broadside comes as mainline Senate Democrats and liberal groups are pushing Cuomo to unite the party’s various factions in the chamber to achieve a working and governing majority.

After several days of statements, former New York Democratic Executive Director Charlie King responded by questioning the leadership strength of Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

King has been close with Cuomo, having run with him for lieutenant governor and, before that, working with him at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Today, King held a counter news conference near Cuomo’s New York City office as protesters demonstrated for Cuomo to back the Democratic cause in the chamber.

In response to that, Senate Democrats pointed to the public relations and political consulting firm that employs King, Mercury LLC, and the work done for a GOP-backing super PAC.

“It’s ironic that an operative whose firm has received millions of dollars to keep the Senate in Republican control is speaking for the Democratic Governor about a Democratic Senate,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. “When is winning a majority of members enough? Democrats have won a majority of the Senate three times in the past four years, yet we have been blocked from governing. That fact, and today’s chaos in the Party are perfect examples of why we need the Governor to step up and unite the Democrats.”

Diaz Disputes, King Clarifies

The fight over who should have majority control of the state Senate has devolved into a friendly back-and-forth between Bronx state Sen. Ruben Diaz and former Democratic Committee Executive Director Charlie King.

The trouble began on Monday, when King blasted the labor-aligned Working Families Party and criticized Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a lengthy statement after liberal groups have started to put pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to unite the various Democratic factions in the chamber.

King, an ally of Cuomo’s, included a seemingly innocuous line in the essay, wondering why the mainline Democratic conference “has room” for an outspoken social conservative like Diaz and not Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who conferences with the Senate GOP.

That led to a spirited “What You Should Know” essay sent around noontime by Diaz.

“The answer is because I, Senator Ruben Diaz, has never abandoned the Democratic Conference and that Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins never pushed Simca Felder out,” Diaz wrote. “Since Senator Felder got elected he has always sided with the Republican Conference. Never, Charlie never not even one day has Senator Felder sat with or sided with the Democrats.”

With the exception of my position against same sex marriage and abortion, I feel it safe to say that as of today, there has not been a better Democrat in the Senate than me always fighting on behalf of the needy, the abandoned and the children that have been left behind.”

Several hours later, King felt compelled to respond, writing in a follow up that he never meant to question Diaz’s loyalty to the party.

“My point was that the Democratic conference was diverse enough philosophically to accommodate a wide range of views and that Senate Leader Stewart- Cousins should have figured out a way to accommodate Senator Felder’s views by now,” King wrote.

He added: “It’s no secret that I have enormous affection for Senator Diaz personally. I speak to him more than most other elected officials. It’s also no secret that we agree on nothing politically or with respect to policy. Well, we do agree that Ruben Diaz Jr. is phenomenal, and I admire his passion and commitment to the needy and to his constituents. But we probably could not even agree today is Tuesday.”

But he concludes with something of a friendly burn aimed at getting Diaz to physical therapy.

“You should also know that the Senator is no spring chicken. He’s been around since the Lincoln administration and some say back then he actually DID help the Republicans (but that’s ok, back then Republicans freed the slaves). He thinks he is superman but he is not. He could use a little prodding from all of us to do more physical therapy so he is in tip top shape once session begins. Please flood his district office with calls at (718) 991-3161 and ask him to resume his physical therapy work outs.

And that’s what HE should know!”

So, yes, things are getting a little weird.

Bill Would Require Presidential Candidates To Submit Tax Info

From the Morning Memo:

A Democratic state senator from Manhattan is introducing legislation that would require presidential candidates to submit their most recent tax returns to the state Board of Elections in order to appear on the ballot.

The measure backed by Sen. Brad Hoylman is squarely aimed at one candidate from the last year: Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who refused to submit to the post-Watergate scandal tradition of releasing tax information.

Hoylman’s bill, named Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public, or TRUMP, would require up to five years’ worth of tax returns for any candidate running for president or vice president in New York.

The tax information would have to be submitted no later than 50 days prior to the general election.

“For over four decades, tax returns have given voters an important window into the financial holdings and potential conflicts-of-interest of presidential candidates,” Hoylman said.

“Sadly, President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly refused to release copies of his federal income taxes prior to the election, denying voters this crucial information. This isn’t normal. Voters deserve to know that personal priorities will never take precedence over the national interest.”

Tax information from 1995 obtained by The New York Times and published in October suggested Trump declared $916 million in losses, potentially allowing him to legally not pay taxes for years.

King, Acting As Cuomo Proxy, Knocks Senate Dems And WFP (Updated)

An ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday opened up a blistering attack on Democrats in the state Senate and the Working Families Party several days after left-leaning groups and the mainline conference’s leadership called on the governor to unify members in the chamber.

The statement came from Charlie King, a former state Democratic Committee executive director who was Cuomo’s running mate during his ill-fated run for governor in 2002.

In the statement, King knocks Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for the growing influence and clout of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference.

The Working Families Party, meanwhile, is taken to task and accused of helping to divide the Democratic Party. King places the blame on the WFP for helping fuel the rise of Donald Trump and “weaken” Hillary Clinton.

“If Senate Leader Stewart- Cousins truly wishes to have the Democratic Senate unified, joining the Working Families Party—a group that split from the Democratic party— to find resolution, is a bad strategy,” King said in a statement. “As someone who ran the Democratic State Party and worked to unify the Democratic Senate, I know firsthand that these conversations are best when private. Further, the Working Families Party is a divisive element within our party, not a unifier. They primary our candidates, and did their best to weaken Hillary Clinton just this past election cycle. Now we have Donald Trump.”

For Stewart-Cousins, King asks a series of questions, deflecting blame from Cuomo and asking why the mainline conference hasn’t, in effect, gotten its own house in order.

“If Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins is a leader, now is the time to lead. She must ask herself: why is the IDC growing stronger, not weaker? Why is it becoming more diverse? Why is the Democratic Majority Conference failing to win elections repeatedly? Does the leadership have to “step up” and change its composition? Can it work with the IDC leadership? Why is there room for Ruben Diaz Sr. in the Senate Conference, but no room for Simcha Felder?” the statement reads.

“These are not questions that the Governor can answer. But, these are questions the Democratic Senate Leadership must answer in order for a unified Democratic Senate. I have been an outspoken critic of the IDC arrangement and have to scars to prove it. The incontrovertible truth is this: the IDC are Democrats and they have been successful. They need to be convinced that success will continue with a unified Democratic Senate; a job, respectfully submitted by the leader to make, not the Governor.”

Cuomo has been criticized during his time as governor for not helping bridge the divide in the chamber between the Democratic lawmakers and has been accused of preferring a Republican majority to play off against a Democratic-dominated Assembly.

Updated: Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy responds.

“We have always made it clear that we want Democrats to unify and just today Senate Democratic Leadership had a meeting with the Governor exactly about this goal,” he said.

“The reality is we have 32 Democrats in the chamber and there is room for everybody in a Democratic Majority. It is mind-boggling that in Progressive New York for Democrats to win a majority they are required to win more than just a numerical majority to actually govern and that is why we need the Leader of our Party to step up. We will continue to look to the Governor’s leadership to help unify the party.”