State Senate

Senate Dems Form MWBE Task Force

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats on Thursday are launching a new task force to concentrate on minority and women-owned business enterprises in New York, to be led by Queens Sen. James Sanders.

The panel is being tasked with developing proposals to encourage business ownership among women and minorities and will include Sens. Jamaal Bailey, Leroy Comrie, Martin Dilan, Todd Kaminsky, Kevin Parker, Gustavo Rivera and Toby Stavisky.

“As we work to find creative ideas to grow our economy in New York State, empowering MWBEs is an important part of this effort,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.

“I look forward to the impactful work that will come out of this task force, especially under the leadership of Senator Sanders who has been a pioneering legislator and advocate on this issue. We must harness the potential of MWBEs in our communities to spur economic activity throughout New York State.”

Sanders, the task force’s chairman, helped craft New York City’s MWBE laws while on the New York City Council, writing legislation that bolstered their competition for city contracts.

“As the father of MWBEs, having authored Local Law 1 and Local 129, during my time in the City Council,” Sanders said. “I have made it my mission to work with business leaders and advocates to redesign and level the playing field in a way that helps MWBEs realize their full potential.”

Flanagan: Trump Address Had ‘Hope And Optimism’

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan praised President Donald Trump’s address to Congress, telling reporters Wednesday the remarks contained “hope and optimism.”

“I thought it was good — full of a lot of hope and optimism,” Flanagan said. “Like anything else, the devil’s going to be in the details.”

Flanagan remained neutral during the Republican presidential primary, though Senate Republicans did meet with Ohio Gov. John Kasich privately at the Capitol. Some Republicans in the Senate also huddled with then-candidate Trump during his trip to Albany.

Flanagan at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland gave a full-throated endorsement of Trump’s nomination.

“I’m going to make this unequivocally clear,” Flanagan said. “I’m supporting Donald Trump for president. I’m going to do so with grace, with diplomacy, with passion and with fervor and I’m going to do it with New York style.”

Assembly, Senate Add More To Budget Revenue

As usual, the revenue picture presented by the Assembly and Senate are far rosier than the projections from the governor.

That’s once again the case this year, as both chambers on Tuesday released their revenue forecasts, which will guide how lawmakers negotiate over the coming weeks of the budget talks.

The Senate, led by Republicans, estimated $354 million in additional revenue beyond Cuomo’s 2017-18 budget. Tax revenues for the rest of the current fiscal year, will be $158 million than the initial estimate.

Meanwhile, the Assembly plans on having an additional $1 billion more than what Cuomo expects, plus an added $355 million more in the current fiscal year.

Direct Care Advocates Push For One-House Budget Inclusion

Direct care advocates are pushing the legislative majorities in the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Republican-led Senate to include living wage funding for their workers in the one-house budget resolutions due to be released in the coming days.

“This is a critical issue. The crisis is here. If Albany doesn’t step up now, the impact on people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities will be like nothing anybody wants to experience,” said former Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, who served in the Assembly for 25 years and has a son, Ricky, with a developmental disability.

The coalition known as #bFair2DirectCare on Tuesday lobbied at the Capitol for the funding, a $45 million allocation that would provide a wage boost for workers who provide care to vulnerable people and those with disabilities.

“The highest priority of any state budget is to start by helping those who are most vulnerable,” said Republican Sen. Jim Tedisco.

“Our state should be placing at least as high a priority in recruiting and retaining the best and brightest individuals to care for those who have developmental disabilities as it does in luring Hollywood studios to film in New York City. That’s why I’ve called for diverting $45 million from the state’s $420 million film and television production tax credit to go for boosting salaries for our direct care workers. We need to be fair to direct care workers here in New York and not line the pockets of rich movie stars and fat cat Hollywood executives who have shown a pretty abysmal record of creating real jobs Upstate. Our loved ones deserve nothing less.”

Advocates were disappointed earlier this year when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan did not include the direct care wage funding.

The one-house budget measures are non-binding documents the legislative chambers approve, but provide a general road map for the priorities of the Senate and Assembly in the negotiations.

Another Round Of Threats At JCCs In NY (Updated)

Updated: Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement announced an investigation was underway into the threats at the Jewish Community Centers in Tarrytown, Staten Island, New Rochelle, and Plainview.

“I share the pain and the outrage of so many New Yorkers who are affected directly and those who are sickened by watching these attacks unfold,” Cuomo said. “We will not allow anyone to intimidate or strike fear in the state of New York. The full force of government will be brought to bear in these efforts and these perpetrators will be punished.”

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Majority Leader John Flanagan on Monday decried the latest round of bomb threats directed at Jewish Community Centers around the country and in New York.

Several JCCs and schools were targeted for the unsubstantiated threats, this time on Staten Island and in Stewart-Cousins’s district, New Rochelle and Tarrytown.

“The threats made against the Jewish Community Centers in New Rochelle and Tarrytown are unacceptable and offensive to our values as New Yorkers and Americans,” Stewart-Cousins said.

“My office has contacted the local police in each community to ensure the investigations proceed and that those who have committed these appalling and cruel crimes are held responsible. Bigotry and hatred have no place in New York or America, and we stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and everyone affected by these horrific acts.”

Last week, Cuomo announced a proposed $25 million in grants for schools, JCCs and other vulnerable areas to enhance security in the wake of threats.

“Threats made against Jewish Community Centers in New York and across the country, including those that occurred this morning in Plainview and on Staten Island, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Flanagan said in a statement. “These centers provide a positive environment for people of every age, especially those of Jewish faith. Individuals and families who are attending should never be subject to threats of harm or violence.”

Senate GOP Backs Cuomo’s Push Against Bias Crimes

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Republicans are backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest effort to combat hate crimes in New York, which includes $25 million in grants to strengthen security at soft targets like day care and community centers.

“We stand with the Governor, Assembly and the people of New York in strongly condemning hate crimes and anti-semitism anywhere it exists, and look forward to taking decisive action to combat it,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. “Security has always been a top priority of our conference and we must ensure the state provides adequate resources to protect our citizens from these attacks or threats.”

Cuomo announced the measures, which includes a text messaging feature for the Division of Human Rights to report hate crime incidents, after yet another round of bomb threats Jewish Community Centers and at the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League in New York City.

Scrutiny has been further placed on anti-Semitic activity as President Donald Trump was slow to condemn both the incidents as well as the support he’s received from white supremacist groups during his campaign.

Trump this week forcefully condemned the incidents, saying the threats have to stop.

Hoylman Blasts Trump Admin’s Rescinding Of Transgender Protections

Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman in a statement released Wednesday night blasted the move by President Donald Trump’s administration to rescind the Title IX enforcement of protections for transgender students.

In the statement, the state lawmaker called Trump “a shameless bully.”

“By undermining Title IX protections for transgender students, Trump would allow all of America to follow the bogus ‘bathroom bills’ coming out of North Carolina and Texas, which are premised on the outrageous assertion that transgender people are sexual predators,” Hoylman said. “The reality is that upwards of 50 percent of transgender people are themselves the victims of sexual violence. Schools must offer a safe haven for all children – period. Trump’s new federal guidance obliterates that basic standard.”

Hoylman is the only openly gay member of the state Senate.

The Trump administration maintains the move is designed to allow states to set their own policies regarding transgender students. It is also likely to stoke calls from Democrats for the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that has stalled in the Senate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo through executive action has moved to add protections for transgender New Yorkers in housing and the workplace through the state’s Human Rights law.

Flanagan: Cuomo ‘Usurping’ Legislature’s Role

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Wednesday in a radio interview continued his criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to shift more budgetary authority to the executive branch after the spending plan is approved, charging the governor is “usurping” the role of the Legislature.

“A lot of our members in both houses on both sides of the aisle feel that he is usurping the independent role of not only the New York State Assembly but the New York State Senate,” Flanagan said in an interview on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom.

“We have a constitutional functional perspective and operational status here that we’re not going to simply give away.”

Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have not embraced the proposal by Cuomo to make mid-year changes to the budget through the Division of Budget, an arm of the governor’s administration, without first seeking legislative input.

The language was included as Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan does not include provisions for a potential repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act and its impact on the state’s finances.

Governors typically have more power during the budget-making process than in the course of developing and signing legislation approved by the Senate and Assembly.

In the interview, Flanagan indicated he would oppose the changes in the negotiations.

This isn’t the first time Flanagan expressed alarm with Cuomo’s proposal to shift more authority in the budget process to his office. Flanagan on Wednesday said he’s fought similar battles with the governor before on the basics of being an equal branch of government. Earlier this month, Cuomo’s office questioned Flanagan’s motives in opposing the changes, accusing him of wanting more discretion over legislative pork and a return to member items.

Flanagan called the statement “hogwash.”

“It’s not fit for the type of Legislature that we should have,” he said, “the type of relationship that should go back and forth between the executive and the Assembly and the Senate.”

Transgender Advocates Urge GENDA Vote

LGBTQ advocates this week sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan urging him to hold a vote on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a measure designed to provide legal protections for transgender individuals.

The letter came before President Donald Trump’s administration moved to drop the Obama-era enforcement of an interpretation of Title IX that in essence provided protections for transgender students nationally.

“You will recall that transgender advocates from Long Island and around the state have pleaded for your support of GENDA for years,” the letter, released by Julie Grey-Owens of GENDA 2017.

“You consistently told advocates and constituents that you would support the bill if it was ever brought to the Senate floor for a vote. As Senate Majority Leader, you have the power to move this desperately needed legislation to the Senate floor. The fact that for fourteen years the New York State Senate has failed to bring GENDA to the floor for a vote is an embarrassment to all New Yorkers who value equality.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015 through executive action announced the state would enforce protections for transgender people to curb discrimination in housing and the workplace. Cuomo’s move was criticized at the time by Flanagan, who knockd the governor for cutting the Legislature out of the process even as GENDA has stalled in the GOP-led Senate.

Advocates for the transgender community were angered when a prominent LGBTQ group, the Empire State Pride Agenda, announced it was disbanding, citing the governor’s regulatory action as a significant victory.

Flanagan Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Flanagan: Anti-Bag Bills Too Broad

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Wednesday suggested he would be opposed to efforts to curb plastic bag usage statewide, saying proposed legislation on the local level has been written too broadly.

“​It’s not simply a ban on plastic bags,” Flanagan told reporters in Albany. “It was plastic bags, it was paper bags. It was a five cent charge and going to the retailer. It wasn’t even going to something laudable like the environment. So when someone says they want to ban plastic bags, that’s not what the legislation says, whether it’s on the county level or in New York City.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month approved legislation that delayed the implementation of a 5-cent fee on carry-out bags in New York City, a move that effectively killed the locally backed legislation by the city Council. But Cuomo also plans to tackle the issue of bag usage statewide through a task force, amid the expected outcry from environmental groups who had pushed for the bag fee.

Now some state lawmakers want to see a broader effort to push back against plastic bag usage in New York, though it remains unlikely to pass the Republican-led state Senate.