Cuomo Proposes Reorganization Of Marijuana Bureaucracy

From the Morning Memo:

The proposed $175 billion state spending plan includes a sweeping re-organization of the state’s marijuana bureaucracy, consolidating regulation and oversight of the marijuana growing and retail industry under a new state offfice.

The budget would create an Office of Cannabis Management, overseeing commercial adult-use marijuana as well as medical marijuana and hemp.

Medical marijuana is currently overseen by the state Department of Health; Agriculture and Markets regulates hemp production in New York.

The new office would be under the umbrella of the State Liquor Authority and overseen by an executive director.

The office would be led by an executive director with wide authority over new regulations for the potential commercial retail industry for marijuana, including the number of licenses issued and oversight of pricing, including ceilings on retail markup.

At the same time, the budget includes provisions meant to spur minority, women-owned businesses and those in community impacted by drug laws in order to promote diversity in licensing.

That includes those from a “community group that has been disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition” as well as someone who was convicted of a marijuana-related offense in the past.

In his budget address on Tuesday, Cuomo said the program would “create an industry that empowers the poor communities that pay the price and not the rich corporations who come in to make a profit.”

And the new agency would be tasked with how marijuana at the retail level is marketed, including restrictions on advertisements similar to alcohol sales. Marijuana ads would not be allowed on TV, radio or digital programming that has an audience predominantly under the wage of 21.

The state projects the retail marijuana industry will result in $300 million in revenue from a three-tiered tax structure.

Gov’s Budget Omits Male Contraception Coverage

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $175 billion budget plan does not include insurance coverage for male contraception, explicitly omitting language that would include condoms and vasectomies.

It’s one of the key differences from the legislature’s version, the Comprehensive Contraception Care Act, which offers equitable coverage.

“The legislature feels very strongly that contraception is a two way street, men and women, and of course, when you’re talking about condoms that’s a public health issue that protects women and men from sexually transmitted diseases,” said Sen. Liz Krueger Tuesday night in a Capital Tonight interview. She is a co-sponsor of the Legislature’s version of the contraception bill.

Both versions read: “All FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices, and other products. This includes all FDA-approved over-the-counter contraceptive drugs, devices, and products as prescribed or as otherwise authorized under state or federal law.”

But the Governor’s version immediately tacks on, “notwithstanding this paragraph, an insurer shall not be required to provide coverage of male condoms.”

The legislature’s bill allows “voluntary sterilization procedures,” where the executive proposal specifies solely “voluntary sterilization procedures for women.”

“We’re legislators. We need to read, we need to review, we need to make the decision whether we agree with something or we need to change it and we have the ability,” Krueger said. “Now, thanks to both houses being Democratic, to pass the kinds of bills we believe are literally in the best interests of New Yorkers.”

Both versions are congruent in covering up to 12 months of contraception, education and counseling services and follow up services.

Next week the state Senate is expected to pass the CCCA along with the Reproductive Health Act.

Moody’s: Seneca Arbitration Decision ‘Credit Positive’ For WNY Cities

From the Morning Memo:

Moody’s Investors Services said last week’s resolution in an arbitration between the state and the Seneca of Nation of Indians will have a positive financial impact on three Western New York cities.

The arbitration panel ruled the Senecas must continue to pay the state a percentage of the nation’s slot machine revenues, as well as nearly two years of back payments. Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca will all receive funding they have been due but were not receiving while this battle was being waged.

Of the three cities, Niagara Falls was in the worst financial shape, with a negative rating from Moody’s. While, the rating service’s declaration of “credit positive” does not automatically mean there will be an imminent credit rating or outlook change, it is a recognition of a significant event for the city.

“In particular, the ruling will greatly improve the financial position of the City of Niagara Falls (Baa3 negative), which relies heavily on Seneca Nation revenue-sharing funds to support operations,” the report reads.

Moody’s noted Salamanca also relies heavily on the funding, but was in a better financial position than Niagara Falls at the outset of this prolonged fight. The service pointed out that only some of the lost casino revenue could be made up from a property tax increase, so cuts would’ve been needed had the arbitration not ended up the way it did.

“Had the Seneca Nation won the arbitration and refused to make payments to these cities going forward, both cities would have faced significant financial uncertainty,” Moody’s said.

The report said even though the amount of money Buffalo received was small compared to the city’s total budget, it had still “struggled to maintain balanced operations, and any loss of recurring revenue can be difficult to absorb.”

Siena Poll: Trump Numbers Sink, Most Voters See Negative Race Relations In NY

From the Morning Memo:

Nearly half of voters in New York have a favorable view of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Siena College poll released Friday morning found.

Gillibrand launched her presidential bid this week, is viewed less favorably among fellow Democrats than two other prominent statewide elected officials, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sen Chuck Schumer.

Sixty-one percent of Democrats have a favorable view of Gillibrand, with 68 percent having a favorable view of the governor. Seventy-four percent see Schumer favorably.

Overall, Gillibrand has a 48 percent to 31 percent favorable rating, the poll found. She was handily re-elected in November, her third victory statewide.

President Donald Trump remains deeply unpopular in New York, with 64 percent viewing him unfavorably, his worst showing since April.

Most New Yorkers believe race relations are either fair or poor as Martin Luther King Day approaches.

The poll found five percent view race relations in New York as excellent, 30 percent view them as good. But 43 percent view them as fair, while 19 percent see race relations as poor.

It’s a decline from the previous year’s survey from Siena’s polling institute, when 39 percent viewed race relations positively and 58 percent negatively.

Seventy percent of New Yorkers say sexual harassment is a significant or very significant problem in the workplace, down slightly from the previous year. Forty-five percent of women surveyed say they have been sexually harassed in the workplace.

“More than two-thirds of New Yorkers continue to believe that racial and ethnic minorities in the state experience discrimination because of their race or ethnicity,” said Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said.

“Eighty-three percent of blacks, 65 percent of Latinos and 64 percent of whites say that minorities face discrimination. The only demographic group that disagrees and thinks minorities do not experience discrimination is conservatives by a 49-43 percent margin.”

The poll of 805 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 6 to Jan. 10. It has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

Crosstabs can be found here.

Here and Now

It’s comingprepare yourself.

The federal government is still shut down.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public events or interviews yet announced.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, fresh off announcing her 2020 presidential run, is in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa. She’ll take a walking tour of businesses in Sioux City, and then attend a Truman Club house party.

Vice President Mike Pence this evening delivers remarks at the 37th Annual March for Life Rose Dinner, Renaissance Hotel, Washington, D.C.

At 7:45 a.m., former NYC Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito, now a candidate for public advocate, greets commuters at the Junction Boulevard 7 train, Jackson Heights, Queens.

At 8:15 a.m., former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman speaks on “the closing of Rikers Island as a catalyst for criminal justice reform,” New York Law School, 185 West Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, commissioner of the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, delivers a presentation on the governor’s State of the State and budget address, Hilton Garden Inn, 1100 South Ave., Staten Island.

At 10 a.m., Rep. Anthony Brindisi announces his committee assignments and legislative priorities, Henry P. Smith Post 24, American Legion, 325 Erie Boulevard West, Rome.

Also at 10 a.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito will deliver a presentation on the governor’s State of the State and budget address, Herkimer College Amphitheater, 100 Reservoir Rd., Herkimer.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will appear live on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show and take calls from listeners.

Also at 10 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is a panelist at the New York State Bar Association’s environmental justice event, New York Hilton Midtown, 1335 Sixth Ave., Grand Ballroom West, third floor, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., former Rep. Mike McNulty, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy and other regional economic development leaders attend a press event to celebrate the grand opening of the Bull Moose Club, 150 State St., fourth floor, Albany.

At 11 a.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer holds a press conference on transportation in eastern Queens, 93-02 Sutphin Blvd., Queens.

Also at 11 a.m., de Blasio will deliver remarks on the NYC Ferry expansion, Staten Island Borough Hall, 10 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island.

At 11:15 a.m., state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, state Sen. John Liu, Assemblyman David Weprin, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein and New York City Councilman Barry Grodenchik attend the ribbon-cutting for a new technology center at Cardozo High School, 57-00 223rd St., Queens.

At 11:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul sends off students as part of SUNY’s Puerto Rico recovery assistance legal clinic, University at Buffalo, O’Brian Hall, 211 Putnam Way, Buffalo.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Guillermo Linares, acting president of HESC, delivers a presentation on the governor’s State of the State and budget address, RAIN Eastchester Neighborhood Senior Center, 1246 Burke Ave., the Bronx.

At noon, Rep. Carolyn Maloney joins with elected officials and advocates to call on the Trump administration to follow a court ruling and remove the citizenship question from the 2020 census, 32BJ SEIU headquarters, 25 W. 18th St., Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m., former US Attorney Preet Bharara discusses pressing legal topics of the day and current events with Fordham University School of Law Dean Matthew Diller, NYSBA Annual Meeting, New York Hilton Midtown, Manhattan.

At 2:30 p.m., Hochul delivers a presentation on Cuomo’s 2019 State of the State and budget address, Rochester City Hall, Atrium, 30 Church St., Rochester.

At 3 p.m., Rep. Adriano Espaillat hosts his annual open house event, honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Harlem district office, 163 W. 125th St., Manhattan. (Mark-Viverito will attend).

Also at 3 p.m., Cuomo’s chief diversity officer Lourdes Zapata delivers a presentation on his State of the State and budget address, The Paramount Theater, 17 South St., Middletown.

At 5:30 p.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Assemblyman Charles Lavine attend a Martin Luther King Jr. service, Temple Beth-El, 5 Old Mill Road, Great Neck.

De Blasio travels this evening to Bangor, Maine, to visit his aged aunt.

Headlines…

An end to the government shutdown looked more distant than ever after President Donald Trump abruptly canceled Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned visit to Afghanistan.

“The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation & thanks to our men & women in uniform for their service & dedication, & to obtain critical national security & intelligence briefings from those on the front lines,” Pelosi’s chief of staff explained on Twitter.

Hours after Trump grounded Pelosi’s planned trip to visit the troops, first lady Melania Trump was winging her way to Mar-a-Lago — on a government jet.

Trump also has canceled his administration’s trip to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum next week.

Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Cohen acknowledged that he had paid the owner of a technology services company to help doctor results of an online poll to help Trump as he considered a run for president.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that if the government shutdown continues, it could cost New Yorkers — especially the most vulnerable — hundreds of millions of dollars in needed benefits.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed state agencies to provide support for federal workers affected by the federal government shutdown.

Electric and gas utilities in New York announced that customers affected by the partial federal government shutdown can take part in special collection practices.

Fresh off her 2020 announcement, U.S. Kirsten Gillibrand said she plans to attend a Women’s March in Iowa this weekend — even though the event has been shrouded in controversy since one of its organizers refused to condemn anti-Semitic religious leader Louis Farrakhan.

A global New York-based law firm has agreed to pay $4.6 million to settle a Justice Department investigation into whether its work for a Russia-aligned Ukrainian government violated lobbying laws.

A series of depositions that a federal judge authorized this week to explore Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account as secretary of State have been put on ice due to the partial government shutdown.

De Blasio defended his administration’s decision to allow a senior aide to resign after he was accused of sexually harassing two women, saying firing him would have exposed the identity of his alleged victims.

After winning a commanding re-election in 2017, de Blasio was effusive in praising a key member of his core City Hall team: Kevin O’Brien, his acting chief of staff. Three months later, O’Brien was gone, quietly forced to resign after complaints of sexual harassment filed by two female city employees were substantiated.

A hearing on sexual harassment will take place in Albany next month, giving survivors and advocates a long-sought platform to weigh in on the issue as lawmakers seek to bolster the state’s sexual harassment laws.

The annual two-and-a-half-month do-si-do over how much money the governor and State Legislature should put toward public education has begun. Not only are school districts disappointed by the funding levels proposed by Cuomo, but they’re wary about his proposal to force districts to shift more money to their poorest schools.

Contrary to Cuomo’s recent assertions, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority he effectively controls does not expect to seek the approval of its board to proceed with the governor’s L-train plan.

This occurred just two days after the agency’s board bashed the plan during a heated “emergency” meeting Tuesday.

The NYPD gained information from undercover sources embedded in the Black Lives Matter protests that swept through the city in 2015, according to hundreds department emails made public yesterday.

While NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill defended the practice laid bare in a series of department emails, de Blasio said he found it concerning because the activists “are not a security risk in any way shape or form.”

The Legal Aid Society is filing a federal class-action lawsuit accusing de Blasio’s housing agency of maintaining an “unlawful and devastating policy” that imperils domestic violence survivors.

More >

Extras

After she told him to delay his State of the Union address in her chamber, the president announced that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s scheduled trip to Egypt, Brussels and Afghanistan “has been postponed” due to the shutdown, telling her: “If you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.”

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani now says he “never said there was no collusion” between Russia and members of Trump’s 2016 White House campaign, contradicting public positions that he and his client have taken.

Amid the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Trump’s job approval rating has declined since last month, and cracks in the president’s base are part of the reason, according to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Trump slammed “radical Democrats” in Congress for not agreeing to his demand that lawmakers cough up $5.7 million for his long-promised wall on the Mexican border.

All State Department employees furloughed because of the ongoing government shutdown are being ordered to report back to work next week — but they won’t see a paycheck until mid-February at the earliest.

The NYPD infiltrated the Black Lives Matter movement by using undercover agents and other “sources” to track the activists’ movements while calling them “idiots,” according to the department emails newly released following a Freedom of Information Law request.

Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first speech on the House floor quickly made C-SPAN history, becoming its most viewed twitter video of any remarks by a House member of either party, seen 1.16 million times.

Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, a junior New York U.S. senator and newly minted 2020 presidential contender, apologized for holding “callous” views on immigration amidst a broader mea culpa over her formerly conservative views on “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

New health care regulations outlined by Cuomo would give New Yorkers more options when it comes to having children — and could require insurers to cover the cost of condoms.

The LIRR hired an outside agency to help with the homeless problem in and around railroad stations. Eleven months into its five-year, $860,000 contract, an audit by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found Services for the Underserved is not doing its job – even lying about its outreach.

A group of state lawmakers plans to hold hearings regarding the LIRR’s recent performance, which they described as “subpar and in desperate need of thorough review.”

The de Blasio administration says it’s opposing a controversial NYC Council bill that would allow employees to blow off their bosses’ after-hour emails and texts without penalty, saying it’s just too tough to monitor.

Advocates say the governor’s promise to invest $200 million in fighting the opioid epidemic is specious, advocates say, if not outright misleading.

One hundred and ninety one pages of the governor’s budget bill are devoted to the topic of legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use.

Kevin O’Brien, who had served as NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s acting chief of staff in 2017 and was then a senior adviser, departed City Hall last year because of a substantiated allegation of sexual harassment from two people, according to city documents.

The number of Buffalo Public Schools in academic good standing with New York State has more than doubled in the past three years, while at the same time the number under threat of an outside takeover has gone from 25 down to just three – two that were on that original list and one new one.

Days after former “Today” host Megyn Kelly’s exit deal was finalized with NBC, she was summoned for jury duty.

New York public university faculty members and graduate assistants are choosing not to pay union dues at a higher rate than any other major group of state government employees since getting the right to choose in last year’s landmark ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.

A Good Samaritan found $8,000 on the side of the road and delivered it to a woman whose husband died in the Schoharie limousine crash – getting her the money just before a cruise they’d planned as a honeymoon.

Cuomo Admin Says Early Voting Will Be Paid For

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in a statement Thursday sought to allay concerns local governments would not have the funding to pay for the cost of early voting, pointing to a provision that would collect sales taxes on internet purchases from out-of-state retailers and the plan to consolidate the state and federal primaries into one day.

The primary consolidation is expected to save $25 million, while the sales tax enforcement would take in an additional $390 million.

County governments are charged with running elections through local boards of election. Local government advocates have raised concerns with the early voting bill not being coupled with a funding in the governor’s budget proposal for the measure.

“While the federal government works to disenfranchise voters, in New York we are committed to making voting easier and ensuring every New Yorker has an opportunity to exercise this sacred democratic right to make their voices heard,” said Dani Lever, the governor’s communications director. “”This year, Governor Cuomo proposed a comprehensive set of reforms to improve our democracy, including making Election Day a State holiday, synchronizing federal and state elections, and enacting voting by mail, same day and auto registration, and early voting.

“The Budget more than covers the cost of early voting by merging state and federal primaries to save counties $25 million and eliminating the internet tax advantage to ensure collection of sales taxes, delivering $390 million to local governments.”

State lawmakers last week approved the early voting legislation, which has been sent to Cuomo’s desk for his signature.

State To Assist Furloughed Federal Workers

New York officials are moving to provide support for the federal government workers who have been furloughed or have missed paychecks due to the ongoing and record-long shutdown in Washington.

“It is unconscionable that the President is holding hostage the wages and livelihoods of hard-working Americans in an attempt to advance his hateful and regressive political agenda,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

“While the federal administration steps on the backs of workers, New York State is stepping up to help in any way we can. These measures will ensure furloughed federal workers in New York receive prompt and special one-on-one services so they can obtain the vital safety-net benefits they need during this hard time.”

Federal workers will receive back pay once the government re-opens. But until then, workers have missed at least one paycheck due to the shutdown. Some workers, like airport security workers, are at work without pay.

The Department of Labor has been called on to speed up the application process for unemployment insurance and extend the hours of its call center. At the same time, Cuomo called on the department to coordinate with federal public workers unions to make members aware of the benefits that are available.

Some workers on furlough or working without pay may be eligible for emergency assistance in order to meet basic needs through the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Cuomo Wants A Tax Return Disclosure Law For Candidates

Candidates for statewide office and the Legislature should disclose up to a decade’s worth of tax returns in order to qualify for the ballot, according to a provision in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal.

Candidates for statewide offices — governor, attorney general and comptroller among them — would have to disclose 10 years of state and federal tax returns.

Those running for state Senate or Assembly would have to disclose 5 years of returns.

The provision cannot apply to candidates for federal office, such as president, Senate or the House of Representatives.

“While this federal administration seems intent on operating in secrecy and darkness, New York State is working to provide the public with more information to better inform their choice at the ballot box,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Mandating that this critical information be made public will shed sunlight and sunshine on potential conflicts of interest and increase the ethical standards of public officials serving New Yorkers.”

Typically statewide officials, including Cuomo, disclose their tax returns every April by making copies of them available to the press, as part of a long-standing custom dating back to the post-Watergate era.

During the 2018 re-election campaign, Cuomo pushed his Democratic primary opponent Cynthia Nixon and later his Republican challenger Marc Molinaro to release 10 years’ worth of tax returns.

Ultimately, Nixon released one year five years of tax returns; Molinaro released one year.

Child Victims Act Supporters Step Up Efforts

Supporters of bill that would make it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits are ramping up their push in the new legislative session to see the measure approved in the coming weeks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week released a budget proposal that included the provision, including a one-year look back provision advocates have sought.

“The Child Victims Act is a no brainer,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. “This legislation will not only give survivors an opportunity to seek justice, but it will also protect our communities. 2019 is the year we stop valuing money over of survivors of child sexual abuse.”

Apple, along with survivors and victims of abuse, held a news conference at the Capitol on Thursday morning to back the measure.

“#KidsToo – every 8 minutes a child is sexually abused. Our current NY legislators and Governor are the allies our children need. I look forward to extending the restrictive statute of limitations and allowing all NY survivors an opportunity to hold abusers and any aiding institutions accountable. Now is the time to address #KidsToo,” said Bridie Farrell, CEO of NY Loves Kids and survivor of child sexual abuse.”

Meanwhile, another advocate for the bill, Greene County businessman Gary Greenberg called for the measure’s passage within the next 30 days — leaving the measure outside of the budget.

“Survivors around the state have spoken clearly: We must pass the Child Victims Act in the first 30 days of the legislative session,” he said. “Over a thousand kids are abused in this state every week, that has gone on long enough.”

Greenberg released a Facebook ad calling for the bill’s passage.