Nick Reisman

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RWDSU Backs Louis For Brooklyn Council Seat

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on Thursday endorsed Farah Louis for the open 45th city Council District in Brooklyn.

“Farah Louis’s career in public advocacy began when she made a critical choice to come from behind a news-camera and take to the school bus drivers’ strike line instead. From that moment on she hasn’t stopped fighting for the rights of working people,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum.

“Councilmember Louis knows the 45th district inside and out. She knows that smart development of the district with union jobs will ensure that generations of Brooklynites can truly live and work there. We know Farah will stand up and protect workers’ rights to organize and to have safe working conditions. And that she will ensure everyone in the 45th can earn a fair wage. The RWDSU is proud to support Farah on her re-election campaign and we look forward to continue working with her.”

The district was vacated by Jumaane Williams after he won a special election for the New York City public advocate’s office. The primary is scheduled for June 25.

Jacobs Says He’s Taking Langworthy Seriously

Jay Jacobs, the state Democratic committee chairman, is not yawning at the news of his new counterpart.

Indeed, Jacobs said in a Capital Tonight interview on Wednesday he is taking incoming Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy seriously.

“A new chairman worries me,” Jacobs said. “I ought to be worried, because I want to make sure we do everything right and smart and keep the people of New York state believing they did right by making us a majority party.”

Langworthy will officially be installed as the party chairman in July after waging a leadership battle against outgoing Chairman Ed Cox. Both men appeared at the Republican headquarters in Albany to formally announce the transition..

Langworthy plans to make an effort to increase party enrollment, expand its small-dollar donations and, eventually, elect a Republican governor for the first time since 2002.

Democrats hold a 2-to-1 enrollment advantage over Republicans in New York and hold the Legislature and all statewide offices.

Jacobs, in the interview, said he was mindful of what former Republican Chairman Joe Mondello told him.

“He taught me politics is a cyclical business,” Jacobs said, adding, “I believe we can’t be arrogant in the Democratic Party. We can’t take our winds and believe we’re always going to win.”

LGBTQ Groups Urge Lawmakers To Pass Surrogacy Bill

From the Morning Memo:

A coalition of LGBTQ organizations on Thursday will release a letter to top legislative leaders in the state Senate and Assembly urging them to pass a bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York.

The bill has gained some momentum this week as Gov. Andrew Cuomo told donors on Tuesday that he wanted lawmakers to make the measure a priority before the session ends next month.

“The past thirty years have opened doors to LGBTQ families that had never before existed,” the letter states, sent to Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“Medical advances have made it possible for couples and individuals to build families in new ways; simultaneously, the success of the marriage equality movement resulted in deep legal protections for families headed by same-sex couples who have chosen to marry, including protections related to bringing children into their family. Unfortunately, New York’s outdated laws lag far behind most other states in protecting these modern families.”

Signing on to the letter includes prominent advocates and organizations: former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Evan Wolfson Roberta Kaplan, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Human Rights Campaign and the Stonewall Democratic Club, among others.

New York is one of three states that do not allow commercial surrogacy. Some women’s organizations and religious groups have raised objections to the proposal.

The state Democratic Committee on Wednesday adopted a resolution backing the surrogacy legislation, saying it would further the cause of “complete equality.”

Cuomo on Tuesday at a fundraiser with LGBTQ donors urged lawmakers to take the measure up as the session winds down next month.

“If this Legislature leaves this session without passing surrogacy, it will be a disgrace to the progressive tradition of the state of New York,” he said. “We need them to hear that loud and clear. Don’t come back from Albany and tell me how progressive you are if you didn’t pass the surrogacy laws and you should send them right back up to pass it, because their job isn’t done.”

Lgbtq Letter Cpsa Final by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Nixon And Teachout Urge Emergency Regs For Yeshivas

From the Morning Memo:

Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout in a letter to be released Thursday called on the state Education Department to develop emergency regulations for education standards at yeshivas.

The letter comes after a state Supreme Court struck down guidelines for private and parochial schools on procedural grounds.

“The decades long neglect of secular education at various ultra-Orthodox yeshivas is a crisis affecting tens of thousands of students each year,” they wrote in the letter.

“All children, regardless of religion, deserve equal access to a fair and basic education. And yet every year students graduate from these yeshivas without the ability to read or write in English, and little to no understanding of science, math, history or civics.”

Nixon, an education advocate and actress, ran for governor last year in the Democratic primary against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Teachout last year sought the attorney general nomination in the Democratic primary.

The letter points to a report by YAFFED that found only 90 minutes of secular education in Hasidic boys’ elementary schools and no in high schools.

“For far too long, politicians have put their own interests ahead of students with devastating consequences for individuals and whole communities,” they wrote.

Nixon + Teachout Letter FINAL by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Senate Plans Hearing To Review Alternative Funding For Education

From the Morning Memo:

New York schools have had traditionally two main funding sources: Revenue from property taxes and direct aid from the state.

Senate lawmakers next week at a hearing plan to review how a different model could be used.

The hearing, planned for Wednesday in Albany, will be led by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Shelley Mayer and Senate Budget and Revenues Chairman Brian Benjamin. Scheduled to testify are experts on education funding alternatives, lawmakers said.

“It is imperative that New York hear from national experts about alternative methods of financing public education,” Mayer said.

“This hearing will provide an essential opportunity to learn from researchers about how other states generate revenue, and the benefits and drawbacks of alternative financing systems, so we can begin to explore potential financing measures we can adopt in New York that are both equitable and stable for our education system.”

Mayer called it a “first step in the process” of reviewing alternative ways of raising revenue for public schools in the state.

The vast majority of school budgets this week — 98.4 percent — were approved by voters, with almost all budgeting within a cap on local property tax increases, which has been in place since 2012.

“Providing for the maintenance and support of a system of free public schools for the education of New York’s children is central to our role as legislators,” Benjamin said in a statement. “This hearing will allow us to gather information about how we can best meet that constitutional duty, and give us new insights into how New York can grow as a leader in public education and education funding.”

State Dems Move Up Party Switch Deadline

New York Democrats on Wednesday moved up the deadline for voters to switch parties or register as Democrats ahead of next year’s presidential primary.

The state committee voted to move the party switch deadline to 60 days before a primary, rather than more than 190 days. At the same time, the party will also now allow voters unaffiliated with a party — registered blanks or small “i” independents — to register as Democrats 25 days before a primary.

New York’s presidential primary is scheduled for April 28.

The date switch comes after voters in 2016 were frustrated by the voter registration rules for party affiliation as the nominating process entered New York without a clear nominee for either Democrats or Republicans. At the time, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was waging an insurgent bid against Hillary Clinton; Clinton ultimately won the New York primary by 10 percentage points.

State Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs said the change was meant to satisfy ideological wings of the party.

“It was part of a compromise between the more moderate progressives on the one hand and the far left on the other,” he said. “We worked this out. The governor asked us to make sure things were more agreeable in the state party.”

Ocasio-Cortez Releases Fundraising Email For Cabán

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday released a fundraising email for Queens Democratic district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán ahead of the crowded June primary.

In the email, Ocasio-Cortez seek small dollar donations — as low as $3 — for Cabán’s campaign. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Cabán’s bid earlier this week.

“Tiffany can’t win without you,” she wrote. “In these local elections, entrenched power and corporate PACs are especially hard to beat — will you counteract their influence and fight for criminal justice reform with a $3 contribution today?”

And the email frames the push around an effort to change the state’s criminal justice laws and a renewed approach to prosecution.

“For too long, the Queens DA has stood by as mass incarceration has ravaged our communities. New York pays $143,000 every year to keep someone incarcerated — just imagine what we could do if we instead invested that money in health care, infrastructure, or education,” the email states.

“Tiffany sees it the way we do. She’s spent years as a public defender in the city — defending some of our most vulnerable communities against a criminal justice system that just wants to throw folks behind bars. Countless people that she’s defended would tell stories about how Tiffany would walk them through issues with immigration, research job opportunities, and build a stable life for themselves.”

Ninety-Eight Percent Of School Districts Approve Budgets

The vast majority of school districts on Tuesday approved their proposed budgets, a pass rate of 98 percent, according to the New York State United Teachers union.

“Parents and community members showed their commitment to strong public education by resoundingly approving school budgets statewide in near-unanimous fashion yet again and electing to school boards educators dedicated to serving their area’s students,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “At a time when resources have been limited, it has never been more important for voters to stay engaged in and support our public school students and their dedicated teachers.”

At the same time, 29 NYSUT members were elected to school board seats.

The review by the union found of the 576 school budgets put before voters, only 10 were defeated. The pass rate for school district budgets has been around 98 percent for the last five years as districts set spending plans within a limit on how much they can raise in property tax levies.

Eight of the 10 budgets that were defeated had sought to override the tax cap.

“While we were disappointed the tax cap was made permanent earlier this year, NYSUT will not stop fighting for changes to this law to ensure schools are receiving the resources they need to thrive,” Pallotta said.

Lawmakers Approve Bill Opening Up Trump’s Taxes For Congressional Review

State lawmakers on Wednesday put the finishing touches on a bill that is meant to provide their counterparts in Congress access to President Donald Trump’s New York tax returns.

The bill, along with a chapter amendment meant to narrow the scope of the legislation to cover only public officials who file taxes in New York, is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Republicans in the Legislature blasted the bill as politically motivated and a distraction from issues facing the state, like jobs, taxes and the economy. Democrats, however, countered the measure was meant to provide a dose of transparency for elected officials.

The measure dovetailed with the final passage of a separate bill on Tuesday that allows New York prosecutors to bring cases against those the president has pardoned if a state law was broken.

“This is a bill that’s more narrowly tailored and gives comfort to our colleagues that the bill will protect the privacy protections of tax returns and accomplish the goal of the state of New York standing up for Congress as a co-equal branch of government,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsors the bill. “The bottom line is no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.”

The bill requires the state Department of Taxation commissioner to provide copies of any public official’s tax filings if request by Congress. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are pushing for access to Trump’s federal tax filings. As a candidate, Trump broke with decades of tradition and declined to release his taxes voluntarily.

“This bill stands for the principle of transparency with regards to top officials tax returns,” said Assemblyman David Buchwald. “Shedding light on tax returns is an important public purpose.”

While the bill was narrowed in scope, Buchwald said it would still make thousands of public officials taxes open for review by Congress.

Republicans, however, saw things differently.

“I thought it was a shameless exhibition of putting politics ahead of any policy,” said Assemblyman Andy Goodell, the Republican floor leader.

Goodell noted voters were aware of Trump’s stance prior to the election that he would not release his taxes.

“President Trump was clear he’s not releasing his tax returns before the election,” he said. “That was clearly out in the public.”

Counties Falling Short In Early Voting Push, Common Cause Says

Several county governments have so far failed to meet early voting requirements such as submitting poll site locations in November to the state Board of Elections, Common Cause on Wednesday said.

The good-government group found Ulster, Westchester, Cattaraugus and Columbia counties so far have not released any polling locations. They have until next Wednesday to do so.

At the same time, New York City has so far only announced 38 total sites meant to serve more than 5 million voters. Common Cause says the polling locations are sparsely located through the city, making them difficult to reach for people with physical disabilities and people of color.

“The Boards of Elections (BOE) across the state are setting up voters to fail in November by trying to sabotage early voting,” said Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner. “New Yorkers need access to voting centers in non-traditional locations, close to transportation, county-wide, and including local and state facilities. We’ve fought too hard to let New York vote, we’re not about the back down now.”

There are other issues as well: Onondaga County has six sites, which is the minimum number, and hard to reach for rual voters. Erie County has only voting location in Buffalo and two in Cheektowaga, the minimum number of poll sites.