Nick Reisman

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State Senate To Vote To End Religious Exemptions For Vaccines

From the Morning Memo:

The state Senate today will consider a bill that would end the religious exemption for vaccinations in New York amid measles outbreaks in Rockland County and Brooklyn.

The bill, backed by Sen. Brad Hoylman, is one of several vaccination-related measures lawmakers have proposed during the outbreaks, which nationally stand at more than 1,000 confirmed cases.

The religious exemption bill comes as the outbreaks in New York have predominantly affect the Orthodox Jewish community. Some lawmakers in the Assembly had expressed unease with the legislation over concerns the measure would not be effective in combatting measles and boosting vaccination rates.

Nevertheless, the Assembly is expected to follow suit on the measure next week before the legislative session is scheduled to conclude on Wednesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he would sign the bill.

Public health experts agree that vaccinations for healthy people are necessary in order to create herd immunity. Still, those opposed or skeptical of vaccinations have lobbied the Capitol in recent weeks to push back against the bill.

Lawmakers have also called for a statewide public information campaign on the benefits of vaccinations as well as requirements that kids going to summer camp receive vaccinations.

Assembly Advances Bill Allowing Undocumented Immigrants To Apply For Driver’s Licenses

For the first time, a bill extending access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants has passed the Assembly, but the bill faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.

The debate over a bill allowing undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses lasted for hours — taking place against the backdrop of a heated national conversation surrounding immigration and just days after a Siena College poll found a majority of voters opposed it.

“People are being villainized because of immigrant status — I think that does hurt the poll numbers,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “But when you are looking at from the human side and the pure economics and safety, it’s a no-brainer.”

The bill’s passage is a victory for advocates who have argued for the last six months the bill has economic merit that would bolster traffic safety and insure drivers.

“We applaud Speaker Heastie and the Assembly for doing the right thing and passing the Green Light NY bill that will bring hundreds of thousands of immigrants out from the shadows and make New York’s roads safer,” said Steven Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

The bill was approved 86-47 — with several Democrats voting against the legislation, including Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

“There’s a lot of rights and privileges that come with citizenship,” he said. “The correct thing to do is become a citizen, get on a path to citizenship, just like my parents went through.”

And it’s not clear if the bill, long a third rail in New York politics since then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed and withdrew the proposal in 2007, can pass in the state Senate.

“I think it makes the streets safer, saves the state money and makes sure people who are in car crashes are insured,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris, the deputy majority leader. “These are all positives. There’s really no meritorious agrument against it and I’m hopeful we can get it done.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has publicly doubted whether the votes are available in the Senate for it to pass, but reiterated on Wednesday he would sign the measure if approved lawmakers.

“I supported it when Eliot Spitzer first proposed it when I was attorney general,” Cuomo said. “So, I support it.”

Republican lawmakers in the Assembly, meanwhile, questioned whether the state should be weighing in on an issue normally reserved for the federal government.

“I definitely don’t think the state should be involved with a federal or state immigration policy,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. “That’s up to Washington.”

For now, a Senate vote on the bill is yet to be scheduled. The legislative session is due to end in a week.

Senate Backs Anti-Opioid Package

The Democratic-led state Senate on Wednesday backed a package of bills meant to combat opioid addiction in New York.

The bills include measures that would expand the entities allowed to posses and distribute an opioid antagonist that is meant to counteract overdoses.

Another bill would require health practitioners to discuss with their patients risk associated with certain pain medications.

And another bill is meant to expand access to medication assistance treatment for Medicaid recipients who need medications to treat substance abuse disorder.

Additional measures are meant to aid infants and expand access to abuse treatment.

“Across New York State, communities have been impacted by the opioid epidemic and families have faced its tragic effects. The fight against opioid abuse is a long one but the Senate Majority remains committed to finding solutions that will end this crisis,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.

“The bills advanced by the Senate Democratic Majority will support New Yorkers affected by opioid abuse by establishing recovery programs and expanding treatment options. I applaud Senator Pete Harckham, the bill sponsors, and all of my colleagues for supporting those fighting against opioid abuse.”

Cuomo, #TimesUp Advocates Push For Changes

A news conference with #TimesUp advocates and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday called for the approval a bill that would end the statute of limitations for second and third-degree rape as well as changes to the state’s sexual harassment laws that end what advocates say is a narrow definition.

And it included a powerful revelation from actress Mira Sorvino who, seated next to the governor, revealed she is a survivor of date rape. Sorvino had previously acknowledge she was assaulted and harassed by producer Harvey Weinstein.

“I can stand here before you and say not only was I a sexual harassment and battery victim at the hands of Mr. Weinstein, but I’m also a sexual assault victim and I am also a survivor of date rape,” she said. “I have never said that in public and I do not want to go into detail, but I have never said that last part in public because it is impossible sometimes to share these certain things. And I am doing it here to try and help, because there are all these survivors out there right now who need justice.”

She added, “Anyway, please everyone, if you can find it in your heart – I know that there are groups who don’t believe in any extension of statute of limitations – in this case it is extremely important for all the past victims, present survivors, and future would-be victims. Let’s prevent this. Let’s stop the triage and start changing the landscape now to say that time is up for sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual harassment, and rape. Time is truly up.”

Cuomo praised her remarks made in the Red Room of the Capitol, the ceremonial office of the governor.

“I’ve been in this room many, many times on many issues, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more intelligent, powerful, persuasive point that you just made and God bless you for being so brave and courageous,” he said.

Cuomo Says He Will Sign Rent Control Expansion

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign a package of measures agreed by state lawmakers that would expand rent control statewide and extend the regulations permanently, he said Wednesday.

“My point all along has been I wanted the best tenant protections we’ve ever passed for the state of New York and I believe this is the best tenant protections they will pass and I will sign it,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo did not appeared enthused by the two-way agreement announced Tuesday evening that includes statewide tenant protections and would allow upstate communities to opt in to local rent stabilization regulations.

Cuomo several times returned to the process surrounding the negotiations between the Senate and Assembly, noting Democrats in the Senate had previously announced “support” for a rent control package introduced by Assembly Democrats.

“Have you ever seen a situation where the Assembly puts out a bill and the Senate says ‘I will vote for the bill’ and it never happens?” Cuomo said.

And he seemingly gave faint praise to the package, which has been embraced by affordable housing advocates, calling it the best bill the Legislature could produce.

“In any event, I’m going to sign the bill,” he said.

Lawmakers feted the agreement. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the final deal was “what we always intended to do.”

“I think it is a huge benefit for New Yorkers,” he said. “I think for far too long landlords had the advantage. We righted the advantage.”

Heastie denied lawmakers worked to cut the governor out of the final deal, which was struck ahead of the June 15 deadline for the current laws to expire. A vote in both chambers is expected on Friday.

“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “The governor said he would pass what the Legislature could pass. Given the deadline we wanted to give tenants a secure standing what the world would be like on June 16.”

Lawmakers Strike Deal For Statewide Rent Regulations

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers announced Tuesday evening an agreement that is meant to permanently extend rent control laws for New York and expand the regulations to upstate communities.

The agreement, while not as ambitious as lawmakers’ public positions, still went further than previous rent control agreements struck in the recent past under Republican control of the state Senate, and the details were praised by housing advocates.

The deal would allow local governments outside of the New York City metropolitan area to opt in for rent regulations for municipalities that have a less than 5 percent vacancy rate in the housing stock to be regulated. Opting in would allow the locality to set up its own rent stabilization board.

Statewide, the agreement also bans the use of “tenant blacklists” and limits security deposits to one month’s rent, while also requiring procedures that lead to the prompt return of the deposit.

New protections would be added to tenants during an eviction process swell, while also barring landlords from forcing a tenant eviction.

Landlords would also be required to give tenant notices if they plan to increase rent more than 5 percent or do not intend to renew their lease.

“These reforms give New Yorkers the strongest tenant protections in history,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a joint statement issued alongside the top-line details of the deal.

“For too long, power has been tilted in favor of landlords and these measures finally restore equity and extend protections to tenants across the state. These reforms will pass both legislative houses and we are hopeful that the Governor will sign them into law. It is the right thing to do.”

The deal was struck as Gov. Andrew Cuomo had sought to apply outside pressure on lawmakers to act, pledging to pass anything the Legislature put in front of him. Cuomo doubted whether the state Senate, under control of Democrats for the first time in a decade, could muster the needed votes to pass a robust rent package.

“I think they can only pass a modified version of what the Assembly has proposed,” Cuomo said of the state Senate in a radio interview.

But advocates on Tuesday evening were praising the agreement — something the Legislature was quick to point out when announcing the agreement.

“This bill is affirmation of the Statewide movement that we are building together, and we look forward to working with the Senate and the Assembly, in the years to come, until every renter, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, can live free from the fear of displacement,” said Cea Weaver, the campaign director of the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance.

Affordable housing advocates had closely watched the negotiations surrounding rent control this year following the transfer of power in the Senate, hopeful a stronger package of bills would approved compared with the measures four years ago.

“This past election ignited the fires of change as evidenced by today’s tenant protection package,” said Rosemary Rivera of Citizen Action. “The Senate and Assembly have listened to the needs of tenants across the state and put forth bold legislation to end the housing crisis, showing how ordinary people, when organized, can beat back the billionaire real estate giants.”

The bill could be voted on as early as Friday, ahead of Saturday’s deadline for the rent laws to expire.

Doctors Group Pushes For Legalizing Marijuana

From the Morning Memo:

A coalition of doctors backing the legalization of marijuana in New York on Wednesday will release an open letter urging the passage of the bill in the final days of the legislative session.

In the letter, the group Doctors for Cannabis Regulation address concerns raised by the bill regarding public safety as well as opioid drug use.

“In states that have legalized cannabis for adult-use, opioid fatalities have notably declined,” the letter states. “This is promising foundational data, given that research has shown that legalization is associated with more informed doctor-patient conversations on the topic of medical cannabis treatment.”

And the letter touts the regulations surrounding product safety, with the tax revenue meant to in part benefit studies surrounding marijuana use.

“Regulatory oversight of the production, packaging, and sale of cannabis protects consumers while shielding them from risks present in the illicit marketplace,” the letter states. “Generated tax revenue from adult-use cannabis regulations can be allocated for medical research, substance abuse treatment, and community reinvestment efforts.”

The letter comes as a Siena College poll this week found a majority of voters, 55 percent to 40 percent. That a slight increase in support from a 52 percent to 42 percent, according to a similar poll in April.

DFCR NY Sign-On Letter FINAL by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Here And Now

Good morning and happy Wednesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and has nothing public planned so far.

At 10:30 a.m., Assembly Republicans will call for changes in the state’s cash bail changes. Back of the Assembly chamber, State Capitol, Albany.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West & 79 Street, New York City.

At 11 a.m., New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will join a group of elected officials and advocacy leaders to stand in solidarity with the nurses at NYC public hospitals in support of the healthcare justice campaign. City Hall Steps, New York City.

At 11:30 a.m., more than 300 farmers and farmworkers will join state officials and industry leaders to discuss common ground on the proposed farm labor bill. West Capitol Park, Albany.

At 1 p.m., Queens district attorney candidate Tiffany Caban will rally with sex workers, Corona Plaza, 40-04 National Street, Queens.

Also at 1 p.m., the state Senate will hold its session, state Capitol, Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., de Blasio will make an announcement, Grace Plaza, 42 W 43rd St., New York City.

At 3 p.m., Thousands of 32BJ SEIU commercial office cleaners in New York and across the country will rally to commemorate Justice for Janitors, a union campaign that transformed the janitorial industry by raising wages and benefits for hundreds of thousands of cleaners across the country. Bryant Park, 42nd and 6th Avenue.

At 3:30 p.m., New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will join thousands of 32BJ members to advocate for fair pay for commercial cleaners as part of the 32BJ Week of Power. Intersection of Broadway and Bowling Green, New York City.

At 6 p.m., Williams will join EBC/Metro IAF and a coalition of advocates in a protest at Gracie Mansion to call for the Mayor to expand investment in affordable senior housing. E 88th St & East End Ave, New York City.

Headlines:

From whether to decriminalize sex work to their commitment to the popular demand to end cash bail, seven Democrats in the primary for Queens district attorney debated on NY1 on Tuesday night, jostling to give the office a new progressive shine and potentially elect the borough’s top prosecutor for the first time in about three decades.

The New York State Senate and Assembly have reached a deal to greatly expand tenant protections. The omnibus rent bill will be introduced and voted on before rent regulations expire on Saturday.

New York City’s Correction Department is investigating after a second person in under a week dies while in its custody.

The inmate’s death was preceded by the death of a transgender inmate at Riker’s, and some officials are now calling for answers over what happened.

The Strand boasts that it has 18 miles of new, used and rare books, a landmark for any book lover. But now its building is an actual city landmark, much to the horror of its owner.

The Democratic-controlled state Senate approved a bill legalizing gestational surrogacy on Tuesday, but the measure faces a steeper climb in the Assembly.

Among Assemblywoman Deborah Glick’s reasons for opposing the surrogacy bill: “Personally, as an environmentalist I understand we have too many people in the world and as someone who has chaired the Social Services Committee in the past, I know that we have hundreds of thousands of youngsters looking for families.”

The Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Treasury have finalized regulations regarding charitable contributions and state and local tax credits initially proposed last August. The new rules are aimed at stopping taxpayers from federally deducting donations made to charitable funds run by state or local governments.

A bill with new requirements to drive recreational motorboats in New York state is now in the hands of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York state would legalize the buying and selling of sex under a proposal introduced in the state legislature Monday that would lift criminal penalties for sex work.

Greece’s town supervisor said he was told by a local representative that the International Joint Commission will propose the suspension of the controversial Plan 2014.

A coalition of parents, educators, clergy and business leaders delivered a message to state lawmakers Tuesday to move the Buffalo school board elections from May to the same day as the general election in November.

The stretch limousine involved in October’s deadly crash that killed 20 people had been suspended just before the incident occurred.

Attorney General Letitia James is leading a nine-state lawsuit meant to block the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.

Democrats in the state Assembly are using taxpayer money to defend their pay raise in state court.

Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart ripped into Congress for failing to re-approve the Victims Compensation Fund for Sept. 11 first responders.

Gov. Cuomo at a press conference on Tuesday said state lawmakers should face primary challenges next year if they fail to approve progressive legislation.

President Trump continued to battle with Democrats amid threats of an impeachment inquiry, something he considers an attack on his legitimacy in office.

Attorney General Bill Barr is expected to ask the president to exert executive privilege in shielding documents surrounding a census question for U.S. citizenship.

Amid the crowded battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, grumbling is beginning from some candidates about the ability to be heard — with some comparing it to “The Hunger Games.”

The president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., is expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

Extras

New York, along with several other states, has filed suit to block the merger of mobile phone providers Sprint and T-Mobile.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump exchanged heated barbs on the campaign trail.

House Democrats moved to receive court enforcement for subpoenas of Attorney General Bill Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in an escalation of their legal battle with President Trump’s administration.

The pilot killed Monday when his helicopter slammed into the roof of a New York City skyscraper was not authorized to fly in limited visibility, according to his pilot certification, raising questions about why he took off in fog and steady rain.

New York City will start banning cars from most of 14th Street in Manhattan on July 1st. This is being done to speed up bus service.

Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello and a fellow council member will soon introduce legislation about the future of Troy as a sanctuary city.

Albany’s Common Council is looking for public input on the current fireworks laws.

The former DeWitt doctor whose murder conviction of his wife was overturned last summer will have his case heard by the state’s highest court in the fall.

Lake Ontario’s high waters continue to cause flooding problems for those along the shoreline.

A wet and rainy spring has businesses away from the floodwaters of Lake Ontario feeling the pinch.

Another lawsuit alleging sexual abuse has been filed against the Diocese of Rochester and several other local Catholic organizations.

A Rochester City Council seat up for grabs in this month’s primary lies in the south district. The seat was previously held by Adam McFadden, who last month pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

A Western New Yorker is receiving the nation’s highest military honor, and he said he’s representing every soldier who fought in Iraq.

Stewart-Cousins Says A Two-Way Deal Reached On Rent Bill

The state Senate and Assembly have reached a two-way agreement to extend and expand rent control regulations in New York, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.

The package of bills was reviewed by lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon. One source said the bill includes a statewide rent control provision that would allow local governments to opt in for rent regulations, which then be developed by a local rent board.

Rent control regulations, broadly speaking, are only in place for New York City and some suburban communities on Long Island and Westchester County.

“The Senate and Assembly have conferenced a rent protections package and we have reached an agreement,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We are finalizing this legislation and we will be issuing a joint statement with additional details when it is complete.”

The announcement on the agreements comes with enough time for lawmakers to print the bill and allow it to “age” on the desk for three days without a special waiver from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The current rent laws expire on Saturday.