Nick Reisman

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Andy Cohen, With Cuomo And Senate Dems, Calls For Surrogacy Legalization

The Democratic-led state Senate today is expected to pass a bill that would legalize gestational surrogacy in New York.

But with the bill’s chances in the Assembly in doubt, TV personality and Bravo host Andy Cohen appeared in Albany to boost the bill’s chances.

Cohen, whose 4-month-old son Benjamin was born via surrogacy in California, appeared at two separate news conferences with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and later with Senate Democrats.

Cohen will also appear in a Capital Tonight interview at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News.

“Pass the law that protects women and then convince the other 47 states to do it; it’s not that women aren’t going to be surrogates, they are, it’s just is it New Jersey, or is it here, or is it California?” Cuomo said.

“So it makes no sense. It also makes no sense since we spent months in this room arguing for a women’s right under Roe v. Wade, which said a women’s body a women’s choice. And we argued with many people who said, “well certain women aren’t prepared to consent and certain women should have to consult with their parents first, and they have to notify their parents first.” And we said no, a women’s right governs.”

Cuomo at the news conference specifically pointed to the opposition in the state Assembly to the measure, which would allow LGBTQ or infertile couples to pay a surrogate.

“I respect my colleagues in the Assembly who have differences of opinion,” he said. “We have differences of opinion all the time, but I do not understand the assembly members who oppose this. I have respect for Assembly Members Glick, and Weinstein and Didi Barrett, but I just don’t see the possible rational.”

But there is opposition to the measure, from women’s groups as well as the Catholic Church.

In a widely circulated letter at the Capitol on Tuesday, feminist icon Gloria Steinem announced her opposition to the proposal, concerned the move would exploit women.

“Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others,” she wrote in the letter.

She added the bill carries a “big risk of human trafficking” of women.

The bill’s sponsors insisted Steinem was wrong, pointing to the protections included in the language, including a “surrogates bill of rights.”

“I’m the proud parent of two daughters born through gestational surrogacy,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman. “Unfortunately, under the current law, my husband and I had to travel 3,000 miles to California to build our family because New York makes surrogate agreements illegal. It’s time we fix that for LGBTQ families and any intended parent grappling with infertility.”

Cuomo Says Lawmakers Should Face Primaries If Session Ends On A Disappointing Note

Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned state lawmakers that they should finish session with a package of progressive measures accomplished or face potential primaries next year.

Cuomo wants the Legislature to legalize gestational surrogacy and strengthen rent control laws. At the same time, Cuomo listed extending access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and marijuana legalization as well as the Equal Rights Amendment and pay equity measures as key items.

“Here’s my prophecy: You were elected because you were progressives,” Cuomo said at a news conference. “You end this session — no marijuana, no driver’s licenses, half a loaf on tenant protection, no surrogacy, no ERA, no pay equity — now, I believe they should all be primaried because that is a failure of a basic progressive agenda.”

Warning incumbent Democrats could face primaries is no small thing for lawmakers, especially after the success of challengers in last year’s elections. Already, progressive groups have threatened to primary Assembly lawmakers in the 2020 elections.

Cuomo shrugged when asked if he would support primary challenges.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, meanwhile, also shrugged when asked about Cuomo’s comments at a separate event.

“I just take it as the governor talking,” she said. “I’m asked all the time to try and analyze these things and I really can’t. So, what we continue to do is do the things that make New Yorkers lives better.”

Cuomo has continued to a steady drum beat of pressure for lawmakers to expand rent control laws as the Saturday deadline approaches for the laws to expire.

Cuomo warned that if lawmakers do not strengthen rent laws it would “make a mockery of the Senate.”

“I will sign whatever bill the two houses pass. There is no negotiation. I will sign the best bill they can pass,” he said.

“It’s not me and the leadership, it’s what votes the leadership can get. What will the Senate members vote for? That’s the question.”

At the same time, however, Cuomo said he was helping get the measures through for final passage.

“I’m a counter pressure here, right? There’s politics on the other side,” he said. “Unions on the other side, advocacy groups on the other side. But I believe at the end of the day it’s going to be a very successful legislative session.”

Cuomo Says Mobile Sports Betting Unlikely This Year

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said an effort to legalize sports wagering on mobile devices is unlikely to happen by the end of the legislative session, scheduled to conclude next week.

Cuomo in a radio interview in the morning pointed to the state Gaming Commission backing regulations for on-site sports betting — via “sportsbooks” — at the four casinos in upstate New York. At the same time, Cuomo expressed unease with an expansion of gambling in the state several years after voters approved a constitutional amendment for table top gaming the governor had supported.

At an unrelated press conference later, Cuomo pointed to the range of top-level issues lawmakers are yet to resolve, such as extending and expanding rent control regulations.

Lawmakers had crafted legislation that would place servers at casinos in order to resolve what had been constitutional concerns surrounding restrictions on gambling. Neighboring New Jersey previously legalize mobile sports betting, allowing gamblers to place bets on smartphones or tablets, and state lawmakers worried New York was losing out on revenue.

1199SEIU Backs Katz For Queens DA

From the Morning Memo:

Queens district attorney candidate Melinda Katz on Tuesday will officially pick up the endorsement of a key labor union in the race for the Democratic primary: 1199SEIU.

The health care worker is one of the largest in the state and one of the most politically active. In its endorsement, the union pointed to Katz’s support for issues like gun control and labor rights.

“We are proud to endorse Melinda Katz for Queens District Attorney,” said 1199SEIU Political Director Gabby Seay.

“As an attorney and public servant, she’s never shied away from a tough fight against powerful interests, and she’s always been deeply involved in the communities she represents. She’s proven time and again that she can create change and progress by building relationships neighborhood by neighborhood across Queens.”

Katz, the Queens borough president, is running in a hotly contested primary with multiple candidates on June 25.

“I’m thrilled to have 1199SEIU’s endorsement. Their members and leadership have been at the forefront of some of the most important fights in our state,” she said.

“From a higher minimum wage to expanded access to healthcare, they’ve won important victories for working people across our city and state. They also recognize that the District Attorney’s office can and should be a powerful tool in achieving social and economic justice. It’s an honor to have their support.”

Prevailing Wage Fight Kindled At The Capitol

From the Morning Memo:

As building and construction trade members descend on the Capitol today for a major rally, the 400 Foundation — a group of pastors and faith leaders in New York City — is launching a digital ad campaign this week opposing a measure to expand the state’s prevailing wage laws.

The ad comes as lawmakers are debating the bill as part of an end-of-session package. The legislation would expand prevailing wage requirements to projects that receive some funding from the state.

In the ad, the group says the bill as written does not include language that would ensure workers of color are hired for construction projects and has a limited benefit.

The digital ad campaign from the group will also run on social media and is part of a five-figure ad campaign.

Meanwhile, at the state Capitol, the Building and Construction Trades Council will rally at the Capitol today in favor of the prevailing wage legislation, which had initially been proposed for the state budget, but fell out of the negotiations.

“The State is handing out millions of dollars to private businesses for construction projects with virtually no strings attached in terms of labor protections,” said James Cahill, President of the NYS Building & Construction Trades Council. “Economic growth driven by government funded programs and subsidies will never reach its full potential unless we start protecting the construction workers on these projects.”

The rally is expected to bring together a range of labor groups from around the state and northeast.

“The Public Works legislation will not only help working men and women get better paying jobs; it will create safer workplaces, ensure high quality work and hold contractors and developers accountable,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “Hardworking New Yorkers have waited long enough. There is no more time for delay and distraction; it’s time to reform the public works law now.

Siena Poll Finds Half Of Voters Want To Move On From Mueller Report

Half of the voters in New York want to move on after the release of a report by Robert Mueller reviewing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, while 45 percent believe impeachment proceedings should begin against President Donald Trump, according to a Siena College poll released Tuesday morning.

Most voters — 62 percent to 29 percent — believe Russia sought to influence the election, a key finding of the Mueller report. And voters by a similar margin, 59 percent to 35 percent, believe Trump obstructed justice.

At the same time, most voters believe Trump committed offenses that are grounds for impeachment, 53 percent to 39 percent.

But 50 percent of voters do not say the president’s campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election, finding no proof of a conspiracy.

The Mueller report concluded there was no evidence Trump or his campaign worked with Russia to launch a campaign of false information into social media in order to purposely stoke national political discord. Mueller’s report, however, could not exonerate Trump on whether he sought to influence the outcome of the investigation.

Not surprisingly, impeachment breaks down along party lines: 61 percent of Democrats believe an inquiry should begin, 83 percent of Republicans and more than half of independent voters, 52 percent, believe it’s time to move on.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week in a radio interview said he supported the approach House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has take on the impeachment question, saying it was best to tread lightly.

“This is a controversial topic,” he said. “It’s not right or wrong. You can have different strategies and different tactics. I support Speaker Pelosi who frankly has more information than I have. She’s said, let’s develop the facts.”

He pointed to the experience Republicans had after the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and the subsequent political fallout.

“I was there in the Clinton administration when we went through that fiasco and it hurt the Republicans because the American people don’t want you paying politics with their tax dollars and their lives,” he said.

Thirty-four percent of voters in the president’s home state have a favorable view of him, while 63 percent do not, the poll found. Trump’s high unfavorable rating in New York has changed little month to month since he’s been in office.

The poll of 812 registered voters was conducted from June 2 to June 6. It has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

SNY0619 Crosstabs061119 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Cuomo Says Lawmaker Pay Ruling ‘Confused’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference in New York City on Monday called the state Supreme Court ruling last week that struck down a cap on the amount of money lawmakers can earn outside of the Legislature “confused” — a confusion that could be clarified by the Legislature acting on its own.

The ruling determined a commission examining legislative and executive branch pay overstepped when it capped outside pay for state lawmakers at 15 percent of their public salary.

At the same time, the ruling called into question the legality of future pay hikes for the Legislature, due to reach $130,000 in the next two years. Lawmakers currently earn $110,000.

Cuomo at the news conference expected the decision to be appealed.

“I don’t believe it’s a consistent decision,” he said.

“Worst case scenario the legislature could pass the bill saying we will ban outside income ourselves. They could say we will ban outside income if the commission holdings are upheld. So that’s all it comes down to is the outside ban, which the Legislature has already agreed to the outside ban because they took the raise, right? For people who didn’t follow it, the commission said we will give the legislature a raise if they ban outside income. And the Legislature has accepted the raise that has gone into effect. So they’ve accepted the ban on outside income.”

The Legislature and Cuomo in essence kicked the decision for a pay raise to the commission — a decision that had come with political risk for lawmakers who had not received a salary hike since 1999.

“If I were the Legislature I would pass a qualifier, or clarifier, that says we ban outside income,” Cuomo said. “Because they’ve already banned outside income. What’s the alternative to take the raise but not ban outside income? Which I don’t think the people of this state would stand for.”

Labor Unions, Business Groups Back Bill Reforming Hospital Billing

Legislation that would change how patients are billed for out-of-network hospital visits is being backed by a coalition that includes prominent labor groups and business organizations like the Business Council.

The coalition is launching a TV ad campaign this week to push for the legislation, which would empower an independent arbitrator to review hospital billing, a process the state has in place already for emergency room doctor bills.

The bill is backed by more than 40 groups, including Consumer Reports, the United Federation of Teachers, the New York State United Teachers union, the Business Council and the Civil Service Employees Association.

The ads will air in Albany, Westchester and Long Island on cable and broadcast TV.

Senate Poised To Take Up Surrogacy Bill

A bill that would legalize gestational surrogacy in New York is expected to be considered on the floor of the state Senate on Tuesday, part of a package of a LGBTQ bills Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing at the end of the session.

The bill would make New York one of the last states to legalize the practice, which is meant to help couples that cannot conceive as well as LGBTQ couples.

Cuomo on Monday co-wrote an op/ed posted on BuzzFeed with Bravo personality Andy Cohen to push for the legislation.

“New York sent a strong message about the important of families – and how they come in many colors, shapes and sizes – when we passed marriage equality during Governor Cuomo’s first year in office,” they wrote. “But by banning gestational surrogacy, we are saying to the LGBTQ community and those who struggle with infertility: you can’t have a child in your own state.

“In 2019, no one should have to forfeit the joy of raising a child – not in an era when modern medicine is performing new miracles every day, and when we have reached a wide consensus that the only prerequisite to forming a family is love.”

But the bill has been opposed by the Catholic Church as well as some women’s advocates who are worried about the consequences of paying someone to carry a baby to term.

The Coalition Against Trafficking In Women wrote in a memorandum of opposition that the measure would be “tantamount to the renting of women’s wombs and the buying and selling of babies for profit.”

New York Farm Bureau Endorses Marijuana Legalization

The New York Farm Bureau on Monday became the latest organization to endorse the legalization of marijuana in the state as the bill remains one of the most closely watched proposals at the close of the legislative session.

“Given the current status of the farm economy in New York State, farmers recognize the potential opportunity the cultivation of cannabis could be for New York State’s agriculture industry,” the Farm Bureau wrote in a memorandum of support.

“For a successful implementation of a cannabis program in New York State, if legalized, farmers must to have an active role in the growth and production, as well as development and implementation of the recreational cannabis program in the state. Farmers encourage the establishment of an advisory board which the bill creates, however, New York Farm Bureau recommends a set number of seats to be reserved for farmers to provide local grower input into the program.”

The endorsement comes as a Siena College poll released this morning found voters in New York back marijuana legalization 55 percent to 40 percent, up slightly from a 52 percent to 42 percent in an April.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he would sign legislation legalizing marijuana if it comes to his desk, but has doubted whether it has the support in the Democratic-led state Senate to pass.