Nick Reisman

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Early Voting Survey Finds Common Concerns

From the Morning Memo:

Voters who cast their ballots early for the first time this year in New York identified areas of improvement in a survey released on Tuesday by the League of Women Voters.

The survey of 1,791 voters conducted by the good-government organization found some common complaints about early voting: Polling sites need to be better located, accessibility remains a concern, poll workers need to be trained on new equipment and technology, and there’s a lack of public transit options. Signage for where to vote at the polling locations could also be improved as well.

At the same time, voters in five counties said they were asked to show their state identification, which is not a requirement under state law.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of those who participated in the survey, 93 percent, said they would vote early again and a similar number said they were able to easily find information about early voting.

Participants in the survey voted in 54 counties and at 239 polling sites.

The 12-question survey from the group comes as state lawmakers may seek tweaks to the state’s early voting law next year ahead of the 2020 election.

In the first year, unofficial early voting turnout stood at 1.9 percent — a number officials hope will rise next year in a presidential election.

Here And Now

Good morning! It’s the day before Thanksgiving and many people are already off for the holiday. We have a lot to be thankful for here, especially to everyone who comes to us for their state politics news, even amid the constant change over the last year.

These are polarizing times in our country and every Thanksgiving I like to re-read the 1863 proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln setting the fourth Thursday of every November as a national day of thanks. It’s a little verbose by Lincoln’s standards (and probably written by Secretary of State and former New York governor and senator William Seward), but the spirit of unity, grace and gratitude still stands over the century and a half.

If you can, take some time to rest, eat well, and be safe.

Happening today:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is traveling to Puerto Rico with his family and is spending the Thanksgiving holiday there. He returns Sunday morning.

At 7:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is a guest on Long Island News Radio discussing Small Business Saturday events.

At 10 a.m., Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and Sen. George Amedore will unveil a highway named in honor of State Police Sgt. Jeremy VanNostrand. State Police Barracks. 3003 Route 5S, Fultonville.

At 10:30 a.m., Mayor de Blasio will hold a public hearing and sign legislation. Blue Room, City Hall, New York City.

At 5 p.m., Mayor de Blasio will deliver remarks. West 77th St. and Columbus Ave., New York City.

Headlines:

Gov. Cuomo for the first time addressed an investigation into a leak at an ethics body surrounding an investigation of his former close aide, Joe Percoco.

A bill to ban flavored e-cigarettes was approved by the New York City Council on Tuesday. It passed the council by a vote of 49 to 2.

Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg was on the stump in Arizona on Day Three of his presidential campaign. He was filing paperwork to get on the ballot in this southwestern state. It becomes the eighth state where he will appear on the ballot.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the new vote threshold for ballot status in remarks Tuesday after a pre-holiday turkey giveaway.

There’s long been an intersection of money and public policy in New York, leading to concerns that Albany has a corruption problem. But now a system of publicly financed elections could change that.

Both the Conservative and Working Families parties have filed lawsuits challenging the commission’s authority. The recommendations become law if the Legislature doesn’t return to Albany and vote them down before the end of the year. There’s been little indication so far lawmakers will.

The three commissioners appointed by Gov. Cuomo to the campaign finance board said they were “likely” to vote down the reforms if issues addressing minor parties weren’t discussed.

New York is appealing the decision that tossed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions.

The appeal includes other Democratic, high-tax states that were affected by the deduction limit.

State Attorney General Letitia James sat down with Errol Louis on NY1’s Inside City Hall to discuss her legal fights against the Trump Administration, the e-cigarette maker Juul, and more.

The wall is coming. Questions about plans to build a 5.3 mile sea wall on Staten Island’s east shore drew dozens of borough residents to Staten Island technical high school Monday night for a town hall on the pending project.

The public charge rule, which if it goes into effect, would test people applying for permanent legal status, to see if they would require Medicaid or SNAP benefits. This means people looking to extend their student or employment visas or green cards could be turned away if they rely on these benefits.

Supporters of the now-failed effort to bring Amazon to Queens urged the governor to back a primary challenge against Sen. Michael Gianaris.

New Yorkers pay some of the highest property taxes in the country and these towns pay the most compared to home values.

New York City lawmakers have approved new parking placard regulations.

Some changes will be in effect at Syracuse University when students come back from Thanksgiving break following weeks of racist and hateful incidents on campus that has garnered national attention.

The cost of reforming the New York City Housing Authority won’t come cheap — and it will cost $600-an-hour for the authority’s monitor.

Rep. Kathleen Rice has endorsed Democrat Pete Buttigieg for president.

Despite a suspension for sexual harassment, New York City Councilman Andy King still continued to make public appearances around his district with fellow elected officials.

A letter backed by Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi raises concerns with the implementation of new criminal justice law changes that end cash bail for many charges.

The iconic Utica Tower will soon be no more. The Utica Landmark Tower Corporation’s board of directors has decided to decommission and turn off the tower and the seven-foot red letters spelling “Utica” will be removed.

Former Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio has been sentenced to six months in jail for violating probation.

Buffalo’s school board elections have been moved from May to November after the approval of a new state law.

The count of absentee ballots in the Ulster County district attorney’s race was completed Tuesday. But even after weeks of waiting by the community, there is still no declared winner.

The big balloons, icons of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, may not fly this year due to high winds.

Many people are filling up their shopping carts to prepare for the Thanksgiving feast later this week. The good news is they’ll probably spend less than last year.

In national news:

A new United Nations report paints a bleak picture on climate change amid coming climate talks.

Federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation of opioid makers and distributors.

President Trump at a “homecoming” rally in Florida on Tuesday used the event to pushback against the building impeachment effort against him back in Washington.

Budget officials in the Trump administration resigned amid frustration with the frozen military aid for Ukraine.

The president knew of the whistleblower complaint when he signed off on the aid to Ukraine following the freeze.

A filing shows the National Rifle Association increased the pay of executives while also cutting funding for programs.

The Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives is suing Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for documents related to a census investigation.

What’s the story behind the presidential turkey pardon? You’d be surprised; it’s a relatively young tradition.

From the editorial pages:

The Times Union says the delay in enacting a ban on vaping products has proven costly when it comes to curbing teenage addiction.

The Daily News decried the deep budget hole the state’s Medicaid program is facing.

The New York Post says “cynical insiders” exploited a commission recommending changes to the state’s campaign finance laws.

Political consultant Bill O’Reilly writes in Newsday that the campaign finance law changes endorsed by the panel will make politics worse in the state.

From the sports pages:

Why Colin Kaepernick’s sudden workout for the NFL was doomed.

The case for the Giants drafting a highly touted defensive end, assuming they get a good draft position.

Cuomo Says He Hasn’t Had ‘An Inappropriate Conversation’ About Ethics Body

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said he has not had “an inappropriate conversation” with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about votes for an investigation at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

The vote came as the ethics body was considering whether to move forward with a probe of Joe Percoco, a former close aide to the governor who was found guilty in a wide-ranging bribery and bid-rigging scheme.

The Times Union reported earlier this month Cuomo had contacted Heastie after a vote by commissioners on the ethics panel. Cuomo’s office has said a phone call of the conversation did not take place.

“The speaker and I were asked this question,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “We’ve said we’ve never had an inappropriate conversation about JCOPE.”

The allegation led to an investigation; Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro recused herself. Cuomo would not say if he had been interviewed by the inspector general as part of that inquiry, but his office previously said he had not been.

But he also said commissioners on the panel are under a legal requirement to not disclosure and third-party information is considered differently.

“Remember legally the only legal obligation is on the commissioners not to disclose,” Cuomo said. “That’s why they talk to the commissioners because the commissioners are the only ones who have a legal obligation. If a commissioner called you or someone else, and told you something, you could tell whoever you want. But the IG talked to the people who had the legal obligation.”

Cuomo Says WFP Should Meet Proposed Ballot Threshold

A more stringent threshold for maintaining ballot status as a political party as proposed by the public financing commission should be one that’s met by the Working Families Party, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

But, the governor warned, it will take some work to do so.

Cuomo has warred with the WFP over much of his time in office. The commission, tasked with developing a set of recommendations for publicly financed elections, also moved a proposal meant to make it harder for some ballot lines to qualify as parties in New York.

Cuomo said the move is designed to ensure legitimate parties meet the requirement of 130,000 votes or 2 percent of turnout every two years in a gubernatorial and presidential election. Currently, parties must have its gubernatorial nominee receive at least 50,000 votes to qualify for ballot status in the next election cycle.

“If it’s not a credible party, then it shouldn’t be getting public tax dollars in primary races, etcetera,” Cuomo said. “The Working Families Party I think would meet that threshold. You have to work to meet the threshold, but if you’re not working to meet a threshold, then you shouldn’t be qualifying for public money, anyway.”

The WFP and its advocates aren’t convinced. The party released a fundraising email on Tuesday afternoon highlighting the change as further evidence Cuomo is trying to kill the party.

“Their plan would immediately make New York one of the most restrictive states in the nation when it comes to ballot access, hurt progressives and down-ballot Democrats in every corner of the state, while protecting Governor Cuomo personally and corporate-funded incumbents in both parties from primary challenges,” the party wrote in the email.

The WFP last year endorsed Cuomo’s Democratic primary rival, Cynthia Nixon, before ultimately handing him its ballot line in the general election.

NY-22: Brindisi Says He’s Concerned With Criminal Justice Law Changes

A letter backed by Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi raises concerns with the implementation of new criminal justice law changes that end cash bail for many charges.

The letter is the latest broadside against the legislation, due to take effect next month, amid criticism from state lawmakers and some local prosecutors and law enforcement.

In addition to Brindisi, Democratic Rep. Max Rose of Staten Island signed the letter as did Republicans Reps. Tom Reed, Peter King, Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin.

“While we agree criminal justice reform has long been needed around the country, New York State’s new soft-on-crime bail laws, which will let dangerous criminals roam free, endanger their victims, and hamstring the authorities who want to hold them accountable, this is not the answer,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Additionally, this new law will cripple local counties and municipalities that will be forced to pass along new, unfunded mandates required in the bill to local taxpayers.”

Brindisi is running for re-election next year in a district President Trump carried in 2016. His seat is considered a top target for Republicans in 2020.

On Monday, Republican Sen. Jim Tedisco and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara unveiled legislation meant to delay the implementation and provide more judicial oversight.

New York Appeals SALT Cap Suit

New York is appealing the decision that tossed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions.

The suit was filed with New York, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey. The appeal was filed with the federal U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

“The Trump administration’s SALT policy is retribution politics – plain and simple,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“New York is already the nation’s leader in sending more tax dollars to Washington than we get back every year, and we will not allow this administration to pick the pockets of hard-working New Yorkers to fund tax cuts for corporations and send even more money to red states. We will continue to fight this unconstitutional assault until it is repealed once and for all.”

The 2017 tax law capped state and local deductions, a move that affected high tax states like New York.

“This cap has already put a heavy burden on the hard-working, middle-class families of New York, and, in the years ahead, it is expected to cost New York’s taxpayers over $100 billion, which is why we will fight this senseless and unconstitutional law,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “New York will not be bullied into paying more in taxes or changing its vital public investments because of Congress and the president’s partisan choices.”

2019.11.26 – Notice of Appeal by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Fiscal Watchdogs Say Cuomo Can Take Budget Action

From the Morning Memo, written by Susan Arbetter:

In order to address the $6.1 billion dollar budget gap that my colleague Nick Reisman wrote about here, Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t need to wait for the Legislature.

He doesn’t even need to wait until January.

“This governor has more authority under law now to control spending in a variety of ways, than any of his predecessors,” according to E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for State Policy. “He can unilaterally reduce payments to hospitals. He can impound aid in all forms.”

It’s something David Friedfel of the Citizens Budget Commission refers to as “super powers.”

“The Department of Health and the Division of the Budget have something called ‘super powers’ when it comes to Medicaid spending. They have the ability to cut reimbursement rates and make some other cuts without going to the Legislature.

While they didn’t use their super powers last year, it doesn’t mean they won’t. The Empire Center’s McMahon thinks DoB and DOH may act.

“To some extent, they’re going to have to,” he told Spectrum News.

“They’ve kind of hinted at it, more than strongly, in this financial plan update. But even at this late point in the fiscal year with barely one quarter left in the fiscal year, they haven’t disclosed what exactly they’re going to do.”

Public Campaign Financing Proposals Get Mixed Reviews

From the Morning Memo:

A good start. A half step. A missed chance.

Those are the broad reactions to a state commission’s recommendations for a $100 million system of publicly funded political campaigns, part of an effort to rein in the state’s existing system of high donor limits that advocates have long feared buy influence in Albany.

The public financing commission on Monday voted on the specifics of the program, which include:

-Small donations of $250 or less would receive public matches
-State residents would have their donations matched with public dollars at a 6-to-1 ratio for statewide candidates
-In-district residents would have a tiered match when contributing to a candidate, 12-to-1 for the first $50, 9-to-1 for the for next $100 and 8-to-1 for the final $100.
-Public funds would be capped at $7 million statewide
-Donations to statewide candidates would be set at $18,000.
-Donations to state Senate candidates are to capped at $10,000; $6,000 for Assembly.

For good-government advocates, the likely final product isn’t everything they wanted.

“Unfortunately, the recommendations approved today stray into areas that are unrelated to the commission’s purpose and public financing,” said Larry Norden of the Brenna Center, who nonetheless pointed to the recommendations as a move that would “bring more New Yorkers into the state’s democracy, as donors and as candidates” if adopted.

Reinvent Albany’s Alex Camarda, meanwhile, said the statewide donor limits were set far too high.

“Unfortunately, while better than the abominable status quo, the Commission’s proposal does not reduce the dominance of big money enough to earn Reinvent Albany’s support,” the group said in a statement.

And the League of Women Voters worried the proposals would ultimately aid those already in office.

“The complex small donor matching system proposed by this commission in some ways may be seen to be designed to favor incumbents,” the League of Women Voters said.

“The League believes that much lower campaign contribution limits for all candidates and parties and better enforcement are necessary for any new public financing system to function as intended and fix how elections work in this state.”

The commission itself was a compromise, agreed to earlier this year by the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo amid pressure from advocates to create a public financing system for campaigns statewide, similar to the model in New York City.

Advocates saw this year as key for doing so given Democratic control of both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in a decade.

Here And Now

Good morning! Happy Tuesday. We’re only a few days away from Thanksgiving. Here’s the news.

Happening today:

At 7:45 a.m., Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be a guest on Long Island News Radio.

At 9:30 a.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend service at St. Patrick’s Cathederal. 5th Avenue between 50th and 51st Street, New York City.

At 10 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will participate in a turkey distribution event. Spanish Action League. 700 Oswego St. Syracuse.

Also at 10 a.m., Gov. Cuomo will distribute turkeys at the Yes We Can Center. 141 Garden St., Westbury.

Also at 10 a.m., anti-tobacco advocates and African-American leaders will rally ahead of a vote to ban flavored e-cigarette products. Steps of City Hall, New York City.

At 11:35 a.m., Gov. Cuomo will distribute turkeys at the New Prospect Plaza Community Center, 1831 Sterling Place, Brooklyn.

At 3:30 p.m., Mayor de Blasio will deliver remarks. American Airlines Terminal 8, JFK Airport, Queens.

Also at 3:30 p.m., New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will speak at the rally for airline food workers. American Airlines Terminal 8, JFK Airport, Queens.

At 6 p.m., Sen. David Carlucci and Good Samaritan Hospital are holding a public forum on vaping. Good Samaritan Hospital. 255 Lafayette Ave. Suffern.

Headlines:

The Public Finance Commission on Monday voted to establish a new $100 million campaign finance system in New York state.

There’s dissatisfaction with the recommendations being made by the commission and some are calling for the Legislature to return to Albany before the year ends to alter them.

The commission’s decision to raise the threshold requirements for ballot access presents a clear threat to minor parties.

The move is seen as directed at one minor party in particular: The Working Families Party, which has feuded with Gov. Cuomo.

Gov. Cuomo’s office was barraged with mail after the Amazon deal fell through, with much of it knocking him for the company deciding to abandon the project amid opposition by progressives.

A battle over the development of Sunnyside yards is beginning to echo the Amazon fight.

The messages, obtained by The New York Post through an open records request, show how some businesses decided to not come to New York after the deal was scuttled.

National Grid will end its moratorium on natural gas hookups following a weeks-long dispute with state regulators.

A day in to his presidential campaign and Mayor Mike Bloomberg is still going for decaf. He chose the seaside city of Norfolk, Virginia, as his first campaign stop, a state that recently flipped from red to blue.

With the impeachment of President Trump looking increasingly likely every day, New York Republicans are mobilizing to help him.

The state is looking at the biggest budget gap since Gov. Cuomo first took office.

A newly filed lawsuit claims the state Thruway Authority violated competitive bidding laws last year.

Lobbyists are pushing Gov. Cuomo to legalize electric scooters in the state.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants more affordable housing vouchers made available.

Republican Sen. Jim Tedisco and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbra are now both raising the alarm in a bipartisan effort to halt or at least slow the new bail reform bill set to go into effect this next year.

Police departments in New York are set to receive hate crime training under a newly approved law.

A judge set an April trial date Monday for two jail guards accused of failing to make required checks on Jeffrey Epstein the morning he died.

Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, one of the last state lawmakers first elected in the 1970s, reflected on his years as an economic development critic as he retires at the end of the current term.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says airlines lack policies assuring children can sit with their parents, despite 2016 legislation requiring the federal Department of Transportation to enact a universal family friendly seating policy.

A prosecutor who worked on the college admissions scandal case is joining the race for the suburban House district being vacated by Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey.

The USA Today Network examined where the hundreds of millions of dollars in downtown revitalization money is being spent.

New York City has officially moved to ban the sale of foie gras.

More downtown Manhattan renters are heading to court in an effort to recoup rent payments.

One of New York City’s longest-running ferry operators had to stop service amid safety concerns raised by federal regulators.

Lawmakers on the New York City Council are taking up measures designed to crackdown on parking placard misuse.

The New York City Council today is poised to approve a ban on vaping flavors.

Nassau County lawmakers on Monday approved a ban on most flavored e-cigarette products and liquid nicotine.

A record number of New York City students of Asian descent are college-bound.

A key witness in the trial of former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota is said to have hallucinated due to stress and a lack of sleep.

Less than two weeks after a fatal pedestrian accident on Rochester’s Eastside, a Monroe County legislator was joined by the grieving family to call for more transparency from police following those kinds of accidents.

University of Rochester students are speaking out after messages of support for the Hong Kong movement was painted over in the school’s tunnels and flags were moved in a campus hall.

A program intended to reduce gun crimes through tougher federal prison sentences is marking a milestone. Rochester was one of the first U.S. cities to embrace Project Exile in the late 1990s.

The U.S. Transportation Department recently denied the City of Buffalo’s application for a $25 million grant.

Through snow, rain and wind, one western New York pastor continues his annual tradition of sleeping on the streets the week of Thanksgiving.

In national news:

A federal judge ruled former White House counsel Don McGahn must comply with a subpoena to testify before Congress in the impeachment inquiry.

Sen. John Kennedy walked back a statement he made over the weekend that falsely claimed Ukraine hacked the Democratic National Committee emails in 2016.

Federal subpoenas are seeking information on the consulting business of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The U.S. Supreme Court tapped on the breaks on Congress seeking to review the president’s financial records.

More departures may be under consideration at the Pentagon following the resignation of the Navy secretary.

Black voters tell The New York Times that simple representation among the candidate isn’t enough to gain their votes.

The president on Monday signed a measure that would make cruelty to animals a federal crime of up to seven years in prison.

From the editorial pages:

The Buffalo News reflected on the coming retirement of Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, asking whether any moderate officials like him remain in office.

Newsday says National Grid bet on its credibility in its fight over natural gas hookups and lost.

Seth Barron writes in The New York Post that Mayor Bloomberg is the most qualified of the Democratic candidates, but he is missing his moment.

From the sports pages:

The Nets edged out the Cavs, 108-106.

Buffalo State College is taking action after several of its women soccer players accused the team’s head coach of breaking NCAA and school code of conduct rules. The school is deciding now to launch an independent review to sort through this matter.

Criminal Justice Reform Battle Deepens

The criminal justice law changes set to take effect early next year have fallen under increasing scrutiny from opponents as supporter seek to bolster the new measures with an ad campaign touting the benefits.

The fight over the reforms — laws that will end cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies as well as require a faster processing of evidence for defense teams — has been more pointed in recent weeks, even more so than the days leading up to legislative votes earlier this year.

For supportive Democrats and criminal justice law reformers, the bills are meant to keep people from languishing in local jails. Republicans, law enforcement officials and local prosecutors, however, are concerned with the added expense of the laws taking effect, as well as the potential for dangerous people to be let back on the streets.

On Monday, Republican Sen. Jim Tedisco and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara unveiled legislation meant to delay the implementation and would add more judicial discretion to the bail law changes.

“The so-called reforms that ultimately passed were done in haste in the flurry of passing a state budget without getting input from the criminal justice experts who will have to implement the law,” Tedisco said.

“The bi-partisan bill that Assemblyman Santabarbara and I have put forth aims to begin to rebalance the scales of justice and provide judges with more discretion to keep the public safe. Our representative democracy is based on three equal branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. Discretion has always been an important part of the judiciary as it relates to issues of danger and safety for the protection of our citizenry.”

Meanwhile, the advocacy New Yorkers United For Justice on Monday announced it had launched a seven-figure ad campaign to tout the changes — portraying them as a needed and long-overdue reforms. The campaign comes amid the push back to changes from some lawmakers and law enforcement officials.

“Opponents are deliberately misleading the public with fear. Fortunately, we have the truth on our side. Our campaign will dispel their misinformation and educate New Yorkers about why and how criminal justice reform makes New York a safer and fairer place to live,” said NYUJ Chief Strategist Khalil A. Cumberbatch.

“Those who seek to roll back recent reforms are really defending the indefensible – a dysfunctional system that denies people due process, jails them for low-level crimes even before they’ve had their day in court, and treats the rich better than the poor, all to the detriment of public safety and basic decency. Change is long overdue.”