Albany

Lawmakers To Consider DREAM Act, But Will It Be Enough For Advocates?

From the Morning Memo:

The Legislature later today will consider a bill that would extend state tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, but immigration advocates will be pushing for more.

The New York Immigration Coalition, along with affiliated groups later today will call for additional protections for immigrants in New York, with driver’s licenses for undocumented residents a key priority.

The group called the pending passage of the Dream Act a victory, but not enough. The bill is being named in honor of the late Sen. Jose Peralta, a lead sponsor of the legislation who died late last year.

The group also wants more funding committed to outreach for the Census as well as a bolstering of legal services.

“New York State must do more to protect and empower immigrant New Yorkers in the wake of unprecedented attacks on immigrants by the Trump administration, by expanding access to driver’s licenses, committing $40 million to Census outreach and education, and increasing funding for legal services statewide,” said Steven Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Immigrant New Yorkers deserve nothing less than a bold legislative agenda in 2019 to foster their growth and safety.”

Some of the newly elected Democrats in the state Senate agree.

“Although this bill is a good step, my office will not rest until we see to it that undocumented residents are granted full rights under the NY State Constitution,” said Sen. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat. “That includes amongst others the right to have a driver’s license, to be protected from being profiled in State institutions, voting rights, and for the right to apply to professional licenses.”

The Democratic Party has shifted on the issue in the decade since the proposal of extending driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants was first made by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to disastrous political consequences.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has changed her view on the issue, as has U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, now a president candidate.

Still, county clerks who run local Motor Vehicle offices are once again expected to oppose the effort.

NYCOM Wants Mandate Relief With Permanent Tax Cap

The group that represents mayors in Albany called for additional relief from mandated state spending if lawmakers pass a bill that would make the state’s cap on property tax increases permanent.

The New York Conference of Mayors is especially alarmed as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $175 billion spending proposal includes a cut to aid to municipalities funding to local governments that do not heavily rely on the funding.

“Municipal leaders across New York have worked diligently to stay under the tax cap, even during the five straight years when the tax cap was well below 2%. Unfortunately they had to do it with virtually no assistance from the state, as municipal aid remained frozen and mandate relief never materialized,” said NYCOM Executive Director Peter Baynes.

“Mayors want to do even more to provide relief from New York’s regressive property tax, yet the Governor has proposed the elimination of AIM funding for more than 1,300 communities in every county in this state. Now, as the State Legislature considers whether to make the tax cap permanent, it is imperative that prior to such action, every state legislator publicly reject the AIM elimination proposal and in its place increase municipal aid for the first time in a decade and enact legislation prohibiting any future unfunded state mandates.”

The Democratic-led Senate is expected to vote on the permanent tax cap legislation this week.

ABC Seeks Regulatory Changes

The Empire State Chapter of the Associated Builders & Contractors on Monday called for regulatory changes to the Scaffold Law as well as issued concerns over a plan to expand prevailing wage measures in its 2019 session agenda.

“Our 2019 Legislative Agenda outlines critical issues that need to be addressed in the new session. ABC has been at the forefront of advocating for fair and open competition in the construction market, and we will continue to do so, unapologetically,” said Empire Chapter President, Brian Sampson. “Merit shop contractors are under unrelenting attack from corrupt, union-owned politicians who are passing policies that are negatively impacting our members and taxpayers across New York State.”

Business groups this year have braced for a potentially difficult legislative session given the Democratic takeover of the state Senate. But lawmakers there have also pushed for a permanent property tax cap and plan to pass the bill this week.

The Associated Builders & Contractors though remain specifically concerned about the construction industry..

“New York State has not created a business environment for merit shop construction firms to thrive. In the 2019 session, ABC will advocate for policies that support small business owners, the American worker, and the overall construction sector. If these policies and reforms are implemented, New York State will create a more competitive environment for merit shop contractors to expand their operations and spur job creation,” Sampson said.

Advocates Want Early Voting Funding Earmarked In Budget

Supporters of early voting on Monday urged state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide funding for the provision in the final budget agreement.

The Democratic-led Legislature this month approved a bill that would create a system of early voting and Cuomo included the measure in his $175 billion budget proposal as well.

“As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, it’s great to see Governor Cuomo propose a strong voting rights agenda as part of his budget, but counties also need direct funding to execute priorities like early voting,” said Hazel Dukes, President New York NAACP and Rev. Dr Robert M Waterman, Pastor of Antioch Baptist of Brooklyn and President of African American Clergy and Elected Officials. “We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to make accessible, efficient elections more than just a dream for all New Yorkers.”

County governments have also called for the bill to be funded with a direct line item in the budget.

“Early voting is the right public policy for the state of New York and it is good for government to have more citizen engagement in the voting process. However, to avoid another unfunded mandate on local government and to successfully implement voting reforms, it would be helpful for the state to provide appropriate resources to counties, who administer the election system. NYSAC urges our state leaders to fully fund these important voting reforms in the 2019-20 State Budget,” said the New York State Association of Counties in a statement.

Cuomo’s office has said that savings from consolidating the state and federal primaries, as well as collecting sales on out-of-state Internet retail purchases would help pay for the measure.

NYSAC Wants Hearings On Tax Cap

As the state Senate this week takes up a bill that would make the state’s cap on property tax increases a permanent one, the New York State Association of Counties is calling hearings on the nearly eight-year-old law.

“On behalf of New York’s county governments, we appreciate the state’s continued focus on our high property taxes. Anything government can do to stabilize and lower property taxes is welcome news for homeowners and businesses,” NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario said in a statement.

The cap, set to expire or “sunset” in June 2020, limits property tax increases to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower. Some lawmakers, in both parties, have called for changes to the cap, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has largely resisted, save for minor tweaks.

It’s not clear what, if any, changes county governments would want for the cap, though they have pushed for a lower of state mandated spending as a follow up to the cap over the last decade.

“We encourage both houses of the legislature to hold public hearings on property taxes, the property tax cap, and ways that state and local governments can work together to lower this burden,” Acquario said. “We need to avoid further population loss that leaves more financial responsibility for those that remain in our great state. In a public hearing, state lawmakers can hear from local officials the impact that state policies have in our communities.”

Dems Will Continue To Flex Muscle

From the Morning Memo:

The first two weeks of a Democratic-controlled Legislature have largely gone as expected: The state Senate, along with the Assembly, has passed a bill after bill that up until last Election Day represented a wish list for progressives in New York.

The Legislature has approved bills that are designed to make it easier to register to vote and cast ballot, closing the LLC loophole and protections for transgender people and a ban on conversion therapy.

This week, the Legislature is expected to take up and pass bills meant to strengthen abortion laws and access to contraceptions in the state. Later on in the session, gun control measures will likely pass as well.

For now, these bills have been passing like butter through a knife.

Not everything will be this easy.

Senate Democrats this week will move make the state’s cap on property taxes permanent — a provision their governing partners in the Assembly have been skeptical of over the years. Assembly Democrats could seek some changes to the cap, which limits property tax levy hikes to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, that would make it easier to override or workaround.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not been willing to back major changes to the cap, however.

Cuomo, meanwhile, has indicated the biggest sticking point for lawmakers will be the broad-based ethics reforms he’s proposed such as lobbying law changes, calling them essential to the budget he’s submitted. He also believes congestion pricing and changing the structure of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be difficult lifts as well.

Conflict is still a little ways off for Democrats in Albany, but not that far off.

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.

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.

Former IDC Senator Hired by Ag & Markets

Former IDC Sen. David Valesky has been added to the payroll of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Valesky will act as a liaison to local governments, focusing on education and outreach, according to an Ag & Markets spokeswoman.

He is replacing Raquel Gonzalez, the now Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Civil Service.

In a statement, Ag & Markets Commissioner Richard Ball said:

“We are thrilled to welcome Dave, who as a former longtime member of the senate agriculture committee is a great addition to our team and will help advance the agency’s priorities throughout New York State especially given the national pressures on farms and producers. We always look for ways to connect New Yorkers with the great foods we grow and produce here in New York, and Dave brings valuable statewide experience and knowledge to the Department.”

Valesky served the 53rd Senate district until defeated in a Sept. 13th primary challenge by Sen. Rachel May.

He numbers one of the six unlucky former IDCers to lose their seat thanks to intense discontent with the breakaway Democratic conference.

The Senate Democratic Conference had no comment on Valeksy’s hiring.

As Deputy Commissioner, Valesky will rake in a salary numbering $127,000, a step up from $79,500, the former base pay for lawmakers–although according to SeeThroughNY, a fiscal tracking data site aligned with the Empire Center for Public Policy, the ex-Senator expensed reports since at least 2008 ranging from $9,000 to $34,000.

SeeThroughNY listed Department of Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Ball’s salary as $120,468 in 2017.

Valesky served as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and as a member of the Rural Resources Commission.

He was first elected to the state Senate in 2004, representing the 49th district from 2005 to 2014 before its consolidation.

Democratic Lawmakers To Cuomo: Thanks, We Got This

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $178 billion budget proposal will have a lot for lawmakers to haggle over: Education spending, health care, a revamp of how the MTA is run, along with congestion pricing to shore up mass transit.

But many of the proposals Cuomo included in his joint budget and State of the State address — including campaign finance reforms, gun control and strengthening abortion rights and protections for transgender New Yorkers — lawmakers will either take up in the coming weeks or have done already.

“A lot of it’s already happening and will continue to happen,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris, the deputy majority leader. “The governor supports what we’re doing and intends to sign the bills we’re passing, it’s good news.”

Lawmakers next week are expected to take up a package of measures to bolster reproductive and contraceptive rights in New York. It’s another example of long-stalled legislation in the state Senate that Republicans did not hold a vote on, but is now dislodge under Democratic control.

And to be sure, there was plenty Cuomo proposed on Tuesday that lawmakers have not gotten to yet, such as making Election Day a state holiday, as well as an even larger women’s agenda. Cuomo also wants to expand the bottle deposit law as well as ban plastic bags — both of which will likely be a final product of the budget talks.

At the same time, Cuomo appears to have cut the Legislature out of the procurement reform discussion all together, cutting a side deal with Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to restore pre-audit power for contracts.

It’s a strategic retreat for the governor as lawmakers this year increasingly signaled they would take up procurement and contracting reforms that had been initially called for in the wake of the arrest of former close Cuomo aide Joe Percoco.

Nevertheless, the budget is a different dynamic this year given the Democratic control of both chambers of the Legislature. For now, both the governor and Democratic lawmakers are emphasizing what they have in common.

“I think there was an enormous amount of encouragement and support in that room,” said Sen. Liz Krueger. “Many of the things that he laid out are the priorities of the Senate Democrats.”

Krueger added: “We’re going to be moving both in the budget to get things done and free standing legislation.”