Albany

Good-Government Group Cheers LDC Transparency Decision

The good-government Reinvent Albany on Friday called a Court of Appeals decision this week requiring local development corporations to file disclosure requirements a step toward improving transparency of the entities.

The state’s highest court ruled Thursday that local development corporations should have to file the same reports that industrial development agencies file when it comes to budgeting, contracting and audits.

The reports were part of the 14-year-old Public Authorities Reform Act, which sought to drag the semi-public entities used to fund and finance local-level projects into the sunlight.

But the group said more work needs to be done to oversee public authorities, such as boosting the $1.9 million budget of the independent Authorities Budget Office by 50 percent as well as enhancing its powers by empowering it remove board members of authorities not complying with reporting laws.

All told, there are 578 state and local public authorities that spend $51 billion annually and have $270 billion in public debt.

Prevailing Wage Supporters Respond To NAACP Opposition

From the Morning Memo:

This week, the NAACP’s New York chapter announced its opposition to a measure that would expand prevailing wage requirements to projects that receive partial public funding, pointing to concerns that the bill would hurt minority-owned businesses and workers of color.

But supporters of the legislation, including labor unions that represent black workers, pushed back against the opposition, accusing the NAACP of having “parroted talking points from the real estate industry that are factually inaccurate and harmful to the very communities they claim to represent.”

“The proposed public works legislation would require prevailing wages for all workers – union or non-union, black or white, brown or yellow,” the statement said.

“The legislation establishes a higher wage floor for all workers and studies across the country demonstrate that creating wage requirements benefit people of color. Several organizations involved in the unionized construction industry have also been meeting weekly with the NAACP to identify opportunities to create even more pathways to the middle class. We are troubled by these harmful comment and hope Ms. Dukes will reconsider her position and refrain from advocating for policies that benefit wealth over work.”

Signing on to the statement was a range of labor groups, including Lavon Chambers, the assistant director for Market Share Development, Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust, Local 79, Barrie Smith, Business Agent, Laborers Local 79 & President, 100 Black Construction Workers, and Davon Lomax, Political Director, New York State District Council 9 IUPAT, Painters and Allied Trades.

The measure’s supporters, which include building trades union, believe prevailing wage provisions should be applied to all publicly financed projects so that local labor costs are not undermined.

But opponents believe the move would hurt non-union “open shops.” The NAACP argued in its letter this week that many of these open shops employ workers of color.

Community groups, however, disagreed that the measure would negatively effect workers.

“In this crucial and historic moment for immigrants and workers across the country and our state, we need strong and bold leadership that stands up for our communities,” said Manuel Castro, Executive Director, New Immigrant Community Empowerment.

“Too often, these populations are forgotten while developers reap the benefits of their labor. We urge the Governor and the New York State Legislature to include a clear definition of public work in the budget to ensure immigrants and workers receive their fair share.”

New York Farms Launch Digital Campaign

From the Morning Memo:

Agriculture producers and businesses this week are launching a digital campaign to promote New York farming and highlight common concerns facing the industry.

The group, called Grow NY Farms, has launched a Twitter account to focus on the state’s 35,000 farms and 160,000 jobs in the agriculture economy.

“During the first days of spring, we look forward to a positive growing season that links our outlook for a strong vibrant future with a history and tradition that reflects our core values,” said Brian Reeves, President of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association.

“As our seasonal workforce arrives over the next few weeks, we will begin planting locally grown fruits, vegetables, and flowers for gardening, while our counterparts continue to produce some of the highest quality beef, pork, poultry and dairy products found throughout the Northeast.”

Farms are facing a variety of pressures, ranging from immigration enforcement efforts effecting their workforce, federal trade policies and legislation that could create new labor requirements such as paying workers overtime and allowing them to collectively bargain.

The group hopes the digital effort will show the impact that farming has not just on the dinner table but also the local economy’s bottom line.

“Each year our state officials carefully consider a variety of issues impacting New York’s agriculture community,” Reeves said. “We invite them to visit our farms, learn about our economic impact, and enjoy the beauty of the state’s diverse agribusinesses. And, if your schedule does not immediately permit it – follow us on Twitter.”

New York City Casino Push Intensifies

From the Morning Memo:

An effort to accelerate the licensing for a downstate casino is heating up, with MGM, Genting and Sands all seeking a piece of the action, even as Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to throw cold water on the idea.

On Tuesday, former Gov. David Paterson was at the Capitol to promote Sands’s effort, which would involve the construction of a new venue somewhere in the five boroughs.

Genting, meanwhile, has sought to make its case that as an existing racing operator in Queens, it would be able to quickly convert its venue at Aqueduct in Queens.

“Unlike other aspirants that will have to start from scratch and face massive regulatory and vetting hurdles, Resorts World is a proven operator ready to move immediately once given the authorization,” said Michael Levoff, a senior vice president with the company.

“Resorts World NYC has been operating in Queens for over seven years, generating over $2 billion in much needed revenue for the state’s public education programs and over a thousand family sustaining union jobs. Converting our facility into a full casino would generate instant value for New Yorkers in the form of not only thousands of more good-paying union jobs, but hundreds of millions of dollars each year in additional revenue for the state.”

The Business Council of Westchester, meanwhile, made its pitch for MGM to be able to convert its Empire City racino in Yonkers to a full casino as well.

Doing so “would dramatically transform the benefits our largest employer is able to offer in the local area — as well as significantly boost the benefits for the state’s education system.”

The effort by the Las Vegas-based Sands has also attracted the attention of New York Communities for Change, which in a statement highlighted the company’s ownership: Sheldon Adelson, the prominent Republican donor.

The group’s executive director in a statement pointed to Adelson’s support for President Donald Trump as well as efforts to block workers from unionizing in Las Vegas.

“His two-decade crusade to block union organizing and keep his Vegas property as one of the only non-union facilities in a sea of union hotels on the Vegas strip should immediately disqualify him from doing business in union-strong New York,” Westin said.

All of this may be moot, however, as Cuomo has been skeptical of the push to end the upstate casinos’ exclusivity before 2023.

“Long term, you’re still hurting the competitiveness of the upstate casinos because this was always the point: We wanted the person driving from Queens upstate if they wanted to go to a casino,” Cuomo said at a news conference.

Disability Rights Group Opposes Opioid Tax

From the Morning Memo:

The non-profit Center for Disability Rights this week became the latest group to oppose a planned tax on prescription opioids, writing in a letter to top lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly that the proposal would pass further cost increases onto patients and physicians.

The tax, which is estimated to generate $100 million, is a revisal of a previous plan that had been struck down in court.

“Our organization is perhaps most concerned with the provision in Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal that would explicitly allow the healthcare industry to pass added costs onto patients and providers,” wrote the organization’s policy analyst, Kathryn Carroll in the letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“Disabled people already face much higher rates of poverty than the nondisabled population, and so we already struggle to pay for our prescriptions and other healthcare costs. The disabled community in New York does not deserve to see our healthcare costs rise any further than they already have in recent years. Sadly, this will be the reality if the Governor’s proposal is passed into law.”

The surcharge is meant to combat heroin and opioid addiction in the state.

In the letter, Carroll wrote the Center for Disability Rights backs efforts to combat addiction.

“However, to do so at the expense of affordable healthcare is unacceptable,” the letter states.

The letter comes with less than two weeks to go until the state’s $175 billion spending plan is due at the end of the month.

A variety of groups — both advocacy and health care-based — have opposed the tax increase, including the Home Care Association of New York State, Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, Community Pharmacy Association of New York State as well as the Business Council of New York State, Unshackle Upstate and NFIB. Albany.

Center for Disability Rights Opioid Tax Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Legislature Passes Speed Camera Measures

The Democratic-led Legislature on Tuesday approved measures designed to expand speed cameras in New York City and create a pilot program in Buffalo.

One bill would expand speed cameras to 750 school zones in New York City, operating from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.

New York City officials are required to install signs providing notice that a speed camera is in use.

The measure builds on a 2013 law that created a program with a five-year sunset for 20 school zones.

Lawmakers also approved legislation that would create a pilot program for Buffalo modeled in part after the New York City program. The city of Buffalo would be authorized to install cameras in 20 school zones.

“The safety of children and students is one of our top priorities,” Speaker Carl Heastie said. “We saw from New York City’s demonstration program that speed cameras in school zones dramatically decrease the number of infractions, preventing deadly accidents. I’m glad that this year we could work together with our Senate colleagues to pass legislation that will help save the lives of schoolchildren and other pedestrians.”

The issue was an especially acute one for Brooklyn, where advocates had pushed lawmakers for several years to expand the camera program.

“No parent, senior, or pedestrian of any age should live in fear of crossing the street because of speeding traffic. This program slows traffic and saves lives,” said Brooklyn Sen. Andrew Gounardes. “Plain and simple. The numbers are indisputable and speak for themselves: 63 percent reduction in speeding traffic and 14 percent in traffic injuries. We know that speed is determinant of the severity of an injury received in a crash. I’ll never apologize for prioritizing the safety of millions of pedestrians over the issuance of tickets to reckless drivers.”

Lawmakers, Workers Push For Higher Tipped Worker Wage

A bill that would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to the full minimum wage is being pushed for in the final budget agreement by restaurant workers and state lawmakers who back the legislation.

“The food service industry employs the largest number of women workers earning below the minimum wage, workers who must rely on the whim of consumers rather than their own employers to be paid a living wage and support their families, fostering an environment that encourages racism, sexual harassment, and high poverty rates,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee.

“The seven states that already require tipped workers be paid the full minimum wage have flourishing restaurant industries. It’s time for New York to get on board and eliminate this shameful economic injustice.”

The bill is being sought more than a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the Department of Labor to study the effect of ending the so-called subminimum wage, which has been eliminated in seven states, including California.

“All New Yorkers deserve fair compensation regardless of their occupation. This includes tipped workers who are central to New York’s economy yet aren’t afforded the security of a stable paycheck. Allowing for one fair wage will permit these workers a full paycheck for a full day’s work,” said Assemblyman David Weprin, a Queens Democrat. “I want to thank Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee for advocating for this important topic and working to ensure that all New Yorkers are paid a fair wage.”

The move would aid workers in an industry that is predominantly composed of people of color and immigrants as well as single mothers.

Campaign Finance Reform Supporters Tout Swing District Polls

From the Morning Memo:

A group that’s backing campaign finance law changes is touting a new poll of key House districts in New York that found support for creating a system of publicly financed campaigns.

The poll by Global Strategy Group found support for the proposal in the 11th House district on Staten Island, the 19th district in the Hudson Valley, both represented by Democrats, and the Republican-held 22nd district that stretches from the Southern Tier to western New York.

“Republican, Democratic, and independent voters in swing districts across the country, including in New York, want to get big money out of politics, and they support a publicly-fsWwdinanced small dollar matching system to make sure it happens,” said Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United.

“In fact, 90 percent of these voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports clean elections, including small dollar matching, a remarkable consensus across party lines.”

The 11th, 19th and 22nd congressional districts were hotly contested House races last year, with Democrats Max Rose, Anthony Brindisi and Antonio Delgado defeating Republican incumbents.

The poll comes as state lawmakers in Albany are debating a public campaign financing program for New York elections. The proposal has hit a snag in the Democratic-led Assembly, however, after Speaker Carl Heastie said the measure lacks the necessary conference support to bring to the floor for a vote amid concerns over how the system would be regulated.

ECU Clean Elections Poll Memo – F03.18.18 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

NAACP Opposes Prevailing Wage Expansion

From the Morning Memo:

The NAACP New York State Conference will announce Tuesday its opposition to legislation that would expand prevailing wage provisions to private construction projects that receive some public funding in the state.

The group is worried the bill would negatively effect the hiring of minority workers as well as minority and women-owned businesses.

“Advancing this legislation would undermine the State Legislature’s progressive agenda by taking good jobs and opportunities away from workers of color and MWBEs in New York’s construction industry,” said Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference.

“Any effort to hastily include this bill in the state budget would ignore the needs of thousands of black and brown New Yorkers and disregard the serious concerns raised by civil rights and faith leaders. If the Legislature really cares about progressive policies and protecting jobs in our communities of color, it must halt this bill now.”

Supporters of the legislation, which include building trades labor unions, argue the prevailing wage should be paid on any publicly financed construction project in order to avoiding undermining the cost of locally available labor. The bill under consideration is meant to address court rulings that constricted the interpretation of public works projects.

But the NAACP says the move would unfairly harm workers of color. The group pointed to industry studies that show three-quarters of the workers in “open shops” who live in New York City or black or Hispanic and live in one of the five boroughs.

NYSUT’s March Madness: Which Benefit Should Win The Dance?

From the Morning Memo:

The statewide teachers this week is launching its own version of March Madness: a tournament for members to vote on which benefit they believe is the best of union membership.

The bracket challenge is part of an effort by the New York State United Teachers union to highlight membership benefits in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Janus case that enabled public workers to opt out of paying dues, but retain the benefits of membership like collective bargaining.

“Even after the Janus decision, wealthy union busters have had their bubble burst by the strength of the labor movement,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “NYSUT members have said no to the anti-union madness and are sticking with their union. We will continue providing them the slam-dunk benefits that strengthen our entire labor team across New York.”

Members can to choose from benefits like “professional development” or “secure retirement” and “quality health care” in a tournament-like bracket.

Voting begins on Monday and continues through the conclusion of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.