Albany

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.”

Legislative Leaders: Cuomo Not Being Cut Out

Long-sought bills for election reform are being passed today and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign them.

But the process is something of a change from previous years in which big picture, headline-making measures were included in the budget, modified in negotiation and approved or taken out of the final day.

This time, lawmakers are approving longtime bills re-introduced each year. No leaders meetings with Cuomo appear to be being held. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie worked out many of the details for the votes themselves.

But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters at the Capitol Monday this wasn’t about cutting Cuomo out of the law-making picture.

“The governor has the right to put whatever he wants in the budget,” Heastie said. “I would say in previous times it was probably more of a necessity because of the Republican Senate because that was the best way to get things done. The Senate didn’t really agree with a Democratic governor and a Democratic Assembly.”

At the same time, the legislative process still was a process when Republicans controlled the Senate, like when the Legislature approved the creation of a prosecutorial conduct panel last year.

“Even when there was a Republican Senate, there were a lot of bills the Assembly passed,” Heastie said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to engage the governor. We’re passing bills we know that we people in the state have wanted for numerous years.”

Cuomo already has signaled an aggressive budget with policies like banning plastic bags, expanding the bottle deposits, increasing the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 and new regulations for e-cigarettes.

And the budget’s biggest items — health care and education spending — will still have the governor’s stamp on the final deal.

But at the same time, lawmakers are taking up a package of measures virtually every session day, including gun control, LGBTQ rights and more.

“Our objective is not to do things quickly,” Stewart-Cousins said, “but to do them right.”

Cuomo Counsel: Can’t Break Up Pay Raise Law

The law that led to a pay commission granting the first legislative pay raise in 20 years can’t be legally split apart, the top legal counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday said in a phone interview.

State lawmakers have argued the compensation commission acted outside of the law’s purview by also capping outside pay for the Legislature as well as largely ending most stipends or “lulus” for leadership posts.

The law is now being challenged the Government Justice Center, which is seeking an injunction to block the raises.

The commission last month backed a recommendation that boosted pay of lawmakers from $79,500 to $110,000 on Jan. 1. Legislative pay will eventually reach $130,000 in the coming years.

Cuomo has backed the recommendations of the commission.

“From a legal prospective I have concerns about the legislative statements that have been made about the commission,” said Cuomo administration counsel Alphonso David.

He pointed to the measure lacking a “severability” clause in its language — essentially that if one portion of the law is struck down, the entire statute could be tossed out.

“The comments that they’re making suggesting outside of their scope can be used as evidence in the case,” he said. “It could result in the entire law being stricken.”

At the same time, a court loss would reset the clock on pay raises for lawmakers, David said, meaning any new salary hike wouldn’t take effect until the Legislature elected in 2020 is seated in 2021.

Meanwhile, several Capitol insiders have raised the concerns that if the law is struck down, the money paid out could potentially be clawed back.

Pay Raises Remain Under Challenge

A legal challenge to the legislative, statewide elected officials and commissioner pay raises continued on Friday as the executive director of fiscally conservative group challenging a compensation commission’s decision to hike their pay sought an injunction against the move.

“It’s only a couple hundred people on the payroll,” said Cameron Macdonald of the Government Justice Center in an interview after the court appearance. “It should be pretty easy to stop and start.”

The group is challenging the decision by the commission, which granted the first legislative salary increase in 20 years, boosting pay of lawmakers from $79,500 to $110,000 on Jan. 1. Legislative pay will eventually reach $130,000 in the coming years.

Macdonald’s group unsuccessfully sought the pay raises from taking effect at all before the start of the new year.

A preliminary injunction is not necessarily indicative of how the court will ultimately rule.

“It would be good to get things back to the status quo,” he said. “It would be good to get a positive indication on the arguments, but it’s not dispositive in any way.”

Macdonald has argued the compensation commission did not have the constitutional authority to approve the pay raises.

“The Legislature must do it,” he said. “The Legislature can’t delegate this task to a committee.”

The legal challenge also has lawmakers threading a needle on the issue as well: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has been supportive of the pay increase, but has argued the committee did not have the authority to add stipulations to the pay hike, such as restricting stipends for leadership posts and capping outside income.

Moody’s: Court Blocking Opioid Surcharge Hurts Addiction Programs

A federal court striking down the state’s $100 million surcharge on opioids will hurt the effort to fight addiction, Moody’s Investor Services found in a report released Friday.

The surcharge, which would have raised $100 million a year through June 2024, would have gone toward a special fund on the first of the year for treatment and support programs for addiction.

New York is one of 23 states that saw increases in drug deaths in 2017, though deaths per 100,000 stood at 19.4, short of the 21.7 deaths nationwide.

The court decision could require the state to decide whether to use existing sources of money to support addiction programs, the report found.

“The state may yet be able to raise revenue from opioid-related businesses in a way that will pass muster with the courts,” Moody’s found. “The federal court ruling found that the flaws in the state’s approach stemmed from its efforts to prevent the affected companies from passing through the impacts of the surcharge to customers and suppliers. The state would have imposed steep penalties on those found to do so, reflecting legislators’ wishes to avoid imposing higher costs on those with legitimate medical need for opioids.”

Why Gillibrand 2020 In Troy Makes Sense

If she runs for president, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s unofficial campaign motto may be to Enjoy Troy.

Her campaign-in-waiting is reportedly considering placing its headquarters in Troy, a small upstate city just north of Albany on the Hudson River.

The city has blue-collar and working class roots, but in recent years it has sought to rebrand itself as an upstate hipster haven of sorts, with its interesting architecture and restaurants — a Williamsburg for Rensselaer County.

More broadly, the Capital Region is home to several colleges, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.

And, perhaps most attractive to Gillibrand, Troy is near her home in Brunswick, giving her some proximity to her family during an otherwise grueling national campaign.

Gillibrand, of course, is a native of the Capital Region and early on was exposed to the rough-and-tumble of local Albany city politics. As dramatized in an off-Broadway play last year, Gillibrand’s grandmother, Polly Noonan, was a top aide to longtime Albany Mayor Erastus Corning.

Coalition For Fertility Coverage Expands

A coalition of groups that is pushing for private health plans to cover fertility procedures has expanded and plans to commit “significant resources” to get the legislation approved.

The Coalition to Help Families Struggling with Infertility is pushing for the passage of the Fair Access to Fertility Treatment Act, is meant to expand coverage for procedures like in-vitro fertilization and fertility preservation, which benefits cancer patients.

The groups plan to spend on a media campaign that includes digital, TV and radio as well as grassroots mobilization.

The coalition includes RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, Alliance for Fertility Preservation, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Coalition for Women’s Cancers and other New York-based patient advocacy groups. Lobbying will also be done by Dickinson, Avella & Vidal and Tress Capitol Advisors.

The measure has been proposed in previous legislative sessions and has won support in the Democratic-led Assembly. Advocates are hopeful that with Democratic control of the state Senate, the bill can be acted on this year.