Releasing Scorecard, Environmental Group Praises ASC And Heastie

The top Democratic leaders in the state Senate and Assembly were honored by Environmental Advocates’s annual scorecard, giving both Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Carl Heastie the Legislator of the Year award.

Environmental groups this year have had a lot to cheer about following the first session in a decade in which Democrats controlled both chambers of the Legislature. The Legislator of the Year award had not been handed out by the group for several years.

The group pointed to the passage of long-sought environmental legislation, which included a congestion pricing toll plan, $500 million for water infrastructure and a ban on single-use plastic bags.

At the same time, the group’s scorecard assessed measures that barred garbage incineration in the Finger Lakes, ending access to state marine and coastal lands to off-shore drilling, a measure meant to prevent over fishing and a measure limiting the idling of school vehicles on school grounds.

“What we saw during this past legislative session was nothing short of amazing,” said Environmental Advocates Executive Director Peter Iwanowicz.

“The ‘New’ New York Senate, led by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has proven itself skillful, capable, and up to the task of leading New York to a greener future. The transformation from a place where good green bills went to die to an efficient, vibrant, and forward-thinking house was tremendous. Having them partner with an Assembly—that had long been carrying the environmental torch—made several pieces of game-changing legislation possible. New Yorkers will live longer lives because of bills that were passed this year and signed into law by Governor Cuomo.”

Sen. George Amedore, a Republican, was given the group’s lowest marks and its “Oil Slick” award.

Lawmakers To Meet 57 Days In 2020 With A Front-Loaded Calendar

The state legislative calendar for the 2020 session was released on Monday, showing state lawmakers are scheduled to be in Albany for 57 days next year.

The calendar is an unusual one this year for the tradition-bound Legislature, with the calendar front-loaded with session days in January and February in order to accommodate the June congressional and state primaries.

The session, which normally runs through the end of June, will now begin Jan. 8 and conclude on June 2.

By contrast, the Capitol, normally a sleepy place at the start of the session in the new year, will be comparatively a hive of activity, with more legislative session days planned.

State lawmakers met for 61 days in 2019.

The June primary is a first for state lawmakers after the Legislature this year approved a consolidation of both primary dates. The state and local primaries were previously held in September.

But with legislators readying to run in primaries of their own by early summer, the political and governing calendars have been scrambled.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had previously sought to cajole lawmakers into consolidating the primary election days even further by moving the legislative and federal primaries to April 28, the day of the state’s presidential primary in order to save money and boost turnout. So far, lawmakers have not embraced the proposal.

sessioncalendar_2020 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Good-Government Groups Want To See Draft Work From Public Financing Commission

A half dozen good-government organizations on Monday in a letter to the commission determining the contours and specifics of New York’s system of publicly financed campaigns urged the panel to release a draft report of its recommendations.

“We appreciated the Commission providing the opportunity for us to share our expertise relatively early in this process,” the groups wrote in the letter. “An interim recommendation would allow for comment and analysis on something more specific, helping to ensure a workable final policy. It would help avoid a rush at the end to meet the December 1 deadline — and would increase public trust in this process and final result.”

The commission is due to release its recommendations by Dec. 1, which will become law by the end of the year unless the Legislature returns to alter it.

Scrutiny has been placed on the commissions work in part over the debate surrounding the future of fusion voting, the practice of allowing candidates to run on multiple ballot lines — an issue that’s of concern for the Working Families Party and the Conservative Party.

Top Republican lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly last week announced they support a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the commission.

The letter was signed by Laura Ladd Bierman, League of Women Voters of New York State; Betsy Gotbaum, Citizens Union; Blair Horner, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG); John Kaehny, Reinvent Albany; Susan Lerner, Common Cause New York; and Lawrence Norden, Brennan Center for Justice.

Siena Poll: New Yorkers See Serious Health Threat In Vaping

From the Morning Memo:

The vast majority of New Yorkers say vaping is a serious threat to public health, while more than half support a ban on flavored e-cigarette tobacco, a Siena College poll released Monday found.

The poll was released amid a court battle over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to ban flavored e-cigarette tobacco products in New York, a push that received a setback last week when a court delayed the executive order from taking effect as a lawsuit backed by the vaping industry is being considered.

Cuomo moved to ban flavored vaping products after a serious illnesses believed to be linked to e-cigarettes alarmed public health officials.

New York lawmakers are expected next year to consider a raft of anti-vaping legislation, including limits to how companies can target younger consumers.

The poll found a combined 78 percent believe vaping is either a serious or very serious public health concern, while 61 percent support Cuomo’s executive action to ban flavored tobacco sales in the state.

A narrower majority, 52 percent, back banning all e-cigarette and vaping device sales, while 74 percent support raising the age in New York purchase nicotine products including vaping and e-cigarette products to 21.

Twelve percent of New Yorkers polled say they vape on a regular basis.

Cuomo wants to package efforts to curtail vaping, especially among young people, with a regional plan to address the legalization of marijuana, which the poll found is supported in New York 56 percent to 36 percent.

Still, a majority also believes legalization of marijuana will lead to more use and abuse by kids, 53 percent to 39 percent. A plurality, 47 percent, believe marijuana legalization will lead to problems in the workplace. Most people polled, 52 percent, say they have used marijuana and 21 percent currently do.

The poll found 62 percent of state residents have been affected in some way by the opioid addiction crisis, an increase from 54 percent in February 2018, with 20 percent saying that they or someone in their immediate family has abused opioids. A quarter of voters polled know someone through work has abused opioids, up 14 percent from 2018. And 35 percent know someone who has died from opioid abuse.

The poll of 589 New York adults via phone line and 217 online responses was conducted from Sept. 22 through Oct. 1. It has a 4.3 percentage point margin of error.

Sub0919 CrosstabsDemos by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Good-Government Groups, Lawmakers Want Raise Early Voting Awareness

State lawmakers and the good-government organization Common Cause on Friday are making a push to raise awareness of the state’s new early voting law, which is set to be in effect for the first time this month.

The measure enables voters to cast ballots nine days prior to Election Day starting Oct. 26.

“Early voting is a gamechanger for New Yorkers who no longer have to choose between getting to work on time or exercising their democratic rights,” said Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner.

On the legislative side, the awareness effort is being backed by Sen. Zellnor Myrie and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker.

“We like to tell our communities to get out and vote, but for years, New York put barriers between our voters and the ballot box,” Myrie said.

“Too many voters couldn’t make it to the polling place because family responsibilities or their work schedule got in the way. Not anymore. With early voting, we are empowering all New Yorkers to make their voices heard at the ballot box at the time that works for them.”

Voters wanting more information on where and when to vote can find it here.

DOH: Two Incubation Periods Have Passed Without New Measles Cases In Two Counties

More than 42 days have passed since new measles vases were reported in Sullivan and Orange counties — a milestone reached the previous week by Rockland County, the Department of Health said in a statement on Thursday.

Over the last year, 406 people have been infected with measles in the Hudson Valley counties of Rockland, Orange, Sullivan and Westchester, which public health officials have attributed to international travel.

Officials during that time have administered almost 85,000 vaccinations, a 75 percent increase from the previous year.

“The threat, however, for vaccine-preventable diseases remains and the Department is not letting down its guard,” the DOH said in a statement.

“The Department is currently working with our partners in Rockland County in investigating a case subject who contracted measles internationally and traveled to Rockland County. Additionally, the Department has active public health responses underway in Nassau (two cases), Monroe (one case) and Putnam (one case) counties related to measles exposures from international travel but not affiliated with the 2018 outbreak.”

State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year approved legislation ending the religious exemption for vaccinations in New York.

Court Delays New York’s Flavored Vaping Products Ban

A state appellate court on Thursday delayed New York’s ban on flavored vaping products used in e-cigarettes a day before it was set to take effect, a victory for an industry that has opposed the state efforts to limit vaping products.

The Appellate Division in the ruling blocked the state from enforcing the ban until a broader injunction motion is decided at the trial level. The ruling was first reported by The New York Law Journal.

The suit was filed by the Vapor Technology Association, a trade group that is fighting the ban and has sought restraining order to delay it.

“It is undeniable that the vaping industry is using flavored e-cigarettes to get young people hooked on potentially dangerous and deadly products,” said Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

“While the court’s ruling temporarily delays our scheduled enforcement of this ban, it will not deter us from using every tool at our disposal to address this crisis. Make no mistake: this is a public health emergency that demands immediate action to help ensure the wellbeing of our children, and we’re confident that once the court hears our argument they will agree.”

But the association argued the development was an acknowledgement of the strength of its case against the ban.

“The New York State Legislature, instead of enacting a flavor ban, already has decided to address concerns about youth vaping by raising the minimum age for vapor products from 18 to 21 and imposing a major tax increase,” said Vapor Technology Association Executive Director Tony Abboud.

“We continue to stand ready to work with the State of New York and all interested stakeholders on the many real solutions that should be implemented to achieve the twin goals of restricting youth vaping, which already is illegal, and preserving flavored alternatives for adults desperately trying to quit smoking.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month moved to ban flavored tobacco used in vaping products amid public health concerns and illnesses that have been linked to vaping. Last week, Cuomo and the state Department of Health moved to add menthol flavored tobacco used in e-cigarettes to the ban, a decision cheered by public health advocates.

Cuomo also wants to work with governors whose states border New York to develop a regional vaping and marijuana policy plan.

MTA Board Should Vote On Capital Plan In Public, Good-Government Group Says

The Capital Program Review Board should meet and hold a vote on the $51 billion capital plan in public, the good-government organization Reinvent Albany said on Thursday.

The group is re-releasing a letter it and 16 other groups sent in August to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the top leaders in the Assembly and Senate asking them to ensure the meeting is held in public and complies with the state’s Open Meetings Law.

The push comes as Cuomo this week has called for the board, composed of representatives of the governor, mayor and top leaders in the Senate and Assembly, to be represented by the principle officials themselves.

Meanwhile, the review board’s website is no longer active. The letter urged the appointing authorities to create and update a new website with information about its activities.

New Yorkers Say Social Media, 24/7 News Contribute To Partisanship

From the Morning Memo:

New Yorkers recognize that we live in polarizing times — and they see a 24-hour news cycle as well as social media sites helping to contribute to it.

A poll released Thursday by Siena College found 65 percent of New Yorkers say people in the United States are more partisan or politically divided than ever before.

And some blame is being cast on the incessant news cycle.

The poll, by a margin of 44 percent to 21 percent, found New Yorkers believe the 24/7 news cycle contributes to less health level of debate and civic involvement.

That includes pluralities for national cable news channels.

New Yorkers felt that was especially true for Fox News, seen as conservative leaning and has commentators who are friendly to President Donald Trump: 47 percent of New Yorkers surveyed believe the channel is contributing to an unhealthy level of partisanship, more so than CNN and MSNBC.

Social media networks are also seen as contributing to unhealthy levels of partisanship as well: 40 percent believe Facebook is contributing to “unhealthy level” of partisanship, 38 percent of New Yorkers say the same for Twitter, the poll found.

The poll found pluralities of 33 percent and 39 percent believe themselves to be left of center or very left of center on economic, fiscal and social issues — not wholly surprising given the Democratic composition of New York’s overall voter enrollment.

More than half of New Yorkers polled, 62 percent, said they spend a great deal or some time learning about or thinking about political news and debates.

One in six people have been told by a friend to cut down on the time they spending following political events. A quarter of the people poll said they have been told spend more time following political news.

Still, most people surveyed, 47 percent, say they spend time with people who have a mixture of political views that they either have in common or oppose.

The poll of 808 New York residents was conduct from Sept. 3 through Sept. 24. It has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

ICS0919PolIdeo-Crosstabs by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Legislative Leaders Make Pay Commission Appointments

From the Morning Memo:

The top Democratic leaders in the state Assembly and Senate have appointed new members to the state’s Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has tapped former state Sen. Seymour Lachman, a history professor who wrote what has become a seminal account on Albany’s budget-making process, “Three Men In A Room.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie appointed Peter Madonia, the chief operating officer at the Rockefeller Foundation and a former advisor to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The appointments were made in letters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The commission Madonia and Lachman were appointed to is separate from the panel that backed recommended pay increases for statewide elected officials and state lawmakers last year, tying the salary increases to a cap on outside income for the Legislature and a scaling back in leadership post stipends.