Assembly

Paulin Calls For Cracking Down On Straw Ammo Purchases

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin will introduce a bill meant to curtail so-called “straw purchases” by people who are otherwise unable to pass background checks or barred from possessing guns from also purchasing ammunition through similar methods.

The legislation is meant to strengthen the existing background check for ammunition purchases and was inspired in part by the Dayton mass shooting on Aug. 4. The alleged shooter is believed to have obtained some of the ammunition through a friend.

Paulin said the incident exposes a similar vulnerability in New York’s gun laws.

“After each unthinkable tragedy of gun violence, we have to re-examine our own laws to make sure we are taking every reasonable precaution to keep our families and our communities safe,” said Paulin, a Democrat from Westchester County.

“Thanks to the Governor’s and the Legislature’s leadership on this issue and to years of hard work on the part of gun safety advocates, New York has the strongest background check system in the country, a demonstrated ability to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands, and effective bans on the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that make these high-profile and shockingly evil acts so deadly. The policies I’ll be introducing will close additional loopholes and further solidify our efforts to prevent gun violence.”

Paulin’s proposed legislation would outlaw straw purchases, while also amending an existing measure that is meant crack down on gun trafficking by making it more difficult for criminals to obtain firearms from gun dealers.

State Lawmaker Takes Border Trip

From the Morning Memo:

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt will be the latest elected official to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border this week in order to review the national security and economic development issues there.

Schmitt’s office said the tour this week will be led by U.S. Border Patrol Agents and local law enforcement.

The trip will also include the security conditions at the detention facilities which are housing migrants and their families.

Schmitt, a Republican, previously conducted a tour of the ICE detention facilities at the Orange County jail in his Hudson Valley district.

“Our nation is facing a humanitarian and national security crisis at our southern border,” he said in a statement.

“This legislative session the NY legislature waded into that debate with very few members actually having first hand knowledge of the situation. My district is also home to an ICE detention facility housing individuals detained at the border. I look forward to seeing the situation first hand and taking the experience back to my colleagues for next session.”

The ‘Price Of Justice’

From the Morning Memo:

For years, as the state Legislature attempted to pass the Child Victims Act, many opponents pointed to the potential financial implications, not just for institutions like the Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church but New York in general.

When lawmakers finally passed the bill in January they listed the fiscal impact as “to be determined.” They are likely about to get a much better idea of exactly what that impact is with a one-year lookback window for civil lawsuits opening today.

Litigation that otherwise would have fallen outside the statute of limitations will be coming en masse.

“First and foremost, sometimes there’s a price on justice and I think bringing justice to these victims is the thing we should think about the most,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.

Asked about how much it will cost taxpayers, the speaker said he would need to check with the Ways and Means Committee. Ultimately, it may be difficult to predict a hard number.

Attorneys across the state have indicated their plans to sue various school districts over the next weeks and months. Other organizations, like the church, provide things like health and refugee services that the state may need to pick up if they’re severely injured by the suits.

“If there’s a cost on the school districts or the state or whoever was responsible for these terrible acts against young people, that’s just a price of justice and that should be paid,” Heastie said.

He also didn’t have an immediate answer for how much this will cost the court system which is preparing for potentially thousands of new cases.

Ortiz Fires Staffer Accused Of Stealing $80K

Assemblyman Felix Oritz on Friday announced he has fired Maruf Alam, the staffer who is accused by federal law enforcement of stealing $80,000 from a campaign account.

“Given the circumstances and the seriousness of the charges brought by the United States Attorney, this employee is being terminated effective immediately,” Ortiz said in a statement.

“These are very serious charges. I am personally appalled, hurt and disappointed that an employee would violate my trust. My constituents come first and they deserve to know that public employees are always working on their behalf. I want to thank the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for their efforts and I look forward to working with them to ensure that justice is served.”

Alam was arrested on Thursday and accused of wire fraud. He has acted as a volunteer treasurer for two campaign accounts and was in charge of filing disclosure reports for the campaign committee account.

Ortiz Staffer Arrested, Charged With Stealing From Campaign Account

A staffer for Assemblyman Felix Ortiz was arrested Thursday morning and charged with wire fraud and stealing $80,000 from a campaign account connected to the lawmaker.

“I am just now being made aware of the charges against my staff member,” said Ortiz, a Brooklyn Democrat, in a statement. “I do not have any further information, and cannot comment at this time.”

The staffer, Maruf Alam of Brooklyn, acted as a volunteer treasurer for two campaign accounts and was in charge of filing disclosure reports for the campaign committee account.

Court records show Ortiz, identified as a member of the state Assembly, was interviewed by federal law enforcement.

Alam’s arrest was first report by Law 360.

Top New York Dems Back Cuomo’s National Gun Control Push

Top Democrats in New York on Wednesday publicly backed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s for a national gun control plan that includes universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons.

Supportive statements were released Wednesday morning from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the Cuomo-led state Democratic Committee.

“We are at a tipping point in the national debate on gun control, and Governor Cuomo is asking the country to follow New York’s lead on proposals that will get dangerous weapons off our streets in communities everywhere,” Heastie said. “It is beyond time to act.”

Cuomo wants Democratic candidates for the presidency to embrace the plan, which also includes support for a national red flag law keeping guns away from people deemed to be too dangerous and a database of mentally ill people who should not have guns.

“We agree with the Governor that our national candidates should look at New York as an example of passing smart gun laws that make our state safer,” Stewart-Cousins wrote on Twitter. “We hope that all the candidates follow our leadership on these crucial issues.”

Jacobs, the party chairman, said the platform should be supported by all the Democrats running for president if they hope to gain any votes in the state.

“It is incumbent upon elected officials throughout America, and especially the Democratic Presidential candidates to follow New York’s lead under Governor Cuomo, and endorse the Make America Safer Pledge to reduce and eventually eradicate the gun violence that is plaguing our great nation,” he said.

Heastie Says Nation Should Self-Reflect On Guns After Mass Shootings

The nation should reflect on whether people need to own high-capacity, military-style weapons following a pair of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Wednesday.

“I really want the country to self-reflect,” Heastie said after a tour of a day camp in Mechanicville with Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner.

“I know people want to have guns, people want to hunt, people want to protect their houses. I really think people in this country need to look again at the need for assault weapons that let out 60 bullets in a minute. I don’t agree with the Second Amendment, but I respect it. You look at other industrialized countries, we get more people dying in a day than some of these countries get in a year.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning called on the Democratic candidates running for president to embrace a national gun control plan he said should include universal background checks, a database of mentally ill people who should not carry guns, a red flag law and a ban on assault-style rifles.

New York lawmakers and Cuomo agreed earlier this year to a state version of a red flag law that is meant to keep guns away from people considered too dangerous to themselves or others.

The speaker, a proponent of gun control, said he’s hopeful the latest shootings will spur action.

“I’m hoping it becomes a part of the national conversation,” Heastie said.

Assembly GOP Pushes Approval Of USMCA Trade Deal

From the Morning Memo:

Republican lawmakers in the state Assembly last week sent a letter to congressional leaders and President Donald Trump urging the approval of a new North American trade pact they say will be a boon to upstate farmers.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canda trade deal will especially provide support to the state’s struggling dairy industry, they wrote.

New York exports more than $18.5 billion in products to Mexico and Canada a year.

In the letter, the state lawmakers write the USMCA is an improvement from the North American Freed Trade Agreement.

“Specifically, the agricultural industry in NewYork will secure much greater access to the Canadian market if this agreement is ratified by Congress,” they wrote.

“This is especially important for our dairy farmers, who previously were unable to access the Canadian market due to the Canadian milk pricing program. During this time of hardship for our dairy farmers, expanding the market could revitalize the industry and save many farms from closure.”

The new proposed trade pact has also been endorsed by the New York Farm Bureau and the Business Council.

“Undoubtedly, this agreement would be a tremendous victory for New York State and the entire nation,” the letter states. “Long term, uninterrupted trade with Mexico and Canada is critical for the economic vitality of our country.”

Cuomo Signs Bill Codifying The Use Of Campaign Funds For Child Care

A bill that would allow state and local candidates for elected office use campaign funds for child care expenses was signed into law on Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The legislation codifies a determination by the state Board of Elections made earlier this year that allows campaign funds to be put toward child care costs.

Supporters of the legislation contend the provision will make it easier for parents with limited personal funds to run for office and ensure their kids are taken care of during long days of campaigning.

“Women face too many barriers when it comes to running for office and frankly child care expenses shouldn’t be one of them,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By signing this measure into law, we will build on the historic progress we’ve made toward gender equality and empower more parents – and mothers in particular – to seek public office to ensure the decision makers in Albany reflect the people they are elected to represent.”

The use of campaign funds for child care was pioneered by Liuba Grechen Shirely, a Democrat who ran for the House of Representatives last year against Republican Rep. Peter King. Grechen Shirley successfully petitioned the Federal Elections Commission to allow her to tap into her campaign coffers to help pay for child care.

“This law will encourage more women to run, ensuring that legislators begin to look more like the communities they represent,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

“By making child care an allowable campaign expense, we pay more than mere lip service to that reality, and begin dismantling some of the institutional barriers that women and mothers continue to face.”

Cuomo Signs Bill Expanding MWBE Program

A bill that extends and expands the state’s minority and women-owned business enterprises program was approved Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The measure will extend the law by five years and is meant to strengthen it by having more businesses participate in the program.

“The extension and expansion of New York’s nation-leading MWBE program will help ensure our economy is reflective of our values and of our diverse talent pool,” Cuomo said. “Diversity is New York’s greatest asset, and by signing this measure into law we will empower more women and people of color to participate in State contracts and continue our aggressive program to make contracting even more inclusive.”

The new law establishes bidding credits for low-bid construction projects to $1.4 million and will expand the size of procurements. It also requires contractors to make a good faith effort in order to retain MWBE subcontractors before applying for a waiver.

“The MWBE program is a proven success, and has helped empower minority and women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “The bill signed into law today will extend the MWBE program until 2024, continue to make the state contracting process more inclusive, and take action to combat misrepresentation.”