Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo To Sign Green Light Bill

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses in New York, his top counsel said in a Monday night statement.

The state Senate approved the bill moments after the statement was issued, 33-29. The Assembly approved the bill earlier this month.

Cuomo only hours earlier raised the possibility of a veto of the measure over concerns the bill would create a “database” of undocumented people living in New York who would be subject to a federal immigration enforcement action.

Cuomo administration counsel Alphonso David subsequently sent a letter to Solicitor General Barbara Underwood seeking a legal opinion on whether the state would have to turn over the information to the federal government.

Instead, a statement came from Underwood’s boss, Attorney General Letitia James, seen broadly as a Cuomo ally. James rebuffed any concerns, saying the bill has safeguards against exposure.

“The legislation is well crafted and contains ample protections for those who apply for driver’s licenses,” she said. “If this bill is enacted and challenged in court, we will vigorously defend it.”

Soon after, a statement in response came from David, saying that Underwood “has remained unresponsive on this critical issue. With that said, based on the Attorney General’s representation, the Governor will sign the bill.”

The bill’s passage is the culmination of more than a decade of political battles, first launched in 2007 by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to rescind Gov. George Pataki’s order that driver’s licenses require Social Security numbers, made after the Sept. 11 attacks. The proposal create a political firestorm and Spitzer withdrew it.

“All this has come together — a culmination of months, years, advocating for this and educating people who have had difficulty with this law,” said Sen. Luis Sepulveda, the bill’s main sponsor.

Cuomo Admin Formally Requests Underwood’s Opinion On Green Light

The top counsel in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on Monday released a letter to Solicitor General Barbara Underwood seeking her legal opinion on whether the measure could expose undocumented immigrants to federal immigration enforcement if they apply for a driver’s license.

The letter was released just as the state Senate began debate on the legislation that would allow undocumented residents to apply for driver’s licenses in New York.

“Accordingly, we pose the following question to you – will the proposed law definitively prohibit the Federal Government, or any related or affiliated subdivision, from accessing – directly, indirectly or through judicial process – any database or other compilation of information or material in the possession, custody or control of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles?” Cuomo Counsel Alphonso David wrote.

“Obviously in responding to this question, we ask that you assume a Federal legal challenge to such a New York law should it be enacted, and take into consideration similar laws or circumstances in other states, as well as our current data sharing process with the Federal Government.”

Cuomo has raised concerns with the bill in the last several days, and did not rule out a veto on Monday if the measure leads to the federal government accessing the records of undocumented immigrants in the state.

Advocates for the legislation have blasted Cuomo’s concern, calling it a last-minute red herring and reversal from his stated support for the bill.

Cuomo Holding Big-Dollar Post-Session Fundraiser

cuomofundraiserGov. Andrew Cuomo next Monday will hold a fundraiser with tickets going as high as $25,000.

The reception will be held at the home of real estate developer Scott Rechler, who the governor had appointed to the Port Authority in 2011. Rechler left the Port Authority in 2016 and is the CEO and chairman of RXR Realty.

An invitation to the event, released by his campaign today, shows tickets ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 to $25,000 for donors.

The event comes the same month that state lawmakers approved sweeping changes to the stat’s rent control laws, including a provision that would allow local governments to opt in to local regulations.

Cuomo Raises Possibility Of Green Light Veto

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not rule out a potential veto of a bill set to be voted on Monday by the state Senate that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, pointing to the potential that information gathered by the state could aid federal immigration enforcement actions.

“Why give Trump a list of undocumented immigrants?” Cuomo said at a news conference in New York City earlier in the day.

Cuomo said both in a radio interview and at the news conference that he wants Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, who represents the state in court challenges, to develop a legal opinion on whether the state would have to turn over the information to the federal government.

Senate Democrats announced simultaneously they would hold a vote on the bill, which has long been politically fraught in New York following the 2007 attempt by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer to reverse a decision by Gov. George Pataki to require Social Security numbers in order to receive a state driver’s license.

“Today, we will be passing legislation restoring the right for all qualified drivers to obtain drivers licenses regardless of immigration status,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “By passing this needed legislation, we are growing our economy while at the same time making our roads safer. This is the right step forward for New York State as we continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level.”

For advocates of the measure, known as the Green Light bill, the governor’s last-minute concern was seen as a potential way of skirting an issue that remains unpopular statewide, according to a Siena College poll last week.

“I don’t know what the governor’s motivation is,” Sen. Luis Sepulveda, the Bronx lawmaker who is the sponsor of the bill. “I can tell we commenced discussions with the governor’s office back in January and none of these concerns were relayed to us. Why now? I don’t know, you’d have to ask the governor.”

The New York Immigration Coalition’s Steve Choi, went further, calling Cuomo’s concern a “scare tactic.”

“Concerns over the ICE’s use of data to target immigrants raised at the 11th hour by Gov. Cuomo, after he’s supported the bill for more than a decade, is nothing more than a scare tactic from someone who doesn’t want another progressive victory happening without him,” said Choi, the group’s executive director.

“If Gov. Cuomo is truly the champion of New York’s immigrants that he says he is, he must take the final step and sign the Green Light bill it into law immediately. The bill already has far and away the strongest privacy provisions of any other state, including preventing immigration status from being listed on any DMV database, and now the Governor, who says he supports it, has the chance to turn his pro-immigrant words into real action by signing this bill into law today.”

Still, Cuomo’s argument has not been dismissed by all lawmakers.

Long Island Sen. Kevin Thomas, a freshman Democrat, told reporters he would vote against the bill, citing concerns ICE would gain access to the database.

Cuomo: Get Marijuana Measures Done Now, Not Later

State lawmakers on Sunday introduced what appeared to be a “plan B” in the marijuana debate: A measure that would simply decriminalize the drug in New York, but not set up a more sweeping regulatory scheme for a retail marijuana market in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on WAMC on Monday said he didn’t want to simply decriminalize marijuana without acting on the legalization measure.

“I think we should do it all together,” he said. “I don’t think we should do one component now and then come back and do another component. Let’s just do it. We’ve talked about it, let’s make the hard decisions and let’s make them now.”

Cuomo also sound sympathetic to the idea of an “opt in” for local governments to allow marijuana businesses there. His previous proposal for marijuana legalization included an “opt out” provision, which several county governments have already approved pre-emptively.

“What level — is it just county or is it local government?” Cuomo said. “If a county opts in, must all local governments be included? Second option, it’s the locality that opts in, not the county.”

Lawmakers appeared close on Friday to striking a deal for marijuana legalization, but negotiations continued without a definitive agreement. The opt in mechanism was considered a key sticking point, as was how the revenue for the program should be spent.

“I think there’s a balance we have to achieve here, but I don’t think we can roughshod over local governments, nor should we,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo Says Deals Reached On Climate Change, Sexual Harassment Law Changes And More

State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have reached agreements on issues that range from reducing carbon pollution to ending the so-called “gay panic” defense and the statute of limitations for second and third-degree rape cases.

And there are agreements that would extend the state’s minority and women owned business program, a measure expanding labor rights for farm workers and changes to the definition of sexual harassment to include a wider range of misbehavior.

That’s according to Cuomo on Monday morning in an interview on WAMC radio as key issues were locked down following a weekend of negotiations.

“I feel very good about my advocacy efforts right after Memorial Day, basically,” Cuomo said. “We communicated to the entire state the pressing issues and I think we’re making phenomenal progress.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to end session on Wednesday, but still left to are issues like the legalization of marijuana, which has hit road blocks in the three-way talks. Lawmakers could stay beyond that day if a deal is possible.

Cuomo Says He Wants Solicitor General To Review Driver’s License Database

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a radio interview on Monday said he will ask the state’s solicitor general to review New York’s legal exposure to a potential effort by the federal government requesting access to a driver’s license database should lawmakers approved a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for licenses.

“You create a driver’s license for undocumented people, you just have to make sure you do it in a way that the feds don’t come in the next day and access that database with the exact opposite intention,” Cuomo said in the interview on WAMC.

Cuomo last week raised concerns with federal immigration enforcement seeking the database, pointing to California’s legal fight with President Donald Trump’s administration over the issue.

“We can’t destroy Department of Motor Vehicle data,” he said. “So that’s the legal challenge.”

Cuomo said he wanted the solicitor general, Barbara Underwood, the “assure us that the federal government will not be able to access the information or subpoena the information.”

He added the legal opinion could be available by midweek, when lawmakers are scheduled to have their final session day.

The state Senate this week is expected to vote for the measure, known as the Green Light bill, after the Assembly approved it earlier this month.

Sweeping Rent Control Changes Approved

State lawmakers on Friday put the finishing touches on a sweeping package of changes to rent control in New York, which allow communities outside of the New York City area to opt in to regulations designed to protect tenants.

The state Senate approved the package, announced earlier this week by the legislative leaders, 36-26. The Democratic-controlled Assembly followed suit soon after, 95-41.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bills shortly after they achieved final passage.

The governor, who faintly praised the agreement earlier this week at a news conference, released a more celebratory statement on Friday.

“At the beginning of this legislative session, I called for the most sweeping, aggressive tenant protections in state history. I’m confident the measure passed today is the strongest possible set of reforms that the Legislature was able to pass and are a major step forward for tenants across New York,” Cuomo said.

“As the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton, I know full well the importance of affordable housing and with the existing rent laws set to expire tomorrow, I have immediately signed this bill into law – avoiding the chaos and uncertainty that a lapse in these protections would have caused for millions of New Yorkers.”

For Democrats who gained control of the state Senate, the passage and forging of the deal was a victory. The measures permanently extend rent control laws and allow local governments to opt in and adopt their own local-level regulations.

The measures make it harder for landlords to evict tenants when rent is increased and raise rents when capital improvements are made to a dwelling.

“We made a commitment that the new Senate Democratic Majority would help pass the strongest tenant protections in history,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “The legislation we passed today achieves that commitment and will help millions of New Yorkers throughout our state. I thank my partner in legislative leadership, Speaker Carl Heastie and the Chair of the Senate’s Housing, Construction and Community Development Committee, Senator Brian Kavanagh for his leadership on this issue.”

Both Heastie and Stewart-Cousins announced the two-way deal on Wednesday, well ahead of the Saturday deadline for the current laws to expire.

The measures are expected to face a court challenge from real estate interests in court.

“For too long, power has been tilted in favor of landlords. But today we were able to level the playing field and bring stability to tenants across New York State, whether they live in an apartment in the Bronx, a single family home in Nassau County or a manufactured home upstate,” Heastie said. “The Assembly Majority will continue working to ensure every New Yorker can find quality, affordable housing.”

Cuomo Says Green Light Bill Could Create ‘Database’ For Feds

The passage of a bill meant to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants could create a de facto database for federal immigration officers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday in a radio interview.

Cuomo called the concern a “nuanced” but “more powerful” argument against the bill, which passed this week in the Assembly and is pending in the state Senate.

“You’re creating a database of undocumented people which a federal government that is trying to aggressively find quote-un-quote illegal people might actually seize and you might actually inadvertently end of creating a database the federal government might end up taking,” Cuomo said in the interview on WAMC public radio. “You might actually be hurting the people you’re trying to help.”

A similar concern has played out in California, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have gained access to records from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles as part of recent arrests.

Cuomo reiterated he supports the bill and “on balance” it makes sense in order to bolster public safety and insure more drivers on the road.

The bill in recent days has gained support in the Democratic-led state Senate, including from Long Island Sen. Anna Kaplan, whose support is considered especially key given the opposition from some lawmakers in the suburbs and upstate districts.

Updated: The New York Immigration Coalition responds.

“For someone who says he supports granting all immigrants access to driver’s licenses, Gov. Cuomo sure seems to be trying to stop the bill from moving. This, just days after we learned his hand-picked state party chairman was telling certain senators that voting for the legislation would hurt them politically. Governor, we don’t need reasons why to kill the bill. If you truly support it, we need you fighting to get it passed.”

Cuomo Says Not Approving Surrogacy ‘A Step Back’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains hopeful state lawmakers in the Assembly will advance a bill that would legalize gestational surrogacy by the end of the session.

“I believe the votes exist in the Assembly if it comes to the floor, but that is an open issue,” Cuomo said in an interview on WAMC on Friday morning.

The measure was approved last week in the state Senate, but faces hurdles in the Assembly, where some lawmakers are concerned the measure would lead to women being taken advantage of by being paid to carry a child to term.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem has raised concerns with the bill as well.

But Cuomo acknowledged the issues that have been raised in the interview, but said there are safeguards against exploitation.

“By the way, that’s a real concern,” he said. “I think you can protect against it and I think our bill does.”

The bill is backed by LGBTQ organizations and Cuomo has linked the measure to other successes for the community, like the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“We’ve been very progressive on these issues and I don’t know why we would take a step back,” Cuomo said.

Earlier this week the Women’s Bar Association backed the measure.

“As one of only three states in the country that still bans surrogacy agreements, it’s long past the time for us to catch up,” said Risa Levine, an attorney with the group. “On the heels of the State Senate’s passage of the bill yesterday, we urge the New York State Assembly to join their colleagues in passing the Child-Parent Security Act this year and helping to continue New York’s proud progressive legacy.”