Andrew Cuomo

Siena Poll: Cuomo, Legislature Start Year With High Favorables

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are kicking off the new year with high favorable ratings from voters, a Siena College poll released Monday found.

But voters are not thrilled with a pay commission backing the first legislative salary increase in 20 years, boosting their pay from $79,500 to $130,000 in the coming years, but with strings attached.

Cuomo’s favorability rating among registered voters stands at 51 percent to 43 percent, an improvement from a negative rating of 45 percent to 49 percent in November among likely voters.

The Assembly, long under Democratic control, has a 48 percent to 32 percent favorability rating, it’s best showing ever in the Siena poll. The Assembly’s rating is up from a negative 40 percent to 43 percent in June among likely voters.

The state Senate, which has flipped to Democratic control, now has a 49 percent to 38 percent favorability rating, an improvement from 41 percent to 45 percent in June among likely voters, and when Republicans had majority control.

Still, Cuomo’s job approval rating remains underwater, with 43 percent approving of the job he’s doing and 56 percent disapproving.

Voters are less thrilled with the pay commission increasing lawmakers’ pay, with a whopping 80 percent to 15 percent opposing the salary hike.

But voters are more supportive of limiting extra pay for most leadership posts and capping outside income, 57 percent to 35 percent.

The 2019 legislative session is expected to produce a flurry of action on bills ranging from gun control, abortion rights and campaign finance reforms, which were long stalled under Republican control of the state Senate. Later today, lawmakers are expected to take up a package of bills meant to make it easier to register and vote in New York.

A majority of voters back measures like the Child Victims Act (77 percent), which is aimed at making it easier for the survivors of sexual abuse to file lawsuits, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (68 percent), extending background checks for gun purchases from three days to 10 (75 percent) and making the state’s property tax cap permanent (65 percent).

A plurality of voters, 36 percent, believe Cuomo should make infrastructure a top issue for him in the new year, followed by health care and education at 33 percent and 32 percent.

The poll of 805 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 6 to Jan. 10 and has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

The cross tabs can be found here.

Cuomo Backs Plastic Bag Ban, Bottle Bill Expansion

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 budget proposal will call for a ban on plastic bags in New York as well as an expansion of the state’s bottle deposit law.

“While the federal government is taking our environmental progress backwards and selling out our communities to polluters and oil companies, in New York we are moving forward with the nation’s strongest environmental policies and doing everything in our power to protect our natural resources for future generations,” Cuomo said.

“These bold actions to ban plastic bags and promote recycling will reduce litter in our communities, protect our water and create a cleaner and greener New York for all.”

Two years ago, state lawmakers and Cuomo agreed to overturn a 5-cent surcharge in New York City on plastic bag usage. Instead, Cuomo convened a task force to review plastic bag usage statewide.

The ban will have the Department of Environmental Conservation roll out the push so it does not impact low-income communities and include distribution of reusable bags. Exemptions will also be made “were appropriate” Cuomo’s office said in the announcement.

The expanded bottle deposit will include most non-alcoholic beverage eligible for the 5-cent redemption. That will include sports, energy, fruit and vegetable drinks as well as ready-to-drink teas and coffees.

Some exemptions such as bottles containing dairy and milk substitutes, including infant formula, syrups and dietary supplements will be made. Plastic Bag Ban

Cuomo Wants To Raise Tobacco Age To 21, Regulate E-Cigarettes

The minimum age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products will be set at 21 and new regulations for the sale of e-cigarettes would be introduced if a provision in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal is approved.

Cuomo on Saturday announced he would raise the tobacco age from 18 to 21 as part of his spending plan that is scheduled to be unveiled on Tuesday.

“We have made great strides to stamp out teen smoking, but new products threaten to undo this progress to the detriment of millions of Americans. In New York, we refuse to stand idly by while unscrupulous businesses target our young people and put their very futures at risk,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“With this comprehensive proposal, we are taking aggressive action to combat this very real public health crisis and curb the use of nicotine products before they result in deadly consequences for an entire generation of New Yorkers.”

The proposal will also end the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies. Major chains like CVS have already halted the sale of tobacco products in their stores.

New display restrictions will also be proposed for tobacco packaging and products. At the same time, the move will clarify regulations for flavored e-cigarette liquids and require that e-cigarette products are sold through licensed retailers.

The proposals were praised by supporters of further regulations on e-cigarettes.

“As nicotine addiction among young adults continues to climb across the nation, action at the state level is needed to protect our children from the harm posed by electronic cigarettes,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

“While Suffolk County has enacted sweeping new penalties to deter the illegal sales of vaporizers, I applaud Governor Cuomo for proposing sensible regulations that would also restrict the sale of flavored vaping products. We cannot allow the vaping industry to drown out the voices of health professionals, school administrators, parents and students who agree that action is needed to stop this health crisis.”

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.

Cuomo To Include Child Victims Act In Budget

The Child Victims Act, a measure that makes it easier for the survivors and victims of childhood abuse to file lawsuits, will be included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 budge proposal, his office on Friday announced.

“There has been a degradation of justice for childhood sexual assault survivors who have suffered for decades by the authority figures they trusted most. That ends this year with the enactment of the Child Victims Act to provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice,” Cuomo said.

“For years Senate Republicans unconscionably blocked passage of this critical bill, but in partnership with a new progressive legislative majority we have an opportunity to ensure perpetrators of these heinous acts are held accountable and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse get their day in court.”

The bill has stalled in the state Senate under the Republican majority and is likely to be approved with Democratic control of the chamber.

Cuomo’s office said the bill would be “consistent with” the legislation backed by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

Advocates for the legislation have called for a one-year look back for expired civil claims that can be revived by survivors.

Cuomo is scheduled to release his full budget proposal on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Albany.

Cuomo Outlines Potential Ethics Reforms

Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again signaled Thursday he would be open to changes to how procurement and contracting is done in the state as well as expanding the state’s Freedom of Information of Law.

“I’ll have a very aggressive ethics program,” Cuomo said in an interview with WAMC. “I want to do real contract procurement. I want to FOIL for the legislative and the executive.”

Cuomo on Wednesday told reporters he be supportive of procurement reforms that had initially been called for in the wake of his former close aide Joe Percoco’s arrest in connection to a bribery and bid-rigging scheme.

On Thursday, Cuomo said those procurement reforms would be “better than pre-audit.”

“I want to do a questionnaire to the grantee that comes with the contract,” Cuomo said. “Did you have a lobbyist? Did you have a lawyer? Do you have a relationship with the granting entity? Ask the questions that give the comptroller and the IG real leads to follow up on.”

Movement on the issue comes as Democratic lawmakers had also telegraphed their desire to back the stalled reforms as well, including return the pre-audit powers back to the state comptroller’s office. Cuomo had previously pointed to internal reforms instituted in the wake of the corruption arrests.

But making changes to the state’s lobbying and ethics watchdog, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, may be a heavier lift.

Sen. Liz Krueger this week called for the passage of a constitutional amendment that would create a new watchdog entity with a majority of appointments made by the state’s judiciary.

“I would support it if it makes sense,” Cuomo said. “That was a complicated equation. Let’s do the things we know we can do right up front.”

He added, “I’m in favor of it, but I really want to get things done quickly.”

Cuomo Plans Budget Address On Tuesday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will hold his combined budget and State of the State address on Tuesday, he said in a radio interview on Thursday morning.

“I think we have an historic 100 days here and a great opportunity. We just have to get it done,” Cuomo said in an interview with WAMC’s Alan Chartock. “We have the agenda, we just have to make sure we don’t trip over our own feet and get it done.”

Cuomo’s address will come less than a month after he outlined a broad agenda for the new year and the legislative session with full Democratic control of both chambers of the Legislature.

Lawmakers and Cuomo are expected to push for legislation meant to strengthen abortion rights, make it easier to vote and register to vote, new gun control measures and the legalization of marijuana for adult use.

In his speech in December, Cuomo said he modeled the effort after the first 100 days of President Franklin Roosevelt.

“I really did two versions of the State of the State already,” Cuomo said. “I laid out a full agenda in what I called an FDR speech.”

Once again, Cuomo will not hold the remarks in the Assembly chamber, but at a convention center or theater across the street from the Capitol.

Cuomo has sought to emphasize areas in which he agrees with legislators, but he is also expected to clash with some lawmakers when it comes to school spending and health care.

The governor pointed to the new majority leader in the Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has being able to balance the needs of a 39-member conference in the new session.

“I think she has the skill set and leadership ability to navigate those treacherous straits,” he said.

Cuomo Explains His MeToo Remark

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in radio interview brushed off the blowback he’s received from awkwardly received joke he made on Wednesday to reporters about the Me Too movement.

Cuomo spoke with reporters in a hallway gaggle or press scrum and, before he began to take questions, urged them to back up a step.

“Space. We need space,” he said. “Or I’ll bring you all up on charges under the Me Too movement.”

The comment drew some notice online, especially given that Wednesday saw the installation of the first woman majority leader in the state Senate.

Cuomo in a WAMC interview on Thursday morning called the remark an “off-hand comment.”

“You know, I walked out into the hallway and I was assaulted by the gaggle and pieces of equipment hitting me in all sorts of my anatomy,” he said. “It was an off-hand comment just to get them to move back. You know, the physical assault was overwhelming. But it was just an off-hand comment.”

Asked to elaborate by host Alan Chartock as to what Cuomo meant by “parts of my anatomy” the governor responded, “No, they just, they — you know how it works. When they come in a crush and literally get in your physical space and they have cameras and microphones and tape recorders and — it’s, they just physically confront you. It’s just the nature of the beast. But it was just an off-hand comment to say move back, and give me a little physical space.”

Cuomo Floats Revenue Idea For Legalized Marijuana

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday his administration was considering a proposal that would send revenue derived from the legalization of marijuana to communities that have been impacted by harsh drug laws.

“I think it’s very important that the wealth that’s generated here, the economic opportunity which should be significant, goes to assist those people who paid the price in the first place,” Cuomo said. “So how do you steer the economic empowerment to the communities that actually paid the price? That’s something we’re working on.”

It’s not yet clear what this would mean or how that money would be distributed and more details may come in Cuomo’s combined budget and State of the State address in the coming weeks.

During the Democratic primary last year, Cuomo’s opponent Cynthia Nixon proposed using the money to provide economic support for communities of color who have disproportionately borne the weight of the war on drugs. Nixon’s framing of this as “reparations” drew criticism at the time.

A number of questions still remain over the state would tax adult use marijuana, though Cuomo has pointed to neighboring states as potential models. A report from the Department of Health last year outlined a potential tax plan as well.

“The how is something we’re talking about right now,” Cuomo said. “I think you have to look at New Jersey and Massachusetts. They are naturally competitors in the marketplace.”

It’s also not entirely clear how much revenue legalized marijuana would actually generate. Additional proposals have called for the revenue to go toward bolstering mass transit in the New York City area.

Still, Cuomo said he didn’t want to tax marijuana to the point where purchasing on the black market is an attractive option.

Cuomo Says He Is Supportive Of Procurement Reform

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday he would be open to changing how the state reviews contracts and procurement, an effort lawmakers have considered since the indictment of a former close aide to the governor.

“I’m open to procurement reform, certainly,” Cuomo said in a gaggle with the press. “You will always have people who are greedy and venial and dumb, quite frankly. it’s not that passing a law will stop dumb people from doing dumb things or greedy people from doing greedy things, but you put every safe guard in place that you can.”

Cuomo said he supports a “thorough contract procurement review that actually asks questions before the fact.”

The comments come as Democrats in the Legislature have once again signaled they would consider bolstering procurement oversight, backing measures first proposed in the wake of the arrest of Joe Percoco as well as prominent upstate developers in connection to a bid rigging and bribery scheme.

Percoco was sentenced last year was sentenced to six years in prison.