Democrats

Deal Struck For Farm Workers Labor Bill

A long-sought bill by farm worker advocates expanding overtime, collective bargaining and other labor rights to agriculture workers is expected to be approved this week.

The measure, first proposed more than a decade ago, will represent a major shift in farming and how farm workers are paid in the state.

“This legislation is truly historic,” said Sen. Jen Metzger, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Farm workers have been denied basic rights that the rest of labor has enjoyed for a long time. We got this bill to a place that reflects farming and the economic realities of farming.”

Farmers, meanwhile, expressed reservation with the final agreement, including the overtime provision, with one industry coalition, Grow NY Farms, said did not take into account realities like weather patterns.

“This provision would inevitably force a 60-hour work week to be applied over six days and will not meet the legislative intent of providing reasonable and predictable wages, especially when weather patterns often dictate work schedules,” the group said in a statement. “Farmers will be forced to impose a mandatory day of rest thus decreasing the number of hours farm workers would like to work. Farm workers will choose to seek a second agricultural job or pursue opportunities in other states.”

A deal was struck in the final days of the legislation and weeks after a state court ruled in favor of extending collective bargaining rights to farm workers.

“Our farm workers bill builds on the court case that gave way to allow for collective bargaining,” said Sen. Jessica Ramos, the Labor Committee chairwoman. “Our bill goes a step further and allows card check neutrally.”

Meanwhile, some lawmakers want to go further for farmers. One bill introduced would create an agriculture investment task force to examine issues facing the industry.

“In light of the recent compromise reached on farm labor, it’s important that we now turn our attention to the sustainability of New York’s agricultural economy,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, the Agriculture Committee chairwoman.

“By studying the current economic conditions farms are operating under, we can enter next year’s budget discussions with tangible solutions that will help protect and grow this critical sector of our economy.”

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.”

Hochul Endorses Katz For Queens DA

From the Morning Memo:

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday is set to endorse Queens district attorney candidate Melinda Katz in the heated primary for the post.

“Nobody is better prepared to bring criminal justice reform to Queens than Melinda Katz,” Hochul said in a statement.

“Not only is she a skilled attorney, she’s a dedicated public servant who knows how to build a diverse coalition to push for change better than anyone else. Melinda understands that civil rights and reforms to the justice system go hand-in-hand with public safety. Her agenda to change the DA’s office will make it more responsive to the community and better equipped to protect workers, immigrants, women, and people of color.”

Hochul’s endorsement for Katz will be highlighted alongside other prominent women and women’s organizations supporting her bid, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the Brooklyn-Queens and New York City chapters of the National Organization of Women and Planned Parenthood NYC Votes PAC.

Katz is currently the Queens borough president.

“Lieutenant Governor Hochul has been at the forefront of some of the most important progressive fights in our state in recent years,” Katz said.

“She’s helped build support for paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, and the essential criminal justice reform measures that were signed into law earlier this year. At every level of government that she’s served in, she’s broken barriers and been a tireless supporter of working people across our state. It’s an honor to have her support.”

Sources: Green Light Bill Gains Key Senate Support

Multiple sources on Thursday said a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses has gained three key votes in the state Senate: Sens. Anna Kaplan, Joe Addabbo and Diane Savino.

Support from Kaplan, a freshman Long Island Democrat, is seen as especially vital by supporters given the concerns that have been raised by Long Island Democrats in recent weeks.

The focus will likely be on upstate and suburban Democratic lawmakers for the final passage of the measure, known as the Green Light bill. The proposal was approved on Wednesday in the state Assembly.

Supporters of the bill have argued this year that extending access to licenses to undocumented immigrants has economic merit for drivers to obtain insurance and have transportation to work. But opponents have criticized the measure over security concerns.

Green Light Bill Advocates Urge LI Dems To Back Measure

A coalition of 10 organizations that back a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to gain access to driver’s licenses released a letter Thursday to Long Island Democrats and the state Democratic committee chairman urging them to support the measure.

The bill was approved in the Democratic-led state Assembly on Wednesday, but faces an uncertain path forward in the state Senate, where Democrats gained a majority control this year.

Democrats from the suburbs and upstate New York are considered key to its passage in the chamber. Compounding the issue has been Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the Democratic Committee in New York, who has warned some senators about the political fallout surrounding the bill.

“This year, the Democratic establishment has advanced a narrative that passing long fought-for, common sense, progressive pieces of legislation will somehow threaten the future Democratic Senate majority. This has been particularly true regarding efforts to restore access to drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants and reforming the state’s cruel and outdated criminal legal system that has dehumanized people of color in the state, and destroyed individuals, families, and communities,” the groups wrote in the letter.

“As criminal justice reform organizations, immigrant rights groups, and allies that have actively engaged constituents in the suburbs and across the state for years, and whose members helped usher in the New York Blue Wave of 2018, we reject this backward, and frankly inaccurate, thinking.”

Signing on to the letter include: Bend the Arc Jewish Action: New York, Citizen Action of New York, Empire State Indivisible, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Make the Road Action, New York State Immigrant Action Fund, New York Communities for Change, True Blue NY, VOCAL-NY Action Fund and the Working Families Party.

Bill Would Set New York’s Presidential Primary For April 28

A bill introduced this week by Sen. Mike Gianaris would schedule New York’s presidential primary for April 28.

The primary would be the first presidential nominating contest in New York that takes place under the state’s new early voting law.

“It is important for New York to maximize its influence in the Presidential nominating process and this bill does just that,” Gianaris said. “The selected date will increase our state’s allotment of delegates based on party rules.”

New York’s primary often is held late enough in the calendar that the nominee for either major party is set by then. However, New York’s primaries for the GOP and Democratic nominations took place amid heated contests for both parties and candidates traveled to New York for campaign events.

The primary victors were the two New York residents in the race, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Andy Cohen, With Cuomo And Senate Dems, Calls For Surrogacy Legalization

The Democratic-led state Senate today is expected to pass a bill that would legalize gestational surrogacy in New York.

But with the bill’s chances in the Assembly in doubt, TV personality and Bravo host Andy Cohen appeared in Albany to boost the bill’s chances.

Cohen, whose 4-month-old son Benjamin was born via surrogacy in California, appeared at two separate news conferences with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and later with Senate Democrats.

Cohen will also appear in a Capital Tonight interview at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News.

“Pass the law that protects women and then convince the other 47 states to do it; it’s not that women aren’t going to be surrogates, they are, it’s just is it New Jersey, or is it here, or is it California?” Cuomo said.

“So it makes no sense. It also makes no sense since we spent months in this room arguing for a women’s right under Roe v. Wade, which said a women’s body a women’s choice. And we argued with many people who said, “well certain women aren’t prepared to consent and certain women should have to consult with their parents first, and they have to notify their parents first.” And we said no, a women’s right governs.”

Cuomo at the news conference specifically pointed to the opposition in the state Assembly to the measure, which would allow LGBTQ or infertile couples to pay a surrogate.

“I respect my colleagues in the Assembly who have differences of opinion,” he said. “We have differences of opinion all the time, but I do not understand the assembly members who oppose this. I have respect for Assembly Members Glick, and Weinstein and Didi Barrett, but I just don’t see the possible rational.”

But there is opposition to the measure, from women’s groups as well as the Catholic Church.

In a widely circulated letter at the Capitol on Tuesday, feminist icon Gloria Steinem announced her opposition to the proposal, concerned the move would exploit women.

“Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others,” she wrote in the letter.

She added the bill carries a “big risk of human trafficking” of women.

The bill’s sponsors insisted Steinem was wrong, pointing to the protections included in the language, including a “surrogates bill of rights.”

“I’m the proud parent of two daughters born through gestational surrogacy,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman. “Unfortunately, under the current law, my husband and I had to travel 3,000 miles to California to build our family because New York makes surrogate agreements illegal. It’s time we fix that for LGBTQ families and any intended parent grappling with infertility.”

1199SEIU Backs Katz For Queens DA

From the Morning Memo:

Queens district attorney candidate Melinda Katz on Tuesday will officially pick up the endorsement of a key labor union in the race for the Democratic primary: 1199SEIU.

The health care worker is one of the largest in the state and one of the most politically active. In its endorsement, the union pointed to Katz’s support for issues like gun control and labor rights.

“We are proud to endorse Melinda Katz for Queens District Attorney,” said 1199SEIU Political Director Gabby Seay.

“As an attorney and public servant, she’s never shied away from a tough fight against powerful interests, and she’s always been deeply involved in the communities she represents. She’s proven time and again that she can create change and progress by building relationships neighborhood by neighborhood across Queens.”

Katz, the Queens borough president, is running in a hotly contested primary with multiple candidates on June 25.

“I’m thrilled to have 1199SEIU’s endorsement. Their members and leadership have been at the forefront of some of the most important fights in our state,” she said.

“From a higher minimum wage to expanded access to healthcare, they’ve won important victories for working people across our city and state. They also recognize that the District Attorney’s office can and should be a powerful tool in achieving social and economic justice. It’s an honor to have their support.”

Siena Poll Finds Half Of Voters Want To Move On From Mueller Report

Half of the voters in New York want to move on after the release of a report by Robert Mueller reviewing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, while 45 percent believe impeachment proceedings should begin against President Donald Trump, according to a Siena College poll released Tuesday morning.

Most voters — 62 percent to 29 percent — believe Russia sought to influence the election, a key finding of the Mueller report. And voters by a similar margin, 59 percent to 35 percent, believe Trump obstructed justice.

At the same time, most voters believe Trump committed offenses that are grounds for impeachment, 53 percent to 39 percent.

But 50 percent of voters do not say the president’s campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election, finding no proof of a conspiracy.

The Mueller report concluded there was no evidence Trump or his campaign worked with Russia to launch a campaign of false information into social media in order to purposely stoke national political discord. Mueller’s report, however, could not exonerate Trump on whether he sought to influence the outcome of the investigation.

Not surprisingly, impeachment breaks down along party lines: 61 percent of Democrats believe an inquiry should begin, 83 percent of Republicans and more than half of independent voters, 52 percent, believe it’s time to move on.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week in a radio interview said he supported the approach House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has take on the impeachment question, saying it was best to tread lightly.

“This is a controversial topic,” he said. “It’s not right or wrong. You can have different strategies and different tactics. I support Speaker Pelosi who frankly has more information than I have. She’s said, let’s develop the facts.”

He pointed to the experience Republicans had after the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and the subsequent political fallout.

“I was there in the Clinton administration when we went through that fiasco and it hurt the Republicans because the American people don’t want you paying politics with their tax dollars and their lives,” he said.

Thirty-four percent of voters in the president’s home state have a favorable view of him, while 63 percent do not, the poll found. Trump’s high unfavorable rating in New York has changed little month to month since he’s been in office.

The poll of 812 registered voters was conducted from June 2 to June 6. It has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

SNY0619 Crosstabs061119 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Democratic Senators Call For Cashless Bail Changes

Two Democratic state senators on Monday introduced a bill that seeks to alter the cashless bail changes lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to in the state budget.

The bill from Sens. Jim Gaughran and Monica Martinez would add to the list of offenses that qualify for judicial discretion in determining whether a criminal defendant poses a safety risk. The measure would alter a key criminal justice law change that had been long sought by advocates for several years.

Those offenses include manslaughter, sex crimes including against children, terrorism related charges, felony drug crimes related to drug trafficking, and bribery offenses involving public officials.

“When an individual poses a clear danger to public safety, an unbiased judicial expert must have the discretion to choose whether or not to release them without bail,” Gaughran said in a statement. “My bill advances on the historic criminal justice reforms made this year by maintaining the elimination of cash bail for low-level offenses, and returns a critical protection to judges by allowing them discretion to determine whether an individual poses a credible and identifiable threat to the public.”

The bill comes after Democratic State Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs in interviews acknowledged he discussed with lawmakers his concerns with a bill that would extend access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Jacobs, in an interview, said the list of progressive accomplishments like curtailing cash bail, could end up hurting Democrats in moderate districts next year.

Both Gaughran and Martinez represent Long Island Senate districts that were held by Republicans until last year.

“As policymakers, it is our fiduciary responsibility to safeguard the well being of our constituencies,” Martinez said.

“This legislation will allow judges to have discretion when determining whether an individual should be eligible for bail based on their offense and potential danger to society. We cannot turn a blind eye to repeat violent offenders and those who pose a threat to our children, families and friends.”

Senate Republicans scoffed at the proposal.

“Every Senate Republican, including those on Long Island, voted against these changes because we recognized early on that it was part of a dangerous ‘Criminal Bill of Rights’ that put the interests of convicted criminals ahead of the needs of victims, their families and the law-abiding public,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.

“These Senators could have chosen to stand up, show some leadership and reject these changes before they became law, but instead they went along with their New York City colleagues and failed their constituents. This legislation isn’t serious, it’s a cynical attempt to cover their butts. And, no one on Long Island is buying it.”

The bill also received the backing of Sen. John Brooks, a Long Island Democrat now in his second term, as well as Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island. It was also endorsed by Suffolk County District Tim Sini.

“I want to thank Senators Gaughran and Martinez for their diligent work towards improving this legislation and ensuring that public safety is effectively protected,” Sini said. “I also want to thank them for their willingness to engage law enforcement on this important issue.”