Senate Dems To Back Permanent Property Tax Cap

The Democratic-led state Senate next week is set to vote on a bill that would make the state’s cap on property tax increases permanent.

The measure, first approved in 2011, is set to expire this year.

The cap limits local and school property taxes to year-over-year increases of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

The Senate’s version of the tax cap legislation is backed Sen. Jim Gaughran, a freshman from Long Island elected to a Republican-held district in November.

“I ran for State Senate on the promise that I would fight tirelessly for overburdened and overtaxed Long Islanders,” Gaughran said in a statement. “Today I took the first step and introduced vital legislation to make the property tax cap permanent. No more temporary extensions. A permanent tax cap for permanent relief.”

The tax cap remains a signature economic measure for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who included a provision for a permanent tax cap in his 2019-20 budget proposal that is due at the end of March.

Cuomo and state lawmakers alike have pointed to the $10,000 federal cap on state and local tax deductions that makes the state’s tax cap all the more key for those who pay among the highest levies in the country.

Gov’s Budget Omits Male Contraception Coverage

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $175 billion budget plan does not include insurance coverage for male contraception, explicitly omitting language that would include condoms and vasectomies.

It’s one of the key differences from the legislature’s version, the Comprehensive Contraception Care Act, which offers equitable coverage.

“The legislature feels very strongly that contraception is a two way street, men and women, and of course, when you’re talking about condoms that’s a public health issue that protects women and men from sexually transmitted diseases,” said Sen. Liz Krueger Tuesday night in a Capital Tonight interview. She is a co-sponsor of the Legislature’s version of the contraception bill.

Both versions read: “All FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices, and other products. This includes all FDA-approved over-the-counter contraceptive drugs, devices, and products as prescribed or as otherwise authorized under state or federal law.”

But the Governor’s version immediately tacks on, “notwithstanding this paragraph, an insurer shall not be required to provide coverage of male condoms.”

The legislature’s bill allows “voluntary sterilization procedures,” where the executive proposal specifies solely “voluntary sterilization procedures for women.”

“We’re legislators. We need to read, we need to review, we need to make the decision whether we agree with something or we need to change it and we have the ability,” Krueger said. “Now, thanks to both houses being Democratic, to pass the kinds of bills we believe are literally in the best interests of New Yorkers.”

Both versions are congruent in covering up to 12 months of contraception, education and counseling services and follow up services.

Next week the state Senate is expected to pass the CCCA along with the Reproductive Health Act.

Paterson Not Surprised By Gillibrand Bid

From the Morning Memo:

Former Gov. David Paterson was not surprised U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is running for president, telling NY1’s Inside City Hall on Wednesday he expected big things from her when he appointed her to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat in 2009.

“I did see in her the possibility that she would become a real star in the U.S. Senate,” Paterson said.

Gillibrand’s appointment, plucking her from relative obscurity in a Republican-leaning upstate House district was controversial at the time, given Paterson’s decision to pass over better-known figures who wanted the seat, including Caroline Kennedy, who stumbled during her rollout for the seat.

But Paterson said he believed upstate New York deserved a statewide voice with Gillibrand, who lives in Brunswick.

“Upstate New York had not had a senator in 42 years since Charles Goodell, so I thought it was a good concessions to the upstaters,” he said.

Paterson was not as thrilled with how Gillibrand has handled questions surrounding misconduct accusations leveled against former Sen. Al Franken and former President Bill Clinton, cautioning not to “anachronistically rejudge history.”

Gillibrand’s call for Franken to resign has led to some criticism from liberals within the Democratic Party.

“I think sometimes people in politics want to demonstrate they’re not make decisions based on who’s involved and that’s a really good way to think,” Paterson said.

Gillibrand joined the growing Democratic field for the presidential nomination this week, launching her campaign on The Late Show and then outside of a diner near her home with her family by her side.

Paterson also warned that the Democratic Party should not go too far to the left with its nominee against President Donald Trump.

“What you really want are people who can accomplish the same, but are not pushing as if this is a far more progressive country than it is,” he said. “I was always a progressive, but I know what the facts are.”

But for now, Paterson is not on the bandwagon for the campaign.

“I’m not supporting anyone for president,” he added, jokingly, “I’m in the witness protection program, which doesn’t allow for political activity.”

Former IDC Senator Hired by Ag & Markets

Former IDC Sen. David Valesky has been added to the payroll of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Valesky will act as a liaison to local governments, focusing on education and outreach, according to an Ag & Markets spokeswoman.

He is replacing Raquel Gonzalez, the now Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Civil Service.

In a statement, Ag & Markets Commissioner Richard Ball said:

“We are thrilled to welcome Dave, who as a former longtime member of the senate agriculture committee is a great addition to our team and will help advance the agency’s priorities throughout New York State especially given the national pressures on farms and producers. We always look for ways to connect New Yorkers with the great foods we grow and produce here in New York, and Dave brings valuable statewide experience and knowledge to the Department.”

Valesky served the 53rd Senate district until defeated in a Sept. 13th primary challenge by Sen. Rachel May.

He numbers one of the six unlucky former IDCers to lose their seat thanks to intense discontent with the breakaway Democratic conference.

The Senate Democratic Conference had no comment on Valeksy’s hiring.

As Deputy Commissioner, Valesky will rake in a salary numbering $127,000, a step up from $79,500, the former base pay for lawmakers–although according to SeeThroughNY, a fiscal tracking data site aligned with the Empire Center for Public Policy, the ex-Senator expensed reports since at least 2008 ranging from $9,000 to $34,000.

SeeThroughNY listed Department of Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Ball’s salary as $120,468 in 2017.

Valesky served as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and as a member of the Rural Resources Commission.

He was first elected to the state Senate in 2004, representing the 49th district from 2005 to 2014 before its consolidation.

Gillibrand Launches Presidential Bid Asking Voters To ‘Look At My Heart’

As she launched her bid for the White House on Wednesday outside of a diner in Brunswick, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand acknowledged her positions on issues like gun control have changed over the last decade.

“I would tell them, ‘look at my heart,'” she said.

And she urged Democratic primary voters to look at her Senate record representing a heavily Democratic state, a juxtaposition from her time as a relatively moderate member of the House of Representatives from a Republican-leaning upstate district who was opposed to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and gun control legislation.

Before entering the Senate, Gillibrand had went as far as to say she kept guns in her home under the bed at night.

Gillibrand pointed to the time she spent meeting with victims of gun violence as having an impact on her.

“The pain and the suffering that families are facing every day, I was convicted and I said I have to fight for them too,” she said. “I have to make sure that we fight to end gun violence. What I learned 10 years ago is what American families are learning with these kids from Florida who are part of a movement to end gun violence.””

She added, “I think it’s important to know when you are wrong and to do what’s right.”

Gillibrand announced Tuesday evening on The Late Show she would form an exploratory committee for a presidential campaign. Less than 24 hours later, she was back home in the Capital District flanked by her family, her sons, husband Jonathan and mother Polly, as she entered the race for the Democratic nomination.

“We have to take on President Trump and what he is doing,” she said. “I believe he is literally ripping apart the fabric of this country, the moral fabric. We’ve got to restore that decency and our leadership in the world and so that’s why I feel so called right now to take on that battle.”

Gillibrand, a prodigious fundraiser who has received backing from the financial services industry in New York, pledged to not accept corporate PAC contributions and would not take money from federal lobbyists. She also rejected support from individual super PACs.

“I think it’s important for people to know my values are never for sale,” she said.

Gillibrand’s family has a long history in Albany-area politics. Her grandmother was a trailblazer, having served as a top aide to longtime Albany Mayor Erastus Corning. She spoke also of her mom being one of only a handful of women attending law school.

“I know that I have the compassion and the courage and the fearless determination that is necessary to get this done,” she said. “I know this because of all the people on whose shoulders I stand.”

Gillibrand won a House district represented by Rep. John Sweeney, a Republican who was a favorite of President George W. Bush, in an election victory that helped sweep Democrats back to power in the chamber.

She was a member of the centrist Blue Dog caucus in the House, focusing on issues key to the district, like agriculture. In 2009, then-Gov. David Paterson appointed her to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton over better-known figures like Andrew Cuomo and Caroline Kennedy.

Gillibrand quickly built her profile statewide in a political landscape dominated by men like Cuomo and Sen. Chuck Schumer. Threatened primaries never materialized and Gillibrand has easily won re-election by record margins against little-known Republicans.

In the Senate, she’s focused on issues like sexual assault in the military and on college campuses while also aiding Democratic women running for office.

Her campaign launch today did not come alongside establishment Democrats offering support. Cuomo, who has said he is not interested in running, has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering a bid.

Gillibrand served as a top counsel at the Department of Housing and Urban Development while Cuomo was secretary.

Asked about Cuomo’s support for Biden, Gillibrand smiled and said, “I intend to try to change everybody’s mind.”

Gillibrand Says She’s Running For President

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday in an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert announced she is forming a committee to run for president of the United States..

“I’m filing an exploratory committee for president of the United States tonight,” she said, according to a video clip released by the show.

Gillibrand, who had flipped a Republican-held upstate House district in 2006, was appointed to the Senate in 2009, filling a seat vacated by Hillary Clinton following her nomination for U.S. secretary of state.

As a member of the House, Gillibrand held moderate fiscal views. Reflecting a more liberal base of support, she began to emphasize concerns closer to the broader Democratic party in New York, including support for gun control and family issues.

“I’m going to run for president of the United States because as a young mom, I’m going to fight for other peoples’ kids as hard as I fight for my own,” she told Colbert.

Gillibrand pledged to fight “institutional racism, the corruption and greed of Washington, taking on the special interests that right legislation in the dead of night.”

“I know I have the compassion, the courage and the fearless determination to get that done,” she added.

Gillibrand joins a growing field of candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has the standing endorsement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is also considering a run as is California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Cuomo Twice Thanks Outgoing State Dem Chair

From the Morning Memo:

The New York State Democratic Committee sent out a statement from the governor last night, thanking the outgoing chairman and Buffalo mayor, Byron Brown, for his service.

Brown was handpicked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016 to lead the party, and performed in that position loyally ever since. However, in a bit of a surprise move, Cuomo has denied to have Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs return to head the state party that he originally chaired during former Gov. David Paterson’s tenure.

The governor briefly thanked Brown in an early press release, but then elaborated on it later in the day with a longer statement.

“Byron Brown is one of New York’s most accomplished and inspiring Democratic leaders, and we are so grateful to him for his service to our party as committee chair,” Cuomo said.

The statement appeared to be rather quickly put together, with the governor alternating between the first and third person point of view.

“During his tenure, Democrats gained new U.S. House seats and flipped the State Senate, and the Democratic governor won more votes than any governor in history,” it read.

“At the same time, Byron partnered with the governor to bring about Buffalo’s historic transformation and resurgence, and while we will miss him on the committee, we understand that he is bringing renewed focus to lift Buffalo to even greater heights. On behalf of all New York Democrats, I thank Byron Brown for his unparalleled record of accomplishments and historic victories.”

At least in Western New York, the leadership change did not seem to be perceived as a slight to Brown. The Erie County Democratic Committee Chair Jeremy Zellner issued a statement congratulating Jacobs, while also thanking Brown for his service.

The outgoing chair did not release his own statement, or explain why he was being abruptly replaced.

Cuomo Adding Speed Camera Program to Budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he will reinstate and expand the New York City speed camera program in his 2019 executive budget, which will be unveiled tomorrow.

His plan includes increasing the amount of speed camera zones from 140 to 290 and placing “additional signage” in the designated areas.

The program lapsed last July following inaction in the state Senate – in part due to Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat who was caucusing with the Republican majority at the time, and wouldn’t support the legislation without language that would add police officers in NYC schools.

Other past key players on this issue were now-former Brooklyn Republican Sen. Marty Golden, and former Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt, a Rochester Democrat.

Cuomo finally addressed the legislative inaction by declaring a state of emergency in August, temporarily re-authorizing the program.

In his statement today, Cuomo wasn’t shy about placing the blame for the program’s failure on Republican shoulders – a not terribly difficult thing to do, given the fact that the Republicans are no longer in charge of anything at the state Capitol.

“After Senate Republicans shamefully refused to extend this life-saving program, I declared a State of Emergency before the start of the school year to temporarily keep the cameras operating,” the governor said.

“With this new proposal we will not only reinstate the program the way it should have been done in the first place – we will also expand the number of cameras to protect more children and prevent needless tragedies and heartbreak.”

The program, designed to record and enforce speeding violations near school zones, is operated and controlled by New York City. It was first signed into law in 2013.

Partnership For NYC Backs GENDA

One of New York City’s primary business groups on Monday announced its support for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill likely to pass the state Senate under Democratic control.

The bill is meant to provide legal protections for transgender people in housing, the workplace and other facets of life.

“Gender variant individuals face discrimination ranging from housing to health care, as well as harassment and violence in many aspects of their lives,” the group said. “They deserve the same protections in New York that many employers and other states, including California, Connecticut, Iowa, Nevada and New Jersey, already provide. Safeguarding basic human and civil rights for gender variant individuals is critical to maintaining New York’s competitiveness as a global economic and cultural hub—one that thrives as a result of its diverse citizens and workforce.”

The bill did not gain a vote in the state Senate under Republican control, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the broad strokes of the legislation and included them in the state’s human rights regulations.

Meanwhile, a bill that would seek to ban conversion therapy for LGBT individuals has cleared the Senate Higher Education Committee.

“So-called conversion therapy is child abuse—plain and simple. I applaud Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Higher Education Chairwoman Stavisky, co-prime sponsor Gianaris and my colleagues in the Democratic Conference for recognizing that being gay is not an illness, and that this debunked and harmful practice amounts to nothing less than consumer fraud,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsors both bills. “To the LGBTQ youth across the state of New York: we hear you, we see you, and we have your back on the Senate floor tomorrow.”

Heastie Says He Supports Bag Ban

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters on Monday he would be supportive of a ban on plastic bags in the state, but said he would discuss the issue with his full Democratic conference.

“I’ve said before that me, personally, I’d be OK with a plastic bag ban,” he said. “As many of the things he puts in his budget, as members, we will conference them.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announced he would include a full ban on plastic bags in his state budget as well as an expansion of the state’s bottle deposit law.

The ban has been sought by environmental groups, but several also have called for a fee on plastic bag usage as well.

Cuomo and lawmakers in 2017 backed a measure overturning New York City’s 5-cent fee on plastic bags as the governor also created a statewide task force on the issue.

“To Governor Cuomo’s credit, this budget should be a vehicle to advance innovative and bold ideas to protect our environment,” said Sen. Todd Kaminsky, the chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee said in a statement.

“The scourge of plastic pollution needs to be addressed and I look forward to getting into the details of these proposals to ensure they have maximum impact. I am proud to carry plastic bag legislation in the senate that also addresses paper bags, something I will continue to advocate for during this process.”