Bellone Rolls Out Digital Ad In Re-Election Bid

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s third term bid is formally launching as his campaign on Monday will release a digital ad.

In the 2-minute ad, Bellone highlights his working class background and enlistment in the military as well as why he serves in elected office.

“I decided I wanted to be involved in making public policy and making the decisions to drive the community forward,” Bellone says in the ad.

The 2-minute spot highlights his conflict with former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, now facing corruption charges, and his call on him to resign.

“I did not come here to manage a broken status quo,” Bellone said in the ad.

Bellone is running for re-election in a county won by President Donald Trump in 2016. He faces Republican Comptroller John Kennedy this November.

Morelle Bills Seek To Boost Vaccination Rate

Democratic Rep. Joe Morelle announced support on Friday for a pair of bills designed to boost the vaccination rates for children across the country.

The legislation comes as anti-vaccination advocates in New York have challenged a law that ends the religious exemption for kids to be vaccinated before attending school.

“One of the greatest threats facing our families is the rapid and dangerous spread of misinformation around the safety of vaccines. The science is clear: vaccines are safe, and they are effective,” Morelle said.

“It is our responsibility as adults to foster a healthy environment for children to learn, play, and grow. That is why I am proud to co-sponsor these pieces of legislation to encourage every family to get vaccinated and prevent the spread of serious and entirely preventable diseases.”

One bill is meant to increase the public awareness of the health benefit of vaccinations. Another bill is aimed at ensuring kids attending public schools who are medically able receive needed immunizations.

The legal challenge to the New York law ending the vaccination exemption so far has faced a series of setbacks in the state-level courts. Opponents have pledged to appeal the case to the state Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.

Public health officials say health people should be vaccinated in order to prevent the spread of disease. Measles outbreaks in Brooklyn and Rockland County led to more than 1,000 reported cases earlier this year.

“As a Mom and as a Pediatrician, I have chosen to vaccinate myself and my children because I know it is the safest way to prevent these devastating diseases,” said Dr. Elizabeth Murray, Pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “Ensuring that all who can be vaccinated are vaccinated is critical for a healthy community.”

5 Takeaways From The Third Democratic Debate

From the Morning Memo:

The ten Democratic candidates on the debate stage Thursday evening sparred for three hours, exposing differences on key issues facing the country — from health care, to immigration and foreign policy. Here are five takeaways from the event.

1. Democrats disagree on health care.

The sharpest distinctions were drawn on this issue which, very broadly speaking, is a debate over how much to expand government-run in the United States to the rest of the country. The debate falls into several buckets: Candidates either want a single-payer system that eliminates private insurance, provide the option of people taking government-backed health insurance to compete with the private sector, or expanding benefits to people when they lose their job or have a qualifying income.

2. What’s the plan for gun control?

All the Democratic candidates agreed they want to do something on gun control in the United States following a series of mass shootings. Those proposals include banning assault-style weapons, strengthening background checks and a red flag law keeping guns away from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others? But how does that get passed Republicans, who may or may not retain control of one house of Congress after 2020? How does that get through moderate Democratic lawmakers elected in Republican-leaning districts? Polls have shown voters increasingly favor some form of gun control to prevent mass shootings, but the issue remains an emotionally charged one for supporters of gun rights in the U.S.

The SAFE Act, a 2013 measure pushed through by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, required Republican support in the state Senate and was a collection of gun control measures, plus items favored by the Senate GOP. But it remained controversial for the Republicans who supported it at the time and still does.

3. No discussion on abortion.

Surprisingly there was no discussion about abortion and reproductive rights, an issue that once again became inflamed this year following laws restricting it in several states and a measure strengthening it in New York. For such a major issue for Democratic voters, especially women, the omission stood out.

4. Castro’s jab at Biden

Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro suggesting former Vice President Joe Biden had a faulty memory, leaping on him for contradicting himself during the debate, could be seen as a turnoff for many voters. It’s no secret that Biden, 76, is older (as is fellow front-runner, 78-year-old Bernie Sanders). And the concerns over Biden’s age is perhaps real for a party that wants to keep enthusiasm for younger voters. The party historically has done well in presidential races when it nominates a candidate under age 55.

But the Castro jab could also be viewed as an ugly and unfair one, especially by older Democratic voters who tend to turn out to caucuses and primaries.

5. Three hours is… long.

The debate on ABC is a long one. An hour-long debate alone with no breaks can feel like running a marathon. Three hours is a lot of time, but was likely needed in order to give all 10 candidates on the stage some semblance of time to discuss each issue. The supersized length felt a lot like a pre-cell phone, pre-TV age in which people had far better attention spans, helping candidates flesh out positions. But it was also a long debate.

5 New York Issues To Watch In Tonight’s Debate

From the Morning Memo:

Democrats will meet in their latest TV debate this evening as a winnowing process is starting in the historically crowded field.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has dropped her bid and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t meet the debate criteria. That leaves only businessman Andrew Yang and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as the only candidates with New York ties on the stage this evening.

And yet, there are key issues that affect New Yorkers to be discussed. Here are five New York issues to watch.

1. Gun control.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sought to challenge Democratic candidates running for president to make gun control a signature issue in the race. He argues that taking a muscular stance on issues like banning assault-style weapons, strengthening background checks and supporting a “red flag” law to keep guns away from those considered dangerous wouldn’t hurt the party politically.

Indeed, gun control remains popular with Democratic voters and has support even among independents on issues like background checks. For now, Congress is showing little desire to act on the issue and President Donald Trump has made contradictory statements on the issue.

2. The opioid crisis.

A tentative settlement with the Sackler family, which owns the company responsible for Oxycontin, has been blasted by state attorneys general, including New York’s Letitia James. Any settlement could be a major windfall for state governments and could be worth billions of dollars. But prosecutors are considered the settlement will let the Sackler family and its company Purdue Pharma off the hook from being responsible for the opioid addictions crisis that has gripped the country.

3. Health care.

Fresh Census data shows nationally a decline in the health insurance rate among Americans. Not so in New York, which is bucking the national trend. The rise in the number of uninsured people could be attributed in part to efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act, while in New York state lawmakers and Gov. Cuomo have backed measures to bolster it amid a series of federal court challenges. The ACA is one of the key legacies of the Obama administration. But progressives in the Democratic Party are attempting to go even further and push for either a single-payer model or a “Medicare for all” expansion. The divide is perhaps the most significant among former Vice President Joe Biden and the rest of the field.

4. Climate change.

Reducing carbon emissions responsible for the changing climate of the planet remains a top concern for the base of the Democratic Party. Candidates spent hours at a forum earlier this month discussing the issue. A “Green New Deal” — various versions of which have been proposed by Democrats and enacted in New York — are being discussed. The question remains: How can the candidates stand out on an issue that the party itself broadly agrees on?

5. E-cigarettes

President Donald Trump on Wednesday proposed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes amid heightened concerns over the health affects of vaping and reports of vaping-related illnesses striking users. In New York, Gov. Cuomo announced an investigation of vaping products and once again reiterated a proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes in the state that he made earlier this year. The vaping industry is striking back, calling the reports of illnesses linked to their products questionable.

Lawmakers Want To Curb License Suspensions For Unpaid Fines

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers in Syracuse and Buffalo on Tuesday participated in a national push to limit the suspension of driver’s licenses due to unpaid fines, criticizing the punishment for disproportionately affecting poor people of color.

A national group, the Driven by Justice Coalition, found that over more than two years, New York issued 1.6 million suspensions due to debt. Those suspensions were nine times higher in the 100 poorest communities, and in upstate New York, suspensions were four times as high where people of color live.

“As the data shows, debt-related driver’s license suspensions are drastically higher among low-income communities and especially low-income people of color,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter, a Democrat who represents Syracuse.

“As the representative of one of the most economically disadvantaged communities of color in the country, it is imperative that the driver’s license suspension process is sensibly reformed as soon as possible.”

The proposal to reform the debt collection has the backing of Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tim Kennedy. The move would create an income-based payment plan and make it easier for the fees to be paid, Kennedy said.

“This bill isn’t removing an obligation to pay a fine or fee; it’s simply making it more accessible for drivers to pay down any incurred debt responsibly and realistically, and removing a barrier that currently punishes New Yorkers for being poor,” said Kennedy, a Buffao Democrat.

“Through this bill, we’re not only lifting the suspensions tied to unpaid traffic fines, but we’re creating a system for New Yorkers to pay these fees efficiently and without fear of losing a job, missing a rent payment or forfeiting an education due to personal and financial challenges.”

Several other states have passed similar bills in recent years.

Tonko Wants Commerce Secretary To Resign

From the Morning Memo:

Rep. Paul Tonko called on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to step down after reportedly threatening officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The threats to fire top officials at the agency after the National Weather Service’s Alabama office contradicted a tweet by President Donald Trump over the direction of Hurricane Dorian.

Trump said the hurricane threatened Alabama; NOAA’s Alabama office said it would not. Trump was basing his warning off a previous weather map, and has since defended his public warning about the danger posed to the state.

Ross’s warning led to NOAA’s headquarters issuing an unusual statement disavowing the National Weather Service’s assertion Alabama was not at risk.

Tonko, in his statement, said the reversals and threats put the public at risk.

“This kind of political directive puts government scientists in the impossible position of having to decide between risking their jobs and careers to do the right thing—ensuring the public, local leaders, first responders and other emergency managers are getting reliable data and information—or doing what they are told by political leadership and allowing false and potentially dangerous information to spread,” he said.

A Democrat who represents the Capital Region, it’s not clear what congressional lawmakers will do to address the story, but Tonko pledged to “continue to hold political leaders accountable” for abusing the political trust.

“This Administration has never hesitated to distort, suppress and even attack science outright to advance their political agenda, but this is one of the first times they’re doing it so publicly, without shame or apology. Under any other Administration, knowingly misleading the American people and endangering communities would be a major scandal,” Tonko said in the statement.

“For the current Administration, this kind of reckless abuse of science and the truth has become business as usual. Reporting now suggests that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross put the safety of countless Americans at risk by compromising America’s hurricane warning system just to protect the President’s ego. If these reports are true, Secretary Ross needs to take responsibility and resign.”

4 Takeaways From Gillibrand’s Failed Bid For President

From the Morning Memo:

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ended her bid for the presidency after it was all but certain she would not qualify for the next televised debate on Sept. 12.

Gillibrand in a video on Twitter pledged to help unite the Democratic Party to defeat President Donald Trump next year.

Here are four takeaways from Gillibrand’s campaign:

1. The Flip-Flops Hurt.

Democrats have a long memory. And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s record in office stretches back into the middle part of the last decade. At the time, she gained a measure of stardom in 2006 when she unseated Republican Rep. John Sweeney to win a battleground upstate New York House district and helped to turn the chamber blue, handing the speakership to Nancy Pelosi for the first time.

In 2008, Gillibrand handily won re-election, defeating Republican Sandy Treadwell to hold a rural and exurban district for the party that had been drawn for a GOP officeholder.

In office, Gillibrand held moderate-to-conservative stances on guns and immigration, positions that shifted after Gov. David Paterson selected her to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate. Gillibrand suddenly had a very different constituency.

As a senator and one of the few statewide elected officials from outside the geographic center of gravity that is New York City, Gillibrand worked to bolster ties with the state’s political powerbrokers. Her stances on guns and immigration changed over the years to reflect the broader and more liberal constituency.

She proved to be a prodigious fundraiser and was able to turn aside rivals for the seat from both parties. Remember when former Rep. Harold Ford considered running against her?

Secure in office, Gillibrand began embracing issues like reforming sexual assault investigation policy in the military and combating sexual harassment, while also helping fundraise for Democratic women.

Gillibrand can be a savvy politician. She has a political pedigree that includes her grandmother, who was a hard-nosed advisor to longtime Albany Mayor Erastus Corning.

And, on paper, her argument of being a Democrat who represented a Republican-leaning district, placing her campaign headquarters in a rustbelt city like Troy, could have had its appeal, but also had the whiff of fighting the last war on a battlefield that’s changed.

But the record of Gillibrand as a “blue dog” Democrat during her term and a half in the House was still there. She had opposed driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. She had kept a gun under her bed. Voters like consistency and having a long record doesn’t help.

2. The Franken Factor

Gillibrand was a prominent voice calling for the resignation of Sen. Al Franken after he was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. She wasn’t the only senator to do so, and as The New Yorker recently revealed, the final shove came from the state’s senior senator, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

But the narrative, perhaps unfairly, had taken hold that Gillibrand was willing throw a friend under the bus. Some Democratic voters believe Franken was unfairly railroaded, especially compared to the more serious sexual assault allegations facing President Donald Trump.

Gillibrand herself noted women were blamed for Franken’s demise when really the only person to blame was the Minnesota Democrat himself.

The party is rapidly diversifying and it’s hard to imagine a woman not making the ticket next year.

But the societal reckoning surrounding the #MeToo movement could have, and likely should be, a centerpiece of the presidential campaign. Gillibrand, however, could not benefit from a record of highlighting the injustices surrounding the issue.

3. Being From New York Doesn’t Help

New York has a lot of outsized personalities. One of Gillibrand’s early challenges in office was overcoming the better-known men surrounding her on the statewide stage like Andrew Cuomo and Schumer.

But the being from New York, home to the nation’s largest media market and many of its most prominent journalists, can have its advantages when trying to build a national profile as well as raise money from some of the richest people on the planet who call the state home.

None of that has proven to be an advantage for either Gillibrand or Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City.

Fundraising from the wealthy elite is increasingly seen as a liability in a party as candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren touting their broad small-donor base (this is yet to effect candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden).

And, instead of the U.S. senator with a decade-long career in the chamber or a two-term mayor of a major city, it’s Schenectady native Andrew Yang who is polling better.

4. Getting Out Now May Be Good

De Blasio’s campaign is pressing on out west this week. Gillibrand won’t be a zombie candidate, however.

Yes, ending a campaign after only eight months and failing to register in polls is a disappointment. Gillibrand frankly acknowledged in the video released Wednesday that it wasn’t her time.

Recognizing the realities of her standing in the race can’t hurt her with Democrats — candidates or voters themselves — as she makes a bid for unity to defeat the president next year.

New York’s Red Flag Law Goes Into Effect Saturday

New York’s red flag law — meant to take firearms away from those deemed by a court to be a danger to themselves or others — will take effect on Saturday.

The measure, which was approved earlier this year, is taking hold in New York amid a debate over a national version of the legislation, which some Republicans in Congress have expressed a willingness to support following two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio this month less than 24 hours apart.

“Now our success in reducing gun-related deaths and injuries will depend upon our ability to make sure everyone is aware of the new law — not only judges, district attorneys, police officers, and educators, but also the general public who may become aware that someone close to them poses a danger to themselves or others,” said Sen. Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat from Manhattan, one of the sponsors of the bill.

Assemblywoman Joanne Simon, a Democrat from Brooklyn, said people are eager for action on the national stage.

“People are sick of the excuses that have made gun violence par for the course in this country,” she said. “In fact, it is not normal and it is a uniquely American problem. New York is taking action and on August 24th, the Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation goes into effect.”

The law is one of several new gun control measures approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year. New York’s latest gun control legislation includes measures meant to require locked storage of guns in homes where someone under 17 is present, a ban devices that help guns mimic automatic fire and extending the waiting period for prospective gun buyers who not immediately approved for purchase through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Suffolk County PBA Endorses Bellone’s Re-Election

The union that represents Suffolk County police endorsed County Executive Steve Bellone on Tuesday in his bid for a third term.

“Our county police work hard every day to protect our residents and they do their job with honor, integrity, and dedication,” said Noel DiGerolamo, President of Suffolk County PBA. “For the past eight years, Steve Bellone has been a friend and a partner in this effort who believes in us and appreciates the work that we do in service to our county. The Suffolk PBA proudly endorses Steve Bellone.”

Bellone, a Democrat, this year faces Republican County Comptroller John Kenendy.

“In Suffolk County, crime is at the lowest levels in recorded history because of our law enforcement personnel,” Bellone said in a statement.

“I am been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the hard-working men and women of the SCPD who risk their lives in service to our communities and our residents. I am honored to receive their support and I thank PBA President Noel DiGerolamo for his continued leadership on behalf of Suffolk’s finest.”

New York Officials Blast ‘Public Charge’ Rule Change

From the Morning Memo:

A rule change by President Trump’s administration that would deny green cards to immigrants receiving public benefits is being protested by New York officials and labor groups.

The rule change, set to take effect in two months, would deny green cards to immigrants who receive forms of public assistance, including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.

In government parlance it’s known as a “public charge.”

Federal officials say the move is meant to encourage self-sufficiency among the country’s migrant population. But advocates say it will restrict legal immigration and could result in fewer people seeking health care services.

“The public charge rule that the Trump administration released today assaults the ability of taxpaying, legal immigrants to protect their health and feed their children by punishing them for accessing the most basic benefits needed to survive,” said Kyle Bragg, the president of the labor union 32BJ.

“If this final rule becomes law in 60 days, it could force new American families to forego healthcare, go hungry, or become homeless in order to secure a future in America for themselves or their families.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James vowed to file a legal challenge against the move.

“President Trump’s new public charge rule is yet one more example of his Administration turning its back on people fighting to make a better life for them and their families,” she said.

“Under this rule, children will go hungry; families will go without medical care. I am committed to defending all of New York’s communities, which is why I intend to sue the Trump Administration over this egregious rule.”