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.”

Jacobs Tapped For State Party Chair

Jay Jacobs is heading toward an encore as state Democratic Committee chairman.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced Jacobs would succeed Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown as the state party chairman, reprising the role he held under Gov. David Paterson.

“Jay Jacobs is an outstanding champion for Long Island with an unparalleled record of bringing Democrats together to win historic victories, and I am excited to work with him to further strengthen our party and elect even more Democrats up and down the ballot,” Cuomo said.

“I thank Byron Brown for his great leadership in securing key districts for our party last year, and look forward to continuing to work together to deliver for New Yorkers across the state. In the face of unprecedented and frightening assaults on our values from Washington, we will continue to ensure New York is a beacon of progressive policy in action and that the Democratic Party is the party of making a real difference in people’s lives.”

Jacobs’s return as state party chairman underscores the importance of the suburbs for Democrats, who picked up a majority of the state Senate seats on Long Island in November and now control both county executive posts.

“In this consequential time for our Party, our State and our country I am honored to have been asked by Governor Cuomo to once again serve as New York State Democratic Chair,” Jacobs said.

“The governor has been a friend for more than twenty years and as I was honored to be the chair when he was first elected, after so many progressive achievements I am appreciative and excited for the opportunity to work with him and our state party once again as we continue to fight for a progressive agenda and marshal our resources for the upcoming challenges ahead.”

Katz Raises $1M For Queens DA Bid, Lancman $1.1M

Democratic Queens district attorney candidate Melinda Katz has raised just over $1 million in her bid for the office being vacated by incumbent Richard Brown.

The fundraising total for Katz, the current borough president, was raised over the last 12 months from 802 donors , her campaign said Sunday.

She raised $206,311 alone since the announcement that Brown would not seek another term on Wednesday.

“Even with likelihood of a June primary, Borough President Katz has the resources, the support, and the criminal justice reform agenda Queens residents want to see in their next District Attorney,” said Katz campaign spokesman Doug Forand.

Updated: Councilman Rory Lancman, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, announced raising $1.1 million for the effort.

“Support and momentum are growing all across Queens, as people see that our campaign represents real reform of the criminal justice system — ending the New Jim Crow, where thousands of people of color a year are given criminal records for the rest of their lives for low-level offenses that shouldn’t be in the criminal justice system at all; prosecuting crimes against working people, women, immigrants, homeowners, and tenants; and holding law enforcement, including the police and our own office, to the highest standards of accountability,” he said in a statement.

Katz Receives HTC Nod In Queens DA Race

From the Morning Memo:

Democrat Melinda Katz on Tuesday will announce the endorsement of the powerful Hotel Trades Council in her race for Queens district attorney.

“The New York Hotel Trades Council is excited to endorse Melinda Katz to be the next Queens District Attorney,” said HTC President Peter Ward. “Our city needs DAs who will engage with advocates and organizations to create meaningful change in our criminal justice system. In Queens, that’s Melinda.”

The labor group has taken an increased interest in criminal justice reforms over the years and remains a politically potent force, especially in get-out-the-vote efforts on Election Day.

“I am proud to have the support of the New York Hotel Trades Council, one of the state’s strongest unions and most dedicated to criminal justice reform,” said Katz, the current Queens borough president.

“From advocating for discovery reform to successfully securing protections against wrongful convictions, HTC has been at the forefront demanding criminal justice reform for years. I look forward to working with HTC and other advocates to bring meaningful reform to Queens.”

Lawmakers To Try Again To Strip Trump Name From Park

As Democrats gain full control of the Legislature this year, there are likely to be a package of bills aimed at President Donald Trump, such as forcing him to release his New York tax returns, softening the impact of his administration’s policies in the state, among other items.

But one bill, which has been proposed for the last two years but has died in committee, would begin an effort to remove Trump’s name from a now-defunct park in the Hudson Valley.

Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic last week re-introduced their bill to do so, leaving the re-designation of the park up to the commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“New York State has always been known for its history of welcoming and embracing people of all cultures and backgrounds,” the bill’s memo states. “Even our park system reflects these values. According to the Declaration of Policy of the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, our parks should foster and strengthen the sense of purpose, well-being and identity of the citizens of this state. The names of these parks and green spaces should embody the goals of uplifting and unifying New Yorkers.”

The park is the product of an agreement Trump made after he donated 436 acres of land while Republican George Pataki was in office. Donald J. Trump State Park itself has fallen into disrepair after budget cuts closed the facility in 2009.

Pataki, in an interview on Capital Tonight in 2016, said he regretted the prominent placement of the signs.

After Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric grew last year, several state lawmakers have called for the signs to be taken down and changed.

Bellone Touts Accomplishments In Fundraising Email

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Monday released a fundraising email to supporters, pointing to his accomplishments as he seeks re-election to what has been a swing county for both parties in recent election cycles.

Bellone pointed to efforts geared toward containing costs, cutting his own pay, support for the state’s tax cap and firing of former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke.

“I’ve run marathons, but next fall I’m running the most important race of my life, one that affects the future of our County,” Bellone said. “I’m running for re-election. I’m running to make sure that our County is a place where all of our kids – mine and yours – can grow up and raise their own families here enjoying all the things we love about Long Island. This is why I need your help.”

Suffolk is something of a purple county, with President Donald Trump having won it in 2016, but Democrats making gains in key state Senate races there last year.

Bellone is seeking a third term.

The full letter can be found here.

Rallying For Abortion Rights, Cuomo Highlights Unity Early

From the Morning Memo:

The public push for strengthening New York’s abortion laws this year is getting underway today, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top Democratic officials in New York appearing with Hillary Clinton to back bills expected to gain votes this month in the Legislature.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is also expected to appear the event with Clinton, the former U.S. senator, secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate.

Clinton delivered the keynote address at the state Democratic Convention in May, emphatically endorsing Cuomo’s third term as he faced a primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon.

A vote on the legislation is likely to occur sometime this month with the coming anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

The measures, the Reproductive Health Act and the Contraceptive Care Act, will be able to highlight early Democratic unity after the party won control of the state Senate in November and now holds 39 seats there.

But today’s event Barnard College in New York City could be something of a kumbaya moment for Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers who he has been at odds with over the last several weeks — a chance to highlight a key issue for the base of the party in which they are all on the same page.

The bills stalled in the Republican-led state Senate and are among a handful of items the Legislature could pass in the new year before the state budget is negotiated, including gun control, campaign finance law changes and bills meant to make it easier to vote in the state.

The more nettlesome issues come in March, when state budget is being haggled over, and the push and pull coming over education aid and health care spending.

Sources: Ryan, Rhodes, Auerbach Considering Ulster County Exec Campaign

Two former candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 19th congressional district are considering running for the Ulster County executive post, sources on Friday said.

Democrats Pat Ryan and Gareth Rhodes are both considering jumping into the coming race for the office as incumbent Mike Hein was named Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nominee for the commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Ryan is a West Point grad who served two tours in Iraq and later became a technology businessman. Rhodes is a former aide to Cuomo and a Kingston High School graduate.

Democrat Antonio Delgado won the nomination for the 19th district last June and would go on to defeat Republican incumbent John Faso.

Updated: Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach emailed to say he is also considering a campaign for the job and that he is “strongly weighing the option.”