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.”

D-Trip Launches Digital Health Care-Focused Ads

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week will release digital ads knocking three New York Republicans over the legal fight over the Affordable Care Act.

The ads knocking Reps. Lee Zeldin and Peter King, as well as Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who is running for the Staten Island seat held by Democratic Rep. Max Rose.

The ads take issue with a Republican-backed lawsuit that is challenging a key provision of the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, that is targeting the mandate that Americans have health insurance or pay a tax.

“If New York Republicans’ partisan lawsuit is successful, families across New York and the country will lose their insurance and be forced to pay more for the prescriptions and health care they need,” said DCCC spokeswoman Christine Bennett. “Thousands are at risk of immediately losing their health care thanks to Lee Zeldin and Pete King.”

King, the longest serving Republican from New York in the House, faced a competitive challenge last year from Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley. Zeldin has represented the eastern Long Island district since 2014 that has been considered a battleground for both parties.

Malliotakis is running for the seat Rose flipped last year, unseating Republican Dan Donovan.

Nicole Malliotakis hedged on vaccines for months and apparently plans to dodge other questions on health care,” Bennett said. “The people of NY-11 deserve to know if she’s with them or with Washington Republicans and big insurance companies.”

Top New York Dems Back Cuomo’s National Gun Control Push

Top Democrats in New York on Wednesday publicly backed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s for a national gun control plan that includes universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons.

Supportive statements were released Wednesday morning from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the Cuomo-led state Democratic Committee.

“We are at a tipping point in the national debate on gun control, and Governor Cuomo is asking the country to follow New York’s lead on proposals that will get dangerous weapons off our streets in communities everywhere,” Heastie said. “It is beyond time to act.”

Cuomo wants Democratic candidates for the presidency to embrace the plan, which also includes support for a national red flag law keeping guns away from people deemed to be too dangerous and a database of mentally ill people who should not have guns.

“We agree with the Governor that our national candidates should look at New York as an example of passing smart gun laws that make our state safer,” Stewart-Cousins wrote on Twitter. “We hope that all the candidates follow our leadership on these crucial issues.”

Jacobs, the party chairman, said the platform should be supported by all the Democrats running for president if they hope to gain any votes in the state.

“It is incumbent upon elected officials throughout America, and especially the Democratic Presidential candidates to follow New York’s lead under Governor Cuomo, and endorse the Make America Safer Pledge to reduce and eventually eradicate the gun violence that is plaguing our great nation,” he said.

After Cabán, Where Do Progressive Insurgents Go From Here?

From the Morning Memo:

Tiffany Cabán, who mounted a competitive progressive challenge for the party’s Queens district attorney nomination against Melinda Katz, conceded the race Tuesday evening after a court battle and a close result in the June vote.

For progressives, the close-but-not-quite campaign of Cabán comes a year after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned the political world and defeated incumbent Joe Crowley in a Democratic primary.

Katz had been referred to throughout the race as the establishment candidate, and she did have the backing of figures like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who headlined a fundraiser for her.

But established Democratic elected officials also gravitated toward the Cabán camp, including Sen. Mike Gianaris, the deputy majority leader in the state Senate.

And the Working Families Party, which had initially endorsed Crowley before his defeat, supported Cabán’s bid.

Tiffany Caban transformed the debate on criminal justice reform, not just in Queens but across the city and country as well,” said Bill Lipton, the WFP’s state director.

“She proved that progressive campaigns and the progressive movement can succeed across a borough as big and diverse as Queens, and that voters want fundamental changes to our justice system. We hope more courageous candidates like Tiffany run for office everywhere.”

Attention for progressive advocates who are pushing to reshape the Democratic Party could now turn to the 2020 primary elections, the first that will be held on a unified date in June for members of the state Assembly and Senate next year — leading to a new level of uncertainty.

After that, the 2021 race for New York City mayor — perhaps the biggest prize for grassroots advocates short of winning the governor’s office — is up for grabs.

Will progressive advocates have the momentum to carry them through to put one of their own in Gracie Mansion? A lot likely rides on the presidential election next year and whether a motivating factor — like President Trump in the Oval Office — remains.

Laborers Endorse Torres For Congress

From the Morning Memo:

The Laborers’ International Union of North America on Monday will endorse Council Richie Torres’s bid for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Jose Serrano.

Union leaders praised Torres’s record on labor issues.

“His support for the unionized construction industry is not an empty talking point,” said Robert Bonanza, Business Manager of Mason Tenders’ District Council and John Hutchings Director of the NYS Laborers’ PAC and Organizing Fund in a joint statement.

“His support has been proven through action on our most important issues – safety, wages, employer accountability, and supporting legislation that creates stable career opportunities for working class New Yorkers. Ritchie not only stands with the working people of this state; he is willing to fight for us.”

Torres is running for the Democratic nomination in what is shaping up to be a competitive primary field. Councilman Ruben Diaz, Sr. and Assemblyman Michael Blake have declared plans to run. On Friday, former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito indicated she would enter the race as well.

“I’m proud to receive the endorsement of LiUNA-NY,” Torres said.

“LiUNA’s mission of fighting for good-paying construction jobs for New Yorkers aligns with my goal in Congress: fight to ensure all Bronxites have jobs that pay fair wages with decent benefits and healthcare, and treat workers with respect, and a work place with high safety standards.”

Gillibrand Grills Biden, Pledges To ‘Clorox’ Oval Office

From the Morning Memo:

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has struggled to break out of the pack in the crowded Democratic presidential field, took an aggressive swing at former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday, the second night of two debates this week.

Gillibrand grilled Biden on an op/ed he had written that suggested women with income would “create the deterioration of family.”

“Mr. Vice President, I respect you deeply. I respect you deeply,” Gillibrand said. “But those words are very specific. You said women working outside the home lead to the deterioration of family.”

Biden’s op/ed was more nuanced than Gillibrand described it in the debate. Biden wrote in 1981 that he was opposed to expanding a child care tax credit to higher income families. He did not write in that op/ed, but said the time, that he did “not care whether in a modern marriage you want the man or the woman to take that responsibility” for child care.

The broader problem? The rest of the debate stage was also piling on Biden, who’s perch at the top of the polls continued despite the sustained criticism of his long record of votes and public statements in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Kamala Harris once again directly criticized Biden over his record and two got into a confusing exchange of their health care policies.

But Gillibrand moment with Biden was also a return to what has been a key issue for her during her time in office. She tweeted on Tuesday evening that the first debate suffered from a lack of questions about reproductive rights, paid leave and child care.

“We need a president who will prioritize these issues—not treat them as an afterthought,” she posted.

The next night, Gillibrand (jokingly?) suggested she would cleanse the Oval Office with bleach after taking over for President Trump and, perhaps more seriously, pledged to begin a push to fight climate change on her first day as president.

Cuomo Signs Bill Codifying The Use Of Campaign Funds For Child Care

A bill that would allow state and local candidates for elected office use campaign funds for child care expenses was signed into law on Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The legislation codifies a determination by the state Board of Elections made earlier this year that allows campaign funds to be put toward child care costs.

Supporters of the legislation contend the provision will make it easier for parents with limited personal funds to run for office and ensure their kids are taken care of during long days of campaigning.

“Women face too many barriers when it comes to running for office and frankly child care expenses shouldn’t be one of them,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By signing this measure into law, we will build on the historic progress we’ve made toward gender equality and empower more parents – and mothers in particular – to seek public office to ensure the decision makers in Albany reflect the people they are elected to represent.”

The use of campaign funds for child care was pioneered by Liuba Grechen Shirely, a Democrat who ran for the House of Representatives last year against Republican Rep. Peter King. Grechen Shirley successfully petitioned the Federal Elections Commission to allow her to tap into her campaign coffers to help pay for child care.

“This law will encourage more women to run, ensuring that legislators begin to look more like the communities they represent,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

“By making child care an allowable campaign expense, we pay more than mere lip service to that reality, and begin dismantling some of the institutional barriers that women and mothers continue to face.”

Bellone Picks Up New Endorsements In Re-Election Bid

From the Morning Memo:

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s re-election campaign on Tuesday is set to announce a pair of endorsements from a neighboring county official and an environmental organization.

Bellone, who is seeking a third term this November, is being backed by Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman. The endorsement from Schnirman is the all more the pointed given Bellone’s Republican opponent is his own county’s comptroller, John Kennedy.

“Steve Bellone is delivering for Suffolk County with a record of smart, data-driven leadership,” Schnirman said in a statement.

“He’s a relentless voice of reform for residents, and I look forward to continuing our partnerships to move all of Long Island forward. I encourage everyone to join me in supporting County Executive Bellone in November.”

Meanwhile, Bellone was also endorsed by the New York League of Conservation Voters. In a statement, the organization’s president Julie Tighe pointed to his work on clean water issues.

“As Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone has fought for the environment and public health,” she said.

“Water is the lifeblood of Suffolk County. Bellone spearheaded the revitalization of the County’s waterways by working to replace failing septic systems and expanding the municipal sewer system. He also led the State in taking on plastic bag use – one of NYLCV’s top priorities. Moving forward, he will lead on climate change by certifying Suffolk county as a Climate Smart Community. That’s why we are proud to endorse County Executive Bellone for reelection and urge Suffolk County voters to cast their ballot for him this fall.”

Suffolk County could be a bellwether for either party ahead of next year’s elections. Bellone is a Democrat, but the county in 2016 backed President Donald Trump’s election. But since then, two large suburban counties, Nassau and Westchester, elected Democratic county executives.

Suffolk County Plans Clean Water Forum

From the Morning Memo:

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Monday will announce plans to hold a clean water forum on Sept. 17 with Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Segos.

The water quality summit will be held with the Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University.

Bellone announced the summit amid beach closures that have increased in recent days due to shoreline bacteria in New York and New Jersey.

“After decades of kicking the can down the road, swift action is necessary to end the nitrogen epidemic that is wreaking havoc on local communities across the country,” Bellone said. “Suffolk County is organizing this summit as part of its continued effort to restore our water quality and protect our beaches.”

The summit is scheduled to take place during National Septic Smart Week, which is meant to raise awareness for homeowners and communities the need for the proper care and maintenance of septic systems.

Jacobs Says He’s Keeping An Open Mind On Fusion Voting

State Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs in a phone interview on Wednesday said he is keeping his mind open on the issue of fusion voting, which could be scrapped or altered by the election law commission he was appointed to this month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Jacobs is one of nine people appointed to the commission to determine the future of the state’s campaign finance laws, including whether to institute a system of publicly financed campaigns. The commission is composed of appointees of the governor and the legislative leaders from both parties.

The commission’s purview also includes election law like fusion voting, which allows candidates to run on multiple party ballot lines. The Working Families Party, a progressive and labor-aligned organization, along with the right-leaning Conservative Party, have filed a legal challenge to pre-empt the commission and protect fusion voting.

Lawsuit aside, Jacobs said he wanted to listen to witness testimony at hearings the commission is expected to hold in different areas of the state, likely starting in late September or early October.

“Since I’ve been asked to serve on this commission I think it’s incumbent on me to keep an open mind and listen to the people who are coming to our hearings,” he said. “To pre-determine makes the hearings kind of meaningless. I’m not going to comment on it in terms of what my view is. Certainly I’ve had experience with it. I think that’s one of the reasons why they wanted me on the commission.”

Fusion voting is under scrutiny after the WFP last year initially endorsed Cuomo’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Cynthia Nixon. The party ultimately offered Cuomo, and he accepted, its ballot line in the general election after the governor won the September primary.

Jacobs said the decisions by the commission will be meant to “benefit the voters in the state of New York.”

“I want to make sure we do it right and I want to be fair minded about it,” he said.

The commission is due to release its recommendations by December. The Legislature can act to overturn the recommendations or they will become law by the end of the year.

Updated: It’s worth noting some of the prior and recent history with fusion voting. The state Democratic Committee, through a resolution introduced by members of the Progressive Caucus, backed an end to fusion voting in March.

The caucus had tabled it, but the full committee under Jacobs took the resolution nevertheless, and it passed. He also told The New York Post “quite a few” Democratic county chairs support an end to fusion voting.

Newsday reported at the time Jacobs was supportive of the ban.

Jacobs, too, has acknowledged “solid arguments” that fusion voting has “watered down” Democratic candidates.