In Video, Katz Highlights Biography

From the Morning Memo:

The death of her mother due to a drunk driver galvanized Melinda Katz’s decision to enter public service, the Queens district attorney candidate said in a video released Thursday by her campaign.

Katz is among a crowded field of Democrats competing in next month’s primary for Queens district attorney. She released the first video of her campaign that serves in large part as a biography for voters.

“One person’s criminal act changed my family forever and shaped my entire life,” she says in the video. “Seeing myself in other victims, I wanted to use the law to bring justice to people in a way that I never got.”

In the video, she also talks about she helped her father when he became ill, helping him navigate insurance needs. And she points to her time as Queens borough president.

“I ran as an outsider the first time against the party establishment,” she says in the video.

“They said I shouldn’t run and I couldn’t win. But I’m not a quiet person, and I’m not a quitter. I outworked them and won. As a legislator, I passed legislation that gave victims of child sexual abuse more time to report their abusers and gave women greater access to reproductive healthcare.”

Spitzer: Driver’s Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants Remains Good For New York

From the Morning Memo:

Twelve years ago, a proposal that would have extended access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants ignited a political firestorm for then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Ultimately, he pulled back the idea amid opposition from Republicans and Democratic elected officials, but not before the proposal became an issue for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.

In an interview on Wednesday on NY1’s Inside City Hall, the now former governor remained unbowed, calling the idea, which has regained steam in Albany during this legislative session, something that lawmakers should do this year.

“I’d like to think I was ahead of the curve on that issue,” Spitzer said. “It should happen. It would be good for the state, it would be good for the undocumented immigrants to get the licenses, it’s good for safety.”

Spitzer blamed political pundit Lou Dobbs, now with the Fox Business Network, for having “ignited this fuse” that sparked the opposition to the measure. At the time, the state Senate was proposed by Republicans.

But Democrats also registered opposition as well. Then-Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul was opposed to the proposal at the time, but as lieutenant governor under Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shifted her stance and now supports the driver’s license measure.

Known in Albany as the Greenlight Bill, lawmakers hope that with Democrats controlling both chambers of the Legislature, the bill can pass this session. Assembly Democrats emerged from a closed-door meeting last week to determine there were sufficient votes to pass the measure, but want to undertake an education campaign, especially in districts where voters may be skeptical.

“This is something that should be part of our fabric, yet it continues to be a tripwire for politicians,” Spitzer said. “Let’s let folks work, let’s let them participate.”

Republicans continue to oppose it, and want to carve out county clerks who run local Department of Motor Vehicle offices from having to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants — a provision the bill’s sponsors oppose.

Spitzer, whose governorship ended amid a prostitution scandal, said in the Wednesday interview the issue was the forerunner to a debate over immigration that now dominates the political news.

“This was the leading edge of the nativism and the anti-immigrant hysteria that Lou Hobbs on TV and Donald Trump have incited everyday,” he said.

Democrats are considering several bills meant to address immigration, including legislation that would make New York a sanctuary state, limiting the interaction between state and local law enforcement with federal immigration officers.

“We are not INS or ICE,” Spitzer said. “It’s not our job to enforce the immigration laws. It’s our job to enforce the immigration laws, it’s our job to make sure they participate in our culture, in our life, in our economy as best as possible.”

Senate Advances Bills Curbing Trump’s Power, Opening Tax Filings

The Democratic-led state Senate on Wednesday approved a pair of bills that take an aggressive posture with President Donald Trump by limiting his ability to pardon people and providing Congress with access to his state tax filings.

The bills are written broadly: The so-called double jeopardy loophole measure would limit any president’s pardon powers by allowing local prosecutors in New York to bring cases against former administration staffers or people related to a president who have been pardoned. The tax legislation would allow Congress to request any state tax filing.

But the bills are done with the intent of aiding investigations by either Democratic Attorney General Letitia James and congressional inquiries. Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives are pursuing efforts to gain access to the president’s federal tax filings, which he has so far not released voluntarily.

“We do want to send a message that no one is above the law. Not the president, or anyone else, is above the law,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris. “If we have the power in New York to take steps, because we’re in a unique position for people to comply with legitimate requests from the federal government, that should happen.”

Republicans blasted the bills as a distraction and a politically motivated effort.

“This is a blatantly political act,” said Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan. “We should be spending our time worrying about what we’re doing for New Yorkers.”

Sen. Jim Tedisco indicated he would introduce a bill that would curb the governor’s ability to issue pardons. Tedisco, a Republican who represents suburban Albany, said the bills were meant in part to act as a distraction from economic successes.

“What it’s trying to do is distract the executive at the federal level,” Tedisco said. “I don’t think they want to talk about the record that’s taking place around the economy.”

Democrats in the Assembly are expected to discuss the tax legislation in a closed-door meeting on Monday, said Assemblyman David Buchwald, the bill’s sponsor in that chamber.

“We need to do something under the recognition that there’s a need for transparency that’s been shown by the president’s actions,” Buchwald said.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that a decade of the president’s taxes between 1985 and 1994 showed a $1 billion loss during that time.

It’s not clear if the president or his allies will seek to block the measures in New York if they become law.

“I don’t think the president is known to be litigious,” deadpanned Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat who sponsored the tax bill, “So, no.”

Gillibrand: Roe v. Wade A Litmus Test For Court

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday said she would not appoint judges to the federal bench who wouldn’t support upholding the Roe v. Wade decision if elected president.

“I believe that reproductive rights are human rights, and they are nonnegotiable,” she said. “Women in America must be trusted to make their own medical decisions and have access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.”

The announcement is break from tradition for presidential candidates to lay down a litmus test for the courts, including the Supreme Court.

But Gillibrand, in a post on Medium, said times have changed, pointing to the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate not confirming President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland and the confirmation of Brett Kavanagh.

“I realize that traditionally, presidents and presidential candidates haven’t drawn lines in the sand on judicial appointments,” she said. “That tradition ended when Mitch McConnell obstructed the nomination process and stole a Supreme Court seat, when Donald Trump nominated dozens of ideologically extreme judges hand-picked by far-right think tanks, and when Republicans confirmed a Supreme Court Justice who is credibly accused of sexual misconduct.”

Gillibrand announced her presidential campaign earlier this year and in the early going has struggled in the polling in the field of more than 20 candidates for the Democratic nomination.

Advocates Nudge Kavanagh On Rent Control Bills

From the Morning Memo:

A coalition of advocacy groups in a letter sent Monday to the top Democrat on the Senate Housing Committee urged him to take a more aggressive stance on rent control legislation.

The letter, sent by a half-dozen groups to Sen. Brian Kavanagh, comes as Democrats in the chamber plan a series of statewide hearings on the issue.

But advocates wanted to hear more from Kavanagh on key bills that have gained backing in the Assembly, also led by Democrats.

“We applaud your sponsorship of the bill to prohibit evictions without good cause. We need you to be a vocal supporter of this crucial bill, which would protect millions of people across the State who now have no rights of any kind. We also appreciate your lead sponsorship of the bill to eliminate the fraud-driven Individual Apartment Improvement loophole,” the letter states.

“But you have not publicly supported several of the key bills in the universal rent control package. Indeed, you have been noticeably silent on, or have stated your opposition to, bills that would close the Major Capital Improvement (MCI) loophole; remove the arbitrary geographic restrictions in the Emergency Tenant Protection Act so that any municipality anywhere in the state can opt into rent stabilization if it chooses; make it easier for tenants to hold landlords accountable for illegal rent increases; and bring punitive rent control increases in line with the standard rent guidelines board increases.”

Signing on to the letter included the groups Tenants PAC, No IDC, New York City Democratic Socialists (NYC-DSA), New York Communities for Change, Rise and Resist, Greater NYC for Change.

Rent control is due in expire in June and lawmakers are debating ways of expanding tenant rights and protections in New York City as well as expanding the measures statewide.

“The Senate Democratic Conference is committed to enacting the best possible package of legislation to dramatically strengthen the laws that regulate rent and protect tenants, and close loopholes that have been exploited by unscrupulous landlords,” Kavanagh said in a statement.

“We appreciate the commitment, and the sense of urgency, of the many progressive organizations that have joined tenant and housing organizations in the fight this year. As hearings in both houses of the legislature are getting underway and less than six weeks remain before the laws are due to be renewed, we look forward to advancing a comprehensive package.”

Make The Road Action Endorses Chandler-Waterman For NYC Council

The progressive advocacy group Make the Road Action on Friday endorsed Brooklyn Democrat Monique Chandler-Waterman for the 45th district in the New York City Council.

“We couldn’t be more excited to endorse Monique Chandler-Waterman, a fellow strong Caribbean woman who has stood up for our communities for decades,” said Nieves Padilla, Make the Road Action’s Brooklyn Coordinator.

“Monique will stand up for the rights of working-class tenants, defend the rights of immigrant workers, and seek to end the criminalization of our youth. We are excited to knock on our neighbors’ doors in the coming weeks to ensure they know that she’s our community’s candidate on Tuesday, May 14th.”

Chandler-Waterman is running for the seat vacated by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in a May 14 special election.

“I’m proud to have the endorsement of Make the Road Action, which has helped lead the fight for justice for immigrants, workers, and tenants across New York City,” she said. “Their members’ work inspires me, and we share a deep commitment to organizing our communities to stand up for real affordable housing, protecting the rights of immigrants and workers, and ending the school-to-prison pipeline that does so much harm to Black and Brown youth.”

Hochul To Headline Bellone Fundraiser

From the Morning Memo:

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will host a June 20 “Women for Bellone” fundraiser for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone as he seeks a third term this year.

Bellone, a Democrat first elected in 2011, faces Republican John Kennedy, the Suffolk County comptroller.

Tickets for the event to be held in the county range from $50 to $100 to $5,000 for event sponsors.

“New York Democrats are lining up behind County Executive Bellone to fight back against Washington’s assault on women’s rights,” said Bellone spokesman Jason Elan.

“We are grateful to have the support of Lieutenant Governor Hochul who was a leading advocate to help enact Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Agenda and paid family leave.”

James Says NRA Investigation Will ‘Follow The Facts’

From the Morning Memo:

Attorney General Letitia James, in Albany on Wednesday for the state court system’s annual Law Day, said her office’s investigation of the National Rifle Association will “follow the facts and the evidence, wherever it takes me.”

The probe of the gun rights organization has led to an internal leadership struggle that resulted in its president, Oliver North, to not seek another term.

Reportedly, the group is under scrutiny for its relationship with an advertising firm, which has helped drive the public perception of the NRA over the last decade.

The relationship with the company, Ackerman McQueen, has come under criticism for its expenses as well as its relationship with North, a figure from the Iran-Contra scandal.

As attorney general, James has jurisdiction to investigate groups chartered in New York, like the NRA.

“We want to make sure that the NRA and any charitable organization that they comply with the not-for-profit law,” she said.

“It’s important we underscore the point that no one is above the law, including powerful organizations like the NRA and powerful elected officials.”

Republicans and NRA supporters aren’t pleased, pointing to James last year calling the group a “terrorist organization” during the lead up to the election.

“This is a continuation with what seems to me a real concerted, governmental, and political effort to cripple or destroy the NRA,” said Sen. Robert Ortt, a Republican from western New York and an NRA member.

Immigration Coalition Hails Advance Of Driver’s License Bill

From the Morning Memo:

A bill that would extend access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants living in New York has the “consensus” to move forward in the Democratic-led Assembly — a development being cheered by the New York Immigration Coalition.

“We thank Assembly Speaker Heastie and his conference for their strong commitment to pass legislation granting all immigrants the opportunity to obtain state driver’s licenses by the end of the legislative session. And we call on the state Senate to quickly follow suit. Twelve states already allow undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses,” said Steven Choi, the group’s executive director.

“It’s time New York restore a right all immigrants once had, one that would help families, improve the state’s economy, and promote better road safety. We expect both houses will finally act this year and Gov. Cuomo will sign this important legislation into law.”

Assembly lawmakers have indicated they will move forward with a public education push on the bill designed to highlight what supporters have said are its benefits, including insuring more drivers on the road and the economic needs of people being able to drive to work.

The issue last turned into a political firestorm after then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed it, only to pull it back amid opposition from both Republicans as well as Democrats.

Katz Backed By Firefighters Union, Cabán Receives Our Revolution Endorsement

Democratic Queens district attorney hopeful Melinda Katz on Wednesday was endorsed by the Uniformed Fire Officers Association as one of her rivals, Tiffany Cabán, was endorsed by the organization that grew out of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential camapign.

“Firefighters and first responders depend on leaders who will ensure they have the resources necessary to do their jobs safely and effectively. The men and women of the UFOA are exemplary public servants who put their health and safety at risk to protect our community,” Katz said. “The safety of emergency responders should be a top priority for the District Attorney. I’m honored to have the support of the UFOA, and as the next DA I’ll always defend their right to organize and I’ll partner with their members on new initiatives to keep firefighters safe on the job.”

Katz, the Queens borough president, faces Cabán, Councilman Rory Lancman and Judge Greg Lasak in the June Democratic primary.

Cabán has received the backing of range of progressive grassroots groups in recent weeks.

“I am thrilled to receive an endorsement from Our Revolution as we work to bring transformative justice to Queens,” she said. “Our Revolution knows that in order to win local races, campaigns need to build diverse and activated coalitions of voters. Their approach to movement- and revolution-building has been an inspiration to our campaign, and I am proud to have their support as we fight for a Queens DA’s office that empowers and protects our communities.”