SD-46: Michelle Hinchey Launches Bid For State Senate

Democrat Michelle Hinchey on Wednesday announced plans to run for the state Senate held by Republican Sen. George Amedore that stretches from the Capital Region to the Hudson Valley.

Hinchey is member of the Board of Directors of the Catskill Center and a graduate of the Industrial and Labor Relations School at Cornell University. She is the daughter of the late Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey.

“My Father taught me the importance of how public service, hard work and collaboration can bring meaningful change and it’s always been incredibly important to me to give back to the community that raised me,” she said in a statement.

Hinchey, who filed paperwork to run on Wednesday, plans a district-wide listening tour.

“I look forward to meeting with and listening to the many hard-working people throughout Upstate New York about how our State government can best serve them,” she said. “I believe we need to create new opportunities for economic equity, to expand affordable housing, education and health care, to protect the district’s precious family-farm lands, and ensure our air, water and land are protected for generations to come.”

The 46th Senate district was carved out of the 2012 redistricting process by Republicans who controlled the state Senate at the time. Amedore narrowly lost his initial bid for the district that year to Democrat Cecilia Tkacyzk. He won a rematch race in 2014.

Moody’s Finds Credit Positive In Westchester Sales Tax Hike

From the Morning Memo:

The boost in sales tax for Westchester County will generate more revenue for the county government and potentially keep property taxes down in one of the highest-taxed counties in the U.S., according to a report released Monday by Moody’s Investor Services.

The report called the 1 percent sales tax hike — from 7.4 percent to 8.4 percent — a credit positive, generating $47 million for the county’s 2019 fiscal year and $103 million in the 2020 fiscal year.

The county shares about 30 percent of its revenue from the sales tax with local governments and school districts that do not have a sales tax themselves.

At the same time, the added revenue are expected to boost the county’s reserves, which have decreased in the last four years. Meanwhile, some of the revenue is expected to offset the cancellation of a county-owned parking lot to the Local Development Corp., which had budgeted $23 million in one-shot revenue.

“Many Westchester municipalities have stated they will use the money to alleviate the need for property tax increases in future budgets,” Moody’s found. “The county is one of the most heavily taxed in the country, so any relief for municipalities and school districts will be welcomed by taxpayers.”

Senate Democrats To Hold Hearings On Opioid Addiction

The state Senate will hold seven hearings and roundtable discussions on how to tackle opioid overdose and prevention, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Monday announced.

The hearings and events will be held by the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention, with the first hearing to take place on Aug. 9 in the Bronx.

Subsequent hearings will be held in Central New York, Buffalo, Staten Island, the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and Albany.

“Opioid misuse and addiction is an ongoing crisis that is destroying families and communities throughout New York,” Stewart-Cousins said.

“This epidemic impacts all communities, which is why the Senate Majority will hold hearings and roundtable discussions throughout the state and we encourage New Yorkers to attend and participate. I commend Senators Harckham, Carlucci and Rivera, for co-chairing the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addiction & Overdose and holding these joint hearings and discussions to combat the opioid crisis.”

Schumer Wants FBI To Review FaceApp

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a letter Thursday called for an investigation of FaceApp, which has spawned a viral social media craze of people showing their faces aged 30 years.

While benign sounding, the app is owned by a Russian company and could be harvesting data, as well as faces, from users.

Schumer wants both an investigation by the FBI as well as a review by the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether any Americans’ data was exposed to third parties, including a foreign government.

“In the age of facial recognition technology as both a surveillance and security use, it is essential that users have the information they need to ensure their personal and biometric data remains secure, including from hostile foreign nations,” Schumer wrote in the letter.

Concerns have heightened that Russia may once again attempt to interfere with American elections. A report released this year by Special Counsel Robert Mueller determined Russia sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 election by flooding social media sites with false information.

New York Advocates Cheer House Minimum Wage Vote (Updated)

Advocates and labor unions on Thursday cheered the passage of a bill in the Democratic-led House of Representatives that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15.

The minimum wage in New York City is set to reach $15 by the end of 2019 for all employees and 2021 for workers in Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Future increases in upstate counties will be set by the Department of Labor.

But in New York, much of the focus of late has been on increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers. The bill approved Thursday would increase the wage for tipped workers from $2.13 to $15.

“This is a tremendous achievement for all workers, and a historic victory for the millions of women and men who have earned a subminimum wage and relied on tips for generations since Emancipation of slavery,” said Saru Jayarman, the co-founder and president of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers.

“It shows what we can do when we are united to instill the tenets of equality for every hard-working individual in this great nation. Today, the United States House of Representatives agreed with us, heard our calls for justice, respect and dignity, and fought with us for living wages that workers deserve.”

The vote was also cheered by Kyle Bragg, the president of 32BJ SEIU.

“In honor of our brother Héctor Figueroa, who passed away last week, we commend the House for this landmark achievement in passing the $15 minimum wage,” he said.

“This remarkable victory is the result of years of the hard work and courage from millions of airport workers, fast food workers, cleaners, health care workers and many more, who took action to demand a $15 minimum wage. Héctor Figueroa spent his life fighting so that low-wage workers could be paid a living wage and be able to take care of their families with dignity. There is no more fitting tribute to his legacy than raising the wage to $15 for tens of millions of workers.”

Updated: Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement also praised the vote. Cuomo had named the ultimately successful push for the wage hike after his late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

“This fight has always been about stepping up to make a real different in the lives of hardworking families, and I applaud Speaker Pelosi for her leadership and all the members of the New York Congressional delegation who voted for this critically important measure,” he said. “Now it’s time for the Senate to demonstrate they care about the dignity and respect of hardworking people too. Pass the bill now.”

Debate Over House Resolution Condemning Trump Turns Bitter

From the Morning Memo:

A resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s posts on Twitter criticizing freshman members of the House of Representatives were condemned as racist by the Democratic-led chamber on Tuesday.

But the vote, largely on party lines save for four Republicans, largely devolved into a partisan squabble over rules amid a bitter political dispute over the direction of the country.

Several New York Republicans have criticized Trump’s remarks as “wrong” and inappropriate after he told the four lawmakers — all of whom are of color and American citizens — to “go back” to their countries of origin. Only one of the four is an immigrant, and she became a naturalized citizen more than a decade ago.

But on Tuesday, none of the GOP lawmakers from New York backed the resolution, which condemned Trump’s remarks as racist.

“Today’s flawed resolution is nothing more than the Democrat leadership kowtowing to their most radical members,” said Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey.

“Congress has serious issues that must be dealt with which include securing our borders and fixing our immigration laws. I applaud Congressman John Katko for recognizing this political grandstanding by the Congressional Democrats and voting ‘no’.”

Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of Queens saw it differently.

“President Trump’s comments are racist and his vile rants on Twitter are beyond the pale, and show his callous disregard for the office he holds. He has not apologized, shown any remorse, and doubled down on his disgusting remarks,” she said.

“As an American, I am appalled by the President’s actions these past few days and the weak responses by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. We can disagree with each other, but to tell someone to ‘go back’ is morally reprehensible. Today, our message is clear: Mr. President, shame on you.”

AG James Raises $405K

The re-election campaign of state Attorney General Letitia James in the last six months has raised $405,395, according to a filing on Tuesday made public.

James, who cleared a crowded field of Democrats to win the nomination, defeated Republican Keith Wofford to win her first term.

Her campaign reported spending $117,569 and has $338,919 in cash on hand.

The vast majority of her donors gave less than $1,000 and her largest individual donor was lobbyist Rick Ostroff, who gave $20,000. Labor unions, including those who represent teachers and transport workers, also gave to her re-election campaign: The New York State United Teachers Union’s VOTE COPE gave $10,000, as did the Transport Workers Union Local 100.

Cuomo Signs Bill Expanding MWBE Program

A bill that extends and expands the state’s minority and women-owned business enterprises program was approved Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The measure will extend the law by five years and is meant to strengthen it by having more businesses participate in the program.

“The extension and expansion of New York’s nation-leading MWBE program will help ensure our economy is reflective of our values and of our diverse talent pool,” Cuomo said. “Diversity is New York’s greatest asset, and by signing this measure into law we will empower more women and people of color to participate in State contracts and continue our aggressive program to make contracting even more inclusive.”

The new law establishes bidding credits for low-bid construction projects to $1.4 million and will expand the size of procurements. It also requires contractors to make a good faith effort in order to retain MWBE subcontractors before applying for a waiver.

“The MWBE program is a proven success, and has helped empower minority and women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “The bill signed into law today will extend the MWBE program until 2024, continue to make the state contracting process more inclusive, and take action to combat misrepresentation.”

Senate Dems, Now In The Majority, Raise $2.3M

From the Morning Memo:

The fundraising arm of the Democratic conference in the state Senate this week will report raising $2.3 million over the last six months, bringing their cash-on-hand total to more than $2 million.

The fundraising figures reflect the first six months of the Senate Democrats taking majority control of the state Senate. With the addition of Sen. Simcha Felder, Senate Democrats now hold 40 of the 63 seats in the chamber, two shy of a supermajority.

Senate Democrats also did not raise any money from real estate interests during this time period, reflecting a pledge of Sen. Mike Gianaris, the chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

Senate Democrats are outpacing both Republicans and the efforts of the party’s previous majority in 2009.

Senate Republicans previously reported a cash-on-hand total of $250,984 after raising more than $130,000 — according to a 10-day post-primary report.

Two years ago, Senate Democrats had $540,000 in cash on hand, while Republicans had $1.4 million.

A decade ago, after gaining the majority for the first time in decades, Senate Democrats reported $1.3 million.

The fundraising report for Senate Democrats comes after state lawmakers approved a flurry of long-sought legislation due to the majorities the party controls in both chambers. Democrats approved and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law measures strengthening abortion laws, gun control, LGBTQ rights and measures meant to aid undocumented immigrants.

Lawmakers Urge Approval Of Camp Safety Bill

State lawmakers on Thursday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve a bill that would require parents be notified if a camp is not regulated by the state Department of Health.

The bill’s sponsors, Sen. David Carlucci and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, said the measure was a matter of safety for kids attending camp.

“Non-regulated camps could have sex offenders on staff preying on our children,” Carlucci said. “Every parent should be notified if their child’s camp is not inspected and not following strict State guidelines. We need the Governor to take immediate action and sign this bill into law to keep our children safe.”

Camps that are regulated have to follow state guidelines, including inspections and a permit of operation from the state Department of Health. Lawmakers said Thursday are as many as 10,000 single-purpose day camps in the state that are not regulated and could pose a safety risk to kids.

“Parents need to be fully informed when state regulations are not in place so they can make informed decisions about where to send their children for camp activities,” Abinanti said.

The notification would be required to be included on a child’s application or enrollment form.