Green Light Bill Advocates Urge LI Dems To Back Measure

A coalition of 10 organizations that back a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to gain access to driver’s licenses released a letter Thursday to Long Island Democrats and the state Democratic committee chairman urging them to support the measure.

The bill was approved in the Democratic-led state Assembly on Wednesday, but faces an uncertain path forward in the state Senate, where Democrats gained a majority control this year.

Democrats from the suburbs and upstate New York are considered key to its passage in the chamber. Compounding the issue has been Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the Democratic Committee in New York, who has warned some senators about the political fallout surrounding the bill.

“This year, the Democratic establishment has advanced a narrative that passing long fought-for, common sense, progressive pieces of legislation will somehow threaten the future Democratic Senate majority. This has been particularly true regarding efforts to restore access to drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants and reforming the state’s cruel and outdated criminal legal system that has dehumanized people of color in the state, and destroyed individuals, families, and communities,” the groups wrote in the letter.

“As criminal justice reform organizations, immigrant rights groups, and allies that have actively engaged constituents in the suburbs and across the state for years, and whose members helped usher in the New York Blue Wave of 2018, we reject this backward, and frankly inaccurate, thinking.”

Signing on to the letter include: Bend the Arc Jewish Action: New York, Citizen Action of New York, Empire State Indivisible, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Make the Road Action, New York State Immigrant Action Fund, New York Communities for Change, True Blue NY, VOCAL-NY Action Fund and the Working Families Party.

Bill Would Set New York’s Presidential Primary For April 28

A bill introduced this week by Sen. Mike Gianaris would schedule New York’s presidential primary for April 28.

The primary would be the first presidential nominating contest in New York that takes place under the state’s new early voting law.

“It is important for New York to maximize its influence in the Presidential nominating process and this bill does just that,” Gianaris said. “The selected date will increase our state’s allotment of delegates based on party rules.”

New York’s primary often is held late enough in the calendar that the nominee for either major party is set by then. However, New York’s primaries for the GOP and Democratic nominations took place amid heated contests for both parties and candidates traveled to New York for campaign events.

The primary victors were the two New York residents in the race, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Andy Cohen, With Cuomo And Senate Dems, Calls For Surrogacy Legalization

The Democratic-led state Senate today is expected to pass a bill that would legalize gestational surrogacy in New York.

But with the bill’s chances in the Assembly in doubt, TV personality and Bravo host Andy Cohen appeared in Albany to boost the bill’s chances.

Cohen, whose 4-month-old son Benjamin was born via surrogacy in California, appeared at two separate news conferences with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and later with Senate Democrats.

Cohen will also appear in a Capital Tonight interview at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News.

“Pass the law that protects women and then convince the other 47 states to do it; it’s not that women aren’t going to be surrogates, they are, it’s just is it New Jersey, or is it here, or is it California?” Cuomo said.

“So it makes no sense. It also makes no sense since we spent months in this room arguing for a women’s right under Roe v. Wade, which said a women’s body a women’s choice. And we argued with many people who said, “well certain women aren’t prepared to consent and certain women should have to consult with their parents first, and they have to notify their parents first.” And we said no, a women’s right governs.”

Cuomo at the news conference specifically pointed to the opposition in the state Assembly to the measure, which would allow LGBTQ or infertile couples to pay a surrogate.

“I respect my colleagues in the Assembly who have differences of opinion,” he said. “We have differences of opinion all the time, but I do not understand the assembly members who oppose this. I have respect for Assembly Members Glick, and Weinstein and Didi Barrett, but I just don’t see the possible rational.”

But there is opposition to the measure, from women’s groups as well as the Catholic Church.

In a widely circulated letter at the Capitol on Tuesday, feminist icon Gloria Steinem announced her opposition to the proposal, concerned the move would exploit women.

“Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others,” she wrote in the letter.

She added the bill carries a “big risk of human trafficking” of women.

The bill’s sponsors insisted Steinem was wrong, pointing to the protections included in the language, including a “surrogates bill of rights.”

“I’m the proud parent of two daughters born through gestational surrogacy,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman. “Unfortunately, under the current law, my husband and I had to travel 3,000 miles to California to build our family because New York makes surrogate agreements illegal. It’s time we fix that for LGBTQ families and any intended parent grappling with infertility.”

1199SEIU Backs Katz For Queens DA

From the Morning Memo:

Queens district attorney candidate Melinda Katz on Tuesday will officially pick up the endorsement of a key labor union in the race for the Democratic primary: 1199SEIU.

The health care worker is one of the largest in the state and one of the most politically active. In its endorsement, the union pointed to Katz’s support for issues like gun control and labor rights.

“We are proud to endorse Melinda Katz for Queens District Attorney,” said 1199SEIU Political Director Gabby Seay.

“As an attorney and public servant, she’s never shied away from a tough fight against powerful interests, and she’s always been deeply involved in the communities she represents. She’s proven time and again that she can create change and progress by building relationships neighborhood by neighborhood across Queens.”

Katz, the Queens borough president, is running in a hotly contested primary with multiple candidates on June 25.

“I’m thrilled to have 1199SEIU’s endorsement. Their members and leadership have been at the forefront of some of the most important fights in our state,” she said.

“From a higher minimum wage to expanded access to healthcare, they’ve won important victories for working people across our city and state. They also recognize that the District Attorney’s office can and should be a powerful tool in achieving social and economic justice. It’s an honor to have their support.”

Siena Poll Finds Half Of Voters Want To Move On From Mueller Report

Half of the voters in New York want to move on after the release of a report by Robert Mueller reviewing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, while 45 percent believe impeachment proceedings should begin against President Donald Trump, according to a Siena College poll released Tuesday morning.

Most voters — 62 percent to 29 percent — believe Russia sought to influence the election, a key finding of the Mueller report. And voters by a similar margin, 59 percent to 35 percent, believe Trump obstructed justice.

At the same time, most voters believe Trump committed offenses that are grounds for impeachment, 53 percent to 39 percent.

But 50 percent of voters do not say the president’s campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election, finding no proof of a conspiracy.

The Mueller report concluded there was no evidence Trump or his campaign worked with Russia to launch a campaign of false information into social media in order to purposely stoke national political discord. Mueller’s report, however, could not exonerate Trump on whether he sought to influence the outcome of the investigation.

Not surprisingly, impeachment breaks down along party lines: 61 percent of Democrats believe an inquiry should begin, 83 percent of Republicans and more than half of independent voters, 52 percent, believe it’s time to move on.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week in a radio interview said he supported the approach House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has take on the impeachment question, saying it was best to tread lightly.

“This is a controversial topic,” he said. “It’s not right or wrong. You can have different strategies and different tactics. I support Speaker Pelosi who frankly has more information than I have. She’s said, let’s develop the facts.”

He pointed to the experience Republicans had after the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and the subsequent political fallout.

“I was there in the Clinton administration when we went through that fiasco and it hurt the Republicans because the American people don’t want you paying politics with their tax dollars and their lives,” he said.

Thirty-four percent of voters in the president’s home state have a favorable view of him, while 63 percent do not, the poll found. Trump’s high unfavorable rating in New York has changed little month to month since he’s been in office.

The poll of 812 registered voters was conducted from June 2 to June 6. It has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

SNY0619 Crosstabs061119 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Democratic Senators Call For Cashless Bail Changes

Two Democratic state senators on Monday introduced a bill that seeks to alter the cashless bail changes lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to in the state budget.

The bill from Sens. Jim Gaughran and Monica Martinez would add to the list of offenses that qualify for judicial discretion in determining whether a criminal defendant poses a safety risk. The measure would alter a key criminal justice law change that had been long sought by advocates for several years.

Those offenses include manslaughter, sex crimes including against children, terrorism related charges, felony drug crimes related to drug trafficking, and bribery offenses involving public officials.

“When an individual poses a clear danger to public safety, an unbiased judicial expert must have the discretion to choose whether or not to release them without bail,” Gaughran said in a statement. “My bill advances on the historic criminal justice reforms made this year by maintaining the elimination of cash bail for low-level offenses, and returns a critical protection to judges by allowing them discretion to determine whether an individual poses a credible and identifiable threat to the public.”

The bill comes after Democratic State Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs in interviews acknowledged he discussed with lawmakers his concerns with a bill that would extend access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Jacobs, in an interview, said the list of progressive accomplishments like curtailing cash bail, could end up hurting Democrats in moderate districts next year.

Both Gaughran and Martinez represent Long Island Senate districts that were held by Republicans until last year.

“As policymakers, it is our fiduciary responsibility to safeguard the well being of our constituencies,” Martinez said.

“This legislation will allow judges to have discretion when determining whether an individual should be eligible for bail based on their offense and potential danger to society. We cannot turn a blind eye to repeat violent offenders and those who pose a threat to our children, families and friends.”

Senate Republicans scoffed at the proposal.

“Every Senate Republican, including those on Long Island, voted against these changes because we recognized early on that it was part of a dangerous ‘Criminal Bill of Rights’ that put the interests of convicted criminals ahead of the needs of victims, their families and the law-abiding public,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.

“These Senators could have chosen to stand up, show some leadership and reject these changes before they became law, but instead they went along with their New York City colleagues and failed their constituents. This legislation isn’t serious, it’s a cynical attempt to cover their butts. And, no one on Long Island is buying it.”

The bill also received the backing of Sen. John Brooks, a Long Island Democrat now in his second term, as well as Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island. It was also endorsed by Suffolk County District Tim Sini.

“I want to thank Senators Gaughran and Martinez for their diligent work towards improving this legislation and ensuring that public safety is effectively protected,” Sini said. “I also want to thank them for their willingness to engage law enforcement on this important issue.”

Espaillat Endorses Katz In Queens DA Race

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat on Monday is set to endorse Melinda Katz in the hotly contested primary for Queens district attorney.

“Over-policing and systemic biases in our criminal justice system have plagued communities across Queens and across our city,” said Espaillat, the first Dominican-American to serve in Congress. “We need meaningful criminal justice reform, and Melinda Katz is by far the best person to deliver that necessary change to Queens.”

The endorsement for Katz comes as she has received nods from a variety of prominent elected officials, including Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is appearing at a fundraiser for her, as well as key labor endorsements.

Katz is running in a crowded field for the Democratic nomination for DA that includes Tiffany Cabán, who has received a string of endorsements from progressive groups as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“Congressman Espaillat is an exceptional public servant. He’s dedicated his life to organizing his community and working on behalf of the Bronx and Manhattan,” said Katz, the Queens borough president. “His commitment to fighting for racial and social justice at every level of government has been an inspiration over the years that we’ve known each other. I’m honored to have his endorsement.”

Trial Lawyers Back Green Light Bill

From the Morning Memo:

The New York State Trial Lawyers Association on Friday will formally endorse a bill that would extend access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The trial lawyers group is the latest organization to endorse the measure as the Democratic-led Assembly is preparing a floor vote for the bill on Tuesday.

Their argument largely mirrors what supporters have sought to highlight in recent months — the measure would provide a measure of traffic safety. In a memorandum of support, the trial lawyers association pointed to the bill’s potential for increasing the number of insured drivers on the road.

“Ensuring drivers are capable and informed of traffic laws through proper licensing protects public safety,” the association wrote in a memo in support. “Just as important, proper licensing allows drivers to register their vehicles and procure insurance, which helps drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and the general public.”

The measure has gained the support in recent weeks from the Business Council, the Vegetable Growers Association as well as labor unions like 1199.

“Regardless of status, the streets are safer with increased transparency regarding who is driving a vehicle, and this legislation achieves that goal,” the group wrote. “All participants of the civil justice system would benefit from a system that increases information about New Yorkers relative to their use of a motor vehicle.”

Nevertheless, the bill’s chances of passage are in doubt as the Democratic-led state Senate continues to grapple with the proposal. Several suburban and upstate Democrats have raised concerns with the bill after speaking with local law enforcement officials.

And, on Thursday, state Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs confirmed he had spoken with multiple senators about the potential political toll the measure could carry for the party.

State Dem Chair’s Comments Stir Green Light Bill Debate

Comments made Thursday by state Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs have stirred an increasingly tension-filled debate at the state Capitol over whether to extend access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants living in New York.

Jacobs told several outlets on Thursday — including Spectrum News, Gothamist and Newsday — that he had spoken to Democratic state senators about his concerns with the bill and the potential political toll the measure would take in next year’s elections.

In an interview with Spectrum News, Jacobs said the package of progressive measures has in part been done too quickly in the Legislature without a public education campaign.

Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, emphasized efforts to work together in the party.

“This year the Democratic Majority took historic action by delivering on what we promised and the voters demanded,” he said. “We finally passed a permanent property tax cap, provided record school funding, stood up for women’s rights, passed strong gun laws, enacted voting reforms and protected the environment with even more to come. Every Democratic Leader, including the Party Chair, should celebrate these accomplishments rather than sowing divisions within the party.”

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, pointed to the episode as another reason to stoke opposition to the bill.

“Reports that Senate Democrats from Long Island are being instructed by Jay Jacobs to vote ‘no’ on legislation providing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants should scare every hardworking Long Island resident who opposes this bill. This is nothing more than a cynical political ploy,” Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan said.

“Hiding behind the New York City dominated Democratic Majority and simply voting ‘no’ is not enough. Either you stop the so-called ‘Green Light’ bill from coming to the floor or you signal to every one of your constituents that you support giving driver’s licenses to people who are here illegally. It’s really that simple.”

Jay Jacobs, Democratic Chairman, Urges Caution On Progressive Issues

New York State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs in an interview on Thursday confirmed he has spoken with Democratic state senators about his concerns surrounding the political fallout of a bill that would extend access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Jacobs’s discussions were first reported by Gotamist.

Jacobs declined to say which senators he spoke to, but did say not all were from Long Island, where Jacobs has served as the chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Committee.

“Any senator that was interested in my views on this matter, I gave them my view,” he said. “I’m just saying those that did reach out to me, I gave them my view.”

He added, “None of these senators won by landslides.”

The Democratic-led Assembly on Tuesday is expected to advance the measure, known as the Green Light bill, in a full floor vote for the first time. The proposal for the last decade has been a politically fraught issue for Democrats after it was first backed and later withdrawn by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Jacobs told me he was not acting at the behest of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said he would sign the bill, but on Thursday in a radio interview doubted whether Democrats in the Senate have the votes to pass it.

“The governor did not ask me to do or say anything on this matter,” he said.

And, more broadly, Jacobs said he was not acting on behalf of any concerns the governor may have privately about the proposal.

“I don’t think that’s fair to the governor, I don’t think that’s fair to me,” he said. “The governor is speaking about what’s good for government. I’m speaking about what’s good politically for those who are elected to govern.”

Jacobs reiterated his concerns in the interview about the measure’s political impact for Democrats elected in battleground districts. Democrats last year won a working majority in the state Senate for the first time in a decade, flipping Republican-held seats on Long Island and the Hudson Valley.

“I can’t say for sure what the outcome would be,” Jacobs said of the political fallout if the Green Light bill is approved. “We are getting such a banging on several of the things that the Democrats did this year that I’m afraid this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s not necessarily fatal if it’s the only thing we chose to do.”

Jacobs said Democrats in moderate-to-conservative areas of the state are “getting a lot of heat” on measures already approved this year like the Dream Act, which extends tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, eliminating cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies as well as a measure strengthening abortion laws.

Jacobs said the RHA, which he and Democrats formally backed, has been attacked “for the way it was written.”

“I think there’s a great deal to be said about doing some good informational education around these ideas and selling them before you do that,” he said. “There’s not been enough selling — press conferences, town hall forums. We’ve had none of that, where’s the rush?”

He added, “When you win with a tight margin and have representatives that come from regions that are not as progressive as others you have to be careful. The question I have to do you want to play the short game or the long game?”