Democrats

Lawmakers Seek End To Amazon-Size Deals

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers have introduced a bill meant to create a national effort that would prevent competition for taxpayer-subsidized bidding wars for major companies like Amazon seeking to relocate to new states.

The bill, backed by Assemblyman Ron Kim and Sen. Julia Salazar, is being picked up in other states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Florida, Arizona, among others.

The bill, known as the End Corporate Welfare Act, would create an interstate compact ending large incentive packages, essentially creating a truce in the bidding war for major projects with states piecing together tax break offerings for companies.

“Economic development spending in New York is fundamentally broken, and despite the poor results of these policies, we persist in offering corporations blank checks without any accountability mechanism,” Salazar said. “With this interstate compact, we will stop the race to the bottom that companies have used to pit the working classes of different states against each other.”

The measure comes as Amazon plans to bring up to 40,000 jobs to Long Island City in Queens tied to $3 billion in tax incentives. The plan, which is being split with northern Virginia, came after a nationwide search for Amazon’s new campus.

A Siena poll released Tuesday found a majority of New York voters, 56 to 36 percent, backed the Amazon plan, including by a 23-percentage point margin in New York City.

“When municipalities and states bend over backwards for the chance to give billions to mega-companies, we all lose,” Kim said in a statement. “In the last few decades, corporate welfare has extracted untold amounts of resources from our communities, money that could have been used to boost affordable housing, improve transportation infrastructure, and adequately fund our public school systems.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday once again defended the deal, calling it a major boost for New York and a signal the state was entering the tech economy.

Cuomo added a potential “tipping point” for the company was the nomination of Sen. Mike Gianaris, a critic of the deal, to a board that could have veto power over the project.

James, Meeting With Cuomo Lays Out Criminal Justice Reform

From the Morning Memo:

Attorney Letitia James met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday to discuss various criminal justice reform measures, including an end to cash bail and strengthening support services for mentally ill people.

“We look forward to working with the Legislature to reduce the prison population and focus primarily on individuals who are suffering from poverty and individuals who are mentally ill,” James said on Monday. “Being poor shouldn’t be a crime and individuals who are suffering from mental illness should be diverted from the criminal justice system.”

Advocates for criminal justice reform will be in Albany today to push for the legislation. Lawmakers are also discussing ways to end or limit the use of solitary confinement as well as reforms that would lead to speedier trials.

James, speaking with reporters in her office at the Capitol, said the goal is to end a cycle of people returning to prison.

“If we could focus on preventive programs and reduce recidivisim it would go a long way across the state of New York,” she said.

#VOTERPROCHOICE Endorses Mark-Viverito For Public Advocate

The abortion and reproductive rights group #VOTERPROCHOICE on Monday endorsed former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in the crowded race for New York City public advocate.

The group pointed to the tilt in the balance of the Supreme Court last year following the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the court.

“Melissa Mark-Viverito is the prochoice champion we need as Public Advocate and #VOTEPROCHOICE is thrilled to endorse her today. With Trump in the White House and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, the repeal of Roe is closer than ever — and we need prochoice champions on the local level to protect our reproductive freedom. As Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito made reproductive freedom a top priority, from supporting legislation to protect New Yorkers from fraudulent anti-abortion pregnancy service centers to creating a new sexual education task force, to advocating for free birth control for New York City residents,” said #VOTEPROCHOICE co-founder Heidi Sieck.

“As Public Advocate, Melissa Mark-Viverito will hold all city services and policies accountable as related to sexuality, health and wellbeing through the office’s oversight responsibilities and through her ability to introduce legislation. Reproductive freedom is a part of nearly every service and impacts every single New Yorker. We must have a Public Advocate who understands that and Melissa Mark-Viverito truly does.”

Mark-Viverito is one of 17 candidates who will appear on the Feb. 20 for the office vacated by Attorney General Letitia James.

“I am proud to have the support of #VOTEPROCHOICE. I have always championed reproductive rights, from supporting legislation to protect women from fraudulent anti-abortion pregnancy service centers to advocating for free birth control for New Yorkers to creating a sexual education task force,” she said.

“Our reproductive freedom is under attack by Trump and his administration, and we need leaders with unwavering support for our rights in local office. As Public Advocate, I will continue to stand with women and fight for reproductive freedom for all.”

May: Restore AIM Funding

Add Democratic state Sen. Rachel May to the push to keep direct aid to municipalities in the final budget agreement as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal seeks to cut the funding in his spending plan.

“I have spoken with leaders across my district — town supervisors, school superintendents, county legislators and executives — and all have expressed their deep concerns over this loss of funding to our local governments,” May said.

“I am fully committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that AIM funding is restored in the final 2019-2020 budget. Our residents in Central New York already bear a heavy tax burden and should not be expected to shoulder more. Even where AIM funding has represented a small percentage of total budgets, it often accounts for a much larger portion of the tax levy, so these cuts will result in significantly higher taxes or loss of services, or both. Our communities deserve better.”

Cuomo’s proposal would end the funding, known as AIM, to local governments that do not overly rely on the money if it accounts for less than 2 percent of their overall revenues.

But May pointed to local governments in her central New York district that stand to lose as much as $1.17 million should the cuts go through. The town of Salina faces the largest, standing to lose more than $290,000.

Rozic, Hoylman Seek Updated Hate Crimes Stats

Two Democratic state lawmakers are calling on the Division of Criminal Justice Services to publish updated hate crimes statistics amid concerns over a rise in violence against vulnerable groups.

The most recent hate crimes statistics posted to the agency’s website are from 2016.

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Sen. Brad Holyman in a letter sent this week to the division’s executive deputy commissioner, Michael Green, pointed to the uptick in reports of hate crimes around New York.

The lawmakers want both the 2017 report published as well as a timeline for when the 2018 report will be available for review.

“With recent dramatic increases in hate crimes and hate-based incidents in New York State, the annual report would contain crucial data for legislators and policymakers as we develop proposals to address these troubling trends,” the lawmakers wrote.

The compiling of the data can be a time-consuming task for the agency, which receives the raw data from 500 police departments around the state.

In a statement, DCJS spokeswoman Janine Kava said the report will be published soon.

“The report is in the final stages of review and will available in the very near future,” she said. “We will make sure the legislature gets a copy as soon as possible. Police agencies are required to report hate crime incidents to DCJS, but the timeliness of this reporting can vary by agency. We want to ensure that the report, when published, includes the most comprehensive, accurate data available.”

Lawmakers Seek Higher Minimum Wage For Prison Inmates

Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday announced legislation that would raise the minimum wage prison inmates in New York to $3 an hour.

The bill would put New York on par with four other states that set $3 as the minimum wage for those in prison — Nevada, Alaska, Maine and Kansas.

Currently, inmates earn between 10 cents and $1.14 an hour for tasks such as cleaning, maintenance and manufacturing products.

Most people who are in New York state prisons are required to work six hours a day for five days a week. The last minimum wage increase for inmates was in 1993.

“Incarcerated people are human beings. They deserve to be treated with dignity and to share in the fruits of their labor,” said Sen. Zellnor Myrie, the chairman of the Senate Elections Committee. “The fact that New York’s incarcerated people contribute tens of millions of dollars in revenue to the state and haven’t gotten a pay increase in more than a quarter century is unacceptable, and this legislation will change that. Justice for incarcerated people in New York is overdue.”

Lawmakers also pointed to expenses incurred during incarceration, such as phone calls and stamps and purchasing goods at commissaries.

“New York must lock up and throw away the key on the exploitive practice of condoning prison slave labor and restore the human dignity of men and women serving time in our prison system,” said Assemblyman Nick Perry. “Their labor powers an industry in our state which generates upwards of $50 million, but the indignity, and immorality of our continuous violation of the human rights of these persons in our prisons is debasing to us as a great state and nation that respects and values humanity.”

Trump Criticizes RHA, Calls For Late-Term Abortion Ban

President Donald Trump criticized New York lawmakers for approving a bill strengthening abortion rights in the state and called in his State of the Union address on Tuesday for a ban on late-term abortion.

“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from a mother’s womb moments from birth,” Trump said in the speech.

The Reproductive Healh Act, approved last month by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, shifted language for abortions from the state’s penal code to the public health law, changed abortion’s status as an exception to homicide and allows abortions in the third trimester of a pregnancy under certain circumstances.

The bill, introduced more than a decade ago, did not gain a vote in the state Senate until Democrats won majority control in November.

Republican lawmakers in New York have argued the measure fell short of protecting pregnant women against assault. Nationally, those opposed to abortion have sought to turn the New York law, along with a Virginia measure, into a galvanizing event over the issue.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has argued the measure is necessary for New York should the Supreme Court overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.

“NY has a message to those who spread lies & fear to control women’s reproductive health: Not gonna happen. Not now, not ever,” Cuomo wrote in Twitter in response to the president.

Crothers To Attend State Of The Union As Morelle Guest

Elizabeth Crothers, a former legislative aide who had accused a top staffer to then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of rape, will attend the State of the Union with Rep. Joe Morelle.

Morelle, a Democrat from the Rochester area, had publicly dismissed Crother’s story as a member of the state Legislature, but later issued an apology. He’s since held conversations with a group of former legislative aides who have filed sexual harassment and assault complaints.

“Congressman Morelle has taken the time to listen to victims of sexual harassment and assault about our experiences, and how these experiences can help inform policymakers. He has also reached out to former colleagues in the NYS Legislature about the value of public hearings and the need to listen to victims,” Crothers said Tuesday in a statement released by the Sexual Harassment Working Group. “This is what institutional courage looks like, and I look forward to attending the State of the Union with him.”

State lawmakers on Feb. 13 will hold a public hearing on the issue of sexual harassment, abuse and assault in Albany after the group called on the Legislature to do so.

Gillibrand, Meeks Call For Northam To Step Down

From the Morning Memo:

New York Democrats over the weekend pushed for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after a racist yearbook medical school yearbook photo emerged opposite his picture.

“It has become abundantly clear that Governor Northam‘s press conference and conflicting explanation has failed to settle this matter and restore faith in his leadership,” said Rep. Greg Meeks. “So long as he remains Governor, Governor of a state that once elected the first black Governor in our United States, there will continue to be a lingering shadow over that office.”

The Northam controversy has also bled into the presidential campaign, with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand calling on him to step down, among other 2020 Democratic nominees.

Northam so far has resisted calls for his resignation from Republicans and Democrats alike. After initially apologizing for the photo, which features one person in a Klan hood and another in blackface, Northam has insisted neither person is him.

The controversy over the photo was preceded by Northam being criticized for comments made about an abortion rights bill in the Virginia Legislature that had stirred opposition to the Legislature.

In New York, state lawmakers last month approved legislation meant to strengthen abortion rights in New York. Both measures have led to a national mobilization of abortion opponents.

Lawmakers Likely To Try Again On 3-D Printed Guns

A bill meant to ban guns manufactured through 3-D printers is expected to be tweaked after concerns were raised it would cover too many firearms as initially written.

“There were some technicalities on one and really needing to have a better definition and understanding on the other,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said at a press conference on Tuesday. “We want to move things out quickly, especially things that have been hanging around for a long time, but we want to do it right.”

The bill sought to restrict the possession of so-called “ghost guns” and require firearms have “each major component” be detectable by a metal detector.

Components of many modern-day firearms, like grips, are made of plastic.

“The guns used to be all made of steel with plastic grips,” said Tom King of the New York Rifle And Pistol Association. “But people wanted lighter guns to carry around. I don’t think there’s a manufacturer out there who doesn’t make one.”

King estimated this would cover about “80 percent” of legal guns in circulation.

The Democratic-led Legislature on Tuesday approved a package of gun control bills that included a ban on teachers and non-police officers from possessing guns on school grounds, an extension of the waiting period to 30 days as well as a “red flag” bill that restricts the possession of guns for people who are deemed to be too dangerous. Lawmakers also approved a bill requiring the State Police administer a gun buyback program.