Bellone’s Re-Election Bid Endorsed By 1199 SEIU

Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Wednesday was endorsed by the politically key 1199 SEIU.

“As County Executive, I’ve stood with the hardworking men and women of labor to fight back against anti-union efforts and Washington’s assault on the middle class. I am honored to receive the support of 1199 SEIU, and I will never stop fighting to build an economy that creates opportunity and good paying jobs for all Suffolk residents.”

Bellone, first elected in 2011, is seeking a third term. He faces Republican Comptroller John Kennedy.

Legislature Approves Environmental Measures

The Democratic-controlled state Legislature on Tuesday approved a package of measures meant to strengthen laws against potentially dangerous chemicals in toys and other consumer products, as well as the first passage a constitutional amendment guaranteeing environmental safeguards.

“The new Senate Democratic Majority understands the dangers of toxic chemicals in our kids’ toys, and that’s why we’re combatting that practice. This should not have taken many years, and a leadership change, to pass,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.

“State government must take a leadership role in the fight against climate change, and we have a responsibility to future generations to take action today. The legislation passed by the Senate Majority will help guarantee that all New Yorkers have a Constitutional right to clean air and water. The Senate Democratic Majority will continue to be a leader in the fight against climate change and we will pass more legislation to protect our environment and New Yorkers’ health.”

The bills include new regulations for chemicals in children’s products and toys, banning certain pesticides, promoting solar energy, regulations for lead in jewelry and water standards.

The constitutional amendment, long sought by some environmental groups, would guarantee the right to clean air and water in the state.

“The legislation we pass today is a critical step in safeguarding our environment, economy and the health of all New Yorkers,” Speaker Carl Heastie said. “While Washington continues to roll back protections for the environment and public health, the Assembly Majority will continue fighting to preserve our environment for generations of New Yorkers to come.”

The amendment has raised concerns from groups who are supportive of tort reform.

“While we strongly support a healthy environment, the proposed amendment will lead to a flood of lawsuits, not cleaner air or water,” said Tom Stebbins, the executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance. “Similar legislation has been rejected in other states due to the burden increased litigation will place on municipalities and government entities. Moreover, costly lawsuits filed against environmental permit holders will delay critical infrastructure projects including clean energy and climate resilience projects. There are ways to provide a clean environment to New Yorkers. This is not one of them.”

Kennedy Tour Highlights Infrastructure Projects

Buffalo Democratic Sen. Tim Kennedy last week took a tour of infrastructure projects around Long Island with the Long Island Contractors’ Association.

The trip was part of an effort by the group to shine a light on ongoing infrastructure projects in the state, with stops at construction and transportation areas.

“This is a critical time for Long Island. Next year the state will begin allocating funds for their capital plan. The Nassau-Suffolk region faces several challenges, most notably, that our transportation system is the most congested in the State of New York,” said Marc Herbst, Executive Director of the Long Island Contractors’ Association.

“Governor Cuomo has been a fierce advocate for Long Island and developing the state’s infrastructure needs. I am thrilled he has allies like Senator Kennedy in the legislature.”

Kennedy became Transportation Committee chairman earlier this year.

The group pointed to the heavy volume of traffic on Long Island, with more than 20 percent of all registered motor vehicles in the state located on Long Island.

Progressive Groups Urge Senate To Take Up ‘Clean’ Public Financing Bill

A coalition of dozens of progressive organizations on Friday released a letter urging the Democratic-led state Senate to take up a bill creating a system of public financed campaigns in New York.

The letter, distributed by the group True Blue NY, comes amid disappointment from some Democratic lawmakers and organizations on the left that the approved state budget that left the creation of the public financing program up to a commission.

The groups write the details of public financing and other election law changes “was shifted from democratically elected legislators to an easily manipulated commission of political appointees.”

“This is why we call on you and the Senate Democrats to introduce and pass a clean public financing bill this session,” the letter states. “We cannot depend on this commission to write a bill that will follow widely accepted guidelines from experts in the field, and include an independent enforcement model.”

Opposition to publicly financed campaigns was strongest in the state Assembly, where some lawmakers, including Speaker Carl Heastie, signaled they were skeptical about the expense, enforcement and the role super PACs would still be able to play in campaign finance.

The commission is due to release its report on campaign finance and election law changes by the end of the year.

State lawmakers return from a two-week to Albany on Monday.

Grassroots Letter to Leader Stewart-Cousins – Post Budget-3 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

CSEA Endorses Pat Ryan For County Exec

The Civil Service Employees Association on Thursday endorsed Democratic Ulster County executive candidate Pat Ryan.

“Pat Ryan is the right choice for Ulster County,” said CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo. “Pat has a positive vision to create better opportunities for all working people in Ulster County. As a West Point graduate and veteran of our nation’s military, he has the leadership skills that will allow him to hit the ground running as soon as he takes office.”

Ryan’s endorsement from CSEA, the state’s largest public-employees labor union, comes after nods from the Working Families and Independence parties, as well as a range of Democratic officeholders including U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

He’s also received the backing of local labor groups like Ulster County Deputy Sheriffs’ PBA, Upper Hudson Central Labor Council, New England Regional Council of Carpenters Laborers Local 17 and the Hudson Valley Building and Construction Trade Council.

“I am the only candidate publicly backed by labor, statewide and countywide officials, newspapers, and activists. They are supporting our campaign because they know that our forward-looking vision for Ulster County is what we need at this moment,” Ryan said in a statement. “I am proud to have a wide-ranging coalition behind us and as County Executive, I will work to fight for and represent the people of Ulster County.”

New York Pushes Back Against Census Question

From the Morning Memo:

New York is among those leading a legal challenge to a new question on the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census that asks whether a person is a citizen.

Immigration advocates, as well as New York elected officials, fear the question will have a chilling effect on residents, documented or otherwise, leading them to not participate in the survey and resulting in an undercount.

The question is being challenged at the U.S Supreme Court.

“This case should be decided on the merits of the arguments and according to the letter of the law,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

“I strongly believe that the facts and the record support our claims and am hopeful that the Honorable Justices will agree. At the same time, we cannot fail to recognize that—at the heart of this matter—there is more at issue here than just surveys and statistics. It is about how our government is organized, how power is equally divided, and how aid is distributed equitably.”

New York is already likely due to lose at least one seat in the House of Representatives, whose membership is determined by a state’s population, amid slow population growth over the last decade. The state lost two states after the 2010 Census.

But New York City especially has seen its population grow amid a surge in immigration in recent years. Nearly half of the workforce in New York City alone is composed of immigrant workers.

“Fundamentally, the decennial census is a measure we use to deliver on fairness, one of our nation’s core tenets. Fairness requires that assistance reaches those who need it the most,” James said in the statement. “It requires that communities have equal representation in government and that no group, or neighborhood, or individual is marginalized. Adding a question about citizenship to the census would lead to undercounting communities across America—particularly in immigrant and Hispanic communities.”

The state government is leading it a separate effort meant to ensure a fair count through the New York Department of State, with a task force holding meetings around the state on the issue.

Hoylman Wants Trump Tax Return Assist For Federal Lawmakers

From the Morning Memo:

A deadline set by Democrats on the House Ways & Means Committee to turnover President Donald Trump’s tax returns was blown by the Treasury Department on Tuesday.

Sen. Brad Hoylman in a statement said that’s a sign New York elected officials should provide some assistance.

Hoylman is the sponsor of a bill that would enable the state Department of Taxation and Finance to provide the president’s state tax returns to federal lawmakers as part of their inquiring into Trump’s personal finances.

“By refusing to comply with the second request by the House Ways & Means Committee to turn over six years of his tax returns, Donald Trump is defying federal law,” Hoylman said. “This is nothing short of a constitutional crisis—but it is one that New York State can help avert. Washington has failed to give the American people the accountability they deserve. Now it’s time for New York to take the lead.”

Hoylman is the sponsor of several proposals meant to pry open the president’s tax returns. Trump has broken with the modern political tradition of releasing his tax returns to the public for review claiming he is under audit, though that does not prevent him from releasing them.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said state lawmakers should also be willing to make their tax returns public in order to make the provision as broad as possible should it be challenged by Trump.

Kim Urges Democratic Field To Embrace Student Debt Cancellation

Assemblyman Ron Kim on Tuesday in a statement urged Democrats running for president to back an effort to cancel student loan debt.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren this week unveiled a plan that would do so. Kim, a Democrat from Queens, has back legislation that would enable student loan debt cancellation on the state level.

Kim’s state-level bill would enable local governments as well as the state to purchase the debate and write it down.

“For months, I have pushed our federal government to take student debt cancellation seriously. Instead of continuing the status quo, a failing higher education market that puts millions of Americans in a lifetime of debt, I introduced legislation that would allow local and state governments to buy, write down, and cancel student debt,” Kim said.

“The federal government must also quell this crisis by not underwriting any more bad loans to private colleges, and revert back to funding tuition-free public colleges. Lastly, Congress must eliminate decades of bad laws that forbid student loan borrowers from discharging their debt through bankruptcy.”

Maryland’s O’Malley Endorses 311 In Suffolk

From the Morning Memo:

The pending 311 information system in Suffolk County has won the backing of Democratic former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The non-emergency alternative line debuted in Baltimore in 311, where O’Malley was then the mayor.

Suffolk County’s system is set to go live next month. The number is meant to provide information for residents by having a government contact to call that is not an emergency line and can reduce congestion for 911 call centers.

“There is a revolution going in American government today and it is being led by well-run counties and cities,” O’Malley said in a statement.

“It’s all about performance and delivery, treating citizens as customers, getting things done with greater efficiency and greater accountability. It’s really the heart of civic trust for municipalities to serve as the laboratories of innovation and 311 has become the gold standard for data-driven results. I commend Suffolk County Executive Bellone for embracing this model and it is my sincere hope that other counties in New York follow his lead.”

Suffolk County’s 311 system has won the backing of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Michael Balboni, a former top official in the state’s Homeland Security office.

Ramos Endorses Cabán For Queens DA

Queens Sen. Jessica Ramos on Monday endorsed Tiffany Cabán in the borough’s race for district attorney.

“I am endorsing Tiffany Cabán for Queens District Attorney because she will bring the transformative change our criminal justice system needs to deliver real justice to our communities,” Ramos said. “Tiffany’s experience as a public defender has given her a first hand look into the ways the courts have failed, and she knows the work that must be done for the most vulnerable of our neighbors.”

Cabán, a public defender, is running in a Democratic primary to succeed incumbent Richard Brown. She faces Borough President Melinda Katz, Judge Greg Lasak and Councilman Rory Lancman.

“I am honored to receive an endorsement from State Senator Jessica Ramos,” Cabán said.

“An ever-present force in her community, she consistently centers the voices of the most vulnerable in her policymaking. In doing so, Senator Ramos has taken bold steps to decriminalize sex work, defend her immigrant constituents, and gain protections for day laborers and farmworkers. A staunch advocate for community-centered solutions to criminal justice issues, Senator Ramos knows that in order to create safe communities, we must treat violence as a public health issue. I look forward to working with Senator Ramos to ensure the safety and stability of every Queens resident.”