State Senate

Ranzenhofer Retiring From State Senate

The third Republican state senator in the last week said he will not be seeking reelection in 2020.

Legislator Mike Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, announced Friday he will retire at the end of his term. Ranzenhofer has served in the state Senate for a decade.

“It has been the highest privilege to represent the many communities of WNY and I am proud of what we have accomplished together on behalf of residents,” he said in a statement.

Ranzenhofer, an attorney by trade, was the chair of the Senate Corporations Committee. His 61st district spans parts of Erie and Monroe Counties and all of Genesee.

Before being elected to the state Legislature he served on the Erie County Legislature.

“Despite my decision to retire, I will continue to fight for the residents of the 61st Senate District throughout the remainder of my term,” he said. “After many years of serving the community, I look forward to spending more time with my family.”

Several Republican names have immediately surfaced as potential replacements for Ranzenhofer. Among them is former state Assemblyman Ray Walter, who confirmed interest Friday but said any decision would come later.

Walter filled Ranzenhofer’s County Legislature Seat and his former 146th Assembly District overlaps with SD-61. He lost to Democrat Karen McMahon last year.

Walter currently serves as the first vice chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee.

“Mike has been a mentor and a friend for many years,” he tweeted. “He has been a great advocate for the people of WNY and served with unmatched integrity. We need more Mike Ranzenhofers in politics and government. Thank you.”

Other potential candidates include Walter’s former chief of staff Erin Baker who currently serves as the Erie GOP finance chair. Baker also is married to state Republican chairman Nick Langworthy.

Erie County Legislator Ed Rath could also be considered. Rath serves a large part of the state Senate district constituency and is the son of prominent former state Senator Mary Lou Rath.

Given the close ties between these potential candidates, the party would likely sort things out internally rather than hold a primary. However, other names could still surface.

Thursday, Warren County Republican Betty Little announced her retirement and last Friday state Senator George Amedore said he would not seek reelection. The state Senate flipped to Democratic control last election.

Are New York’s Senate Republicans Depressed?

The following post was written by Susan Arbetter:

On a recent Friday afternoon I was catching up with one of the reporters who cover the state Capitol and we got to talking about the Senate Republicans.

Where the hell are they, he asked.

He had a point.

The leadership of the Senate minority has been unusually quiet this fall. It’s as if they are stuck in stage 4 of Kubler-Ross’ timeline of grief.

If the cause is depression, the timing is lousy.

First, all of their seats are up for re-election next year. As of today, seven incumbents including Senator Michael Ranzenhofer have announced they would be resigning, retiring or gunning for new positions.

In the world of political campaigning, that’s bad news; it means the GOP will have to pour money into seats they thought were safe.

The second reason this apparent abdication of responsibility by the Senate Republicans is ill-timed, is that there is plenty of fodder for outrage in Albany, real or manufactured, around Gov. Cuomo’s alleged meddling in an ethics board’s decision-making. Again.

Whether Cuomo is guilty or not of having had an inappropriate conversation with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie over a JCOPE vote isn’t the point.

The point is, that the minority party plays an important role in a democracy, and the Senate Republicans appear to be missing from the current state of play.

Thomas Jefferson ensured that, at the federal level, institutional procedures guarantee the political minority the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the legislative process. Certainly those rules apply in New York, too, whether or not the legislature is in session?

Put another way, former Congressman Robert Walker once said “the chief job of the minority party is to become the majority.”

To be sure, not all Republicans have been silent.

After the Times Union broke the JCOPE news, GOP Chair Nick Langworthy issued a press release calling the Governor’s alleged sway over the ethics board “unconscionable”.

And Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Geneva) has again called for the creation of a new ethics panel in the New York Daily News.

Kolb also told the New York Post, “This was never a serious investigation; in fact, it has the appearance of a cover-up.”

Perhaps I missed it, but I can’t find anything from Senator Minority Leader John Flanagan, and a couple of emails to his spokesperson haven’t been answered.

Granted the GOP may have a lot to be depressed about in New York State: They are losing net enrollment. They lost their majority in the State Senate. They have less money and clout than they used to have.

Personally I understand how frustrating it can be when someone who knows nothing about depression says, “Hey, just snap out of it”. It’s not at all helpful. But this was: A therapist once recommended that I “simply go through the motions” until my “mojo” returned.

Along with some pharmaceutical help, it worked.

Minus the Prozac, I think that’s good advice for the Senate minority, too.

Don’t New Yorkers deserve more than a 1-party system?

Republicans Depart State Senate

Sen. Betty Little on Thursday became the latest Republican lawmaker to announce retirement plans for 2020.

In doing so, Little added to the growing exodus of Republicans from the chamber: Sen. George Amedore will not seek re-election to a district drawn with him in mind in 2012, Sen. Bob Antonacci is leaving for a central New York judgeship at the end of the month ending a half-term tenure, Sen. Cathy Young resigned earlier this year after losing a leadership vote.

Two Republicans in the Senate, Chris Jacobs and Robert Ortt, are running for an open congressional seat in western New York.

The reasons why these lawmakers are departing are varied. Some represent districts Democrats have a shot at flipping, some are safe Republican seats.

But the bottom line: It’s not fun being in the minority in Albany. You can’t control the flow of legislation, you don’t get the choice office space, you have less money.

Being in the political wilderness in the Capitol is not an inducement for sticking around.

Betty Little Becomes Latest Senate GOP Retirement

Republican Sen. Betty Little, a longtime fixture in North Country politics, will not seek re-election to the state Senate seat she has held since 2002, she announced on Thursday.

“Although it is very difficult for me to contemplate stepping away from the public service that I love so much, it’s time,” Little said during her announcement Thursday in Glens Falls. “Being able to do this work for so many years has been the greatest honor. I’ve not taken one moment of it for granted.”

Little is the second Republican lawmaker within the last week in the Senate to announce plans to not run again next year. Republican Sen. George Amedore last week said he will retire from the chamber after representing a Mohawk and Hudson Valley Senate district since 2015.

Little is a widely respected lawmaker in Albany among Republicans and Democrats alike.

“The senator was always willing to explain her position and seek opportunities to work together, even when we didn’t always agree,” said William Janeway, the executive director of the Adirondack Council.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro also praised her, calling her a “wonderful individual” and among the “dignified voices in Albany.”

“While her demeanor, strength, and grace will be missed in the Capitol, she has more than earned this next chapter of her life,” he said. “Thank you senator.”

NYSUT Endorses Mannion For Senate

The New York State United Teachers union on Monday formally endorsed Democrat John Mannion in his second bid for a central New York Senate district.

“John’s intimate knowledge of public education and the issues facing our students and staff would be a huge boon to the Senate,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said.

“NYSUT supports candidates who share our values and strong belief in the power of organized labor, and in John, we know we have a true friend and advocate who will put Central New York’s students and working families first.”

Mannion, a biology teacher and president of the West Genesee District Teachers Association, is running again for the seat that’s being vacated by Republican Bob Antonacci at the end of the year. Antonacci defeated Mannion last year for the district, formerly held by Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Republican.

It’s not year clear when or if a special election would be called to fill the seat, though Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month indicated he would consider doing so.

Zemskys To Hold Fundraiser For Ryan’s Senate Bid

EKj3OHtWwAUSFvYFrom the Morning Memo:

Howard and Leslie Zemsky are getting behind the state Senate bid of Democrat Sean Ryan.

The couple will hold a fundraiser next week for Ryan, a state assemblyman seeking the Senate seat held by Republican Chris Jacobs, who himself is running for the House district vacated this year by GOP former Rep. Chris Collins.

Contributions to attend the Dec. 10 event at the Larkin Filling Station range from $250 to $1,000.

Howard Zemsky is a former top economic development advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Democrats view the race as a potential pickup opportunity in western New York for the conference, which won the majority a year ago for the first time in a decade.

Bill Banning Mercury Flooring From Schools Approved

A bill eliminating toxic mercury flooring from schools in New York was approved on Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The new law will also set standards for mercury exposure among students and school staff as well as ban schools from installing additional mercury-emitting surfaces.

The measure was sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin.

“All students deserve to learn in a safe environment, free of harmful, poisonous chemicals,” Kaminsky said in a statement.

“Thanks to Governor Cuomo, the enactment of this legislation to tackle mercury exposure will protect our children’s safety, while giving parents peace of mind. Safeguarding our students in and out of the classroom must continue to be a priority — the leaders of tomorrow deserve no less.”

The bill was a response to concerns of mercury exposure in gyms at schools on Long Island, which ultimately led to Kaminsky seeking an investigation and an State Education Department fact-finding memo to schools asking they report back if they have any mercury flooring.

On Long Island, Dems Hope For Labor Boost With Ahearn

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic state Senate candidate Laura Ahearn, running for the seat held by longtime Republican Sen. Kenneth LaValle, is racking up a series of labor union endorsements in her bid.

Ahearn’s campaign on Friday is set to announce her backing from the Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades Council, a nod that has dovetailed with the backing of other unions, including the Steamfitters Local 638 and IBEW Local 25.

“The Building & Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties are pleased to inform you that we have endorsed your candidacy for State Senate in the 1st district,” said Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades Council President Matthew Aracich in the endorsement announcement. “Members of the Executive Board had extensive discussion, and when put to a vote, not a single voice raised opposition.”

The early days of Ahearn’s bid has seen some fundraising success. She has raised $70,886 so far a month into the campaign.

“I’m excited and humbled by the early support our campaign has received from individuals, unions and organizations who want me to go to Albany to fight for Suffolk County families,” she said in a statement.

“I’ve dedicated my life to protecting and fighting for our most vulnerable through my non-profit, The Crime Victims Center, Parents for Megan’s Law, my law practice where I represent victims of violent crime, or the work I’ve done supporting and drafting local, state and federal legislation to strengthen community and victim’s rights and give law enforcement and prosecution the tools they need to succeed. I’m excited to take my experience to Albany to continue fighting for families and ensuring Suffolk County gets its fair share from Albany.”

EC Dems Could Potentially Endorse In SD-60 And NY-27 Thursday

The Erie County Democratic Committee executive committee is meeting Thursday evening with several high profile 2020 races potentially on the agenda.

Sources said the committee plans to interview current Assemblyman Sean Ryan about his run for New York’s 60th State Senate District. They expect the committee will vote and announce Ryan’s endorsement shortly afterward.

Republican state Senator Chris Jacobs currently holds the seat but isn’t expected to run for re-election. He is instead campaigning for the open 27th Congressional District, vacated by convicted Republican Chris Collins.

ECDC could also make a decision on NY-27 special election Thursday. The governor has not called the election yet but 2018 candidate Nate McMurray’s campaign has already announced seven of eight county chairs in the district support him.

Those chairs account for roughly 51 percent of a weighted vote to designate a candidate for the special. However, Erie County Chair Jeremy Zellner accounts for the other 49 percent of the vote and has indicated he will not rush his decision just because the other chairs said they support McMurray.

He said he has to work through the endorsement process with members of the committee. McMurray confirmed he plans to attend the executive committee meeting Thursday evening.

Sources said he could potentially be endorsed afterward, as well, if the committee takes a vote. Health and education advocate Melodie Baker has also expressed interest in the Democratic designation.

Stewart-Cousins Says Money For Criminal Justice Reforms Taken ‘Under Advisement’

Local governments seeking more money to enact and implement a package of criminal justice law changes should not be standing by their mailbox waiting for the check to arrive.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Monday in a radio interview indicated the concerns raised by local prosecutors, Attorney General Letitia James and, just today, mayors meeting in Albany, will be taken “under advisement.”

“I think we are taking a look and we will continue to monitor the money. Obviously we’re going into the budget,” she said in an interview with WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom.

She added, “I don’t think that’s what we’re doing right now, but as I said our conference has been one that’s committed to looking at issues holistically and solving them.”

Local officials over the last several weeks have urged state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include more funding for the implementation of ending cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies as well as discovery law changes that require expedited access to evidence.

Republican lawmakers in the state Senate have called for the changes, set to take effect at the start of the new year, to be delayed until more money can be approved.

The Cuomo administration, meanwhile, has said funding is available through a reduction in the number of people in county jails and the closure of the Internet sales tax loophole.

“There is no question resources are available for the implementation of these critical reforms as the State invests more than $300 million to support them and local governments will recognize hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings from a declining inmate population,” said Freeman Klopott a spokesman, for the Division of Budget.

Stewart-Cousins, meanwhile, said the changes were necessary to avoid people languishing in jails like Rikers Island.

“I think the criminal justice reform is long overdue. We’re trying to fix a broken system,” she said in the interview.

“We’re trying to bring justice. Obviously we want justice to be served to victims of crime, but also we want to have a just system for people who are accused of a crime to have a speedy trial, to know what they’re being charged with and have an opportunity to defend themselves as well.”