Ocasio-Cortez Releases Fundraising Email For Cabán

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday released a fundraising email for Queens Democratic district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán ahead of the crowded June primary.

In the email, Ocasio-Cortez seek small dollar donations — as low as $3 — for Cabán’s campaign. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Cabán’s bid earlier this week.

“Tiffany can’t win without you,” she wrote. “In these local elections, entrenched power and corporate PACs are especially hard to beat — will you counteract their influence and fight for criminal justice reform with a $3 contribution today?”

And the email frames the push around an effort to change the state’s criminal justice laws and a renewed approach to prosecution.

“For too long, the Queens DA has stood by as mass incarceration has ravaged our communities. New York pays $143,000 every year to keep someone incarcerated — just imagine what we could do if we instead invested that money in health care, infrastructure, or education,” the email states.

“Tiffany sees it the way we do. She’s spent years as a public defender in the city — defending some of our most vulnerable communities against a criminal justice system that just wants to throw folks behind bars. Countless people that she’s defended would tell stories about how Tiffany would walk them through issues with immigration, research job opportunities, and build a stable life for themselves.”

Ninety-Eight Percent Of School Districts Approve Budgets

The vast majority of school districts on Tuesday approved their proposed budgets, a pass rate of 98 percent, according to the New York State United Teachers union.

“Parents and community members showed their commitment to strong public education by resoundingly approving school budgets statewide in near-unanimous fashion yet again and electing to school boards educators dedicated to serving their area’s students,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “At a time when resources have been limited, it has never been more important for voters to stay engaged in and support our public school students and their dedicated teachers.”

At the same time, 29 NYSUT members were elected to school board seats.

The review by the union found of the 576 school budgets put before voters, only 10 were defeated. The pass rate for school district budgets has been around 98 percent for the last five years as districts set spending plans within a limit on how much they can raise in property tax levies.

Eight of the 10 budgets that were defeated had sought to override the tax cap.

“While we were disappointed the tax cap was made permanent earlier this year, NYSUT will not stop fighting for changes to this law to ensure schools are receiving the resources they need to thrive,” Pallotta said.

Lawmakers Approve Bill Opening Up Trump’s Taxes For Congressional Review

State lawmakers on Wednesday put the finishing touches on a bill that is meant to provide their counterparts in Congress access to President Donald Trump’s New York tax returns.

The bill, along with a chapter amendment meant to narrow the scope of the legislation to cover only public officials who file taxes in New York, is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Republicans in the Legislature blasted the bill as politically motivated and a distraction from issues facing the state, like jobs, taxes and the economy. Democrats, however, countered the measure was meant to provide a dose of transparency for elected officials.

The measure dovetailed with the final passage of a separate bill on Tuesday that allows New York prosecutors to bring cases against those the president has pardoned if a state law was broken.

“This is a bill that’s more narrowly tailored and gives comfort to our colleagues that the bill will protect the privacy protections of tax returns and accomplish the goal of the state of New York standing up for Congress as a co-equal branch of government,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsors the bill. “The bottom line is no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.”

The bill requires the state Department of Taxation commissioner to provide copies of any public official’s tax filings if request by Congress. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are pushing for access to Trump’s federal tax filings. As a candidate, Trump broke with decades of tradition and declined to release his taxes voluntarily.

“This bill stands for the principle of transparency with regards to top officials tax returns,” said Assemblyman David Buchwald. “Shedding light on tax returns is an important public purpose.”

While the bill was narrowed in scope, Buchwald said it would still make thousands of public officials taxes open for review by Congress.

Republicans, however, saw things differently.

“I thought it was a shameless exhibition of putting politics ahead of any policy,” said Assemblyman Andy Goodell, the Republican floor leader.

Goodell noted voters were aware of Trump’s stance prior to the election that he would not release his taxes.

“President Trump was clear he’s not releasing his tax returns before the election,” he said. “That was clearly out in the public.”

Counties Falling Short In Early Voting Push, Common Cause Says

Several county governments have so far failed to meet early voting requirements such as submitting poll site locations in November to the state Board of Elections, Common Cause on Wednesday said.

The good-government group found Ulster, Westchester, Cattaraugus and Columbia counties so far have not released any polling locations. They have until next Wednesday to do so.

At the same time, New York City has so far only announced 38 total sites meant to serve more than 5 million voters. Common Cause says the polling locations are sparsely located through the city, making them difficult to reach for people with physical disabilities and people of color.

“The Boards of Elections (BOE) across the state are setting up voters to fail in November by trying to sabotage early voting,” said Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner. “New Yorkers need access to voting centers in non-traditional locations, close to transportation, county-wide, and including local and state facilities. We’ve fought too hard to let New York vote, we’re not about the back down now.”

There are other issues as well: Onondaga County has six sites, which is the minimum number, and hard to reach for rual voters. Erie County has only voting location in Buffalo and two in Cheektowaga, the minimum number of poll sites.

Cuomo, At LGBTQ Fundraiser, Sets Surrogacy Bill As Priority

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a fundraiser with LGBTQ advocates on Tuesday, said state lawmakers must approve a bill legalizing gestational surrogacy in New York by the end of the legislative session, due to conclude next month.

Cuomo called the measure, supported by LGBTQ groups and sought by couples that have trouble conceiving, as a successor issue to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“The obvious follow to marriage equality is the ability to have a family and that’s provider surrogacy,” Cuomo said to cheers, according to a recording of his remarks obtained by Capital Tonight.

“If this Legislature leaves this session without passing surrogacy, it will be a disgrace to the progressive tradition of the state of New York. We need them to hear that loud and clear. Don’t come back from Albany and tell me how progressive you are if you didn’t pass the surrogacy laws and you should send them right back up to pass it, because their job isn’t done.”

Surrogacy advocates this year have also sought provisions would end requirements for establishment parenthood for lesbian couples.

Legalizing commercial surrogacy has been opposed by the Catholic Church and some women’s advocates have raised concerns with the proposal as well. New York is one of the last states that does not allow the practice.

The low-dollar fundraiser included more than 300 people at a bar in Hell’s Kitchen, with Cuomo supporters that included former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former state Sen. Tom Duane, former City Councilman Jimmy Vacca, Gabriel Blau of Equality NY and Melissa Sklarz, a former delegate for Hillary Clinton.

The LGBTQ community has been a pivotal block of voters for Cuomo, who is now in his third term. Cuomo pointed to New York’s track record since the marriage bill, with laws approved this year under full Democratic control of the Legislature: the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a ban on so-called conversation therapy, bolstering health care for the LGBTQ community and protections for transgender youth.

Cuomo said the stat stands in contrast to the rest of the country.

“People have always looked to New York,” he said. “New York was always the beacon.”

Bill Would Require Transportation Plan Updates

From the Morning Memo:

A bill approved on Tuesday in the state Assembly would require the state Department of Transportation to create a 20-year State Transportation Plan with updates every five years to be in line with MTA capital plans.

The bill would add the state DOT to a similar requirement that the MTA submit a capital plan. A memorandum of understanding was approved in 2009, but there is no current 5-year or 20-year plan for the DOT that is publicly reviewable.

In the past, the Department of Transportation and the MTA have had 5-year capital plans negotiated and approved at the same time.

“New York taxpayers deserve an accountable capital planning process of their state transportation and infrastructure dollars,” said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, the Queens Democrat who sponsors the bill.

“Without details, our ability to participate in decisions about spending on state roads, bridges as well as bus and rail infrastructure is significantly curtailed. This legislation would ensure the transparency that the public deserves.”

The bill received the back of groups like the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the New York League of Conservation Voters.

“Assemblymember Rozic is a leader on the future of transportation policy. The transportation sector is the #1 contributor to climate change in New York,” said NYLCV President Julie Tighe.

“As we plan for capital projects into the future, we must fold in ways to encourage alternative, less polluting forms of transportation, including pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. We thank Speaker Heastie and the Assembly for passing this bill to require a transparent, forward-looking transportation plan that will help the State make informed decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and urge the Senate to act on the bill before the end of session.”

Erie County Dem Chair Believes NYGOP Is Misguided In Langworthy Choice

From the Morning Memo:

In a series of tweets Tuesday evening, Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner characterized the state Republican Party as out of touch, for choosing his county counterpart to become the new state chairman. Nick Langworthy will become the new GOP boss in July, following the party’s reorganization meeting.

“This is obviously good news for Nick Langworthy, but it’s another sign that the New York State Republican Party is moving closer to President Trump and away from the mainstream,” Zellner tweeted.

Zellner first took his post with ECDC more than six years ago and has competed with Langworthy in Erie County since. He pointed out the Republican Chair has been one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest supporters in the state.

“Nick was one of the very 1st to endorse Trump, and he has supported him and his extremist agenda at every turn, whether it’s a trade war guaranteed to hurt WNY, tax cuts that burdened taxpayers, or the attempt to strip healthcare insurance from millions of Americans and NY’ers,” he wrote.

Zellner suggested bringing the party closer to Trump might be the wrong move for NYGOP. He pointed out in 2018, the first state Legislature election following the president’s win, Democrats took full control of both the Assembly and the Senate.

“Trump may be from NY, but he does not represent or stand up for NY or this community,” he wrote.

Zellner said Republicans will be reminded again next year, sidling up to Trump won’t help them win state elections.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no interviews or public events yet announced.

Vice President Mike Pence travels to Charlotte, NC today, where he will participate in the RNC convention kickoff, tour of Parkdale Mills and deliver remarks there before heading to Greensboro, NC.

In Greensboro, Pence will participate in a Trump Victory Event and then return to Washington, D.C.

At 9 a.m., the MTA Board meets, MTA Board Room, 2 Broadway, 20th floor, Manhattan.

Also at 9 a.m., the state Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications meets, Room 123, state Capitol, Albany.

At 9:30 a.m., the state Senate Committee on Domestic Animal Welfare meets, Room 813, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Finance meets jointly with the Committee on General Welfare, the Committee on Justice System, the Committee on Juvenile Justice, the Committee on Parks and Recreation and the Subcommittee on Capital Budget, Council chamber, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will host a roundtable for ethnic and community media and sign a related executive order, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., the state Senate is in session, Senate Chambers, state Capitol, Albany.

At 11 a.m. Westchester County Executive Latimer signs two executive orders, one mandating groundwater testing going forward for many contaminants, including PFAS, and a second to effectively ban the use of PFAS at the Westchester County Airport as soon as permitted by Federal law, 3rd Fl. Observation Deck, Westchester County Airport, 240 Airport Rd., White Plains.

At noon, small business owners, construction workers and contractors will rally regarding the impact the state’s proposed changes to rent laws will have on jobs and small businesses, 3rd Fl., state Capitol, Albany.

Also at noon, NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Councilman Daniel Dromm and others join a broad-based coalition of LGBTQ+ groups to launch a major initiative to elect LGBTQ candidates to the New York City Council in 2021, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held to celebrate the opening of a Retro Fitness gym at the Empire State Plaza, southwest concourse, Albany.

Also at 1 p.m., Rep. Gregory Meeks and the Queens Democratic Party host a fireside chat with 2020 Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg, LaGuardia Community College, 31-10 Thomson Ave., Queens.

Also at 1 p.m., the state Senate Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development holds a public hearing on rent regulation and tenant protection legislation, Van Buren Hearing Room A, Legislative Office Building, second floor, Albany.

Also at 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Justice System holds an oversight hearing on preparing for the implementation of bail, speedy trial and discovery reform, which the State Legislature passed in its FY20 Budget, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs discusses the 2020 delegate selection plan, which includes setting the date for the 2020 New York presidential primary, and reducing the timeframe for voters to switch party affiliations, Albany Labor Temple, 890 3rd St., Albany.

At 3 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will deliver remarks at an event announcing the first annual Yankees-Stonewall Scholars recipients, The Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher St., Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz holds a campaign fundraiser, The Blackthorn, 2134 Seneca St., Buffalo.

At 6 p.m., Citizens Union hosts its annual “Spring for Reform” event, featuring a panel discussion on the 2020 Census, moderated by NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan, and featuring NYC Councilman Carlos Menchaca, NYC Census Director Julie Menin and ABNY Executive Vice President Melva Miller, Manhattan Penthouse. 80 5th Avenue, Manhattan.

At 7:30 p.m., de Blasio will deliver remarks at the U.S. Navy reception in honor of Fleet Week New York 2019, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House, 1 Bowling Green, Manhattan.

This evening, McCray and de Blasio will host an annual Iftar dinner at Gracie Mansion in honor of Ramadan. This event is closed press.

Headlines…

The state Assembly passed a bill to allow prosecutors to pursue state charges in some instances in which a person has received a presidential pardon, and the measure now heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is expected to sign it.

The bill, sponsored by Long Island Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, was created to close a “double jeopardy” loophole in the state’s legislation that makes it harder to prosecute someone who has received a pardon.

“Right now the president’s threatened use of the pardon power is very troubling. It would be done to undermine an investigation to help out friends and family members,” Kaminsky said.

The Legislature today is expected to pass a separate bill that would allow three congressional committees to seek Trump’s state tax returns; that bill also has the support of Cuomo, a Democrat in his third term.

The Internal Revenue Service has no choice but to honor congressional requests for Trump’s tax returns unless he invokes executive privilege to protect them, according to a draft legal memo written by agency staff members.

A rising number of Democratic lawmakers have begun to call for an impeachment inquiry – a sign of increasing frustration with their inability to obtain interviews with and information from Trump administration officials following the release of the special counsel’s report.

Former Vice President Joe Biden blasted Trump for shaming him for abandoning Pennsylvania — an attack line the president deployed at his Montoursville, Pennsylvania, rally Monday night.

North Korea criticized Biden as a “fool of low IQ” after the presidential hopeful called the country’s leader Kim Jong Un a “dictator and tyrant.”

Anita Hill, whose treatment during U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearing has become an issue in the 2020 campaign, said she worries that the Democratic women in the race “are not being taken seriously as presidential candidates.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Instagram this week to open up about the “myths” surrounding working in Congress, writing that “I do see members on the brink of tears quite often.”

Instagram has launched an investigation after a database containing private data linked to millions of accounts was allegedly exposed online without a password.

U.S. government debt prices were slightly higher this morning, as investors await the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting.

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, subpoenaed former White House communications director Hope Hicks and an aide to former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before the panel.

Lawyers for Trump will appear before a Manhattan judge today to argue that House Democrats shouldn’t be allowed to get their hands on the commander in chief’s financial records through a subpoena — a position that failed to win over a Washington, DC, judge earlier this week.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is entering a new phase of his White House bid, nodding more forcefully to a part of his background that distinguishes him from nearly all of his campaign rivals: his military service.

A federal judge in Mississippi expressed deep skepticism about a state law that bans abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, sending a signal that attempts across the country to pass near total bans on abortion might not easily withstand judicial scrutiny.

The Trump administration is considering limits to a Chinese video surveillance giant’s ability to buy American technology, people familiar with the matter said, the latest attempt to counter Beijing’s global economic ambitions.

Attorney Michael Avenatti said yesterday that he expects to be indicted on charges related to his March arrest within 48 hours.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who’s been pleading with people to pledge as little as a buck to support his quixotic bid for the White House, has hired a “lean and mean” presidential campaign team of just five people, because he’s not sure if he’ll be a viable candidate.

De Blasio has the highest negative rating among all 23 Democratic presidential contenders — as a staggering 45 percent of American voters don’t like him, a new Quinnipiac University poll revealed.

During a CNN interview, the mayor professed his love for ska — the Jamaican music genre that fused with punk in the mid-1990s.

More >

Bill Curbing President’s Pardon Power Heads To Cuomo’s Desk

A bill meant to curb the power and reach of the president’s pardon in New York was granted final approval by the Democratic-led state Assembly on Tuesday and now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s for his signature.

The bill would allow New York prosecutors to bring cases against those who have worked in a presidential administration or a member of the president’s family after receiving a pardon.

Lawmakers at a press conference on Tuesday insisted the bill was not aimed at President Donald Trump, who is being investigated by Attorney General Letitia James’s office.

“We try to tread very carefully because we didn’t want to target the president, we wanted to target the abuse,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol at a press conference flanked by James and Sen. Todd Kaminsky.

A former federal prosecutor, Kaminsky said the legislation is in line with what other states have on the books.

“We know the president’s pardon power is sweeping; there’s no debate about that,” he said. “But when we’re confronted with a corrupt or capricious use of that, New York does not have to stand idly by.”

The bill’s passage is a victory for James, who had sought the legislation earlier this year. Her office is reportedly investigating ties between Trump’s businesses and major lenders, such as Deutsche Bank.

“This loophole, which effectively allows the president to pardon state crimes, deserved to be closed,” she said. “It’s really critically important that individuals understand the power of state’s rights.”

The Assembly is expected on Wednesday to approve a bill that would allow congressional Democrats to gain access to the president’s New York tax filings. The bill will include an amendment set to pass in the state Senate that narrows the scope of the tax legislation to elected officials.

Republicans called the focus on Trump at the state Capitol a waste of time that does little to help New Yorkers.

“Bringing politics of Washington into this chamber I think is a complete waste of time,” said Brian Kolb, the Assembly minority leader.

“I think there’s enough grandstanding to go around here as well as in Washington. This is all political grandstanding and it’s using New York state taxpayer money to advance political causes and not do one thing to take people out of poverty.”

Fmr. Trump Campaign Staffer Joins Stable Of Republicans Considering Run For NY-27

Western New York Republican strategist Michael Caputo has made his living working behind the scenes.

He signed on as a writer for Rep. Jack Kemp’s presidential primary campaign in the late 80s, served as Carl Paladino’s gubernatorial campaign manager more than two decades later, and most recently worked for the Trump presidential bid three years ago.  He said, all the while, he was never interested in running for office himself.

That might be changing with Caputo confirming he is in the preliminary stages of considering a run for New York’s 27th Congressional District next year. The seat is currently held by Republican Chris Collins, who has not yet decided whether he’ll seek re-election.

“It’s different now,” he said.

Caputo’s profile has increased in the last few years, for some reasons he’d likely appreciate and others not as much. He has become a regular contributor on national cable news stations, most regularly CNN as a conservative pundit, and also host his own podcast and fills in on local talk radio.

He also has made his own headlines, testifying before Congress in connection to the Russian collusion investigation and interviewing with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Caputo has complained often the investigation has caused his family serious financial stress and even led to death threats.

He said the process that led to that is the primary reason he’s considering public office.

“I want to do something to reform the processes violated during the Russia hoax. I’ve been trying to find a way to do that,” Caputo said.

The strategist runs in a tight circle of friends including in WBEN radio host David Bellavia, Assemblyman David DiPietro (R-East Aurora), and Paladino. He said he’s currently “tapping their advice.”

All three have expressed interest in NY-27 in the past and Caputo said he would never want them to run against each other. Tea Party organizer Rus Thompson, who also worked on the Paladino campaign, has expressed interest on social media as well.

“He can add to the discussion,” Caputo said. “He’s a smart guy with energy.”

Others Republicans who have expressed interest include Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, state Senator Rob Ortt and state Senator Chris Jacobs who became the first to officially announce his candidacy last week.