Tax Cap Will Remain At 2 Percent, DiNapoli Says

The state’s cap on property tax levy increases will remain at 2 percent for the 2020 fiscal year, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office said Thursday in an announcement.

The announcement affects local governments — counties, towns, fire districts, 44 cities and 10 villages — that have their fiscal year end Dec. 31.

The cap is tied to either the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower.

In the early years of the tax cap, allowable property tax growth was under 2 percent given the relatively flat rate of inflation.

“The allowable levy growth will be 2 percent for the second year in a row, however, mixed economic signals may require local governments to respond to changing financial conditions,” DiNapoli said. “Local officials should remain vigilant when crafting their budgets.”

Coalition Launches Push For Wind Energy

From the Morning Memo:

A coalition of environmental, labor and advocacy groups on Thursday will unveil a website that’s part of a broader push to expand wind energy in upstate New York.

The website, Friends of Upstate New York Wind, is meant to serve as a resource to promote the issue and for the groups to tout the energy source’s economic benefits.

“New Yorkers for Clean Power is thrilled to launch this new educational tool for supporters of clean energy across New York,” said New Yorkers For Clean Power Director Betta Broad. “We have been impressed with the broad support that exists for non-polluting energy across Upstate, but are concerned by the prevalence of misleading information. We are excited by this effort to share accurate information about the benefits of clean power with our families, friends and neighbors.”

The website will highlight a cross-section of issues surrounding wind energy: security in diversifying energy resources, construction jobs that would pay the prevailing wage, tax revenue, farmland preservation and public health.

“We want people to know how great wind power can be for Upstate New York,” said Anne Reynolds, the executive director of ACE NY.

“This new portal provides accurate information on wind power and stories about wind farms already operating in New York State. We do not want misleading information about wind energy to cost residents, especially farmers and construction workers, the opportunity to prosper and thrive in the state’s new clean energy economy.”

All told, more than 20 groups representing business, environmental advocacy and labor are backing the new effort.

Here And Now

Good morning! Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, as well as members of the cabinet, are in the Catksills today to promote upstate tourism. Mayor Bill de Blasio has nothing official scheduled

Happening today:

At 10:30 a.m., the Public Service Commission will hold its next regular session. Three Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 11 a.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will join Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson to tour Family Services’ Family Partnership Center. 29 North Hamilton Street, Poughkeepsie.

At 11:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Hochul hikes the Frick Pond Loop Trail, Mongaup Campground, 231 Mongaup Pond Road, Livingston Manor.

At 12:30 p.m., Heastie will visit Alex’s Restaurant, 1 Market Street, Poughkeepsie.

At 12:45 p.m., Hochul will cycle the Hurleyville Milk Rail Trail, 12 Railroad Ave., Hurleyville.

At 2 p.m., state lawmakers will urge Gov. Cuomo to sign a bill signed notifying parents when a camp is not regulated by the state. RCC’s Eugene Levy Fieldhouse, 145 College Rd, Suffern.

At 3 p.m., Gov. Cuomo will hold an awards luncheon ceremony for the Catskill Summer Challenge, 200 Hurd Road, Bethel.

Headlines:

A measure that would expand the definition of equal pay for equal work was approved Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who called the issue a matter of fairness.

Advocates and officials have been pushing for the closure of Rikers Island for years. That day, it appears, is getting closer.

As New York City paid tribute to the world champion U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team on Wednesday, there were repeated calls for equal pay, since members of the women’s team make less than their male counterparts.

With the eyes of the soccer world on City Hall on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray were at the center of the celebration.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, the leader of the Queens County Democratic Party, joined Errol Louis to discuss the manual recount in the race for Queens district attorney as activists cast doubt on the process.

Some dogs may have joint and bone pain. Some may have heart and stomach problems. Others may have anxiety issues. Now a Brooklyn company called Pet-Ness has developed a line of cannabidiol products for dogs to help alleviate those symptoms.

A new report states Citi Bike is neglecting low-income neighborhoods while giving preference to the most privileged parts of New York City.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it will be adding limited express train service on the F line for Brooklyn residents with the longest commutes.

State lawmakers from the Capital Region were upset that Gov. Cuomo did not appear to be aware of the issues surrounding pensions for former St. Clare’s hospital workers.

With flooding becoming all too common along the Lake Ontario shoreline, New York state is aiming to spend its money before the damage happens.

A lawsuit challenging the state’s end to the religious exemption for vaccinations was announced on Wednesday by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., along with longtime legal activist Michael Sussman.

Do-It-Yourself beekeeping may not be as dangerous as it sounds. Rachel Lagodka keeps two vertical honeybee hives on the second-floor porch of her home, just about 400 feet from the village hall.

State Attorney General Letitia James held a press conference in Utica Wednesday afternoon to announce $9 million in grants for 48 municipalities across New York.

The future of I-81 still remains a little confusing for many. The DOT has named the Community Grid as it’s preferred alternative to the viaduct and it wants to make sure people are clear on what that means.

The New York State Fair’s International Building is getting a new name this year.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz in a press release on Thursday questioned the constitutionality of allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses and stressing the “necessity of ensuring non-citizens are prevented from voting.”

In national news:

A group of bipartisan lawmakers from Florida first learned of election security breaches by Russian hackers from a single line tucked into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Now, they’re working together to ensure others don’t have to be informed of election system intrusions this way in the future.

On Wednesday President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed to reduce end stage kidney disease by 25% by 2030.

The third Democratic presidential debate will be held in Houston in September.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta defended his role in helping to broker a plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein and is rebuffing calls that he resign.

Federal immigration officials are preparing for a long-promised enforcement action against thousands of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. and is now scheduled to begin on Sunday.

The British ambassador to the United States has stepped down after criticism of President Trump in a private cable was made public.

The White House is pushing Congress to strike a deal on a spending bill now in order to avoid a possible fight over the debt ceiling in September.

A second federal judge has denied officials at the U.S. Department of Justice a bid to replace their lawyers in the case surrounding a citizenship question on the U.S. Census.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the newly elected progressives in her Democratic caucus to keep their powder dry in public, which includes staying off Twitter.

Republican women, including Rep. Elise Stefanik, are urging their male colleagues to “step up” when it comes to electing more women to Congress.

From the editorial pages:

Newsday urges a new election law panel to review issues surrounding fusion voting, pointing to a Suffolk County race as a case study.

Newsday also urged Gov. Cuomo’s administration to back an outright ban on the chemical contaminate 1,4-dioxine.

The Times Union writes there have been a “host of false statements” by President Trump’s administration surrounding the census.

The New York Post blasted Mayor de Blasio’s push for pay equity at a celebration in support of the U.S. Women’s World Cup team, calling it a “grandstanding” effort for his presidential campaign.

The Daily News says pay inequity between men and women is more complicated than politicians suggest, with no single solution to the problem.

From the sports pages:

RIP Jim Bouton, a former Yankee pitcher who wrote a seminal memoir about the game.

The Atlantic League allowed a computer to call balls and strikes — a “robot umpire” if you will — at its all star game.

Extras

A blizzard of confetti and large crowds filled the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan on Wednesday to honor the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team for its 2019 World Cup victory.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it will be adding limited express train service on the F line for Brooklyn residents with the longest commutes.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared to be caught off guard by a question regarding the St. Clare’s pension fight.

A lawsuit challenging the state’s end to the religious exemption for vaccinations was announced on Wednesday by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., along with longtime legal activist Michael Sussman.

Water levels in two of the Great Lakes are the highest ever recorded.

Over the years, the process has been the same; picking, cutting and carting. Now, Syracuse will be rockin’ under a new Christmas tree, a more permanent one.

It has been an Erie County Democrat leading the opposition against New York’s new law granting driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Wednesday though, another Erie County Democrat, of whom no one will question ties to the party, also came out against the “Green Light” law.

It felt like warmer weather would never come and then all of a sudden it’s here and in full force. The Erie County Department of Health published a list of cooling centers, including many libraries.

Democratic Erie County Executive Says He Cannot Support Green Light Law

It has been an Erie County Democrat leading the opposition against New York’s new law granting driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrant.

However, many consider County Clerk Mickey Kearns a Democrat in name only. He’s run several times with the endorsement of the local Republican Committee and has been basically excommunicated from his own organization.

Wednesday though, another Erie County Democrat, of whom no one will question ties to the party, also came out against the “Green Light” law. County Executive Mark Poloncarz released a press release questioning its constitutionality and stressing the “necessity of ensuring non-citizens are prevented from voting.”

“Ultimately I do not believe this law benefits the people of Erie County and I cannot support it,” he said.

To this point Poloncarz had not taken a hard stance on the issue, despite consistent calls from his Republican-endorsed county executive opponent Lynne Dixon to do so. He did however support Kearns request for aid from the County Attorney’s Office in filing a federal lawsuit this week.

Poloncarz clarified his opposition though, with another point he has consistently made over the past few weeks.

“However, in a civilized, democratic society we do not get to selectively pick the laws we want to enforce and ignore those we dislike,” he said. “As such, if a federal judge determines the bill to be constitutional, I expect all county officials and employees to respect the decision of the court.

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo also said this week he has question about whether the new law will hold up in court, even though he signed it after the bill got a vote of confidence from the state Attorney General’s office. Poloncarz said some people are intentionally using the issue to divide the community.

Assembly Brings in Record Fundraising Haul

As we wait for the votes to be counted in the Queens DA race, there has already been chatter about primaries in the Assembly next year. A new wave of progressive voters have already made a difference in State Senate races in 2018, knocking out 6 IDC members in last year’s legislative primaries. Members of the IDC, or Independent Democratic Conference, were a group of 8 Democratic Senators who formed a governing alliance with Senate Republicans. An arrangement that lasted for 6 years.

So, will that generational shift occur in the Assembly in the 2020 elections the way it did in the State Senate in 2018? It remains to be seen, but it will certainly not happen without a fight.

According to the campaign filing, set to be made public next week, The Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, or DACC will have a record balance for an off year cycle with $2.1 Million cash on hand. Over the last filing period, extending from January to July, DACC also raised a record amount of money with $1.6 Million.

You have to go back to 2001 for the previous record for money in the bank during a non-election year. In 2001, DACC had $1.25 Million in cash, having raised $1.25 Million from January to July of that year.

The most the Assembly Majority has ever raised in a non-campaign year July filing was $1.3 Million from January to July in 2003.

The difference this time around is that the Assembly Majority made this haul without taking any real estate or landlord money, proving that Albany’s traditional best benefactor isn’t necessarily needed to stay competitive.

Finally, the Speaker Heastie PAC took in $250,000 over the first 6 months of 2019, and currently has $100,000 cash on hand. Not a ton, but additional money nonetheless. The Heastie PAC often doles out campaign cash to other candidates including Melinda Katz during the Queens DA race. Heastie was a big Katz supporter.

2020 is going to be a banner year. There is certainly a new awareness within the Democratic party in the age of Trump, and that is being reflected everywhere. From the victory of Alexandria Ocosio-Cortez in Queens, to the ouster of IDC members in individual Senate Districts across the State. Cynthia Nixon’s candidacy was also fueled by this new energy, but the progressive wave voters don’t have anywhere near the numbers they need to win Statewide, at least not yet.

It’s also worth noting that next year there will be A LOT of races. There are primaries against Democrats in Congress, and there will certainly be primaries against sitting members of the Assembly. Particular targets in the Assembly are expected to be members who have served for a very long time. But the dynamic has changed. The Democratic Clubs no longer have the power to tell would-be challengers to stand down and “wait your turn.” Primaries are going to go forward, and frankly they should. It’s healthy for the party and ultimately for democracy as a whole. However, the progressive wave could also get diluted if they pick too many races to target. And what is very clear from this filing from the Democratic Assembly is that DACC will have the resources to push back and defend their incumbents where necessary.

James, AGs Back Amicus Brief Opposing Border Facility Conditions

Attorney General Letitia James was among the 19 attorneys general on Wednesday to file an amicus brief opposing the conditions at holding facilities near the U.S. border, conditions that have come under scrutiny by investigators and federal lawmakers.

“Innocent children are suffering,” James said in a statement. “The Trump Administration’s immoral actions have stripped children of basic human needs. This is cruel and inhumane. We are calling on the court to take immediate action to ensure these children receive the basic care they should have been provided from day one.”

The brief, filed in federal court in California, urged relief for the children detained at the facilities, pointing the Flores Settlement Agreement that requires safe and sanitary conditions for detention and release or placement at a licensed facility.

Also signing onto the brief were AGs in California and Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

NY-21: Stefanik Has $1M, Cobb $377K In Cash On Hand

Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik on Tuesday announced she had raised $500,000 in the second fundraising quarter of 2019, bringing her cash on hand total to $1 million.

Democratic candidate Tedra Cobb, meanwhile, reported raising $356,595 and has $377,955 in the bank for her second bid for the sprawling North Country House district.

Stefanik is seeking re-election to a fourth term in the House of Representatives, running in what has been in previous cycles a closely watched district that Democrats have sought to compete in since the election of Democrat Bill Owens.

“I’m grateful for such overwhelming support for our campaign to continue delivering real results for families and small businesses across the District,” Stefanik said.

“This record level of support reflects my independent record of always putting the North Country first, and of reaching across the aisle to deliver real results for our district.”

Cobb is making her second bid for the seat after winning a crowded Democratic primary last year to challenge Stefanik in the 2018 general election.

“I am proud of the support we have received,” said Cobb in a statement.

“The momentum we are building proves that voters are sick of business as usual in Washington. I have spent 30 years fighting for Northern New York families, whether it was to expand access to health care, lower the cost of prescription drugs, or as a volunteer firefighter. Congresswoman Stefanik has spent her career in DC supporting policies that help the large corporations that fund her campaigns at the expense of the very families I’ve spent my life fighting to protect.”

Cuomo Signs Pay Equity Bill, Bans Salary History Question

Bills expanding the definition of equal pay for equal work and a ban on prospective employers from asking about salary history were signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo approved the bills as the U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer team was preparing to march down the Canyon of Heroes. The team’s success has spotlighted their own pay inequity with the U.S. men’s team, which does not have the same track record of winning matches.

“We stand with them in solidarity and New York will once again lead the way and I’m going to sign a law today that says it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s not just the moral thing to do, it is also the law in the State of New York,” Cuomo said after signing the bills. “And my friends, it is now the law in the State of New York. Equal pay for equal work.”

The equal pay bill is meant not just to address disparities not just between genders, but also women of color.

“From soccer fields to board rooms, Americans across working sectors are standing up for their right to equal compensation and today New York is answering that call,” said bill sponsor Sen. Alessandra Biaggi. “Every New Yorker deserves equal pay for equal work regardless of race, sexual orientation, disability, or however they choose to identify.”

And the salary history question is meant to take on a more endemic concern that workers who are paid less inevitably lose out of earning more money at a new job.

“The first step in closing the gender pay gap is ending the salary history question so low salaries do not follow women throughout their career,” said Sen. David Carlucci.

RFK Jr. And Sussman File Lawsuit Challenging End To Religious Exemption For Vaccinations

A lawsuit challenging the state’s end to the religious exemption for vaccinations was announced on Wednesday by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., along with longtime legal activist Michael Sussman.

Kennedy and Sussman said the suit was filed on behalf off parents who opposed the measure, approved last month in the state Legislature amid a measles outbreak in Brooklyn and Rockland County with more than 1,000 reported cases.

“To deprive families of the rights to freedom of religious expression, parental rights, and the right to either a public or private education, the state must demonstrate a ‘compelling state interest’ that the state has failed to prove here,” Sussman said in a statement.

The law was approved after an extraordinarily close vote in the Democratic-led Assembly, which was followed by an angry, profanity-laced protest from opponents of the legislation.

Kennedy, a former brother-in-law of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has been a prominent figure in the anti-vaccine movement, which has questioned the health effects of vaccinations. Public health officials broadly agree that healthy people should be vaccinated in order to create herd immunity against illnesses like the measles.

Kennedy shaped his argument, however, against the bill around religious expression.

“Religious rights are fundamental,” Kennedy said. “It is unconstitutional for the state to deprive people of such important rights when religious animus has played a key role. To enact such harsh legislation without any legislative fact-finding, and with the legislators’ open display of prejudice towards religious beliefs different than their own, is simply un-American; it is essential that we fight this.”