Coverage of Albany and New York State government – January 17, 2018

  • Governor Releases 2018-19 Executive Budget Proposal
  • Assembly Speaker, Minority Leader Lay Out 2018 Priorities
  • Senate Majority Releases 2018 ‘Affordability Agenda’
  • Governor Touts ‘2018 Women’s Opportunity Agenda’
  • Senate IDC Leader Accused of Forcibly Kissing Staffer
  • Governor Announces Deployment of First State Police Aerial Drone Systems
  • Brooklyn Assemblymember Indicted for Fraud
  • Agriculture Commissioner Announces New Inspection Ratings for Retail Food Stores
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Governor Releases 2018-19 Executive Budget Proposal

Gov. Cuomo vowed to fight back against Washington Republicans on Tuesday when he released his $168 billion Executive Budget proposal that lays out spending on schools, health care and infrastructure while confronting greater uncertainty in federal funding.

The Governor said that the state Department of Taxation and Finance is finalizing the details of a plan that would allow businesses to assume their employees’ income taxes as a payroll tax; it is in response recent federal tax law changes that will lead some New Yorkers to pay higher taxes.

School aid would increase $769 million (3 percent) to $26.4 billion, while total Medicaid costs would increase by $1.7 billion (2.5 percent) to $70 billion.

To fill a projected $4.4 billion budget deficit, the Governor proposes limiting state agency spending growth to 2 percent, and raising $1 billion in new revenue via a new tax on opioid prescription drugs and e-cigarette vapor products, among other proposals.

Legislators begin joint hearings on the Executive Budget proposal next Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker, Minority Leader Lay Out 2018 Priorities

At last Monday’s Assembly session, Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) opened the 2018 Legislative Session and announced the Assembly Majority’s legislative priorities, which include criminal justice reform; state support for education; the DREAM Act; and gun control.  (Read the text of Speaker Heastie’s floor statement here.)

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) laid out the Assembly Minority’s legislative priorities, which include addressing the state’s infrastructure crisis impacting New York City subways, roads and bridges statewide, and the deterioration of the mass transit system; reducing the financial burdens Albany places on residents, businesses and municipalities; implementing reforms to improve transparency and accountability in state-run economic development programs; combating the growing opioid crisis; providing financial assistance to those burdened with student loan debt; and addressing Albany’s corruption issues. (Watch his floor remarks here.)

Senate Majority Releases 2018 ‘Affordability Agenda’

Last Tuesday, the Senate Republican Conference announced the release of its ‘Affordability Agenda,’ which is “designed to help individuals, families, and seniors continue to live, work, and succeed in New York” and is the first part of their broader “Blueprint for a Stronger New York.” [Watch the Senate Republican press conference here.]

Their agenda includes making the state’s property tax cap permanent; continuing to provide property tax rebate checks; reducing taxes on energy; doubling the state’s current exemption on pension income; enacting a permanent two-percent spending cap; requiring a supermajority vote on legislation that would increase taxes; a constitutional amendment to ban unfunded mandates; and providing relief from existing mandates.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R – Suffolk County) said:

“Whether you are a New Yorker looking to begin a career, a young family working hard to make ends meet, or an older New Yorker looking to stay in your community, our state’s high cost of living is forcing thousands of New Yorkers to flee to other parts of the country. The Senate Majority is taking action to stop this outmigration and make our state more affordable by delivering $4.2 billion in middle class income tax cuts this year, proposing hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax relief, and ensuring long-term fiscal responsibility in government.”

Governor Touts ‘2018 Women’s Opportunity Agenda’

On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa released the Report on the Status of New York Women and Girls and detailed the 2018 Women’s Opportunity Agenda.

The agenda is a 30-point plan to address issues ranging from child care and equal pay to contraception coverage and maternal depression.  It includes several proposals that the Governor has already announced, such as codifying Roe v. Wade into the state law and constitution; banning domestic abusers from possessing firearms; and reauthorizing the state’s Minority and Women-Owned Business program.  It also includes improving access to in vitro fertilization; a new state initiative to help women experiencing maternal depression; creation of a review board to examine maternal mortality; and adding women’s health experts to the State Board of Medicine.

For girls, the state will launch the “If You Can See It, You Can Be It” initiative to offer opportunities for girls to shadow women leaders at prominent New York companies. And the “Be Aware-Be Informed” learning module would educate kindergarten through 12th grade students on healthy relationships.

New workforce-related proposals include the Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative to assist women who are returning to work or advancing in their fields; the Women Lead Fellowship for Women in Government, which will recruit women to work alongside senior female officials in state government; and having the state’s venture capital fund to invest at least $20 million to support women-owned businesses.

Senate IDC Leader Accused of Forcibly Kissing Staffer

A former Senate staff member told the Huffington Post that State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) forcibly kissed her outside of an Albany bar in 2015. The article was published shortly after Senator Klein held a conference call with reporters in which he pre-emptively denied the accusation, and released a memorandum from a law firm that he hired to conduct a preliminary investigation about the allegation.

Senator Klein said, “This alleged incident did not happen — period,” and asked that the Joint Committee on Public ethics (JCOPE) to investigate the matter.

The allegation could have significant political implications.  Senator Klein leads the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of eight Democrats who are aligned with the Senate Republican Conference.

Governor Announces Deployment of First State Police Aerial Drone Systems

On Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced the launch of the new State Police Unmanned Aerial System program, which will be used to support law enforcement missions, including disaster response and traffic safety. The first four State Police aerial drones will be put into service this month; an additional 14 aerial drones will be deployed throughout the state.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“This state-of-the-art technology will improve emergency response, improve operational and cost efficiencies and increase Trooper safety.  We will continue to implement innovative technologies to improve our ability to protect New Yorkers across this great state.”

Brooklyn Assemblymember Indicted for Fraud

Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced an 11 count indictment of Assemblymember Pamela Harris (D-Brooklyn) for fraud and obstruction in what prosecutors allege was a series of schemes to defraud to defraud the city of New York, the federal government and a bankruptcy proceeding.

The indictment alleges that she defrauded the New York City Council through a non-profit she controlled, and also provided false documentation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to obtain tens of thousands in funds after Hurricane Sandy.

Harris was first elected to the Assembly in a special election in 2015.

Agriculture Commissioner Announces New Inspection Ratings for Retail Food Stores

On Thursday, State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced that the state has introduced a new letter rating system for its food safety inspections of retail food stores.  The new letter grading is intended to help consumers better understand the sanitary conditions of the store and provide an opportunity for better education to store owners.

After inspections, the store will receive an “A,” “B,” or “C” letter grade, which corresponds to the results of the most recent sanitary inspection. A means that no critical deficiencies were found; B means that critical deficiencies were found, but they were corrected at time of inspection; and C means that critical deficiencies were found but were not or could not be corrected.

Commissioner Ball said:

“Consumers want to know now more than ever about their food, including how it was handled from farm to table.  That means our retail food establishments need to be doing their part, making sure they are implementing good food safety practices and posting the results of their inspection in a location visible to all consumers. We hope this change will not only inform consumers but also help educate our store owners.”

Group Launches Campaign in Support of ‘Medical Aid in Dying Act’

Last week, Compassion & Choices announced the launch of their campaign to have state lawmakers pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act (S.3151/A.2383) which would authorize medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults with less than six months to live who are and found by two doctors to be mentally capable to make this medical decision.

The proposed legislation would give eligible patients the option to request a prescription for medication they can take to shorten their dying process.  The measure was not approved in either the Senate or Assembly in 2017.

Political Update

Westchester Democrats Choose Assemblywoman to Run for Vacant Senate Seat

Last Tuesday night, Westchester Democrats met and chose Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) to be the Democratic candidate the as-yet-unscheduled special election to fill the vacant 37th Senate District seat recently that became vacant when George Latimer was elected Westchester County Executive.

Republican Enters Race for Vacant Senate Seat

Last Thursday, Dan Schorr announced that he plans to run to fill the vacancy in Westchester’s 37th Senate District.  An attorney, Schorr previously served as Yonkers Inspector General.  He is currently a Managing Director at corporate investigations and risk consulting firm Kroll.

The only other announced Republican candidate is a commercial litigation lawyer Sarmad Khojasteh.

Winners & Losers

Each week, City & State New York publishes a list of the week’s political “winners” and “losers.”  Read last week’s list here.

Coming Up

The Legislature is in session today.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on January 18.

The Board of Regents holds its next meeting on January 22 and 23.

On January 24, the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering is holding a public hearing in Albany “to discuss the potential of sports betting in New York State.”

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on January 30.