Coverage of Albany and New York State government

  • Governor Announces Funding to Replace Residential Lead Pipes
  • Governor Announces Launch of Holiday Toy, Coat and School Supply Drive
  • Governor Announces Funding to Accelerate Electric Vehicle Use
  • State Democratic Leaders Propose Plan to Reunify Senate Democrats
  • Smart Schools Review Board Approves Spending Plans
  • Assembly Holds Hearing on Elections Security
  • RPA Releases Fourth Regional Plan
  • Groups:  Poll Shows Support for Legalizing, Taxing Marijuana in New York
  • Assemblyman Sanctioned for Sexual Harassment
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Governor Announces Funding to Replace Residential Lead Pipes

Last Monday, Gov. Cuomo announced that $20 million dollars will be made available to local governments throughout the state to replace residential drinking water lead service lines as part of New York’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“These critical improvements to New York’s drinking water infrastructure are vital to protecting public health and to laying the foundation for future growth and economic prosperity in these communities.  With this $20 million award, we are helping to protect residents and their families across this state and are creating a stronger, healthier New York.”

More information is available about the state’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program  here.

Governor Announces Launch of Holiday Toy, Coat and School Supply Drive

Last week, Gov. Cuomo announced the launch of a statewide holiday drive to benefit families in need. Donations of new unwrapped toys, coats and school supplies are being sought to assist community-based organizations during the holiday giving season.

The state’s Office of General Services has set up drop-off locations throughout the state where new unwrapped toys, coats and school supplies can be donated through December 15.  Donations will be distributed to needy families.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“New Yorkers are tough, but they are also kind and willing to step up to help those in need. This holiday season I encourage all New Yorkers to continue this great tradition and share some of the joy of this season with the less fortunate among us.”

Governor Announces Funding to Accelerate Electric Vehicle Use

On Thursday, Gov. Cuomo announced that the state is seeking proposals to develop innovative strategies to expand the marketplace and to use electric vehicles to provide electric grid resiliency. Up to $3.5 million is being made available through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Gov. Cuomo said:

“Clean cars are the way of the future, and with a tremendous increase in the number of electric vehicles sold this year, it is clear New Yorkers support efforts to combat climate change.  Innovation is what drives New York and we are proud to incentivize the development of improved technologies that will create a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future for all.”

State Democratic Leaders Propose Plan to Reunify Senate Democrats

Last week, state Democratic Party officials presented a proposal to the Senate’s two Democratic factions that would result in the two sides reunifying in mid-2018. The proposal came from state party officials, but

The 63-member State Senate is currently controlled by 31 Republicans and Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder.  The Senate Majority has a power-sharing agreement with a group of eight Democrats, led by State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), which calls itself the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).  The Senate’s other 23 Democrats are in the minority.

The state party’s proposal involves the two Democratic factions working together to win special elections to fill Senate vacancies in the Bronx and Westchester – which would bring the number of Democrats in the Senate to 32 – and then reunifying the mainline Senate Democrats and the IDC.

While Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Senate IDC Leader Klein have agreed to the proposal, Senator Felder has not.

This is not the first time that the mainline Senate Democrats and the IDC have agreed to reunite. They entered into a similar agreement in 2014, but the IDC continued its collaboration with the Senate Republicans after the Republicans won enough Senate seats to hold an outright majority.

The reunification proposal reignited the feud between New York City Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo.  De Blasio called the Senate reunification proposal “a charade,” and said that the only reason Gov. Cuomo is supporting this effort is because “he apparently is running for president.”  A spokesperson for the Governor returned fired, accusing de Blasio of violating state campaign finance laws.

Smart Schools Review Board Approves Spending Plans

Last week, Gov. Cuomo announced that the Smart Schools Review Board has approved 88 Smart Schools Investment Plans totaling $75.6 million.  The funding comes from the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act that voters approved in 2014 “to finance improved educational technology and infrastructure to improve learning and opportunity for students throughout the State.”

A summary of the approved plans is available here.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“These vital investments are playing a critical role in expanding educational opportunity, helping schools modernize outdated classrooms and giving students access to state-of-the-art technology to learn and grow. This funding equips students across New York with the skills and technology they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.”

Assembly Holds Hearing on Elections Security

Last Tuesday, the Assembly’s Election Law Committee held a hearing on the state’s election infrastructure.  It come in the wake of the federal Department of Homeland Security informing officials from 21 states that their election systems were targets of the coordinated Russian hacking effort that also attacked the Democratic National Committee and members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.

State Board of Elections officials said that they plan to request $27 million for the upcoming fiscal year — nearly $15.5 million more than the current year — to help enhance security as well as update the state voter registration and campaign finance systems.

RPA Releases Fourth Regional Plan

The Regional Plan Association (RPA), an influential urban research and advocacy organization that focuses on the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region, released its Fourth Regional Plan on Thursday. The major themes of the plan are that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut should reform their governing institutions; overhaul and integrate their transit networks; fight climate change; and make it less costly to live in the region.

The RPA’s proposal lays out 61 recommendations for improving the health and wealth of the residents of the New York City region, including addressing sea level rise, affordable housing, rising property taxes, and job growth.

Some of the group’s highest-profile proposal include having the MTA abandon its 24/7 model on weekdays, closing the system between midnight and 5 a.m. to facilitate system repairs and improvements; establishing a special public benefit corporation to completely overhaul the subway system within 15 years; expanding the subway system into neighborhoods where residents depend on public transportation; unifying the region’s commuter rail system and expanding it into a seamless regional transit system; and adding tolls to all crossings into Manhattan south of 60th Street to reduce traffic congestion in the region’s core.

Groups:  Poll Shows Support for Legalizing, Taxing Marijuana in New York

A poll released last week by the Marijuana Policy Project of New York and the Drug Policy Alliance finds that 62% of New York voters support making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. Only 28% are opposed.

The poll also found that legalizing and taxing marijuana is the most popular way to erase New York’s looming budget deficit, with 60% of voters supporting it. Between 15% and 27% of voters supported other deficit-reducing options, such as increasing sales or income taxes, increasing tolls, or cutting aid to education.

Landon Dais, political director of MPP of New York, said:

“This should be a wake-up call to lawmakers: New Yorkers want their state to take a sensible, humane approach to marijuana policy.  New York should stop wasting resources punishing otherwise law-abiding residents for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.”

New York recently legalized the medical use of marijuana under limited circumstances.  Gov. Cuomo has said that he opposes legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

Massachusetts and Maine are set to be the first states east of the Mississippi to permit marijuana to be used recreationally at some time in 2018.

Assemblyman Sanctioned for Sexual Harassment

Assembly Speaker Cark Heastie (D- Bronx) announced that Assemblymember Steve McLaughlin (R – Troy) has been sanctioned by the Assembly’s Ethics and Guidance Committee for asking a female Assembly aide for nude photos, lying about it, and leaking her name. (Read the committee’s report here, and Speaker Heastie’s letter of admonishment to McLaughlin here.)

In November, Assemblyman McLaughlin was elected Rensselaer County Executive, and is expected to resign his Assembly seat to assume that office on January 1, 2018.

Assemblyman McLaughlin vehemently denied the charges, which he called “untrue, baseless and legally infirm,” and accused the committee of using them as a “political weapon.”  He also released a letter to the Albany County District Attorney Ethics & Guidance Committee of violating his civil rights.


Political Update

Assemblywoman Announces Candidacy for Vacant State Senate Seat

Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) said that she will run to fill the State Senate vacancy that will be created in January when State Senator George Latimer (D-Rye) resigns to become Westchester County Executive.

Kat Brezler, a White Plains Democrat and Bernie Sanders supporter, has also announced that she plans to run for the seat.

The 37th Senate District includes the cities of New Rochelle, Rye, White Plains, Yonkers and the towns of Harrison, Mamaroneck, North Castle, Rye, Eastchester. As of this writing, it is not clear whether Gov. Cuomo intends to call a special election next spring to fill the vacancy.

Syracuse Senator ‘Actively Seeking’ Nomination to Run for Governor

State Senator John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) said today that he is actively seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Gov. Cuomo in 2018.

Any Republican running for Governor can expect to face serious headwinds.  No Republican has won statewide in New York since 2002 when Gov. George Pataki was elected to a third term, and the state has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.

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

On December 6, the Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee is holding a public hearing to review the budget and programs for veterans under its jurisdiction.

The Board of Regents holds its next meeting on December 11 and 12.

On December 12, the Assembly Higher Education Committee is holding a public hearing in Albany to examine the impact that the Excelsior Scholarship and the Enhanced Tuition Awards Programs are having on New York State families and institutions of higher education.

Also on December 12, the Assembly Committee on Libraries and Education Technology is holding a public hearing in Albany “to review the impact and effectiveness of funding of libraries in New York State including funding for library construction and the allocation of State Aid to libraries.”

The Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on December 14.

The State Board of Elections holds its next meeting on December 15.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on December 19.