Coverage of Albany and New York State government

  • Legislative Budget Hearings Continue
  • Governor Issues Executive Order Prohibiting State Contracts With Entities that Support Discrimination
  • Chief Judge Delivers ‘State of the Judiciary’ Address
  • Legislative Leaders Announce Schedule for Action on 2018-19 Budget
  • Assembly Approves DREAM Act
  • Senate Democrats Push Gun Control Legislation
  • Progressive Groups Call for $16 Billion in New Taxes
  • Governor Calls Special Elections for April 24th
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Legislative Budget Hearings Continue

At last Monday’s hearing on Local Government/General Government, local government officials from around the state discussed the impact of the Governor’s $168 billion spending plan on their cities.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected state officials’ calls for the city to contribute more money to the deteriorating subway system.  He told state legislators that customers of Uber and other for-hire vehicles should pay a fee toward the transit system, as traditional taxis do. He also testified that he does not support a budget proposal to create special tax districts around new subway developments and that he prefers a millionaires’ tax to a congestion pricing system.

At last Tuesday’s hearing on Human Services, lawmakers discussed the impact of the state’s minimum wage increase for fast-food workers on the ability of direct care facilities to hire and retain employees.  The Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA) asked the Legislature to support children and youth in foster care by including investments for their workforce in the state budget, and also expressed concerns about the Governor’s proposal to cap funding for child welfare services in New York City.

Wednesday’s hearing on Environmental Conservation was postponed due to inclement weather.  It has been rescheduled for February 27.

At Thursday’s hearing on taxes, Budget Director Robert Mujica told lawmakers that Gov. Cuomo will propose — as part of his 30-day amendments – language that separates the state’s tax rates from the federal rates in order to keep New York taxpayers from a $1.5 billion income tax increase. Mujica said the governor will propose “decoupling” the state tax code from the federal government’s, which would restore deductibility many New Yorkers stand to lose under the new federal tax overhaul. The Senate has already approved legislation that would do this.

Lawmakers also questioned state officials about $1 billion in new taxes and fees that have been proposed in included in Cuomo’s $168 billion budget proposal.  The Business Council of New York State told legislators to reject the Governor’s proposals for tax and fee increases, and to focus on limiting state spending.

Governor Issues Executive Order Prohibiting State Contracts With Entities that Support Discrimination

Gov. Cuomo has announced that he has issued an Executive Order that bans all state agencies and authorities from doing business with companies that promote or tolerate discrimination. He also said that he will propose legislation banning the use of a “Gay Panic” defense, which is a legal defense in which a defendant tries to justify his or her violence action as a reaction to learning that the victim was gay.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“New York will fight every action this federal administration takes that attempts to undo progress we have made.  We believe America was founded on the premise of uniting people from different countries, religions, and colors, and we welcome diversity under the enlightened understanding that it is not a weakness but rather our greatest strength. With this executive order, New York reaffirms our commitment to protecting the rights of everyone. We will enforce our robust protections against discrimination, and continue to build on our legacy of protecting all of us, not simply some of us.”

Chief Judge Delivers ‘State of the Judiciary’ Address

Last Tuesday, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore delivered her second ‘State of Our Judiciary’ Address at Court of Appeals Hall in Albany.

Judge DiFiore announced a number of new court system reforms to improve the quality of justice services in New York State, including improving New York City Housing Court facilities and instituting procedures to reduce overcrowding and promote orderly, expeditious proceedings; a statewide opioid initiative; and implementation of new uniform practice rules, which will go into effect in September 2018, to harmonize appellate practice throughout the state.

Judge DiFiore also described the ongoing progress of her ‘Excellence Initiative,’ an effort that is intended to eliminate case delays, attain excellence in every facet of court operations and improve the quality of justice services systemwide.  She reported that cases outside of New York City are being resolved more efficiently and promptly and our backlogs are shrinking, and that the system has also made significant progress in many of our highest volume courts in New York City. (Read the Excellence Initiative: Year Two Report.)

Legislative Leaders Announce Schedule for Action on 2018-19 Budget

Last Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Heastie announced an agreement on a joint legislative budget schedule.  If the Legislature follows this schedule, it would result in the Legislature approving a state budget before the beginning of the state’s new fiscal year on April 1, 2018.

The schedule for budget action is:

  • Feb 28: (on or before) Economic / Revenue Report Released (Senate and Assembly)
  • Feb 28: (tentative) Joint Revenue Forecasting Conference
  • March 1: (on or before) Revenue Consensus Report
  • March 14: Senate and Assembly act on respective one-house budget proposals
  • March 14: Joint Budget Conference Committees Commence
  • March 22: Joint Budget Conference Committees End
  • March 27-29: Joint Legislative Budget Bills Taken Up

Assembly Approves DREAM Act

Last week, the Assembly approved its version of the DREAM Act (A.9605), which provides college financial aid for children of undocumented immigrants. These students would be eligible for general awards, performance-based awards, and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) if they meet certain criteria — such as having attended an approved in-state high school for two or more years, graduated from such a school and applied to an in-state college or university within five years of receiving their high school diploma.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said:

“The Assembly majority recognizes that immigrants are a vital thread in the social and economic fabric of our state. It is fundamentally and economically misguided to deny students who were educated in our state’s public school system the tools they need to reach their academic potential and fully contribute to our state’s economy.”

The Assembly has approved the measure before, but it is not usually taken up in the State Senate.  In 2014, the measure narrowly failed in the Senate.

Senate Democrats Push Gun Control Legislation

Last week, members of the Senate Democratic Conference released a package of gun control measures that is intended to reduce gun violence and prevent accidents.

The measures include banning “bump stocks” and similar firearm modifications (S.6902); allowing courts to issue an order to seize or prohibit the sale of guns to individuals who are likely to act in ways that would result in serious harm to themselves or others (S.7133); prohibiting possession of a firearm by a person who has been convicted of a hate crime (S.7072); and allowing victims of gun violence to seek compensation from gun manufacturers found to negligently market firearms to irresponsible buyers (S.5922).

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said:

“We must continue to take bold steps to reduce gun violence throughout New York State by passing sensible gun safety legislation.  It is our responsibility to protect our communities. Enacting this common sense legislation will help save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and banning tools to make legal guns more dangerous.”

Progressive Groups Call for $16 Billion in New Taxes

A coalition of progressive groups are calling on the state to enact a package of “fair-share tax proposals” that would target corporations that are benefitting from the recently-enacted federal tax cuts.

The Strong Economy for All Coalition is proposing to close the carried interest loophole at the state level (which would increase state revenues by $3.5 billion annually); close the new pass-through loophole at the state level (over $1 billion annually); provide for federal tax cut clawback for corporations that do not raise employee pay or create jobs; enact an opioid painkiller prescriptions & windfall profits tax (over $1 billion annually); enact a stock transfer tax:  $5.5 billion per year; enact new taxes on high earners ($2.3 billion per year); and impose a New York City luxury land tax to fund transit, jobs and climate adaptation ($7 billion annually).

Governor Calls Special Elections for April 24th

Last week, Gov. Cuomo set April 24th as the date for special elections to fill nine vacant Assembly seats and two vacant Senate seats.

The vacant Assembly seats are:

  • the 5th Assembly District (AD) in Suffolk County (formerly held by Republican Al Graf);
  • the 10th AD in Suffolk County (formerly held by Republican Chad Lupinacci);
  • the 17th AD in Nassau County (formerly held by Republican Tom McKevitt);
  • the 39th AS in Queens (formerly held by Democrat Francisco Moya);
  • the 74th AD in Manhattan (formerly held by Democrat Brian Kavanagh);
  • the 80th AD in the Bronx (formerly held by Democrat Mark Gjonaj);
  • the 102nd AD, a seven-county district that includes parts or all of Schoharie, Albany and Greene counties (formerly held by Republican Pete Lopez);
  • the 107th AD in the Capital Region (formerly held by Republican Steve McLaughlin); and
  • the 142nd AD in Erie County (formerly held by Democrat Mickey Kearns).

The two vacant Senate seats are:

  • the 32nd Senate District (SD) in the Bronx (formerly held by Democrat Ruben Diaz); and
  • the 37th SD in Westchester (formerly held by Democrat George Latimer).

Most of these races are expected to be won easily by a candidate from the party that previously held the seat.  But the race for the 37th State Senate District, which includes parts of Yonkers, White Plains, the Sound Shore communities, North Castle and Bedford, is expected to be competitive and high profile.

Political Update

Assembly Minority Leader Drops Bid for Governor

On Friday, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb announced that he is dropping out of the race for Governor.  His decision leaves State Senator John DeFrancisco and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra as the only two declared candidates in the race.

Killian Enters Race for 37th State Senate Seat

Last Wednesday, Westchester Republicans nominated former Rye city councilwoman Julie Killian to run for the vacant 37th State Senate seat.

Killian has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Notre Dame and an MBA in finance from NYU. She spent six years on the Rye City Council and had a career in the financial industry. She ran for the seat in 2016, but was defeated by George Latimer, who has since become Westchester County Executive.

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 Governor’s 30-day budget amendments are due to be submitted to the Legislature by February 15.

The Legislature takes a break next week.  Lawmakers return to Albany on February 27.

The NYS Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators holds its 47th Annual Legislative Conference in Albany on February 16, 17 and 18.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on February 22.

On February 23, Senators David Carlucci (D – Rockland County) and Jesse Hamilton (D –Brooklyn) are holding a public forum in Manhattan “to gain insight on the logistics and organization of cryptocurrency; its regulation through the BitLicense in the state of New York, other states and on a federal level; and the current marketplace in which it thrives and becomes problematic for consumers.

The final legislative budget hearing on Environmental Conservation will be held on February 27.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on February 27.

The State Board of Elections holds its next meeting on March 1.

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