Coverage of Albany and New York State government

  • Legislative Budget Hearings Continue
  • Comptroller Releases Review of Executive Budget Proposal
  • Governor Announces Administration Appointments
  • State Legislature Approves Bill to Delay NYC’s Disposable Bag Fee
  • Senate Approves Rowan Wilson to the Court of Appeals
  • Senate Approves Ride Hailing Bill
  • Senate Democrats Propose Voting Reforms
  • Assembly Approves Protections for Immigrants, DREAM Act
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Legislative Budget Hearings Continue

At last Monday’s budget hearing on mental hygiene and related issues, state legislators raised concerns about state funding for direct care employers, who work with the elderly and persons with disabilities.  Lawmakers said that the state’s minimum wage may make it harder to recruit and retain direct care employees if they can earn more working at a fast food restaurant.  The Governor has proposed an additional $27.4 million for nonprofit providers; advocates are seeking a $45 million increase.

At last Tuesday’s budget hearing on taxes, lawmakers complained to an official from the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance that state property tax rebate checks are not reaching thousands of qualified homeowners in a timely manner, which hurt lower-income residents and seniors who count on the funds to help pay their local property taxes.

At the same hearing, the head of the state’s chapter of the Internet Association criticized the state’s proposal for large internet marketplaces (such as eBay, Etsy and Amazon Marketplace) to start collecting state sales taxes, saying that it will cost jobs.  The Governor has proposed requiring Internet marketplaces that handle more than $100 million in annual sales to collect and remit state sales taxes, projecting that it will bring the state an additional $128 million each year.

Senator Flanagan and Speaker Heastie have released a Joint Legislative Schedule for Budget Adoption.  They anticipate each house passing its respective one-house budget during the week of March 13, and then convening conference committees to resolve differences between their respective budgets.  The schedule anticipates legislative action on the budget being complete by March 31, the last day of the state’s current fiscal year.

Comptroller Releases Review of Executive Budget Proposal

On Friday, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released his review of the Governor’s 2017-18 Executive Budget proposal.  The report notes that “the budget proposal comes at a time of significant risk involving the federal budget,” and that the budget relies on $54.3 billion in federal assistance – about one-third of the overall plan.

The report expresses concerns about provisions that would “give the Executive expanded authority to reshape the budget after it has been adopted by the Legislature” and proposed limits on the Comptroller’s independent oversight, including review of various contracts and debt issuances.

Comptroller DiNapoli said:

“The 2017-18 Executive Budget seeks to balance spending and revenue and proposes much needed capital investments in clean water projects while increasing funding for education, health care and other programs.  Still, several proposals raise issues regarding checks and balances over use of the public’s dollars and would diminish independent oversight.”

Governor Announces Administration Appointments

On Friday, Gov. Cuomo announced the appointments of Jamie Rubin as Director of State Operations and Frank Hoare as Deputy Secretary of Legislative Affairs.

Rubin previously served as Commissioner of Homes and Community Renewal. Jamie also served as Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.  He replaces Jim Malatras, who recently became ‎President of Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Hoare previously served as General Counsel for the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. He replaces Mark Weprin, who recently left the Administration for the private sector.

Senate Approves Rowan Wilson to the Court of Appeals

Last Monday, the State Senate approved the Governor’s nomination of Rowan Wilson to serve as an Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. Justice Wilson was previously a commercial litigator at the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he also led the firm’s pro bono work.  He replaces Eugene Pigott Jr., who retired at the end of 2016 due to age.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“With Rowan Wilson’s confirmation…New York gains another supremely qualified and accomplished leader to serve on our state’s highest court. Admired for his unassailable integrity, keen intellect and extensive experience handling some of the most pressing legal matters of our time, Judge Wilson is committed to the principles of justice and equality that are the very foundation of New York’s judicial system…..I congratulate Judge Wilson on his confirmation, and look forward to his service on behalf of all New Yorkers.”

With the approval of Judge Rowan, Gov. Cuomo has now appointed all seven members of the Court of Appeals.

Senate Approves Ride Hailing Bill

Last Monday, the State Senate approved a bill to permit ride hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City.  The Senate bill would impose a 2% tax on ride hails, requires criminal and driving history background checks, passenger notifications of driver information and trip charges, and the adoption of non-discrimination and zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policies.  It would also create a Transportation Network Company (TNC) Accessibility Task Force to identify and address barriers to and opportunities for increasing TNC access to persons with disabilities.

The Governor has proposed a measure to permit ride hailing as part of his Executive budget.  The Governor’s proposal would impose a 5.5% tax, and subject rides to the state’s 4% sales tax.

Assembly Approves Protections for Immigrants, DREAM Act

Last Monday, the Assembly passed a package of bills that it calls the New York State Liberty Act, which are intended to protect undocumented immigrants who may face deportation.

The legislation would make New York a “sanctuary” state by prohibiting the detention of undocumented individuals on immigration detainers unless there was a warrant from a judge.  It would also prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from stopping or questioning a person based on perceived immigration status.

The Assembly also approved, for the fifth time, the New York DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants attending higher education institutions.

Senate Democrats Propose Voting Reforms

Last Monday, the Senate Democratic Conference released a report on voting in the state, and proposed a legislative package that is intended to increase voter turnout.

The Senate Democrats’ package would authorize early voting; permit same day voter registration; create the misdemeanor crime of voter suppression; direct the State Board of Elections to undertake a study of the feasibility of voting by mail, telephone and/or the internet;

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said:

“New York State ranks abysmally low on voter turnout, and that is the direct result of generations of Senate Republican red tape and voting disenfranchisement.  I have seen first-hand the lengths those in power will go to maintain their control, even if that means denying New Yorkers their constitutional right to vote. That is why my Senate Democratic colleagues and I are committed to cutting through the bureaucracy and roadblocks and opening up the electoral process to more New Yorkers. Our democracy requires active participation from all citizens and efforts to block that goal are un-American and counter to New York values.”

Political Update

Backlash Against Senate’s IDC

Discord between the Senate’s mainline Democratic minority and the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) continued last week. Some liberal activists are promising to mount 2018 primary challenges to the IDC’s three newest members: Senators Jose Peralta of Queens, Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan.

A new web site, No IDC NY, has been launched, which calls on the IDC members to rejoin the mainline Democratic Conferenceto pursue a progressive agenda.”

 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

Legislative budget hearings continue this week:

  • Monday: Environmental Conservation
  • Tuesday: Elementary & Secondary Education
  • Wednesday: Transportation
  • Thursday: Health/Medicaid
  • Friday: Housing

The Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on February 16.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore will deliver the 2017 State of the Judiciary speech in the Bronx on Feb. 22.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on February 28.

The Senate and Assembly expect to approve their respective one-house budget bills on March 13.

The state’s 2017-18 fiscal year begins on April 1.