- Legislative Budget Hearings Continue
- Governor Announces Third Round of Broadband Program
- Governor, Legislative Leaders Reach Agreement on ‘Laverne’s Law’
- State Releases Offshore Wind Plan
- State Senator Announces Run for Governor
- State Seeks ‘Expressions of Interest’ for Long Island Sound Tunnel Project
- Senate Democrats Push for Ethics Reforms
- Constitutional Convention Supporters to Push Proposals in Legislature
- Group Pushing for ‘Safe Injection Facilities’ for Drug Addicts
- Political Update
- Coming Up
Legislative Budget Hearings Continue
The Senate Finance and Assembly Ways & Means committees continued their review of the Governor’s 2018-19 Executive Budget last week.
At Last Monday’s hearing on economic development, Empire State Development President Howard Zemsky told lawmakers that the administration is seeking another $750 million in funding for the Regional Economic Development Councils. He said that they have helped to create or retain 200,000 jobs since they were first established in 2011.
Some state lawmakers appear to be growing skeptical of the Cuomo Administration’s economic development practices, suggesting that the program needs more oversight and that legislators should have a greater say in how state economic development funds are distributed. Zemsky defended the programs, calling it an “amazingly positive process.”
At Last Tuesday’s budget hearing on public protection, lawmakers asked about the Governor’s proposal to eliminate cash bail for those charged with low-level non-violent offenses; how the state’s courts are dealing with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arresting people while they are in court; and the costs of addressing that state’s new “Raise the Age” law, among other issues.
Testifying on behalf of the state court system, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks testified that the Governor’s proposal to clear up trial court backlogs by having judges certify they’re working eight-hour days is not necessary because the court system is already taking steps to reduce backups. Judge Marks called the proposal “unusual” and “unnecessary.”
At Last Wednesday’s budget hearing on elementary and secondary education, state Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia testified that he Governor’s proposed 3 percent increase in school aid next year would barely enable districts to maintain services as student needs and mandated costs for employee salaries, health care premiums and teacher retirements are increasing.
Legislative budget hearings continue next week, with hearings on Local Government/General Government (Monday); Human Services (Tuesday); Environmental Conservation (Wednesday); and Taxes (Thursday).
Governor Announces Third Round of Broadband Program
Last Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced Round III of the nation-leading New NY Broadband program – providing the last mile funding to ensure high-speed internet access for all New Yorkers. The $209.7 million Round III awards will provide 122,285 homes, businesses and community institutions across the state with access to high-speed Internet.
Gov. Cuomo said:
“Access to high-speed internet is critical as New York works to deliver the resources needed for industries to thrive and businesses to remain competitive in the 21st century global economy. This cutting-edge program is advancing our vision to connect communities, empower entrepreneurs and residents, and support advanced technological innovation.”
Leecia Eve, Verizon’s Vice President of State Government Affairs for the Tri-State region, said:
“At Verizon, we don’t wait for the future, we build it. This historic partnership will expand high-speed broadband access to thousands of New Yorkers and will better connect our communities. This work will be done by our highly skilled and compensated workforce and will enable all of New York State to better compete in the global economy.”
Governor, Legislative Leaders Reach Agreement on ‘Laverne’s Law’
Last Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced that he has signed legislation extending the time that those who have had missed cancer diagnoses can file medical malpractice lawsuits. The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit will now be either 2½ years after a patient learns of a misdiagnosis or seven years after the actual misdiagnosis.
The previous limit was 15 months from the point of misdiagnosis.
Gov. Cuomo said:
“No one should have to go through what Lavern Wilkinson and her family did, and this agreement will help protect cancer patients and their loved ones, while also addressing concerns from the medical field. With this reform, we will help make New York a healthier, fairer state for all.”
State Releases Offshore Wind Plan
Last week, Gov. Cuomo announced the release of the New York State Offshore Wind Master Plan, which the state says will lead to the development of 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, enough to power up to 1.2 million homes with clean energy. The plan projects up to 5,000 people employed in and around a $6 billion industry by 2028.
Gov. Cuomo said:
“While the federal government continues to turn its back on protecting natural resources and plots to open up our coastline to drilling, New York is doubling down on our commitment to renewable energy and the industries of tomorrow. We are drawing upon our world-class workforce, unmatched intellectual capital, physical infrastructure and financial institutions to develop this increasingly affordable clean energy source that creates good paying jobs while protecting Long Island’s natural beauty and quality of life.”
State Senator Announces Run for Governor
Last week, State Senator John DeFrancisco (R-DeWitt) announced that he will run for Governor this fall. He said that he plans to make the state’s economy the centerpiece of his campaign, highlighting what he views as the poor record of two-term incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo.
DeFrancisco has served in the State Senate since 1993. A practicing attorney, he previously served on the Syracuse School Board and the Syracuse Common Council. He has about $1.4 million in his campaign account.
Two other Republicans have already announced their bids for governor: Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra.
State Seeks ‘Expressions of Interest’ for Long Island Sound Tunnel Project
Gov. Cuomo recently announced that the state Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) regarding the proposed Long Island tunnel project connecting Long Island and Westchester. The RFEI “invites interested parties to provide input on engineering, environmental, operations and financial considerations that will be used to inform the future development of a Request for Proposals.” It is due by April 2.
Gov. Cuomo said:
“Improving and expanding our transportation infrastructure is essential to moving New York forward. Today we are taking another step to advance an ambitious project that would reduce traffic on the impossibly congested Long Island Expressway, improve connectivity, and help ensure the region’s future economic competitiveness.”
DOT released a preliminary study in 2017 assessing the feasibility of a Long Island Sound Long Island Sound Tunnel; it found that such a tunnel would cost between $31.5 billion and $55.4 billion to build, depending on location and whether there are one or two tubes.
Senate Democrats Push for Ethics Reforms
Last week, Senate Democrats announced their support for a series of measures intended to address unethical behavior by public officials and to help restore New Yorkers’ faith in the political system.
The measures being pushed by the Senate Democratic Conference includes closing the LLC loophole; requiring the disclosure of political bundlers; requiring shareholder approval for corporate political contributions; lowering campaign contribution limits; and establishing a system of publicly-funded political campaigns.
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said:
“When voters feel removed from the political system and frustrated by corruption, state government must step in to fix it. My Senate Democratic colleagues and I want to restore New Yorkers’ faith in the political system by punishing unethical behavior by public officials, shining a light on how campaigns are funded, and ending large corporations’ ability to dump unlimited money into campaign accounts. I urge the Senate Republican Majority to join us in passing these common sense reforms to restore the voters’ faith in New York State government.”
Constitutional Convention Supporters to Push Proposals in Legislature
A group of supporters of the failed effort to hold a state constitutional convention are taking their campaign for constitutional changes to the state Legislature.
The effort is being led by Evan Davis, onetime counsel to former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and includes former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, former Gov. David Paterson and former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt Jr. The committee has registered an independent expenditure committee, the ‘Committee to Reform the State Constitution,’ that will enable it to spend money on future state elections.
The group plans to push for amendments to the state constitution that address public corruption; voting reforms; and changes to the state’s court system, including the ways in which judges are selected and their districts are drawn.
Group Pushing for ‘Safe Injection Facilities’ for Drug Addicts
Last week, a coalition called End Overdose NY launched a legislative effort to create safer consumption spaces (SCSs), also known as supervised injection facilities (SIFs), in New York State.
The coalition is made up of public health and healthcare professionals, faith leaders, family members of those struggling with opioid dependency, drug treatment providers as well as people in recovery, and those still actively using drugs. They are calling on state lawmakers to treat drug addiction as a public health problem, not a criminal justice problem.
According to advocates, the idea behind allowing drug users to inject opioids in a controlled environment is that it would be safer for people who are using drugs — there would be less of a risk of the person overdosing, and there would be trained personnel nearby to intervene.
According to a recent report by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, New York saw a 71 percent increase in opioid-related deaths between 2010 and 2015.
GOP Fundraiser Chele Chiavacci Farley Challenge Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Last Thursday, Chele Chiavacci Farley, the New York State Republican Party’s New York City Finance Chair, announced that she will challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. A veteran of the financial services industry, she has never run for public office before. (Watch her launch video here.)
She said that her top priority will be recapturing the more than $40 billion more in taxes that New Yorkers send to Washington than they receive back in services each year, and reinvest any additional federal money the state receives in roads, bridges and the New York City transit system.
Winners & Losers
The Legislature is in session next Monday and Tuesday.
Legislative budget hearings continue next week, with hearings on Health/ Medicaid on Monday and Mental Hygiene on Tuesday.
The Board of Regents holds its next meeting on February 12 and 13.
On February 14, the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee is holding a public hearing “to examine the impacts of a federal offshore natural gas and oil lease authorization on New York’s environment” in Suffolk County.
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.