Coverage of Albany and New York State government

  • Governor Delivers 2018 State of the State Address
  • Senate Majority Leader Outlines 2018 Priorities
  • Assembly Speaker Appoints New Committee Chairs
  • Governor Appoints Appellate Division Presiding Justices
  • Lawmakers Ask Governor to Extend Pistol Permit Renewal Deadline
  • Education Advocacy Group Calls for Increase in Education Funding
  • Group Files Lawsuit to Force Release of Records on State Economic Development Ad Spending
  • Democratic Activist Releases Ad Blasting Governor
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Governor Delivers 2018 State of the State Address

Last Wednesday, Governor Cuomo delivered his 2018 State of the State Address, which kicks off the state’s 2018 legislative session.  [Read the Governor’s press release, the booklet that accompanied his speech and the 23 proposals he announced prior to the speech.]

The Governor outlined a wide-ranging 2018 agenda that includes some new and some recycled initiatives.  As is typical, many of the agenda items were light on details.  Many of the initiatives the Governor presented are expected to be included in his Executive Budget proposal, which will be submitted to the Legislature in mid-January.

The backdrop is that the state is facing a projected $4.4 billion budget deficit, while the Governor is up for re-election in November and appears to be positioning himself for a possible presidential run in 2020.

Some of the new initiatives the Governor announced in his speech include:

  • the state will sue the federal government to try to block the new federal tax law, which no longer allows a deduction for state and local taxes in excess of $10,000, and he plans to lead an effort to “repeal and replace” the federal tax law;
  • proposing to prohibit confidentiality clauses in sexual harassment or assault settlements brokered by public entities; standardizing the harassment reporting processes; and require companies doing business with the state to disclose this information;
  • having the state, through Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, bring a lawsuit against pharmacy companies “for breaching their legal duties” by failing to adequately monitor and detect suspicious prescription orders for opioids;
  • calling on the New York State Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with women and minority leadership;
  • reauthorizing the state’s MWBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise) Program, and expanding it to “all state funded contracts”;
  • ending cash bail unless the accused is a flight risk or charged with a violent crime; and
  • $100 million to support “a continuum of effective prevention, diversion, treatment, re-entry and supervision services for juveniles.

Without providing any details, the Governor said that he may propose shifting the state from income taxes to a payroll tax, which remain deductible against federal income taxes. He said that his plan will be unveiled when he presents his 2018 budget proposal later this month.

Senate Majority Leader Outlines 2018 Priorities

Last week, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R- Suffolk County) detailed his conference’s priorities for 2018, the Blueprint for a Stronger New York.  They include balancing this year’s budget with no new taxes; making the real property tax cap permanent; reducing energy taxes; enacting a comprehensive regulatory reform package; and reducing taxes on small businesses

He also said that the Senate Republicans plan to push for “a top-to-bottom review of the State’s overall economic development strategy” to ensure that the state’s efforts are creating new jobs.

Finally, the Senate GOP will advance a comprehensive effort to keep New Yorkers safe from gangs and gang violence; heroin and opioid abuse; terrorism; and crimes against women and children.

Assembly Speaker Appoints New Committee Chairs

Last week, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced the Assembly Majority’s leadership positions and committee chairs for the 2018 Legislative Session.  Most of the positions are carried over from 2017.

The two new Assembly Committee chairs are:

Governor Appoints Appellate Division Presiding Justices

Last Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo announced the appointments of Alan Scheinkman to serve as Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department and Elizabeth Garry to serve as Presiding Justice for the Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department.

The Governor appoints Presiding Justices for each Appellate Division from the elected Justices of the Supreme Court. In addition to leading their Appellate Court, Presiding Justices are also responsible for serving as their Department’s Chief Administrator; overseeing ancillary court functions; and serving on the Administrative Board of the Courts.

Justice Scheinkman was elected to the New York State Supreme Court in the Ninth Judicial District in 2006 and has served as the Administrative Judge for that District since June 2009.

Justice Garry was elected a New York State Supreme Court Justice in 2006 in the 6th Judicial District, and was appointed to the Appellate Division, Third Department, in 2009.  She is the first openly LGBTQ Presiding Justice in New York history.

Lawmakers Ask Governor to Extend Pistol Permit Renewal Deadline

Three state legislators from Western New York are calling on Gov. Cuomo to extend the Jan. 31 SAFE Act deadline for renewing pistol permits that are more than five years old. After that date, they will be invalid.

State Senator Robert Ortt (R – North Tonawanda), Assemblyman Angelo Morinello (R-Niagara Falls) and Assemblyman Michael Norris (R – Lockport) said that they are concerned that pistol license holders who fail meet this new legal requirement can be prosecuted.

They said that a lack of outreach by the state has led to low compliance. As of this week, 21,549 of 50,000 affected permits had been renewed in Erie County, and 9,400 of 28,000 had been recertified in Niagara County.

A spokesperson for the State Police said that the law requires one year’s notice to permit holders, and the state sent 372,000 permit holders letter in January 2017. Pistol permits can be renewed through the State Police website, with a paper form available on the website, at State Police stations and at some county clerks’ offices.

Education Advocacy Group Calls for Increase in Education Funding

Last Tuesday, the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) released a video that calls on the state to spend more on education and school aid in 2018.  The group wants the state to raise taxes on the state’s highest earners to pay for the increased education aid.

Group Files Lawsuit to Force Release of Records on State Economic Development Ad Spending

Last Tuesday, government watchdog group Reclaim New York announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the state’s economic development agency for because the agency failed to provide the group with information about its spending on advertising for economic development programs. (Read the lawsuit here.)

The group filed Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests with Empire State Development (ESD) in July seeking copies of the contract, invoices, certificates of purchase plans and work reports between ESD and the advertising agency BBDO USA for the $246.5 million ad campaign that ran between 2011 and 2015.

The suit seeks the release of the requested records, a judicial declaration that ESD’s “stall tactics” violated FOIL, and reimbursement of for its legal fees.

Democratic Activist Releases Ad Blasting Governor

Last Wednesday, Democratic activist Bill Samuels released a 90-second ad that criticizes Gov. Cuomo’s for failing to fulfill his promise to “clean up Albany” and end corruption in New York.

The ad release coincided with the launch of a new group that Samuels is backing called Enough Is Enough.  The group is calling on the Governor to “pass real clean contracting laws, close the LLC loophole, and turn off the spigot that allows politicians to accept unlimited contributions from large corporations and wealthy people whose only interest is gaining more at the taxpayer’s expense.”

Political Update

Wilson, Molinaro Will Not Run for Governor in 2018

Citing family obligations, businessman Harry Wilson announced this week that he will not run for New York governor in 2018.  Some Republicans leaders considered Wilson, who served on President Obama’s task force that helped save the auto industry, to have the best chance of any GOP candidates to win the Governor’s race in November.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro also announced this week that he will not run for Governor in November.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra have both said that they plan to run for Governor this fall.  State Senator John DeFrancisco of the Syracuse is also considering a run.

Yonkers Mayor Drops Out of Race for Vacant Senate Seat

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said this week that he will not seek nomination to run for the Westchester’s vacant 37th Senate District, which was previously held by Democrat George Latimer.  Later became Westchester County Executive on January 1.

Spano’s decision not to run leaves Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer, Bedford Town Supervisor Chris Burdick, West Harrison resident Mark Jaffe and White Plains resident Kat Brezler as possible candidates.

Democratic Party district leaders plan to choose a candidate next week to run a special election to the fill the vacancy.  Gov. Cuomo has not called for the special election to be held, but he is expected to do so in the near future.

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 January 11, the Assembly committees on Codes, Health and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse are holding a public hearing in New York City “to examine the potential impacts of the legalization and regulation of marijuana and its effects on New York’s criminal justice and public health care systems.”

On January 12, the Assembly Insurance Committee is holding a public hearing in Albany “to evaluate whether the new title insurance regulations are successfully lowering consumer costs while also ensuring that the title insurance market remains healthy and competitive in New York State.

The Governor’s 2018-19 Executive Budget proposal will be released by January 16.

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

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

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

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