Coverage of Albany and New York State government

  • Legislative Leaders Discuss End of Session Issues
  • Governor Announces Start of Autonomous Vehicle Testing
  • Governor Announces $87 Million for Water Quality Improvement Projects
  • Fallen Officers Recognized at Annual Police Officers’ Memorial Remembrance Ceremony
  • Governor Cuomo, Christie Call for Private Operator for Penn Station
  • Senate Approves Anti-Gang Legislation
  • Senate Forms Republican Women’s Caucus
  • Ads Promote Tolerance, Governor
  • Reform Groups Continue Push for State Contracting Reforms
  • Senate Democrats Push for Action on Anti-Gun Violence Package
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Legislative Leaders Discuss End of Session Issues

As lawmakers enter the end of the 2017 legislative session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) spoke at an event hosted by the Albany Times Union to discuss their respective conference priorities.

Senator Flanagan said that the Senate will focus on “core quality-of-life issues,” such as providing clean water and improving infrastructure.

Speaker Heastie said that the Assembly Democratic Conference will continue its “family-first agenda,” which includes issues such as immigration and child care.

Both legislative leaders spoke in favor of measures to strengthen procurement oversight in the wake of the federal corruption charges against a top aide to the governor and eight others.

And both leaders said that they oppose holding a state constitutional convention.  Voters will have the opportunity to cast a vote in November on whether the state should hold constitutional convention in 2019 where elected delegates would have the ability to rewrite the state constitution, and then put if before the state’s voters.

Governor Announces Start of Autonomous Vehicle Testing

Last Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced that New York is now accepting applications from companies interested in testing or demonstrating autonomous vehicles on public roads. Legislation approved as part of the state’s 2017-18 budget allows for testing autonomous technology through a year-long pilot program.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“New York has emerged as one of the nation’s leading hubs for innovation, and as we invite companies and entrepreneurs to reimagine transportation technology, we will encourage the development of new, safe travel options for New Yorkers.  With this action, we are taking a careful yet balanced approach to incorporating autonomous vehicles on our roads to reduce dangerous driving habits, decrease the number of accidents and save lives on New York roadways.”

Governor Announces $87 Million for Water Quality Improvement Projects

Last Monday, Gov. Cuomo announced that $87 million in grants are available to municipalities and not-for-profit corporations to improve water quality, protect drinking water sources, reduce polluted runoff, and restore habitats in New York’s waterbodies.  The grants, which will be administered by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), will be distributed as part of the state’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“New York is leading with critical investments in water infrastructure that protect long-term health, sustainability, and economic viability of communities across the state.  These grants will help ensure our communities have the resources necessary to protect our precious natural assets and help build a stronger, healthier and more prosperous Empire State for all.”

More information about the grants, and how to apply, is available here.

Fallen Officers Recognized at Annual Police Officers’ Memorial Remembrance Ceremony

Last Tuesday, 40 police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to communities across the state were recognized at New York State’s annual Police Officers’ Memorial Remembrance Ceremony. Their names were added to the police officers’ memorial at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“Each day, law enforcement officers selflessly put their lives on the line to protect the public. Today, we honor the enduring legacy of those dedicated police officers who gave their lives to keep our communities safe and join in thanking their families for their bravery and service.”

Governor Cuomo, Christie Call for Private Operator for Penn Station

Last Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie issued a joint letter to the CEO of Amtrak calling for a private operator at Penn Station.

The letter cites “decades of underinvestment by Amtrak” that have resulted in a “continuing string of infrastructure failures at Penn Station.”  It notes that that the states pay about $150 million annually for their respective use of the facility, and seeks “the right to approve any private contractor that Amtrak selects” in response to their request.

Senate Approves Anti-Gang Legislation

Last week, the Senate approved S.2410, the Criminal Street Gang Enforcement and Prevention Act, to better prosecute gang violence and stop gang recruitment through proactive community outreach.  The measure would provide for longer prison terms for felonies committed during gang activity, create a gang-prevention curriculum in New York classrooms, and provide funding for non-profit community outreach.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said:

“Neighborhoods that have been particularly hard hit by gang violence on Long Island and in communities across the state need better resources to help eliminate gangs and the victimization of those in their wake.  (The) bill takes a comprehensive approach to protect our families by preventing vulnerable young people from being recruited by gangs and strengthening our laws to break up violent and dangerous gang activity.”

Senate Forms Republican Women’s Caucus

Last Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan announced the formation of the Senate Republican Women’s Caucus, which will be chaired by Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury).

The caucus will help set the legislative agenda for 2017 and beyond.  It will address a number of issues, including making New York more affordable for women and their families, increasing economic opportunities for women, reviewing the state’s efforts to support victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape, and examining ways to make child care more affordable.

Ads Promote Tolerance, Governor

Gov. Cuomo and his political supporters have launched New Yorkers United Together, an independent non-profit that a spokesperson said “promote(s) New York as a place of diversity, unity and openness.”  The group is not registered as a lobbyist, and is not required to disclose its donors.

The online ad, which features actors Whoopi Goldberg, John Leguizamo, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Fierstein and Edie Falco, can be viewed here.

Some see the ad as part of the Governor’s effort to lay the groundwork for a potential 2020 presidential campaign.

Reform Groups Continue Push for State Contracting Reforms

A coalition of budget and good government groups are calling on the Legislature to approve the New York State Procurement Integrity Act, which would restore the State Comptroller’s authority to review all state contracts over $250,000, end to non-academic contracting by state-controlled non-profit organizations, create a “database of deals,” and prohibit state authorities, corporations, and affiliated non-profits doing business with their board members. (Read the Comptroller’s press release on the bill here.)

The coalition includes Reinvent Albany, New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG), Citizens Union, the League of Women Voters, the Fiscal Policy Institute, Common Cause, and the Citizens Budget Commission.

Senate Democrats Push for Action on Anti-Gun Violence Package

The Democrats in the State Senate want to strengthen New York’s gun control laws.   They are calling for action on a package of bills that include limiting the sale of guns to an individual to one per month; prohibiting a person who has been convicted of a hate crime from owning a gun; allowing the families of the victims of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers; and creating a Task Force on the public health impact of firearms.

The bills are not expected to be acted on in the Republican-controlled State Senate.

Political Update

Report: Long Time Assembly Ways & Means Chair to Retire

The Daily News reported this week that Assemblyman Herman “Denny” Farrell (D-Manhattan), will not seek re-election in 2018, and that it is not clear whether he will step down before his current term ends.

State Senator Files to Run for Suffolk County Sheriff

State Senator Phil Boyle (R- Bay Shore) has established a campaign committee with the State Board of Elections indicating that he plans to run for the office of Suffolk County sheriff.  Before he was elected to the State Senate in 2012, he served in the State Assembly.

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 Legislature is in Albany Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

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

The special elections to fill vacancies in the 30th Senate District (Manhattan) and the 9th Assembly District (Nassau/Suffolk) are scheduled for May 23.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on May 23.

Also on May 23, the Assembly Committee on Children and Families and the Assembly’s Legislative Task Force on Women’s Issues are holding a public hearing in Albany “to examine the barriers to accessing quality child day care and how such lack of access relates to a variety of issues including child development, family stability and the economy.”

The Indian Point Closure Task Force will meet on May 31 in Cortland.

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

The Board of Regents holds its next meeting on June 12 and 13.