Coverage of Albany and New York State government

  • Cuomo Administration Staff Changes
  • Governor, Other Officials Criticize House Vote on Tax Reform Bill
  • Governor Signs Bill Adding PTSD to Medical Marijuana Program
  • Governor Announces Launch of Suicide Prevention Task Force
  • Chief Judge Re-Establishes Judicial Task Force on the NYS Constitution
  • Assembly Hearing Looks at State Economic Development Programs
  • State Accepting Nominations for Empire Star Public Service Award
  • State Releases Thruway Mobile App
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Cuomo Administration Staff Changes

On Monday, Gov. Cuomo announced the following administration appointments:

  • Cathy Calhoun as Director of State Operations;
  • Linda Lacewell as Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Governor;
  • Letizia Tagliafierro as Deputy Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs and Special Counsel to the Governor;
  • Paul Karas as Commissioner of the state Department of Transportation;
  • Richard White as Deputy Secretary for Public Safety; and
  • Peter Ajemian as Deputy Communications Director for Transportation.

Governor, Other Officials Criticize House Vote on Federal Tax Reform Bill

As the House moved forward with a vote on its proposed tax overhaul last week, Gov. Cuomo continued his criticism of the measure.  He told reporters:

“This is the federal scam they are running.  First of all, they call it a tax cut for the middle class. That’s baloney. It is a corporate tax cut for the rich corporations on the hypothetical theory that the corporations now will make more money and they will pay more wages to the workers.”

Mayors from cities throughout the state also criticized the proposal because the bill would cap federal deductions for state and local taxes (known as SALT deductions).  The House Republican bill would cap SALT deductions at $10,000 annually, while the Senate’s proposal would eliminate SALT deductions. They also criticized the elimination of a historic building tax credit that many say has been helpful in downtown redevelopment.

Last Tuesday, President Trump’s budget director defended federal changes to SALT deductions.  He said that high tax states such as New York should take responsibility for their own high tax rates, and stop making taxpayers in low tax states subsidize them through a break in the federal tax code.

The House passed its version of the bill on Wednesday evening.  Five of New York State’s nine Republican Houses members voted against the bill: Lee Zeldin of Long Island; Dan Donovan of Staten Island; John Faso of the Hudson Valley; Peter King of Long Island; and Elise Stefanik of the North Country.

Governor Signs Bill Adding PTSD to Medical Marijuana Program

Last week, Gov. Cuomo signed into law a bill that adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed in New York.  The Governor made the announcement before marching in a Veterans Day parade in New York City.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“Many of our veterans are suffering from PTSD and the medical community has determined that marijuana can be a helpful treatment in some areas. Part of our commitment to do everything we can do [is] if veterans are suffering — and we can make a treatment available — we want to.”

Governor Announces Launch of Suicide Prevention Task Force

Last Thursday, Gov. Cuomo announced the formation of the New York State Suicide Prevention Task Force, which will be co-chaired by Christopher Tavella, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, and Peter Wyman, Professor Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The Task Force will focus on suicide prevention targeting high-risk demographic groups and special populations, including the LGBT community, veterans, people with mental illness, and those struggling with alcohol and drug use.  It will examine and evaluate current suicide prevention programs services, and policies; make recommendations to increase access, awareness, and support for children, adolescents and adults in need of assistance; and explore methods to address and prevent bullying and cyber-bullying.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“The rise in the number of suicides nationwide is unacceptable, and New York will continue to make suicide awareness and prevention a top priority until we put an end to this epidemic. The Suicide Prevention Task Force will focus on high-risk communities and groups to build on our efforts to address this challenge, and help build a stronger, healthier New York for all.”

Chief Judge Re-Establishes Judicial Task Force on the NYS Constitution

Last Friday, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced that the Judicial Task Force on the New York State Constitution will be re-established “to identify reforms, for consideration by the Legislature, toward streamlining the court system’s byzantine structure (comprising multiple levels of trial courts) and otherwise enhancing the New York Courts’ efficiency and accessibility.”

The Task Force, which was initially created in 2016 to prepare for a potential state constitutional convention, is being co-chaired by Ninth Judicial District Administrative Judge Alan Scheinkman and Dennis Glazer, a retired partner of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.

Chief Judge DiFiore said:

“Constitutional reforms should be considered where necessary to remove roadblocks to improving the work of the courts and to make court operations more efficient and less costly to the taxpayers and the litigants. The members of the Judicial Task Force on the New York State Constitution, with their deep understanding of New York State government, are uniquely positioned to contribute to this reform initiative. Thus, I have asked the Task Force to resume its work, this time identifying practical constitutional reforms that may be achievable through the legislative process.”

Assembly Hearing Looks at State Economic Development Programs

Last week, Empire State Development (ESD) head Howard Zemsky defended the Cuomo Administration’s economic development policies to skeptical legislators.

Zemsky spoke of the state’s economic turnaround since Gov. Cuomo took office in 2011.  He credited the programs the Cuomo Administration has put in place, including a system of regional economic development councils that designed strategic plans around the state; a system of tax-free zones called START-UP NY; tourism promotion; and $420 million a year in tax credits for film and television production.

Good government group Reinvent Albany criticized the Administration’s economic development programs.  The group said that the Legislature should not appropriate any new funds for discretionary economic development programs until the state enacts a series of transparency and accountability reforms.

State Accepting Nominations for Empire Star Public Service Award

Last Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced that nominations are now being accepted for the Empire Star Public Service Award, a $5,000 professional development scholarship program for New York State employees.

To be eligible, nominees must be employed in the Executive Branch of state government. Nominations are due by December 15, 2017 and can be completed online.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“Every day, hardworking men and women who make up the state’s public workforce strive to help improve the lives of their fellow New Yorkers.  With the launch of the Empire Star Public Service Award, employees who demonstrate an extraordinary level of dedication to their work will be honored, and we will acknowledge their contributions to the Empire State as we continue to support a stronger, better New York for all.”

State Releases Thruway Mobile App

Last Friday, Gov. Cuomo announced the launch of the New York State Thruway Authority mobile app, which provides motorists real-time traffic and navigation assistance along with information on services available on the state’s 570-mile highway.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“New York continues to meet the needs of 21st century travelers, and ahead of the busy holiday season, the launch of this new app will provide reliable, advanced technology to keep motorists informed and safe. By connecting travelers with real-time information, this new app will help ease travel along the Thruway, promote responsible driving habits, and support an easier, less congested holiday commute for all.”

Political Update

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 Smart Schools Review Board will meet on November 27, 2017 in Albany.

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

Also on November 28, the Assembly Election Law Committee is holding a public hearing in Manhattan on “Protecting the Integrity of New York State’s Election Systems.”

On December 1, the Assembly Judiciary Committee is holding a public hearing in New York City “to examine the impact of the 2017-2018 enacted state budget on the judiciary and the administration of justice in New York.”

On December 5, the Assembly committees on Governmental Operations; Labor; Small Business and Subcommittee on Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises are holding a public hearing in Albany “to examine the 2017 MWBE Disparity Study and the overall MWBE program through the input of program participants.”

The Board of Regents holds its next meeting on December 11 and 12.

On December 12, the Assembly Higher Education Committee is holding a public hearing to examine the impact that the Excelsior Scholarship and the Enhanced Tuition Awards Programs are having on New York State families and institutions of higher education.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on December 14.

The State Board of Elections holds its next meeting on December 15.