• Governor Announces Relief & Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico
  • Assembly Speaker Announces Leadership Appointments, New Committee Chairs
  • Senate Majority Leader Calls for Real Property Tax Cap to Be Made Permanent
  • Assemblyman Named Regional EPA Administrator
  • Court Reverses Conviction of Former Senate Majority Leader
  • Comptroller Identifies Local Governments Under Fiscal Stress
  • Governor Announces Agreement to Grow the Drone Industry in New York
  • DEC Announces Drone Deployment
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Governor Announces Relief & Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico

Last week, Gov. Cuomo announced the launch of a statewide effort to provide assistance to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort will provide needed goods and services as well as financial support to the area.  The Governor, who traveled to Puerto Rico on Friday to assess the damage, also called on Washington lawmakers to put politics aside and send aid.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“After seeing the breathtaking devastation and unfathomable need for help firsthand in Puerto Rico, I am launching this effort to put the full weight of New York’s resources behind the Puerto Rican people.  New York has a long and proud history of standing up to help those in need, and with millions of Puerto Ricans suffering, we must do everything we can to help our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters recover. I thank our partners who have already donated and encourage all New Yorkers to lend a hand as we work together to help this community rebuild.”

The Governor’s relief effort includes working with the Partnership for New York City, a business organization, to establish a public foundation that will make grants to local charitable organizations in Puerto Rico, seeking donations of a minimum of $10,000. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will monitor the foundation to ensure it follows rules for soliciting and distributing funds. The state will also send a group of doctors and nurses to Puerto Rico, and the Port Authority will send 45 aviation staff members to assist at San Juan International Airport.


Assembly Speaker Announces Leadership Appointments, New Committee Chairs

Last Thursday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced the following new conference leadership positions and committee chair assignments:

Senate Majority Leader Calls for Real Property Tax Cap to Be Made Permanent

Last week, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) called for the state’s real property tax cap to be made permanent in 2018. Senator Flanagan made the announcement spoke at the Business Council of New York State’s annual meeting in Bolton Landing.

Senator Flanagan said:

“Perhaps more than anything else we have done as a Legislature, the property tax cap has had an extraordinarily positive impact on hardworking taxpayers and their families. It has slammed the door on the massive, double-digit property tax increases of the past, and brought certainty to businesses and to taxpayers. By any objective measure, the property tax cap has been an enormous success.”

He also said that the Senate plans to advance a comprehensive regulatory reform package in 2018.

Assemblyman Named Regional EPA Administrator

Last Thursday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the appointment of Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R-Schoharie County) to become Regional Administrator for Region 2.  In that position, he will oversee federal environmental protection efforts in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Lopez, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2006, has represented a seven-county region that includes parts of the Mid-Hudson, Northern Catskills, Southern Tier, and Capital District areas.

The Governor can call a special election to fill the vacancy in the 102nd Assembly District.  If he does not, it will be filled at the November 2018 general election.

Court Reverses Conviction of Former Senate Majority Leader

Last week, a federal appeals panel overturned the 2015 corruption convictions of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam, citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in that narrowed the legal definition of corruption. (Read the decision here.)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the judge’s explanation to the jury of an official action was too broad, and that the jury may have convicted the Skeloses for conduct that was not unlawful under the McDonnell ruling. But the court also made it clear that the government’s evidence against the Skeloses was sufficient to allow a properly instructed jury to convict the two men, finding that there was enough evidence to establish that there had been a quid pro quo arrangement.

The court said “Because we cannot conclude that the instructional error as to ‘official acts’ was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,” the panel said, “we are obliged to vacate defendants’ convictions in their entirety and to remand the case for a new trial.”

Joon Kim, acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that he plans to retry the two men.

Comptroller Identifies Local Governments Under Fiscal Stress

Last Wednesday, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced that 27 local governments throughout the state are “fiscally stressed.” The list includes eight counties, eight cities and 11 towns. In addition, 13 have been listed as having “moderate fiscal stress.”

Comptroller DiNapoli said:

“Although the number of local governments designated as fiscally stressed has declined noticeably, there are still too many communities struggling with chronic budget strain.  Looking to the future, local officials should exercise fiscal caution through sensible spending decisions, realistic revenue projections and proper long-term planning.”

Governor Announces Agreement to Grow the Drone Industry in New York

Last Thursday, Gov. Cuomo announced an agreement between NASA and the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance that will grow the drone industry in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. The agreement includes the launch of a 50-mile Unmanned Traffic Management Corridor and creation of NUSTAR, a UAS test facility.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“With this groundbreaking partnership and our $30 million investment for the most advanced drone testing in the country, we are establishing Central New York and the Mohawk Valley as the premiere destination for businesses at the forefront of innovation.  By investing in this cutting-edge technology, we are creating a pathway to grow the upstate economy and create good-paying, quality jobs in the industries of the future.”

DEC Announces Drone Deployment

Last week, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that it has deployed a fleet of 22 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called “drones,” throughout the state to support the agency’s environmental management, conservation and emergency response efforts.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said:

“DEC has a wide range of responsibilities in protecting the state’s environment and ensuring the safety of our citizens and visitors, and well-being of our communities.  The use of drone technology will help us do our jobs better and faster while saving taxpayer dollars. We live in a changing world with technological advances being made at an exponential rate, and UAVs give us a safe and efficient way to collect and analyze data, assess threats to the environment, and quickly respond to emergencies. This technology is helping DEC with everything from petroleum spills and wildlife surveys to search and rescue missions, forest fires, and natural disasters.”

Political Update

Queens Democrats Nominate Rosenthal to Fill Assembly Vacancy

The Queens Democratic Party has nominated Daniel Rosenthal, an aide to New York City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), to fill the vacancy that resulted from the death of Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz.

The special election for the 27th Assembly District will he held on Election Day. The distinct includes the communities of College Point, Whitestone, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens Hills and Electchester.

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 Board of Regents holds its next meeting on October 16 and 17.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on October 19.

The state Gaming Commission holds its next meeting on October 23.

On October 30, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is holding a public hearing on its proposed lobbying regulations and proposed source of funding regulations.

Also on October 30, the Assembly committees on Corrections and Health are holding a public hearing on ‘Healthcare in New York correctional facilities.’

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on October 31.