Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/dream-act 2018-09-18T21:44:28+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Leading Immigrant-Advocacy Group Backs Ramos in Bid to Unseat Peralta 2018-07-23T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-23T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7820:leading-immigrant-advocacy-group-backs-ramos-in-bid-to-unseat-peralta Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/jessica-ramos-cm.jpg" alt="jessica ramos cm" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Jessica Ramos (photo: @JessicaRamos)</p> <hr /> <p>When state Senator Jose Peralta joined the Independent Democratic Conference at the beginning of last year, he became the latest Democrat to sever ties with his own party and become part of a coalition with Republicans, a move that further consolidated GOP control over the upper chamber of the state Legislature and enraged many Democrats. Fast forward a year and a half, and after considerable criticism and facing primary challengers in this year’s elections, the IDC dissolved its breakaway faction and rejoined the mainline Democrats in a deal brokered in part by Governor Andrew Cuomo, another Democrat facing a primary challenge from his left after being accused of propping up the IDC and Senate Republicans.</p> <p>But the “unity” deal did not dissuade the primary challengers, nor did it stem the tide of grassroots organizations backing them.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Make the Road Action, an advocacy group representing the interests of Latino, immigrant, and working-class communities, is endorsing Jessica Ramos’ bid to unseat Peralta in the Democratic primary for Queens’ District 13, which will be voted on September 13. In explaining its endorsement of Ramos, the group notes her track record as a community organizer as well as her progressive platform, which promises to fight for issues like immigrant rights, affordable housing, and public school funding.</p> <p>In the time leading up to the election, Make the Road Action plans to canvas for Ramos by activating thousands of members to engage voters in the district by going door-to-door and phone-banking. On Tuesday, the group will participate in a walking tour of the district’s public schools with Ramos, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, both of whom have also backed Ramos.</p> <p>“Jessica Ramos has made it clear that she’s ready to fight for our community,” said Ruth López, a member of Make the Road Action, in a statement.</p> <p>The Senate district -- one of 63 across the state and one of eight represented by former members of the IDC -- encompasses parts of northern Queens. Peralta is in his fourth two-year term as a senator.</p> <p>Make the Road Action’s endorsement is the latest in a series for Ramos, who is seen as having among the best chances of the challengers taking on former members of the IDC. The challengers and their backers call the previously rogue senators things like “Trump Democrats” for their partnership with Republicans in Albany. Ramos has also been endorsed by advocacy groups including the Working Families Party and Our Revolution, by Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo in the primary, and by Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, as well as Queens City Council Members Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides.</p> <p>“They deserve a partner in the State Senate who is a real Democrat and will lead on measures to help workers and immigrants thrive,” Ramos said in a statement, referring to Make the Road Action, its members, and the Latinos, immigrants, and workers it represents. “I will be that partner.”</p> <p>Ramos formerly served as the Director of Latino Media for Mayor Bill de Blasio and as the Democratic District Leader in the 39th Assembly District from 2010 to 2014.</p> <p>A key pillar of her campaign against Peralta is that the IDC empowered Republicans, helping to keep Democrats from the majority and blocking progressive legislation. IDC members, on the other hand, have argued that they’ve been able to push the Senate Republicans to adopt some progressive policies and that they have been able to deliver more resources to their individual districts.</p> <p>In particular, Peralta’s move to the IDC last year garnered backlash because of his sponsorship of the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow undocumented students access to college financial aid. Republicans have opposed the bill, raising questions about Peralta’s rationale for working with the IDC and its GOP partners.</p> <p>In an April <a href="https://cityandstateny.com/podcast/jose-peralta-idc-and-back-again" target="_blank" rel="noopener">interview with City &amp; State</a>, Peralta defended his break with mainline Democrats by citing how the DREAM Act failed to pass by a count of two votes in 2014 because of the internal opposition of two Democrats. “I need to exhaust every opportunity and every avenue to make sure that we can pass these pieces of legislation that are landmark legislation,” he told City &amp; State. The former members of the IDC have pledged that the breakaway conference is over for good, even if Democrats don’t swing enough seats this November to take majority control of the Senate, and thus both houses of the Legislature (the Assembly is controlled by Democrats by a wide margin).</p> <p>Make the Road Action’s endorsement of Ramos points to immigrant-advocates’ dissatisfaction with Peralta, of particular interest in the immigrant and Latino-heavy district the two candidates are vying to represent. The winner of the primary is virtually assured of winning the general election in the Democrat-dominated district.</p> <p>“We are proud to endorse her today,” López said of Ramos, “and we’ll do everything we can to get her elected.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7494-max-murphy-podcast-idc-challengers-robert-jackson-jessica-ramos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: IDC Challengers Robert Jackson &amp; Jessica Ramos</a>]</p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/jessica-ramos-cm.jpg" alt="jessica ramos cm" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Jessica Ramos (photo: @JessicaRamos)</p> <hr /> <p>When state Senator Jose Peralta joined the Independent Democratic Conference at the beginning of last year, he became the latest Democrat to sever ties with his own party and become part of a coalition with Republicans, a move that further consolidated GOP control over the upper chamber of the state Legislature and enraged many Democrats. Fast forward a year and a half, and after considerable criticism and facing primary challengers in this year’s elections, the IDC dissolved its breakaway faction and rejoined the mainline Democrats in a deal brokered in part by Governor Andrew Cuomo, another Democrat facing a primary challenge from his left after being accused of propping up the IDC and Senate Republicans.</p> <p>But the “unity” deal did not dissuade the primary challengers, nor did it stem the tide of grassroots organizations backing them.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Make the Road Action, an advocacy group representing the interests of Latino, immigrant, and working-class communities, is endorsing Jessica Ramos’ bid to unseat Peralta in the Democratic primary for Queens’ District 13, which will be voted on September 13. In explaining its endorsement of Ramos, the group notes her track record as a community organizer as well as her progressive platform, which promises to fight for issues like immigrant rights, affordable housing, and public school funding.</p> <p>In the time leading up to the election, Make the Road Action plans to canvas for Ramos by activating thousands of members to engage voters in the district by going door-to-door and phone-banking. On Tuesday, the group will participate in a walking tour of the district’s public schools with Ramos, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, both of whom have also backed Ramos.</p> <p>“Jessica Ramos has made it clear that she’s ready to fight for our community,” said Ruth López, a member of Make the Road Action, in a statement.</p> <p>The Senate district -- one of 63 across the state and one of eight represented by former members of the IDC -- encompasses parts of northern Queens. Peralta is in his fourth two-year term as a senator.</p> <p>Make the Road Action’s endorsement is the latest in a series for Ramos, who is seen as having among the best chances of the challengers taking on former members of the IDC. The challengers and their backers call the previously rogue senators things like “Trump Democrats” for their partnership with Republicans in Albany. Ramos has also been endorsed by advocacy groups including the Working Families Party and Our Revolution, by Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo in the primary, and by Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, as well as Queens City Council Members Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides.</p> <p>“They deserve a partner in the State Senate who is a real Democrat and will lead on measures to help workers and immigrants thrive,” Ramos said in a statement, referring to Make the Road Action, its members, and the Latinos, immigrants, and workers it represents. “I will be that partner.”</p> <p>Ramos formerly served as the Director of Latino Media for Mayor Bill de Blasio and as the Democratic District Leader in the 39th Assembly District from 2010 to 2014.</p> <p>A key pillar of her campaign against Peralta is that the IDC empowered Republicans, helping to keep Democrats from the majority and blocking progressive legislation. IDC members, on the other hand, have argued that they’ve been able to push the Senate Republicans to adopt some progressive policies and that they have been able to deliver more resources to their individual districts.</p> <p>In particular, Peralta’s move to the IDC last year garnered backlash because of his sponsorship of the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow undocumented students access to college financial aid. Republicans have opposed the bill, raising questions about Peralta’s rationale for working with the IDC and its GOP partners.</p> <p>In an April <a href="https://cityandstateny.com/podcast/jose-peralta-idc-and-back-again" target="_blank" rel="noopener">interview with City &amp; State</a>, Peralta defended his break with mainline Democrats by citing how the DREAM Act failed to pass by a count of two votes in 2014 because of the internal opposition of two Democrats. “I need to exhaust every opportunity and every avenue to make sure that we can pass these pieces of legislation that are landmark legislation,” he told City &amp; State. The former members of the IDC have pledged that the breakaway conference is over for good, even if Democrats don’t swing enough seats this November to take majority control of the Senate, and thus both houses of the Legislature (the Assembly is controlled by Democrats by a wide margin).</p> <p>Make the Road Action’s endorsement of Ramos points to immigrant-advocates’ dissatisfaction with Peralta, of particular interest in the immigrant and Latino-heavy district the two candidates are vying to represent. The winner of the primary is virtually assured of winning the general election in the Democrat-dominated district.</p> <p>“We are proud to endorse her today,” López said of Ramos, “and we’ll do everything we can to get her elected.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7494-max-murphy-podcast-idc-challengers-robert-jackson-jessica-ramos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: IDC Challengers Robert Jackson &amp; Jessica Ramos</a>]</p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
New York Trails Neighbors in Helping Dreamers Achieve an Education 2018-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7689:new-york-trails-neighbors-in-helping-dreamers-achieve-an-education Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-excelsior.jpg" alt="govcuomo excelsior" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(Photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo has talked a big game about supporting immigrants in New York. Yet well over a year after Donald Trump’s inauguration - and more than seven years into Cuomo’s administration - the governor has little actual legislation to show for all of his boasting.</p> <p>One key bill, the New York Dream Act, which would open up state financial aid to undocumented immigrant youth, known as Dreamers, has passed the state Assembly five years in a row. But, without the governor’s political muscle behind it, the Dream Act has languished each session, stagnant in the Senate.</p> <p>Meanwhile, though the governor likes to say New York is a progressive leader, its neighbors are bolting ahead of us in offering equal access to higher education. Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed his state’s version of the Dream Act into law. Connecticut passed a similar bill in April. &nbsp;</p> <p>Dreamers across New York are looking at the inspiring victories of their peers across state lines and wondering: when will it be our turn?</p> <p>The New York Dream Act is a commonsense bill that would help ease the cost of higher education for undocumented students by expanding access to state financial aid and letting immigrant families participate in college saving programs.</p> <p>For most undocumented students in New York, the only way to afford higher education is by working while in school or taking on significant debt. As a result,<a href="https://www.nysylc.org/what-we-do/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> only five to ten percent</a> of the roughly 4,500 undocumented students who graduate from New York high schools every year can attend college.</p> <p>Take the story of Ricardo Aca, an immigrant New Yorker whose family came from Mexico whne he was 14 years old to give him the opportunity to pursue a better life, including a college education.</p> <p>When Ricardo finished high school, he found out that, because he was undocumented, he could not access the state financial aid he needed to afford a quality higher education. He began taking photography classes at LaGuardia Community College, realizing that he could earn money shooting events. To pay for his education, he also worked in restaurants and hotels for years. Even so, he could barely afford tuition and ultimately had to stop attending classes.</p> <p>He only re-enrolled years later, this time at Baruch College, when Make the Road New York, a community organization based in Queens, helped him get a scholarship that covered most of his tuition. Next year, he’ll graduate at age 28, meaning it will have taken him 10 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.</p> <p>While Ricardo’s story has a happy ending despite the lost time, there are many other immigrant youth in New York that don’t have the blessing of a scholarship.</p> <p>As the Trump administration pursues an ever-clearer anti-immigration agenda, states have a greater responsibility to step in and do what they can to protect immigrant communities.</p> <p>Ten states have now passed legislation to offer undocumented students tuition support, including California, Minnesota, and Texas. Every day, New York’s failure stands out more and more. It’s particularly shameful given our state has the<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/14/15-states-with-the-highest-share-of-immigrants-in-their-population/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> second-highest share of immigrants</a> in the country -- higher than both New Jersey and Connecticut. And the Dream Act would be a clear boon to our state -- the bill would only cost New York around $25 million per year, a tiny fraction of its<a href="http://www.syracuse.com/state/index.ssf/2018/03/ny_state_budget_passes_a_look_at_key_items_in_1683_billion_spending_plan.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> $168 billion</a> budget, and more than make up for its cost through increased tax revenue and economic contributions to the state. &nbsp;</p> <p>Immigrant youth across the state have for years called on Governor Cuomo to use his considerable power to pass the bill. But, while Cuomo has publicly supported it, he has never made it a top priority. Just this year, when Ricardo and other Dreamers went to his office in Albany to deliver petitions for the Dream Act, his staff locked the door and refused to let them in.</p> <p>Thousands of undocumented students in New York every year lose the opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their families because New York fails to provide the basic support to continue their education.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo, the time for words has passed. Dreamers like Ricardo across New York are counting on you to make the New York Dream Act a reality. Let’s finally unlock the doors of opportunity for all in our state.</p> <p>***<br />Ana Maria Archila is Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-excelsior.jpg" alt="govcuomo excelsior" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(Photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo has talked a big game about supporting immigrants in New York. Yet well over a year after Donald Trump’s inauguration - and more than seven years into Cuomo’s administration - the governor has little actual legislation to show for all of his boasting.</p> <p>One key bill, the New York Dream Act, which would open up state financial aid to undocumented immigrant youth, known as Dreamers, has passed the state Assembly five years in a row. But, without the governor’s political muscle behind it, the Dream Act has languished each session, stagnant in the Senate.</p> <p>Meanwhile, though the governor likes to say New York is a progressive leader, its neighbors are bolting ahead of us in offering equal access to higher education. Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed his state’s version of the Dream Act into law. Connecticut passed a similar bill in April. &nbsp;</p> <p>Dreamers across New York are looking at the inspiring victories of their peers across state lines and wondering: when will it be our turn?</p> <p>The New York Dream Act is a commonsense bill that would help ease the cost of higher education for undocumented students by expanding access to state financial aid and letting immigrant families participate in college saving programs.</p> <p>For most undocumented students in New York, the only way to afford higher education is by working while in school or taking on significant debt. As a result,<a href="https://www.nysylc.org/what-we-do/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> only five to ten percent</a> of the roughly 4,500 undocumented students who graduate from New York high schools every year can attend college.</p> <p>Take the story of Ricardo Aca, an immigrant New Yorker whose family came from Mexico whne he was 14 years old to give him the opportunity to pursue a better life, including a college education.</p> <p>When Ricardo finished high school, he found out that, because he was undocumented, he could not access the state financial aid he needed to afford a quality higher education. He began taking photography classes at LaGuardia Community College, realizing that he could earn money shooting events. To pay for his education, he also worked in restaurants and hotels for years. Even so, he could barely afford tuition and ultimately had to stop attending classes.</p> <p>He only re-enrolled years later, this time at Baruch College, when Make the Road New York, a community organization based in Queens, helped him get a scholarship that covered most of his tuition. Next year, he’ll graduate at age 28, meaning it will have taken him 10 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.</p> <p>While Ricardo’s story has a happy ending despite the lost time, there are many other immigrant youth in New York that don’t have the blessing of a scholarship.</p> <p>As the Trump administration pursues an ever-clearer anti-immigration agenda, states have a greater responsibility to step in and do what they can to protect immigrant communities.</p> <p>Ten states have now passed legislation to offer undocumented students tuition support, including California, Minnesota, and Texas. Every day, New York’s failure stands out more and more. It’s particularly shameful given our state has the<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/14/15-states-with-the-highest-share-of-immigrants-in-their-population/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> second-highest share of immigrants</a> in the country -- higher than both New Jersey and Connecticut. And the Dream Act would be a clear boon to our state -- the bill would only cost New York around $25 million per year, a tiny fraction of its<a href="http://www.syracuse.com/state/index.ssf/2018/03/ny_state_budget_passes_a_look_at_key_items_in_1683_billion_spending_plan.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> $168 billion</a> budget, and more than make up for its cost through increased tax revenue and economic contributions to the state. &nbsp;</p> <p>Immigrant youth across the state have for years called on Governor Cuomo to use his considerable power to pass the bill. But, while Cuomo has publicly supported it, he has never made it a top priority. Just this year, when Ricardo and other Dreamers went to his office in Albany to deliver petitions for the Dream Act, his staff locked the door and refused to let them in.</p> <p>Thousands of undocumented students in New York every year lose the opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their families because New York fails to provide the basic support to continue their education.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo, the time for words has passed. Dreamers like Ricardo across New York are counting on you to make the New York Dream Act a reality. Let’s finally unlock the doors of opportunity for all in our state.</p> <p>***<br />Ana Maria Archila is Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy.</p> <p>

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This Must Be The Year For The New York Dream Act, A Game-Changer For Immigrant Youth Like Me 2018-02-06T02:35:24+00:00 2018-02-06T02:35:24+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7461:this-must-be-the-year-for-the-new-york-dream-act-a-game-changer-for-immigrant-youth-like-me Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/dream_act_presser_mtr.jpg" alt="dream act presser mtr" width="600" height="351" /></p> <p>The author at a press conference in Albany for the Dream Act</p> <hr /> <p>On Monday the New York State Assembly passed the New York Dream Act. For immigrant youth like me, this legislation would be a game-changer.<br /> <br />I am a Dreamer. I came to this country at the age of two from Mexico. I am an American through and through. I have worked hard to get ahead. I’ve excelled in school. Without state tuition assistance, I worked throughout college to be able to pay tuition and other costs. Finally, last year, I graduated from City College. It was harder than it should have been, because I couldn’t get financial aid. Still, I overcame the obstacles. <br /> <br />But others face even harder situations. Too many undocumented students graduate from public high schools every year only to face the reality of not being able to go to college because they can’t get financial aid. It’s bad for immigrant youth, and it’s bad for New York, which loses out on having more future doctors, lawyers, teachers, and nurses—and the additional tax revenue that these professionals bring to our state. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has found that Dreamers who obtain a bachelor’s degree would each pay more than $60,000 in additional state taxes over their working lives, which is far more than the maximum $20,000 state financial assistance that eligible students can get for that degree.<br /> <br />By passing the Dream Act today, members of the Assembly have shown once again that they understand the struggles that undocumented youth like me face. And we’re grateful to Speaker Carl Heastie, bill sponsor Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, and City Councilmember Francisco Moya, who led the work on this bill for many years when in the state Legislature.</p> <p>The Assembly believes what I believe: everyone deserves equal access to college. It’s why I’ve worked for years to organize with other students like me at City College and Make the Road New York to pass the Dream Act. And it’s why today is a critical day in our fight for equality.<br /> <br />Now, we need to make sure this bill becomes law. We know that this fight won’t be easy. We know that conservative State Senators have blocked this bill before, and that many will spread misinformation about it once again to block our progress. But we’re committed to finally passing our bill in both chambers of the Legislature, and to have it signed by Governor Cuomo, who says he supports it.<br /> <br />With Donald Trump in the White House, we’re living in a new time—with mounting attacks from Washington against immigrant youth and families. And, in this time, it’s up to New York to take bold action to offer protection and equal opportunity for all. The Dream Act is a critical way for our state to lead the way in defense of immigrant communities.<br /> <br />Immigrant youth like me are Americans in everything but paper. We go to school here, our families and communities are here. New York should finally pass the Dream Act to ensure that we are treated like the rest of our peers—and that the doors of colleges and universities across this state are open to us.</p> <p>***<br />Yatziri Tovar is a Dreamer and Media Specialist with Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/yatziritovar" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@YatziriTovar</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MaketheRoadNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/dream_act_presser_mtr.jpg" alt="dream act presser mtr" width="600" height="351" /></p> <p>The author at a press conference in Albany for the Dream Act</p> <hr /> <p>On Monday the New York State Assembly passed the New York Dream Act. For immigrant youth like me, this legislation would be a game-changer.<br /> <br />I am a Dreamer. I came to this country at the age of two from Mexico. I am an American through and through. I have worked hard to get ahead. I’ve excelled in school. Without state tuition assistance, I worked throughout college to be able to pay tuition and other costs. Finally, last year, I graduated from City College. It was harder than it should have been, because I couldn’t get financial aid. Still, I overcame the obstacles. <br /> <br />But others face even harder situations. Too many undocumented students graduate from public high schools every year only to face the reality of not being able to go to college because they can’t get financial aid. It’s bad for immigrant youth, and it’s bad for New York, which loses out on having more future doctors, lawyers, teachers, and nurses—and the additional tax revenue that these professionals bring to our state. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has found that Dreamers who obtain a bachelor’s degree would each pay more than $60,000 in additional state taxes over their working lives, which is far more than the maximum $20,000 state financial assistance that eligible students can get for that degree.<br /> <br />By passing the Dream Act today, members of the Assembly have shown once again that they understand the struggles that undocumented youth like me face. And we’re grateful to Speaker Carl Heastie, bill sponsor Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, and City Councilmember Francisco Moya, who led the work on this bill for many years when in the state Legislature.</p> <p>The Assembly believes what I believe: everyone deserves equal access to college. It’s why I’ve worked for years to organize with other students like me at City College and Make the Road New York to pass the Dream Act. And it’s why today is a critical day in our fight for equality.<br /> <br />Now, we need to make sure this bill becomes law. We know that this fight won’t be easy. We know that conservative State Senators have blocked this bill before, and that many will spread misinformation about it once again to block our progress. But we’re committed to finally passing our bill in both chambers of the Legislature, and to have it signed by Governor Cuomo, who says he supports it.<br /> <br />With Donald Trump in the White House, we’re living in a new time—with mounting attacks from Washington against immigrant youth and families. And, in this time, it’s up to New York to take bold action to offer protection and equal opportunity for all. The Dream Act is a critical way for our state to lead the way in defense of immigrant communities.<br /> <br />Immigrant youth like me are Americans in everything but paper. We go to school here, our families and communities are here. New York should finally pass the Dream Act to ensure that we are treated like the rest of our peers—and that the doors of colleges and universities across this state are open to us.</p> <p>***<br />Yatziri Tovar is a Dreamer and Media Specialist with Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/yatziritovar" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@YatziriTovar</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MaketheRoadNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Citing Trump Threat, Assembly Passes New Immigrant Protections Along With DREAM Act 2017-02-07T00:00:00+00:00 2017-02-07T00:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6749:citing-trump-threat-assembly-passes-new-immigrant-protections-along-with-dream-act Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/heastie.jpg" alt="heastie" width="600" height="396" /></p> <p><span style="color: #282723; font-size: 15px; background-color: #ffffff;">Assembly Speaker Heastie (photo: @CarlHeastie)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The New York State Assembly passed a slew of bills on Monday aimed at protecting immigrant New Yorkers in the wake of the federal government’s anti-immigrant crackdown which sparked protests at airports around the country last week.</p> <p>The <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A03049&amp;term=&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y" target="_blank">legislative package</a>, called the New York State Liberty Act, prohibits city and state law enforcement officials from unnecessarily questioning someone’s immigration status, decreases jail time for misdemeanor offenses, and protects the privacy of data collected through New York City’s municipal identification program. The Act, which was first announced at a news conference on Monday prior to the legislative session, was passed in conjunction with the Assembly’s fifth passage of the New York DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants attending higher education institutions.</p> <p>The first bill, which dictates how police and government agencies may interact with immigrant New Yorkers, was sponsored by Assemblymember Francisco Moya, a Democrat from Queens who also sponsored the DREAM Act bill. “Immigrants are a vital asset to our nation and their contributions are undeniable in New York's communities, work force, colleges and universities,” Moya said, in a statement. "Our conference has been championing the DREAM Act for years and the stakes have never been higher. We cannot stifle the potential of thousands of New York students in the name of moral high ground."</p> <p>The Liberty Act would also prohibit state and local agencies from expending resources to help the federal government create or maintain a database or registry based on race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or national or ethnic origin -- a response to President Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban,” an executive order barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. The president’s order was suspended by a federal appeals court over the weekend.</p> <p>The second half of the Assembly’s legislation wades into a political tug-of-war between Mayor Bill de Blasio and a pair of Republican state lawmakers over New York City’s policy towards undocumented immigrants and what will become of the data associated with New York City’s municipal identification program (IDNYC).</p> <p>The IDNYC program, launched by de Blasio’s administration in 2015, aimed to remove barriers that some New Yorkers face in obtaining identification -- including undocumented immigrants, the homeless, transgendered individuals, and the formerly incarcerated -- granting them access to important city services. So far, the city has received more than 900,000 applications for IDNYC.</p> <p>The IDNYC law included a clause allowing the city to flush certain information from the records after two years, or before December 31, 2016, a clause the city was ready to invoke in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and his vow to deport all undocumented immigrants. Assembly Members Ron Castorina and Nicole Malliotakis, Republicans from Staten Island, argued that the city would pose a risk to national security by deleting that information, and sued the administration, making the case to a Richmond County Supreme Court judge that it would violate the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), which bars the destruction of city records. The lawmakers dispute privacy violation claims noting that FOIL law allows documents to be submitted with redacted information to protect individual privacy. A judge ruled in December that the city could not purge the data until the lawsuit was resolved.&nbsp;</p> <p>Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, a Bronx Democrat, and chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, the sponsor of the new bill, noted that New York City residents signed up for municipal IDs under the impression that records would be sealed, so any inquiry into the information should be denied under FOIL exemption. A second bill sponsored by Crespo reduces the maximum sentence for misdemeanor offenses by one day from one year to 364 days, an apparent technicality that could potentially spare thousands of immigrants from deportation under federal law over certain lesser offenses. Some misdemeanor offenses can result in automatic deportation because of New York State's current sentencing standards, a harsh mandatory consequence for misdemeanor conviction. This bill would allow judges to use discretion in whether deportation is warranted for each individual case.</p> <p>Citing the current anti-immigrant political climate, Crespo said, “Immigrants make substantial contributions to our communities and are being scapegoated by the White House. Now more than ever, we must take a stand against those who wish to cast millions of hardworking people to live in the shadows."</p> <p>In New York City, Mayor de Blasio has vowed to protect the identities of IDNYC cardholders at all costs. "We are not going to sacrifice half a million people who live among us and are part of our community," de Blasio told reporters days after Donald Trump won the presidency.</p> <p>Monday’s vote in Albany also marked the fifth time the New York DREAM Act has been passed by the state Assembly since 2010, when the federal version of the DREAM Act -- one that would put undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship -- died in the United States Senate. In 2014, a version of the New York DREAM Act was voted down in the state Senate by a tiny margin, despite having support of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) -- an increasingly powerful breakaway group of Democrats that aligns itself with Republicans. Two democratic senators, Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, who also caucuses with Senate Republicans, and Ted O’Brien of Rochester, voted against the act. The IDC leadership has indicated that the conference will continue to push for the DREAM Act. IDC member Senator Marisol Alcantara, who was recently elected to the Senate and became the sixth Democrat to join the conference, told <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/09/alcantara-lays-out-priorities-for-upcoming-session-105556" target="_blank">Politico New York</a> that passage of the DREAM Act is on the top of her agenda for 2017.</p> <p>At the Monday news conference, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, said he hoped the Senate would once again take up the bill and pass the DREAM Act. “Let’s hope that this is the last time you have to come up to ask us to get the DREAM Act done,” Heastie told the crowd of activists and Dreamers who had gathered at the Capitol.</p> <p>When asked how the new legislation and the DREAM Act would interact with Cuomo’s Excelsior scholarship -- which provides tuition free college for middle class New Yorkers, and includes a provision for funding for Dreamers -- Heastie said the plan was a good one, but the Assembly would counter it with their own version of the scholarship.</p> <p>“Of course we support helping our Dreamers go to college; they’re interconnected issues for us, because we have an overall feeling that we like to see as much access as possible for our young people that are here in the state of New York,” Heastie said. “The premise of the governor's proposal...we’re OK with, but we are going to come out with our own vision.”</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/heastie.jpg" alt="heastie" width="600" height="396" /></p> <p><span style="color: #282723; font-size: 15px; background-color: #ffffff;">Assembly Speaker Heastie (photo: @CarlHeastie)</span>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The New York State Assembly passed a slew of bills on Monday aimed at protecting immigrant New Yorkers in the wake of the federal government’s anti-immigrant crackdown which sparked protests at airports around the country last week.</p> <p>The <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A03049&amp;term=&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y" target="_blank">legislative package</a>, called the New York State Liberty Act, prohibits city and state law enforcement officials from unnecessarily questioning someone’s immigration status, decreases jail time for misdemeanor offenses, and protects the privacy of data collected through New York City’s municipal identification program. The Act, which was first announced at a news conference on Monday prior to the legislative session, was passed in conjunction with the Assembly’s fifth passage of the New York DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants attending higher education institutions.</p> <p>The first bill, which dictates how police and government agencies may interact with immigrant New Yorkers, was sponsored by Assemblymember Francisco Moya, a Democrat from Queens who also sponsored the DREAM Act bill. “Immigrants are a vital asset to our nation and their contributions are undeniable in New York's communities, work force, colleges and universities,” Moya said, in a statement. "Our conference has been championing the DREAM Act for years and the stakes have never been higher. We cannot stifle the potential of thousands of New York students in the name of moral high ground."</p> <p>The Liberty Act would also prohibit state and local agencies from expending resources to help the federal government create or maintain a database or registry based on race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or national or ethnic origin -- a response to President Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban,” an executive order barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. The president’s order was suspended by a federal appeals court over the weekend.</p> <p>The second half of the Assembly’s legislation wades into a political tug-of-war between Mayor Bill de Blasio and a pair of Republican state lawmakers over New York City’s policy towards undocumented immigrants and what will become of the data associated with New York City’s municipal identification program (IDNYC).</p> <p>The IDNYC program, launched by de Blasio’s administration in 2015, aimed to remove barriers that some New Yorkers face in obtaining identification -- including undocumented immigrants, the homeless, transgendered individuals, and the formerly incarcerated -- granting them access to important city services. So far, the city has received more than 900,000 applications for IDNYC.</p> <p>The IDNYC law included a clause allowing the city to flush certain information from the records after two years, or before December 31, 2016, a clause the city was ready to invoke in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and his vow to deport all undocumented immigrants. Assembly Members Ron Castorina and Nicole Malliotakis, Republicans from Staten Island, argued that the city would pose a risk to national security by deleting that information, and sued the administration, making the case to a Richmond County Supreme Court judge that it would violate the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), which bars the destruction of city records. The lawmakers dispute privacy violation claims noting that FOIL law allows documents to be submitted with redacted information to protect individual privacy. A judge ruled in December that the city could not purge the data until the lawsuit was resolved.&nbsp;</p> <p>Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, a Bronx Democrat, and chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, the sponsor of the new bill, noted that New York City residents signed up for municipal IDs under the impression that records would be sealed, so any inquiry into the information should be denied under FOIL exemption. A second bill sponsored by Crespo reduces the maximum sentence for misdemeanor offenses by one day from one year to 364 days, an apparent technicality that could potentially spare thousands of immigrants from deportation under federal law over certain lesser offenses. Some misdemeanor offenses can result in automatic deportation because of New York State's current sentencing standards, a harsh mandatory consequence for misdemeanor conviction. This bill would allow judges to use discretion in whether deportation is warranted for each individual case.</p> <p>Citing the current anti-immigrant political climate, Crespo said, “Immigrants make substantial contributions to our communities and are being scapegoated by the White House. Now more than ever, we must take a stand against those who wish to cast millions of hardworking people to live in the shadows."</p> <p>In New York City, Mayor de Blasio has vowed to protect the identities of IDNYC cardholders at all costs. "We are not going to sacrifice half a million people who live among us and are part of our community," de Blasio told reporters days after Donald Trump won the presidency.</p> <p>Monday’s vote in Albany also marked the fifth time the New York DREAM Act has been passed by the state Assembly since 2010, when the federal version of the DREAM Act -- one that would put undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship -- died in the United States Senate. In 2014, a version of the New York DREAM Act was voted down in the state Senate by a tiny margin, despite having support of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) -- an increasingly powerful breakaway group of Democrats that aligns itself with Republicans. Two democratic senators, Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, who also caucuses with Senate Republicans, and Ted O’Brien of Rochester, voted against the act. The IDC leadership has indicated that the conference will continue to push for the DREAM Act. IDC member Senator Marisol Alcantara, who was recently elected to the Senate and became the sixth Democrat to join the conference, told <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/09/alcantara-lays-out-priorities-for-upcoming-session-105556" target="_blank">Politico New York</a> that passage of the DREAM Act is on the top of her agenda for 2017.</p> <p>At the Monday news conference, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, said he hoped the Senate would once again take up the bill and pass the DREAM Act. “Let’s hope that this is the last time you have to come up to ask us to get the DREAM Act done,” Heastie told the crowd of activists and Dreamers who had gathered at the Capitol.</p> <p>When asked how the new legislation and the DREAM Act would interact with Cuomo’s Excelsior scholarship -- which provides tuition free college for middle class New Yorkers, and includes a provision for funding for Dreamers -- Heastie said the plan was a good one, but the Assembly would counter it with their own version of the scholarship.</p> <p>“Of course we support helping our Dreamers go to college; they’re interconnected issues for us, because we have an overall feeling that we like to see as much access as possible for our young people that are here in the state of New York,” Heastie said. “The premise of the governor's proposal...we’re OK with, but we are going to come out with our own vision.”</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Cuomo is Keeping New York from Emulating California, De Blasio Says 2016-07-12T04:00:00+00:00 2016-07-12T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6434:cuomo-is-keeping-new-york-from-emulating-california-de-blasio-says Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/12181475174_8455aacfbb_z_1.jpg" alt="de blasio cuomo january 2014" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Cuomo in 2014 (photo: Rob Bennett, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly voiced his frustration with his fellow Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who he says has worked with Senate Republicans in the state Legislature to stymie his agenda and major progressive legislation. In <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/harry-siegel-de-blasio-thinking-article-1.2687244" target="_blank">an interview with Harry Siegel of the Daily News</a> late last month, the mayor said Cuomo could have &ldquo;done a lot more to avert&rdquo; the &ldquo;divided government in Albany,&rdquo; where Democrats control the Assembly and Republicans the Senate.</p> <p>De Blasio said that New York could be more like California &ldquo;where Democrats have consolidated power and have done some remarkable things with it.&rdquo;</p> <p>The mayor&rsquo;s comments come as his allies face two investigations for improper fundraising in efforts to win the Senate for Democrats in 2014 and after a legislative session during which Cuomo worked with Senate Republicans to pass a budget containing a $15 minimum wage phase-in and a comprehensive paid family leave program. Cuomo and the Legislature also allocate hundreds of millions of dollars each year to fund de Blasio&rsquo;s signature pre-kindergarten program.</p> <p>And yet, de Blasio&rsquo;s sentiments are not unique, many Democrats feel Cuomo has empowered Senate Republicans in order to prevent the passage of a full slate of progressive legislation that could in theory alienate his moderate and conservative backers, including those upstate, on Long Island, and in New York City. The mayor and Assembly Democrats have a fairly long list of specific policy and funding grievances.</p> <p>By pointing to California, de Blasio offered up a measuring stick. At first glance it would appear that California and New York are neck-and-neck on progressive issues. Both states have passed marriage equality, a $15 minimum wage plan, and paid family leave.</p> <p>But progressive critics of the governor say he has failed to fully go to bat on reforms that would actually change how state government works, modernize voting and elections, and advance immigration and criminal justice policies opposed by conservatives. California has implemented a variety of these policies since 2010.</p> <p>Cuomo allies say criticism the governor faces on these issues is unfair and comes mainly from the sharp edge of success - that critics say because he achieved some major policy victories he should achieve them all, while also winning the Senate for Democrats.</p> <p>&ldquo;I have my real disagreements with the governor and then there's individual achievements that are absolutely progressive and very meaningful,&rdquo; de Blasio told Siegel. &ldquo;But on the question of &lsquo;Have we created a unified Democratic Party to have the maximum Democratic leadership and the maximum progressive policy of state?&rsquo; Of course not. Not even close.&rdquo;</p> <p>The de Blasio administration failed to respond to multiple inquiries about which specific policies California has enacted that he feels New York should emulate, but a number of his allies and political experts say California is in fact far ahead of New York on a number of progressive issues. These include immigration reforms like the DREAM Act and drivers&rsquo; licenses for undocumented immigrants; criminal justice reform measures like providing college education for inmates and laws to address holding police accountable for the deaths of civilians; and election reforms like independent redistricting and open primaries.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in New York, Cuomo has enacted what many progressive analysts see as austerity measures, such as strictly limiting agency spending and instituting a property tax cap for municipalities, something California Governor Jerry Brown has moved away from. The Cuomo administration declined to comment for this article without the de Blasio administration listing which policies from California the mayor wants to see in New York.</p> <p>Even beyond de Blasio, Cuomo&rsquo;s relationship with progressive Democrats remains complicated. He&rsquo;s had well-publicized roller coaster relationships with the Working Families Party and with the Legislature&rsquo;s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus. Administration officials point out that the governor has backed the DREAM Act and various criminal justice measures that are in place in California only to have Senate Republicans reject them. But de Blasio&rsquo;s point to Siegel and that of many other Democrats is that Cuomo has ensured Senate Republicans are in the position to block those bills.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think a lot of the governor&rsquo;s proposals are holograms so that he can come downstate and say &lsquo;I suggested college for inmates,&rsquo; but he can also go upstate and say &lsquo;I listened to your concerns and the bill didn&rsquo;t pass,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Dr. Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University.</p> <p>Bill Samuels, head of EffectiveNY, longtime Democratic fundraiser and Cuomo critic, said that the governor has repeatedly failed to help Democrats win the state Senate and by doing so is responsible for failed progressive policies.</p> <p>&ldquo;We are way behind states like California and Oregon,&rdquo; said Samuels. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s pathetic, if we had elected a Democratic Senate and had a different governor we would at least be considered a progressive state.There are exceptions, the governor came on strong with marriage equality, guns, and the minimum wage. So we aren&rsquo;t like Mississippi, he&rsquo;s done good things.&rdquo;</p> <p>But Samuels says one of Cuomo&rsquo;s first major moves - deciding to abandon a push to take the 2010 electoral redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature - ensured he would have Senate Republicans as governing partners for the foreseeable future. Samuels notes that the plan Cuomo signed off on allowed Republicans to gerrymander Senate districts to dilute Democratic centers upstate and in the city while creating a 63rd Senate seat that they could easily win. &ldquo;It was the most backward, bizarre redistricting in the United States,&rdquo; said Samuels.&rdquo;California took the redistricting process away from the Legislature and now they have an un-gerrymandered process.&rdquo;</p> <p>Cuomo&rsquo;s deal with the Legislature also included a promise that the Legislature would vote to amend the constitution to allow an independent commission to draw districts starting in 2020.</p> <p>California put redistricting of state-level seats in the hands of a citizens redistricting commission after a proposition vote in 2008. In 2010, Californians approved a proposition tasking <a href="http://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/commission.html" target="_blank">the commission</a> with drawing congressional districts.</p> <p>Greer noted that when evaluating de Blasio&rsquo;s and Cuomo&rsquo;s governing approaches it is important to recognize they have distinctly different constituencies. Cuomo works within the bounds created by his and is aided in doing so by having a Republican Senate, she said. &ldquo;The governor has a conservative base across the state. If you look at the electoral map the city may be progressive, but the rest of the map is still very red.&rdquo;</p> <p>Samuels said that de Blasio is right to focus on putting Democrats in charge of the Senate and that he has done more to champion progressive ideas in the state than Cuomo. &ldquo;De Blasio may have been naive and been too transparent in his [2014] bid to win a Democratic Senate,&rdquo; said Samuels. &ldquo;He should have used burner phones and emails like the Cuomo administration does, but regardless I applaud him for doing it and he was right to do it.&rdquo;</p> <p>Senate Republicans continue to use de Blasio as a boogeyman in their quest to hold their control of the Senate. &ldquo;Allowing these New York City radicals to have unchecked power over our entire state, especially in light of the U.S. Attorney and Manhattan D.A.'s investigations into the fundraising scandal they hatched two years ago, would be a disaster for the hardworking taxpayers and families who call New York home,&rdquo; Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/07/de-blasio-to-sit-out-upcoming-senate-elections-103697#ixzz4EEejjsDO" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a> for a Tuesday article about de Blasio&rsquo;s distance from this year&rsquo;s Senate contests. Democrats are hoping to swing the chamber by riding Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s voter turnout coattails and many are eager to see how involved Cuomo gets.</p> <p>Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor and associate dean at University of California Riverside, told Gotham Gazette that Gov. Brown spent his early years in office playing a fiscal conservative and threatening and delivering vetoes of bills he felt weren&rsquo;t fiscally responsible. But as the economy has flourished Brown has welcomed more progressive legislation.</p> <p>Ramakrishnan said there is no doubt that a host of progressive legislation has passed California&rsquo;s Legislature since Democrats won a supermajority in both houses in 2012 - major immigration and electoral reforms put the state far ahead of New York in those areas from a progressive standpoint - but he notes that there were other factors at play besides party control.</p> <p>Gov. Brown has made it clear that he has no higher political ambitions, he will be term-limited out of office when his current term ends, Ramakrishnan said. Cuomo, however, has no term limits and announced he plans to run for a third term; is active in national politics; and believed by many close to him to still have ambitions for the White House. &ldquo;Brown has declared he has no further political ambition so there is not much tension between him and other Democrats,&rdquo; Ramakrishnan said, noting that de Blasio might also hold broader political ambitions that may have irked Cuomo.</p> <p>Another quirk in California politics that Ramakrishnan points to as allowing for more progressive legislation is a ballot provision that passed in 2010 that did away with a previous requirement that the state budget be passed with a two-thirds majority. The ballot provision now requires a majority of legislators to support the budget. &ldquo;Removing the supermajority rule really opened things up,&rdquo; Ramakrishnan said. In the past, he said, &ldquo;The legislature had to come up with carefully crafted compromises to even pass a budget and those deals prevented other [more progressive] legislation from passing.&rdquo;</p> <p>The situation sounds similar to Albany&rsquo;s budget process where leaders trade on a host of issues and in some cases give away the chance to vote on major legislation to make sure they achieve top priorities in the budget. Having Senate Republicans on his side on certain issues during negotiations has helped Cuomo stop the Assembly&rsquo;s push for progressive legislation that he does not support.</p> <p>Another major factor Ramakrishnan points to in California&rsquo;s progressive surge is changing demographics across the state. Ramakrishnan said a number of safe Republican districts saw an influx of immigrants and Democratic voters over the last decade.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had the DREAM Act in since 2011, but most of the major immigration laws were passed in the last four years,&rdquo; said Ramakrishnan. &ldquo;It took a long time to build coalitions outside of the big cities like Los Angeles and it took demographic change in counties that used to be safe for Republicans.&rdquo;</p> <p>Senate Democrats have long touted demographic changes on Long Island as the key to what they see as their inevitable takeover of the chamber. Democrats recently won the Long Island seat formerly held by Republican Sen. Dean Skelos for two decades. Although Skelos&rsquo; corruption conviction likely played a major role in swaying voters, Democrats say a victory there might not have been possible if the demographics there hadn&rsquo;t been trending Democratic for years.</p> <p>Finally, Californians have the ability to put major issues before voters through ballot propositions, thereby bypassing the Legislature, which can take much longer to process an issue.</p> <p>Sen. Jose Peralta, a Democrat from Queens, said he hopes Cuomo will be involved in campaigning for Senate Democrats this year. &ldquo;I feel the governor is our leader and as a Democrat he should step up to the plate and help us gain the majority,&rdquo; said Peralta. &ldquo;It's in his best interest to move progressive issues like immigration and affordable housing. I hope the governor will take a lead role in helping Democrats win the Senate this year just as he is making sure Hillary [Clinton] becomes President.&rdquo;</p> <p>Asked if he supported a full Democratic takeover of the Senate on Tuesday, Cuomo told reporters that it is &ldquo;too early for any political conversation about that," instead indicating he is focused on Clinton and the upcoming Democratic National Convention that he is attending, and may be speaking at. Elections determining control of the state Senate are four months away - the same day as Clinton&rsquo;s likely face-off with Republican Donald Trump.</p> <p><em><strong>A look at major progressive issues and where they stand in New York and California:</strong></em></p> <p><strong>Paid Family Leave</strong><br />This year New York passed a 12-month paid family leave program that has been praised as the most &ldquo;generous&rdquo; in the nation. The program won&rsquo;t be fully phased in until 2021.</p> <p>California passed its six-week paid family leave program in 2002 and it went into operation in 2004.</p> <p><strong>Immigration</strong><br />Cuomo touted his support for the DREAM Act, a program that would give undocumented students access to college tuition aid, during campaign stops in the city and made it part of his State of the State agenda, but he has said very little about it when the Legislature is in session and made no dramatic public push for the bill. Senate Republicans have made blocking the DREAM Act a major part of their reelection campaigns.</p> <p>Brown signed California&rsquo;s Dream Act into law in October of 2011. Since then he has signed a series of major immigration reform bills. In 2013 Brown signed a bill that allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers&rsquo; licenses. The last time a New York Governor pushed for drivers&rsquo; licenses for undocumented immigrants was in 2007, under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The backlash against the proposal from conservatives and even Democrats was so strong that Spitzer dropped the plan.</p> <p>This year Brown signed a bill that allows undocumented immigrants to buy health care on the state exchange created under the Affordable Care Act - making California the first state to offer that kind of coverage. New York offers undocumented immigrants emergency Medicaid and coverage for end-stage cancer and renal disease.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think it's very hard for the Governor to go into these economically depressed areas upstate and tell them he supports a bill to help immigrants that they see as undermining their already very tenuous way of life,&rdquo; said Dr. Greer, of Fordham.</p> <p>Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat, said that the first step for New York to achieve what California has on immigration reform would be for Democrats to take control of the Senate. But it wouldn&rsquo;t end there. &ldquo;We would also have to move conservative Democrats on these issues, we&rsquo;d have to move the needle,&rdquo; Rivera said, adding that he thinks Senate Democrats could move the DREAM Act during a first year in the majority, but acknowledged it isn&rsquo;t a sure thing.</p> <p>Peralta agreed, saying, &ldquo;A Democratic majority gets the ball rolling in New York State.&rdquo; But he warned, &ldquo;We won&rsquo;t be able to move everything at once. There are some issues that don&rsquo;t play well in marginal districts upstate. We will have to tackle them in bite-size pieces - The DREAM Act one year, then drivers&rsquo; licenses the next.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Minimum Wage</strong><br />The two states appeared to be locked in a race to get to $15 per hour this year as both Brown and Cuomo pushed for a minimum wage increase - the governors signed their bills on the same day, April 4. But the bills are not equal: both call for incremental increases to the wage until finally reaching $15 - in California it will be 2022 before the wage is fully implemented; in New York it depends on where you live. Residents of New York City will have a $15 minimum wage by the end of 2018; Long Island and Westchester reach $15 to start 2022; while the rest of the state will reach $12.50 by the last day of 2020, with a 2019 panel to review the economic impact and able to halt the increase.</p> <p><strong>Election Reform</strong><br />California adopted a new primary system <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/us/politics/new-rules-upend-house-re-election-races-in-california.html" target="_blank">in 2012</a> that allows the top two vote getters in primary races to move on the general election regardless of party affiliation. That move in combination with California&rsquo;s citizen redistricting commission has opened up seats once kept in a stranglehold by incumbents.</p> <p>Good government groups have pushed New York City to adopt nonpartisan primaries but there has yet to be significant movement. The idea is a nonstarter at the state level.</p> <p>In October of last year, Brown signed an automatic voter registration bill that would have citizens registered to vote during visits to the DMV for drivers&rsquo; licenses or ID cards. Cuomo proposed a similar initiative in February during his State of the State speech, but met with opposition from Democratic lawmakers who worried registration would favor suburban and rural areas of the state where there are move drivers. Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, suggested empowering other agencies to also register voters to create parity.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reform</strong><br />Cuomo called for a review of the criminal justice system in the wake of the July 2014 death of Eric Garner during an NYPD stop. That review did not come about in the Legislature. Instead of passing legislation to create a special prosecutor to review police killings of unarmed civilians Cuomo issued an executive order empowering Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to take such cases out of the hands of the local district attorney.</p> <p>Cuomo&rsquo;s move was hailed by advocates who say local DAs are biased and unwilling to prosecute members of their local police force. But many advocates are still pushing for a similar system to be made law as executive orders can be undone. Senate Republicans have refused to consider any number of criminal justice initiatives Cuomo has proposed, including raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 (New York is one of only two states where it is 16, with North Carolina).</p> <p>California does not have a special prosecutor system in place for police killings of civilians but last year Brown signed a law banning the use of grand juries in such cases. The move came in response to outcry that a grand jury refused to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for Garner&rsquo;s death. "The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system," state Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Democrat from Los Angeles who sponsored the bill, said in a statement at the time.</p> <p>Cuomo has tried and failed to get the Republican state Senate to act on college for inmates, something California expanded in 2015 in a partnership with a number of community colleges. Cuomo instead put forward a privately financed plan this year.</p> <p>Brown currently supports a ballot initiative that will come before voters this fall <a href="http://www.antirecidivism.org/psra_2016" target="_blank">that is designed</a> to reduce recidivism and revise how it is decided if youth are tried as adults.</p> <p><strong>Fiscal Policy</strong><br />While Brown has been considered more fiscally conservative than some of his allies in the Legislature, he did sponsor a 2012 ballot proposition that raised taxes on high-income earners. His initiative merged two other ballot initiatives - including one from the California teachers union branded a &ldquo;millionaire&rsquo;s tax&rdquo; that would have increased the personal income tax on those earning $1 million and more. Brown&rsquo;s plan created four new upper-income brackets for those making $250,000, $300,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000. The new tax rates are supposed to last seven years. The plan also increased the state sales tax. A group of unions recently introduced a new proposition that would make the tax increases of Brown&rsquo;s proposition permanent.</p> <p>New York adopted a millionaire&rsquo;s tax under Democratic Gov. David Paterson in 2009 that Cuomo partially renewed in 2011. It is now set to expire in 2017. Many unions have pushed to extend the tax as has the state Assembly.</p> <p>Cuomo has fought back against any tax increases. De Blasio insisted his universal pre-k plan be funded by a New York City income tax hike on households earning more than a million dollars a year. Cuomo delivered the cash for the plan <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2014/02/cuomo-there-already-is-a-millionaires-tax-for-pre-k/" target="_blank">and not the tax</a> - something de Blasio publicly lamented.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/12181475174_8455aacfbb_z_1.jpg" alt="de blasio cuomo january 2014" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Cuomo in 2014 (photo: Rob Bennett, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly voiced his frustration with his fellow Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who he says has worked with Senate Republicans in the state Legislature to stymie his agenda and major progressive legislation. In <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/harry-siegel-de-blasio-thinking-article-1.2687244" target="_blank">an interview with Harry Siegel of the Daily News</a> late last month, the mayor said Cuomo could have &ldquo;done a lot more to avert&rdquo; the &ldquo;divided government in Albany,&rdquo; where Democrats control the Assembly and Republicans the Senate.</p> <p>De Blasio said that New York could be more like California &ldquo;where Democrats have consolidated power and have done some remarkable things with it.&rdquo;</p> <p>The mayor&rsquo;s comments come as his allies face two investigations for improper fundraising in efforts to win the Senate for Democrats in 2014 and after a legislative session during which Cuomo worked with Senate Republicans to pass a budget containing a $15 minimum wage phase-in and a comprehensive paid family leave program. Cuomo and the Legislature also allocate hundreds of millions of dollars each year to fund de Blasio&rsquo;s signature pre-kindergarten program.</p> <p>And yet, de Blasio&rsquo;s sentiments are not unique, many Democrats feel Cuomo has empowered Senate Republicans in order to prevent the passage of a full slate of progressive legislation that could in theory alienate his moderate and conservative backers, including those upstate, on Long Island, and in New York City. The mayor and Assembly Democrats have a fairly long list of specific policy and funding grievances.</p> <p>By pointing to California, de Blasio offered up a measuring stick. At first glance it would appear that California and New York are neck-and-neck on progressive issues. Both states have passed marriage equality, a $15 minimum wage plan, and paid family leave.</p> <p>But progressive critics of the governor say he has failed to fully go to bat on reforms that would actually change how state government works, modernize voting and elections, and advance immigration and criminal justice policies opposed by conservatives. California has implemented a variety of these policies since 2010.</p> <p>Cuomo allies say criticism the governor faces on these issues is unfair and comes mainly from the sharp edge of success - that critics say because he achieved some major policy victories he should achieve them all, while also winning the Senate for Democrats.</p> <p>&ldquo;I have my real disagreements with the governor and then there's individual achievements that are absolutely progressive and very meaningful,&rdquo; de Blasio told Siegel. &ldquo;But on the question of &lsquo;Have we created a unified Democratic Party to have the maximum Democratic leadership and the maximum progressive policy of state?&rsquo; Of course not. Not even close.&rdquo;</p> <p>The de Blasio administration failed to respond to multiple inquiries about which specific policies California has enacted that he feels New York should emulate, but a number of his allies and political experts say California is in fact far ahead of New York on a number of progressive issues. These include immigration reforms like the DREAM Act and drivers&rsquo; licenses for undocumented immigrants; criminal justice reform measures like providing college education for inmates and laws to address holding police accountable for the deaths of civilians; and election reforms like independent redistricting and open primaries.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in New York, Cuomo has enacted what many progressive analysts see as austerity measures, such as strictly limiting agency spending and instituting a property tax cap for municipalities, something California Governor Jerry Brown has moved away from. The Cuomo administration declined to comment for this article without the de Blasio administration listing which policies from California the mayor wants to see in New York.</p> <p>Even beyond de Blasio, Cuomo&rsquo;s relationship with progressive Democrats remains complicated. He&rsquo;s had well-publicized roller coaster relationships with the Working Families Party and with the Legislature&rsquo;s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus. Administration officials point out that the governor has backed the DREAM Act and various criminal justice measures that are in place in California only to have Senate Republicans reject them. But de Blasio&rsquo;s point to Siegel and that of many other Democrats is that Cuomo has ensured Senate Republicans are in the position to block those bills.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think a lot of the governor&rsquo;s proposals are holograms so that he can come downstate and say &lsquo;I suggested college for inmates,&rsquo; but he can also go upstate and say &lsquo;I listened to your concerns and the bill didn&rsquo;t pass,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Dr. Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University.</p> <p>Bill Samuels, head of EffectiveNY, longtime Democratic fundraiser and Cuomo critic, said that the governor has repeatedly failed to help Democrats win the state Senate and by doing so is responsible for failed progressive policies.</p> <p>&ldquo;We are way behind states like California and Oregon,&rdquo; said Samuels. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s pathetic, if we had elected a Democratic Senate and had a different governor we would at least be considered a progressive state.There are exceptions, the governor came on strong with marriage equality, guns, and the minimum wage. So we aren&rsquo;t like Mississippi, he&rsquo;s done good things.&rdquo;</p> <p>But Samuels says one of Cuomo&rsquo;s first major moves - deciding to abandon a push to take the 2010 electoral redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature - ensured he would have Senate Republicans as governing partners for the foreseeable future. Samuels notes that the plan Cuomo signed off on allowed Republicans to gerrymander Senate districts to dilute Democratic centers upstate and in the city while creating a 63rd Senate seat that they could easily win. &ldquo;It was the most backward, bizarre redistricting in the United States,&rdquo; said Samuels.&rdquo;California took the redistricting process away from the Legislature and now they have an un-gerrymandered process.&rdquo;</p> <p>Cuomo&rsquo;s deal with the Legislature also included a promise that the Legislature would vote to amend the constitution to allow an independent commission to draw districts starting in 2020.</p> <p>California put redistricting of state-level seats in the hands of a citizens redistricting commission after a proposition vote in 2008. In 2010, Californians approved a proposition tasking <a href="http://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/commission.html" target="_blank">the commission</a> with drawing congressional districts.</p> <p>Greer noted that when evaluating de Blasio&rsquo;s and Cuomo&rsquo;s governing approaches it is important to recognize they have distinctly different constituencies. Cuomo works within the bounds created by his and is aided in doing so by having a Republican Senate, she said. &ldquo;The governor has a conservative base across the state. If you look at the electoral map the city may be progressive, but the rest of the map is still very red.&rdquo;</p> <p>Samuels said that de Blasio is right to focus on putting Democrats in charge of the Senate and that he has done more to champion progressive ideas in the state than Cuomo. &ldquo;De Blasio may have been naive and been too transparent in his [2014] bid to win a Democratic Senate,&rdquo; said Samuels. &ldquo;He should have used burner phones and emails like the Cuomo administration does, but regardless I applaud him for doing it and he was right to do it.&rdquo;</p> <p>Senate Republicans continue to use de Blasio as a boogeyman in their quest to hold their control of the Senate. &ldquo;Allowing these New York City radicals to have unchecked power over our entire state, especially in light of the U.S. Attorney and Manhattan D.A.'s investigations into the fundraising scandal they hatched two years ago, would be a disaster for the hardworking taxpayers and families who call New York home,&rdquo; Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/07/de-blasio-to-sit-out-upcoming-senate-elections-103697#ixzz4EEejjsDO" target="_blank">told Politico New York</a> for a Tuesday article about de Blasio&rsquo;s distance from this year&rsquo;s Senate contests. Democrats are hoping to swing the chamber by riding Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s voter turnout coattails and many are eager to see how involved Cuomo gets.</p> <p>Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor and associate dean at University of California Riverside, told Gotham Gazette that Gov. Brown spent his early years in office playing a fiscal conservative and threatening and delivering vetoes of bills he felt weren&rsquo;t fiscally responsible. But as the economy has flourished Brown has welcomed more progressive legislation.</p> <p>Ramakrishnan said there is no doubt that a host of progressive legislation has passed California&rsquo;s Legislature since Democrats won a supermajority in both houses in 2012 - major immigration and electoral reforms put the state far ahead of New York in those areas from a progressive standpoint - but he notes that there were other factors at play besides party control.</p> <p>Gov. Brown has made it clear that he has no higher political ambitions, he will be term-limited out of office when his current term ends, Ramakrishnan said. Cuomo, however, has no term limits and announced he plans to run for a third term; is active in national politics; and believed by many close to him to still have ambitions for the White House. &ldquo;Brown has declared he has no further political ambition so there is not much tension between him and other Democrats,&rdquo; Ramakrishnan said, noting that de Blasio might also hold broader political ambitions that may have irked Cuomo.</p> <p>Another quirk in California politics that Ramakrishnan points to as allowing for more progressive legislation is a ballot provision that passed in 2010 that did away with a previous requirement that the state budget be passed with a two-thirds majority. The ballot provision now requires a majority of legislators to support the budget. &ldquo;Removing the supermajority rule really opened things up,&rdquo; Ramakrishnan said. In the past, he said, &ldquo;The legislature had to come up with carefully crafted compromises to even pass a budget and those deals prevented other [more progressive] legislation from passing.&rdquo;</p> <p>The situation sounds similar to Albany&rsquo;s budget process where leaders trade on a host of issues and in some cases give away the chance to vote on major legislation to make sure they achieve top priorities in the budget. Having Senate Republicans on his side on certain issues during negotiations has helped Cuomo stop the Assembly&rsquo;s push for progressive legislation that he does not support.</p> <p>Another major factor Ramakrishnan points to in California&rsquo;s progressive surge is changing demographics across the state. Ramakrishnan said a number of safe Republican districts saw an influx of immigrants and Democratic voters over the last decade.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had the DREAM Act in since 2011, but most of the major immigration laws were passed in the last four years,&rdquo; said Ramakrishnan. &ldquo;It took a long time to build coalitions outside of the big cities like Los Angeles and it took demographic change in counties that used to be safe for Republicans.&rdquo;</p> <p>Senate Democrats have long touted demographic changes on Long Island as the key to what they see as their inevitable takeover of the chamber. Democrats recently won the Long Island seat formerly held by Republican Sen. Dean Skelos for two decades. Although Skelos&rsquo; corruption conviction likely played a major role in swaying voters, Democrats say a victory there might not have been possible if the demographics there hadn&rsquo;t been trending Democratic for years.</p> <p>Finally, Californians have the ability to put major issues before voters through ballot propositions, thereby bypassing the Legislature, which can take much longer to process an issue.</p> <p>Sen. Jose Peralta, a Democrat from Queens, said he hopes Cuomo will be involved in campaigning for Senate Democrats this year. &ldquo;I feel the governor is our leader and as a Democrat he should step up to the plate and help us gain the majority,&rdquo; said Peralta. &ldquo;It's in his best interest to move progressive issues like immigration and affordable housing. I hope the governor will take a lead role in helping Democrats win the Senate this year just as he is making sure Hillary [Clinton] becomes President.&rdquo;</p> <p>Asked if he supported a full Democratic takeover of the Senate on Tuesday, Cuomo told reporters that it is &ldquo;too early for any political conversation about that," instead indicating he is focused on Clinton and the upcoming Democratic National Convention that he is attending, and may be speaking at. Elections determining control of the state Senate are four months away - the same day as Clinton&rsquo;s likely face-off with Republican Donald Trump.</p> <p><em><strong>A look at major progressive issues and where they stand in New York and California:</strong></em></p> <p><strong>Paid Family Leave</strong><br />This year New York passed a 12-month paid family leave program that has been praised as the most &ldquo;generous&rdquo; in the nation. The program won&rsquo;t be fully phased in until 2021.</p> <p>California passed its six-week paid family leave program in 2002 and it went into operation in 2004.</p> <p><strong>Immigration</strong><br />Cuomo touted his support for the DREAM Act, a program that would give undocumented students access to college tuition aid, during campaign stops in the city and made it part of his State of the State agenda, but he has said very little about it when the Legislature is in session and made no dramatic public push for the bill. Senate Republicans have made blocking the DREAM Act a major part of their reelection campaigns.</p> <p>Brown signed California&rsquo;s Dream Act into law in October of 2011. Since then he has signed a series of major immigration reform bills. In 2013 Brown signed a bill that allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers&rsquo; licenses. The last time a New York Governor pushed for drivers&rsquo; licenses for undocumented immigrants was in 2007, under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The backlash against the proposal from conservatives and even Democrats was so strong that Spitzer dropped the plan.</p> <p>This year Brown signed a bill that allows undocumented immigrants to buy health care on the state exchange created under the Affordable Care Act - making California the first state to offer that kind of coverage. New York offers undocumented immigrants emergency Medicaid and coverage for end-stage cancer and renal disease.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think it's very hard for the Governor to go into these economically depressed areas upstate and tell them he supports a bill to help immigrants that they see as undermining their already very tenuous way of life,&rdquo; said Dr. Greer, of Fordham.</p> <p>Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat, said that the first step for New York to achieve what California has on immigration reform would be for Democrats to take control of the Senate. But it wouldn&rsquo;t end there. &ldquo;We would also have to move conservative Democrats on these issues, we&rsquo;d have to move the needle,&rdquo; Rivera said, adding that he thinks Senate Democrats could move the DREAM Act during a first year in the majority, but acknowledged it isn&rsquo;t a sure thing.</p> <p>Peralta agreed, saying, &ldquo;A Democratic majority gets the ball rolling in New York State.&rdquo; But he warned, &ldquo;We won&rsquo;t be able to move everything at once. There are some issues that don&rsquo;t play well in marginal districts upstate. We will have to tackle them in bite-size pieces - The DREAM Act one year, then drivers&rsquo; licenses the next.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Minimum Wage</strong><br />The two states appeared to be locked in a race to get to $15 per hour this year as both Brown and Cuomo pushed for a minimum wage increase - the governors signed their bills on the same day, April 4. But the bills are not equal: both call for incremental increases to the wage until finally reaching $15 - in California it will be 2022 before the wage is fully implemented; in New York it depends on where you live. Residents of New York City will have a $15 minimum wage by the end of 2018; Long Island and Westchester reach $15 to start 2022; while the rest of the state will reach $12.50 by the last day of 2020, with a 2019 panel to review the economic impact and able to halt the increase.</p> <p><strong>Election Reform</strong><br />California adopted a new primary system <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/us/politics/new-rules-upend-house-re-election-races-in-california.html" target="_blank">in 2012</a> that allows the top two vote getters in primary races to move on the general election regardless of party affiliation. That move in combination with California&rsquo;s citizen redistricting commission has opened up seats once kept in a stranglehold by incumbents.</p> <p>Good government groups have pushed New York City to adopt nonpartisan primaries but there has yet to be significant movement. The idea is a nonstarter at the state level.</p> <p>In October of last year, Brown signed an automatic voter registration bill that would have citizens registered to vote during visits to the DMV for drivers&rsquo; licenses or ID cards. Cuomo proposed a similar initiative in February during his State of the State speech, but met with opposition from Democratic lawmakers who worried registration would favor suburban and rural areas of the state where there are move drivers. Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, suggested empowering other agencies to also register voters to create parity.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reform</strong><br />Cuomo called for a review of the criminal justice system in the wake of the July 2014 death of Eric Garner during an NYPD stop. That review did not come about in the Legislature. Instead of passing legislation to create a special prosecutor to review police killings of unarmed civilians Cuomo issued an executive order empowering Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to take such cases out of the hands of the local district attorney.</p> <p>Cuomo&rsquo;s move was hailed by advocates who say local DAs are biased and unwilling to prosecute members of their local police force. But many advocates are still pushing for a similar system to be made law as executive orders can be undone. Senate Republicans have refused to consider any number of criminal justice initiatives Cuomo has proposed, including raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 (New York is one of only two states where it is 16, with North Carolina).</p> <p>California does not have a special prosecutor system in place for police killings of civilians but last year Brown signed a law banning the use of grand juries in such cases. The move came in response to outcry that a grand jury refused to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for Garner&rsquo;s death. "The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system," state Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Democrat from Los Angeles who sponsored the bill, said in a statement at the time.</p> <p>Cuomo has tried and failed to get the Republican state Senate to act on college for inmates, something California expanded in 2015 in a partnership with a number of community colleges. Cuomo instead put forward a privately financed plan this year.</p> <p>Brown currently supports a ballot initiative that will come before voters this fall <a href="http://www.antirecidivism.org/psra_2016" target="_blank">that is designed</a> to reduce recidivism and revise how it is decided if youth are tried as adults.</p> <p><strong>Fiscal Policy</strong><br />While Brown has been considered more fiscally conservative than some of his allies in the Legislature, he did sponsor a 2012 ballot proposition that raised taxes on high-income earners. His initiative merged two other ballot initiatives - including one from the California teachers union branded a &ldquo;millionaire&rsquo;s tax&rdquo; that would have increased the personal income tax on those earning $1 million and more. Brown&rsquo;s plan created four new upper-income brackets for those making $250,000, $300,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000. The new tax rates are supposed to last seven years. The plan also increased the state sales tax. A group of unions recently introduced a new proposition that would make the tax increases of Brown&rsquo;s proposition permanent.</p> <p>New York adopted a millionaire&rsquo;s tax under Democratic Gov. David Paterson in 2009 that Cuomo partially renewed in 2011. It is now set to expire in 2017. Many unions have pushed to extend the tax as has the state Assembly.</p> <p>Cuomo has fought back against any tax increases. De Blasio insisted his universal pre-k plan be funded by a New York City income tax hike on households earning more than a million dollars a year. Cuomo delivered the cash for the plan <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2014/02/cuomo-there-already-is-a-millionaires-tax-for-pre-k/" target="_blank">and not the tax</a> - something de Blasio publicly lamented.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Assessing the Aftermath: Top Takeaways for NYC from 2016 Albany Session 2016-06-29T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-29T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6421:assessing-the-aftermath-top-takeaways-for-nyc-from-2016-albany-session Amanda Sherwin <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/12177959134_17e9103a99_z.jpg" alt="de blasio cuomo 2014 presser" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio and Cuomo in 2014; photo via The Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has made it clear that he feels like he&rsquo;s often fighting for New York City&rsquo;s interests against both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Senate Republicans, with Assembly Democrats as his key allies. In his initial statement reacting to the recent end of the 2016 legislative session in Albany, de Blasio put a thank you to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and company at the forefront, never mentioned Cuomo, and gave his take on what he assessed as a mixed bag for the city.</p> <p>For his part, Cuomo argues that the city made out quite well and, in harshly worded statements to the media, his aides say that the governor, raised in Queens, very much looks out for the city, but has little respect for the mayor. It can often be hard to separate the mayor from his agenda and the interests of the city, and in assessing the outcomes of the legislative session for New York City, it&rsquo;s clear that de Blasio&rsquo;s rivalries with Cuomo and Senate Republicans affected policy decisions.</p> <p>Still, while de Blasio did see several disappointing results out of Albany this year, like another one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, there was a lot for the city to celebrate, including wage and benefit legislation that the mayor and his fellow Democrats had wanted. The city appears to have made out much better in the state budget than in the post-budget portion of the session and final deals reached in mid-June.</p> <p>There are long lists of outcomes that de Blasio and his allies are pleased with and not; but what the six-month session made abundantly clear is that state lawmakers, including the governor, are nowhere near ready to relinquish the substantial powers they wield over the city. The session was marked by important policy debates; political rivalries; and the news of an investigation into de Blasio, his aides and allies, that originated with the state Board of Elections&rsquo; enforcement counsel. That counsel, Risa Sugarman, is a former Cuomo aide, leading to finger pointing and conspiracy theories from de Blasio - drama added to the already-fraught dynamics.</p> <p>As de Blasio regroups over the summer and state legislators prepare for fall elections, a look back at the 2016 legislative session in Albany shows the following top ten takeaways for New York City:</p> <p><strong>1. Gov. Cuomo is still able to bend Senate Republicans to pass progressive legislation.</strong> Mayor de Blasio and his progressive allies may have been somewhat shocked when the state budget, passed at the beginning of April, included a staggered minimum wage increase that could eventually reach $15 throughout the state and a paid family leave program. Both policies won Cuomo national accolades and appeared to many to be his attempt to coopt de Blasio&rsquo;s position as the top progressive in the state. To get both things done Cuomo had to convince and cajole Senate Republicans to go along with two policies opposed by many in their base (he&rsquo;d done this before, of course, with marriage equality and the SAFE Act). The minimum wage and paid family leave policies will have a major impact on New York City workers, especially those de Blasio has sought to lift up.</p> <p><strong>2. De Blasio is Cuomo&rsquo;s enemy and Senate Republicans&rsquo; boogeyman.</strong> It was clear early in session that Senate Republicans saw de Blasio as a perfect foil, but it wasn&rsquo;t clear how much ammo they would actually have or far they would go to deny him success in Albany. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan held fast in his stance on mayoral control of schools and in the end de Blasio was only granted a second straight one-year extension. After de Blasio&rsquo;s complaints on the subject, Cuomo shot back that the mayor was &ldquo;lucky&rdquo; to get one year. De Blasio had harsh words toward the governor at a recent press conference and Cuomo&rsquo;s press office has been highly critical of the mayor.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are outraged by revelations around de Blasio&rsquo;s 2014 efforts to flip the Senate to Democrats and plan to tie 2016 Democratic opponents to the mayor in most contested Senate races this summer and fall. Voters in contested districts are likely to hear a lot about the &ldquo;corrupt, liberal&rdquo; mayor who is looking to control the Senate and all of state government, to make the whole state like New York City. It&rsquo;s unlikely Cuomo will do much to help Senate Democrats, something de Blasio has been critical of in the past and in recent comments. Senate control has major implications for New York policy-making, of course, as de Blasio recently discussed in <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/harry-siegel-de-blasio-thinking-article-1.2687244" target="_blank">an interview with Harry Siegel</a> of the Daily News, where he said that New York could be like California, if Cuomo was to push for that.</p> <p><strong>3. Mayoral control of schools will be an election-year issue for de Blasio.</strong> Winning a one-year extension of mayoral control means de Blasio will have to look to Albany for another extension next year - as he faces reelection. With his poll numbers dropping and corruption investigations swirling it becomes more likely he will face a primary challenge. Expect de Blasio&rsquo;s handling of schools to be a hot topic in Albany and in the mayoral race. De Blasio&rsquo;s critics continue to point to his opposition to charter schools and raise questions about his handling of the city&rsquo;s most troubled schools.</p> <p><strong>4. De Blasio owes Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</strong>&nbsp;The Democratic Assembly Speaker from the Bronx went to bat for de Blasio in the chamber&rsquo;s budget proposal - pushing a six-year extension of mayoral control of schools - and later appeared to hold up budget negotiations while fighting for renewal, until de Blasio relented to the compromise that was reached. In 2009 Heastie was the lead Assembly sponsor of a bill that would have crippled mayoral control, so it doesn&rsquo;t appear he was fighting for the renewal on principle. De Blasio will have to continue to nurture his relationship with Heastie as many other Democrat legislators express a similar refrain: &ldquo;it isn&rsquo;t easy being the mayor&rsquo;s friend.&rdquo;</p> <p>On a variety of issues it is clear that Heastie and his fellow Assembly Democrats from the city are the city&rsquo;s biggest advocates and the mayor&rsquo;s top allies. In reacting to the end of session, de Blasio released a statement saying, &ldquo;With the leadership and commitment of Speaker Heastie and his Assembly colleagues, New York City secured a series of important State commitments that will improve lives across our five boroughs.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>5. State leaders appear increasingly interested in curtailing the city&rsquo;s autonomy.</strong> In reaction to the city&rsquo;s plan to impose a five cent fee on paper and plastic bag shopping bags, the Senate moved legislation that would have banned any locality from instituting such a law. The Assembly was headed in that direction but Heastie cut a deal with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to delay implementation of the plan so that the Council could amend it to the Assembly&rsquo;s liking and explore other changes.</p> <p>Cuomo has moved to limit the city&rsquo;s ability to implement its affordable housing plans; instituted greater oversight of city homeless shelters; decided to open new state police barracks near City Hall; and created a <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/04/state-budget-establishes-controversial-construction-oversight-agency-033014" target="_blank">new agency</a> in the budget that could allow him to take over major capital projects. Critics see the new agency as an end run around the MTA board.</p> <p><strong>6. The feud between Cuomo and de Blasio leaves affordable and supportive housing in an unpredictable state.</strong> Cuomo won $1.9 billion in funding for supportive and affordable housing in the state budget, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6405-advocates-plan-to-keep-pressure-on-cuomo-over-housing-funds" target="_blank">only $150 million of those funds were released</a> in an agreement with legislative leaders by the end of session. Affordable and supportive housing advocates and providers say that without a long-term plan that details how the cash will be allocated in years to come it will be hard for builders to get funding for new construction.<br /><br />Additionally, the 421-a tax abatement program meant to spur developers to build rental housing with mandated affordable housing included was not renewed. De Blasio continues to insist that a proposal he put forth should be adopted, while Cuomo says the building trades unions must be included in negotiating a deal. The mayor&rsquo;s affordable housing plans are at risk without a new 421-a program.</p> <p><strong>7. The Assembly went to bat for the MTA.</strong> The governor&rsquo;s executive budget proposal would have put off funding the MTA&rsquo;s capital plan until the MTA ran out of current funding streams. The Assembly fought and won $2.9 billion in funding for the capital plan this year. It will be the first of four annual appropriations that will end up totalling $7.3 billion.</p> <p><strong>8. Major New York City-based infrastructure projects are on the move.</strong> It appears that major infrastructure projects, both inside and outside of New York City, will be key to Gov. Cuomo&rsquo;s legacy. In the city, the state is moving ahead with improving JFK Airport, redeveloping LaGuardia Airport and Penn Station, expanding the Javits Convention Center, and building new MetroNorth stations in the Bronx.</p> <p><strong>9. Education funding debates continue, with more money headed to New York City.</strong> While many in New York City, including de Blasio, continue to call on the state to meet its obligations under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling, according to Gov. Cuomo&rsquo;s office, &ldquo;The FY 2017 Budget provides $24.8 billion in School Aid, the highest amount in history and a 6.5 percent increase over last year.&rdquo; Much of it is headed to New York City, home to more than 40 percent of the state&rsquo;s population. As part of the mayoral control extension deal, though, the city is now required to make its individual school funding formulas more available publicly.</p> <p><strong>10. Top city priorities left out.</strong> Less on de Blasio&rsquo;s agenda, but more on those of city-based state legislators, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are issues like criminal justice reform and the DREAM Act, which saw no movement this year.</p> <p>Criminal justice issues were not a priority for Cuomo or Senate Republicans. While Cuomo's January State of the State address included mentions of the campaign to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility and efforts to encode into state law a special prosecutor in the case of police shootings of unarmed civilians, neither appeared to ever become a major priority for Cuomo, who focused on minimum wage and paid family leave at the start of session and a variety of other issues after the budget, while also dealing with the developing federal investigation into his economic development programs. Both criminal justice reform initiatives, among others, are largely popular in the Assembly and New York City, but not in the Senate.</p> <p>The DREAM Act, another priority of New York City Democrats, won&rsquo;t pass as long as Senate Republicans hold the chamber - or until Cuomo forces it through: Advocates for legislation to give undocumented students access to tuition assistance haven&rsquo;t given up their fight but they know Senate Republicans have touted their opposition to the bill successfully during the last few election cycles. They also know that Cuomo can move mountains when he wants to - the governor had included the DREAM Act in his budget bills, but has not campaigned on the issue since his 2014 reelection bid.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed writing.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/12177959134_17e9103a99_z.jpg" alt="de blasio cuomo 2014 presser" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio and Cuomo in 2014; photo via The Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has made it clear that he feels like he&rsquo;s often fighting for New York City&rsquo;s interests against both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Senate Republicans, with Assembly Democrats as his key allies. In his initial statement reacting to the recent end of the 2016 legislative session in Albany, de Blasio put a thank you to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and company at the forefront, never mentioned Cuomo, and gave his take on what he assessed as a mixed bag for the city.</p> <p>For his part, Cuomo argues that the city made out quite well and, in harshly worded statements to the media, his aides say that the governor, raised in Queens, very much looks out for the city, but has little respect for the mayor. It can often be hard to separate the mayor from his agenda and the interests of the city, and in assessing the outcomes of the legislative session for New York City, it&rsquo;s clear that de Blasio&rsquo;s rivalries with Cuomo and Senate Republicans affected policy decisions.</p> <p>Still, while de Blasio did see several disappointing results out of Albany this year, like another one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, there was a lot for the city to celebrate, including wage and benefit legislation that the mayor and his fellow Democrats had wanted. The city appears to have made out much better in the state budget than in the post-budget portion of the session and final deals reached in mid-June.</p> <p>There are long lists of outcomes that de Blasio and his allies are pleased with and not; but what the six-month session made abundantly clear is that state lawmakers, including the governor, are nowhere near ready to relinquish the substantial powers they wield over the city. The session was marked by important policy debates; political rivalries; and the news of an investigation into de Blasio, his aides and allies, that originated with the state Board of Elections&rsquo; enforcement counsel. That counsel, Risa Sugarman, is a former Cuomo aide, leading to finger pointing and conspiracy theories from de Blasio - drama added to the already-fraught dynamics.</p> <p>As de Blasio regroups over the summer and state legislators prepare for fall elections, a look back at the 2016 legislative session in Albany shows the following top ten takeaways for New York City:</p> <p><strong>1. Gov. Cuomo is still able to bend Senate Republicans to pass progressive legislation.</strong> Mayor de Blasio and his progressive allies may have been somewhat shocked when the state budget, passed at the beginning of April, included a staggered minimum wage increase that could eventually reach $15 throughout the state and a paid family leave program. Both policies won Cuomo national accolades and appeared to many to be his attempt to coopt de Blasio&rsquo;s position as the top progressive in the state. To get both things done Cuomo had to convince and cajole Senate Republicans to go along with two policies opposed by many in their base (he&rsquo;d done this before, of course, with marriage equality and the SAFE Act). The minimum wage and paid family leave policies will have a major impact on New York City workers, especially those de Blasio has sought to lift up.</p> <p><strong>2. De Blasio is Cuomo&rsquo;s enemy and Senate Republicans&rsquo; boogeyman.</strong> It was clear early in session that Senate Republicans saw de Blasio as a perfect foil, but it wasn&rsquo;t clear how much ammo they would actually have or far they would go to deny him success in Albany. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan held fast in his stance on mayoral control of schools and in the end de Blasio was only granted a second straight one-year extension. After de Blasio&rsquo;s complaints on the subject, Cuomo shot back that the mayor was &ldquo;lucky&rdquo; to get one year. De Blasio had harsh words toward the governor at a recent press conference and Cuomo&rsquo;s press office has been highly critical of the mayor.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are outraged by revelations around de Blasio&rsquo;s 2014 efforts to flip the Senate to Democrats and plan to tie 2016 Democratic opponents to the mayor in most contested Senate races this summer and fall. Voters in contested districts are likely to hear a lot about the &ldquo;corrupt, liberal&rdquo; mayor who is looking to control the Senate and all of state government, to make the whole state like New York City. It&rsquo;s unlikely Cuomo will do much to help Senate Democrats, something de Blasio has been critical of in the past and in recent comments. Senate control has major implications for New York policy-making, of course, as de Blasio recently discussed in <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/harry-siegel-de-blasio-thinking-article-1.2687244" target="_blank">an interview with Harry Siegel</a> of the Daily News, where he said that New York could be like California, if Cuomo was to push for that.</p> <p><strong>3. Mayoral control of schools will be an election-year issue for de Blasio.</strong> Winning a one-year extension of mayoral control means de Blasio will have to look to Albany for another extension next year - as he faces reelection. With his poll numbers dropping and corruption investigations swirling it becomes more likely he will face a primary challenge. Expect de Blasio&rsquo;s handling of schools to be a hot topic in Albany and in the mayoral race. De Blasio&rsquo;s critics continue to point to his opposition to charter schools and raise questions about his handling of the city&rsquo;s most troubled schools.</p> <p><strong>4. De Blasio owes Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</strong>&nbsp;The Democratic Assembly Speaker from the Bronx went to bat for de Blasio in the chamber&rsquo;s budget proposal - pushing a six-year extension of mayoral control of schools - and later appeared to hold up budget negotiations while fighting for renewal, until de Blasio relented to the compromise that was reached. In 2009 Heastie was the lead Assembly sponsor of a bill that would have crippled mayoral control, so it doesn&rsquo;t appear he was fighting for the renewal on principle. De Blasio will have to continue to nurture his relationship with Heastie as many other Democrat legislators express a similar refrain: &ldquo;it isn&rsquo;t easy being the mayor&rsquo;s friend.&rdquo;</p> <p>On a variety of issues it is clear that Heastie and his fellow Assembly Democrats from the city are the city&rsquo;s biggest advocates and the mayor&rsquo;s top allies. In reacting to the end of session, de Blasio released a statement saying, &ldquo;With the leadership and commitment of Speaker Heastie and his Assembly colleagues, New York City secured a series of important State commitments that will improve lives across our five boroughs.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>5. State leaders appear increasingly interested in curtailing the city&rsquo;s autonomy.</strong> In reaction to the city&rsquo;s plan to impose a five cent fee on paper and plastic bag shopping bags, the Senate moved legislation that would have banned any locality from instituting such a law. The Assembly was headed in that direction but Heastie cut a deal with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to delay implementation of the plan so that the Council could amend it to the Assembly&rsquo;s liking and explore other changes.</p> <p>Cuomo has moved to limit the city&rsquo;s ability to implement its affordable housing plans; instituted greater oversight of city homeless shelters; decided to open new state police barracks near City Hall; and created a <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/04/state-budget-establishes-controversial-construction-oversight-agency-033014" target="_blank">new agency</a> in the budget that could allow him to take over major capital projects. Critics see the new agency as an end run around the MTA board.</p> <p><strong>6. The feud between Cuomo and de Blasio leaves affordable and supportive housing in an unpredictable state.</strong> Cuomo won $1.9 billion in funding for supportive and affordable housing in the state budget, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6405-advocates-plan-to-keep-pressure-on-cuomo-over-housing-funds" target="_blank">only $150 million of those funds were released</a> in an agreement with legislative leaders by the end of session. Affordable and supportive housing advocates and providers say that without a long-term plan that details how the cash will be allocated in years to come it will be hard for builders to get funding for new construction.<br /><br />Additionally, the 421-a tax abatement program meant to spur developers to build rental housing with mandated affordable housing included was not renewed. De Blasio continues to insist that a proposal he put forth should be adopted, while Cuomo says the building trades unions must be included in negotiating a deal. The mayor&rsquo;s affordable housing plans are at risk without a new 421-a program.</p> <p><strong>7. The Assembly went to bat for the MTA.</strong> The governor&rsquo;s executive budget proposal would have put off funding the MTA&rsquo;s capital plan until the MTA ran out of current funding streams. The Assembly fought and won $2.9 billion in funding for the capital plan this year. It will be the first of four annual appropriations that will end up totalling $7.3 billion.</p> <p><strong>8. Major New York City-based infrastructure projects are on the move.</strong> It appears that major infrastructure projects, both inside and outside of New York City, will be key to Gov. Cuomo&rsquo;s legacy. In the city, the state is moving ahead with improving JFK Airport, redeveloping LaGuardia Airport and Penn Station, expanding the Javits Convention Center, and building new MetroNorth stations in the Bronx.</p> <p><strong>9. Education funding debates continue, with more money headed to New York City.</strong> While many in New York City, including de Blasio, continue to call on the state to meet its obligations under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling, according to Gov. Cuomo&rsquo;s office, &ldquo;The FY 2017 Budget provides $24.8 billion in School Aid, the highest amount in history and a 6.5 percent increase over last year.&rdquo; Much of it is headed to New York City, home to more than 40 percent of the state&rsquo;s population. As part of the mayoral control extension deal, though, the city is now required to make its individual school funding formulas more available publicly.</p> <p><strong>10. Top city priorities left out.</strong> Less on de Blasio&rsquo;s agenda, but more on those of city-based state legislators, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are issues like criminal justice reform and the DREAM Act, which saw no movement this year.</p> <p>Criminal justice issues were not a priority for Cuomo or Senate Republicans. While Cuomo's January State of the State address included mentions of the campaign to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility and efforts to encode into state law a special prosecutor in the case of police shootings of unarmed civilians, neither appeared to ever become a major priority for Cuomo, who focused on minimum wage and paid family leave at the start of session and a variety of other issues after the budget, while also dealing with the developing federal investigation into his economic development programs. Both criminal justice reform initiatives, among others, are largely popular in the Assembly and New York City, but not in the Senate.</p> <p>The DREAM Act, another priority of New York City Democrats, won&rsquo;t pass as long as Senate Republicans hold the chamber - or until Cuomo forces it through: Advocates for legislation to give undocumented students access to tuition assistance haven&rsquo;t given up their fight but they know Senate Republicans have touted their opposition to the bill successfully during the last few election cycles. They also know that Cuomo can move mountains when he wants to - the governor had included the DREAM Act in his budget bills, but has not campaigned on the issue since his 2014 reelection bid.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed writing.</p>
Hope in the State Senate 2016-05-04T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6319:hope-in-the-state-senate-todd-kaminsky Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/hope-state.jpg" alt="hope state" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>Make the Road Action volunteers for Todd Kaminsky</p> <hr /> <p>Last Tuesday, many New Yorkers were focused on the presidential primaries, but there was another election that may be even more important for communities like mine. In a special election for State Senate in Nassau County, Democrat Todd Kaminsky won a seat long-held by former Republican Sen. Dean Skelos.</p> <p>This result was key for three reasons.</p> <p>First, it showed the importance of the votes of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color outside of New York City.</p> <p>As a black Latino immigrant living on Long Island, I’ve seen first-hand how the region has changed in recent years away from being the overwhelmingly white suburban area it was once. Now, as reported by Newsday, it is likely that communities of color were the key difference in the victory of Todd Kaminsky by a relatively small margin, demonstrating the growth of our community on Long Island and our power. While we still have much work to do to continue registering and mobilizing voters, last Tuesday’s result shows that we are becoming more aware about the importance of voting in local and state elections, which often have more direct impact on our lives than federal contests. Communities of color—particularly Latino and immigrant communities—are growing in population and so too is our political weight.</p> <p>Second, this choice will be important in addressing one of the main barriers blocking progress for our communities: the state Senate.</p> <p>Many of the abuses suffered by our community in New York stem from state laws that fail to protect us. in many cases, we are even targeted. These laws—weak rent regulations, lack of police and criminal justice reforms, restrictions on accessing financial aid, and more—exist because for years we have had no one in the Senate from Long Island who represents us at the time of decision-making. Make the Road Action, of which I am a member, backed Todd Kaminsky because he committed to supporting our community—for example, by raising wages, expanding healthcare access, and ensuring higher education access. Meanwhile, the Republican campaign mailed anti-immigrant propaganda to excite ultra-conservative voters with a message akin to Donald Trump’s.</p> <p>We will continue to fight on priority issues for our community—to pass the DREAM Act, strengthen rent laws, pass criminal justice reform, and more—and we are confident that Senator Kaminsky will be there with us.</p> <p>Third, Senator Kaminsky's victory could be the first step in changing the balance of power in Albany.</p> <p>Through November, Republicans are likely to maintain control of the Senate through an alliance with the Independent Democrats (IDC). But this special election showed that progressive candidates themselves are able to succeed against conservatives on Long Island—the first time we’ve seen that in years—and we expect to have several close state Senate elections in our region in November. With only one or two more wins, Democrats could take control of the state Senate, which would give us the opportunity to pass new laws that protect workers, young people who want to study, tenants, LGBTQ immigrants—in short, our entire community.</p> <p>This election showed the growing power of our community. Now we must continue to build our strength and ensure that we are prepared to fight for our rights and vote in November, when the entire state Legislature is up for election.</p> <p>***<br />Frank Sprouse-Guzman is a member of Make the Road Action and a Bay Shore resident. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadAct" target="_blank">@MaketheRoadAct</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/hope-state.jpg" alt="hope state" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>Make the Road Action volunteers for Todd Kaminsky</p> <hr /> <p>Last Tuesday, many New Yorkers were focused on the presidential primaries, but there was another election that may be even more important for communities like mine. In a special election for State Senate in Nassau County, Democrat Todd Kaminsky won a seat long-held by former Republican Sen. Dean Skelos.</p> <p>This result was key for three reasons.</p> <p>First, it showed the importance of the votes of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color outside of New York City.</p> <p>As a black Latino immigrant living on Long Island, I’ve seen first-hand how the region has changed in recent years away from being the overwhelmingly white suburban area it was once. Now, as reported by Newsday, it is likely that communities of color were the key difference in the victory of Todd Kaminsky by a relatively small margin, demonstrating the growth of our community on Long Island and our power. While we still have much work to do to continue registering and mobilizing voters, last Tuesday’s result shows that we are becoming more aware about the importance of voting in local and state elections, which often have more direct impact on our lives than federal contests. Communities of color—particularly Latino and immigrant communities—are growing in population and so too is our political weight.</p> <p>Second, this choice will be important in addressing one of the main barriers blocking progress for our communities: the state Senate.</p> <p>Many of the abuses suffered by our community in New York stem from state laws that fail to protect us. in many cases, we are even targeted. These laws—weak rent regulations, lack of police and criminal justice reforms, restrictions on accessing financial aid, and more—exist because for years we have had no one in the Senate from Long Island who represents us at the time of decision-making. Make the Road Action, of which I am a member, backed Todd Kaminsky because he committed to supporting our community—for example, by raising wages, expanding healthcare access, and ensuring higher education access. Meanwhile, the Republican campaign mailed anti-immigrant propaganda to excite ultra-conservative voters with a message akin to Donald Trump’s.</p> <p>We will continue to fight on priority issues for our community—to pass the DREAM Act, strengthen rent laws, pass criminal justice reform, and more—and we are confident that Senator Kaminsky will be there with us.</p> <p>Third, Senator Kaminsky's victory could be the first step in changing the balance of power in Albany.</p> <p>Through November, Republicans are likely to maintain control of the Senate through an alliance with the Independent Democrats (IDC). But this special election showed that progressive candidates themselves are able to succeed against conservatives on Long Island—the first time we’ve seen that in years—and we expect to have several close state Senate elections in our region in November. With only one or two more wins, Democrats could take control of the state Senate, which would give us the opportunity to pass new laws that protect workers, young people who want to study, tenants, LGBTQ immigrants—in short, our entire community.</p> <p>This election showed the growing power of our community. Now we must continue to build our strength and ensure that we are prepared to fight for our rights and vote in November, when the entire state Legislature is up for election.</p> <p>***<br />Frank Sprouse-Guzman is a member of Make the Road Action and a Bay Shore resident. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadAct" target="_blank">@MaketheRoadAct</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Major City Issues at Play in Politically Charged, Post-Budget Legislative Session 2016-04-06T22:49:29+00:00 2016-04-06T22:49:29+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6267:major-city-issues-at-play-in-politically-charged-post-budget-legislative-session Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26096555691_00e0f8bb7b_z.jpg" alt="cuomo budget paid leave pic" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo announces the budget deal (photo via The Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo dismissed the idea of extending state government's legislative session this year to tackle ethics reform during an appearance in Binghamton on Wednesday. "We have a relatively light agenda because we did so much work in the budget," the governor said. "We passed the minimum wage increase, we passed paid family leave, we passed a great package for the middle class, we passed a great package for upstate New York, more education funding than ever before."</p> <p>It's a concerning statement for some advocates and elected officials who see the session full of unresolved issues - including, but beyond ethics - especially ones that impact New York City, issues that the governor himself tackled during his January State of the State speech or has since brought to the table. Some advocates take the governor's statement as an acknowledgement that he traded away issues Senate Republicans oppose to get a minimum wage increase, and not only in the budget, but for the rest of the legislative session that has just begun and is scheduled to end in June.</p> <p>All-important control of the State Senate will be up for grabs again in November, but a key battle in the overall war will be decided on April 19 in the contest to fill the seat vacated by former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, recently convicted on federal corruption charges. The April special and impending November elections mean legislators are anxious to get back to their districts while avoiding political landmines.</p> <p>Ethics reforms are one of the many issues jettisoned from budget talks that lawmakers say were dominated by minimum wage negotiations. Major issues of particular importance to New York City yet to be addressed this year include mayoral control of schools; a multitude of criminal justice reforms, some of which were introduced by Cuomo; housing programs, including a replacement for the 421-a property tax credit aimed at spurring affordable housing development; and two education matters that have been linked in the past: The DREAM Act and the education investment tax credit.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control</strong><br />Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and his conference have used Mayor Bill de Blasio as a progressive boogieman since the mayor tried to help Democrats win control of the chamber in 2014. Last year Flanagan successfully beat back the mayor's push for a seven-year extension of mayoral control, getting his negotiating partners to settle on one year. He again maneuvered discussion of renewal out of this year's budget discussions and before a spending deal was even announced, he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com:8080/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">scheduled hearings on mayoral control</a> for May 4 in Albany and May 19 in New York City. Mayoral control is due to sunset on June 30.</p> <p>Many Democrats expect Senate Republicans to delay actually acting on mayoral control until as late as possible in order to keep de Blasio "in check." With no other sensible alternative, de Blasio has been gracious about the situation so far, saying he plans to attend the hearings "personally" and welcomes the chance for "dialogue" on the issue.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reforms</strong><br />Gov. Cuomo has supported <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6249-criminal-justice-reform-again-given-little-attention-in-budget-negotiations" target="_blank">three major criminal justice reforms</a> over the last two years: Raise the Age, an effort to end New York's practice of treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system; an effort to create independent review of police killings of civilians; and a program to increase data reporting of the race and ethnicity of individuals involved in police interactions. Unable to deliver on the first two last year, Cuomo took executive action. He moved 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult prisons and gave Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office the discretion to look into police killings of civilians. Advocates were pleased, but acknowledged both issues still needed to be addressed in law.</p> <p>This year Cuomo has proposed a bill that would give his office the ability to convene an investigation into police killings of civilians but only if certain criteria is met. He has continued to push for Raise the Age but not with the urgency supporters would like. They point out that even being held in separate facilities from older inmates, 16- and 17-year-olds are still treated as adults when arrested and tried, which make negative outcomes and criminal records more likely.</p> <p>On Tuesday, supporters of a bill that would mandate the state collect data on police interactions with the public gathered in Albany to push Senate Republicans and Cuomo to act on an issue they call "common sense."</p> <p>The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Joseph Lentol and state Senator Daniel Squadron, both Brooklyn Democrats, would require the state to collect and report data on the number of tickets and misdemeanor arrests across the state; the number of civilian deaths in police custody or during an arrest; the race, ethnicity, and sex of those charged with misdemeanors and violations; and the geographic location of enforcement-related activity and arrest-related deaths. Lentol said the bill is not "anti-police" but a "transparency" and "open government" tool to improve relations between police and communities across the state. Lentol prodded Gov. Cuomo to act, noting that Cuomo has a similar bill that has failed to garner support.</p> <p>"Yet again, communities of color were left behind in New York State budget negotiations, with no meaningful advancement of any criminal justice reforms," said Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director of VOCAL-NY. "Passing the STAT Act this legislative session provides an opportunity for Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to show they value the safety and dignity of all New Yorkers."</p> <p>Squadron told Gotham Gazette that the bill is one that Senate Republicans "put in a black box, a dark room," never to be seen again. "This isn't something we have debated. We haven't heard their argument against it, it just disappears." Lentol, however, said that he believes police unions are using their influence to block the bill.</p> <p>Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, Democrat of Queens, supports Lentol's bill and said that he feels his constituents and advocates are growing frustrated that the Senate fails to vote on criminal justice reforms year after year. "I think the governor is really going to have to move on some of these bills and not just wave his hands in the air and say 'It's the Republicans'" Aubry said. "We know he can get what he wants. He has an election coming up and he's got to deliver for these communities."</p> <p>A spokesperson for the governor, Dani Lever, said in a statement that&nbsp;"The governor has and continues to push for comprehensive criminal justice reform to address the treatment of juveniles in the system and the prosecution of fatality cases involving law enforcement. Despite the legislature's failure to agree on these reforms, the governor has taken bold action and issued executive orders appointing a special prosecutor in police cases (the first of its kind in the country) and removing juveniles from adult state prisons. Until the legislature passes real reforms, the governor's executive orders will remain in effect."</p> <p><strong>Housing</strong><br />Last year in an unprecedented move, Cuomo put the fate of the 421-a tax abatement program in the hands of the two stakeholder industries - real estate developers and construction unions. Whatever deal they reached on wages in new housing developments utilizing 421-a was to be enacted into law with other reforms to the program, but if they failed, 421-a would sunset. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6038-negotiations-to-extend-important-affordable-housing-tax-break-said-to-reach-impasse" target="_blank">Negotiations floundered</a> and 421-a is dead.</p> <p>The program is thought to be essential to affordable housing production in New York City, making it profitable for developers to build new rental housing with some affordable units included. When Cuomo rejected compromise legislation crafted by de Blasio last June, it was one of the final straws to break de Blasio's back (along with the mayoral control compromise and more), <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">leading to his now-infamous tirade</a> against the governor on June 30. De Blasio's affordable housing goals rely on 421-a-related production.</p> <p>On Monday, Cuomo <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/04/4/ny1-online--governor-cuomo-breaks-down-state-budget.html" target="_blank">told NY1's Errol Louis</a> that he is looking for a replacement. "You can have a fair program that pays a fair rate to the unions and also a fair rate of profit to the developers," Cuomo said. "I believe there is that balance to be struck. But they have to strike that balance. We're still trying, but the Legislature is not going to approve a plan that kicks the labor unions out of the affordable housing business."</p> <p>Bill Murrow, the governor's top aide, followed up those comments on Tuesday during a Crain's New York Business breakfast event, indicating that labor and real estate are indeed negotiating again. "The developers, REBNY, and the construction trades...they'll find some common ground. I am hopeful that sometime between now and June that something will actually happen," Mulrow <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/04/8595747/cuomo-administration-hopeful-about-421-successor?top-featured-image" target="_blank">said</a>.</p> <p>On Tuesday, tenant advocates gathered in Albany to demand that negotiations on 421-a or something like must also include strengthening rent regulations. Delsenia Glover, campaign manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power opened the press conference by condemning the deal that renewed the rent laws last year. "We pretty much got nothing," she said. "At the time Governor Cuomo said they were the 'strongest rent laws in history.' It's not true, we got nothing." Members of the crowd shouted "He lied!"</p> <p>Glover said she has been disturbed to hear "lamentations" that 421-a is dead, saying she was glad a "giveaway to luxury developers" and "$1.1 billion tax suck" was dead and that assertions that developers won't be able to build affordable housing without it is patently false.</p> <p>"Our demand," said Glover, "is this: If 421-a or anything that looks like 421-a is revived or created then the rent laws must be reopened, we get rid of vacancy bonus, fix preferential rents, and then maybe we can have a conversation."</p> <p>A number of legislators who spoke after Glover pushed against the idea of any 421-a renewal. Assembly Member Walter Mosley of Brooklyn said he doesn't use the term '421-a' because "We don't want nothin' like 421-a to resurface, but ultimately we understand if anything like 421-a comes to the floor then we reopen the rent laws. Without that we have no discussion."</p> <p>Assembly Housing Chair Keith Wright, who introduced a plan of something of a 421-a alternative earlier this year to a tepid response, brought up his proposal in front of the audience that was openly hostile to any replacement. Wright's plan would utilize the state's abandoned property fund to give a subsidy of $100,000 per affordable unit at a cost of about $200 million per year, compared to 421-a's 25-year property tax break and $1 billion annual tax revenue price tag.</p> <p>"The plan was not...people were intrigued by the idea," Wright told the crowd, seeming to catch himself in an effort to promote the measure, "but listen anything in Albany takes a minute to work up to, but we are still pushing that plan, but we are still under siege."</p> <p>Wright is a close ally of Cuomo and many expect that his plan was the first shot fired in an effort to restore a 421-a plan. The fact that Cuomo and Wright are openly pushing a replacement and that Senate Republicans are likely to want to deliver for real estate developers makes many advocates think it is a question of "when" not "if" a 421-a replacement comes to the floor of both houses. They hope to keep up public pressure to win some sort of concessions when it takes place.</p> <p><strong>Other Education Issues</strong><br />Last year Cuomo tried to connect the DREAM Act that would allow the undocumented access to college tuition assistance and the education tax credit that would give benefits to those who donate to private schools. The DREAM Act has massive support in the Assembly, which has passed the measure repeatedly over the last few years and the education tax credit is a favorite of Senate Republicans. Cuomo's bid at linkage failed last year (he did not attempt to link them again this year, but did include both in his executive budget), but both issues remain on the table and the fact that they were left out of the budget has rankled a number of lawmakers.</p> <p>Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who caucuses with Republicans, was said to be so upset that Republicans didn't demand the education tax credit be part of the budget that he didn't conference with them during budget negotiations (he was then the lone Senate "no" vote on the minimum wage and education budget bill). Meanwhile, DREAM supporters like Sen. Jose Peralta, a Democrat from Queens, railed against its exclusion during the late-night budget debate.</p> <p>For supporters of each measure the problem seems to be that opposition to the other measure has become a litmus test for some in their party's base. Senate Republicans have included language touting the disinclusion of the DREAM Act in the budget on the Senate website, listing it as an accomplishment:</p> <p>"Rejecting the Use of Taxpayer Dollars to Fund College Tuition for Illegal Immigrants:</p> <p>"The final budget rejects an Executive Budget proposal that would have cost state taxpayers $27 million and reward people who are here illegally by giving them free college tuition. The measure would have extended all other criteria, exemptions or opportunities found within the education law - including all scholarship and tuition assistance programs funded with state tax dollars - to illegal immigrants while hardworking middle-class families are already being forced to take out massive college loans to pay for higher education."</p> <p>Meanwhile, public school advocates are entrenched against the education tax credit, saying that it is a taxpayer giveaway to millionaires who will flood their favored schools with donations using up the credit before average families can utilize it. The Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers union-aligned group, has held press conferences and briefings against the policy this year.</p> <p><strong>Albany Tradition</strong><br />If the past is indeed prologue than it is a safe bet that many of these issues will not come to a vote in both houses this year. With an important special election, a presidential race, and the entire Legislature up for (re)election, leaders will likely be looking to rest on the work they did in the budget and get back to their districts. While there will be a lot of noise made by the media and good government groups around ethics reform, no one who knows Albany is holding their breath.</p> <p>Mayoral control of city schools is the only key policy related to New York City facing an expiration date and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com:8080/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">all-but-sure to see action</a>. The questions are what Senate Republicans demand in exchange for extension, how long it is extended for, and how much they make de Blasio sweat in the process.</p> <p>Including Wednesday, April 6, there are currently 25 session days remaining until <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/calendar/" target="_blank">its scheduled</a> end on June 16.</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26096555691_00e0f8bb7b_z.jpg" alt="cuomo budget paid leave pic" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo announces the budget deal (photo via The Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo dismissed the idea of extending state government's legislative session this year to tackle ethics reform during an appearance in Binghamton on Wednesday. "We have a relatively light agenda because we did so much work in the budget," the governor said. "We passed the minimum wage increase, we passed paid family leave, we passed a great package for the middle class, we passed a great package for upstate New York, more education funding than ever before."</p> <p>It's a concerning statement for some advocates and elected officials who see the session full of unresolved issues - including, but beyond ethics - especially ones that impact New York City, issues that the governor himself tackled during his January State of the State speech or has since brought to the table. Some advocates take the governor's statement as an acknowledgement that he traded away issues Senate Republicans oppose to get a minimum wage increase, and not only in the budget, but for the rest of the legislative session that has just begun and is scheduled to end in June.</p> <p>All-important control of the State Senate will be up for grabs again in November, but a key battle in the overall war will be decided on April 19 in the contest to fill the seat vacated by former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, recently convicted on federal corruption charges. The April special and impending November elections mean legislators are anxious to get back to their districts while avoiding political landmines.</p> <p>Ethics reforms are one of the many issues jettisoned from budget talks that lawmakers say were dominated by minimum wage negotiations. Major issues of particular importance to New York City yet to be addressed this year include mayoral control of schools; a multitude of criminal justice reforms, some of which were introduced by Cuomo; housing programs, including a replacement for the 421-a property tax credit aimed at spurring affordable housing development; and two education matters that have been linked in the past: The DREAM Act and the education investment tax credit.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control</strong><br />Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and his conference have used Mayor Bill de Blasio as a progressive boogieman since the mayor tried to help Democrats win control of the chamber in 2014. Last year Flanagan successfully beat back the mayor's push for a seven-year extension of mayoral control, getting his negotiating partners to settle on one year. He again maneuvered discussion of renewal out of this year's budget discussions and before a spending deal was even announced, he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com:8080/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">scheduled hearings on mayoral control</a> for May 4 in Albany and May 19 in New York City. Mayoral control is due to sunset on June 30.</p> <p>Many Democrats expect Senate Republicans to delay actually acting on mayoral control until as late as possible in order to keep de Blasio "in check." With no other sensible alternative, de Blasio has been gracious about the situation so far, saying he plans to attend the hearings "personally" and welcomes the chance for "dialogue" on the issue.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reforms</strong><br />Gov. Cuomo has supported <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6249-criminal-justice-reform-again-given-little-attention-in-budget-negotiations" target="_blank">three major criminal justice reforms</a> over the last two years: Raise the Age, an effort to end New York's practice of treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system; an effort to create independent review of police killings of civilians; and a program to increase data reporting of the race and ethnicity of individuals involved in police interactions. Unable to deliver on the first two last year, Cuomo took executive action. He moved 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult prisons and gave Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office the discretion to look into police killings of civilians. Advocates were pleased, but acknowledged both issues still needed to be addressed in law.</p> <p>This year Cuomo has proposed a bill that would give his office the ability to convene an investigation into police killings of civilians but only if certain criteria is met. He has continued to push for Raise the Age but not with the urgency supporters would like. They point out that even being held in separate facilities from older inmates, 16- and 17-year-olds are still treated as adults when arrested and tried, which make negative outcomes and criminal records more likely.</p> <p>On Tuesday, supporters of a bill that would mandate the state collect data on police interactions with the public gathered in Albany to push Senate Republicans and Cuomo to act on an issue they call "common sense."</p> <p>The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Joseph Lentol and state Senator Daniel Squadron, both Brooklyn Democrats, would require the state to collect and report data on the number of tickets and misdemeanor arrests across the state; the number of civilian deaths in police custody or during an arrest; the race, ethnicity, and sex of those charged with misdemeanors and violations; and the geographic location of enforcement-related activity and arrest-related deaths. Lentol said the bill is not "anti-police" but a "transparency" and "open government" tool to improve relations between police and communities across the state. Lentol prodded Gov. Cuomo to act, noting that Cuomo has a similar bill that has failed to garner support.</p> <p>"Yet again, communities of color were left behind in New York State budget negotiations, with no meaningful advancement of any criminal justice reforms," said Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director of VOCAL-NY. "Passing the STAT Act this legislative session provides an opportunity for Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to show they value the safety and dignity of all New Yorkers."</p> <p>Squadron told Gotham Gazette that the bill is one that Senate Republicans "put in a black box, a dark room," never to be seen again. "This isn't something we have debated. We haven't heard their argument against it, it just disappears." Lentol, however, said that he believes police unions are using their influence to block the bill.</p> <p>Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, Democrat of Queens, supports Lentol's bill and said that he feels his constituents and advocates are growing frustrated that the Senate fails to vote on criminal justice reforms year after year. "I think the governor is really going to have to move on some of these bills and not just wave his hands in the air and say 'It's the Republicans'" Aubry said. "We know he can get what he wants. He has an election coming up and he's got to deliver for these communities."</p> <p>A spokesperson for the governor, Dani Lever, said in a statement that&nbsp;"The governor has and continues to push for comprehensive criminal justice reform to address the treatment of juveniles in the system and the prosecution of fatality cases involving law enforcement. Despite the legislature's failure to agree on these reforms, the governor has taken bold action and issued executive orders appointing a special prosecutor in police cases (the first of its kind in the country) and removing juveniles from adult state prisons. Until the legislature passes real reforms, the governor's executive orders will remain in effect."</p> <p><strong>Housing</strong><br />Last year in an unprecedented move, Cuomo put the fate of the 421-a tax abatement program in the hands of the two stakeholder industries - real estate developers and construction unions. Whatever deal they reached on wages in new housing developments utilizing 421-a was to be enacted into law with other reforms to the program, but if they failed, 421-a would sunset. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6038-negotiations-to-extend-important-affordable-housing-tax-break-said-to-reach-impasse" target="_blank">Negotiations floundered</a> and 421-a is dead.</p> <p>The program is thought to be essential to affordable housing production in New York City, making it profitable for developers to build new rental housing with some affordable units included. When Cuomo rejected compromise legislation crafted by de Blasio last June, it was one of the final straws to break de Blasio's back (along with the mayoral control compromise and more), <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">leading to his now-infamous tirade</a> against the governor on June 30. De Blasio's affordable housing goals rely on 421-a-related production.</p> <p>On Monday, Cuomo <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/04/4/ny1-online--governor-cuomo-breaks-down-state-budget.html" target="_blank">told NY1's Errol Louis</a> that he is looking for a replacement. "You can have a fair program that pays a fair rate to the unions and also a fair rate of profit to the developers," Cuomo said. "I believe there is that balance to be struck. But they have to strike that balance. We're still trying, but the Legislature is not going to approve a plan that kicks the labor unions out of the affordable housing business."</p> <p>Bill Murrow, the governor's top aide, followed up those comments on Tuesday during a Crain's New York Business breakfast event, indicating that labor and real estate are indeed negotiating again. "The developers, REBNY, and the construction trades...they'll find some common ground. I am hopeful that sometime between now and June that something will actually happen," Mulrow <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/04/8595747/cuomo-administration-hopeful-about-421-successor?top-featured-image" target="_blank">said</a>.</p> <p>On Tuesday, tenant advocates gathered in Albany to demand that negotiations on 421-a or something like must also include strengthening rent regulations. Delsenia Glover, campaign manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power opened the press conference by condemning the deal that renewed the rent laws last year. "We pretty much got nothing," she said. "At the time Governor Cuomo said they were the 'strongest rent laws in history.' It's not true, we got nothing." Members of the crowd shouted "He lied!"</p> <p>Glover said she has been disturbed to hear "lamentations" that 421-a is dead, saying she was glad a "giveaway to luxury developers" and "$1.1 billion tax suck" was dead and that assertions that developers won't be able to build affordable housing without it is patently false.</p> <p>"Our demand," said Glover, "is this: If 421-a or anything that looks like 421-a is revived or created then the rent laws must be reopened, we get rid of vacancy bonus, fix preferential rents, and then maybe we can have a conversation."</p> <p>A number of legislators who spoke after Glover pushed against the idea of any 421-a renewal. Assembly Member Walter Mosley of Brooklyn said he doesn't use the term '421-a' because "We don't want nothin' like 421-a to resurface, but ultimately we understand if anything like 421-a comes to the floor then we reopen the rent laws. Without that we have no discussion."</p> <p>Assembly Housing Chair Keith Wright, who introduced a plan of something of a 421-a alternative earlier this year to a tepid response, brought up his proposal in front of the audience that was openly hostile to any replacement. Wright's plan would utilize the state's abandoned property fund to give a subsidy of $100,000 per affordable unit at a cost of about $200 million per year, compared to 421-a's 25-year property tax break and $1 billion annual tax revenue price tag.</p> <p>"The plan was not...people were intrigued by the idea," Wright told the crowd, seeming to catch himself in an effort to promote the measure, "but listen anything in Albany takes a minute to work up to, but we are still pushing that plan, but we are still under siege."</p> <p>Wright is a close ally of Cuomo and many expect that his plan was the first shot fired in an effort to restore a 421-a plan. The fact that Cuomo and Wright are openly pushing a replacement and that Senate Republicans are likely to want to deliver for real estate developers makes many advocates think it is a question of "when" not "if" a 421-a replacement comes to the floor of both houses. They hope to keep up public pressure to win some sort of concessions when it takes place.</p> <p><strong>Other Education Issues</strong><br />Last year Cuomo tried to connect the DREAM Act that would allow the undocumented access to college tuition assistance and the education tax credit that would give benefits to those who donate to private schools. The DREAM Act has massive support in the Assembly, which has passed the measure repeatedly over the last few years and the education tax credit is a favorite of Senate Republicans. Cuomo's bid at linkage failed last year (he did not attempt to link them again this year, but did include both in his executive budget), but both issues remain on the table and the fact that they were left out of the budget has rankled a number of lawmakers.</p> <p>Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who caucuses with Republicans, was said to be so upset that Republicans didn't demand the education tax credit be part of the budget that he didn't conference with them during budget negotiations (he was then the lone Senate "no" vote on the minimum wage and education budget bill). Meanwhile, DREAM supporters like Sen. Jose Peralta, a Democrat from Queens, railed against its exclusion during the late-night budget debate.</p> <p>For supporters of each measure the problem seems to be that opposition to the other measure has become a litmus test for some in their party's base. Senate Republicans have included language touting the disinclusion of the DREAM Act in the budget on the Senate website, listing it as an accomplishment:</p> <p>"Rejecting the Use of Taxpayer Dollars to Fund College Tuition for Illegal Immigrants:</p> <p>"The final budget rejects an Executive Budget proposal that would have cost state taxpayers $27 million and reward people who are here illegally by giving them free college tuition. The measure would have extended all other criteria, exemptions or opportunities found within the education law - including all scholarship and tuition assistance programs funded with state tax dollars - to illegal immigrants while hardworking middle-class families are already being forced to take out massive college loans to pay for higher education."</p> <p>Meanwhile, public school advocates are entrenched against the education tax credit, saying that it is a taxpayer giveaway to millionaires who will flood their favored schools with donations using up the credit before average families can utilize it. The Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers union-aligned group, has held press conferences and briefings against the policy this year.</p> <p><strong>Albany Tradition</strong><br />If the past is indeed prologue than it is a safe bet that many of these issues will not come to a vote in both houses this year. With an important special election, a presidential race, and the entire Legislature up for (re)election, leaders will likely be looking to rest on the work they did in the budget and get back to their districts. While there will be a lot of noise made by the media and good government groups around ethics reform, no one who knows Albany is holding their breath.</p> <p>Mayoral control of city schools is the only key policy related to New York City facing an expiration date and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com:8080/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">all-but-sure to see action</a>. The questions are what Senate Republicans demand in exchange for extension, how long it is extended for, and how much they make de Blasio sweat in the process.</p> <p>Including Wednesday, April 6, there are currently 25 session days remaining until <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/calendar/" target="_blank">its scheduled</a> end on June 16.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Cuomo Heads Into State of the State After Big Announcements, With More to Say 2016-01-13T02:08:46+00:00 2016-01-13T02:08:46+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6083:cuomo-heads-into-state-of-the-state-after-big-announcements-with-more-to-say kfan <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23931922099_1fd2b397ca_z.jpg" alt="cuomo church sots" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin, Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Cuomo is going big. Decrying a state that has lost its ambition for transformative projects like the Erie Canal, the governor has spent the past week traveling the state and announcing major infrastructure, transportation, and economic development plans. Cuomo has also revealed new pieces of his $15 minimum wage campaign and criminal justice reform policies, among others, as he sets his agenda for 2016 and frames budget negotiations in Albany.</p> <p>So far, Cuomo has outlined 14 planks of his 2016 platform, providing an extensive preview of his State of the State and budget address, which he will give on Wednesday in the capital. Still, there are key pieces of his speech that the governor has kept under wraps, including what he has said are top priorities: government ethics, homelessness, and education.</p> <p>It is also unclear what priority, if any, Cuomo will give to policies like the DREAM Act, which he has assured proponents will be in his budget again, but has not given indication of its place in his speech. Advocates are also hopeful that the governor includes a significant paid family leave proposal on Wednesday, and many are watching to see if he unveils a plan for a statewide policy on car-hailing apps, like Uber.</p> <p>While the governor is clearly going big on infrastructure - with plans that could total $100 billion in costs, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8587523/cuomo-aide-infrastructure-plan-will-cost-100-billion" target="_blank">according to his office</a> - he has promised to lead with ethics as lawmakers continue to fall to corruption convictions, trust in Albany is low, and New Yorkers say Cuomo has not done enough to clean up state government.</p> <p>"Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," Cuomo, a Democrat, said Jan. 3 <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/cuomo-to-tackle-economic-issues-in-state-of-state-address.html" target="_blank">on NY1</a>. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."</p> <p>What exactly this will include is unclear, but good government groups, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and many others have put forth recommendations. Chief among these are limiting legislators' outside income and closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations. Whether Cuomo broaches a public campaign finance system will help gauge how bold he's going on reform.</p> <p>Wherever ethics does fall, that portion of Cuomo's address is likely to be dwarfed by the volume of discussion of the infrastructure plans the governor has outlined and his discussion of economic justice, including his minimum wage crusade.</p> <p>The infrastructure plans, which include a new track on the Long Island Rail Road, a revamped Penn Station, road and bridge upgrades, and more, will be attached to the governor's previously announced projects led by a new Tappan Zee Bridge and LaGuardia Airport.</p> <p>During a Jan. 5 appearance on Long Island, Cuomo said of New Yorkers, "we don't think big anymore. And we don't believe we're capable of doing big anymore. And we don't believe government is a vehicle to do big anymore." But, he promised to resurrect New York's "big" thinking as he announced new plans and referenced ongoing building - all under the banner of this year's tagline: New York State, Built to Lead.</p> <p>"This year in the State of the State we are going to propose the largest construction project program in modern political history in the state of New York," Cuomo promised. "Roads and bridges upstate, airports upstate and downstate, new mass transit, new attractions, new rail transit and new mass transit downstate which is desperately needed. And we are going to do it region by region."</p> <p>While Cuomo has outlined the meat of his building plans, he has not gone into detail on how it will all be funded, though he has promised to do so on Wednesday in his executive budget.</p> <p>Cuomo has called the budget "the most complex piece of legislation we pass," which is true in part because it is a way of doing business in Albany that a good deal of policy is unnecessarily included in budget negotiations. For the governor, whomever it may be, forcing additional policy into the budget is a way of using executive leverage that doesn't exist in post-budget legislative session. For the second straight year, Cuomo is combining his State of the State, which is usually a more policy-focused speech, with the announcement of his budget.</p> <p>A budget deal is due by April 1, whereas the legislative session continues into June.</p> <p>Budget watchdogs are eagerly awaiting the details of Cuomo's spending plans. Nicole Gelinas, of the Manhattan Institute, recently <a href="http://nyslant.com/article/editorial/when-it-comes-to-infrastructure,-cuomo-has-tunnel-vision.html#.VpBP42SDGkp" target="_blank">wrote in City and State</a> that "Cuomo evidently did not make an important resolution: stop announcing huge infrastructure projects without a way to pay for them."</p> <p>"The risk in starting lots of new projects without having a way to pay for them," Gelinas wrote, "is that the governor will force the MTA and the rest of the state to scrimp on old stuff that people don't see, like replacing subway tracks and signals."</p> <p>After all the drama that accompanied Cuomo's negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio over an MTA capital spending plan, Cuomo may try to steer clear of criticism for his spending plans. As the Citizens Budget Commission points out, Cuomo continues to have billions of dollars to spend from bank settlements with the state. In outlining <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/cbc-blogs/blogs/dozen-things-look-governor%E2%80%99s-proposed-fiscal-year-2016-2017-budget" target="_blank">12 things to watch</a> for in Cuomo's budget, CBC asks, "How much will the Governor propose to spend for transportation infrastructure? How much will be borrowing versus pay-as-you-go capital, and will a new revenue source be proposed?"</p> <p>Throughout his time as governor, Cuomo has prided himself on reigning in state operational spending, and even while outlining his new plans so far this month, Cuomo has touted his brand of fiscal responsibility. It is unlikely Cuomo will outline an increase in state spending above the two percent cap he has followed.</p> <p>Meanwhile, many, especially from New York City, are watching closely to see what the governor outlines around homelessness, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/nyregion/as-cuomo-acts-on-homelessness-problem-city-and-state-are-often-at-odds.html" target="_blank">the latest issue</a> on which Cuomo has decided to undermine and supercede de Blasio. Cuomo issued an executive order just after the new year and has promised a robust policy plan in his State of the State.</p> <p>The plan is likely to include more oversight of homeless shelters, which the state is already responsible for, and of operations aimed at reducing homelessness. How much money Cuomo will dedicate to supportive housing, rental subsidies, and other relevant measures is to-be-seen. De Blasio recently announced a major supportive housing plan and, along with advocates and legislators, called on Cuomo to match it (and create a fourth New York/New York supportive housing deal).</p> <p>The governor has not yet made clear his education platform for this year, though he has indicated he will follow recommendations made by the common core task force that he empaneled in September and received a report from in December.</p> <p>Becoming "The Education Governor" has been full of fits and starts for Cuomo. While he has protected and promoted the growth of charter schools, other aspects of his education policy have not gone as planned - these include the rollout of the common core learning standards and tougher teacher evaluations by tying them more closely to the results of student standardized test scores.</p> <p>The task force recommended a revamp of the common core system, more stakeholder input, a reduction in standardized testing, and increased local control over standards and curriculum. The governor's office said that "no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report," so there could be few specific proposals in Cuomo's State of the State.</p> <p>The governor did recently announce he will be investing in the community school model, something de Blasio has expanded vastly in New York City, especially with regard to so-called "failing schools" as he tries to turn them around under the threat of state takeover. Cuomo may take aim at hastening school improvement.</p> <p><a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/cuomo-to-tackle-economic-issues-in-state-of-state-address.html" target="_blank">On NY1</a>, Cuomo said "many of these failing schools have been failing for over 10 years, believe it or not. And the system, the bureaucracy, has been too tolerant, in my opinion. And we are – we're going to be focusing on the closing schools, we're going to be investing in the school system to make sure we're doing everything we can on the state side."</p> <p>As he has done before, Cuomo also distanced himself from education-related problems: "Education in this state is run by a department called the state education department," Cuomo said. "It is not under the governor. I wish it were, many governors in the past wished it was...It's run by the Board of Regents, which is selected by the legislature, primarily the Assembly."</p> <p>Discussing the common core he said, "We started a new curriculum as part of a national movement called the common core curriculum. And that was rolled out over the past few years; that brought with it a testing regimen on the new curriculum. It was not implemented well. It was rushed. It was confused."</p> <p>Adding that "It created a backlash among parents that frankly shocked everyone," Cuomo mentioned "the opt-out movement, where the parents didn't have the kids take the tests because they didn't like the way it was addressed, they didn't like that the kids were getting lower grades, whatever region."</p> <p>Cuomo said the state education department has to make significant changes "and bring the parents along. Because if the parents don't have trust in the education system, then you have nothing and that's where we are now," Cuomo concluded, setting the stage for next steps by his administration and the state education department, which is doing its own common core review (new SED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was named to Cuomo's task force, so there appears to be some, if not significant, overlap).</p> <p>While there will almost certainly be sections of Cuomo's speech on education, homelessness, and ethics, the bulk will likely be on infrastructure, economic development and opportunity. He'll showcase these efforts through his push for an eventual $15 per hour minimum wage, a downtown revitalization initiative, tax breaks for small businesses, and the major projects he's outlined.</p> <p>On NY1, Cuomo explained how he sees economic development, saying that "in Upstate New York [it] means basically restoring the economy, and in downstate New York it means growing the future economy – the high tech economy, having the transportation infrastructure to do that – and making sure the economy is working for everyone."</p> <p>He promised to address "very high unemployment among young minority males, black and brown," which he called "just unacceptable," adding, "We have to make special economic initiatives there."</p> <p>To follow that up, Cuomo announced new regulations related to spending on minority- and women-owned businesses. Prior to that, Cuomo also announced "the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative," a $25 million program to "bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state."</p> <p>The governor has promised to continue to fight to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18 - New York is one of just two states that automatically treat 16-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Like on several other issues, Cuomo has taken executive action on the issue in the absence of legislation, with a plan to move 16- and 17-year-olds into a separate prison facility from older inmates.</p> <p>Where other social justice issues that, similarly, the governor has backed before but not been able to pass, like the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the DREAM Act, are featured in Cuomo's remarks is also being watched closely by supporters of those policies.</p> <p>The governor published <a href="http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/1/12/dont-leave-behind-equality-transgender-americans?utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_source=twitterfeed" target="_blank">an op-ed</a> this week detailing the measures he's taken to protect transgender New Yorkers in the absence of GENDA passing the legislature, where it has been blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. Cuomo did not indicate that he would be pushing GENDA forward in his State of the State.</p> <p>There are also questions around whether Cuomo will include a proposal and dedicated funding for paid family leave, something that de Blasio recently moved on for some city employees and called on the state to pass for all workers.</p> <p>One other policy area the governor has been quiet on leading up to his address, but he could make waves with an announcement on is app-based car services. When de Blasio was battling with Uber last year, Cuomo jumped into the fray to defend the company, where one of his former top aides now works, and say that a statewide policy is needed. Since then, Uber has waged a campaign across the state, getting many public officials on board. Cuomo may surprise people by outlining state policy around Uber and other e-hailing services like Lyft.</p> <p><em>Tune in at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday for Cuomo's speech - stream online <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/" target="_blank">at the governor's website</a> - and see below for the full outline of proposals Cuomo has outlined thus far in 2016.</em></p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><em>For an outline of all 14 proposals Cuomo has announced thus far, the following was released by Cuomo's office on Tuesday:</em></p> <p>The signature proposals announced so far include:</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 1: Restore economic justice by making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage for all workers. While highlighting this proposal, the Governor announced that the State University of New York will raise the minimum wage for more than 28,000 employees.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-state-university-system-raise-minimum-wage-its-employees-15-hour">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-audio-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-15-minimum-wage-state-university-employees">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 2: Launch a comprehensive plan to transform and expand vital infrastructure downstate and make critical investments in the region. Most notably, the proposal includes a major expansion and improvement project for the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville.</p> <p dir="ltr">The project will allow the LIRR to increase service, reduce congestion and train delays caused whenever there is an incident along this busy stretch of tracks and will enable the LIRR to run "reverse-peak" trains to allow people to take the LIRR to jobs on Long Island during traditional business hours. By allowing the LIRR to increase service between Floral Park and Hicksville, it will provide a more attractive alternative to driving and thereby reduce traffic on Long Island's major east-west highways, like the L.I.E., Northern State and Southern State, and more trains will make it easier for Long Islanders to reach LaGuardia and Kennedy airports by train.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/2nd-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-transform-and-expand-vital-infrastructure-downstate">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-audio-governor-cuomo-announces-proposals-transform-downstate-infrastructure-and">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 3: Bolster New York's legacy of environmental protection. The Governor has proposed allocating $300 million for the State’s Environmental Protection Fund – the highest amount ever for the fund and more than double the fund’s level when the Governor first took office. The Governor also announced two major investments in water infrastructure in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/3rd-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-bolster-new-yorks-legacy-environmental-protection">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 4: Make a series of investments and new initiatives to continue growing the economy and building stronger, more vibrant communities across New York State. These proposals include significant tax relief for small businesses, increased funding to support municipal water infrastructure improvement projects, a new effort to revitalize and transform downtown areas in each region of the state, and a sixth round of the successful Regional Economic Development Council initiative.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/4th-proposal-governors-2016-agenda-grow-economy-and-strengthen-infrastructure-communities">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-audio-governor-cuomo-announces-4th-proposal-2016-agenda-grow-economy-and">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 5: Invest in Upstate transportation infrastructure. This includes a plan to offer a tax credit that cuts tolls in half for the New York residents and businesses who utilize the Thruway most often – benefitting nearly one million passenger, business and farm vehicles using E-Z Passes; eliminating tolls for agricultural vehicles; and keeping tolls flat until at least 2020 for all other drivers.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/5th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-thruway-toll-reduction-and-highest-transportation">here</a>; video available <a href="https://youtu.be/W5dGH7YvRr0">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 6: Transform Penn Station and the historic James A. Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub. The project, known as the Empire Station Complex, will feature significant passenger improvements, including first-class amenities, natural light, increased train capacity and decreased congestion, and improved signage to dramatically enhance the travel experience. The project – which is anticipated to cost $3 billion – will be expedited by a public-private partnership in order to break ground this year and complete substantial construction within the next three years.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/6th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-transform-penn-station-and-farley-post-office-building">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-governor-cuomo-announces-6th-proposal-2016-agenda-transform-penn-station-and">here</a>; conceptual renderings are available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/photos-governor-cuomos-proposal-transform-penn-station-and-farley-post-office-building-world">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 7: Dramatically expand and improve the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to stimulate the regional economy. The proposal will expand the Javits Center by 1.2 million square feet, resulting in a fivefold increase in meeting and ballroom space, including the largest ballroom in the Northeast. A four-level, 480,000 square foot truck garage capable of housing hundreds of tractor-trailers at one time will also be constructed to improve pedestrian safety and local traffic flow.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/7th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-dramatic-expansion-jacob-k-javits-center-attract-more">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-7th-proposal-2016-agenda-dramatic-expansion-jacob-k">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 8: Modernize and fundamentally transform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, dramatically improving the travel experience for millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the metropolitan region. This proposal includes a new approach to rapidly redesign and renew 30 existing subway stations across the system. It also includes a number of technology initiatives to bring the system into the 21st century, including expanding Wi-Fi hotspots, accelerating mobile payments and ticketing to replace the MetroCard, and providing USB ports on subway trains, buses and in stations to allow customers to charge their mobile devices.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/8th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-bring-mta-21st-century-dramatically-improve-travel">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-8th-proposal-2016-agenda-bring-mta-21st">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 9: Launch a Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition designed to reward local governments that take real steps to make living and working in New York State more affordable. The competition will challenge counties, cities, towns and villages to develop innovative consolidation action plans yielding significant and permanent property tax reductions. The consolidation partnership that proposes and can implement the greatest permanent reduction in property taxes will receive a $20 million award.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/9th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-municipal-consolidation-competition-continue-making">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 10: Dramatically expand and improve access to high-speed Internet in communities statewide. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul detailed this proposal shortly after the New York State Public Service Commission voted to approve the merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, which will dramatically improve broadband availability for millions of New Yorkers and lead to more than $1 billion in direct investments and consumer benefits.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, the state issued a $500 million solicitation for private sector partners to join the New NY Broadband Program, which will greatly expand Internet access in all regions of the state, with a focus on unserved and underserved areas.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/10th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-dramatically-expand-and-improve-access-high-speed">here</a>; video available <a href="https://youtu.be/BvAqBRCMu_0">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 11: Launch a $200 million competition to revitalize Upstate airports. The proposal is designed to enhance airports throughout Upstate New York, and promote new opportunities for regional economic development and partnership between the public and private sectors.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Governor made this announcement as he also kicked off the start of renovations that will transform the New York State Fairgrounds site into a premier, multi-use facility. The Governor marked the official start of the historic renovation project with the implosion of the grandstand today.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/11th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-revitalize-upstate-infrastructure-stimulate-economy">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 12: Combat poverty and reduce rampant inequality through the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative. The $25 million program will bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/12th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-combatting-poverty-reducing-rampant-inequality">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 13: Launch a "Right Priorities" initiative to further New York’s status as a national leader in criminal justice and re-entry reforms. The Governor's proposal will help at-risk youth find positive opportunities in their communities, while also providing citizens who enter the criminal justice system the opportunity to rehabilitate, return home, and contribute to their communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/13th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-launch-right-priorities-initiative-leads-nation">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-13th-proposal-2016-agenda-launch-right">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 14: Increase opportunity for minority- and women-owned business enterprises across New York State.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2014, Governor Cuomo established a goal of 30 percent for New York’s MWBE state contract utilization – the highest goal of any state in the nation. However, under state law, that goal only applies to contracts issued by state agencies and authorities; it does not apply to state funding given to localities such as cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts, which amounts to approximately $65 billion annually. This year, the Governor will advance legislation addressing this disconnect by expanding the MWBE goal setting to localities and entities that subcontract with those localities. Doing so will leverage the largest pool of state funding in history to combat systemic discrimination and create new opportunities for MWBE participation.</p> <p>More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/14th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-increase-opportunity-minority-and-women-owned">here</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/23931922099_1fd2b397ca_z.jpg" alt="cuomo church sots" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin, Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Cuomo is going big. Decrying a state that has lost its ambition for transformative projects like the Erie Canal, the governor has spent the past week traveling the state and announcing major infrastructure, transportation, and economic development plans. Cuomo has also revealed new pieces of his $15 minimum wage campaign and criminal justice reform policies, among others, as he sets his agenda for 2016 and frames budget negotiations in Albany.</p> <p>So far, Cuomo has outlined 14 planks of his 2016 platform, providing an extensive preview of his State of the State and budget address, which he will give on Wednesday in the capital. Still, there are key pieces of his speech that the governor has kept under wraps, including what he has said are top priorities: government ethics, homelessness, and education.</p> <p>It is also unclear what priority, if any, Cuomo will give to policies like the DREAM Act, which he has assured proponents will be in his budget again, but has not given indication of its place in his speech. Advocates are also hopeful that the governor includes a significant paid family leave proposal on Wednesday, and many are watching to see if he unveils a plan for a statewide policy on car-hailing apps, like Uber.</p> <p>While the governor is clearly going big on infrastructure - with plans that could total $100 billion in costs, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8587523/cuomo-aide-infrastructure-plan-will-cost-100-billion" target="_blank">according to his office</a> - he has promised to lead with ethics as lawmakers continue to fall to corruption convictions, trust in Albany is low, and New Yorkers say Cuomo has not done enough to clean up state government.</p> <p>"Top of my agenda is going to be ethics reform," Cuomo, a Democrat, said Jan. 3 <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/cuomo-to-tackle-economic-issues-in-state-of-state-address.html" target="_blank">on NY1</a>. "We have done a lot in Albany, but we haven't done enough. And I'm going to push the legislature very hard to adopt more aggressive ethics legislation, more disclosure, more enforcement, etcetera."</p> <p>What exactly this will include is unclear, but good government groups, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and many others have put forth recommendations. Chief among these are limiting legislators' outside income and closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations. Whether Cuomo broaches a public campaign finance system will help gauge how bold he's going on reform.</p> <p>Wherever ethics does fall, that portion of Cuomo's address is likely to be dwarfed by the volume of discussion of the infrastructure plans the governor has outlined and his discussion of economic justice, including his minimum wage crusade.</p> <p>The infrastructure plans, which include a new track on the Long Island Rail Road, a revamped Penn Station, road and bridge upgrades, and more, will be attached to the governor's previously announced projects led by a new Tappan Zee Bridge and LaGuardia Airport.</p> <p>During a Jan. 5 appearance on Long Island, Cuomo said of New Yorkers, "we don't think big anymore. And we don't believe we're capable of doing big anymore. And we don't believe government is a vehicle to do big anymore." But, he promised to resurrect New York's "big" thinking as he announced new plans and referenced ongoing building - all under the banner of this year's tagline: New York State, Built to Lead.</p> <p>"This year in the State of the State we are going to propose the largest construction project program in modern political history in the state of New York," Cuomo promised. "Roads and bridges upstate, airports upstate and downstate, new mass transit, new attractions, new rail transit and new mass transit downstate which is desperately needed. And we are going to do it region by region."</p> <p>While Cuomo has outlined the meat of his building plans, he has not gone into detail on how it will all be funded, though he has promised to do so on Wednesday in his executive budget.</p> <p>Cuomo has called the budget "the most complex piece of legislation we pass," which is true in part because it is a way of doing business in Albany that a good deal of policy is unnecessarily included in budget negotiations. For the governor, whomever it may be, forcing additional policy into the budget is a way of using executive leverage that doesn't exist in post-budget legislative session. For the second straight year, Cuomo is combining his State of the State, which is usually a more policy-focused speech, with the announcement of his budget.</p> <p>A budget deal is due by April 1, whereas the legislative session continues into June.</p> <p>Budget watchdogs are eagerly awaiting the details of Cuomo's spending plans. Nicole Gelinas, of the Manhattan Institute, recently <a href="http://nyslant.com/article/editorial/when-it-comes-to-infrastructure,-cuomo-has-tunnel-vision.html#.VpBP42SDGkp" target="_blank">wrote in City and State</a> that "Cuomo evidently did not make an important resolution: stop announcing huge infrastructure projects without a way to pay for them."</p> <p>"The risk in starting lots of new projects without having a way to pay for them," Gelinas wrote, "is that the governor will force the MTA and the rest of the state to scrimp on old stuff that people don't see, like replacing subway tracks and signals."</p> <p>After all the drama that accompanied Cuomo's negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio over an MTA capital spending plan, Cuomo may try to steer clear of criticism for his spending plans. As the Citizens Budget Commission points out, Cuomo continues to have billions of dollars to spend from bank settlements with the state. In outlining <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/cbc-blogs/blogs/dozen-things-look-governor%E2%80%99s-proposed-fiscal-year-2016-2017-budget" target="_blank">12 things to watch</a> for in Cuomo's budget, CBC asks, "How much will the Governor propose to spend for transportation infrastructure? How much will be borrowing versus pay-as-you-go capital, and will a new revenue source be proposed?"</p> <p>Throughout his time as governor, Cuomo has prided himself on reigning in state operational spending, and even while outlining his new plans so far this month, Cuomo has touted his brand of fiscal responsibility. It is unlikely Cuomo will outline an increase in state spending above the two percent cap he has followed.</p> <p>Meanwhile, many, especially from New York City, are watching closely to see what the governor outlines around homelessness, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/nyregion/as-cuomo-acts-on-homelessness-problem-city-and-state-are-often-at-odds.html" target="_blank">the latest issue</a> on which Cuomo has decided to undermine and supercede de Blasio. Cuomo issued an executive order just after the new year and has promised a robust policy plan in his State of the State.</p> <p>The plan is likely to include more oversight of homeless shelters, which the state is already responsible for, and of operations aimed at reducing homelessness. How much money Cuomo will dedicate to supportive housing, rental subsidies, and other relevant measures is to-be-seen. De Blasio recently announced a major supportive housing plan and, along with advocates and legislators, called on Cuomo to match it (and create a fourth New York/New York supportive housing deal).</p> <p>The governor has not yet made clear his education platform for this year, though he has indicated he will follow recommendations made by the common core task force that he empaneled in September and received a report from in December.</p> <p>Becoming "The Education Governor" has been full of fits and starts for Cuomo. While he has protected and promoted the growth of charter schools, other aspects of his education policy have not gone as planned - these include the rollout of the common core learning standards and tougher teacher evaluations by tying them more closely to the results of student standardized test scores.</p> <p>The task force recommended a revamp of the common core system, more stakeholder input, a reduction in standardized testing, and increased local control over standards and curriculum. The governor's office said that "no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report," so there could be few specific proposals in Cuomo's State of the State.</p> <p>The governor did recently announce he will be investing in the community school model, something de Blasio has expanded vastly in New York City, especially with regard to so-called "failing schools" as he tries to turn them around under the threat of state takeover. Cuomo may take aim at hastening school improvement.</p> <p><a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2016/01/3/cuomo-to-tackle-economic-issues-in-state-of-state-address.html" target="_blank">On NY1</a>, Cuomo said "many of these failing schools have been failing for over 10 years, believe it or not. And the system, the bureaucracy, has been too tolerant, in my opinion. And we are – we're going to be focusing on the closing schools, we're going to be investing in the school system to make sure we're doing everything we can on the state side."</p> <p>As he has done before, Cuomo also distanced himself from education-related problems: "Education in this state is run by a department called the state education department," Cuomo said. "It is not under the governor. I wish it were, many governors in the past wished it was...It's run by the Board of Regents, which is selected by the legislature, primarily the Assembly."</p> <p>Discussing the common core he said, "We started a new curriculum as part of a national movement called the common core curriculum. And that was rolled out over the past few years; that brought with it a testing regimen on the new curriculum. It was not implemented well. It was rushed. It was confused."</p> <p>Adding that "It created a backlash among parents that frankly shocked everyone," Cuomo mentioned "the opt-out movement, where the parents didn't have the kids take the tests because they didn't like the way it was addressed, they didn't like that the kids were getting lower grades, whatever region."</p> <p>Cuomo said the state education department has to make significant changes "and bring the parents along. Because if the parents don't have trust in the education system, then you have nothing and that's where we are now," Cuomo concluded, setting the stage for next steps by his administration and the state education department, which is doing its own common core review (new SED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was named to Cuomo's task force, so there appears to be some, if not significant, overlap).</p> <p>While there will almost certainly be sections of Cuomo's speech on education, homelessness, and ethics, the bulk will likely be on infrastructure, economic development and opportunity. He'll showcase these efforts through his push for an eventual $15 per hour minimum wage, a downtown revitalization initiative, tax breaks for small businesses, and the major projects he's outlined.</p> <p>On NY1, Cuomo explained how he sees economic development, saying that "in Upstate New York [it] means basically restoring the economy, and in downstate New York it means growing the future economy – the high tech economy, having the transportation infrastructure to do that – and making sure the economy is working for everyone."</p> <p>He promised to address "very high unemployment among young minority males, black and brown," which he called "just unacceptable," adding, "We have to make special economic initiatives there."</p> <p>To follow that up, Cuomo announced new regulations related to spending on minority- and women-owned businesses. Prior to that, Cuomo also announced "the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative," a $25 million program to "bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state."</p> <p>The governor has promised to continue to fight to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18 - New York is one of just two states that automatically treat 16-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Like on several other issues, Cuomo has taken executive action on the issue in the absence of legislation, with a plan to move 16- and 17-year-olds into a separate prison facility from older inmates.</p> <p>Where other social justice issues that, similarly, the governor has backed before but not been able to pass, like the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the DREAM Act, are featured in Cuomo's remarks is also being watched closely by supporters of those policies.</p> <p>The governor published <a href="http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/1/12/dont-leave-behind-equality-transgender-americans?utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_source=twitterfeed" target="_blank">an op-ed</a> this week detailing the measures he's taken to protect transgender New Yorkers in the absence of GENDA passing the legislature, where it has been blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. Cuomo did not indicate that he would be pushing GENDA forward in his State of the State.</p> <p>There are also questions around whether Cuomo will include a proposal and dedicated funding for paid family leave, something that de Blasio recently moved on for some city employees and called on the state to pass for all workers.</p> <p>One other policy area the governor has been quiet on leading up to his address, but he could make waves with an announcement on is app-based car services. When de Blasio was battling with Uber last year, Cuomo jumped into the fray to defend the company, where one of his former top aides now works, and say that a statewide policy is needed. Since then, Uber has waged a campaign across the state, getting many public officials on board. Cuomo may surprise people by outlining state policy around Uber and other e-hailing services like Lyft.</p> <p><em>Tune in at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday for Cuomo's speech - stream online <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/" target="_blank">at the governor's website</a> - and see below for the full outline of proposals Cuomo has outlined thus far in 2016.</em></p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><em>For an outline of all 14 proposals Cuomo has announced thus far, the following was released by Cuomo's office on Tuesday:</em></p> <p>The signature proposals announced so far include:</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 1: Restore economic justice by making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage for all workers. While highlighting this proposal, the Governor announced that the State University of New York will raise the minimum wage for more than 28,000 employees.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-state-university-system-raise-minimum-wage-its-employees-15-hour">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-audio-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-15-minimum-wage-state-university-employees">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 2: Launch a comprehensive plan to transform and expand vital infrastructure downstate and make critical investments in the region. Most notably, the proposal includes a major expansion and improvement project for the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville.</p> <p dir="ltr">The project will allow the LIRR to increase service, reduce congestion and train delays caused whenever there is an incident along this busy stretch of tracks and will enable the LIRR to run "reverse-peak" trains to allow people to take the LIRR to jobs on Long Island during traditional business hours. By allowing the LIRR to increase service between Floral Park and Hicksville, it will provide a more attractive alternative to driving and thereby reduce traffic on Long Island's major east-west highways, like the L.I.E., Northern State and Southern State, and more trains will make it easier for Long Islanders to reach LaGuardia and Kennedy airports by train.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/2nd-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-transform-and-expand-vital-infrastructure-downstate">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-audio-governor-cuomo-announces-proposals-transform-downstate-infrastructure-and">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 3: Bolster New York's legacy of environmental protection. The Governor has proposed allocating $300 million for the State’s Environmental Protection Fund – the highest amount ever for the fund and more than double the fund’s level when the Governor first took office. The Governor also announced two major investments in water infrastructure in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/3rd-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-bolster-new-yorks-legacy-environmental-protection">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 4: Make a series of investments and new initiatives to continue growing the economy and building stronger, more vibrant communities across New York State. These proposals include significant tax relief for small businesses, increased funding to support municipal water infrastructure improvement projects, a new effort to revitalize and transform downtown areas in each region of the state, and a sixth round of the successful Regional Economic Development Council initiative.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/4th-proposal-governors-2016-agenda-grow-economy-and-strengthen-infrastructure-communities">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-audio-governor-cuomo-announces-4th-proposal-2016-agenda-grow-economy-and">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 5: Invest in Upstate transportation infrastructure. This includes a plan to offer a tax credit that cuts tolls in half for the New York residents and businesses who utilize the Thruway most often – benefitting nearly one million passenger, business and farm vehicles using E-Z Passes; eliminating tolls for agricultural vehicles; and keeping tolls flat until at least 2020 for all other drivers.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/5th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-thruway-toll-reduction-and-highest-transportation">here</a>; video available <a href="https://youtu.be/W5dGH7YvRr0">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 6: Transform Penn Station and the historic James A. Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub. The project, known as the Empire Station Complex, will feature significant passenger improvements, including first-class amenities, natural light, increased train capacity and decreased congestion, and improved signage to dramatically enhance the travel experience. The project – which is anticipated to cost $3 billion – will be expedited by a public-private partnership in order to break ground this year and complete substantial construction within the next three years.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/6th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-transform-penn-station-and-farley-post-office-building">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-governor-cuomo-announces-6th-proposal-2016-agenda-transform-penn-station-and">here</a>; conceptual renderings are available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/photos-governor-cuomos-proposal-transform-penn-station-and-farley-post-office-building-world">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 7: Dramatically expand and improve the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to stimulate the regional economy. The proposal will expand the Javits Center by 1.2 million square feet, resulting in a fivefold increase in meeting and ballroom space, including the largest ballroom in the Northeast. A four-level, 480,000 square foot truck garage capable of housing hundreds of tractor-trailers at one time will also be constructed to improve pedestrian safety and local traffic flow.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/7th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-dramatic-expansion-jacob-k-javits-center-attract-more">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-7th-proposal-2016-agenda-dramatic-expansion-jacob-k">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 8: Modernize and fundamentally transform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, dramatically improving the travel experience for millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the metropolitan region. This proposal includes a new approach to rapidly redesign and renew 30 existing subway stations across the system. It also includes a number of technology initiatives to bring the system into the 21st century, including expanding Wi-Fi hotspots, accelerating mobile payments and ticketing to replace the MetroCard, and providing USB ports on subway trains, buses and in stations to allow customers to charge their mobile devices.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/8th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-bring-mta-21st-century-dramatically-improve-travel">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-8th-proposal-2016-agenda-bring-mta-21st">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 9: Launch a Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition designed to reward local governments that take real steps to make living and working in New York State more affordable. The competition will challenge counties, cities, towns and villages to develop innovative consolidation action plans yielding significant and permanent property tax reductions. The consolidation partnership that proposes and can implement the greatest permanent reduction in property taxes will receive a $20 million award.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/9th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-municipal-consolidation-competition-continue-making">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 10: Dramatically expand and improve access to high-speed Internet in communities statewide. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul detailed this proposal shortly after the New York State Public Service Commission voted to approve the merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, which will dramatically improve broadband availability for millions of New Yorkers and lead to more than $1 billion in direct investments and consumer benefits.</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, the state issued a $500 million solicitation for private sector partners to join the New NY Broadband Program, which will greatly expand Internet access in all regions of the state, with a focus on unserved and underserved areas.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/10th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-dramatically-expand-and-improve-access-high-speed">here</a>; video available <a href="https://youtu.be/BvAqBRCMu_0">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 11: Launch a $200 million competition to revitalize Upstate airports. The proposal is designed to enhance airports throughout Upstate New York, and promote new opportunities for regional economic development and partnership between the public and private sectors.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Governor made this announcement as he also kicked off the start of renovations that will transform the New York State Fairgrounds site into a premier, multi-use facility. The Governor marked the official start of the historic renovation project with the implosion of the grandstand today.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/11th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-revitalize-upstate-infrastructure-stimulate-economy">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 12: Combat poverty and reduce rampant inequality through the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative. The $25 million program will bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in ten cities with the highest poverty rates in the state.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/12th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-combatting-poverty-reducing-rampant-inequality">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 13: Launch a "Right Priorities" initiative to further New York’s status as a national leader in criminal justice and re-entry reforms. The Governor's proposal will help at-risk youth find positive opportunities in their communities, while also providing citizens who enter the criminal justice system the opportunity to rehabilitate, return home, and contribute to their communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">More information available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/13th-proposal-governor-cuomos-2016-agenda-launch-right-priorities-initiative-leads-nation">here</a>; video and other media available <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-photos-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-13th-proposal-2016-agenda-launch-right">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">PROPOSAL 14: Increase opportunity for minority- and women-owned business enterprises across New York State.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2014, Governor Cuomo established a goal of 30 percent for New York’s MWBE state contract utilization – the highest goal of any state in the nation. However, under state law, that goal only applies to contracts issued by state agencies and authorities; it does not apply to state funding given to localities such as cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts, which amounts to approximately $65 billion annually. This year, the Governor will advance legislation addressing this disconnect by expanding the MWBE goal setting to localities and entities that subcontract with those localities. Doing so will leverage the largest pool of state funding in history to combat systemic discrimination and create new opportunities for MWBE participation.</p> <p>More information available <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/14th-proposal-governor-cuomo-s-2016-agenda-increase-opportunity-minority-and-women-owned">here</a>.</p> Corruption, Elections Loom Over Lengthy 2016 Legislative Agenda 2016-01-06T22:17:26+00:00 2016-01-06T22:17:26+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6067:corruption-elections-loom-over-2016-legislative-agenda Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24195066305_18221d13db_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo announcement infrastructure" height="393" width="600" /></p> <p>Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Lawmakers returning to Albany this week to kick off the 2016 legislative session are faced with a litany of unresolved issues from last year and the spectre of the recent convictions of two former legislative leaders.</p> <p>Add to that impending elections for all 213 legislative seats, some of which will be critical for the future of state Senate control and the prospect of future indictments hinted at by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and you have a recipe for potential paralysis.</p> <p>Familiar issues like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, juvenile justice and criminal justice reforms are all on the table. Newer issues like regulating fantasy sports gambling and tweaks to the state's health insurance marketplace will also be up for discussion.</p> <p>Complicating some issues will be Gov. Andrew Cuomo's repeated 2015 use of executive action, which irked some legislators and, according to some advocates, let the air out of pushes for major legislation. But the elephant in the room remains how to deal with the plague of corruption that has dogged the capitol for years.</p> <p>There is a little extra motivation for the legislature to move on more comprehensive ethics fixes - when session ended in June, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos had merely been indicted on federal corruption charges, six months later both men have been convicted and will soon face sentencing. Further, their trials exposed how major donors are able to exploit the state's campaign finance system and how both Silver and Skelos were able to use their influence to pressure entities with business before the state to provide them and their associates with financial benefit.</p> <p>Cuomo has promised that ethics reform will be at the top of his 2016 agenda.</p> <p>Aside from the unprecedented legislative scandal, both houses of the legislature will also be preparing for an election season that many see as do or die for control of the state Senate, currently led by Republicans. Upcoming electoral contests could motivate leaders from both houses to compromise, or it could create more strife, legislative paralysis, and a blame game that will play out in the elections.</p> <p>Still, there are a variety of major policy issues at play as 2016 session begins, including:</p> <p><strong>Full-Time Legislature</strong><br />A number of good government groups, as well as Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and even U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, have posited that a better paid, full-time legislature might reduce certain kinds of corruption. Better pay might reduce the temptation to take bribes and with outside income banned it would be much harder for legislators to hide any ill-gotten gains.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Democrats say their conference has seriously discussed the possibility of advocating for a full-time legislative body. In a Dec. 7 <a href="http://www.bronxnet.org/tv/bronxtalk/viewvideo/6546/bronxtalk/bronxtalk--dec-7th-2015" target="_blank">interview</a> with Gary Axelbank of BronxTalk, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he wanted to see how stricter income disclosure rules passed last year work before he advocates a total ban on outside income.</p> <p>Heastie told Axelbank a full-time legislature would have to be paid considerably more. "Is the public ready to pay legislators $150,000-$160,000 a year?" Heastie asked. "If you're going to have people go full time, there's going to have to be a hefty pay raise from $79,500." Legislators haven't had a raise in 15 years, though a new commission is examining the rates and will issue recommendations.</p> <p>Majority Leader John Flanagan has repeatedly said he is steadfastly opposed to a full-time legislature. He said it on Wednesday's first session day, and last month he <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/12/flanagan-remains-opposed-to-full-time-legislature/" target="_blank">told reporters</a>, "We are ostensibly supposed to have, or legally supposed to have, a citizen Legislature or a part-time Legislature. I want the people with a depth of background. I think it's useful to have people from varying walks of life."</p> <p>Still, upon replacing Skelos, Flanagan gave up his second job, a move he explained Wednesday as important because of his time commitment as Senate leader, which comes with a stipend.</p> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo has noted that the constitution calls for a part-time legislature and Republican opposition to going full-time, but called the idea "something worth talking about." It's more likely that legislators compromise on a significant cap on outside income and additional rules.</p> <p><strong>LLC Loophole</strong><br />The now-infamous LLC loophole was featured during the Silver and Skelos corruption trials, but has been a cause of consternation among reformers for quite some time. In practice, the loophole allows anyone to game the campaign finance system by setting up multiple LLCs, or limited liability corporations, from which to donate to candidates for office.</p> <p>Cries to close the loophole reached fever pitch last session, but in the wake of the Silver and Skelos trials have become even louder. Glenwood Management, a Manhattan real estate firm at the center of the Silver and Skelos cases, used the loophole to subvert the state's campaign donation limits by creating a number of front companies. The firm has been the largest contributor in the state for years. The Assembly moved to close the loophole last year but the Senate refused to vote on the issue. The Assembly is poised to move again on the issue but it appears that they might face opposition not only from Senate Republicans but from Cuomo as well.</p> <p>Speaking with reporters in Manhattan on Dec. 13, Cuomo said that closing the LLC Loophole was "a priority." However, on Dec. 21, Cuomo said in a WNYC radio interview that closing the loophole would be ineffective because of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows for independent expenditures on behalf of candidates.</p> <p>"You need people in office who are going to use their best judgment in office," Cuomo said on WNYC, "because you're not going to change the campaign finance system because of Citizens United."</p> <p>Cuomo also refused to return over a million dollars in donations from Glenwood Management. "If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars, or a thousand dollars, or fifty dollars, then I'm in the wrong place and I should resign immediately," <a href="http://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/cuomo-plans-ethics-bills-but-won-t-close-llc-loophole-1.11251226" target="_blank">he explained</a>.</p> <p><strong>Minimum Wage Hike</strong><br />Cuomo kicked off the rollout of his 2016 agenda with another rally for an eventual $15 hourly statewide minimum wage and by extending a path toward $15 per hour to 28,000 SUNY employees. Cuomo has promised to push the legislature to adopt his plan to get all workers across the state to at least $15 per hour over the next several years.</p> <p>Cuomo rapidly evolved his position on the minimum wage last year after opposing a hike to $13 per hour proposed by Democratic legislators. But, he utilized the state's wage board provision to boost the minimum wage plan for fast food workers to an eventual $15 per hour and has rallied across the state to push the legislature to support the same figure.</p> <p>The Assembly pushed for an eventual $15 minimum wage for New York City in its single-house budget last year and is expected to support Cuomo's push. There are some Democratic members from Upstate and Western New York who are concerned about backlash from business groups. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has not written off the possibility of a path toward a $15 minimum wage and there are some who think he will look to compromise with Cuomo on the timeline for full implementation of the raise as a way to take the debate off the table before election season.</p> <p>Cuomo has already begun outlining tax reform, especially to reduce the burden on small businesses, which many see as part of the plan to get the minimum wage hike passed. A heightened minimum wage is popular around the state and has endeared the governor with many of his erstwhile liberal friends.</p> <p><strong>Tax on the Rich</strong><br />With one sentence of his remarks on the opening day of session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie changed the expected dynamics of negotiations to come. "We will fight for a tax structure that promotes fairness, equity, common sense," Heastie said, adding that he wanted tax cuts for the working class and to ask "wealthy New Yorkers" to pay their "fair share."</p> <p>Cuomo has repeatedly rejected calls for a tax on the highest earners over the last few years - especially when the calls came from Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. It isn't clear how hard Heastie will push on the issue but if it takes off it could eventually be used as leverage toward enacting a full minimum wage increase.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reform</strong><br />Last month the Cuomo administration made good on a promised executive action when it unveiled a plan to move 16- and 17-year-old inmates with medium and minimum security classifications to a juvenile facility in Hudson. The move is expected to impact up to 100 inmates. However, advocates are not satisfied. New York is still one of two states to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults upon arrest.</p> <p>Criminal justice experts want the entire process changed in state law, something Cuomo has backed and tried to enact last year to no avail.</p> <p>While advocates plan to continue to push, and held a press conference on the first day of session to resume doing so, Cuomo's executive action may have reduced the legislature's appetite to act. A number of Senate Republicans were concerned about housing teens in adult prisons but are not convinced the entire criminal justice process should be altered. Meanwhile, Cuomo and Democrats from the Senate and Assembly have disagreed on exactly how the 16- and 17-year-olds should be processed by the courts.</p> <p>Meanwhile, having failed to build a consensus with the legislature on how to revamp the criminal justice system to address concerns about how police shootings of citizens are investigated, Cuomo issued an executive order last summer allowing the Attorney General to name a special prosecutor in such cases.</p> <p>The move angered some district attorneys and members of law enforcement but gave the governor a boost with progressive activists. However, Cuomo promised to evaluate how the order worked and return to the legislature with a plan to change the law.</p> <p>Members of the Assembly Majority are anxious to tackle the issue but Senate Republicans are unlikely to want to touch it - especially in an election year. A good gauge of where the issue stands in the pecking order will be to see what kind of mention it gets, if any, in Cuomo's State of the State address. A number of legislators say they expect Cuomo to declare victory on both of these criminal justice issues by pointing to his executive actions and thereby avoid any major legislative battles.</p> <p><strong>Car Service Apps</strong><br />In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided he wanted to limit the expansion of Uber, the most popular car-service app, citing concerns about congestion. It was as if the mayor stepped on a landmine. Uber quickly mobilized its drivers and users and rolled out an effective public relations campaign, even enlisting Cuomo - who may not have needed much prodding to contradict de Blasio.</p> <p>The mayor walked away limping but with plans to return to the issue. Now the state has to decide how to handle Uber and Lyft's push to be allowed in New York, including in upstate cities. In late October, Cuomo indicated that he thinks the state should issue regulations as a whole. "You can't do Uber city by city," <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/10/8580407/cuomo-hints-new-de-blasio-fight-time-over-uber" target="_blank">Cuomo said</a>. Cuomo's former top advisor Matt Wing is now in charge of communications for Uber in the Northeast.</p> <p>Localities would need to give up oversight of transportation insurance and allow Uber to pool insurance for its drivers. The taxi industry, which is steadfastly opposed to Uber, is currently regulated city by city.</p> <p><strong>Fantasy Sports Gambling</strong><br />A number of Assembly Democrats are chomping at the bit to address the issue of fantasy sports betting sites like Draftkings and FanDuel, which were recently sued by AG Schneiderman for being illegal gambling in violation of New York law. Schneiderman then amended the suit to ask the companies to return all money it made from New Yorkers. Democratic Assemblymember Gary Pretlow told Gotham Gazette that he plans to come up with regulations, oversight, and consumer protections that could keep the sites alive should they be found illegal in the court battle.</p> <p>Meanwhile, a number of Senate Republicans are interested in ending any ambiguity about the legality of the sites by passing a bill stating that it is a game of skill and not of chance. Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer introduced such a bill in December. He told The Buffalo News in November that he hadn't spoken to representatives of the sites but was motivated by what he saw as Schneiderman's "overreach."</p> <p>"It's just once again. New York shouldn't have Uber, shouldn't have mixed martial arts, or sports betting. When all this commerce and activities is allowed in many other states, it just seems like one issue after another in New York," Ranzenhofer <a href="http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/state/ranzenhofer-bill-would-make-fantasy-sports-legal-in-new-york-20151116" target="_blank">told the Buffalo News</a>.</p> <p><strong>A Variety of Others</strong><br />Expect a major push from both houses of the legislature to restore education funding cuts.</p> <p>The Ultimate Fighting Championship is advancing a court case to force New York to allow them to hold events in the state and has even booked a spring date at Madison Square Garden to hold its mixed martial arts bouts (MMA). The legislature could intercede before the case is settled.</p> <p>Cuomo has already revealed a number of infrastructure related plans. Senate Republicans are looking to increase investment in the state's roads and bridges upstate while a number of city-based Democrats want to see the governor better invest in the MTA and do more to relieve congestion.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Democrats are looking for partners in the Senate Majority for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5950-as-cuomo-pushes-for-federal-action-on-guns-new-york-measures-await-his-support" target="_blank">bills that would encourage guns are stored safely</a>. There are several other bills that address implementing employee training and stricter checks and balances for gun stores as well as ones that would allow police to take away guns belonging to perpetrators of domestic violence.</p> <p>Cuomo has been focused on national solutions to gun violence as of late but some Assembly Democrats think there is room <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5950-as-cuomo-pushes-for-federal-action-on-guns-new-york-measures-await-his-support" target="_blank">to pass smaller pieces of legislation</a> this year.</p> <p>The Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act, or GENDA, appears to have lost a great deal of momentum after Cuomo enacted a number of its tenets through executive order earlier this fall. The Empire State Pride Agenda, which had been backing the bill, announced it is closing its policy operations because it feels it has completed much of its work, but some advocates point out that Cuomo's GENDA order could quickly be undone by the next governor.</p> <p>The DREAM Act is another long-standing Democratic priority that many are unsure of its place in this year's agenda, which may be determined by whether Cuomo features it in his State of the State and budget.</p> <p>The Assembly and Senate majorities and the Independent Democratic Conference will have to settle their differences over how to implement paid family leave before they look to negotiate a final bill with the governor. "I'm always optimistic," IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein said of a resolution on paid family leave in November. "It is an extremely important issue resonates with residents across the state." Klein brought the policy up again in his opening remarks on the Senate floor, and Flanagan said a conversation would happen, but that the details must be determined. Heastie said the Assembly would again bass a paid family leave bill this year, as it has several years in a row.</p> <p>Generally speaking, Flanagan succinctly summed up his conference's priorities with his opening remarks on Wednesday, saying its focus will be "jobs, jobs, and jobs."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24195066305_18221d13db_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo announcement infrastructure" height="393" width="600" /></p> <p>Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Lawmakers returning to Albany this week to kick off the 2016 legislative session are faced with a litany of unresolved issues from last year and the spectre of the recent convictions of two former legislative leaders.</p> <p>Add to that impending elections for all 213 legislative seats, some of which will be critical for the future of state Senate control and the prospect of future indictments hinted at by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and you have a recipe for potential paralysis.</p> <p>Familiar issues like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, juvenile justice and criminal justice reforms are all on the table. Newer issues like regulating fantasy sports gambling and tweaks to the state's health insurance marketplace will also be up for discussion.</p> <p>Complicating some issues will be Gov. Andrew Cuomo's repeated 2015 use of executive action, which irked some legislators and, according to some advocates, let the air out of pushes for major legislation. But the elephant in the room remains how to deal with the plague of corruption that has dogged the capitol for years.</p> <p>There is a little extra motivation for the legislature to move on more comprehensive ethics fixes - when session ended in June, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Majority Leader Dean Skelos had merely been indicted on federal corruption charges, six months later both men have been convicted and will soon face sentencing. Further, their trials exposed how major donors are able to exploit the state's campaign finance system and how both Silver and Skelos were able to use their influence to pressure entities with business before the state to provide them and their associates with financial benefit.</p> <p>Cuomo has promised that ethics reform will be at the top of his 2016 agenda.</p> <p>Aside from the unprecedented legislative scandal, both houses of the legislature will also be preparing for an election season that many see as do or die for control of the state Senate, currently led by Republicans. Upcoming electoral contests could motivate leaders from both houses to compromise, or it could create more strife, legislative paralysis, and a blame game that will play out in the elections.</p> <p>Still, there are a variety of major policy issues at play as 2016 session begins, including:</p> <p><strong>Full-Time Legislature</strong><br />A number of good government groups, as well as Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and even U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, have posited that a better paid, full-time legislature might reduce certain kinds of corruption. Better pay might reduce the temptation to take bribes and with outside income banned it would be much harder for legislators to hide any ill-gotten gains.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Democrats say their conference has seriously discussed the possibility of advocating for a full-time legislative body. In a Dec. 7 <a href="http://www.bronxnet.org/tv/bronxtalk/viewvideo/6546/bronxtalk/bronxtalk--dec-7th-2015" target="_blank">interview</a> with Gary Axelbank of BronxTalk, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he wanted to see how stricter income disclosure rules passed last year work before he advocates a total ban on outside income.</p> <p>Heastie told Axelbank a full-time legislature would have to be paid considerably more. "Is the public ready to pay legislators $150,000-$160,000 a year?" Heastie asked. "If you're going to have people go full time, there's going to have to be a hefty pay raise from $79,500." Legislators haven't had a raise in 15 years, though a new commission is examining the rates and will issue recommendations.</p> <p>Majority Leader John Flanagan has repeatedly said he is steadfastly opposed to a full-time legislature. He said it on Wednesday's first session day, and last month he <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/12/flanagan-remains-opposed-to-full-time-legislature/" target="_blank">told reporters</a>, "We are ostensibly supposed to have, or legally supposed to have, a citizen Legislature or a part-time Legislature. I want the people with a depth of background. I think it's useful to have people from varying walks of life."</p> <p>Still, upon replacing Skelos, Flanagan gave up his second job, a move he explained Wednesday as important because of his time commitment as Senate leader, which comes with a stipend.</p> <p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo has noted that the constitution calls for a part-time legislature and Republican opposition to going full-time, but called the idea "something worth talking about." It's more likely that legislators compromise on a significant cap on outside income and additional rules.</p> <p><strong>LLC Loophole</strong><br />The now-infamous LLC loophole was featured during the Silver and Skelos corruption trials, but has been a cause of consternation among reformers for quite some time. In practice, the loophole allows anyone to game the campaign finance system by setting up multiple LLCs, or limited liability corporations, from which to donate to candidates for office.</p> <p>Cries to close the loophole reached fever pitch last session, but in the wake of the Silver and Skelos trials have become even louder. Glenwood Management, a Manhattan real estate firm at the center of the Silver and Skelos cases, used the loophole to subvert the state's campaign donation limits by creating a number of front companies. The firm has been the largest contributor in the state for years. The Assembly moved to close the loophole last year but the Senate refused to vote on the issue. The Assembly is poised to move again on the issue but it appears that they might face opposition not only from Senate Republicans but from Cuomo as well.</p> <p>Speaking with reporters in Manhattan on Dec. 13, Cuomo said that closing the LLC Loophole was "a priority." However, on Dec. 21, Cuomo said in a WNYC radio interview that closing the loophole would be ineffective because of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows for independent expenditures on behalf of candidates.</p> <p>"You need people in office who are going to use their best judgment in office," Cuomo said on WNYC, "because you're not going to change the campaign finance system because of Citizens United."</p> <p>Cuomo also refused to return over a million dollars in donations from Glenwood Management. "If I believed that I could be influenced by a million dollars, or a thousand dollars, or fifty dollars, then I'm in the wrong place and I should resign immediately," <a href="http://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/cuomo-plans-ethics-bills-but-won-t-close-llc-loophole-1.11251226" target="_blank">he explained</a>.</p> <p><strong>Minimum Wage Hike</strong><br />Cuomo kicked off the rollout of his 2016 agenda with another rally for an eventual $15 hourly statewide minimum wage and by extending a path toward $15 per hour to 28,000 SUNY employees. Cuomo has promised to push the legislature to adopt his plan to get all workers across the state to at least $15 per hour over the next several years.</p> <p>Cuomo rapidly evolved his position on the minimum wage last year after opposing a hike to $13 per hour proposed by Democratic legislators. But, he utilized the state's wage board provision to boost the minimum wage plan for fast food workers to an eventual $15 per hour and has rallied across the state to push the legislature to support the same figure.</p> <p>The Assembly pushed for an eventual $15 minimum wage for New York City in its single-house budget last year and is expected to support Cuomo's push. There are some Democratic members from Upstate and Western New York who are concerned about backlash from business groups. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has not written off the possibility of a path toward a $15 minimum wage and there are some who think he will look to compromise with Cuomo on the timeline for full implementation of the raise as a way to take the debate off the table before election season.</p> <p>Cuomo has already begun outlining tax reform, especially to reduce the burden on small businesses, which many see as part of the plan to get the minimum wage hike passed. A heightened minimum wage is popular around the state and has endeared the governor with many of his erstwhile liberal friends.</p> <p><strong>Tax on the Rich</strong><br />With one sentence of his remarks on the opening day of session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie changed the expected dynamics of negotiations to come. "We will fight for a tax structure that promotes fairness, equity, common sense," Heastie said, adding that he wanted tax cuts for the working class and to ask "wealthy New Yorkers" to pay their "fair share."</p> <p>Cuomo has repeatedly rejected calls for a tax on the highest earners over the last few years - especially when the calls came from Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. It isn't clear how hard Heastie will push on the issue but if it takes off it could eventually be used as leverage toward enacting a full minimum wage increase.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reform</strong><br />Last month the Cuomo administration made good on a promised executive action when it unveiled a plan to move 16- and 17-year-old inmates with medium and minimum security classifications to a juvenile facility in Hudson. The move is expected to impact up to 100 inmates. However, advocates are not satisfied. New York is still one of two states to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults upon arrest.</p> <p>Criminal justice experts want the entire process changed in state law, something Cuomo has backed and tried to enact last year to no avail.</p> <p>While advocates plan to continue to push, and held a press conference on the first day of session to resume doing so, Cuomo's executive action may have reduced the legislature's appetite to act. A number of Senate Republicans were concerned about housing teens in adult prisons but are not convinced the entire criminal justice process should be altered. Meanwhile, Cuomo and Democrats from the Senate and Assembly have disagreed on exactly how the 16- and 17-year-olds should be processed by the courts.</p> <p>Meanwhile, having failed to build a consensus with the legislature on how to revamp the criminal justice system to address concerns about how police shootings of citizens are investigated, Cuomo issued an executive order last summer allowing the Attorney General to name a special prosecutor in such cases.</p> <p>The move angered some district attorneys and members of law enforcement but gave the governor a boost with progressive activists. However, Cuomo promised to evaluate how the order worked and return to the legislature with a plan to change the law.</p> <p>Members of the Assembly Majority are anxious to tackle the issue but Senate Republicans are unlikely to want to touch it - especially in an election year. A good gauge of where the issue stands in the pecking order will be to see what kind of mention it gets, if any, in Cuomo's State of the State address. A number of legislators say they expect Cuomo to declare victory on both of these criminal justice issues by pointing to his executive actions and thereby avoid any major legislative battles.</p> <p><strong>Car Service Apps</strong><br />In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided he wanted to limit the expansion of Uber, the most popular car-service app, citing concerns about congestion. It was as if the mayor stepped on a landmine. Uber quickly mobilized its drivers and users and rolled out an effective public relations campaign, even enlisting Cuomo - who may not have needed much prodding to contradict de Blasio.</p> <p>The mayor walked away limping but with plans to return to the issue. Now the state has to decide how to handle Uber and Lyft's push to be allowed in New York, including in upstate cities. In late October, Cuomo indicated that he thinks the state should issue regulations as a whole. "You can't do Uber city by city," <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/10/8580407/cuomo-hints-new-de-blasio-fight-time-over-uber" target="_blank">Cuomo said</a>. Cuomo's former top advisor Matt Wing is now in charge of communications for Uber in the Northeast.</p> <p>Localities would need to give up oversight of transportation insurance and allow Uber to pool insurance for its drivers. The taxi industry, which is steadfastly opposed to Uber, is currently regulated city by city.</p> <p><strong>Fantasy Sports Gambling</strong><br />A number of Assembly Democrats are chomping at the bit to address the issue of fantasy sports betting sites like Draftkings and FanDuel, which were recently sued by AG Schneiderman for being illegal gambling in violation of New York law. Schneiderman then amended the suit to ask the companies to return all money it made from New Yorkers. Democratic Assemblymember Gary Pretlow told Gotham Gazette that he plans to come up with regulations, oversight, and consumer protections that could keep the sites alive should they be found illegal in the court battle.</p> <p>Meanwhile, a number of Senate Republicans are interested in ending any ambiguity about the legality of the sites by passing a bill stating that it is a game of skill and not of chance. Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer introduced such a bill in December. He told The Buffalo News in November that he hadn't spoken to representatives of the sites but was motivated by what he saw as Schneiderman's "overreach."</p> <p>"It's just once again. New York shouldn't have Uber, shouldn't have mixed martial arts, or sports betting. When all this commerce and activities is allowed in many other states, it just seems like one issue after another in New York," Ranzenhofer <a href="http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/state/ranzenhofer-bill-would-make-fantasy-sports-legal-in-new-york-20151116" target="_blank">told the Buffalo News</a>.</p> <p><strong>A Variety of Others</strong><br />Expect a major push from both houses of the legislature to restore education funding cuts.</p> <p>The Ultimate Fighting Championship is advancing a court case to force New York to allow them to hold events in the state and has even booked a spring date at Madison Square Garden to hold its mixed martial arts bouts (MMA). The legislature could intercede before the case is settled.</p> <p>Cuomo has already revealed a number of infrastructure related plans. Senate Republicans are looking to increase investment in the state's roads and bridges upstate while a number of city-based Democrats want to see the governor better invest in the MTA and do more to relieve congestion.</p> <p>A number of Assembly Democrats are looking for partners in the Senate Majority for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5950-as-cuomo-pushes-for-federal-action-on-guns-new-york-measures-await-his-support" target="_blank">bills that would encourage guns are stored safely</a>. There are several other bills that address implementing employee training and stricter checks and balances for gun stores as well as ones that would allow police to take away guns belonging to perpetrators of domestic violence.</p> <p>Cuomo has been focused on national solutions to gun violence as of late but some Assembly Democrats think there is room <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5950-as-cuomo-pushes-for-federal-action-on-guns-new-york-measures-await-his-support" target="_blank">to pass smaller pieces of legislation</a> this year.</p> <p>The Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act, or GENDA, appears to have lost a great deal of momentum after Cuomo enacted a number of its tenets through executive order earlier this fall. The Empire State Pride Agenda, which had been backing the bill, announced it is closing its policy operations because it feels it has completed much of its work, but some advocates point out that Cuomo's GENDA order could quickly be undone by the next governor.</p> <p>The DREAM Act is another long-standing Democratic priority that many are unsure of its place in this year's agenda, which may be determined by whether Cuomo features it in his State of the State and budget.</p> <p>The Assembly and Senate majorities and the Independent Democratic Conference will have to settle their differences over how to implement paid family leave before they look to negotiate a final bill with the governor. "I'm always optimistic," IDC head Sen. Jeff Klein said of a resolution on paid family leave in November. "It is an extremely important issue resonates with residents across the state." Klein brought the policy up again in his opening remarks on the Senate floor, and Flanagan said a conversation would happen, but that the details must be determined. Heastie said the Assembly would again bass a paid family leave bill this year, as it has several years in a row.</p> <p>Generally speaking, Flanagan succinctly summed up his conference's priorities with his opening remarks on Wednesday, saying its focus will be "jobs, jobs, and jobs."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p>