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/state-legislature 2019-02-16T05:38:13+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com How New York Can Become a Real Democracy: Re-Center Race as Legislative Progress Continues 2019-02-13T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8280-how-new-york-can-become-a-real-democracy-re-center-race-as-legislative-progress-continues Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-dna.jpg" alt="gov cuomo dna" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>For decades, the phrase “three men in a room” has been used to capture how the leadership of New York state government (the governor, the state Assembly speaker and the state Senate majority leader) in Albany decides in back-room negotiations what legislation lives or dies. Finally, this year, state government can remake itself much closer to the image of true democracy. Leaders in the Assembly and Senate, Carl Heastie and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, are for the first time both African-American, and one is a woman.</p> <p>This is an undeniably exciting moment, but it is also a moment fraught with uncertainty and real questions about what it means to have a truly inclusive democracy, one that reflects a multiracial society and advances solutions to benefit all, not just a select few.</p> <p>While it is Democrats who are leading the charge on voting and campaign finance reforms – issues at the very heart of democracy – both parties have participated in, and benefited from, a system run on corporate money and machine politics. That system consists of a very small, very wealthy, and very white donor class that occupies the place that democracy should.</p> <p>Recently passed reforms such as early voting and changes to the “LLC loophole,” which limits the amount of money powerful individuals and companies can contribute to candidates, are game-changers for New York. Still, much of the hard work of disentangling the deep, white roots of money from politics remains, work that must be done in order to have a true democracy in New York. In particular, automatic voter registration and public financing of elections are essential to achieving this goal. But there’s more.</p> <p>In the public discourse on many issues, the flag of economic equality flies high. What has been less talked about is the systematic exclusion and oppression of communities of color as a direct result of our current system. Democracy reforms are not just about good governance, they are about giving people of color access to the political power from which they are all too often excluded. Race has become a footnote in a discussion when it should be the headline, for the simple reason that we cannot achieve a truly inclusive democracy if we do not start by acknowledging who has been excluded and why.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-fight-for-lower-rents-by-fixing-campaign-finance-20190114-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent column</a> on the housing crisis by State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, centers the impact of money on the most basic and essential of goods – shelter. &nbsp;</p> <p>“For the real estate industry, these donations [to candidates] are a calculated investment to protect and expand their soaring profits,” they wrote in The Daily News. “Albany returns the favor by granting favorable tax breaks for developers and blocking meaningful action on the rent laws, which protect millions of tenants and families.”</p> <p>At Community Voices Heard, a member-led, multiracial organization working to secure racial, social, and economic justice for all New Yorkers, we know the consequences of this relationship are far too real. In 2018, we organized tenants in Ossining, New York, to enact the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA). ETPA provided tenant protections for more than 2,000 residents. Just a year later, the mayor and village council have proposed repealing ETPA without offering an alternative proposal, a troubling development for the residents fighting against a profit-driven industry to stay in their homes. Without strong leadership in Albany to protect tenants, battles like these will become an endless war.</p> <p>Legislation to mitigate climate change tells a similar story. As is well known, the <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=E01" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fossil fuel industry ranks</a> among the top political campaign contributors and spends enormously on lobbying as well. The impact of a toxic environment is not being borne equally. According to <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/race-best-predicts-whether-you-live-near-pollution/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Nation</a>, studies show that the majority of people living near hazardous waste sites are people of color. According to the same article, in cases where communities filed complaints with the Environmental Protection Agency alleging a violation of their civil rights, 95 percent of the claims were denied. In New York, one can see similar trends in the decades of negligence and mismanagement of public housing under the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) or the city’s response to Hurricane Sandy.</p> <p>In recognition of this, the <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?term=2017&amp;bn=A08270" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Climate and Community Protection Act</a>, re-introduced this session by Assemblymember Steven Englebright and Senator Todd Kaminsky, contains provisions aimed specifically at ensuring an <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2b4sxM265uZNUlDakpBdUFUY0VQWnlPdjYtdnViZFdBQU9R/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">equitable transition</a> to renewable energy, including allocating 40 percent of funding to frontline and historically disadvantaged communities. This approach, which both acknowledges racial inequity and ensures that it informs policy-making, is an important step in the fight for an inclusive democracy and should serve as an example for advocates and lawmakers alike.</p> <p>Business as usual in Albany has often meant that lawmakers, lobbyists, experts, and advocates are quick to embrace a “race-neutral” dialogue when talking about the momentous issues at stake: voting, climate, housing, healthcare, jobs, and more. But it is worth remembering that these issues were core tenets of the Civil Rights Movement. The weeks ahead present both a challenge and an opportunity: to disrupt the normal discourse, to be explicit about racial inequities, and to fight for policies that can build a truly inclusive democracy.</p> <p>***<br /> Afua Atta-Mensah is Executive Director of Community Voices Heard. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/afuaattamensah" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AfuaAttaMensah</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/cvhaction" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CVHaction</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-dna.jpg" alt="gov cuomo dna" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>For decades, the phrase “three men in a room” has been used to capture how the leadership of New York state government (the governor, the state Assembly speaker and the state Senate majority leader) in Albany decides in back-room negotiations what legislation lives or dies. Finally, this year, state government can remake itself much closer to the image of true democracy. Leaders in the Assembly and Senate, Carl Heastie and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, are for the first time both African-American, and one is a woman.</p> <p>This is an undeniably exciting moment, but it is also a moment fraught with uncertainty and real questions about what it means to have a truly inclusive democracy, one that reflects a multiracial society and advances solutions to benefit all, not just a select few.</p> <p>While it is Democrats who are leading the charge on voting and campaign finance reforms – issues at the very heart of democracy – both parties have participated in, and benefited from, a system run on corporate money and machine politics. That system consists of a very small, very wealthy, and very white donor class that occupies the place that democracy should.</p> <p>Recently passed reforms such as early voting and changes to the “LLC loophole,” which limits the amount of money powerful individuals and companies can contribute to candidates, are game-changers for New York. Still, much of the hard work of disentangling the deep, white roots of money from politics remains, work that must be done in order to have a true democracy in New York. In particular, automatic voter registration and public financing of elections are essential to achieving this goal. But there’s more.</p> <p>In the public discourse on many issues, the flag of economic equality flies high. What has been less talked about is the systematic exclusion and oppression of communities of color as a direct result of our current system. Democracy reforms are not just about good governance, they are about giving people of color access to the political power from which they are all too often excluded. Race has become a footnote in a discussion when it should be the headline, for the simple reason that we cannot achieve a truly inclusive democracy if we do not start by acknowledging who has been excluded and why.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-fight-for-lower-rents-by-fixing-campaign-finance-20190114-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent column</a> on the housing crisis by State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, centers the impact of money on the most basic and essential of goods – shelter. &nbsp;</p> <p>“For the real estate industry, these donations [to candidates] are a calculated investment to protect and expand their soaring profits,” they wrote in The Daily News. “Albany returns the favor by granting favorable tax breaks for developers and blocking meaningful action on the rent laws, which protect millions of tenants and families.”</p> <p>At Community Voices Heard, a member-led, multiracial organization working to secure racial, social, and economic justice for all New Yorkers, we know the consequences of this relationship are far too real. In 2018, we organized tenants in Ossining, New York, to enact the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA). ETPA provided tenant protections for more than 2,000 residents. Just a year later, the mayor and village council have proposed repealing ETPA without offering an alternative proposal, a troubling development for the residents fighting against a profit-driven industry to stay in their homes. Without strong leadership in Albany to protect tenants, battles like these will become an endless war.</p> <p>Legislation to mitigate climate change tells a similar story. As is well known, the <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=E01" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fossil fuel industry ranks</a> among the top political campaign contributors and spends enormously on lobbying as well. The impact of a toxic environment is not being borne equally. According to <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/race-best-predicts-whether-you-live-near-pollution/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Nation</a>, studies show that the majority of people living near hazardous waste sites are people of color. According to the same article, in cases where communities filed complaints with the Environmental Protection Agency alleging a violation of their civil rights, 95 percent of the claims were denied. In New York, one can see similar trends in the decades of negligence and mismanagement of public housing under the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) or the city’s response to Hurricane Sandy.</p> <p>In recognition of this, the <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?term=2017&amp;bn=A08270" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Climate and Community Protection Act</a>, re-introduced this session by Assemblymember Steven Englebright and Senator Todd Kaminsky, contains provisions aimed specifically at ensuring an <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2b4sxM265uZNUlDakpBdUFUY0VQWnlPdjYtdnViZFdBQU9R/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">equitable transition</a> to renewable energy, including allocating 40 percent of funding to frontline and historically disadvantaged communities. This approach, which both acknowledges racial inequity and ensures that it informs policy-making, is an important step in the fight for an inclusive democracy and should serve as an example for advocates and lawmakers alike.</p> <p>Business as usual in Albany has often meant that lawmakers, lobbyists, experts, and advocates are quick to embrace a “race-neutral” dialogue when talking about the momentous issues at stake: voting, climate, housing, healthcare, jobs, and more. But it is worth remembering that these issues were core tenets of the Civil Rights Movement. The weeks ahead present both a challenge and an opportunity: to disrupt the normal discourse, to be explicit about racial inequities, and to fight for policies that can build a truly inclusive democracy.</p> <p>***<br /> Afua Atta-Mensah is Executive Director of Community Voices Heard. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/afuaattamensah" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AfuaAttaMensah</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/cvhaction" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CVHaction</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: A Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Albany 2019-02-13T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8286-max-murphy-podcast-a-hearing-on-sexual-harassment-in-albany Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>February 13, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: A Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Albany, with Rita Pasarell of the Sexual Harassment Working Group<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/rita-pasarell-wbai-150.jpg" alt="rita pasarell wbai 150" width="120" height="245" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Rita Pasarell was a victim of sexual harassment as a legislative aide and has more recently been an advocate pushing the state to hold public hearings on sexual harassment and improve its laws to combat the scourge in the public and private sectors. After much advocacy, the state Legislature held its first hearing in decades on Wednesday February 13. Pasarell and her colleagues were among those to testify. She joined the show to discuss the hearing and related issues.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/574976616&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>February 13, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: A Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Albany, with Rita Pasarell of the Sexual Harassment Working Group<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/rita-pasarell-wbai-150.jpg" alt="rita pasarell wbai 150" width="120" height="245" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Rita Pasarell was a victim of sexual harassment as a legislative aide and has more recently been an advocate pushing the state to hold public hearings on sexual harassment and improve its laws to combat the scourge in the public and private sectors. After much advocacy, the state Legislature held its first hearing in decades on Wednesday February 13. Pasarell and her colleagues were among those to testify. She joined the show to discuss the hearing and related issues.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/574976616&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Legislators Pursue Campaign Finance Reform for District Attorneys 2019-02-12T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8278-legislators-pursue-campaign-finance-reform-for-district-attorneys Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cy-vance-manhattanda.jpg" alt="cy vance manhattanda" width="600" height="407" /></p> <p>Manhattan DA Cy Vance (photo: @ManhattanDA)</p> <hr /> <p>District attorneys wield nearly unfettered discretion as to whether to prosecute potential defendants, but nothing in the law prevents lawyers for the accused from donating to a district attorney’s election campaign. Most New Yorkers became aware of this glaring blindspot in the state’s campaign finance law in 2017, following news that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s campaign had accepted thousands of dollars from an attorney for Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood mogul who Vance’s office had declined to prosecute after he allegedly groped a woman and was caught on tape seemingly admitting to the act.</p> <p>But the state Legislature could soon make sweeping changes to the rules governing district attorney campaign financing, as Assemblymember Dan Quart and Senator Liz Krueger, both Manhattan Democrats, are pursuing legislation to enact stringent restrictions on who can contribute, and how much, to candidates running for district attorney, of which there are 62, one for each county, across the state.</p> <p>“Reforming of our campaign finance laws with respect to how district attorneys and candidates for district attorneys run is critical,” Quart said in a phone interview, “so that the public gets confidence that decisions made by district attorneys are on the merits and free of any conflicts.” Quart is rumored to be considering a run for Manhattan DA in 2021.</p> <p>The proposed legislation would require that all district attorney candidates disclose to the state Board of Elections whether they have accepted campaign contributions from a law firm or an attorney at that law firm representing a criminal defendant in any New York state court. The bill would also mandate that the BOE create a statewide “legal dealings database” with the names of every licensed attorney, law firm or a firm executive who represents an individual or corporation in a criminal proceeding in any state court. The individuals and firms in the database would be restricted to donating only $320 to any district attorney candidate.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins did not respond to requests for comment about support for district attorney campaign finance reform. Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement, "The Governor has put forward a comprehensive ethics package in the Executive Budget and we will review any additional legislation if it passes both houses."</p> <p>The proposal was first introduced by Quart in October 2017, shortly after Vance, a Democrat, requested an external, independent review of his campaign finances to rebut allegations that his office gave favorable treatment to Weinstein and other wealthy actual or potential defendants, including Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., whose lawyers gave to this campaign and who Vance’s office declined to prosecute for alleged criminal fraud in the sale of condos in the Trump SoHo hotel development. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The review was conducted by the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia University, which issued <a href="https://www.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/public-integrity/raising_the_bar.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">seven recommendations</a> for district attorney candidates to prevent real and perceived conflicts of interest or unconscious bias by prosecutors. They include blind fundraising (so candidates are not aware of donor identities), refusing or limiting contributions from donors with real or perceived conflicts, a strict firewall between a DA’s office and campaign, refusing contributions from one’s own office staff and their spouses, strong donor vetting processes, requiring certifications of eligibility to contribute, and published campaign contribution policies. &nbsp;</p> <p>Quart and Krueger’s bill would establish some of those firewalls. Quart’s legal dealings database is modelled on New York City’s own “doing business” database that logs companies and individuals who have contracts with the city and limits how much they can contribute to candidates in local elections. The $320 limit applies to candidates for borough president, whose districts are equivalent to the jurisdiction of a district attorney in the city. “I took those rules and that principle and applied it to district attorneys’ races,” Quart said.</p> <p>The proposal would apply statewide. So, for instance, a law firm representing a defendant in Suffolk County wouldn’t be able to give more than $320 to a candidate running for Brooklyn District Attorney.</p> <p>"It is vital that every New Yorker be able to trust our judicial system to reach conclusions based solely on the fact of cases, without even the perception that other influences might affect the results,” Senator Krueger said in a statement. “District Attorneys hold a singularly powerful position in our system, and therefore must be held to the highest standards to avoid potential conflicts of interest. This bill will help ensure that in New York, justice remains blind.”</p> <p>The bill doesn’t cover all of CAPI’s recommendations, however. Berit Berger, executive director of CAPI, said the legislation is a “good start” but could go further. “The legislation does not require district attorneys to adopt blinding procedures that shield them from learning their donors’ identities,” she pointed out, in an email to Gotham Gazette. Blinding standards are currently used by candidates running for judicial seats in New York.</p> <p>“As we explained in our report, this approach would most clearly address the conflicts of interest issue and safeguard against any conscious and unconscious bias in favor of campaign contributors,” Berger continued. “While the increased transparency from disclosing contributions from attorneys or firms representing criminal defendants is a great first step, I think more is needed to truly preserve the integrity of this fundraising process.”</p> <p>It’s unclear if the bill will be supported or opposed by the District Attorneys Association of New York. Morgan Bitton, a DAASNY spokesperson, said the association is reviewing the proposal and that its legislative committee is set to meet later this month.</p> <p>If the bill passes into law, Quart believes it could be in place for the 2021 elections. If he runs for Manhattan District Attorney that year, it would put him in contest with Vance, who will be up for reelection but has not declared whether he will run again or not. “My dissatisfaction with Cy Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney is well known,” Quart said, insisting that he had not made any decisions about his own political future yet. “I have said that whether this legislation passes or not, I would self-police in a way if I were a candidate in 2021.”</p> <p>Whether Vance decides to seek reelection or not, the 2021 race could be a crowded one. This year, with no incumbent running, the race to be the next Queens District Attorney features more than half a dozen Democratic hopefuls, while races in the Bronx and on Staten Island with incumbents running again have sparse fields.</p> <p>For his part, Vance, a former DAASNY president himself, supports Quart’s proposal. “As DA Vance said last year when he announced the most restrictive voluntary campaign finance limits of any elected prosecutor in New York, ‘legislative action is the surest way to achieve lasting, mandatory campaign finance reform,’” said a spokesperson for his campaign, who also noted Vance’s support for a public matching funds program for DA candidates, which is not part of the Quart-Krueger legislation, but could potentially be included in any broader public campaign finance system that Democrats in Albany hope to pass this year. Assemblymember Tom Abinanti, a Democrat, has reintroduced <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/a1674" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> this year that would establish such a public financing system for candidates for district attorney and supreme court justices.&nbsp;</p> <p>But the Vance spokesperson did say the Legislature should consider the feasibility of the legal dealings database proposal, which would be far more vast than New York City’s doing business portal. “As Columbia’s report notes with regard to the City database, ‘the class of individuals subject to Doing Business restrictions in New York City is relatively small, and is limited to senior company executives, major stakeholders, and registered lobbyists’ – as opposed to the vast and fluid population of lawyers who represent criminal defendants in New York State,” the spokesperson said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that Assemblymember Tom Abinanti reintroduced a bill on public financing for district attorneys and supreme court judges. &nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cy-vance-manhattanda.jpg" alt="cy vance manhattanda" width="600" height="407" /></p> <p>Manhattan DA Cy Vance (photo: @ManhattanDA)</p> <hr /> <p>District attorneys wield nearly unfettered discretion as to whether to prosecute potential defendants, but nothing in the law prevents lawyers for the accused from donating to a district attorney’s election campaign. Most New Yorkers became aware of this glaring blindspot in the state’s campaign finance law in 2017, following news that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s campaign had accepted thousands of dollars from an attorney for Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood mogul who Vance’s office had declined to prosecute after he allegedly groped a woman and was caught on tape seemingly admitting to the act.</p> <p>But the state Legislature could soon make sweeping changes to the rules governing district attorney campaign financing, as Assemblymember Dan Quart and Senator Liz Krueger, both Manhattan Democrats, are pursuing legislation to enact stringent restrictions on who can contribute, and how much, to candidates running for district attorney, of which there are 62, one for each county, across the state.</p> <p>“Reforming of our campaign finance laws with respect to how district attorneys and candidates for district attorneys run is critical,” Quart said in a phone interview, “so that the public gets confidence that decisions made by district attorneys are on the merits and free of any conflicts.” Quart is rumored to be considering a run for Manhattan DA in 2021.</p> <p>The proposed legislation would require that all district attorney candidates disclose to the state Board of Elections whether they have accepted campaign contributions from a law firm or an attorney at that law firm representing a criminal defendant in any New York state court. The bill would also mandate that the BOE create a statewide “legal dealings database” with the names of every licensed attorney, law firm or a firm executive who represents an individual or corporation in a criminal proceeding in any state court. The individuals and firms in the database would be restricted to donating only $320 to any district attorney candidate.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins did not respond to requests for comment about support for district attorney campaign finance reform. Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement, "The Governor has put forward a comprehensive ethics package in the Executive Budget and we will review any additional legislation if it passes both houses."</p> <p>The proposal was first introduced by Quart in October 2017, shortly after Vance, a Democrat, requested an external, independent review of his campaign finances to rebut allegations that his office gave favorable treatment to Weinstein and other wealthy actual or potential defendants, including Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., whose lawyers gave to this campaign and who Vance’s office declined to prosecute for alleged criminal fraud in the sale of condos in the Trump SoHo hotel development. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The review was conducted by the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia University, which issued <a href="https://www.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/public-integrity/raising_the_bar.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">seven recommendations</a> for district attorney candidates to prevent real and perceived conflicts of interest or unconscious bias by prosecutors. They include blind fundraising (so candidates are not aware of donor identities), refusing or limiting contributions from donors with real or perceived conflicts, a strict firewall between a DA’s office and campaign, refusing contributions from one’s own office staff and their spouses, strong donor vetting processes, requiring certifications of eligibility to contribute, and published campaign contribution policies. &nbsp;</p> <p>Quart and Krueger’s bill would establish some of those firewalls. Quart’s legal dealings database is modelled on New York City’s own “doing business” database that logs companies and individuals who have contracts with the city and limits how much they can contribute to candidates in local elections. The $320 limit applies to candidates for borough president, whose districts are equivalent to the jurisdiction of a district attorney in the city. “I took those rules and that principle and applied it to district attorneys’ races,” Quart said.</p> <p>The proposal would apply statewide. So, for instance, a law firm representing a defendant in Suffolk County wouldn’t be able to give more than $320 to a candidate running for Brooklyn District Attorney.</p> <p>"It is vital that every New Yorker be able to trust our judicial system to reach conclusions based solely on the fact of cases, without even the perception that other influences might affect the results,” Senator Krueger said in a statement. “District Attorneys hold a singularly powerful position in our system, and therefore must be held to the highest standards to avoid potential conflicts of interest. This bill will help ensure that in New York, justice remains blind.”</p> <p>The bill doesn’t cover all of CAPI’s recommendations, however. Berit Berger, executive director of CAPI, said the legislation is a “good start” but could go further. “The legislation does not require district attorneys to adopt blinding procedures that shield them from learning their donors’ identities,” she pointed out, in an email to Gotham Gazette. Blinding standards are currently used by candidates running for judicial seats in New York.</p> <p>“As we explained in our report, this approach would most clearly address the conflicts of interest issue and safeguard against any conscious and unconscious bias in favor of campaign contributors,” Berger continued. “While the increased transparency from disclosing contributions from attorneys or firms representing criminal defendants is a great first step, I think more is needed to truly preserve the integrity of this fundraising process.”</p> <p>It’s unclear if the bill will be supported or opposed by the District Attorneys Association of New York. Morgan Bitton, a DAASNY spokesperson, said the association is reviewing the proposal and that its legislative committee is set to meet later this month.</p> <p>If the bill passes into law, Quart believes it could be in place for the 2021 elections. If he runs for Manhattan District Attorney that year, it would put him in contest with Vance, who will be up for reelection but has not declared whether he will run again or not. “My dissatisfaction with Cy Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney is well known,” Quart said, insisting that he had not made any decisions about his own political future yet. “I have said that whether this legislation passes or not, I would self-police in a way if I were a candidate in 2021.”</p> <p>Whether Vance decides to seek reelection or not, the 2021 race could be a crowded one. This year, with no incumbent running, the race to be the next Queens District Attorney features more than half a dozen Democratic hopefuls, while races in the Bronx and on Staten Island with incumbents running again have sparse fields.</p> <p>For his part, Vance, a former DAASNY president himself, supports Quart’s proposal. “As DA Vance said last year when he announced the most restrictive voluntary campaign finance limits of any elected prosecutor in New York, ‘legislative action is the surest way to achieve lasting, mandatory campaign finance reform,’” said a spokesperson for his campaign, who also noted Vance’s support for a public matching funds program for DA candidates, which is not part of the Quart-Krueger legislation, but could potentially be included in any broader public campaign finance system that Democrats in Albany hope to pass this year. Assemblymember Tom Abinanti, a Democrat, has reintroduced <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/a1674" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> this year that would establish such a public financing system for candidates for district attorney and supreme court justices.&nbsp;</p> <p>But the Vance spokesperson did say the Legislature should consider the feasibility of the legal dealings database proposal, which would be far more vast than New York City’s doing business portal. “As Columbia’s report notes with regard to the City database, ‘the class of individuals subject to Doing Business restrictions in New York City is relatively small, and is limited to senior company executives, major stakeholders, and registered lobbyists’ – as opposed to the vast and fluid population of lawyers who represent criminal defendants in New York State,” the spokesperson said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that Assemblymember Tom Abinanti reintroduced a bill on public financing for district attorneys and supreme court judges. &nbsp;</p>
In Budget Testimony, De Blasio Critiques Cuomo Plans, Presents City Albany Agenda 2019-02-11T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8275-in-budget-testimony-de-blasio-critiques-cuomo-plans-presents-city-albany-agenda Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/32079624637_2521a51c41_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio city hall budget" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio received a warmer reception in Albany on Monday than he has in past years as he testified before the state Legislature on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2020 executive budget proposal and how it would affect New York City. Over the course of more than two hours, the mayor argued for more education funding, emphasized the need for a comprehensive revenue plan for the MTA, enlisted legislators to help fend off proposed funding cuts and costs shifts, and defended his administration’s work on multiple fronts.</p> <p>In prior appearances before the Legislature, de Blasio has faced the ire of Republicans who controlled the state Senate and have used the annual budget hearing to criticize the mayor’s policies and management of the city. But with Democrats now in control of both legislative chambers, the mayor found himself largely in agreement with lawmakers and their priorities on everything from school aid and transit funding to criminal justice reform, rent regulation and marijuana legalization.</p> <p>He called on the Legislature to give the city design-build authority for infrastructure projects, pushed for the expansion of a speed camera and red light camera program in the city, asked for repeal of Section 50-a of the state civil rights law, which prevents disclosure of police officer disciplinary records, and advocated for a commercial vacancy tax to fight a crisis of vacant storefronts in the city.</p> <p>De Blasio appealed to the Legislature to aid New York City in avoiding what he said is nearly $600 million in proposed cuts and cost shifts included in the governor’s budget. He reiterated the city’s slightly more rocky budgetary prospects that he raised in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8266-citing-several-causes-for-concern-de-blasio-presents-still-growing-budget-plan-of-92-2-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his own $92.2 billion preliminary budget proposal</a> last week, where he noted that his administration is implementing a PEG (program to eliminate the gap) for the first time, with the goal of $750 million in total savings across agencies by the time the mayor releases his own executive budget plan in April (at which point he’ll also have to factor in the final state budget, which is due by April 1). City agency cutbacks, he warned, would be exacerbated if the governor’s budget passes in its current form.</p> <p>The mayor blamed nearly half the Cuomo “cuts” on education funding. Those include a $148 million shortfall in mandated spending on charter schools and special education services and a newly proposed school funding formula that de Blasio said would create a “winners and losers situation” by shifting existing funding away from needy schools. “Although I am certain the proposal’s well-intended, there are real problems with it,” he said under questioning from Assemblymember Ed Braunstein. The governor’s office has disputed de Blasio’s characterizations of “cuts,” noting that some of the mayor’s assessment is based on faulty expectations by the city.</p> <p>De Blasio also insisted, as he has often done, that the state should provide full funding under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision, which would mean about $1.2 billion in additional fair student funding for the city. “We should all be outraged that something that was decided by our highest court to help our children….somehow has not been brought to full fruition,” he later said. Again on this topic, Cuomo has disagreed with the mayor’s interpretation, which is shared by many Democratic officials, with the governor saying that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity has been paid off and is a thing of the past.</p> <p>De Blasio did commend the governor for backing a three-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, which Republicans often used as a cudgel against the mayor in order to extract concessions from the city. At Monday’s hearing, the mayor was able to tout his administration’s success with little pushback, pointing to record-high graduation rates.</p> <p>Senator Robert Jackson, however, did prod the mayor for more accountability within the system. “I don’t believe in control...I believe in authority with oversight at an appropriate level,” Jackson said.</p> <p>De Blasio was willing to concede, “The phrase might be better called mayoral accountability.” At various points, he said that his administration is seeking greater input from parents on issues such as school closures and consolidation, though it could always do better. And he also defended his authority to appoint the schools chancellor through a discretionary process. A nationwide public process would undermine the city’s ability to hire top-notch educators, he said. “The power of [mayoral control] is, everyone here and all the parents of New York City get to hold me accountable,” he said. “That was not true in the past.”</p> <p>Legislators focused a significant amount of time on the MTA and proposals to find sustainable sources of revenue for the beleaguered authority, responsible for the subways and buses, while making its operations more efficient. Cuomo has proposed a congestion pricing system with some details left undetermined, but that would, among other things, give the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority control over city streets. And he has said the city should split halfway any remaining MTA capital shortfall after congestion pricing revenue is counted. The governor has also been railing against the MTA structure and leadership, who he appointed, and has been arguing for greater control of the agency, which he already effectively controls.</p> <p>De Blasio has rejected congestion pricing as a silver bullet to solve the MTA’s woes and has said he would prefer a millionaire’s tax to raise the requisite funds for subways and buses. He repeated that argument at the hearing and said the MTA would need a “multi-element” solution that includes several different long-term streams of revenue, including perhaps a mansion tax, an internet sales tax, and revenue from legalization of recreational marijuana use, and a lockbox to ensure congestion pricing revenue is not diverted away from the MTA. Splitting capital costs with the state, he said, would be overly burdensome on the city’s already massive ten-year capital plan, which hit $100 billion for the first time when he released it last week.</p> <p>He also insisted he could only support a congestion pricing plan that had “hardship exemptions”, which went down well with some legislators but not others. For instance, Senator Jim Gaughran, a Long Island Democrat, agreed, saying he hadn’t seen a feasible proposal yet. He suggested a regional program that could also take into account commuters who use the Long Island Rail Road and bus systems, and a carve out for small businesses. Democratic Assemblymember Bobby Carroll of Brooklyn, on the other hand, said the mayor’s insistence on a progressive congestion pricing proposal seemed “disingenuous” since various carve outs would render the program insufficient.</p> <p>“I think it’s a balance point,” de Blasio responded. “I think there’s a way to figure out what is a fair hardship exemption and what is not, what does it do to our revenue and what revenue we need.”</p> <p>And though de Blasio has feuded with Cuomo over blame for the MTA’s failings, he generally supported the concept of giving more control to the governor. “I liken it to mayoral accountability for schools,” he said.</p> <p>De Blasio also found himself defending his role in the deal to bring an Amazon campus and an estimated 25,000 to 40,000 jobs to Queens, which would give the tech giant $3 billion in tax incentives and grants. To persuade Amazon, the mayor and governor struck an agreement to circumvent the local City Council-led land use process, drawing widespread criticism.</p> <p>De Blasio insisted on Monday that the $3 billion in incentives the company will receive is out of the city’s control -- most of the tax breaks are as-of-right incentives that Amazon would receive like any other company based on its location and job-creation, and $500 million of it is coming from the state in a capital grant. And he also revealed that he did not negotiate with the company to ensure neutrality if its workers attempt to unionize. When asked by Senator Jessica Ramos, a former de Blasio aide, he said he only insisted that the campus be built by union labor and that building services jobs should go to union workers. De Blasio has repeatedly said that he will continue to put pressure on Amazon related to its approach to employee unionization, and that the larger New York City pro-union environment will also play a role.</p> <p>In back-and-forth with lawmakers, de Blasio also made promises, some concrete and some speculative. He said that a commission looking at the city’s property tax system would release its recommendations this year. He said the city could shave years off the Rikers Island jail closure plan if a variety of criminal justice reforms are passed by the state. He said he would work with legislators to introduce a commercial vacancy tax bill in the coming weeks. And he promised to invest in improved bus service in the city even if congestion pricing does not come to pass.</p> <p>Of course, there were moments when de Blasio also pushed back. Senator John Liu, a Queens Democrat and 2013 primary opponent, pushed the mayor on his “seemingly magical solution” to expand healthcare access to 600,000 uninsured New Yorkers at an eventual cost of $100 million annually. Liu wondered whether that would mean the state could pass a single-payer program that doesn’t include New York City. “I would like to say yes to that but I can’t,” de Blasio responded, noting that single-payer healthcare would be a better option.</p> <p>Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican who ran against de Blasio in 2017, noted that the mayor was raising alarms about budget shortfalls in the city while also increasing spending by $3 billion. “If we are anticipating all these problems with less revenue coming into the city, why are you continuing to increase the budget dramatically?” she wondered. She also asked the mayor to cap increases of the city’s property tax levy, one of the few tax burdens under the city’s control.</p> <p>De Blasio did agree that the city needs a “more equitable solution” to property taxes though he disagreed that the city should cap the levy. He also defended the city’s budget more broadly, emphasizing that much of the increased spending has gone to pay increases for the municipal workforce in new labor agreements reached under his administration which had lapsed for years.</p> <p>The state Legislature will continue budget hearings over the next few weeks before each house -- or perhaps both houses together -- release responses to the governor’s proposal. First, Cuomo will release 30-day amendments to his budget plan. Negotiations will heat up in March as the April 1 state budget deadline looms.</p> <p>[Read:<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8217-9-key-takeaways-for-new-york-city-from-cuomo-s-state-of-the-state-and-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> 9 Key Takeaways for New York City from Cuomo's State of the State and Budget</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/32079624637_2521a51c41_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio city hall budget" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio received a warmer reception in Albany on Monday than he has in past years as he testified before the state Legislature on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2020 executive budget proposal and how it would affect New York City. Over the course of more than two hours, the mayor argued for more education funding, emphasized the need for a comprehensive revenue plan for the MTA, enlisted legislators to help fend off proposed funding cuts and costs shifts, and defended his administration’s work on multiple fronts.</p> <p>In prior appearances before the Legislature, de Blasio has faced the ire of Republicans who controlled the state Senate and have used the annual budget hearing to criticize the mayor’s policies and management of the city. But with Democrats now in control of both legislative chambers, the mayor found himself largely in agreement with lawmakers and their priorities on everything from school aid and transit funding to criminal justice reform, rent regulation and marijuana legalization.</p> <p>He called on the Legislature to give the city design-build authority for infrastructure projects, pushed for the expansion of a speed camera and red light camera program in the city, asked for repeal of Section 50-a of the state civil rights law, which prevents disclosure of police officer disciplinary records, and advocated for a commercial vacancy tax to fight a crisis of vacant storefronts in the city.</p> <p>De Blasio appealed to the Legislature to aid New York City in avoiding what he said is nearly $600 million in proposed cuts and cost shifts included in the governor’s budget. He reiterated the city’s slightly more rocky budgetary prospects that he raised in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8266-citing-several-causes-for-concern-de-blasio-presents-still-growing-budget-plan-of-92-2-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his own $92.2 billion preliminary budget proposal</a> last week, where he noted that his administration is implementing a PEG (program to eliminate the gap) for the first time, with the goal of $750 million in total savings across agencies by the time the mayor releases his own executive budget plan in April (at which point he’ll also have to factor in the final state budget, which is due by April 1). City agency cutbacks, he warned, would be exacerbated if the governor’s budget passes in its current form.</p> <p>The mayor blamed nearly half the Cuomo “cuts” on education funding. Those include a $148 million shortfall in mandated spending on charter schools and special education services and a newly proposed school funding formula that de Blasio said would create a “winners and losers situation” by shifting existing funding away from needy schools. “Although I am certain the proposal’s well-intended, there are real problems with it,” he said under questioning from Assemblymember Ed Braunstein. The governor’s office has disputed de Blasio’s characterizations of “cuts,” noting that some of the mayor’s assessment is based on faulty expectations by the city.</p> <p>De Blasio also insisted, as he has often done, that the state should provide full funding under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision, which would mean about $1.2 billion in additional fair student funding for the city. “We should all be outraged that something that was decided by our highest court to help our children….somehow has not been brought to full fruition,” he later said. Again on this topic, Cuomo has disagreed with the mayor’s interpretation, which is shared by many Democratic officials, with the governor saying that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity has been paid off and is a thing of the past.</p> <p>De Blasio did commend the governor for backing a three-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, which Republicans often used as a cudgel against the mayor in order to extract concessions from the city. At Monday’s hearing, the mayor was able to tout his administration’s success with little pushback, pointing to record-high graduation rates.</p> <p>Senator Robert Jackson, however, did prod the mayor for more accountability within the system. “I don’t believe in control...I believe in authority with oversight at an appropriate level,” Jackson said.</p> <p>De Blasio was willing to concede, “The phrase might be better called mayoral accountability.” At various points, he said that his administration is seeking greater input from parents on issues such as school closures and consolidation, though it could always do better. And he also defended his authority to appoint the schools chancellor through a discretionary process. A nationwide public process would undermine the city’s ability to hire top-notch educators, he said. “The power of [mayoral control] is, everyone here and all the parents of New York City get to hold me accountable,” he said. “That was not true in the past.”</p> <p>Legislators focused a significant amount of time on the MTA and proposals to find sustainable sources of revenue for the beleaguered authority, responsible for the subways and buses, while making its operations more efficient. Cuomo has proposed a congestion pricing system with some details left undetermined, but that would, among other things, give the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority control over city streets. And he has said the city should split halfway any remaining MTA capital shortfall after congestion pricing revenue is counted. The governor has also been railing against the MTA structure and leadership, who he appointed, and has been arguing for greater control of the agency, which he already effectively controls.</p> <p>De Blasio has rejected congestion pricing as a silver bullet to solve the MTA’s woes and has said he would prefer a millionaire’s tax to raise the requisite funds for subways and buses. He repeated that argument at the hearing and said the MTA would need a “multi-element” solution that includes several different long-term streams of revenue, including perhaps a mansion tax, an internet sales tax, and revenue from legalization of recreational marijuana use, and a lockbox to ensure congestion pricing revenue is not diverted away from the MTA. Splitting capital costs with the state, he said, would be overly burdensome on the city’s already massive ten-year capital plan, which hit $100 billion for the first time when he released it last week.</p> <p>He also insisted he could only support a congestion pricing plan that had “hardship exemptions”, which went down well with some legislators but not others. For instance, Senator Jim Gaughran, a Long Island Democrat, agreed, saying he hadn’t seen a feasible proposal yet. He suggested a regional program that could also take into account commuters who use the Long Island Rail Road and bus systems, and a carve out for small businesses. Democratic Assemblymember Bobby Carroll of Brooklyn, on the other hand, said the mayor’s insistence on a progressive congestion pricing proposal seemed “disingenuous” since various carve outs would render the program insufficient.</p> <p>“I think it’s a balance point,” de Blasio responded. “I think there’s a way to figure out what is a fair hardship exemption and what is not, what does it do to our revenue and what revenue we need.”</p> <p>And though de Blasio has feuded with Cuomo over blame for the MTA’s failings, he generally supported the concept of giving more control to the governor. “I liken it to mayoral accountability for schools,” he said.</p> <p>De Blasio also found himself defending his role in the deal to bring an Amazon campus and an estimated 25,000 to 40,000 jobs to Queens, which would give the tech giant $3 billion in tax incentives and grants. To persuade Amazon, the mayor and governor struck an agreement to circumvent the local City Council-led land use process, drawing widespread criticism.</p> <p>De Blasio insisted on Monday that the $3 billion in incentives the company will receive is out of the city’s control -- most of the tax breaks are as-of-right incentives that Amazon would receive like any other company based on its location and job-creation, and $500 million of it is coming from the state in a capital grant. And he also revealed that he did not negotiate with the company to ensure neutrality if its workers attempt to unionize. When asked by Senator Jessica Ramos, a former de Blasio aide, he said he only insisted that the campus be built by union labor and that building services jobs should go to union workers. De Blasio has repeatedly said that he will continue to put pressure on Amazon related to its approach to employee unionization, and that the larger New York City pro-union environment will also play a role.</p> <p>In back-and-forth with lawmakers, de Blasio also made promises, some concrete and some speculative. He said that a commission looking at the city’s property tax system would release its recommendations this year. He said the city could shave years off the Rikers Island jail closure plan if a variety of criminal justice reforms are passed by the state. He said he would work with legislators to introduce a commercial vacancy tax bill in the coming weeks. And he promised to invest in improved bus service in the city even if congestion pricing does not come to pass.</p> <p>Of course, there were moments when de Blasio also pushed back. Senator John Liu, a Queens Democrat and 2013 primary opponent, pushed the mayor on his “seemingly magical solution” to expand healthcare access to 600,000 uninsured New Yorkers at an eventual cost of $100 million annually. Liu wondered whether that would mean the state could pass a single-payer program that doesn’t include New York City. “I would like to say yes to that but I can’t,” de Blasio responded, noting that single-payer healthcare would be a better option.</p> <p>Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican who ran against de Blasio in 2017, noted that the mayor was raising alarms about budget shortfalls in the city while also increasing spending by $3 billion. “If we are anticipating all these problems with less revenue coming into the city, why are you continuing to increase the budget dramatically?” she wondered. She also asked the mayor to cap increases of the city’s property tax levy, one of the few tax burdens under the city’s control.</p> <p>De Blasio did agree that the city needs a “more equitable solution” to property taxes though he disagreed that the city should cap the levy. He also defended the city’s budget more broadly, emphasizing that much of the increased spending has gone to pay increases for the municipal workforce in new labor agreements reached under his administration which had lapsed for years.</p> <p>The state Legislature will continue budget hearings over the next few weeks before each house -- or perhaps both houses together -- release responses to the governor’s proposal. First, Cuomo will release 30-day amendments to his budget plan. Negotiations will heat up in March as the April 1 state budget deadline looms.</p> <p>[Read:<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8217-9-key-takeaways-for-new-york-city-from-cuomo-s-state-of-the-state-and-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> 9 Key Takeaways for New York City from Cuomo's State of the State and Budget</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Creating a Single-Payer Health Care System That Works for All New Yorkers 2019-02-11T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8273-creating-a-single-payer-health-care-system-that-works-for-all-new-yorkers Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/32965544398_52ab5dc21e_z.jpg" alt="health care is a right" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In November, New Yorkers voted for a united government in Albany with a resounding directive: fix our broken healthcare system. Those election results are directly linked to the financial strain New Yorkers are facing as they struggle to choose between paying for their medication, premiums, long-term care, and basic needs, such as food or housing.</p> <p>The high costs of healthcare in our state have devastated hundreds of thousands of New York families by bankrupting those who are underinsured or forcing them to forgo treatment due to the financial burden it usually causes. According to the Campaign for New York Health, approximately 1 million New Yorkers still do not have health insurance; 20,000 New Yorkers have died due to their lack of coverage in the last ten years; and millions more would be bankrupt if faced with a medical emergency under their current health care plan.</p> <p>The New York Health Act (NYHA) is the only option on the table that would provide comprehensive healthcare coverage to all New Yorkers. It would extend coverage to those that currently have no access while providing quality and comprehensive care to New Yorkers who have been traditionally underinsured.</p> <p>This year, we are going one step further. We are introducing a version of the NYHA that aims to close an additional gap in our healthcare system by integrating long-term care coverage into the legislation. This shift in policy will address our state’s long-term care crisis and meet the healthcare needs of seniors, people with disabilities, as well as countless family caregivers, who are primarily women, for generations to come.</p> <p>The benefits of including long-term care in the NYHA will not only be felt by those who will now be able to afford assisted living, nursing home care, or home health care, but it will also have a rippling effect on our economy. In the Northwest Bronx, where we both live and work, thousands of home health aides, care workers, and unpaid caregivers have to withstand low wages, few benefits, and not enough investment in training and retention services. The current system is financially debilitating to families, those who require care, and the workforce that is tasked with administering care, all of whom are predominantly women struggling to provide for their loved ones. For instance, nationally, Latinx family caregivers spend 44% of their annual income providing caregiving services, while African-American family caregivers spend 34% of their income.</p> <p>A healthcare system that guarantees long-term care coverage would help ease the financial burden of thousands of families across our state while dramatically improving the system for those who receive and provide care. According to a study recently released by the RAND Corporation, even with the addition of long-term care, the NYHA would cost less than what is being spent under the current healthcare system. It is simply the most fiscally responsible step to take.</p> <p>The majority of New Yorkers have spoken loud and clear. They are demanding a healthcare system that works for them and not for the most powerful corporations. This new version of the NYHA and our new leadership in Albany bring us one-step closer to making healthcare a right and not a privilege for all New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />State Senator Gustavo Rivera is the Senate sponsor of the New York Health Act. Karla Lawrence is a direct care worker specializing in gerontology and long-term care; she is a member of 1199 SEIU and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and a leader in the New York Caring Majority.</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/graphics/2018/podcast18/32965544398_52ab5dc21e_z.jpg" alt="health care is a right" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In November, New Yorkers voted for a united government in Albany with a resounding directive: fix our broken healthcare system. Those election results are directly linked to the financial strain New Yorkers are facing as they struggle to choose between paying for their medication, premiums, long-term care, and basic needs, such as food or housing.</p> <p>The high costs of healthcare in our state have devastated hundreds of thousands of New York families by bankrupting those who are underinsured or forcing them to forgo treatment due to the financial burden it usually causes. According to the Campaign for New York Health, approximately 1 million New Yorkers still do not have health insurance; 20,000 New Yorkers have died due to their lack of coverage in the last ten years; and millions more would be bankrupt if faced with a medical emergency under their current health care plan.</p> <p>The New York Health Act (NYHA) is the only option on the table that would provide comprehensive healthcare coverage to all New Yorkers. It would extend coverage to those that currently have no access while providing quality and comprehensive care to New Yorkers who have been traditionally underinsured.</p> <p>This year, we are going one step further. We are introducing a version of the NYHA that aims to close an additional gap in our healthcare system by integrating long-term care coverage into the legislation. This shift in policy will address our state’s long-term care crisis and meet the healthcare needs of seniors, people with disabilities, as well as countless family caregivers, who are primarily women, for generations to come.</p> <p>The benefits of including long-term care in the NYHA will not only be felt by those who will now be able to afford assisted living, nursing home care, or home health care, but it will also have a rippling effect on our economy. In the Northwest Bronx, where we both live and work, thousands of home health aides, care workers, and unpaid caregivers have to withstand low wages, few benefits, and not enough investment in training and retention services. The current system is financially debilitating to families, those who require care, and the workforce that is tasked with administering care, all of whom are predominantly women struggling to provide for their loved ones. For instance, nationally, Latinx family caregivers spend 44% of their annual income providing caregiving services, while African-American family caregivers spend 34% of their income.</p> <p>A healthcare system that guarantees long-term care coverage would help ease the financial burden of thousands of families across our state while dramatically improving the system for those who receive and provide care. According to a study recently released by the RAND Corporation, even with the addition of long-term care, the NYHA would cost less than what is being spent under the current healthcare system. It is simply the most fiscally responsible step to take.</p> <p>The majority of New Yorkers have spoken loud and clear. They are demanding a healthcare system that works for them and not for the most powerful corporations. This new version of the NYHA and our new leadership in Albany bring us one-step closer to making healthcare a right and not a privilege for all New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />State Senator Gustavo Rivera is the Senate sponsor of the New York Health Act. Karla Lawrence is a direct care worker specializing in gerontology and long-term care; she is a member of 1199 SEIU and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and a leader in the New York Caring Majority.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: State Senator Alessandra Biaggi 2019-02-06T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8261-max-murphy-podcast-state-senator-alessandra-biaggi Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>February 7, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: State Senator Alessandra Biaggi<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/alessandra-biaggi-150.jpg" alt="alessandra biaggi 150" width="150" height="137" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Alessandra Biaggi shocked the New York political world when she defeated then-State Senator Jeff Klein in last September's primary. After hitting the ground running upon taking office in January, State Senator Biaggi joined the show to discuss the work that has been done so far under unified Democratic governance at the state level and what's coming up next, including her work as the new chair of the Senate's ethics committee and where things may get choppy with regard to negotiations with Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/571263756&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>February 7, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: State Senator Alessandra Biaggi<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/podcast19/alessandra-biaggi-150.jpg" alt="alessandra biaggi 150" width="150" height="137" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Alessandra Biaggi shocked the New York political world when she defeated then-State Senator Jeff Klein in last September's primary. After hitting the ground running upon taking office in January, State Senator Biaggi joined the show to discuss the work that has been done so far under unified Democratic governance at the state level and what's coming up next, including her work as the new chair of the Senate's ethics committee and where things may get choppy with regard to negotiations with Governor Andrew Cuomo.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/571263756&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Electronic Poll Books Next Step in New York Election Overhaul 2019-02-03T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-03T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8255-electronic-poll-books-next-step-in-new-york-election-overhaul Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/express_poll_e-poll_book.png" alt="express poll e poll book" width="600" height="334" /></p> <p>(photo: Elections Systems &amp; Software)</p> <hr /> <p>As Democrats in the state Legislature continue a rapid pace of passing legislation to start the new session, the state Senate seems poised to advance another round of election and voting reforms, including approving the use of electronic poll books to administer elections.</p> <p>Electronic poll books, used in <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/vrm-states-electronic-poll-books">at least</a> 34 states and the District of Columbia, are a fairly simple but significant instrument in making elections more efficient, experts and advocates argue. They make voting faster, preventing long lines at polling sites, save costs in the long run, and are easier to update and maintain compared to the paper lists currently used in New York.</p> <p>Some advocates also say e-poll books, as they’re often called, are essential in implementing improvements to voter registration processes, which the state Legislature put into motion last month, and helpful in the implementation of the significant shift of early voting, also part of the recently-passed package.</p> <p>On Monday, the state Senate’s elections committee held a vote and approved&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s508">a bill</a> allowing electronic poll books, among other items on the agenda. The bill will now head to the Senate floor for a vote. Senator Zellnor Myrie, committee chair and the sponsor of the bill, is confident e-poll books will subsequently be passed by the full Legislature, in advance of this year’s primary election in June. The legislation does not mandate the use of e-poll books.</p> <p>“The larger reforms that we’ve instituted and that we’re looking at for the rest of the session are going to be made much easier by us modernizing how we see whether or not someone has voted,” Myrie said in a phone interview. “So electronic poll books is something that has wide consensus.”</p> <p>When Democrats took control of the Legislature this year after flipping the Senate, they quickly passed a series of voting and elections measures including early voting, consolidating the federal and state primary to June, and preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds. They also passed measures to amend the state constitution to implement no-excuse absentee ballots and same-day voter registration -- amendments that will require passage by the next Legislature seated in 2021 and then approval by voters through a referendum.</p> <p>Advocates say that early voting and same-day voter registration in particular would be far more efficient with electronic poll books.</p> <p>“Implementing early voting in New York City without electronic poll books would be an administrative disaster,” said Rachel Bloom, director of public policy and programs at Citizens Union, a government reform group. “To have effective and organized early voting in New York, we need to allow for the use of electronic pollbooks.”</p> <p>Other advocates aren’t as worried but agree that electronic poll books should be the next step for the Legislature. “You don’t need to have electronic poll books to do early voting but it would make it easier,” said Jennifer Wilson, director of program and policy for League of Women Voters of New York State. She noted, for instance, that Texas implemented early voting more than a decade ago but started using electronic poll books about five years ago. But for same-day registration, she said it would be “crucial.”</p> <p>Jarret Berg, executive director of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, concurred. “I don’t think it’s an indispensable component but it certainly makes a lot of sense and I don’t see how you could do [early voting] effectively without some kind of real-time reconciliation,” he said. “We need to move away from this really sloppy paper-based system.”</p> <p>The advocates do acknowledge challenges and concerns about electronic poll books. Among them is the upfront cost that local counties may have to bear for purchasing equipment, like digital tablets, on which the poll books would be stored (localities may look to the state for help in paying for such equipment). Poll workers also tend to be older and could struggle with the technology. “There’s a digital divide,” Berg conceded. Training would be necessary regardless.</p> <p>There are also concerns about the security of voter lists, made that much more severe after Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Digital devices could be vulnerable to hacking, necessitating standalone devices that would not be connected to the internet and would have to be individually updated. This is similar to the electronic ballot scanners that are not internet-connected and therefore far less susceptible to hacking.</p> <p>Myrie is aware of those concerns but, as the advocates also argue, says the benefits outweigh the costs. “This is really about making and administering elections much simpler,” he said. “It allows for cost savings. In the future we’re not gonna have to pay for storage of all these [paper] poll books. It is a much more efficient way to do things so that...some of the lines that we have become unfortunately very accustomed to when we go to vote are reduced by a significant measure if we make the process of checking a registration easier.”</p> <p>Electronic poll books also have bipartisan support. Before Myrie took over the elections committee, Republican Senator Fred Akshar had sponsored a bill, with companion legislation put forward by Democratic Assemblymember Michael Cusick that was repeatedly passed by the Assembly. Governor Andrew Cuomo also backs the measure but some say his support would have to be backed up with funding to help counties transition to the new system, money he did not include in his executive budget proposal.</p> <p>“Governor Cuomo proposed a comprehensive set of reforms in the Executive Budget to make voting easier, including authorizing electronic poll books,” Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson, said in a statement. “We will work with the legislature to identify additional resources to the extent necessary.”</p> <p>Myrie is prepared to push for those resources; as some are already doing when it comes to funding early voting. It’s not clear what the initial and ongoing costs of the e-poll books may be. “Even if its a significant cost, I’ve been saying and will continue to say, to go from worst to first is gonna require some pain,” he said of New York’s voting laws.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article was updated after the Senate elections committee held a vote and passed the e-poll book bill. &nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/express_poll_e-poll_book.png" alt="express poll e poll book" width="600" height="334" /></p> <p>(photo: Elections Systems &amp; Software)</p> <hr /> <p>As Democrats in the state Legislature continue a rapid pace of passing legislation to start the new session, the state Senate seems poised to advance another round of election and voting reforms, including approving the use of electronic poll books to administer elections.</p> <p>Electronic poll books, used in <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/vrm-states-electronic-poll-books">at least</a> 34 states and the District of Columbia, are a fairly simple but significant instrument in making elections more efficient, experts and advocates argue. They make voting faster, preventing long lines at polling sites, save costs in the long run, and are easier to update and maintain compared to the paper lists currently used in New York.</p> <p>Some advocates also say e-poll books, as they’re often called, are essential in implementing improvements to voter registration processes, which the state Legislature put into motion last month, and helpful in the implementation of the significant shift of early voting, also part of the recently-passed package.</p> <p>On Monday, the state Senate’s elections committee held a vote and approved&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s508">a bill</a> allowing electronic poll books, among other items on the agenda. The bill will now head to the Senate floor for a vote. Senator Zellnor Myrie, committee chair and the sponsor of the bill, is confident e-poll books will subsequently be passed by the full Legislature, in advance of this year’s primary election in June. The legislation does not mandate the use of e-poll books.</p> <p>“The larger reforms that we’ve instituted and that we’re looking at for the rest of the session are going to be made much easier by us modernizing how we see whether or not someone has voted,” Myrie said in a phone interview. “So electronic poll books is something that has wide consensus.”</p> <p>When Democrats took control of the Legislature this year after flipping the Senate, they quickly passed a series of voting and elections measures including early voting, consolidating the federal and state primary to June, and preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds. They also passed measures to amend the state constitution to implement no-excuse absentee ballots and same-day voter registration -- amendments that will require passage by the next Legislature seated in 2021 and then approval by voters through a referendum.</p> <p>Advocates say that early voting and same-day voter registration in particular would be far more efficient with electronic poll books.</p> <p>“Implementing early voting in New York City without electronic poll books would be an administrative disaster,” said Rachel Bloom, director of public policy and programs at Citizens Union, a government reform group. “To have effective and organized early voting in New York, we need to allow for the use of electronic pollbooks.”</p> <p>Other advocates aren’t as worried but agree that electronic poll books should be the next step for the Legislature. “You don’t need to have electronic poll books to do early voting but it would make it easier,” said Jennifer Wilson, director of program and policy for League of Women Voters of New York State. She noted, for instance, that Texas implemented early voting more than a decade ago but started using electronic poll books about five years ago. But for same-day registration, she said it would be “crucial.”</p> <p>Jarret Berg, executive director of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, concurred. “I don’t think it’s an indispensable component but it certainly makes a lot of sense and I don’t see how you could do [early voting] effectively without some kind of real-time reconciliation,” he said. “We need to move away from this really sloppy paper-based system.”</p> <p>The advocates do acknowledge challenges and concerns about electronic poll books. Among them is the upfront cost that local counties may have to bear for purchasing equipment, like digital tablets, on which the poll books would be stored (localities may look to the state for help in paying for such equipment). Poll workers also tend to be older and could struggle with the technology. “There’s a digital divide,” Berg conceded. Training would be necessary regardless.</p> <p>There are also concerns about the security of voter lists, made that much more severe after Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Digital devices could be vulnerable to hacking, necessitating standalone devices that would not be connected to the internet and would have to be individually updated. This is similar to the electronic ballot scanners that are not internet-connected and therefore far less susceptible to hacking.</p> <p>Myrie is aware of those concerns but, as the advocates also argue, says the benefits outweigh the costs. “This is really about making and administering elections much simpler,” he said. “It allows for cost savings. In the future we’re not gonna have to pay for storage of all these [paper] poll books. It is a much more efficient way to do things so that...some of the lines that we have become unfortunately very accustomed to when we go to vote are reduced by a significant measure if we make the process of checking a registration easier.”</p> <p>Electronic poll books also have bipartisan support. Before Myrie took over the elections committee, Republican Senator Fred Akshar had sponsored a bill, with companion legislation put forward by Democratic Assemblymember Michael Cusick that was repeatedly passed by the Assembly. Governor Andrew Cuomo also backs the measure but some say his support would have to be backed up with funding to help counties transition to the new system, money he did not include in his executive budget proposal.</p> <p>“Governor Cuomo proposed a comprehensive set of reforms in the Executive Budget to make voting easier, including authorizing electronic poll books,” Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson, said in a statement. “We will work with the legislature to identify additional resources to the extent necessary.”</p> <p>Myrie is prepared to push for those resources; as some are already doing when it comes to funding early voting. It’s not clear what the initial and ongoing costs of the e-poll books may be. “Even if its a significant cost, I’ve been saying and will continue to say, to go from worst to first is gonna require some pain,” he said of New York’s voting laws.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article was updated after the Senate elections committee held a vote and passed the e-poll book bill. &nbsp;</p>
First Public Advocate Debate; Cuomo Manhattan Speech & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, Feb. 4 2019-02-03T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-03T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8251-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-february-4 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" alt="New York City Hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>This week the state Legislature will continue its very busy start to the year, including more budget hearings, while Governor Andrew Cuomo will give a speech in Manhattan on Thursday.</p> <p>The main event of the week might be the first debate in the special election for Public Advocate, which will take place <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8237-11-candidates-qualify-for-first-debate-in-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">among 10 candidates</a> on Wednesday night (there are 17 candidateson the Feb. 26 ballot). Tuesday will mark just three weeks until the vote; the second debate will be on Feb. 20.</p> <p>There are several interesting hearings at the City Council this week, but perhaps most notable is the Thursday oversight hearing on police discipline, which comes just after the NYPD received and responded to an independent report commissioned by Commissioner James O'Neill that found the police department's approach to discipline is secretive and inconsistent. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/nyregion/nypd-discipline-transparency.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">O'Neill promised</a> some reforms, while also reiterating support for a state law change that would allow more transparency around officer discipline.</p> <p>There's a lot to be aware of - see our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>At 11:30 a.m. Monday, Governor Cuomo and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will hold a press conference in the state Capitol.</p> <p>At 1:30 p.m. Monday,&nbsp;"On Monday, Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza will make an announcement about Pre-K and 3K. This event is open press. There will be no Q-and-A." The announcement will take place at PS 128 Audubon on West 169th Street.</p> <p>At the City Council on Monday:<br />--The Committee on Governmental Operations will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “city agency responsiveness to 311 service requests,” as well as to discuss a proposed law to require 311 operators to indicate to callers when an agency can’t respond to a complaint.<br />--The Committee on General Welfare will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “client experience at HRA centers,” as well as to discuss several related proposed laws, including to require all HRA Job Center or SNAP employees to undergo de-escalation training, require a social worker to be present at all HRA facilities, and requiring space for children at HRA facilities. "The hearing comes after a highly publicized incident in December when Jazmine Headley entered a Department of Social Services (DSS) Job Center after her child care benefits were terminated. Ms. Headley allegedly waited over four hours to speak to a supervisor and subsequently faced a physical encounter with HRA and NYPD officers as Ms. Headley’s child was removed from her arms."</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will deliver remarks at both Council hearings. Later in the day, in his Acting Public Advocate role, Johnson will continue his five-borough bus rider survey tour in Queens,&nbsp;"talking to bus riders at the Jamaica Center - Parsons/Archer Station in Queens with Council Members Adrienne Adams, Rory Lancman, and I. Daneek Miller."</p> <p>The State Legislature will be in session on Monday in Albany.</p> <p>At 10 a.m. Monday in the Capitol,&nbsp;"Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda will address the human rights violations at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn involving lack of electricity and heat...The senator will be joined by Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Senator Jamaal Bailey."</p> <p>On Monday, the State Legislature will hold two joint budget hearings: on housing at 11 a.m. and on workforce development at 3 p.m.</p> <p><strong>Tuesday</strong><br />The State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.</p> <p>"Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins joined Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, Senator Todd Kaminsky, and members of the Senate and Assembly Majority Conferences to announce support for historic legislation to ban oil and natural gas drilling in New York's coastal areas. The legislation (S.2316), sponsored by Senator Kaminsky, will protect Long Island and New York from the Trump Administration’s dangerous offshore drilling expansion efforts. The Senate Majority will pass this critical legislation on Tuesday, February 5."</p> <p>At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, the State Legislature will hold a joint budget hearing on health and Medicaid.</p> <p><strong>Wednesday</strong><br />At the City Council on Wednesday:<br />--The Committee on Public Housing will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “NYCHA management of TPA funds.”<br />--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 10:45 a.m.<br />--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.<br />--The Committee on Civil and Human Rights will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “discrimination testing and commission-initiated cases at the NYC Commission on Human Rights.”</p> <p>At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the State Legislature will hold a joint budget hearing on elementary and secondary education.</p> <p>Wednesday at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, the latest episode of Max &amp; Murphy will air; catch it on 99.5FM or streaming at wbai.org.</p> <p>At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the first of two televised debates in the special election for Public Advocate. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8237-11-candidates-qualify-for-first-debate-in-public-advocate-special-election">There are 10 participating candidates</a>, who met the financial threshold needed, out of the 17 who will be on the February 26 ballot. The debate will air on NY1 and be streamed online by the network, which is co-sponsoring the Campaign Finance Board-sanctioned debate with POLITICO New York, Citizens Union, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Latino Leadership Institute, The League of Women Voters of the City of New York, NAACP New York State Conference Metropolitan Council, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and East Kings County Alumnae Chapter.</p> <p><strong>Thursday</strong><br />At the City Council on Thursday:<br />--The Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed laws requiring the Parks Department to report more detailed information on its capital expenditures, requiring the Department to provide portable defibrillators to all public pools and staffing all pools with someone trained to use it, and to allow the Department to distribute extra defibrillators to sports leagues after fulfilling their obligation to youth baseball and softball leagues.<br />--The Committees on Justice System and Public Safety will meet jointly at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding police discipline, and to discuss several related proposed laws, including laws requiring the NYPD to report monthly on complaints of police misconduct, requiring the NYPD to study the feasibility of an “internal disciplinary matrix,” requiring District Attorneys to report detailed information on criminal prosecutions, requiring the NYPD to publish its disciplinary guidelines and reports, requiring the NYPD to provide DAs with disciplinary records, and requiring the NYPD to report on arrests for obstructing government administration and resisting arrest. The committees will also discuss a resolution calling for the state to repeal section 50-a of the civil rights law.<br />--The Committee on Health will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss a proposed law allowing individuals to request that the name of a physician whose license has been revoked be removed from their birth certificate.</p> <p>At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the State Legislature will hold a joint budget hearing on mental hygiene.</p> <p>At 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Governor Cuomo will <a href="https://abny.org/meetinginfo.php?id=111&amp;ts=1548874896">speak</a> at the Association for a Better New York at the Midtown Hilton, discussing infrastructure.</p> <p>At 2 p.m. Thursday, the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism will host a <a href="http://ccem.journalism.cuny.edu/upcoming-event/forum-with-nyc-public-advocate-candidates/">debate</a> for Public Advocate candidates. NY1’s Errol Louis will moderate. The participating candidates are former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Rafael Espinal and Ydanis Rodriguez, and Assemblymembers Michael Blake and Nomiki Konst.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend</strong><br />At 8:15 a.m. Friday, the Center for New York City Law will host Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton for a “CityLaw Breakfast” focusing on “rebuilding New York’s airports for the 21st century.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show at 10 a.m. Friday.</p> <p>***<br />Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" alt="New York City Hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>This week the state Legislature will continue its very busy start to the year, including more budget hearings, while Governor Andrew Cuomo will give a speech in Manhattan on Thursday.</p> <p>The main event of the week might be the first debate in the special election for Public Advocate, which will take place <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8237-11-candidates-qualify-for-first-debate-in-public-advocate-special-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener">among 10 candidates</a> on Wednesday night (there are 17 candidateson the Feb. 26 ballot). Tuesday will mark just three weeks until the vote; the second debate will be on Feb. 20.</p> <p>There are several interesting hearings at the City Council this week, but perhaps most notable is the Thursday oversight hearing on police discipline, which comes just after the NYPD received and responded to an independent report commissioned by Commissioner James O'Neill that found the police department's approach to discipline is secretive and inconsistent. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/nyregion/nypd-discipline-transparency.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">O'Neill promised</a> some reforms, while also reiterating support for a state law change that would allow more transparency around officer discipline.</p> <p>There's a lot to be aware of - see our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>At 11:30 a.m. Monday, Governor Cuomo and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will hold a press conference in the state Capitol.</p> <p>At 1:30 p.m. Monday,&nbsp;"On Monday, Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza will make an announcement about Pre-K and 3K. This event is open press. There will be no Q-and-A." The announcement will take place at PS 128 Audubon on West 169th Street.</p> <p>At the City Council on Monday:<br />--The Committee on Governmental Operations will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “city agency responsiveness to 311 service requests,” as well as to discuss a proposed law to require 311 operators to indicate to callers when an agency can’t respond to a complaint.<br />--The Committee on General Welfare will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “client experience at HRA centers,” as well as to discuss several related proposed laws, including to require all HRA Job Center or SNAP employees to undergo de-escalation training, require a social worker to be present at all HRA facilities, and requiring space for children at HRA facilities. "The hearing comes after a highly publicized incident in December when Jazmine Headley entered a Department of Social Services (DSS) Job Center after her child care benefits were terminated. Ms. Headley allegedly waited over four hours to speak to a supervisor and subsequently faced a physical encounter with HRA and NYPD officers as Ms. Headley’s child was removed from her arms."</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will deliver remarks at both Council hearings. Later in the day, in his Acting Public Advocate role, Johnson will continue his five-borough bus rider survey tour in Queens,&nbsp;"talking to bus riders at the Jamaica Center - Parsons/Archer Station in Queens with Council Members Adrienne Adams, Rory Lancman, and I. Daneek Miller."</p> <p>The State Legislature will be in session on Monday in Albany.</p> <p>At 10 a.m. Monday in the Capitol,&nbsp;"Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda will address the human rights violations at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn involving lack of electricity and heat...The senator will be joined by Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Senator Jamaal Bailey."</p> <p>On Monday, the State Legislature will hold two joint budget hearings: on housing at 11 a.m. and on workforce development at 3 p.m.</p> <p><strong>Tuesday</strong><br />The State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.</p> <p>"Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins joined Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, Senator Todd Kaminsky, and members of the Senate and Assembly Majority Conferences to announce support for historic legislation to ban oil and natural gas drilling in New York's coastal areas. The legislation (S.2316), sponsored by Senator Kaminsky, will protect Long Island and New York from the Trump Administration’s dangerous offshore drilling expansion efforts. The Senate Majority will pass this critical legislation on Tuesday, February 5."</p> <p>At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, the State Legislature will hold a joint budget hearing on health and Medicaid.</p> <p><strong>Wednesday</strong><br />At the City Council on Wednesday:<br />--The Committee on Public Housing will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “NYCHA management of TPA funds.”<br />--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 10:45 a.m.<br />--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.<br />--The Committee on Civil and Human Rights will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “discrimination testing and commission-initiated cases at the NYC Commission on Human Rights.”</p> <p>At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the State Legislature will hold a joint budget hearing on elementary and secondary education.</p> <p>Wednesday at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, the latest episode of Max &amp; Murphy will air; catch it on 99.5FM or streaming at wbai.org.</p> <p>At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the first of two televised debates in the special election for Public Advocate. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8237-11-candidates-qualify-for-first-debate-in-public-advocate-special-election">There are 10 participating candidates</a>, who met the financial threshold needed, out of the 17 who will be on the February 26 ballot. The debate will air on NY1 and be streamed online by the network, which is co-sponsoring the Campaign Finance Board-sanctioned debate with POLITICO New York, Citizens Union, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Latino Leadership Institute, The League of Women Voters of the City of New York, NAACP New York State Conference Metropolitan Council, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and East Kings County Alumnae Chapter.</p> <p><strong>Thursday</strong><br />At the City Council on Thursday:<br />--The Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed laws requiring the Parks Department to report more detailed information on its capital expenditures, requiring the Department to provide portable defibrillators to all public pools and staffing all pools with someone trained to use it, and to allow the Department to distribute extra defibrillators to sports leagues after fulfilling their obligation to youth baseball and softball leagues.<br />--The Committees on Justice System and Public Safety will meet jointly at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding police discipline, and to discuss several related proposed laws, including laws requiring the NYPD to report monthly on complaints of police misconduct, requiring the NYPD to study the feasibility of an “internal disciplinary matrix,” requiring District Attorneys to report detailed information on criminal prosecutions, requiring the NYPD to publish its disciplinary guidelines and reports, requiring the NYPD to provide DAs with disciplinary records, and requiring the NYPD to report on arrests for obstructing government administration and resisting arrest. The committees will also discuss a resolution calling for the state to repeal section 50-a of the civil rights law.<br />--The Committee on Health will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss a proposed law allowing individuals to request that the name of a physician whose license has been revoked be removed from their birth certificate.</p> <p>At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the State Legislature will hold a joint budget hearing on mental hygiene.</p> <p>At 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Governor Cuomo will <a href="https://abny.org/meetinginfo.php?id=111&amp;ts=1548874896">speak</a> at the Association for a Better New York at the Midtown Hilton, discussing infrastructure.</p> <p>At 2 p.m. Thursday, the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism will host a <a href="http://ccem.journalism.cuny.edu/upcoming-event/forum-with-nyc-public-advocate-candidates/">debate</a> for Public Advocate candidates. NY1’s Errol Louis will moderate. The participating candidates are former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Rafael Espinal and Ydanis Rodriguez, and Assemblymembers Michael Blake and Nomiki Konst.</p> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend</strong><br />At 8:15 a.m. Friday, the Center for New York City Law will host Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton for a “CityLaw Breakfast” focusing on “rebuilding New York’s airports for the 21st century.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show at 10 a.m. Friday.</p> <p>***<br />Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GothamGazette</a></p> New York Democrats on Eliminating Cash Bail: Not When, But How 2019-01-31T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-31T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8245-new-york-democrats-on-eliminating-cash-bail-not-when-but-how Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-provide-update-clinton.jpg" alt="gov cuomo provide update clinton" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: the governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Taking the stage at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park last September, Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to end cash bail “once and for all,” a move that would launch New York into the national spotlight with New Jersey and California. “In America you are still innocent until proven guilty,” he told the cheering crowd. “And that’s whether you’re black or white. That’s whether you’re rich or poor.”</p> <p>The elimination of the cash bail system, under which poor black and Hispanic New Yorkers are <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/05/19/report-rikers-still-full-of-new-yorkers-who-cant-afford-bail/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">disproportionately incarcerated</a> pre-trial, does seem imminent thanks to a new Democratic majority in the state Senate. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, whose chamber last year passed legislation that only limited cash bail, assured faith leaders at Trinity Chapel in Manhattan on Thursday that, “I support a 100-percent-ending-of-cash-bail system.”</p> <p>But big questions remain: who will be eligible for pretrial incarceration, what constraints will be put on judges, the reach of controversial ankle bracelets.</p> <p>Cuomo’s recently-released budget proposal calls for more extensive pretrial detention and monitoring than an advocate-backed bill in the Legislature, and several Democrats told Gotham Gazette they want broad judicial discretion on domestic violence cases: a red flag for advocates who see a window for bias. As Democrats use their new power to rapidly pass progressive legislation, bail reform, in all its complexity, could prove a test of how far they’ll go.</p> <p>“We have to remember there's a presumption of innocence,” warns Democratic Assemblymember Dan Quart of Manhattan. “The point of bail is not to judge or adjudicate people.”</p> <p>The New York City jail population has decreased by 1,500 over the last two years, according to a&nbsp;<a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5b6de4731aef1de914f43628/t/5c198f9af950b7863cd60bac/1545179066057/Progress+Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">December report</a> from the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice. Still, as of September more than a third of the 8,200 people in city jails were held pre-trial on misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies. More than 90 percent of the jail population is people of color. The commission, led by former chief judge Jonathan Lippman, estimates substantial bail reform could reduce the population by 3,000 people.</p> <p>Deputy Senate Leader Michael Gianaris of Queens likes to remind reporters that the <a href="https://justleadershipusa.org/campaign/freenewyork/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">FREEnewyork campaign</a>, composed of more than 150 grassroots groups, has dubbed his <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s3579/amendment/a" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bail reform bill</a> with Manhattan Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell the “gold standard.” It eliminates cash bail and was a non-starter in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>Under the Gianaris/O’Donnell bill, most defendants would be released on their own recognizance. Possible exceptions include witness intimidation cases, and felony cases where the defendant is accused of attempting to seriously injure another person.</p> <p>Anyone eligible for pretrial incarceration would be entitled to a hearing where a judge evaluates evidence and considers less-restrictive alternatives, like mandatory check-ins. These hearings would mark a “huge step forward,” says JoAnne Page, president of the Fortune Society, a nonprofit that provides prison reentry services. Currently, setting bail is “a decision that happens in a heartbeat.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s <a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy20/exec/artvii/ppgg-artvii.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget proposal</a> also eliminates cash bail and mandates pretrial hearings. However, his net of eligibility for pretrial detention is much wider, including Class A felonies like murder, conspiracy, and controlled substance charges; most violent B and C felonies like rape, assault and weapon possession (burglary and robbery are excluded); and cases where the judge deems the defendant a threat to the physical safety of someone in their family or household, regardless of the severity of the charges.</p> <p>Alphonso David, Cuomo’s counsel, told Gotham Gazette that the governor intentionally excluded controversial public safety <a href="https://civilrights.org/more-than-100-civil-rights-digital-justice-and-community-based-organizations-raise-concerns-about-pretrial-risk-assessment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">assessment tools</a> (which Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/city-state-n-y-jail-solution-article-1.3738231" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has endorsed</a>). These tools rely on <a href="https://craftmediabucket.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/PDFs/PSA-Risk-Factors-and-Formula.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">data points</a> like a defendant’s age and criminal history, and have been met with allegations of racial bias in <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/bail-reform-tech-justice/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New Jersey</a> and<a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/california-ended-cash-bail-but-may-have-replaced-it-with-something-even-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> California</a>.</p> <p>But if decarceration is the goal, advocates warn, the net of eligibility for pretrial incarceration must be much smaller -- lest judges balk at losing cash bail and fall back on detention.</p> <p>“Unfortunately, the same decision-makers who are deciding to set bail on our clients now are going to be the ones who decide whether or not, after an evidentiary hearing, to keep that person remanded,” says Legal Aid Society attorney Marie Ndiaye. “The only thing you can do to really, really decarcerate is just by really, really limiting the number of people who could even be eligible for that kind of treatment."</p> <p>Cuomo also wants electronic monitoring as an option for people charged with felonies and domestic violence misdemeanors. “When you have something like electronic monitoring there’s a very real risk that it means the expansion of social control,” warns Page, of the Fortune Society. “The threshold you pass before you put an electronic bracelet on someone is much lower than locking them up.”</p> <p>Last year, the Assembly passed a <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A10137&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Memo=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposal</a> that would have preserved cash bail and electronic monitoring in felony and domestic violence misdemeanor cases -- a broad category that includes verbal threats. “I'll be the first one to say the Assembly bill wasn't good enough,” Heastie told advocates Thursday.</p> <p>O’Donnell also dismissed the Walker bill as a relic earlier this month. “In previous years the Assembly would come up with bills we thought might pass muster in the Republican Senate,” he explained. “Those days are over. I would hope that my colleagues would come around and take this bolder approach.”</p> <p>But there is still substantial Democratic support in the Assembly for the domestic violence provisions in the Walker bill. “There are going to be enough Democrats, me among them, who will be raising the issue,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Scarsdale. “If we don't protect domestic violence [victims], I won't be voting for the bill.”</p> <p>“Whether it's cash bail or pretrial detention I'm not worried about that,” added Assemblymember Patricia Fahy of Albany. “My interest is the bottom line…that we are not tying any judicial hands in keeping our streets safe, or our households safe.”</p> <p>This is a point of entry for the state District Attorneys Association, which opposes expansive bail reform on the grounds that it curtails prosecutorial discretion. “We have serious concerns about, with the swipe of a pen, creating a proposal that has calamitous effects on public safety,” Albany County District Attorney David Soares told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Domestic violence advocates in the FREEnewyork campaign say this logic is at odds with the ultimate goal of significantly decreasing jail populations, and relies too heavily on the perceptions of law enforcement. “Particularly for LGBTQ people,” cautions Audacia Ray of the New York City Anti-Violence project, “the way police and prosecutors perceive what is happening is often faulty and racist.”</p> <p>Senate and Assembly leaders tell Gotham Gazette that they hope to come up with a compromise before budget negotiations, which are set to begin in earnest in March. A budget deal is due April 1. “The old ways of Albany involved trading one thing against an unrelated thing,” Gianaris said. “The new New York Senate is trying hard to break that mold.”</p> <p>“The tricky thing with bail,” he added, “is that if we don’t do it right, things can get worse rather than better.”</p> <p>

***
by Emma Whitford, Gotham Gazette
@emma_a_whitford

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-provide-update-clinton.jpg" alt="gov cuomo provide update clinton" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: the governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Taking the stage at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park last September, Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to end cash bail “once and for all,” a move that would launch New York into the national spotlight with New Jersey and California. “In America you are still innocent until proven guilty,” he told the cheering crowd. “And that’s whether you’re black or white. That’s whether you’re rich or poor.”</p> <p>The elimination of the cash bail system, under which poor black and Hispanic New Yorkers are <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/05/19/report-rikers-still-full-of-new-yorkers-who-cant-afford-bail/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">disproportionately incarcerated</a> pre-trial, does seem imminent thanks to a new Democratic majority in the state Senate. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, whose chamber last year passed legislation that only limited cash bail, assured faith leaders at Trinity Chapel in Manhattan on Thursday that, “I support a 100-percent-ending-of-cash-bail system.”</p> <p>But big questions remain: who will be eligible for pretrial incarceration, what constraints will be put on judges, the reach of controversial ankle bracelets.</p> <p>Cuomo’s recently-released budget proposal calls for more extensive pretrial detention and monitoring than an advocate-backed bill in the Legislature, and several Democrats told Gotham Gazette they want broad judicial discretion on domestic violence cases: a red flag for advocates who see a window for bias. As Democrats use their new power to rapidly pass progressive legislation, bail reform, in all its complexity, could prove a test of how far they’ll go.</p> <p>“We have to remember there's a presumption of innocence,” warns Democratic Assemblymember Dan Quart of Manhattan. “The point of bail is not to judge or adjudicate people.”</p> <p>The New York City jail population has decreased by 1,500 over the last two years, according to a&nbsp;<a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5b6de4731aef1de914f43628/t/5c198f9af950b7863cd60bac/1545179066057/Progress+Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">December report</a> from the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice. Still, as of September more than a third of the 8,200 people in city jails were held pre-trial on misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies. More than 90 percent of the jail population is people of color. The commission, led by former chief judge Jonathan Lippman, estimates substantial bail reform could reduce the population by 3,000 people.</p> <p>Deputy Senate Leader Michael Gianaris of Queens likes to remind reporters that the <a href="https://justleadershipusa.org/campaign/freenewyork/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">FREEnewyork campaign</a>, composed of more than 150 grassroots groups, has dubbed his <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s3579/amendment/a" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bail reform bill</a> with Manhattan Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell the “gold standard.” It eliminates cash bail and was a non-starter in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>Under the Gianaris/O’Donnell bill, most defendants would be released on their own recognizance. Possible exceptions include witness intimidation cases, and felony cases where the defendant is accused of attempting to seriously injure another person.</p> <p>Anyone eligible for pretrial incarceration would be entitled to a hearing where a judge evaluates evidence and considers less-restrictive alternatives, like mandatory check-ins. These hearings would mark a “huge step forward,” says JoAnne Page, president of the Fortune Society, a nonprofit that provides prison reentry services. Currently, setting bail is “a decision that happens in a heartbeat.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s <a href="https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy20/exec/artvii/ppgg-artvii.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget proposal</a> also eliminates cash bail and mandates pretrial hearings. However, his net of eligibility for pretrial detention is much wider, including Class A felonies like murder, conspiracy, and controlled substance charges; most violent B and C felonies like rape, assault and weapon possession (burglary and robbery are excluded); and cases where the judge deems the defendant a threat to the physical safety of someone in their family or household, regardless of the severity of the charges.</p> <p>Alphonso David, Cuomo’s counsel, told Gotham Gazette that the governor intentionally excluded controversial public safety <a href="https://civilrights.org/more-than-100-civil-rights-digital-justice-and-community-based-organizations-raise-concerns-about-pretrial-risk-assessment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">assessment tools</a> (which Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/city-state-n-y-jail-solution-article-1.3738231" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has endorsed</a>). These tools rely on <a href="https://craftmediabucket.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/PDFs/PSA-Risk-Factors-and-Formula.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">data points</a> like a defendant’s age and criminal history, and have been met with allegations of racial bias in <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/bail-reform-tech-justice/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New Jersey</a> and<a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/california-ended-cash-bail-but-may-have-replaced-it-with-something-even-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> California</a>.</p> <p>But if decarceration is the goal, advocates warn, the net of eligibility for pretrial incarceration must be much smaller -- lest judges balk at losing cash bail and fall back on detention.</p> <p>“Unfortunately, the same decision-makers who are deciding to set bail on our clients now are going to be the ones who decide whether or not, after an evidentiary hearing, to keep that person remanded,” says Legal Aid Society attorney Marie Ndiaye. “The only thing you can do to really, really decarcerate is just by really, really limiting the number of people who could even be eligible for that kind of treatment."</p> <p>Cuomo also wants electronic monitoring as an option for people charged with felonies and domestic violence misdemeanors. “When you have something like electronic monitoring there’s a very real risk that it means the expansion of social control,” warns Page, of the Fortune Society. “The threshold you pass before you put an electronic bracelet on someone is much lower than locking them up.”</p> <p>Last year, the Assembly passed a <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A10137&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Memo=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposal</a> that would have preserved cash bail and electronic monitoring in felony and domestic violence misdemeanor cases -- a broad category that includes verbal threats. “I'll be the first one to say the Assembly bill wasn't good enough,” Heastie told advocates Thursday.</p> <p>O’Donnell also dismissed the Walker bill as a relic earlier this month. “In previous years the Assembly would come up with bills we thought might pass muster in the Republican Senate,” he explained. “Those days are over. I would hope that my colleagues would come around and take this bolder approach.”</p> <p>But there is still substantial Democratic support in the Assembly for the domestic violence provisions in the Walker bill. “There are going to be enough Democrats, me among them, who will be raising the issue,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Scarsdale. “If we don't protect domestic violence [victims], I won't be voting for the bill.”</p> <p>“Whether it's cash bail or pretrial detention I'm not worried about that,” added Assemblymember Patricia Fahy of Albany. “My interest is the bottom line…that we are not tying any judicial hands in keeping our streets safe, or our households safe.”</p> <p>This is a point of entry for the state District Attorneys Association, which opposes expansive bail reform on the grounds that it curtails prosecutorial discretion. “We have serious concerns about, with the swipe of a pen, creating a proposal that has calamitous effects on public safety,” Albany County District Attorney David Soares told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Domestic violence advocates in the FREEnewyork campaign say this logic is at odds with the ultimate goal of significantly decreasing jail populations, and relies too heavily on the perceptions of law enforcement. “Particularly for LGBTQ people,” cautions Audacia Ray of the New York City Anti-Violence project, “the way police and prosecutors perceive what is happening is often faulty and racist.”</p> <p>Senate and Assembly leaders tell Gotham Gazette that they hope to come up with a compromise before budget negotiations, which are set to begin in earnest in March. A budget deal is due April 1. “The old ways of Albany involved trading one thing against an unrelated thing,” Gianaris said. “The new New York Senate is trying hard to break that mold.”</p> <p>“The tricky thing with bail,” he added, “is that if we don’t do it right, things can get worse rather than better.”</p> <p>

***
by Emma Whitford, Gotham Gazette
@emma_a_whitford

Read more by this writer.

</p>
10 Burning Questions After Cuomo’s State of the State and Budget 2019-01-30T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-30T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8242-10-burning-questions-after-cuomo-s-state-of-the-state-and-budget-2 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cuomo-legistlation-pro.jpg" alt="cuomo legistlation pro" width="600" height="410" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo with Lt. Gov. Hochul &amp; legislative leaders (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8202-promising-sweeping-change-cuomo-outlines-state-of-the-state-policy-agenda-and-175-billion-budget-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">delivered</a> his State of the State speech earlier this month, laying out his proposed $175.2 billion executive budget for the 2020 state fiscal year that begins April 1. Calling it his “justice agenda,” Cuomo unveiled a long list of proposals, some new and many rehashed, expressing confidence that full Democratic control of the state Legislature would allow for a slew of sweeping policy victories that had been denied by years of Republican obstruction in the upper chamber. In the two weeks since then, the Assembly and Senate have indeed advanced several bills -- some of which the governor has quickly signed -- to reform the state’s voting laws, protections for the LGBTQ community, reproductive health rights, and criminal justice system.</p> <p>The budget gap for next fiscal year, which begins April 1, is about $3.1 billion, lower than the one the state had to cover last year. Cuomo has proposed a 3.6 percent increase in spending each for healthcare and education, the two largest buckets in the budget. Under Cuomo’s plan, which will now be the subject of negotiations with the Legislature, the health care budget would increase by about $700 million, reaching $19.6 billion, and education spending would increase by $1 billion, for a total of $27.7 billion. The governor has also proposed a new education funding formula that he calls “Education Equity,” which would redistribute funds to the poorest schools in the poorest districts, he says, and will be a central element of budget discussions.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8213-15-notable-cuomo-proposals-not-in-his-state-of-the-state-speech" target="_blank" rel="noopener">15 Notable Cuomo Proposals Not In His State of the State Speech</a>]</p> <p>There’s a great deal to be hashed out, both in terms of policy and the state budget, in the next three months, including stakeholders beyond the governor and legislators, such as advocates, service-providers, local officials like Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others. Though the governor finds himself largely allied with the Legislature on broad progressive priorities, there are areas of disagreement, small and large, and details to be worked out on a host of complicated policies.</p> <p>Now that Cuomo has framed the discussion with his policy and budget plans, the Legislature is fast at work passing bills and others around the state are pushing their agendas, here are ten of the outstanding questions for the upcoming Legislative session and budget:</p> <p><strong>1. Will the state stick to a 2% cap in spending increases?</strong><br />Cuomo is fond of touting his administration’s fiscal discipline and his self-imposed 2 percent cap on increased spending each year. But it’s become a tradition for him to use maneuvers that move spending off the state budget to help mask the actual uptick in spending.</p> <p>“One of the things that we noticed was that the governor again purports that this keeps state spending at 2 percent,” said Dave Friedfel, director of state studies at Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan watchdog, said of the governor’s executive budget plan, “and it looks like it’s closer to 3 percent. It’s probably a touch more, based on some quick adjustments that we could see right away where money was moved out of state operating spending in a budget year but not in the current year for the calculation.”</p> <p><strong>2. Will the state put away more money in reserves?</strong><br />The state would have just $2.3 billion in rainy day funds based on Cuomo’s budget, a pittance compared to the $175 billion in planned spending and an amount that would be insufficient for the state to survive an economic downturn if one should occur without major spending cuts and/or tax increases. The state, and the country at large, is reaching the tail end of the second-longest economic expansion in history and most experts say it will not last too much longer.</p> <p>“The tide will turn eventually,” Friedfel said. “It’s a matter of how severe that recession is going to be. So we were hoping to see more deposits to the state’s rainy day funds.” Friedfel praised the governor’s proposal to put $500 million more into reserves over the current and upcoming fiscal years but said it wouldn’t be strong enough. “In the absolute best case scenario, [based on] the last three recessions, you could expect to see a revenue shortfall of $20 billion over four years and right now the state’s rainy day fund, even with the governor’s deposit is gonna have $2.3 billion,” he said.</p> <p>Experts like Friedfel have pointed to California, a similarly high-tax and high-spending state, as a model to follow since that state has put away nearly 10 percent of its operating budget into reserves -- the California rainy day fund is <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-road-map-rainy-day-fund-gavin-newsom-legislature-20190113-story.html">expected to reach</a> $15.3 billion by next year.</p> <p><strong>3. What will congestion pricing look like?</strong><br />Cuomo has embraced congestion pricing -- tolling traffic into the Manhattan business district south of 60th Street -- as a crucial method to fund the MTA (and help reduce traffic). At his State of the State, he said the proposal could bring in as much as $15 billion over ten years. But he gave few details of what he believes the program should look like and his budget similarly does not outline exact tolls or methodology.</p> <p>For elected officials in New York City and its suburbs, congestion pricing is far from a settled idea (there is also concern upstate about transportation funding). New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly emphasized that he would prefer a millionaire’s tax to fund the MTA, and has hemmed and hawed about an ideal congestion pricing plan, while lawmakers in outer boroughs have raised concerns that the program will hurt the pockets of their constituents. However, support for congestion pricing has grown significantly over the last few years, and Cuomo appears committed to passing some version of the program.</p> <p>Still, there are many questions to answer as a scheme is crafted.</p> <p>“But I think the bigger question too is, the city runs the roads and bridges that will generate this revenue, so how much of the money will go back to maintaining these roads and bridges?,” said Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a think tank. “That’s something the city really has a stake in. You wouldn’t want to see the city having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to rehabilitate these bridges every few decades and then they’re generating money that only goes to the MTA.”</p> <p>The governor's proposal, as Gelinas pointed out in <a href="https://nypost.com/2019/01/28/cuomos-aiming-to-take-control-of-nycs-streets/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a column for the New York Post</a>, would give the&nbsp;Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which falls under the MTA, the ability to take over city streets, sidewalks, roads, bridges and tunnels to build the infrastructure to implement congestion pricing. In effect, it would put city infrastructure under the control of the state which could potentially, Gelinas warned, use that power to demolish bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly spaces and create more space for cars. "This would be a huge deal even if the state were offering something in return: a bigger say over how the MTA spends our money," she wrote. "Instead, Cuomo has said that he’d like more control over the MTA. More money from the city — and more dominance over its future." &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>4. Will the governor and Legislature force New York City to split MTA costs with the state?</strong><br />The governor has suggested that any shortfalls in capital funding for the MTA, after congestion pricing revenues are accounted for, should be split 50-50 between the city and state. He dubiously argued in his speech, as he has before, that he doesn’t control the MTA and that the city is legally responsible for funding subway and bus system capital needs. “And it is worth splitting the cost with New York City, to make the investment we should've made for decades to keep that transportation system vital,” he said, indicating that he could leave it entirely to the city.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio disagreed with the governor’s contention, and pushed back against his suggestion that the city had funded the majority of capital plans in past decades. But the mayor may have no choice in the matter if the governor and Legislature force his hand through law, as they did last year in compelling the city to fund half of the $836 million Subway Action Plan put into motion to arrest the rapid decline of subway service over the last few years. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“On the MTA, it’s going to be very difficult negotiations to start off from here,” said Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute. “It’s hard to see the city going along with having to pay a much bigger portion of the MTA capital budget without having some kind of greater say in what happens at the MTA. The governor seems to want to go in the opposite direction with giving the state a bigger say, although it’s not really clear.”</p> <p>In the weeks since the speech, Cuomo has repeatedly criticized the very management that he has appointed at the MTA while arguing that it should be restructured to give him more control, though he effectively already has near-absolute power over it.</p> <p>“I think it’s a little disturbing that he would tie the rest of the existing [2015-2019] capital plan money for the MTA to all of this reform because that’s money that was already promised,” Gelinas added. “They’re already bidding out contracts based on that money. If you’re gonna say that $7.3 billion won’t be available unless we completely restructure the MTA, not only then do you have to worry about the future capital budget but now he’s sort of creating a big hole in the current MTA capital budget...It would be really hard to conceive of an MTA where the city, the suburbs, they’re still providing this money...but they don’t have say over the major capital projects that the MTA embarks on.”</p> <p><strong>5. What will Cuomo’s new education funding formula look like?</strong><br />Cuomo proposed $1 billion in increased education funding overall, about $1.1 billion less than what the state Board of Regents recommended. In a series of slides during his speech, Cuomo pointed to education funding disparities across the state stemming from the current “Foundation Aid” formula, also known as Fair Student Funding, and how local districts distribute it to their schools, insisting that more money was being funnelled to richer schools in the poorest districts. His argument formed the basis for his “Education Equity” proposal, which would require school districts to dedicate a significant amount of foundation aid money to the poorest schools.</p> <p>De Blasio was among those to quickly critique the governor’s proposal, insisting that in New York City at least, funding had been sent where it was needed, despite figures Cuomo had for the first time presented during his speech. The mayor, and education advocates and elected officials, have repeatedly urged Cuomo to fully fund the state Court of Appeals’ Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) decision that first led to the creation of foundation aid -- a decision Cuomo insists is no longer relevant, with a commitment he says has already been met -- which would require billions more in funding, which Cuomo has refused to provide.</p> <p>Rather, the governor’s budget briefing book took pains to argue that CFE has no relation to foundation aid. But he did not outline what his new proposal would entail, instead leaving it up to the state Department of Education to hammer out a plan.</p> <p><strong>6. Will Cuomo leverage mayoral control of city schools to get concessions from de Blasio?</strong><br />Cuomo’s budget book noted his support for extending mayoral control of New York CIty schools by three years, a position he has taken in the past as well. But in the past, the governor -- and Republicans who controlled the state Senate earlier -- used mayoral control as a form of leverage over de Blasio, who is more closely allied with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the teachers unions, attempting to enact concessions including an expansion of a charter school cap.</p> <p>Cuomo did not mention charter schools in his speech and his budget briefing book has only a small section dedicated to them, but he has been friendly to the sector in the past, and charter school donors have been generous to his campaigns. It’s not clear yet whether Cuomo will pursue increasing the statutory cap, which is close to being reached, especially since Republicans who favor the charter sector no longer have clout in Albany. There are some Democratic legislators who are supportive of charters, but it is unclear how loud those voices will be in their conferences, and whether Cuomo will put any political capital into another expansion of charters’ ability to grow.</p> <p>And if it isn’t charter schools, it’s unclear what, if anything, Cuomo may try to trade for extending mayoral control.</p> <p><strong>7. What will marijuana regulation look like?</strong><br />This is one particularly burning question that has more answers than the others. Cuomo proposed a regulated program to legalize adult recreational marijuana use and raise $300 million in revenue annually, though it allows counties and municipalities to opt out. His budget puts forward the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, which would impose three taxes on the cultivation and sale of marijuana for recreational use. He has also insisted that regulation must be accompanied by decriminalization for those already convicted on marijuana-related arrests and set a legal use age of 21.</p> <p>But as legislators negotiate what Cuomo has outlined, questions remain about where the marijuana revenue will go and what the new regulation will look like in practice, particularly for businesses, among other details to be decided. The governor is a more recent convert to the cause of legalization and he has heeded the advice of advocates and other elected officials who have long supported legalization and have insisted it should come with benefits for the communities that have been most adversely impacted by marijuana enforcement.</p> <p>“Now we just have to put it in place, and we have to do it in a way that creates an economic opportunity for poor communities and people who paid the price, and not for rich corporations that are going to come in to make a buck,” Cuomo said in his speech.</p> <p>New York City is expected to comprise a majority of the state’s marijuana market and de Blasio, who was until recently opposed to legalization himself, also warned against the “corporate takeover of the marijuana industry.” Speaking at a news conference in Albany after the governor’s speech, he said, “[T]his should be a community-based form of business, a small business focus, and a focus on those who are economically harmed by the previous policies.”</p> <p><strong>8. Will Cuomo’s ‘Green New Deal’ have legislative backing?</strong><br />Cuomo proposed a “Green New Deal” to increase New York State’s investment in renewable energy and reach 100 percent clean energy by 2040. It was a sweeping declaration from the governor, who has long faced criticism from activists that his environmental record has not been strong enough. At the same time, Cuomo failed to mention the Climate and Community Protection Act, a bill that seeks to accomplish similar goals but has not moved in the state Legislature, though it may this year.</p> <p>It’s unclear what compromise might look like, or whether the Legislature will force Cuomo’s hand -- the proposals have differing timelines for achieving certain milestones, among other differences, and advocates say the governor’s ideas don’t go far enough. With legislative action, the proposed environmental regulations would also have the strength of law rather than being enacted administratively and being vulnerable to cuts in the future. Senator Todd Kaminsky has <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2019/01/22/cuomos-green-new-deal-kicks-off-debate-about-scope-and-cost-804362" target="_blank" rel="noopener">indicated</a> that he will continue to pursue the CCPA, potentially setting up a clash between the governor and lawmakers.</p> <p><strong>9. Will the Legislature advance the New York Health Act for single-payer health care?</strong><br />While running for reelection, the governor was ardent that he supports a single-payer health care program, the likes of which would be established by the proposed New York Health Act -- but he has repeatedly said it should be mandated and funded by the federal government rather than the state. New York would have to increase overall state government revenue by $139 billion by 2022 to pay for the program, according to <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/f/?id=00000164-f261-d556-a1ec-ff759d100001" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a RAND Corporation study</a>. It would provide health coverage to all New Yorkers -- they wouldn’t have to purchase insurance or receive it from employers -- and patients would not have to pay deductibles, co-payments or out-of-pocket costs. The study estimates that total health care spending in this case would be similar to what current levels are expected to be in 2022, and would be about 3 percent lower by 3031, “with the ten-year cumulative net savings being about $80 billion, or 2 percent.”</p> <p>The bill -- which its sponsors say will be altered in a new version soon to be introduced -- has passed the Assembly but not the Senate, though both houses are now under Democratic control. Still, legislative leaders have not listed the New York Health Act as a top priority for this year. Several Democratic state lawmakers successfully flipped seats last year <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7995-despite-lack-of-support-from-cuomo-democrats-in-swing-districts-run-on-not-from-single-payer-health-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on platforms</a> that included support for the New York Health Act, and some legislators, especially the lead sponsors, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and Senator Gustavo Rivera, are expected to continue pursuing it, which could create a significant fissure both within the Legislature and with the governor’s office.</p> <p>“It was clear in the country and New York that healthcare was the number one issue on voters’ minds,” Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, said <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8066-with-full-democratic-control-sponsors-of-new-york-single-payer-health-care-hopeful-about-2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in an interview with Gotham Gazette</a> right after the November election. “A solid majority of the new state Senate has either been a cosigner, voted for it in the Assembly, or campaigned on it. So I think we’re on track to get it passed in the Assembly and state Senate.”</p> <p><strong>10. Will the Legislature fully close the LLC loophole and pass stronger ethics reforms and a public campaign finance system?</strong><br />The state Legislature passed several ethics and campaign finance reforms within the first few days of the new session, including severely limiting donations that can be made by Limited Liability Companies and requiring increased disclosure of the ownership of those firms. But that measure did not completely close the so-called ‘LLC loophole,’ which has allowed untold amounts of money to flow into state elections from moneyed interests and has drawn the ire of good government advocacy groups.</p> <p>Cuomo, the biggest beneficiary of LLC donations of any elected official in the state, has said he wants to close the loophole entirely, a pledge he reiterated at his State of the State while also calling for a ban on corporate contributions to political candidate campaigns -- under the new law passed by the Legislature, LLCs, like corporations, can donate a maximum of $5,000. The Legislature is expected to take up further campaign finance reforms as well, which could mean that LLC and corporate donations may soon become a thing of the past, while a state public campaign finance system could be put into motion.</p> <p>Cuomo has also proposed a broader agenda of reform that includes curtailing contribution limits across the board, a proposal that could meet with some resistance, and expanding the state’s Freedom of Information Law to cover the Legislature, to which lawmakers have been strictly opposed, among a variety of other reform measures.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8210-cuomo-s-voting-campaign-finance-and-ethics-reform-proposals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo's 2019 Agenda of Election, Campaign Finance and Government Ethics Reforms</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cuomo-legistlation-pro.jpg" alt="cuomo legistlation pro" width="600" height="410" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo with Lt. Gov. Hochul &amp; legislative leaders (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8202-promising-sweeping-change-cuomo-outlines-state-of-the-state-policy-agenda-and-175-billion-budget-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">delivered</a> his State of the State speech earlier this month, laying out his proposed $175.2 billion executive budget for the 2020 state fiscal year that begins April 1. Calling it his “justice agenda,” Cuomo unveiled a long list of proposals, some new and many rehashed, expressing confidence that full Democratic control of the state Legislature would allow for a slew of sweeping policy victories that had been denied by years of Republican obstruction in the upper chamber. In the two weeks since then, the Assembly and Senate have indeed advanced several bills -- some of which the governor has quickly signed -- to reform the state’s voting laws, protections for the LGBTQ community, reproductive health rights, and criminal justice system.</p> <p>The budget gap for next fiscal year, which begins April 1, is about $3.1 billion, lower than the one the state had to cover last year. Cuomo has proposed a 3.6 percent increase in spending each for healthcare and education, the two largest buckets in the budget. Under Cuomo’s plan, which will now be the subject of negotiations with the Legislature, the health care budget would increase by about $700 million, reaching $19.6 billion, and education spending would increase by $1 billion, for a total of $27.7 billion. The governor has also proposed a new education funding formula that he calls “Education Equity,” which would redistribute funds to the poorest schools in the poorest districts, he says, and will be a central element of budget discussions.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8213-15-notable-cuomo-proposals-not-in-his-state-of-the-state-speech" target="_blank" rel="noopener">15 Notable Cuomo Proposals Not In His State of the State Speech</a>]</p> <p>There’s a great deal to be hashed out, both in terms of policy and the state budget, in the next three months, including stakeholders beyond the governor and legislators, such as advocates, service-providers, local officials like Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others. Though the governor finds himself largely allied with the Legislature on broad progressive priorities, there are areas of disagreement, small and large, and details to be worked out on a host of complicated policies.</p> <p>Now that Cuomo has framed the discussion with his policy and budget plans, the Legislature is fast at work passing bills and others around the state are pushing their agendas, here are ten of the outstanding questions for the upcoming Legislative session and budget:</p> <p><strong>1. Will the state stick to a 2% cap in spending increases?</strong><br />Cuomo is fond of touting his administration’s fiscal discipline and his self-imposed 2 percent cap on increased spending each year. But it’s become a tradition for him to use maneuvers that move spending off the state budget to help mask the actual uptick in spending.</p> <p>“One of the things that we noticed was that the governor again purports that this keeps state spending at 2 percent,” said Dave Friedfel, director of state studies at Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan watchdog, said of the governor’s executive budget plan, “and it looks like it’s closer to 3 percent. It’s probably a touch more, based on some quick adjustments that we could see right away where money was moved out of state operating spending in a budget year but not in the current year for the calculation.”</p> <p><strong>2. Will the state put away more money in reserves?</strong><br />The state would have just $2.3 billion in rainy day funds based on Cuomo’s budget, a pittance compared to the $175 billion in planned spending and an amount that would be insufficient for the state to survive an economic downturn if one should occur without major spending cuts and/or tax increases. The state, and the country at large, is reaching the tail end of the second-longest economic expansion in history and most experts say it will not last too much longer.</p> <p>“The tide will turn eventually,” Friedfel said. “It’s a matter of how severe that recession is going to be. So we were hoping to see more deposits to the state’s rainy day funds.” Friedfel praised the governor’s proposal to put $500 million more into reserves over the current and upcoming fiscal years but said it wouldn’t be strong enough. “In the absolute best case scenario, [based on] the last three recessions, you could expect to see a revenue shortfall of $20 billion over four years and right now the state’s rainy day fund, even with the governor’s deposit is gonna have $2.3 billion,” he said.</p> <p>Experts like Friedfel have pointed to California, a similarly high-tax and high-spending state, as a model to follow since that state has put away nearly 10 percent of its operating budget into reserves -- the California rainy day fund is <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-road-map-rainy-day-fund-gavin-newsom-legislature-20190113-story.html">expected to reach</a> $15.3 billion by next year.</p> <p><strong>3. What will congestion pricing look like?</strong><br />Cuomo has embraced congestion pricing -- tolling traffic into the Manhattan business district south of 60th Street -- as a crucial method to fund the MTA (and help reduce traffic). At his State of the State, he said the proposal could bring in as much as $15 billion over ten years. But he gave few details of what he believes the program should look like and his budget similarly does not outline exact tolls or methodology.</p> <p>For elected officials in New York City and its suburbs, congestion pricing is far from a settled idea (there is also concern upstate about transportation funding). New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly emphasized that he would prefer a millionaire’s tax to fund the MTA, and has hemmed and hawed about an ideal congestion pricing plan, while lawmakers in outer boroughs have raised concerns that the program will hurt the pockets of their constituents. However, support for congestion pricing has grown significantly over the last few years, and Cuomo appears committed to passing some version of the program.</p> <p>Still, there are many questions to answer as a scheme is crafted.</p> <p>“But I think the bigger question too is, the city runs the roads and bridges that will generate this revenue, so how much of the money will go back to maintaining these roads and bridges?,” said Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a think tank. “That’s something the city really has a stake in. You wouldn’t want to see the city having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to rehabilitate these bridges every few decades and then they’re generating money that only goes to the MTA.”</p> <p>The governor's proposal, as Gelinas pointed out in <a href="https://nypost.com/2019/01/28/cuomos-aiming-to-take-control-of-nycs-streets/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a column for the New York Post</a>, would give the&nbsp;Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which falls under the MTA, the ability to take over city streets, sidewalks, roads, bridges and tunnels to build the infrastructure to implement congestion pricing. In effect, it would put city infrastructure under the control of the state which could potentially, Gelinas warned, use that power to demolish bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly spaces and create more space for cars. "This would be a huge deal even if the state were offering something in return: a bigger say over how the MTA spends our money," she wrote. "Instead, Cuomo has said that he’d like more control over the MTA. More money from the city — and more dominance over its future." &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>4. Will the governor and Legislature force New York City to split MTA costs with the state?</strong><br />The governor has suggested that any shortfalls in capital funding for the MTA, after congestion pricing revenues are accounted for, should be split 50-50 between the city and state. He dubiously argued in his speech, as he has before, that he doesn’t control the MTA and that the city is legally responsible for funding subway and bus system capital needs. “And it is worth splitting the cost with New York City, to make the investment we should've made for decades to keep that transportation system vital,” he said, indicating that he could leave it entirely to the city.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio disagreed with the governor’s contention, and pushed back against his suggestion that the city had funded the majority of capital plans in past decades. But the mayor may have no choice in the matter if the governor and Legislature force his hand through law, as they did last year in compelling the city to fund half of the $836 million Subway Action Plan put into motion to arrest the rapid decline of subway service over the last few years. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“On the MTA, it’s going to be very difficult negotiations to start off from here,” said Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute. “It’s hard to see the city going along with having to pay a much bigger portion of the MTA capital budget without having some kind of greater say in what happens at the MTA. The governor seems to want to go in the opposite direction with giving the state a bigger say, although it’s not really clear.”</p> <p>In the weeks since the speech, Cuomo has repeatedly criticized the very management that he has appointed at the MTA while arguing that it should be restructured to give him more control, though he effectively already has near-absolute power over it.</p> <p>“I think it’s a little disturbing that he would tie the rest of the existing [2015-2019] capital plan money for the MTA to all of this reform because that’s money that was already promised,” Gelinas added. “They’re already bidding out contracts based on that money. If you’re gonna say that $7.3 billion won’t be available unless we completely restructure the MTA, not only then do you have to worry about the future capital budget but now he’s sort of creating a big hole in the current MTA capital budget...It would be really hard to conceive of an MTA where the city, the suburbs, they’re still providing this money...but they don’t have say over the major capital projects that the MTA embarks on.”</p> <p><strong>5. What will Cuomo’s new education funding formula look like?</strong><br />Cuomo proposed $1 billion in increased education funding overall, about $1.1 billion less than what the state Board of Regents recommended. In a series of slides during his speech, Cuomo pointed to education funding disparities across the state stemming from the current “Foundation Aid” formula, also known as Fair Student Funding, and how local districts distribute it to their schools, insisting that more money was being funnelled to richer schools in the poorest districts. His argument formed the basis for his “Education Equity” proposal, which would require school districts to dedicate a significant amount of foundation aid money to the poorest schools.</p> <p>De Blasio was among those to quickly critique the governor’s proposal, insisting that in New York City at least, funding had been sent where it was needed, despite figures Cuomo had for the first time presented during his speech. The mayor, and education advocates and elected officials, have repeatedly urged Cuomo to fully fund the state Court of Appeals’ Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) decision that first led to the creation of foundation aid -- a decision Cuomo insists is no longer relevant, with a commitment he says has already been met -- which would require billions more in funding, which Cuomo has refused to provide.</p> <p>Rather, the governor’s budget briefing book took pains to argue that CFE has no relation to foundation aid. But he did not outline what his new proposal would entail, instead leaving it up to the state Department of Education to hammer out a plan.</p> <p><strong>6. Will Cuomo leverage mayoral control of city schools to get concessions from de Blasio?</strong><br />Cuomo’s budget book noted his support for extending mayoral control of New York CIty schools by three years, a position he has taken in the past as well. But in the past, the governor -- and Republicans who controlled the state Senate earlier -- used mayoral control as a form of leverage over de Blasio, who is more closely allied with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the teachers unions, attempting to enact concessions including an expansion of a charter school cap.</p> <p>Cuomo did not mention charter schools in his speech and his budget briefing book has only a small section dedicated to them, but he has been friendly to the sector in the past, and charter school donors have been generous to his campaigns. It’s not clear yet whether Cuomo will pursue increasing the statutory cap, which is close to being reached, especially since Republicans who favor the charter sector no longer have clout in Albany. There are some Democratic legislators who are supportive of charters, but it is unclear how loud those voices will be in their conferences, and whether Cuomo will put any political capital into another expansion of charters’ ability to grow.</p> <p>And if it isn’t charter schools, it’s unclear what, if anything, Cuomo may try to trade for extending mayoral control.</p> <p><strong>7. What will marijuana regulation look like?</strong><br />This is one particularly burning question that has more answers than the others. Cuomo proposed a regulated program to legalize adult recreational marijuana use and raise $300 million in revenue annually, though it allows counties and municipalities to opt out. His budget puts forward the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, which would impose three taxes on the cultivation and sale of marijuana for recreational use. He has also insisted that regulation must be accompanied by decriminalization for those already convicted on marijuana-related arrests and set a legal use age of 21.</p> <p>But as legislators negotiate what Cuomo has outlined, questions remain about where the marijuana revenue will go and what the new regulation will look like in practice, particularly for businesses, among other details to be decided. The governor is a more recent convert to the cause of legalization and he has heeded the advice of advocates and other elected officials who have long supported legalization and have insisted it should come with benefits for the communities that have been most adversely impacted by marijuana enforcement.</p> <p>“Now we just have to put it in place, and we have to do it in a way that creates an economic opportunity for poor communities and people who paid the price, and not for rich corporations that are going to come in to make a buck,” Cuomo said in his speech.</p> <p>New York City is expected to comprise a majority of the state’s marijuana market and de Blasio, who was until recently opposed to legalization himself, also warned against the “corporate takeover of the marijuana industry.” Speaking at a news conference in Albany after the governor’s speech, he said, “[T]his should be a community-based form of business, a small business focus, and a focus on those who are economically harmed by the previous policies.”</p> <p><strong>8. Will Cuomo’s ‘Green New Deal’ have legislative backing?</strong><br />Cuomo proposed a “Green New Deal” to increase New York State’s investment in renewable energy and reach 100 percent clean energy by 2040. It was a sweeping declaration from the governor, who has long faced criticism from activists that his environmental record has not been strong enough. At the same time, Cuomo failed to mention the Climate and Community Protection Act, a bill that seeks to accomplish similar goals but has not moved in the state Legislature, though it may this year.</p> <p>It’s unclear what compromise might look like, or whether the Legislature will force Cuomo’s hand -- the proposals have differing timelines for achieving certain milestones, among other differences, and advocates say the governor’s ideas don’t go far enough. With legislative action, the proposed environmental regulations would also have the strength of law rather than being enacted administratively and being vulnerable to cuts in the future. Senator Todd Kaminsky has <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2019/01/22/cuomos-green-new-deal-kicks-off-debate-about-scope-and-cost-804362" target="_blank" rel="noopener">indicated</a> that he will continue to pursue the CCPA, potentially setting up a clash between the governor and lawmakers.</p> <p><strong>9. Will the Legislature advance the New York Health Act for single-payer health care?</strong><br />While running for reelection, the governor was ardent that he supports a single-payer health care program, the likes of which would be established by the proposed New York Health Act -- but he has repeatedly said it should be mandated and funded by the federal government rather than the state. New York would have to increase overall state government revenue by $139 billion by 2022 to pay for the program, according to <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/f/?id=00000164-f261-d556-a1ec-ff759d100001" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a RAND Corporation study</a>. It would provide health coverage to all New Yorkers -- they wouldn’t have to purchase insurance or receive it from employers -- and patients would not have to pay deductibles, co-payments or out-of-pocket costs. The study estimates that total health care spending in this case would be similar to what current levels are expected to be in 2022, and would be about 3 percent lower by 3031, “with the ten-year cumulative net savings being about $80 billion, or 2 percent.”</p> <p>The bill -- which its sponsors say will be altered in a new version soon to be introduced -- has passed the Assembly but not the Senate, though both houses are now under Democratic control. Still, legislative leaders have not listed the New York Health Act as a top priority for this year. Several Democratic state lawmakers successfully flipped seats last year <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7995-despite-lack-of-support-from-cuomo-democrats-in-swing-districts-run-on-not-from-single-payer-health-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on platforms</a> that included support for the New York Health Act, and some legislators, especially the lead sponsors, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and Senator Gustavo Rivera, are expected to continue pursuing it, which could create a significant fissure both within the Legislature and with the governor’s office.</p> <p>“It was clear in the country and New York that healthcare was the number one issue on voters’ minds,” Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, said <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8066-with-full-democratic-control-sponsors-of-new-york-single-payer-health-care-hopeful-about-2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in an interview with Gotham Gazette</a> right after the November election. “A solid majority of the new state Senate has either been a cosigner, voted for it in the Assembly, or campaigned on it. So I think we’re on track to get it passed in the Assembly and state Senate.”</p> <p><strong>10. Will the Legislature fully close the LLC loophole and pass stronger ethics reforms and a public campaign finance system?</strong><br />The state Legislature passed several ethics and campaign finance reforms within the first few days of the new session, including severely limiting donations that can be made by Limited Liability Companies and requiring increased disclosure of the ownership of those firms. But that measure did not completely close the so-called ‘LLC loophole,’ which has allowed untold amounts of money to flow into state elections from moneyed interests and has drawn the ire of good government advocacy groups.</p> <p>Cuomo, the biggest beneficiary of LLC donations of any elected official in the state, has said he wants to close the loophole entirely, a pledge he reiterated at his State of the State while also calling for a ban on corporate contributions to political candidate campaigns -- under the new law passed by the Legislature, LLCs, like corporations, can donate a maximum of $5,000. The Legislature is expected to take up further campaign finance reforms as well, which could mean that LLC and corporate donations may soon become a thing of the past, while a state public campaign finance system could be put into motion.</p> <p>Cuomo has also proposed a broader agenda of reform that includes curtailing contribution limits across the board, a proposal that could meet with some resistance, and expanding the state’s Freedom of Information Law to cover the Legislature, to which lawmakers have been strictly opposed, among a variety of other reform measures.</p> <p>[READ: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8210-cuomo-s-voting-campaign-finance-and-ethics-reform-proposals" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo's 2019 Agenda of Election, Campaign Finance and Government Ethics Reforms</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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