Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/35 Wed, 17 Jul 2019 02:53:20 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Advocates See Irony in Cuomo's Thinly-Veiled Shots at De Blasio Over City Problems https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8677-advocates-see-irony-in-cuomo-s-thinly-veiled-shots-at-de-blasio-over-city-problems https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8677-advocates-see-irony-in-cuomo-s-thinly-veiled-shots-at-de-blasio-over-city-problems cuomo bdb amazon

Cuomo & de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


Governor Andrew Cuomo believes in action, rather than rhetoric, and rarely shies away from criticizing those who he believes fail to live up to their promises, including his fellow Democrats. He’s also appeared particularly irritated by the ascendent progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which has challenged him, unfairly he argues, and offers what he says are pie-in-the-sky talking points over the types of achievable results he’s delivered.

Cuomo brought the critiques together on Friday in an op-ed in the New York Daily News, where he inveighed about underfunded schools, the problem-plagued Rikers Island jail complex and the plan to close it, New York City’s homelessness crisis, and the mismanaged city public housing authority (NYCHA). That same day, Cuomo complained of a rising homeless problem on the city’s subways, calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), an entity he effectively controls, to confront it in its upcoming reorganization plan. 

But on each of those issues, Cuomo, now in his third term, offered no concrete solutions of his own, and advocates who have watched him hold the reins of power for eight-and-a-half years say his rhetoric distracts from his own policy failures while pinning the blame on others. In this case, the unnamed target was clearly New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is now running for president on what the mayor calls a long list of progressive accomplishments in the nation’s largest city.

In many instances, including the op-ed, Cuomo’s indulges in discussion of “what it means to be progressive” appear to be his attempts to differentiate himself from de Blasio, among others.

“The common denominator of these great failures — Rikers, poor schools, NYCHA — is obvious,” Cuomo wrote in the op-ed, “poor, powerless minorities and basic civil rights violations. Addressing them should be the cornerstone of a true progressive agenda, and yet they continue to languish.” 

He went on to criticize “Democratic failures” that fuel Republican success, before taking a shot at the 2020 Democratic presidential field. “Today, every 2020 Democratic presidential candidate is articulating the same basic ‘progressive’ goals: more economic opportunity, better public education, affordable health care, etc. To me, the far more important question is how we achieve these goals and who has the ability to get it done,” he wrote (Cuomo has repeatedly expressed support for former Vice President Joe Biden). 

The governor all but shouted from the rooftops that the common denominator on all those issues is de Blasio, a favorite target of his criticism despite the long history the two share. Cuomo’s acrimony towards what he sees as faux progressivism is never as obvious as when it’s directed at the second term mayor, and the two have spent more time arguing over issues they agree on rather than working on solutions.

Cuomo has been quick to fault de Blasio for the city’s homelessness crisis, the long-running problems at NYCHA, and what he inaccurately called a “stalled” plan to close Rikers. Inequity in school funding is another area where Cuomo, despite his own significant power to effect change, has taken a cudgel to the mayor. While de Blasio has struggled to varying degrees with each of the problems Cuomo mentioned, the mayor and others have also sought more state support than the city has received.

The mayor’s office clearly understood who the op-ed was targeting. “We agree - being progressive requires more than just talk,” said Jane Meyer, a spokesperson for de Blasio, in an email. “That’s why we back our words up with action. Our plan to close down Rikers is one year ahead of schedule, we have helped over 117,000 New Yorkers avoid or exit shelter, and we are testing 135,000 NYCHA apartments for lead to eradicate exposure.”

It is not lost on many close watchers and stakeholders that the issues Cuomo has railed about, and targeted de Blasio on, have of course been ripe for gubernatorial action, especially from a governor who has repeatedly sought to outshine, undermine, and overstep the mayor, whose shortcomings are not to be dismissed.

But overall, those working on solutions in the areas Cuomo mentioned say his op-ed says as much, if not more, about him than anyone he sought to call out. 

Rikers Island
In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Cuomo repeated his criticism of the Rikers closure plan, saying the state Legislature should have acted to close it long ago and that de Blasio’s plan “was unworkable from the day it was announced” -- a claim that does not appear supported by fact at this point in the process currently unfolding.

Though he was ready to offer help -- “Tell me what you need from the state’s point of view and we’ll be however helpful that we can,” Cuomo said -- he did not provide any concrete ideas. And he seemed to suggest that elected officials in the city would be best served if they moved ahead with the plan despite community opposition, which is what appears to be happening, contrary to Cuomo calling the plan unworkable and stalled. 

Brandon Holmes, the New York City campaign coordinator for JustLeadershipUSA, which has spearheaded the #CloseRikers campaign, chalked up Cuomo’s rhetoric to a “political game” with the mayor and one that undermines a successful ongoing effort to move towards a closure of the jail complex. Instead, he called out Cuomo’s yearslong efforts to either oppose or water down criminal justice reforms making their way through the state Legislature. 

Holmes noted, for instance, that Cuomo opposed the complete elimination of cash bail (it was severely limited for use in non-violent offenses under new legislation this year, which will be a big boost to the Rikers closure efforts given the expected reduction in remand), did not voice support for reforms to the parole system or eliminating solitary confinement.

“Cuomo didn’t support all of these things that would not only improve conditions for people who are currently incarcerated but also ensure that thousands more New Yorkers would never come into contact or return to prison in the first place, and he didn’t support any of that,” he said. “This is really just a political move. I don’t know what games he thinks he’s playing but he really should stay out of the picture and allow advocates and people who are formerly incarcerated to continue leading this movement to decarcerate New York which we’ve had to force him and drag him along the way to doing.”

While Cuomo did champion major bail and other criminal justice reforms that did move this year after Democrats won the state Senate, the governor’s critiques of de Blasio’s efforts to close the Rikers Island jails appear to boil down to calling the timeline too long, which is certainly debatable, though the governor has not followed up that criticism with anything concrete, and the unfounded jabs at the replacement plan, which is moving through the city’s land use review process.

Homelessness
Cuomo has repeatedly criticized the rise of homelessness in New York City, which continued to climb during de Blasio’s first several years as mayor but has plateaued after billions of dollars in additional spending by the city administration. De Blasio has himself repeatedly mentioned homelessness as his biggest failing as mayor, where he said he did not quickly enough grasp the magnitude of the problem and how many city resources needed to be dedicated toward it.

But Cuomo’s more recent tirade was directed more specifically at homelessness on the subway system. “[I]t's something we've all lived with as New Yorkers, but what's striking to me is how much worse it is and it's not just a question of looking at the numbers and the statistics, it's visibly worse,” said Cuomo, who has not ridden the subway in two-and-a-half years, on the press call. 

Cuomo called on the MTA, which is currently undergoing a top-to-bottom reorganization of its bureaucratic structure, to tackle the issue without relying on assistance from the city, while he again appeared to distance himself from actually providing state help.

“We need social service outreach workers. We need police in a supporting role. We need transportation accommodations. And the MTA has to have a concerted, efficient, professional effort where outreach workers make contact with homeless people on trains and in terminals doing assessment on-site as to the issues that are being presented by the homeless individual,” he said. “If the homeless individual is violating the laws or the regulations of the MTA, then help that person get the assistance they need. Be it a shelter, supportive housing, mental health facilities.” 

But the governor’s comments about additional policing, just a month after a separate announcement that the MTA would add 500 new police officers to patrol the subways for fare evasion (funded by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office), struck some experts as misguided.

Jacquelyn Simone, policy analyst at nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement Friday that the state should redouble its investments in permanent solutions such as affordable and supportive housing. “However Gov. Cuomo’s reference to increased policing of homeless people in the subways is misplaced,” she added. “We have always advised State and City leaders that the answer is most definitely not more policing because summonses and harassing vulnerable people to make them move simply pushes them deeper into the shadows without helping them obtain the services and housing each one of them needs. If Gov. Cuomo wants to fix the problem, let him step up with more housing and services specifically targeted for homeless people, stop shifting the cost of shelters off to localities, and stop the prison-to-shelter pipeline from the State’s correctional facilities.”

Cuomo’s has touted state investments in affordable and supportive housing, but experts have shown it has been slow to materialize, and the governor has refused to support a more significant state investment into housing subsidies that the city has provided to those leaving shelter.

JustLeadershipUSA’s Holmes offered rhetorical questions: “He comes out with this investment saying he’s gonna fund additional police officers into the MTA to solve those problems. What if he actually put that money towards providing permanent housing for people who are experiencing chronic homelessness? What if he put that money into repairing public housing buildings across the city?”  

NYCHA
The city’s public housing authority has suffered a series of setbacks and self-inflicted problems over the last many years, not the least of which involved the falsification of lead inspection records that led to a federal lawsuit and eventual oversight from a federal monitor. The authority also has an estimated $32 billion capital repair backlog, though the de Blasio administration was able to bring its operational expenses under control after years of deficits, in part by putting more city funds toward the authority.   

For over two years, however, while the agency faced investigation, Cuomo has refused to release about $450 million in state funding allocated for repair and maintenance, citing the agency’s mismanagement. “Progressives all espouse the need for affordable housing, but the incompetence of NYCHA has been tolerated for years with children being housed without heat and exposed to lead poisoning, without any coherent solution,” Cuomo said in his op-ed.

The governor also seized on NYCHA as an issue last year, as he was running for a third term, holding a number of NYCHA-related government events at various public housing developments, promising some conditional funding, and threatening a state monitor, pending the outcome of the federal examination.

The governor has not been a frequent NYCHA visitor since winning his primary last September, and he did not allocate any additional NYCHA funding in the new state budget passed April 1.

School Funding
“On public education, I think the op-ed is a bit of an indictment of his own policies,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, an education advocacy group, and a frequent Cuomo critic who supported the governor’s primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, in last year’s election.

AQE has long pushed for fully funding the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision, which would require billions more in state “foundation aid” funding for underfunded schools in poorer schools districts. Cuomo has repeatedly denied that funding, arguing that the state has no remaining obligation under the CFE decision, and this year pushed his own alternative “education equity” formula that would require districts to direct more funding toward their poorer schools.

In his op-ed, Cuomo critiqued the state Legislature for failing to increase funding for poorer school districts without also increasing funds for richer ones, but his formula accomplishes the same outcome. The governor pushed through additional requirements for New York City to report on how state education aid is being delivered to specific schools. 

“He has utterly failed to deliver for high-need schools in this state,” Easton added. “This year the Legislature proposed a plan that would increase funding over the next four years for high-need school districts by $3 billion and he aggressively blocked it.”

Cuomo has at once touted that the state continues to increase overall education funding to record levels each year, and also said that the state cannot keep throwing more money at education, citing the highest per-pupil spending in the country, by far.

He’s backed an expansion of charter schools, particularly in New York City, an effort that stalled this year under full Democratic control of the Legislature despite the state cap on charters for the city having been hit. De Blasio and Easton are staunch opponents of charter schools, which supporters point out often deliver better education than traditional public schools in low-income communities of color, while critics say they often don’t educate representative student bodies, are test-prep factories, and starve district schools of resources.

Easton derided the governor’s so-called pragmatism as one driven more by fiscal conservatism, and noted that the disparity in per-pupil funding between richer and poorer school districts has only gone up under Cuomo’s tenure (though the Legislature certainly has a hand in that as well). 

“I think he’s just lashing out. He’s lashed out at de Blasio, he’s lashed out at AOC, he’s lashed out at Cabán,” he said. “He’s lashing out at anyone who’s actually a progressive. He wants the definition of progressive to probably be center-right like he is. That’s just not the reality. The truth is, what the op-ed also shows is that progressives are defining the agenda that Democrats have to respond to. He’s got that intuition, he’s always had the intuition that he needs to brand himself as a progressive but he’s a lot better at branding than he is at delivering on some of the most important progressive priorities.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Advocates See Irony in Cuomo's Thinly-Veiled Shots at De Blasio Over City Problems Tue, 16 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
A French Lesson in Fare Evasion https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8668-a-french-lesson-in-fare-evasion-mta-cuomo https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8668-a-french-lesson-in-fare-evasion-mta-cuomo govcuomo 96th

(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


I just returned to New York City from a month in Paris, where my husband was doing legal work. A regular public transit user at home, I was the same in Paris, making use of its Metro system. But because I did not inform myself of all the rules, I violated one of them and had to pay a fine. The experience helped me think about the fare evasion challenge we’re dealing with in New York. 

As in our subway system, there is one fare to travel throughout the city on the Paris Metro. I bought discounted “carnets” of 10 tickets at a time at a cost of about 14.90 euros, approximately $18. The tickets are small white cards; you put them in a slot on the way in, and if the ticket is valid it pops up in another slot to be retained; high plastic doors then open to let you through. When you leave the station at your stop, you walk through exits (sorties), which have high doors that open when you press on them with your hand.

Since there is no need to use the tickets to exit (they are needed at stations where you transfer to rail connections) and they are only good for one fare, I was throwing them away after entering a station. Of course this was silly of me; why wouId the entrance machines give you back the tickets if you weren’t supposed to keep them? But I wasn’t thinking it through and didn’t want to get used tickets mixed up with new ones from my carnets.

After a few weeks, while transferring between one train line and another at Gare St. Lazare, a major metro transfer point, I encountered a line of transit employees (they have orange vests like our MTA New York City Transit workers) stopping passengers walking through a tunnel. They asked to see my ticket.

In halting French with English mixed in I explained that I had thrown it away. Non, non madame, said one of the inspectors.  You must retain your ticket. I shrugged, explained that I was a tourist, that I had been using the system for several weeks and no one had stopped me, and said I would go and buy a new ticket to present to the inspection team. Non, non madame, one of them said; you have to pay a fine right now.

She showed me a chart with different fines for different types of violations. I was shocked at how high they were. She ‘settled’ for a payment of 30 euros, about $35, whipped out a handheld charge machine, inserted my credit card and gave me a special receipt. The same thing was happening to people around me, who contended they had lost their tickets or didn’t have them for whatever reason. 

At about the same time this happened to me in Paris, back home in Manhattan Governor Cuomo announced a comprehensive fare evasion deterrence program for the subways and buses, including the assignment of 500 personnel, including New York City and MTA police officers and 70 “Eagle Team” members, as well as a number of structural changes like securing emergency exits at subway stations and installation of video cameras.

Fare evasion has been a growing problem on New York City subways and buses in the last few years, according to the MTA. An MTA report issued in March estimated annual lost revenue due to fare evasion at $225 million in 2018; the projection for 2019 had grown to $260 million by the time of the governor’s June press conference.

The problem is particularly acute on buses where one of every five riders doesn’t pay the fare, the MTA says. It is infuriating to sit on a bus and watch others simply walk on without paying; drivers cannot be expected to take the risk of arguing with these passengers. But it is also a problem on the subways; I am sure everyone reading this column has seen people walking into stations through the emergency exit doors.

Stopping fare evasion should not be about criminalization or persecuting poor people—it’s about the money. Evasion hurts all transit riders by depriving the system of much-needed revenue and making the costs higher for those who do pay. $260 million a year is A LOT of money – enough, for example, to pay for half-fare Metrocards for all low-income riders eligible under the recently adopted “Fair Fares” initiative by the City Council and Mayor de Blasio. The worthy program should be fully implemented as quickly as possible and soon evaluated for possible expansion.

The heightened presence of law enforcement personnel and other initiatives to discourage fare evasion in the new plan are all worth trying, but they must be done carefully. And I suggest that, in addition, the MTA consider doing what the French are doing in the Paris Metro. It is not as big as New York’s system, of course, but does carry more than 4 million people a day and is the second busiest in Europe (after Moscow). It devotes 1,200 staff to fare evasion.

Instead of issuing summonses for non-payment that can be ignored with minimal – and no immediate – consequences, the Paris inspectors assess “penalty fares” that must be paid on the spot; 1 million of these penalties are issued a year in Paris. 

New York City Transit, the MTA’s division that runs the subways and buses, should explore using  the technology that Paris has employed to give members of the Eagle Teams who go onto buses to look for evaders hand-held devices that can check whether someone’s Metrocard (if they have one) has been used for that trip and if not, charge and collect a penalty fare, much higher than the regular fare but lower than the $100 civil fine for fare evasion. Do the same in the transfer tunnels in large subway stations like Penn and Grand Central.

Those who want to challenge the fine or cannot pay on the spot should have the option to pursue administrative appeals, but I strongly suspect this method will have more of a deterrent effect than simply issuing paper summonses to everyone. I certainly was very careful to save my Metro tickets after this happened to me!

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Carol Kellermann was president of Citizens Budget Commission from 2008 through 2018.

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

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A French Lesson in Fare Evasion Mon, 15 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Senators Krueger & Myrie on Historic Albany Session, Senate's Relationship with Cuomo, & More https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8658-senators-krueger-myrie-albany-session-senate-relationship-with-cuomo https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8658-senators-krueger-myrie-albany-session-senate-relationship-with-cuomo krueg myrie 600

l-r: Liz Krueger (photo: @LizKrueger) & Zellnor Myrie (photo: @zellnor4ny)


The New York State Legislature, under full Democratic control for the first time in a decade, had an exceptionally productive 2019 legislative session in Albany. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie ushered through a broad agenda of progressive legislation, long forestalled by Republicans who had controlled the state Senate, most of which has already been signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a third-term Democrat.

Landmark rent regulations were approved, voting and elections reforms were passed, stronger reproductive health rights were codified, and environmental protections were expanded, among a far longer list of accomplishments.

But several proposals did fall by the wayside amid opposition – or at least a lack of support – from the governor and a dearth of consensus in the state Senate where progressive members mostly from New York City found their priorities at odds with more moderate, suburban members more concerned about their seats in the 2020 elections.

In a recent interview on the Max & Murphy WBAI radio show, Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan veteran, and Senator Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn freshman, assessed the legislative victories, and failures, and the role that Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio played in this historic Albany year. They also looked ahead to next year’s session, which will take place in an election year when every member of the Legislature will be on the ballot and their Senate Democratic majority will look to extend its newfound dominance and partnership with the long-time Assembly Democratic majority.

“I’m actually still kvelling about how much we were able to get done this year, things that I had been telling my district I was trying to accomplish for the entire 17 years,” said Krueger, who represents Manhattan’s East Side.

Krueger, now the chair of the Senate’s finance committee, highlighted the expansion of voter rights and election reforms, the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, and legislation related to public transportation and consumer rights.

“[W]hen you’re hitting grand slams every week, you forget about the singles and the doubles that loaded the bases,” said Myrie, after first echoing that there were a vast number of major Democratic accomplishments that moved in January and thereafter, “and so there are things that we did that didn’t get as much play, but really are important for people in our districts.”

He cited $20 million in funding restored for home foreclosure prevention, $500 million in proposed Medicaid cuts that were avoided, and a $618 million increase in funding for public schools.

But both legislators pointed to agenda items, some prominent and some less so, that they couldn’t get across the finish line.

Most notable among them was the legalization, regulation, and taxation of adult-use marijuana, a thorny issue that Krueger has pursued for years but divided the Senate Democratic conference and tested Cuomo’s commitment to a policy he recently came around to express support for but did not appear especially eager to risk political capital on.

“Well, marijuana, even though people talk about as if it’s one issue, is actually a whole series of complicated issues,” she said, noting the difficulty in getting a majority of votes in the Senate. After failing to push the proposal through in the state budget as Cuomo had sought, some Democrats looked to move it in the post-budget session. Cuomo had insisted it was one of his top priorities but refused to put weight behind it when push came to shove and without his involvement in negotiations, Krueger said, the proposal was doomed to fail.

“We really wanted the governor back at the table with us, because big, complicated issues really do make sense to be three-way, and he was not there...and messaging very strangely as to whether he supported or didn’t support it, so we just couldn’t bring it over the line at the end,” she said. Krueger acknowledged what Cuomo had said publicly -- that she did not have the votes in the Senate, but she said she needed the governor to help get those final votes.

Among the issues, she insisted, was that state agencies essential to implementing the new law needed to explain to skeptical legislators how they would execute portions and in order for that to happen, Cuomo needed to be more present. “You can’t simply legislate and believe that all of the agencies are immediately going to change course to do what the law says unless you have an executive behind it,” she said.

In the end, the Legislature compromised to decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana and expunge records for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers convicted on low-level marijuana offenses.

Myrie noted additionally that marijuana legalization is far from universally popular, even in New York City districts like his, and though he expressed confidence the Legislature would pass it next year, there’s work to be done to get constituents on board.

“Now, I am willing to make the case to my community why this is important for us, not just the decriminalization, but the economic opportunity that it would provide for folks,” he said. “I think that we do have a lot of support there, but the assumption that even in the districts where their representatives were fully in support, that the support in the district was monolithic, I think is a presumption that we need to fight back against. And so, I’m ready to double down and do the work on education; I’ve been talking to the folks in my community about why this is important and good for us.”

Controlling both legislative chambers, Democrats were able this year to deal with Cuomo on stronger footing, rather than begrudgingly participate in the triangulation that he employed with Republicans and the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway faction of Senate Democrats, in past legislative sessions. And the governor was not shy about making his displeasure known at having lost some degree of power in Albany, while constantly taunting or questioning the new Senate Democratic majority, which he blamed for the demise of the deal he helped broker to bring a massive Amazon campus to Queens and which appeared to make him uncomfortable in dealing with an all-Demcoratic Legislature.

During and after the session, the governor variously described a successful partnership with the legislative leaders while at other times attacking them for failing to achieve promises they had made over the years. Kreuger and Myrie were careful when asked about the tense relationship between Cuomo and the Senate majority. “I decided long ago that I was never going to try to explain Andrew Cuomo or his behavior on any given day,” Krueger said of the reasons behind Cuomo’s harsh attitude towards the Senate.

“I suppose I could define it as, he was testing us, and he was playing bad cop, and our job was to show, ‘Hey, bad cop, we’re ready to govern, and we have our act together. We’re going to be there, and you’re going to come along because you know that we are in the right place, and in a place you want to be,’” she continued. “Now, why he doesn’t take the approach of ‘Oh, you’re a new majority, you’re trying to do a number of things that are my agenda issues, let’s work together and get to that place together,’ I sincerely don’t know. I think you’d have to ask him.”

Myrie is among the newly-elected crop of young progressives who deposed members of the IDC. “If you have spent the entirety of your governorship in main control, in trying to get some progressive wins in a Republican-controlled Senate, I think you’re going to have to adjust to the new dynamic of now, you have a very powerful leader in Andrea Stewart-Cousins, with a conference full of people who ran in sort of an unorthodox way,” he said of Cuomo, after also saying he is hesitant to try to explain Cuomo’s motives and behavior.

Mayor de Blasio, meanwhile, was not a significant factor in legislative negotiations this year, perhaps to everyone’s benefit, Krueger indicated. “He wasn’t that present,” Krueger said when asked if de Blasio, who is now running for president, had been active, and active enough, in Albany. “Whether he should have been is a separate question because, not as a disrespect to him so please don’t misunderstand, but the general sense in Albany is, if the mayor really wanted something, that would cause a problem.”

She acknowledged that that owes both to the governor’s long-standing dislike for the mayor as well as perhaps some similar sentiments among lawmakers. “So it would be better if people made clear what the hopes of the city were, without the mayor being the banner front-pusher on whatever those issues are,” she added. De Blasio did do well with his state agenda this year overall.

The marijuana legalization fight highlighted one of the central conflicts for the state Senate majority – balancing the priorities of Democrats in safely blue districts with those of their colleagues who replaced Republicans in more moderate parts of the state where they may be vulnerable in next year’s election.

Myrie commended Stewart-Cousins for doing “a really good job of trying to balance these two bases.” And he recognized that some members from suburban districts faced difficult votes “that they’re going to have to explain going back to 2020.” That includes, for instance, the Senate approving driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, which is far more popular in Central Brooklyn than in Long Island -- on which Democrats from the Island voted no.

“I think that we are going to have to balance our approach here, because we’re going to have such a high turnout in 2020, I think that the bases are going to be motivated,” he said. “I think the same folks that allowed for these senators to take these seats, they’re going to be coming out, and I think there are going to be more people coming out, excited about challenging the man in the White House right now.”

Krueger added of the Democrats who control 40 of 63 Senate seats: “We recognize it’s a big state, really different areas, really different issues. We want to make sure we grow our majority in 2020, we don’t want to put anyone at risk, and frankly, the more we grow our majority the more diversified our needs will be, but also the more opportunity we’ll have to allow people to not take votes that they think aren’t the right answers for their constituents while still being able to move the people’s business for the entire state forward.”

And there’s indeed much business left to accomplish. Myrie wants to codify the restoration of voting rights for parolees, which Cuomo did through an executive order; and he wants to pass a “good cause” eviction bill that was excluded from the rent regulations this year.

There are also lingering issues around a prevailing wage bill for construction projects receiving public funds and a push to ban solitary confinement in state prisons, among others that have varying level of support from legislators and Cuomo.

“I think that we have an opportunity to further discuss what didn’t get done, take it up at the beginning of the next session,” Myrie said, “and by the time that we get to January of 2020, there will be 50 more things that people have come up with that we have not gotten done, that we have not paid enough attention to, and I look forward to taking that on in full.”

Krueger wants to push the state on releasing more than half-a-billion dollars in pledged funds for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and for a thorough reevaluation of the state’s economic development strategy to ensure taxpayer funds are spent responsibly. “So those are some of the places I’ll be starting again the minute we get back up to Albany, or before,” she said.

[LISTEN: Max & Murphy Podcast: Senators Krueger & Myrie on the Year in Albany]

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Cyan Hunte contributed to this story.

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Senators Krueger & Myrie on Historic Albany Session, Senate's Relationship with Cuomo, & More Tue, 09 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Cautious Optimism Among Reformers After State Public Campaign Financing Commission Named https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8659-reformers-hopeful-after-state-public-campaign-finance-commission-named https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8659-reformers-hopeful-after-state-public-campaign-finance-commission-named fairelectionsny

(photo: @FairElectionsNY)


As New Yorkers geared up for the holiday weekend last week, state government leaders announced appointments to a new commission with the lofty task of establishing a statewide public campaign financing system.

The body is seen by many as an opportunity to reduce the influence of wealthy donors on state politics by creating a small-dollar matching program that would amplify the impact of contributions made by average residents, in the vein of what exists in New York City.

Established during budget negotiations earlier this year, the Public Campaign Finance Commission is mandated to create a voluntary system for statewide and state legislative candidates to receive public matching funds in exchange for meeting certain fundraising and spending criteria.

The commission is responsible for issuing a report with recommendations by December 1 and holding a public hearing on its findings. The recommendations become binding if lawmakers, who will be out of session, don’t act to modify them within 20 days of their release.

On July 3, the governor and legislative leaders revealed their appointees to the nine-member commission, which set off fanfare and a measure of caution from advocates, three months after it was created by law.

“The law charges the commissioners named today with a historic task: design a public financing system that incentivizes candidates to seek more small donations. If they do it right, their system they create will give New Yorkers a stronger voice in Albany,” wrote Larry Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, in a statement after the announcement. “If the commissioners do it wrong, their system will fail, and Albany’s status quo will remain.”

Doing it “right,” according to Norden and the Brennan Center, as well as many other advocates, means having a large public match in both primary and general elections, low qualifying thresholds, and low contribution limits for individuals, all of which they believe encourages candidates to rely on many small contributions rather than a few large ones.

A Brennan Center analysis released in December found that 100 individual donors contributed more to state candidates than all of the roughly 137,000 small donors combined in the 2018 election cycle. Reformers view this outsized impact as a threat to democratic processes.

“New York’s electoral system is in desperate need of reform. Dark money routinely pours in to control public opinion, misinform voters, and benefit special interests,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, wrote in a statement accompanying appointments to the commission, which also cited related accomplishments from earlier this year, like “closing the LLC loophole” and confidence that the commission will design a system to make New York elections “fairer.”

The creation of a commission to study and establish public campaign financing in New York State is part of a concerted effort by reformers, both inside and outside government, to limit the role of money in politics. That push took on new meaning after the U.S. Supreme Court authorized virtually unlimited political spending under the First Amendment in the 2010 Citizens United decision, which unleashed the Super PAC era.

The effort gained new steam this year when Democrats took control of the state Senate and thus both houses of the state Legislature under a Democratic governor who has publicly supported state-level campaign financing for years.

When the commission was first announced in April, advocates called for appointments to be independent of the powers that choose them and representative of the state’s diverse constituencies, upstate and downstate.

A majority of the commission’s appointments come from Albany’s Democratic leadership with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Stewart-Cousins each choosing two commissioners, with another appointed jointly by all three. The remaining two commissioners are appointed by minority leaders of the legislative houses.

Last Wednesday, Cuomo appointed Mylan Denerstein, his former counsel who is now a partner at Gibson, Dunn and Cutcher, and state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs of Long Island; Heastie appointed Rosanna Vargas, a former elections commissioner in the city Board of Elections, and Crystal Rodriguez, former chief diversity officer for the City of Buffalo, who is now chief of staff in the Buffalo State College president’s office; and Stewart-Cousins appointed DeNora Getachew, executive director of Generation Citizen in New York City and former legislative counsel to Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, and Westchester County Attorney John Nonna. The at-large, joint appointment by the three Democratic leaders went to veteran election lawyer Henry Berger. 

Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan chose David Previtte, former chief counsel to the previous Republican state Senate majority, to serve on the commission; and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb appointed Kimberly Galvin, his former chief of staff and current co-director of the state Board of Elections’ Campaign Finance Compliance Unit.

In a statement and at a press conference Monday, newly-elected state Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy of Erie County criticized the governor for using one of two direct appointments to place Jacobs on the commission. “This is an egregious conflict of interest that is another attempt to legalize rigged elections and elect Democrats, not root out corruption,” Langworthy said. Neither Republican minority leader selected Langworthy to join the commission, though Langworthy reportedly said that if asked he would not have accepted.

The legislation establishing the commission authorizes the state to disperse up to $100 million annually in public funds. Public matching funds programs encourage candidates to seek small contributions by matching each contribution below a certain amount. In order to receive public funds, candidates must voluntarily adhere to limits on political fundraising and campaign spending, and are generally subject to stricter reporting requirements and auditing.

Municipalities around the country have implemented public matching programs with varying matches and limits. New York City has one of the oldest and most generous programs in the country, with the city matching small contributions at eight to one (in November, voters chose to expand the city’s program via ballot referendum). In March, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed the For the People Act, an omnibus election reform bill that included a federal small-dollar public financing system. The bill has been introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate, but has not advanced.

All eyes are now on New York’s commission, which advocates hope will take advantage of the opportunity to implement real, long-sought reforms.

“If the Commission listens to the experts who have looked at this issue over the decades, they will implement a robust matching system that offers at least six dollars in matching funds for every small dollar raised in primaries and general elections, lowers contribution limits and restores New Yorkers faith in democracy,” the Fair Elections for New York coalition, made up of dozens of advocacy groups and labor unions, wrote in a statement after last week’s announcement. “If the Commission does not listen to these experts, the Legislature must step in and use its power to ‘amend or abrogate’ the Commission’s recommendations.”

Eleven states have some form of public financing, according to the National Conference of State Legislators website, but none as big as New York. In a blog post published on its website on July 3, the Brennan Center wrote that creating a small donor public financing system in New York “would mark the most significant campaign finance reform in the United States since the 2010 Citizens United ruling.”

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

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Cautious Optimism Among Reformers After State Public Campaign Financing Commission Named Mon, 08 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
New State Climate Law: ‘Compromise Bill’ Nevertheless ‘Historic’ https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8627-new-state-climate-law-compromise-bill-nevertheless-historic https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8627-new-state-climate-law-compromise-bill-nevertheless-historic gov cuomo roberto clemente waterfront

(photo: the Governor's office)


Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) into law last week, finalizing legislation that has been labeled “the most aggressive climate change legislation in the nation,” “comprehensive,” and a “historic compromise.”

With its aggressive carbon emission reduction mandates and push toward renewable energy and a green economy, the CLCPA has been heralded by lawmakers and supporters as the most comprehensive and ambitious climate change legislation in the country, and as a model for other states. But at the same time, it’s not all that activists wanted, after a significant and near-fatal disagreement between Cuomo and others over what requirements the legislation would include for state investment into communities that have borne the brunt of pollution and climate change.

Almost all legislators and activists who wanted to see a version of the legislative majorities’ Climate and Community Protection Act passed are pleased with the CLCPA, which passed based on Cuomo’s specifications, even as some say there is more to do and several next chapters to the push coming up soon. The legislation creates certain mandates, but there are also many unanswered questions and decisions still to be made in terms of its implementation.

Historic
The CLCPA will add the Climate Change Article to the Environmental Conservation Law, establishing a statewide greenhouse gas emission limit of 60% of 1990 levels by 2030 and 15% of 1990 levels by 2050. It calls for the state to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, meaning that most of the energy used in New York by 2050 will come from renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydro-power.

The law also mandates that 70% of the electricity consumed in New York State come from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% come from zero emission sources by 2040.

Cuomo released a statement calling the bill “the most aggressive climate change legislation in the nation,” and he hopes this legislation will help New York -- which has one of the largest economies in the United States -- become a leader in global climate policy.

Legislative leaders and advocates alike have voiced their support for the bill.

“This bill sets New York on a course for a sustainable future by transitioning our state to clean renewable energy, unleashing the genius of American industry, and ensuring good paying jobs that work for all New Yorkers,” Assemblymember Steve Englebright said in a statement announcing the law’s passage. Englebright served as the lead sponsor of the bill in the assembly.

“In our coalition, we did a really intentional job of bringing together environmental justice and labor voices to the table so that we could develop a policy that benefits everybody,” said Priya Mulgaonkar, policy organizer for the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance and member of the NYRenews coalition that helped lead the push for a sweeping climate bill. Appearing on the Max & Murphy podcast, Mulgaonkar noted that environmental advocates played a major role in the passage of the law.

Overseeing the emissions reductions will be a newly established 22-member New York State Climate Action Council, consisting of state agency leaders, business leaders, and environmental advocates. The governor will appoint the members of the council.

Including members of the business community on the Council will ensure that the law “cleans up industry and industry doesn't move out of state,” said Miles Farmer, senior attorney at the Climate and Clean Energy Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, appearing on the Capitol Pressroom last week. But, “at the end of the day the state agencies are going to be the ones that decide how to regulate,” he told host Susan Arbetter.

The law will “call for a process that creates structures where the private market invests in clean technologies,” Farmer said.

The law does not mandate any particular strategy for reducing carbon emissions, giving a wide berth to create and enforce new standards, something the new council will take on, followed by key state agencies involved.

The state will transition to 6,000 total megawatts of solar energy by 2025 and 9,000 total megawatts of wind energy by 2035. The state currently has a capacity of 2,000 megawatts of solar energy and nearly 2000 megawatts of wind energy, according to the New York Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s electricity grid. In 2018, the entire state had an installed generating capacity of 39,064 megawatts from all fuel sources.

While more renewable forms of energy like wind and solar are thought to be more expensive than fossil fuels, that has proven not to be the case, Farmer said. “The track record is that every forecast of prices for wind and solar has not been ambitious enough,” Farmer said on the Capitol Pressroom. “And the prices continue to plummet.” Cuomo has repeatedly promised in recent weeks to soon announce a major expansion of the state’s wind energy program.

The law will also create a process to ensure at least 35% of investments from clean energy funds are invested in communities most affected by climate change.

Compromise
“This is a compromise bill,” Mulgaonkar said, noting that Cuomo did not consider the climate bill a priority for the Legislature until two weeks prior, when legislators and activists continued to push for passage of the Climate and Community Protection Act.

The bill Cuomo signed notably excluded some provisions that activists and some legislators wanted to see, especially those that aim to protect labor and climate-vulnerable communities.

Under the law, polluting industries and companies that cannot directly address all of their carbon emissions will be required to invest in “sound solutions to offset their emissions” elsewhere. However, some environmental advocates worry that requiring companies to invest in efforts to offset their carbon emissions allows them to employ loopholes that disadvantage more vulnerable communities. The environmental justice aspects of the legislation remain a bone of contention.

“All these sources of emissions that we want to curb are disproportionately sited in low-income communities and communities of color,” Mulgaonkar said. “It’s well-documented; you see higher rates of asthma, cancer, traffic accidents, you name it, from all of these noxious infrastructures.”

For neighborhoods most affected by pollution, environmental justice was an integral component of the bill, Mulgaonkar said. Those neighborhoods most at risk, she said, “have been thinking about how to tackle climate change for years now.”

Mulgaonkar noted the loss of the “equity provision” of the original CCPA, which would have dedicated 40% of clean energy funds to frontline communities, or those most affected by climate change and pollution. The provision that made it into the final version of the bill, however, is much more vague, fitting Cuomo’s vision for the bill -- while the governor had expressed understanding of the calls for environmental justice, he repeatedly said he was wary of requirements for investments in certain places, instead wanting flexibility to choose the best projects to fit the environmental and green economy goals.

“The new NY climate law is not a win for justice. In fact, low income & communities of color got screwed [with] requirements for money into disadvantaged communities and high road labor standards gutted at Cuomo's insistence. Please people: don't act like it's a win when we lost,” environmental activist Pete Sikora of New York Communities for Change wrote on Twitter.

While Sikora expressed dismay about elements of the CCPA that were lost or watered down in the CLCPA, some of his fellow activists responded with slightly more hopeful sentiments. Daniela Lapidous of NYRenews responded to Sikora to agree that the CLCPA was not as strong as the CCPA in terms of environmental justice requirements, but that the funding elements were always going to be annual budget battles, and that that would be the next frontier in the “fight,” with a “pathway” for strong outcomes.

Stephan Edel, project director for New York Working Families wrote that now, with the CLCPA, “For the first time law mandates equity provisions, spending, oversight by communities, and a reorganization and analysis to ensure environmental and spending benefits are more equitably shared.”

“The bill is incomplete but sets up even more wins,” Edel added.

The “ambiguous” new provision will make it harder to fund the kinds of projects that communities actually want, Mulgaonkar said. “It comes down to the [dedicated] funding not being there in this version of the bill,” she said.

Future
Along with the formation of the Climate Action Council and subsequent steps to implement the new law, the CLCPA will also face the challenge of transitioning workers to a “clean” or “green” economy, as in retraining workers in fossil fuel industries for more environmentally-friendly employment.

“You always hear people claiming that climate bills are going to kill jobs,” Mulgaonkar said, but “we’re going to continue standing with our labor partners” to protect them.

Despite any perceived or actual shortcomings, the CLCPA still has the potential to unite “workers who need to be transitioned to the new economy, and the front line communities that have dealt with these polluting industries for so long,” Mulgaonkar said.

The CLCPA came as the final piece of a wave of climate-related legislation this year in Albany, with newly-powerful Democrats loosening the hold on long-desired bills. This session, the state Legislature passed bills banning plastic bags and toxic chemicals, improving child safety, preventing overfishing, and prohibiting oil and natural gas offshore drilling, among other efforts to curtail climate change.

“This has been the best environmental legislative session in a generation,” Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said in a statement. “Bills that have been environmental priorities for years passed the Legislature after having finally been given thoughtful and thorough consideration by new Senate leadership.”

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by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

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by Cyan Hunte, Gotham Gazette

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New State Climate Law: ‘Compromise Bill’ Nevertheless ‘Historic’ Tue, 02 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
In End-of-Session Scorecard, Progressive Coalition Grades State Legislature on First Year of New Democratic Power https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8655-scorecard-progressive-coalition-grades-state-legislature-on-first-year-of-new-democratic-power https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8655-scorecard-progressive-coalition-grades-state-legislature-on-first-year-of-new-democratic-power gov cuomo protecting

Heastie, Stewart-Cousins, Cuomo, Hochul (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)


Following a historically productive legislative session in Albany, a broad coalition of progressive advocates has scored the performance of state lawmakers on a range of topics, pointing to major victories and unfinished tasks for reformers as political dust continues to settle from last year’s elections and this year’s governing.

True Blue NY, a grassroots coalition formed to oust rogue Democratic state senators who shared power with Republicans, released its “People’s Platform” in January, seizing on the electoral momentum that brought sweeping changes to the upper legislative chamber’s power structure and created one-party control in Albany.

The coalition, made up of dozens of new constituent-engagement and traditional advocacy organizations, was created to support challengers to members of the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) -- a group of eight break-away senators who formed a power-sharing deal with Republicans, giving them control of the chamber for several years and ensuring a divided Legislature, with Democrats holding a wide majority in the Assembly.

Six of the eight IDC senators were defeated in last year’s Democratic primaries. Then, in November, major grassroots efforts and a huge jump in voter turnout -- seen, in part, as a reaction to the first two years of the Trump presidency -- saw a number of Democratic wins to flip Republican seats, handing the Democrats a solid majority in the Senate under Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

As the calendar turned to 2019 and the legislative year in Albany was set to begin, the attention turned to governance, and following through on campaign promises.

“The People’s Platform came together with a sense of the notion that if we stuck together, if we brought the same galvanized energy to the legislative work, we’d be way more successful,” said coalition member Ricky Silver, co-lead organizer with Empire State Indivisible, in an interview. “Even though we had a Dem majority, no one thought it would be easy.”

With Democrats holding both houses of the state Legislature and the Executive Chamber, this year’s session was an opportunity for Democrats to achieve some of the long-sought legislation that had been blocked or backlogged under the Republican-led Senate over the past decade. On issues ranging from civil rights and climate change to gun control and election reform, grassroots activists and reform-minded elected officials pushed an aggressive agenda and achieved many policy goals that catch-up to or go further than other states.

But in certain critical areas, True Blue NY’s post-session scorecard identifies what the coalition views alternately as shortcomings and complete failures in the end-of-session outcomes.

The People’s Platform scorecard, set to be released widely on Tuesday, rates the state Senate and Assembly individually in 13 distinct issue categories. The group plans to release another scorecard of Governor Andrew Cuomo after he takes action on the legislation that has passed both houses.

The activists and organizers in the coalition see the scorecard as a measure of accountability, and the basis for both celebration and top agenda items for next year.

The highest grades (A) were for advancing legislation that protects some of New York’s most underserved populations: immigrants, transgender and gender-nonconforming people, and survivors of child sex abuse.

The scorecard also shows favorable performances on items like voting reform (A-/B+), gun safety (A-), housing (B), and reproductive and sexual health (B). Of the 13 issue categories outlined by True Blue NY, the Assembly and Senate each scored As or Bs in eight, and Ds and one F in the other five (the Assembly got an F on tax reform for not introducing two tax credit bills that the Senate did).

“Working with a Democratic Senate Majority for the first time in ten years, we were finally able to deliver the progressive legislation we have championed for years,” the Assembly majority, led by Speaker Carl Heastie, said in a celebratory statement released on Monday, another in several efforts to sum up the massive amount of legislation passed this year. “Looking back on all we’ve accomplished this year, New Yorkers have a lot to be proud of.”

Both chambers earned A grades for promoting civil and human rights and protections for immigrants. For the civil and human rights rating, True Blue NY cites the passage of the Gender Expression Non-discrimination Act (GENDA), extending the statute of limitations to bring charges under the Child Victims Act, and a ban on “conversion therapy” to try changing the sexual orientation of minors. All three measures had long been sought by LGBTQ or children’s rights advocates, and all three passed during the first month of the legislative session under the new cohort of Democratic lawmakers.

For immigrant protections, the coalition weighed the passage of the controversial Driver's License Access and Privacy Act, known as the “Green Light bill,” which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. Supporters say the measure will allow immigrants, many of whom are already driving, to obtain licenses legally, bolstering regulatory effects, creating safer traffic conditions, and bringing in revenue. The bill was one of the last to pass the Legislature, hitting roadblocks in the final days of session and requiring concerted pressure from supporters.

In other categories, the True Blue NY grades are more middling, like on efforts to improve criminal justice, promote reproductive and sexual health, and advance comprehensive environmental protections. In these cases, the coalition identified some positive results accompanied by notable shortcomings.

The Legislature passed reforms to the cash bail and speedy trial systems, but failed to act on calls to end solitary confinement and fell short of securing many of the restorative elements that advocates sought in the push to legalize recreational marijuana. 

“When it comes to redirecting revenue or investment to communities most impacted by the drug war, climate change, and housing instability, they came woefully short,” reads a statement attached to the True Blue NY scorecard.

Legalization of adult-use marijuana failed to pass, largely due to opposition from suburban and upstate Democrats in the state Senate, some of whom represent newly-taken swing districts and feared swinging the pendulum to far to the left. A bill to decriminalize marijuana was passed at the end of June with some elements of what reformers desired, but not nearly all of it.

In a statement on the bill, Stewart-Cousins said, “This legislation is marking a momentous first step in addressing the racial disparities caused by the war on drugs. The Senate Majority continues to move forward on full legalization...”

A number of mediocre grades are accompanied by the view of some coalition members that critical measures promoting the interests of more marginalized constituencies were deprioritized.

“I think that’s a reflection of the Legislature focusing on the politics of issues, concerned about the maintenance of their seats, the maintenance of their power,” said Jawanza Williams, director of organizing at VOCAL-NY, a member of the coalition.

That is not inherently a bad thing, according to Williams, “but whenever you don’t center the experiences of some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, like those who are dealing with marijuana prohibition legacy issues,” it can overshadow “the experiences and the needs of the people that are directly impacted by some of the most devastating issues in the state.”

Some of True Blue NY’s worst grading was given in categories that the coalition felt would do the most to change the dynamics of power in Albany and across the state. In categories titled “Big Money Out of Politics” and “Clean Up Albany” the Assembly and Senate both received Ds.

“There is no question this was a historically progressive year and that the state made a big leap forward, but unfortunately it didn’t make that equal leap forward for everyone,” Silver said. “If you look at the things that were left on the table, these are issues that affect the most marginalized in our state or effect real representation.”

True Blue NY members were especially disappointed to see delays to comprehensive campaign finance reform, like a publicly-financed campaign matching funds program, which they view as essential to limiting the influence of special interests and promoting more representative candidates.

“It’s the discrepancy across the pillars and within certain core pieces of legislation, where economic and social issues were not prioritized, that we believe is a good example for why the Legislature should have pushed heavier for fair elections,” said Silver.

The rest of the D and F grades were given in categories impacting some of New York’s most essential functions and public resources: taxation, education, and healthcare. Creating a more equitable tax system, funding culturally-responsive education, and establishing single-payer healthcare through the New York Health Act were all left on the table at the end of session.

The People’s Platform scorecard is calculated based on a number of factors for each bill in an issue category tracked by the coalition, including legislative activity as reported on the Senate and Assembly websites, according to True Blue NY’s co-leader, Judith Hertzberg. Each legislative body earned credit when a bill supported by the coalition advanced, whether it be out of committee or on the floor.

If populist displeasure helped turn the state Senate in September and November, it was the sustained grassroots advocacy, not the partisan control, that brought many reforms to the finish line, according to members of True Blue NY.

“You look at the housing bills, you look at the harassment-free legislation that passed, this is due to everyday New Yorkers stepping up and saying, ‘I need to be heard. And if you are going to pass legislation, you need to listen to people that have actually been impacted by it.’ And a number of our senators and Assembly members were champions of that approach,” said Silver.

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

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In End-of-Session Scorecard, Progressive Coalition Grades State Legislature on First Year of New Democratic Power Mon, 01 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: State Senators Liz Krueger & Zellnor Myrie on the Year in Albany https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8643-max-murphy-podcast-reflecting-on-the-year-in-albany-with-senators-krueger-myrie https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8643-max-murphy-podcast-reflecting-on-the-year-in-albany-with-senators-krueger-myrie mryie krueger wbai 600px

(photo: NYSenate)


June 26, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Reflecting on the Year in Albany, with Senators Krueger & Myrie

wbai krueger myrieState Senators Liz Krueger of Manhattan and Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn joined the show to reflect on the year that was in Albany, the January through June session with Democrats in full control of state government for the first time in many years. Two two senators discussed their majority's first session in power, dynamics between the Legislature and Governor Cuomo, what got done and what fell off the table - and why.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: State Senators Liz Krueger & Zellnor Myrie on the Year in Albany Wed, 26 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
In End of Session Deals, Cuomo and Legislators Pass Capital Budget, with New 'SAM' Money https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8628-end-of-session-cuomo-legislators-pass-capital-budget-sam-money https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8628-end-of-session-cuomo-legislators-pass-capital-budget-sam-money gov cuomo inspects

(photo: the Governor's office)


As part of their end-of-session rush, the State Legislature passed this year’s state capital budget, months later than usual after it was not passed as part of the other budget bills that moved on or before the April 1 start of the new state fiscal year.

One provision of the $3.9 billion capital budget added $385 million to the coffers of the opaque State and Municipal Facilities Program, often referred to as SAM, which has in a sense replaced the old “member item” system for awarding pork projects to legislators, while also providing the governor millions to work with.

SAM already has over $1.9 billion in unspent funds that have been rolled over from previous allocations. As of June 12 of this year, there are over 1,800 grants currently administered under the program that amount to just over $988 million in current or planned spending, which leaves about $1 billion remaining for the governor and state lawmakers to use at their discretion. This is more than SAM has spent in any single year since its inception.

Now, there is the additional $385 million that has not been committed to any particular projects, leaving almost $1.4 billion to be used as a pork barrel program for state legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

These funds can be used for any number of things, from additional police cars for local departments to playgrounds and skate parks to local library renovations. The programs are not immediately lined out in the budget, but allocated based on an even less transparent internal process.

The program is relatively new, having been started by Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders in 2013, the same year that Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference first formed a majority coalition in the State Senate. Former Senator Jeff Klein, the one-time leader of the IDC, was the biggest beneficiary of the program, getting $12 million from 2013 to 2015, much of which came from SAM, according to Politico New York. During that period, Klein received more earmarked funds than any other state senator and other IDC members were also top receivers of earmarks.

SAM can be seen as a successor to member items, a process where legislators could use money from a discretionary fund controlled by the legislature for projects in their districts.

E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center think tank calls SAM “basically member items on steroids,” because member items traditionally funded smaller needs like Little League uniforms and meal programs for seniors, but SAM supports larger programs such as gazebos and highway garages.

According to McMahon, member items “amounted to $100 million or so a year at their peak,” but SAM will now be authorized to spend over $2.3 billion in the coming years. According to SeeThroughNY, run by the Empire Center, the state government spent over $500 million through the same program in 2018.

Cuomo opposed member items as Attorney General and during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Funding for member items stopped in 2009, but it only took four years before a new discretionary fund for legislators and the governor emerged. (Cuomo was first elected governor in 2010.)

Now, the governor is an active participant in the “pork barrel” program akin to the one he previously opposed. According to McMahon, Cuomo gets to “claim his own big hunk [of SAM funds], and has used it to supplement capital spending in areas that already have their own very large capital budgets,” such as the MTA.

For SAM projects, the governor or individual legislators make requests, and those requests are then approved (or not) by the state’s Division of Budget or the Dormitory Authority. The Dormitory Authority then administers approved funding. The Division of Budget reports to the governor and the Dormitory Authority’s board consists of five direct gubernatorial appointees, three gubernatorial appointees to other positions who serve on the board ex-officio, and one appointed by each of the Assembly Speaker, Senate Majority Leader, and State Comptroller.

There is only one member of the 11-person board who is not directly affiliated with the Governor or state legislators. The Governor and legislators request funding for local projects and then their appointees approve them.

With the IDC no longer around and the state facing fiscal challenges, the program’s future was slightly in limbo when it was not included in the April budget, as the whole capital budget was kicked down the road.

Governor Cuomo line-item vetoed about $44 million of the budget’s capital spending after it passed the State Legislature. However, he had said in an interview with WAMC radio that the capital budget would be dealt with “in the coming weeks” while also declaring that his infrastructure agenda is “the most aggressive infrastructure plan in the United States of America.”

McMahon says SAM is “a completely indefensible program,” because “it’s all financed with borrowed money, effectively diverting scarce capital resources from core infrastructure needs.”

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by Andrew Millman, Gotham Gazette

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In End of Session Deals, Cuomo and Legislators Pass Capital Budget, with New 'SAM' Money Tue, 25 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Governor Gets What He Wants at the MTA; Now It's Time to Deliver https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8637-governor-gets-what-he-wants-at-the-mta-now-it-s-time-to-deliver https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8637-governor-gets-what-he-wants-at-the-mta-now-it-s-time-to-deliver oped gov cuomo

Gov. Cuomo on the subway (photo: the governor's office)


At the end of the state legislative session that just finished several steps were taken to consolidate Governor Cuomo’s power over the MTA. First, he swapped out two of his ‘independent’ appointees to the MTA Board for two members of his state cabinet, Robert Mujica, his budget director, and Linda Lacewell, commissioner of the Department of Financial Services.

Second, in order to legitimize the board appointment of someone who is not a resident of the MTA region, the law was changed to provide that the state budget director, regardless of residence, may serve on the board ex-officio.

Finally, a new law was passed requiring the appointment within six weeks of a “transformation director” to report directly to the MTA Board to implement the reorganization plan that was required by the budget bills passed in early April and is expected to be prepared and submitted by June 30.

These actions have been criticized by respected transit analysts, (see here and here), largely on the grounds that the governor is creating conflicts of interest by placing his own full-time employees on a board that is supposed to be independent and that he is undermining the governance of the MTA by creating new positions outside the existing chain of command.

These are valid concerns; however, for those who have bemoaned Governor Cuomo’s past ambivalence about his responsibility for the transit system, the actions have a significant upside: they establish clearly and beyond any doubt that the Governor of the State is the ultimate authority and decision-maker with regard to the MTA. And this governor has now taken ownership of it in a clear and unequivocal way.

I know Rob Mujica; he is one of the most competent people I have worked with in government. I have no reason to think that Linda Lacewell is any less capable.

They both bring a great deal of management experience and knowledge of public finance to their new roles as MTA board members. Yes, they will have to navigate their loyalty to Governor Cuomo and their fiduciary duty to the MTA; there may be issues on which one or both of them will need to recuse themselves. But for the most part, their other roles should complement and enhance their value as board members.

In fact, it may be a good idea to designate the state budget director as an ex-officio member of the MTA Board – and the city budget director as well, for that matter. Both governments have significant control over resources that are and/or should be devoted to the MTA, particularly with regard to its capital spending.

On the other hand, it is certainly unusual and probably not optimal to specify that a particular staff line at the MTA, i.e. a new Transformation Director, report directly to the Board and not to the CEO.
Consolidation of services has long been a favorite topic of Governor Cuomo and it makes sense that redundant departments among MTA divisions (NYCT, LIRR, MetroNorth, and TBTA) be combined. But reorganization of those agencies will not fundamentally change the MTA’s financial picture; more concerning than the new hire is raising unrealistic expectations about what “transformation” will accomplish.

In any event, Governor Cuomo, with the assistance of the state Legislature, has solidified his control, and it is long past time for him to move on from bashing the organization to creating and supporting useful change. He should take responsibility for:

1. Release of a new 20-year needs assessment that shows the full cost of getting every single piece of MTA infrastructure to a state of good repair. The last assessment was issued in 2013 and another is required by law in 2020. We cannot pay for everything at once, and there may be some items on the wish list we can never pursue, but we must see what all the needs are so that the public can provide input and the MTA Board can decide what needs to be prioritized.

2. Release of a five-year capital plan. The current plan covers 2014-19 and another is expected by October, for 2020-2024. Estimates of the cost of a complete plan for the MTA’s next five years range from $40-60 billion. Let’s see what the authority has decided to prioritize and how it is going to be paid for. Of course, money should not be wasted; but don’t skimp on this, the most important infrastructure in the state. In the past, the governor and his representatives have pressured the MTA to reduce its “bloated” capital plan, only to later agree to increases because of the urgency of the needs. Will Mujica and Lacewell support the full amount the MTA needs or try to protect the Governor from having to come up with more revenue by arguing for less?

3. Making it clear that the commitment to contribute $8 billion in state dollars to the current five-year capital plan will be honored, and specify what projects it will fund. All the projects in the current plan have not been completed; large projects are almost never fully achieved within a single five-year capital plan because construction commitments take time. But this money should not be allowed to disappear or be rolled over to fund the next five-year plan.

4. Focusing most of the money, time, and attention on getting the current transit system to operate effectively and safely, not on shiny new projects that lend themselves to ribbon cuttings but don’t improve travel times and experiences for most commuters.

5. Negotiating tough new contracts with the TWU and other unions that do not add any costs for the MTA and its riders. Curbing overtime abuse is of course important (another hands-on tactic of the governor was to hand-pick a new MTA Inspector General) but it is labor costs that are the primary driver of MTA spending, accounting for 60% of the MTA’s annual operating budget. The next round of contracts MUST contain work-rule changes that make workers more productive and contribute to cost savings, not increases. (Bob Linn is an excellent new appointment to the MTA Board who should be able to assist in this effort.)

OK, Governor Cuomo, you have been given everything you wanted in terms of control, more than many think is appropriate. Use your power wisely and effectively because there is no longer any question the subway buck stops with you.

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Carol Kellermann was president of Citizens Budget Commission from 2008 through 2018.

 

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

 

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Governor Gets What He Wants at the MTA; Now It's Time to Deliver Mon, 24 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
How De Blasio Fared in Albany This Year https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8635-how-de-blasio-fared-in-albany-2019-cuomo https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8635-how-de-blasio-fared-in-albany-2019-cuomo mayor state state

Mayor de Blasio with Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


Democrats in control of the state Legislature for the first time in a decade ended a whirlwind legislative session last week, having notched a raft of progressive victories that were denied to them when Republicans controlled the state Senate. 

At a news conference in Albany on Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared it the “the most productive legislative session in modern history,” and in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed.

“As we tally up the scorecard for the end of session, one thing is clear: New Yorkers have won big on a host of progressive legislation that will help make our state fairer,” de Blasio said in a statement on Friday.

Among the bills passed this year were several sweeping packages with significant ramifications for the city’s 8.5 million residents. Registering to vote will become easier. Tenants will have stronger protections. Wealth will no longer determine, in most cases, if someone accused of a crime loses their freedom. Marijuana possession won’t land people in jail. The subways will get new funding and the streets will be a little less crowded by vehicles. Cameras will catch speeding drivers near schools. Construction projects will be completed more efficiently. Undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for driver’s licenses and receive education funding. And that’s not all.

Among de Blasio’s top stated priorities, he saw movement on stronger rent regulations, mayoral control of city schools, congestion pricing, election reform, design-build authority, criminal justice reform, and more.

Nonetheless, there were a few professed priorities for the mayor that did not get approved this year including legalizing adult use of recreational marijuana, scrapping the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), and reforming Section 50-a of the state Civil Rights Law, which shields police officer disciplinary records from public disclosure, among others.

“We haven’t seen a session this daring, productive and progressive in decades, and while we have much more work to do for New Yorkers, I want to thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the rest of the legislature for passing these sweeping reforms,” de Blasio said. “I also would like to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for taking swift action on many of these pieces of legislation.”

The city has already or will soon begin the process of executing some of the various reforms that passed, including creating new local regulations for e-bikes and e-scooters to expanding contract awards for MWBEs, and implementing bail reform. Some reforms will also take effect immediately while other programs are scheduled to ramp up over time.

Here’s a rundown of approved bills and programs, some broad and others more specific, that will impact New York City:

Expanded MWBE Program
The Legislature gave the city greater authority to award discretionary contracts to Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) as well as Emerging Business Enterprises run by socially and economically disadvantaged business owners.

The legislation increases the value of contracts that the city can award without a formal competitive process to such businesses from $150,000 to $500,000 million. It also allows adding MWBE or EBE status as a criteria for creating pre-qualified vendor lists, allows the Department of Design and Construction to create a mentoring program for MWBEs and EBEs, and allows those businesses to apply for School Construction Authority contracts.

De Blasio had called this a top priority, holding a press conference on the subject in late March (he wanted the threshold raised to $1 million, but was pleased with $500,000) and reiterating its importance as the session moved toward completion. A $1 million threshold would have allowed the city to increase annual MWBE awards by $500 million, he had said.

“Our city is fairer and more vibrant when everyone – regardless of race, gender or ethnicity – has an opportunity to participate in our economy,” de Blasio said in a statement. “With the help of State lawmakers and persistent advocacy from our minority and women entrepreneurs, we managed to once again expand economic opportunity for people who have historically been left out of our economy. A $500,000 discretionary award limit for minority and women entrepreneurs will strengthen our thriving economy and entrepreneurial backbone.”

Expanded Design-Build Authority
Design-build is a procurement method intended to cut infrastructure costs by allowing government to solicit a joint design and construction contract. De Blasio has been pushing for the commonsense measure for years but it was repeatedly used as a leverage item by the governor and Republican Senate, with at times small gains allowed to the city.

Democrats this year expanded the city’s design-build authorization to several city agencies: the Department of Design & Construction, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, the School Construction Authority, the Department of Parks & Recreation, the New York City Housing Authority and New York City Health + Hospitals.

Legalizing Electronic Bikes and Scooters
The Legislature legalized e-bikes and e-scooters (with a maximum speed of 20 miles an hour), mandated safety requirements for e-scooters, and gave municipalities the ability to regulate e-scooters within their jurisdiction.

In New York City, the bill could end a de Blasio-ordered crackdown by the NYPD on e-bikes, which are often used by immigrant food delivery workers. It will also allow the City Council to create new regulations where earlier its hands were tied. Several bills were introduced and discussed at a Council hearing in January, which can now move forward. When pressed on his e-bike crackdown, de Blasio repeatedly pointed to Albany, saying he wanted state regulations so the city could then act, but also expressing safety concerns not backed up by any data.

Governor Cuomo did say Friday that he is still reviewing the legislation, and he expressed safety concerns about where and how e-bikes and e-scooters riders would operate, saying he didn’t think they should be in bike lanes or on sidewalks with those riding traditional bikes or walking. De Blasio has expressed similar concerns.

Rent Regulations
The Legislature passed and governor signed a package of sweeping tenant-friendly rent regulations, with no expiration dates unlike previous rent laws, which are expected to affect more than 2.4 million rent-regulated tenants in the city. 

The bills ended high-rent and high-income vacancy decontrol, limited rent increases from “major capital improvements,” and banned blacklisting of tenants for being sued in housing court, among other regulations.

De Blasio called the rent regulations “extraordinary” in an interview on NY1’s Inside City Hall. “[W]e created the biggest affordable housing program this city has ever had, we gave free lawyers to stop evictions, we’ve done a lot of things here that are working – rent freezes for two years, obviously. But the missing link was to get action in Albany,” he said. “Now we have the strongest rent laws we’ve ever had and that’s extraordinary. And I think this has been – this is one of the watershed moments in terms of protecting New York City as we love it, you know, keeping New York New York, making sure it’s a city for everyone.”

Environmental Regulations
In a last-minute agreement, the governor and Legislature approved the expansive Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, said to be the strongest environmental regulation of its kind in the country. It mandates goals for cutting carbon emissions to zero in the electricity sector by 2040, invests heavily in wind and solar energy, and will direct state agencies to invest 40% of clean energy funds in disadvantaged communities.

The bill also empanels a Climate Action Council charged with creating a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85% from 1990 levels by 2050.

De Blasio has already set New York City on a path to reduce emissions by making large buildings more energy efficient and other measures, including related to how the city gets its energy and uses automobiles. The mayor announced in April that all city operations would be powered by renewable energy sources within five years. The CLCPA, with its aggressive goals, will add fuel to those efforts and beyond.

The Legislature also passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at retail and grocery stores (a few years after the state overruled a new city law to a similar effect). The bill does include several exemptions, however, and also allows municipalities a choice to impose a 5-cent fee on single-use paper bags. 

Voting and Elections Reform 
The Legislature passed several laws this year to remove hurdles to voting and registering to vote, most of them early in the year. In New York City, where the New York City Board of Elections has shown repeated failures in administering elections, some of those reforms promise to make voting processes far more efficient. 

Among the measures the Legislature passed were early voting, electronic pollbook authorization, three hours of paid leave on Election Day, consolidating the federal and state primary, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, changing the party enrollment deadline to allow more time for voters to pick a party, and universal portability of voter registrations.

The Legislature also approved measures to amend the state constitution to allow same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee ballots by mail. Those measures will have to pass through another Legislative session and a ballot referendum.

De Blasio has already been wrangling with the city Board of Elections, which the city does not control but funds, about some of the changes, including how many early voting sites will be operated for the November election.

Extended Mayoral Control
The state budget deal passed in April gave de Blasio a three-year extension on mayoral control of city schools, compared to the one- and two-year extensions he’d received in the past. The extension gets him through the rest of his term.

The deal also required no concessions from the mayor, unlike when Republicans used mayoral control to pass measures friendly to charter schools or require more oversight. In fact, the charter school cap, which has been hit in New York City, was not lifted at all this year, pleasing the mayor.

The budget did add two members to the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, and changed how members of local parent councils are appointed.

The city will also have to do additional new reporting on where state education aid is going, which could lead to conflict next year if Cuomo believes the city is not moving enough state dollars to the most needy schools.

Criminal Justice Reform
De Blasio’s plan to close the Rikers Island jails hinges on reducing the population of the jail complex to below 5,000 (the city's entire correction facility population was slightly under 7,500 as of this week, according to the de Blasio administration). The mayor has repeatedly insisted that that would require broad criminal justice reforms at the state level, and the Legislature obliged with a broad package.

The Legislature ended the use of cash bail for most offenses, save for violent crimes; they overhauled the discovery process, allowing defendants access to evidence against them earlier and more easily; and they guaranteed a defendant's right to a speedy trial.

De Blasio had wanted a change in the recently-passed bail laws, asking the Legislature to give judges the ability to assess a suspect’s “dangerousness” in order to set bail in cases of violent crimes, but the measure proved controversial and failed.

At a June 3 news conference in Albany, he explained, “Remember, there are some people who are profoundly dangerous who have a proven, unfortunately, a proven record of being dangerous to their communities, but are not a flight risk. In those cases, judges’ hands are tied and they do not have a ready way to hold them in, in the way they need to. We need to come up with a very precise definition of dangerousness so that it is not overused. But I think that's something that can and should be done while this legislature is still in session.”

The Legislature also decriminalized possession of low quantities of marijuana, but failed to legalize the recreational adult use of marijuana which would have also allowed commercial sales.

De Blasio has insisted that he would only support legalization done responsibly and with investments for communities long adversely affected by enforcement. “I want to see legalization of marijuana for sure, but I want to see it done in a way that does not create a new monster corporate class that takes advantage of people, that profits in a very inappropriate way,” he said at the June 3 Albany news conference. Cuomo has promised to pursue marijuana legalization again next year.

Transit, Traffic and Congestion Pricing
After opposing it for years, de Blasio embraced a congestion pricing program to impose a charge on drivers entering Manhattan’s central business district, 60th street and below. The Legislature this year approved something of a broad plan -- though it will not take effect till 2021 and must be designed by a committee where de Blasio has little control -- which will create an annual stream of $1 billion in revenue for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and allow it to leverage to raise about $15 billion in bond funding to repair and maintain the city’s struggling subways. 

The governor and Legislature also mandated reforms at the MTA, including an overhaul of its management structure. But Governor Cuomo seemed to make a last-minute power grab at the state authority, where he already appoints a plurality of board members and its top leadership.

Cuomo nominated his budget director, Robert Mujica, to the board and was successful in pushing the Legislature to waive the requirement that Mujica be a resident of the city. In fact, he had state law changed so that the state budget director is always a member of the MTA Board.

One new de Blasio nominee to the board, former city labor commissioner Bob Linn, was approved by the Senate.

At the same time, the governor failed to advance the mayor’s other nomination for MTA Board member, Dan Zarrilli, to the Senate for confirmation, which leaves de Blasio and the city with one fewer representative.

“It is disappointing the City will have less say on the board during this critical time of change for the MTA, especially that of Mr. Zarrilli, a Staten Islander and professional engineer who is ideally suited to the role,” said Seth Stein, a de Blasio spokesperson, in a statement. “We will continue advocating for the residents of New York City.”

The governor’s office has not fully explained why Zarrilli’s nomination was held up. A spokesperson for Cuomo, Patrick Muncie, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “Mr. Zarrilli’s recommendation was received after Mr. Linn’s, and he is currently going through the background process.” Muncie did not respond to a question about whether Cuomo prefers to have the city at less than full strength on the Board.

Aid for the Undocumented
The Legislature approved the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, named for the state Senator who sponsored the bill but died last year before seeing it passed. The bill gives undocumented immigrant students access to state tuition assistance to attend college and also creates a privately-funded scholarship fund. It’s likely to be significantly impactful in New York City, which is home to about 150,000 DREAMers, according to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

The Legislature also approved the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act that would reinstate undocumented immigrants’ eligibility to apply for drivers licenses, which was banned following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. 

Cameras Near Schools and on Buses
Democrats reauthorized and dramatically expanded a speed camera program around New York City schools this year, after Republicans had let it lapse last year. Cameras are expected to be installed in 750 school zones, up from 160, and will operate for longer hours.

And the state moved to allow for cameras mounted on city buses in order to ticket vehicles parked in bus lanes, which will aid de Blasio's effort to speed up the city's slow bus fleet.

Veteran Firefighters
Working with city officials, the Legislature crafted and approved a bill that would allow military veterans to subtract seven years from their age (up from six) to qualify for the city’s Fire Department. “If you’re a veteran who has served this country proudly, your age shouldn’t be a barrier to continue serving our fellow New Yorkers,” de Blasio said, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

LGBTQ and Gender Equity
The Democrat-led Legislature moved forward on a number of bills that Republicans had repeatedly blocked in past years. They banned conversion therapy for minors, passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), prohibiting discrimination based on gender and sexual identity.

The Legislature also passed the Reproductive Health Act, which codified federal abortion protections established by Roe v. Wade into state law, and passed the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, mandating that insurers cover the cost of contraception. They also banned employers from discriminating against employees based on reproductive health decisions.

Child Victims Act
The Legislature approved the Child Victims Act, which raises the statute of limitations for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to file civil and criminal complaints.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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How De Blasio Fared in Albany This Year Mon, 24 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000