Good Morning from Albany, NY…
Truly, the biggest news on the state budget is that there continues to be no news on the state budget. Unless, of course you count Governor Kathy Hochul’s surprise stop in at the Legislative Correspondents Association offices in the Capitol where she made news by…delivering cookies. The cookies were thin mints according to those familiar with the matter.
Hochul also publicly said what most legislators were saying privately, there will be another budget extender today. The Governor made it clear she has no problem operating under budget extensions until they can come to an agreement on a final plan she feels good about, saying, “We’ve passed the first deadline, we’ll be looking at it again on Monday, of course. But it’s more important to get it right and I’m committed to getting it right.”
The budget extender is expected to be exactly the same as the previous extender with the exception of an additional $9 million in AIDS drug assistance to offset the impact of the change in the 340B Federal Drug Discount Program on the heels of vigorous lobbying efforts from Covered Entities across the State facing immediate financial stress. As we have discussed previously, the State shifted the Medicaid Drug Benefit to Fee-for-Service from Managed Care effective April 1, 2023 which removed a key revenue stream for 340B covered entities, including community health centers, safety net hospitals, and Ryan White Clinics, who used the money to provide wraparound health services to improve patients’ health outcomes.
Both the Assembly and the Senate are scheduled to convene at 11:00 a.m. today. The only question is whether they will remain in town or pass the extender and leave, giving space for the “three people in a room” to negotiate?
The negotiations continue to revolve around criminal justice/changes to New York State’s revised bail laws and the Governor’s housing plan. Is Governor Hochul’s holdout on bail reform working? Our Jack O’Donnell gives his take in this report from City and State NY.
Lawmakers have also reportedly hit a snag over the details of the plan to enact public campaign financing. ICYMI: Listen as OD&A’s Alec Lewis breaks down the impact of the public financing program and what it takes to win in this new age of campaign financing in this episode of our podcast, ‘From the Lobby with Jack O’Donnell’.
There are a number of other issues that are still in play which we highlighted in detail in last week’s Memo.
Changes to how the State tracks methane emissions—with major implications for the State’s long-term climate goals—came up in negotiations. The proposal, with support from both Governor Hochul and Senate Energy Chair Kevin Parker, would change the State’s accounting of methane emissions from a 20 year timeframe to a 100 timeframe. Currently, New York and Maryland are the only two states that operate under the abbreviated 20 year framework which is intended to “reflect the reality of the climate impact of burning natural gas,” according to Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger. She also added, “It is one of the strongest parts of the [State’s climate law]. Giving in to the polluter lobby by weakening our methane accounting will kneecap all our efforts going forward.”
In response to the backlash from some Democratic lawmakers and activists, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and Doreen Harris, President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority wrote an op-ed defending the proposal, emphasized their push to make the Climate Act affordable, saying, “As it stands today, the Climate Act’s emissions accounting method is certain to be a major driver of future costs for New York families.”
However within days, Seggos said the administration would not be pursuing the policy in budget negotiations and would instead focus on other climate-oriented policies in the Governor’s budget such as “cap and invest.” Seggos did indicate that the 100 year framework could be an issue they pursue later in session saying, “The other elements that we’ve discussed recently may take time to get done. We may get it done during the budget. That may happen during the session; it may take the course of a year.”
For anyone who thought New York’s Redistricting process was over, surprise! Governor Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James submitted a joint brief in support of a lawsuit seeking to redraw New York’s Congressional Districts. The current districts were crafted by a Special Master after the State Court of Appeals threw out maps drawn by the Legislature. Now, Hochul and James are asking the Court to allow the Independent Redistricting Commission to come up new maps despite being deadlocked on the issue last year. In a statement, the Attorney General said, “Our State’s Constitution makes it clear that an independent body, with participation from the general public, is charged with drawing maps for Congressional districts, relying on a process with no accountability and with limited time for public input is not how we engage the public and ensure their interests are addressed throughout this process.”
In this year’s State Capitol Smackdown, New York’s Capitol will face off against New Jersey’s Capitol in finals. Voting is open today!
There were major elections elsewhere in the country, including in Wisconsin, where Janet Protasiewicz, a judge on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, won a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, giving the court a liberal majority for the first time in 15 years. Her race against former state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, the most expensive state Supreme Court race in U.S. history, centered heavily on reproductive rights and how the court may rule on potential cases involving abortion now that federal protections have been overturned. Protasiewicz’s 10-point margin of victory is yet another instance of Republicans’ failing to match Democratic turnout in the post-Roe era.
In Chicago, Brandon Johnson defeated moderate rival Paul Vallus to become the City’s next mayor. Johnson, a county commissioner and former teachers’ union organizer, finished second to Vallus in the primary election in February, but managed to defeat him this time by 17,000 votes. Speaking to supporters following his victory, Johnson said, “Today, we celebrate the revival and the resurrection of the city of Chicago, it is time for Chicago to come alive. Come alive, Chicago.” An issue that was top of mind for many voters and is sure to be a priority for the new Mayor is crime and public safety. Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s seeming inability to deal with the issue likely cost her the election where she failed to even qualify for the runoff.
In North Carolina, Democratic state lawmaker Tricia Cotham announced she has switched her party affiliation to Republican, giving the GOP a supermajority in the General Assembly to override Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s vetoes. Cotham, who had previously run on her support for reproductive and LGBTQ rights, insists “I am still the same person, and I am going to do what I believe is right and follow my conscience.”
The Tennessee House of Representatives held a vote on Thursday to expel three Democratic members for their involvement in protests for stricter gun laws following the tragic school shooting in Nashville. Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were both officially expelled, while Rep. Gloria Johnson, the only white member of the three, survived her vote. When asked about the discrepancy in the outcome, she offered, “It might have to do with the color of our skin.” The resolutions to expel cite that the members “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives,” referencing the disruptive protests that reached the House floor. Speaking just before the vote on his expulsion, Rep. Jones offered, “We called for you all to ban assault weapons and you respond with an assault on democracy.”
National Democrats and the White House expressed deep concerns over democratically-elected representatives being expelled for political purposes. In a statement, the White House said, “Today’s expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protest is shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent. Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.” Even some Republicans were shocked by the move, including New York State Assemblyman Ed Ra who tweeted, “As a Republican state legislator, I’ll say this quite clearly: this is unconstitutional and a disgraceful way for a majority party to wield power.” There will be a special election to fill Jones’ and Pearson’s seats and both men are expected to run again, likely with national attention and an elevated profile.
And finally, Happy Dyngus Day from Buffalo, NY… the Dyngus Capital of the World! Dyngus Day’s origins date back to 966 AD with the baptism of Prince Mieszko I on the Monday after Easter and the Dyngus Day tradition of sprinkling water represents the cleaning and purification that accompanies baptism.
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New to the NYS Legislature
Assembly Member Tony Simone was elected to the Assembly in November 2022, replacing Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, who had been in the Assembly for 52 years. Prior to his election in November, he won a four way primary in June. The 75th Assembly District covers Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown, and part of the Lincoln Center area in Manhattan.
Assembly Member Simone got his start in government working for the late State Senator Catherine Abate, Councilmember Christine Quinn, and NYS Comptroller Carl McCall. He then went on to become the Deputy Director of the Northeast Regional Office of People for the American Way where he led policy and field operations and organized for immigrant and LGBT rights. Assembly Member Simone returned to government as the Director of Community Outreach for the NYC Council and Council Speaker Christine Quinn. In these roles, he directed volunteer relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy, led local initiatives to reduce hate crimes, advocated for NYS marriage equality, and worked to protect tenants from bad landlords.
Most recently, Assembly Member Simone served as the Director of External Affairs at Hudson River Park Friends, where he advocated for and raised funds to complete, maintain and enhance the beloved waterfront Park, and worked to ensure the Park would always be accessible to all New Yorkers.
As a “political junkie,” Assembly Member Simone has been an avid campaign volunteer and staffer for decades. In college, he engaged fellow students in Clinton-Gore, worked on Hillary Clinton’s run for Senate, and numerous local and state campaigns. It was these experiences that inspired him to seek elected office to address the community’s most important issues: public safety, the mental health crisis, the affordable housing shortage, creating a healthcare system for all, climate change, tenant and immigrant rights, and equity for disabled people and LGBTQ+. He believes that government can be a force for equity, progress, and the improvement of all our lives.
Assembly Member Simone was born in Queens in 1970. His mother was born in Peru and immigrated to NYC in 1968. His father was born in Astoria, Queens, the oldest of four children in an Italian-American family. Assembly Member Simone’s father drove taxis and trucks to support his family. His late grandfather was a Teamster’s union delegate, who showed him the importance of public service and collective action from a young age. He received a BA in Political Science and a BS in Applied Economics from Hofstra University, and an MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Assembly Member Simone lives in Hell’s Kitchen with his husband, Jason, and their rescue dog, Radar.
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