Good morning from home…and Happy Dyngus Day! 

With state leaders caught in social distancing and post-budget limbo, some controversy erupted earlier this week regarding uncertainty around whether or not the Legislature would return to session. Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that legislative session was “effectively over”, prompting a quick response from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who tweeted, “As always, the Assembly stands ready to protect and provide for the well-being of all New Yorkers. Last week we established a system for remote voting and we are on call to perform our constitutional duties as a co-equal branch of government. The Assembly is in recess (session is not over) at the call of the Speaker.”

“We have three branches, bro,” Senator Gustavo Rivera (D—Bronx) said, “Absolutely there is going to be a legislative session.”

Senators James Skoufis and Gustavo Rivera, Assemblymember Ron Kim and Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY, as well as other groups and individuals, such as Tenants PAC, Drug Policy Alliance and Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout are urging the NYS Legislature to stay in remote session and address issues relating to the COVID-19 crisis, such as absentee voting, balancing the Legislature’s power in the budget, health care reform, antibody immunity testing for the informal work sector, housing reform, and marijuana, among other issues. Teachout tweeted, “New York’s small businesses are getting destroyed. When is the state legislature and NYC city council going to hold hearings on what is happening and what to do about it?”

After passing the budget, the legislature was not scheduled to return to session until April 20 and, if the same schedule is kept, will conclude on June 2, a few weeks earlier than other years to fit the new political calendar of a June primary.

Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio once again have differing opinions on who has authority to implement certain COVID-19 policies; following de Blasio’s announcement that New York City’s schools would be closed through the end of the academic year Cuomo insisted, “there has been no decision on [closing New York City] schools” and that the decision whether or not to close schools, “is my legal authority in this situation.”

Although the $177 billion state budget included a raft of legislation on criminal justice, environmental protection, public health regulation, campaign finance reform, women’s reproductive rights, election administration, gun control, and more, many policy priorities pushed by Cuomo or by legislators were left out of the budget. Gig economy protections, marijuana legalization, and rent relief are among the top priority policies which dropped off the table and it remains to be seen whether they will be taken up in the coming months by Democratic lawmakers, especially those displeased with the lack of progressive policy in the budget.

Managing the public health crisis and jumpstarting New York’s economy, however, are the current focus of State’s leadership. Cuomo has tapped several former aides to develop a statewide “NYS Forward” plan to examine how to unwind the NY on PAUSE restrictions. The team includes Steven M. Cohen, general counsel and chief administrator of the holding company MacAndrews & Forbes; Bill Mulrow, senior advisory director at private-equity firm, Blackstone; and Lawrence Schwartz, chief strategy officer at OTG, an airport concessions company. All three men previously held senior roles in Mr. Cuomo’s administration and political campaigns.

Governor Cuomo continues to call for massive increases in federal aid for New York State—a recurring theme in each of his daily coronavirus briefings for the past few weeks—arguing that federal support, including enhanced Medicaid funding, has fallen woefully short and that previous funding packages did not recognize New York’s position as the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak and fell short of his expectations. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who chairs the National Governors Association, issued a joint statement with Governor Cuomo, who serves as the association’s vice chair, seeking $500 billion in aid from Congress to help states that have been “leading the on-the-ground response to the national COVID-19 pandemic”. 

Less than three weeks after the CARES Act was passed, Congressional Leaders and the Administration acknowledged that the $2 trillion-plus emergency rescue spending plan will not be enough to prop up the economy during the coronavirus crisis, and continue work on a Phase Four coronavirus response package, with Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats each introducing their own versions this week.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate were pushing for the quick passage of an interim emergency bill worth $500 billion to tide the economy over before the passage of a more extensive “CARES 2 Act, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to move a $250 billion small business package, mainly focused on shoring up the Paycheck Protection Program.

On Thursday, both bills failed to get the support necessary to proceed, and Phase Four coronavirus package negotiations will continue among Congressional leaders. Washington has already started talking about a Phase Five package. Stay tuned!

Jack O’Donnell

De Blasio Used Last-Minute Text to Tell Cuomo Schools Would Stay Shut

Late on Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio made the momentous decision to keep New York City’s 1,800 public schools closed through the end of June. He told just a select few, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, who gave his blessing. But Mr. de Blasio did not reach out to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, his fellow Democrat and frequent political foe, until Saturday morning. [Read more.]


California’s Coronavirus Death Toll is Way Below New York’s — Here’s Why

California’s relatively quick action to close businesses and order residents to stay home has tamped down the coronavirus pandemic and left many hospitals largely empty, waiting for a surge that has yet to come. [Read more.]

NY Could’ve Reduced Coronavirus Deaths By 80% If It Acted Sooner, Ex-CDC Director Says

The former director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says New York could have reduced the number of deaths from coronavirus by up to 80% if it acted sooner. [Read more.]

Trump Keeps Talking. Some Republicans Don’t Like What They’re Hearing.

In his daily briefings on the coronavirus, President Trump has brandished all the familiar tools in his rhetorical arsenal: belittling Democratic governors, demonizing the media, trading in innuendo and bulldozing over the guidance of experts. It’s the kind of performance the president relishes, but one that has his advisers and Republican allies worried. [Read more.]

The Primary’s Over. The Veepstakes Have Begun.

Bernie Sanders bows out — POLITICO reporter Holly Otterbein gives us the inside scoop and whether Joe Biden can entice Bernie’s supporters to his camp. Then, chief political correspondent Tim Alberta fills Scott in on Gretchen Whitmer, the Michigan governor who is dealing with coronavirus, an angry president and the real possibility she might be Biden’s choice for running mate — all intertwined at the same time. [Listen to the podcast.]

Barack Obama Wins the Democratic Primary

In the end, the most influential politician of 2020 might be the one who has been the most silent. With Bernie Sanders exiting the race and Joe Biden taking on the mantle of presumptive nominee, the man who hovered quietly over the race for more than a year, Barack Obama, will soon return to the political fray. [Read more.]

Britain’s “Woke” Queen

The queen only needed 525 words for her national address on the coronavirus pandemic. But her message to the U.K. could be summed up in just six: “Forget the war. You’ve got this.” [Read more.]

Coronavirus Puts to the Fore an Improbable U.K. Leader: Dominic Raab

Mr. Boris Johnson is in intensive care with the coronavirus and Brexit has vanished from the public’s radar. Mr. Raab has been given the power to lead the British government through one of its greatest peacetime crises, putting him closer than anyone ever imagined to the role of prime minister. [Read more.]

Richard Brodsky, Longtime State Assemblyman From Westchester, Has Died, Likely Of Coronavirus 

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, known for his bombastic approach to governing and passion for politics, died Wednesday after appearing to have contracted coronavirus in recent days, his former colleagues and family said. He was 73. [Read more.]

“Choosing Winners And Losers”: Behind The Battle To Be Deemed Essential

In New York, the real estate lobby tried to convince Gov. Andrew Cuomo that people could be left homeless if the industry is forced to shut down. Retailers in Illinois pressed to get businesses that service swimming pools and hot tubs added to the list of businesses considered too essential to be closed. [Read more.]