Several grassroots organizations protest changes to bail reform law in Albany.

Good Morning from the New York State Capitol…

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote today on advancing President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. If advanced by the Committee, KBJ will cruise to confirmation before the full Senate. In addition to the support of all 50 Democrats, Judge Brown Jackson picked up the support of Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—a centrist who has often broken with her caucus and who will face new election rules in Alaska this cycle that change the political calculus—could also very well vote to confirm KBJ.

President Joe Biden also unveiled a Fiscal Year 2023 Budget that aims to ‘whip’ rampant inflation while trying to challenge the strong political headwinds and low approval ratings that Biden and Democrats face headed into the midterms. Biden’s $5.8 trillion proposal—which is markedly more center-leaning than many of the previous proposals we have seen from his Administration—includes a proposed $30 billion for State and Local Police, funding to ease supply chain issues, and a $2.5 trillion tax hike on the country’s wealthiest individuals and corporations—the Billionaire Minimum Income Tax. The Budget is the unofficial kickoff to the Federal FY 2023 spending debate, which is expected to culminate in a showdown before the end of the year.

The House and Senate are moving full steam ahead on major legislative initiatives including $52 billion in proposed investment for the domestic semiconductor industry. Last Wednesday, the House passed a motion to request a Conference Committee to iron out the differences (read more on what those are here) between the House’s proposal—the America COMPETES Act—and the Senate Proposal—the United States Innovation & Competition Act (USICA). On the floor Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will soon request a conference committee as well. “We’re on track to initiating a conference hopefully before the end of this work period,” Schumer said.

In New York State… 

Capitol wags are searching high and low (as they often do this time of year…) for the State Budget. The budget is late—State Fiscal Year 2022-23 started last Friday at midnight—and negotiations continue. There was a Leaders meeting via zoom last night while the Assembly Democrats held their caucus in person. Senate Democrats—who have been told to prepare to be in Albany past Wednesday—are expected to caucus later today. However, it is likely both Houses of the Legislature will have to pass extender bills today in lieu of a final agreement. If all went well late into the night, there was some optimism that a deal could be announced today (taking some sting out of the extenders) and allowing time to finalize language, details, and the full budget to be passed over the next couple of days.  
What is agreed to and what is still open?  
 

Spending—The State is flush with cash from the successive passage of the Federal American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, but there is still debate on where to allocate those funds, how to leverage those investments with state dollars, and what to prioritize. Areas to watch include Medicaid spending, as well as capital spending on major projects like LaGuardia and JFK airport overhauls, the Second Avenue Subway, and the Gateway Project. 

Bail & Discovery—As we reported the past couple weeks, the Governor’s 10 point public safety plan that includes amendments to the State’s landmark bail reform law from 2019, as well as a proposal to give prosecutors more leeway when providing discoveryhas met fierce opposition in the Legislature. Talks continue, and supporters and opponents descended on the Capitol last week to state their respective cases. Assembly Member Latrice Walker, a Democrat from Brooklyn, said last week that she was more than a week into a hunger strike to show her commitment to keeping the law intact. Yesterday, there was a meeting between a number of stakeholders—including prosecutors, elected officials, and defense attorneys—to try and work out a deal on discovery. Some compromise is likely to be included. 

The Buffalo Bills Stadium Deal—Opponents of a $1.4 billion deal to build a new stadium and anchor the franchise in Buffalo for the next 30 years—including progressive legislators, advocacy groups, and a growing list of activists—are using the additional time to try to block the agreement between Governor Hochul, Erie County, and Pegula Sports & Entertainment from being hashed out in the SFY 2022-23 Budget Process. That said, this is a priority for Gov. Hochul and will be in. 

Coverage for AllA proposal to expand health insurance coverage to undocumented immigrants in New York State continues to move ahead. It has the support of key Democrats on both Legislative Health Committees and the backing of key business groups like the New York State Business Council. However, there is still disagreement with the Executive Chamber and Division of the Budget on the overall cost of the proposal which could ultimately knock it out of a final deal. To be determined. 

Downstate Casinos—A proposal creating a path toward a Request for Proposals for three downstate—defined as New York City, Rockland, Westchester and Orange Counties, and Long Island—casino licenses is likely to be included in a final budget deal. The 2013 constitutional amendment approved by voters to legalize commercial casinos in New York State gave the Upstate Casinos a seven-year head start but allows for Downstate Casinos starting in 2023. Likely in. 

421a/485w—the 421-a tax exemption—a controversial 51-year old tax credit program that has leveraged development throughout New York City—is set to expire in June. Critics, like New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, are pushing for it to be eliminated altogether. “It’s a huge giveaway for developers for just a tiny handful of actually affordable units,” said Lander. In her Executive Budget, Hochul included language to replace 421-a with a program she says will encourage developers to include more affordable housing, called the Affordable Neighborhoods for New Yorkers (ANNY) or “485-w” tax incentive. Likely out. 

Brownfields Tax Credit—The Brownfield Cleanup Program—which has been particularly important for development throughout Upstate New York—is set to expire at the end of the year. Legislators and the Governor are currently debating whether to pass a straight extender, or include expansions to the program along with an extension. Likely in. 

Managed Care ProcurementGovernor Hochul included a proposal in her Executive Budget for the Department of Health to competitively procure Managed Care and Managed Long Term Care Services, which would have sweeping impacts on the State’s current Managed Care landscape. While both Houses of the Legislature rejected the language in their One House proposals, it is still alive in talks and could be included in a final deal in some form. To be determined. 

State Ethics Revamp—Hochul’s plan to repeal and replace the State’s heavily criticized ethics regulator appears to be dead. However, leaders are saying there is still potential to include ethics reform in the Budget. “We’ve been talking about ethics reform. Again, this is something that our conference has been extremely strong on,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins last week.  Likely some sort of ethics package will be included. 

Child Care Funding—Governor Hochul and the Legislature agree that the State needs to increase investment in child care, but how large the increase should be remains under discussion. Lawmakers are pushing hard to widen eligibility and increase funds for child care. “We’re clearly on a path to reach a full, universal system in which all people are eligible for subsidized child care,” said Senator Jabari Brisport of Brooklyn. Only a question of how much. 

Gas Price Relief—Last week, Hochul said that the Budget may contain a suspension of the gas tax in the face of surging gas prices. Several states across the country have already suspended their gas taxes.  “The timing of the budget is perfect to address this,” said Hochul. Some sort of relief will be included. Questions remain on how much and how effective it will be. 

Alcohol-To-Go—A proposal to make alcoholic drinks to-go with takeout orders, which became popular throughout the pandemic, was rejected by both Houses of the Legislature. Hochul maintains she wants to include it in a final budget deal. Likely in, but wobbly. 

A sweeping decision from State Supreme Court Justice Patrick F. McAllister threw out the newly drawn reapportionment maps, throwing this year’s election cycle into chaos. Justice McCallister’s ruling cited partisan advantage by Democrats in Albany, which led him to conclude the lines were unconstitutionally drawn. “The court finds by clear evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt that the congressional map was unconstitutionally drawn with political bias,” he wrote in the opinion. The decision covers Congressional, State Senate, and Assembly Districts.

Democrats—and many legal experts—are bullish on the chances to win an appeal on the decision. Attorney General Tish James and Governor Kathy Hochul issued a brief joint statement last week saying, “We intend to appeal this decision.” In the meantime, the decision is stayed, meaning that candidates can continue petitioning under the current lines and begin filing their petitions later this week. 
 
Speaking of the Gridiron, also known as Nerd Prom, for about 600 journalists and other DC movers and shakers. Here are a couple highlights:
 
New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu offered this on former President Trump:
  • “You know, he’s probably going to be the next president,”  discussing Trump’s “experience,” “passion,” “sense of integrity” and the “rationale” he brought to his tweets. As the room quieted to see where he was going with this, he paused, then yelled: “Nah, I’m just kidding! He’s F*CKING CRAZY! ” The ballroom roared with laughter. “ARE YOU KIDDING?! Come on. You guys are buying that? I love it … He just stresses me out so much! … I’m going to deny I ever said it.”
  • “The press often will ask me if I think Donald Trump is crazy. And I’ll say it this way: I don’t think he’s so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain’t getting out!”
From Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin:
  • “I was especially stunned that [Reps.] Madison Cawthorne and Matt Gaetz weren’t here, because nobody loves a good party more than those guys do. And so, I called Madison up to say, ‘What’s up, dude?’ And it turns out, it was a simple scheduling conflict: The Republicans have their own formal black-tie and white-powder orgy taking place tonight in the Capitol.”
  • “For those of us who are in Congress … we rent our tuxedos for the very infrequent parties and occasional orgies we get invited to. Look, it’s really tough to find a rental tuxedo this time of year: It’s high school prom season, and Matt Gaetz keeps getting the tuxedos that I want.”
  • “Speaking of silverware, tonight, I do have a tiny complaint: No one ever brought me a fork for my pasta. But it worked out OK, because the great Senator Klobuchar was kind enough to let me use her comb, which she has taken out of the dishwasher earlier today.”


We close this week with a nod to Rick Jeanneret. RJ—amidst his final season as the voice of the Buffalo Sabres—had a banner raised into the rafters on Saturday. We’ll leave you with a couple of our favorite calls from RJ over the years.

 

-Jack O’Donnell

 

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Our Camille Brandon joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and local dignitaries for a news conference Saturday in Cheektowaga to announce legislation to make prescription drugs more affordable. [Read more.]


Haven’t listened to our podcast yet?  Jack gives his ten minute take on several aspects of the NY budget.