Good morning from Albany, New York where the O’Donnell & Associates office will close at the end of the day on Friday, August 18 to allow our entire team to recharge, spend time with their families, and gear up for the battles to come. We will remain vigilant—monitoring legislation and political developments, staying in touch with electeds—and will be available if events warrant or if you need us.
The biggest news in New York politics this week is the break between Governor Kathy Hochul and State Attorney General Letitia James over the State’s role in managing the migrant crisis as revealed by AG James declining to represent the Hochul Administration in legal proceedings over the State’s responsibility for migrants, particularly regarding the 42 year old consent decree requiring shelter for anyone who requests it. Speaking on the issue, Hochul offered, “We believe — and I’m convinced — that the right to shelter is the result of a consent decree undertaken by the City of New York. The state is not a party to that, so the right to shelter does not expand to the whole of the state.”
The Attorney General’s Office represents the Governor’s Administration in legal matters almost without exception. James’s office has yet to explain the decision. Hochul’s office notified the Court that she would be represented by a private law firm, Selendy Gay Elsberg, going forward in the case. The move has prompted speculation there is distance between the Governor and Attorney General on the consent decree and its ramifications for New York State on the housing of migrants and the State’s broader responsibilities going forward… much more to come.
Justin Driscoll will be the permanent head of the New York Power Authority (NYPA) despite having a vote on his nomination blocked by progressive activists in June. Utilizing an obscure section of the Public Authorities Law, Hochul’s office was able to promote Driscoll from acting President without a vote in the Senate. The law stipulates that for some cabinet positions, the Senate has 60 days to vote on the nomination and if no vote is taken, “such appointment shall be deemed confirmed without any further action by the Senate.” Driscoll was nominated in early June and he was never given a floor vote so, according to the Hochul Administration, he is now the permanent President. State Senator Jabari Brisport, a Democrat from Brooklyn, opposed Driscoll’s nomination and said, “This is just really a new low in the governor showing how power hungry and sneaky she wants to be in this position.” NYPA is the largest public-owned utility in the nation and the agency will have an outsized role in implementing the State’s climate policy, hence the opposition from activists.
Another (former) Democratic State Senator has joined the Congressional campaign trail: Jim Gaughran. He joins current Democratic State Senators Kevin Thomas, who represents central Nassau County on Long Island and John Mannion, who represents suburban Syracuse in Central New York on the roster of Democrats targeting first-term, incumbent Republicans who flipped congressional seats in 2022.
Gaughran, who served two terms in the State Senate before deciding to forgo reelection in 2022, will be running in the State’s First Congressional District in Suffolk County against Republican Rep. Nick LaLota. In his campaign announcement, Gaughran offered, “Instead of focusing on the issues that matter to Long Islanders, Congressman LaLota has spent his time in Washington fighting to take away people’s rights and shielding conman George Santos from accountability.” The Cook Political report, a nonpartisan political rating group, has NY-01 listed as “likely Republican,” though the rating has not been updated since Gaughran’s announcement.
In a special election in Ohio, voters overwhelmingly voted against Issue 1, a ballot measure that would have raised the threshold to amend the State Constitution from a simple majority to 60%. The proposal was a direct response to a different ballot measure slated for November that will attempt to enshrine abortion protections in the State Constitution. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said, “By rejecting Issue 1, Ohioans rejected special interests and demanded that democracy remain where it belongs — in the hands of voters, not the rich and powerful.” While the measure will still have to clear the 50% threshold in November, reproductive rights activists are heralding the defeat of Issue 1 as a major pro-choice victory in a state that Donald Trump won handily in 2016 and 2020. Expect to hear even more from Democrats about protecting women’s reproductive rights as a result.
As former President Trump navigates indictments and looks to 2024, he has announced he will not sign the Republican National Committee pledge to support whoever is the eventual Republican nominee. In an interview, Trump said, “I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president, so right there, there’s a problem right there.” Signing the pledge is one of the RNC requirements for appearing on the debate stage, though Trump has not indicated whether or not he plans to participate. When asked his feelings on his status in the Republican primary field, Trump offered, “If you have a 20-stroke lead going into the 18th hole, you tend not to be that worried.”
Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat (for now) from West Virginia has indicated he is considering leaving the Party. Manchin said, “The brand has become so bad. The ‘D’ brand and ‘R’ brand. In West Virginia, the ‘D’ brand because it’s nationally bad. It’s not the Democrats in West Virginia. It’s the Democrats in Washington or the Washington policies of the Democrats.” His comments come amid the backdrop of a potential third-party bid for President which he has not ruled out. The popular Republican Governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, announced earlier this summer he is running for Senate, making Manchin’s road to reelection in deep-red West Virginia even more difficult.
Finally… farewell to Robby Roberston, lead guitarist for ‘The Band’ who passed away last week at 80. Check out one of the legendary performances in rock and roll history: The Band in the Last Waltz here.
New To The NYS Legislature
State Senator Iwen Chu was elected in November 2022 to represent the new 17th State Senate District, which includes the neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Kensington.
Born and raised in Taiwan, Senator Chu came to New York with the drive to pursue the American Dream. She has dedicated herself to the communities of southern Brooklyn and planted roots with her husband and daughter in Dyker Heights.
Senator Chu was a local community journalist focused on amplifying the issues and stories of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community before working in the NYS Assembly for ten years with Assembly Member Peter Abbate Jr.
Senator Chu’s dedication to community service included many years serving as a member of local Community Board, Community Education Council, a Board Director of local healthcare center, and as a community partner for the NYPD 68th precinct.
Her priorities in the Senate include better quality of education, immigrant rights and justice, affordable housing, mental health care and public safety.
Governor Hochul Announces Nation-Leading Cybersecurity Strategy
Governor Kathy Hochul has unveiled the State’s first-ever cybersecurity strategy to help protect government agencies, as well as the private sector and nonprofits across NY from becoming victims of this growing digital crime. “Our interconnected world demands an interconnected defense leveraging every resource available,” Governor Hochul said. “This strategy sets forth a nation-leading blueprint to ensure New York State stands ready and resilient in the face of cyber threats.” [Read more.]
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