Good Morning from New York…
- “Adult Use” Marijuana—With an election year on the horizon, the politics of adult use marijuana continue to be tough for to navigate. However, a projected $300 million in revenue may makes the proposal more palatable across the state. Furthermore, a budget vote is all or nothing, so it can provide political cover compared to voting on a standalone bill. The main question is whether Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins can negotiate a marijuana deal that is palatable to moderate members in her Conference facing strong Republican opponents and if so, will it be progressive enough for Speaker Heastie’s members, many of whom are facing strong primary challengers from the Left.
- New York City Casinos—While casinos Upstate have struggled and market studies have continuously shown the Northeastern market to be oversaturated, the New York City market is altogether different. In 2013, a Constitutional Amendment that created those casinos also authorized three casinos in New York City “seven years after its passage” (the State at the time also issued a ten-year moratorium on ‘downstate gaming’ in parallel until 2023.) The Assembly and Senate Gaming Committee Chairs are supportive. Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed deep skepticism but has not closed the door entirely. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has not publicly stated a position. Speaker Heastie—and the Assembly Majority Conference more generally—has not been high on the idea in the past. Nonetheless, some have speculated that a possible licensing fee of up to a $1 billion per casino could make everyone reconsider.
- Sports Betting—The New York State Gaming Commission awarded a bid to Spectrum Gaming Group in November to conduct a comprehensive study focused on the potential implementation of mobile sports betting and iGaming in the State. Across the river, New Jersey brought in record $487.9 Million in October, perhaps making the move more palatable to the Legislature in 2020.
- Cutting Economic Development—State and local government spending on economic development has grown continuously over the last 10 years, reaching $10 billion in 2018; it was not long ago that Democrats were pitching a fit about “subsidies for businesses.” However, many of these programs are hallmarks of Governor Cuomo’s tenure, with the Regional Economic Development Councils becoming an institution in the 10 regions throughout the State so any cuts here would not be easy.
- Changing Foundation Aid—Advocates argue that the State’s “outdated” Foundation Aid system leaks money by sending too much money to rich school districts throughout the State. However, these advocates are arguing for a redirection of those funds to needier districts, rather than a cut. Either way, expect Foundation Aid to be under the magnifying glass this year.
What about going straight to the source? Well, that will be difficult. $4 billion of the $6.1 billion shortfall comes from Medicaid spending. The Division of Budget has been reviewing Medicaid with a fine tooth comb and cuts—or at least proposed cuts—are very likely across the State. Heastie’s comments repeatedly pointed to the importance of healthcare, and the Democratic Conference is likely to stand firm against any cuts that hurt social services of any sort. Buckle up.
While the fiscal situation in New York worsens, so does the situation in Washington, DC. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that the House of Representatives would begin drafting Articles of Impeachment for President Trump. Democrat in the House are pushing ahead with a rapid timetable that could set the stage for a vote before Christmas. That doesn’t leave much time for a budget agreement before the current stopgap spending measure runs out on December 20th. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) (pictured, left) warned on Tuesday that budget negotiators need to reach an “understanding” on fiscal 2020 spending bills within days to avoid a shutdown (or another short term continuing resolution). While last week it looked like decision makers reached an agreement last week on the big picture—total numbers for each of the subcommittee allocations—and it was reported Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi would be working toward a deal, it appears the devil could be in the details. Stay tuned.
— Jack O’Donnell
State Senators Michael Ranzenhofer and Betty Little Announce Retirement
The exodus of Senate Republicans continues. And the race is on to replace the latest one to announce plans to walk away.
State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, an Amherst Republican, said Friday he will not seek re-election to the Senate 61st, a sprawling district that runs from the suburbs of Buffalo into Rochester.
Sen. Betty Little, 79, of Queensbury, has represented the 45th Senate District, which is the geographically largest in the state and includes all or parts of Warren, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties. After 17 years in the seat, she made announcements Thursday in Glens Falls and Plattsburgh that she won’t seek re-election for a tenth two-year term in 2020.
A British Test for the Populist Revolution
A country that likes to consider itself the most stable of democracies, a model of government typified by steady, pragmatic, get-things-done-with-no-drama progress, has descended in a few years into southern European-style political chaos.
Next Thursday, the British go to the polls in a nationwide vote for the fourth time in less than five years. The result could produce the U.K.’s fourth prime minister in a little over three years.
‘Bunch of Brawlers’: Judiciary Panel’s Most Aggressive Members Ready to Rumble in Impeachment Probe
Defenders of President Trump often describe the impeachment inquiry as a “circus.” But after the partisan theatrics expected during Wednesday’s first hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, they might need a stronger word.
When Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) gavels the room to order at 10 a.m., some of Capitol Hill’s most aggressive and colorful characters — Republicans and Democrats — will be seated on the dais, ready to inject new friction and hostility into the second phase of the inquiry.
Did an Ethics Commission Leak Private Information to Cuomo?
The text messages arrived on a snowy January afternoon, a few hours after New York’s state ethics commission privately debated whether to investigate a disgraced former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. They were from a high-ranking government lawyer, sent to one of the commission members. Was the meeting over? the lawyer asked. He had a question. The conversation that followed is now at the heart of a brewing ethics controversy in Albany, involving an alleged leak, cover-up and pressure on supposedly independent investigative bodies.
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How To Run for Congress
You’re watching the news, you’re talking to people, you’re annoyed at Congress. No, you’re furious at Congress, and you know you could do so much better in that job. Almost anyone can do it. But here are some pro tips, if you actually want to win.