Good Morning from Hearing Room B… 
The Medicaid Redesign Team 2.0 membership was announced last week by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Key appointees include Robert Megna (pictured, left), former budget director under Governors Cuomo and Patterson and current Vice Chancellor and COO of SUNY; Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Executive; Dr. Thomas Quatroche, CEO of Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo; Wade Norwood, CEO of Common Ground Health in Rochester. For the full list, click here.The MRT 2.0 membership is a departure from the 2011 team which included five members of the state legislature, including both Health Committee Chairs. Current Health Committee Chairs Senator Gustavo Rivera and Dick Gottfried were critical of the team makeup, especially since it is dominated by close allies of the Governor. They also objected to the lack of consumer representation and the absence of the New York City Health + Hospitals Corporation (the largest health system in the country) from membership. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (pictured, right) also expressed concern on the lack of diversity on the panel. We expect the fight over the Medicaid Redesign Team—and its  nearly unilateral rule making powers—to continue to dominate the headlines in the coming weeks.The Joint Legislative Budget Hearings wrap up this week with sessions on Local Government, Elementary Education, Public Protection, Economic Development, and Taxes. From there, Legislators will begin the development of their respective One House Budgets. Those are expected in mid-March. The Governor’s 30 Day Amendments to the Executive Budget are due next Thursday, February 20th. And while most of Albany focused on the State Budget process, last Wednesday,  Acting Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, announced that New York State residents can no longer participate in certain Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, due to provisions in the State’s new “Green Light Law” allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for New York driver’s licenses while protecting applicants’ information from immigration enforcement agencies. On Friday, Cuomo and  New York State Attorney General  Tish James announced their intention to sue the Department of Homeland Security calling the move “purely political retribution.”  The Governor and the President traded barbs over twitter a “cancelled meeting” over the weekend, as Governor Cuomo was in D.C. for a meeting of the National Governor’s Association.
In Washington D.C. last week, Senators voted largely along party lines to acquit President Donald Trump on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress when he allegedly sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate his rivals. Two-thirds of the Senate would have been required to convict Trump and remove him from office — something that’s never happened before in U.S. history. Senators expected to cross party lines did not—for the most part—including Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) voting NO on both counts, and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) voting YES on both counts. The only notable vote was 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate and current United States Senator representing Utah Mitt Romney’s (pictured, right) vote to convict on Article I. And Federal Lawmakers won’t get to insert special projects for their districts into spending bills this year after all, following weeks of internal discussions and some momentum among House Democrats. The decision marks the second year in a row House Democrats appeared close to bringing back congressionally directed spending — now rebranded “community project funding” — before ultimately deciding against it. The practice has been absent from appropriations bills for nearly a decade, since it fell into political disfavor after several lobbying scandals. Conversations during the past month focused on how a return to earmarking, even in limited fashion, would impact Democratic lawmakers facing tough reelection campaigns.President Trump’s budget is scheduled to be released later today. At $4.8 trillion, the budget is expected to propose steep cuts to social-safety-net programs and foreign aid as well as higher outlays for defense and veterans. The plan is expected to increase military spending 0.3%, to $740.5 billion for fiscal year 2021, which begins Oct. 1. The proposal would cut non-defense spending by 5%, to $590 billion, below the level Congress and the President agreed to in a two-year budget deal last summer.

— Jack O’Donnell

The 2020 New Hampshire Democratic primary will take place on Tuesday, February 11, as the second nominating contest in the Democratic Party presidential primaries for the 2020 presidential election, following the Iowa caucuses this past week.

A lower-than-expected turnout for the caucuses has raised concerns that the grass-roots activism in the party may be waning after three years of battles with Washington. [Read more.]

7 Takeaways From the Democratic Debate in New Hampshire

There was neither a soaring nor shattering moment for the Democratic presidential candidates at their debate on Friday night, but it was still the most contentious one yet, and could influence some New Hampshire voters ahead of the state’s primary on Tuesday. Here are seven takeaways from the night. [Read more.]

New Hampshire’s Political Geography

The Democrats’ anguish about their primary system — Does it vet for the right qualities? Is it too slanted toward white voters? — is frequently directed at New Hampshire. By law, the state must hold its primary “seven days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election,” which has stopped some more-diverse states from voting earlier. [Read more.]

Kennedy & Wallace Announce $5 Million Grant for Cheektowaga Sewer Improvements

Senator Kennedy and Assemblywoman Wallace announce $5M grant for Cheektowaga Sewer Improvements allowing town to line 33 more miles of sewers. The latest grant brings State assistance to Cheektowaga’s Sewer projects to $30M in grants and $15M in Zero-Interest Loans. [Read more.]

How Harry Bronson Lost the Backing of the Democratic Party to Alex Yudelson

Incumbent, five-term Assemblyman Harry Bronson lost the Democratic designation over the weekend to first-time candidate Alex Yudelson. How it happened is potentially more notable than the thing itself. That requires some explanation. [Read more.]

Bill de Blasio’s Disappearing Mayoralty

Bill de Blasio’s mayoralty is shrinking. Throughout more than six years in office, including a short, ill-fated run for the presidency, de Blasio has taken a decidedly non-confrontational approach with the 51 members of the City Council and hasn’t vetoed a single one of their bills. [Read more.]

Sandra Boynton Writes Children’s Books That Don’t Condescend

Children and parents don’t always agree on enjoyable reading (and rereading), but for decades, they have agreed on Sandra Boynton. Since publishing her first book, “Hippos Go Berserk!”, in 1977, her titles have sold 70 million copies, according to Workman, one of her publishers, along with Simon & Schuster. [Read more.]