Good Morning from the State Capital…
The storm surrounding nursing home deaths and public disclosure continued on unabated, in fact, this week featured significant developments including a letter from nine Democratic Assembly Members demanding an end to Governor Cuomo’s emergency powers and accusing the Cuomo Administration of obstruction of justice, and Member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling for a thorough investigation. More significantly, we learned that the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn has launched an investigation. The probe, currently in its early stages, is focused on the work of senior members of the governor’s task force, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. One observer suggested that if a July Report issued by the New York Department of Health was intentionally misleading, it would constitute a federal crime.
Of course, Andrew Cuomo did not earn three terms in Albany by listening to his critics (or anyone else for that matter) so rather than backing down, the Governor has promised to “get aggressive.” On Friday, Cuomo warned critics they ain’t seen nothing yet: “I understand politics is a nasty business… but this is different,” Cuomo said. “If you are lying in a report, I’m going to call it out. If you are lying in a newspaper, I’m going to call it out.” He described his mistake by saying, “I wasn’t aggressive enough.” This is a strategy we have seen in the past. Throughout past crises in the Cuomo Administration, the Governor has doubled down and generally come out on top. When his former top adviser Joe Percoco was convicted on bribery charges related to economic development projects in Buffalo, instead of shying away, Cuomo doubled down in his support for those projects. One glimpse of that was Cuomo’s attacking Assembly Member Ron Kim as corrupt. Kim, who lost an uncle in a nursing home to Covid, has been vocal and insistent in his criticism of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes. Kim returned fire, adding his own charges of corruption to bullying. The Assembly Member has plenty of supporters, especially on his later claim, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (who cleverly suggested a Moreland style commission). While we will see this play out inside Albany in the coming weeks, we are watching how this will impact the Governor’s standing with New York State’s voters leading into his re-election in 2022.
And while the Governor gets aggressive, the Legislature is pushing back. Some responses have been more outlandish: Republican Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay has called for the Governor’s impeachment; and Democratic Senator Alessandra Biaggi introduced a proposal to remove the Administration’s emergency powers. More realistically, last week Senate Democrat Mike Gianaris said he believes that Democrats have the votes to pass a proposal that will at least give the Legislature some oversight of the Governor’s Executive Powers. According to Gianaris, “[The Senate is] proposing that there be a committee of legislators who would be required to approve any directives before they take effect, which is a lot better than what we have now, which is that these directives happen absent some kind of override at a later date.” Gianaris believes such a proposal has majority support in the Senate but it is unclear what the Assembly will do. A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said members “will be conferencing what to do with the Governor’s powers in the very near future.” You will want to stay tuned to any developments this week in real-time, especially as a vote could come as soon as this week.
Fallout From Governor Under Fire
Jack weighs in on calls for impeachment in this report from Shirley Chan of WPIX-TV in New York, this report from Chris Horvatits of WIVB-TV Channel 4 (video at the bottom of the page) and this report from Ryan Whelan of Capital Tonight.
Tweet of the Week
A top Cuomo aide called Dr. Michael Osterholm a “chief advisor” who spoke to the governor on a “regular basis.” Osterholm counters this claim on @FiringLineShow: “I’ve had one five-minute conversation my entire life with Governor Cuomo… Read more on Twitter.
The immediate impact of the controversy on budget negotiations has been minimal; so far it is business as usual for this time of year. The Governor’s 30-day amendments—though largely blasé—quietly included a proposal to allow the Governor to have sole control over any tax revenues created by the Legislature. The “COVID-19 extraordinary relief fund” stipulates that any money received from any law enacted over the next year would go into the fund. The language gives the Budget Director unilateral authority to appropriate the money to “school districts, local governments, for profit and not-for-profit corporate entities, and/or public benefit corporations” that have experienced hardships due to the pandemic. As one observer described the fund, “It’s meant to give him extraordinary control.” More evidence the Executive Chamber is doubling down on “aggressive.”
From the Nation’s Capital…
It was quieter in Washington this week with most of Congress back in their districts (except, of course, Senator Ted Cruz). However, the House took a key step in moving forward on the stimulus package. The final text was released Friday by the House Budget Committee—read what’s in the final text here. A Budget Committee vote is expected on that package today with a floor vote later in the week. It will then proceed forward through the budget reconciliation process. While Republicans have made continued attempts to derail the bill’s swift movement through reconciliation—aside from opposition from Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) to a federal minimum wage increase—there is little chance the package is slowing down in the immediacy. Stay tuned.
— Jack O’Donnell
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Introducing the Data Privacy Alliance
The DPA is a non-profit organization that advocates for uniform, appropriate legal and regulatory data privacy and cybersecurity standards in New York State and on the federal level. OD&A’s Jim Moore has been named Executive Director and Board Co-Chair of the alliance. Read more here.
Trump-McConnell Clash Threatens to Settle into a Cold War as GOP Eyes Midterms
Republicans said the veteran Senate leader is unlikely to carry on in a back-and-forth with the former president. However, it’s unclear how far Trump will pursue his vendetta. [Read more.]
Anthony Fauci Exclusive Interview: ‘When I Publicly Disagreed with Trump, He Let Terrible Things Happen’
Fauci’s relations with the president had soured as Trump began listening to outsiders with no scientific knowledge and fretting about the damage to the economy and – by extension – his re-election hopes. [Read more.]
O’Donnell & Associates 2021
Preview of New York Policy & Politics
NYS Legislature: New Member Spotlight
Senator Jabari Brisport (D-25th Senate District)
After the retirement last year of longtime State Senator and Brooklyn institution, Velmanette Montgomery, Senator Jabari Brisport was elected to the represent Brooklyn’s 25th Senate District, which includes Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Red Hook, Bedford Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, Gowanus and Park Slope.
In the June Democratic Primary, Senator Brisport’s upstart campaign defeated the favorite State Assembly Member Tremaine Wright, who had the endorsement of outgoing Senator Montgomery. While he was the underdog, Senator Brisport carried a number of notable progressive endorsements of his own: United States Senator and former Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 2018 Cuomo Primary Challenger Cynthia Nixon, and New York’s Communities for Change.
While we have focused heavily on the progressive insurgency in the Assembly this past election cycle, Senator Brisport’s win was another coup for progressives in the Senate. He will join a growing group of progressive members that came into the Senate in the blue wave of 2018.
Prior to his election to the Senate, Senator Brisport was a public-school educator, teaching 6th and 7th grade math at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Crown Heights. There, Jabari played a key role as a member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Union.
In 2017, Senator Brisport unsuccessfully ran for the 35th New York City Council District on the Green Party line. He was later defeated in the general election, but he took home 29% of the vote (which is substantial for a third party candidate) and reportedly earned more independent votes than any council race since 2003.
Jabari is a proud graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of Arts and the Yale School of Drama. After graduating, Jabari began his career as a social activist, organizing efforts in support of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York which was ultimately passed in 2011. He later became involved in the Black Lives Matter Movement where he organized rallies and protests. Brisport is a third generation Caribbean-American resident of Brooklyn, where he was born and raised.
This session, Senator Brisport will serve as Chair of the Standing Committee on Children and Families, and a Member of the Committees on Agriculture; Banks; Codes; Housing, Construction and Community Development; Libraries; and New York City Education.