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Good Monday morning…

We begin in Albany, NY where Joint Legislative Budget Hearings are in full swing with Human Services, Environmental Conservation, Local Government, and Mental Hygiene on this week’s agenda before the Legislature goes into recess for a week. 

Governor Kathy Hochul’s $227 billion budget proposal (which we detailed in last week’s Memo) includes much-needed state funding for transportation, housing, mental health, public safety, and a number of other policy areas. However in New York City, Mayor Eric Adams and his administration have some financial concerns, particularly over her plans to lift the charter school cap and increase the City’s share of funding for the MTA. An internal memo prepared by the NYC budget office reads in part, “In terms of policy, the Governor’s proposed budget incorporates many of the Mayor’s priorities, including Community Hiring, Lowering the MWBE threshold, Progressive Design Build, Renewing J-51, Removing the FAR cap, Parking Reform, Lowering Speed Limits and more. However, financially, the Governor’s Executive Budget contains few City priorities and poses challenges to the City if enacted as written, particularly because the City’s financial position has already been strained by the Migrant Crisis.” The memo projects that the cap lift on charter schools will ultimately cost the City $1 billion with the increased contribution to the MTA costing the City $526 million in upcoming State Fiscal Year 2024. 

Mayor Adams is expected to testify at the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Local Governments at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. You can watch the hearing here

While most were focused on budget last week, there was more LaSalle drama. Republicans in the State Senate sued their Democratic colleagues to force a full floor vote on Judge Hector LaSalle, Hochul’s nominee to lead the New York State Court of Appeals.

While most were focused on budget last week, there was more LaSalle drama. Republicans in the State Senate sued their Democratic colleagues to force a full floor vote on Judge Hector LaSalle, Hochul’s nominee to lead the New York State Court of Appeals. The lawsuit claims that the Judiciary Committee and Senate Democratic Leadership violated the State Constitution by preventing the full Senate from voting on LaSalle’s nomination. Senator Anthony Palumbo, the plaintiff on the lawsuit and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement, “The New York State Constitution is clear. Judicial nominations must be considered before the full State Senate. As such, the Judiciary Committee, no matter its size, serves only as an advisory body, providing ‘advice and consent’ to the entire Senate Membership. Justice LaSalle is entitled to an up or down vote by the full State Senate, not as a courtesy, but because the Constitution requires it.”

The move saves Hochul from having to make the tough decision of keeping this fight going and suing her own party to force a vote on LaSalle. It should be noted that the lawsuit from the GOP likely has more to do with their fear of a more left-leaning judge being nominated than it is an indication of any warm feelings towards the Governor. Either way, there will be much more to come on this story. 

In D.C, Governor Hochul was in town meeting with members of the New York Congressional Delegation with the exception of Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21) and Rep. George Santos (NY-3). Stefanik was invited… Santos was not. Hochul insists that the decision to exclude Santos was purely practical, saying “we were talking about their work on committees, and he’s not a committee member.” 

Santos also had a brush in with Senator Mitt Romney at President Biden’s State of the Union Address. Providing a recap of the verbal sparring to reporters, Romney said “I don’t know the exact words I said. He shouldn’t have been there…he’s a sick puppy.” 

All eyes in Washington were on the State of the Union, with President Biden, at the spry age of 80, speaking for well over an hour touting his administration’s accomplishments, acknowledging the challenges still facing our country, and laying out his vision for a path forward.  Perhaps more notable than any policy proposal was the atmosphere of the House Chamber. In a scene reminiscent of British Parliament, the President welcomed the back and forth jarring with GOP lawmakers in the audience and often pivoted off script to respond to their outbursts. After pointing out that some Republicans have proposed plans to cut Social Security and Medicare, multiple audience members yelled out “liar.” Biden stopped and responded, “Anybody who doubts it, contact my office and I will give you a copy of the proposal.” For a President who is routinely called past his prime and incompetent, he successfully baited Republicans into committing not to cut Medicare and Social Security on live TV and was able to portray himself as the defender of two of the nation’s most popular entitlement programs. 

In the days following the State of the Union, Republicans continued to push back on Biden’s claim and tried to further distance themselves from Senator Rick Scott’s policy proposal which would sunset Social Security and Medicare after five years. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered “So it’s clearly the Rick Scott plan, it is not the Republican plan, and that’s the view of the Speaker of the House as well.” Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) took to Twitter to say it is actually President Biden who wants to cut Medicare, referencing the GOP’s effort to set more advantageous Medicare Advantage rates for healthcare providers. The Better Medicare Alliance circulated a memo claiming that the administration’s rate increase for Medicare Advantage insurers is not sufficient and will ultimately amount to a cut. The Biden administration has pushed back on that notion, expressing confidence in their rate projections and asserting that the effort for further increases is driven by insurers looking to protect profits. That fight could be parlayed into the larger conversations over the debt ceiling, throwing another wrench into already delicate negotiations. 

Read the OD&A 2023 Federal Legislative Preview 

Overall, the theme of Biden’s speech, “Finish the Job” was likely a test run for an expected 2024 reelection campaign message, and while Biden has never been a world-class orator, the energy and vigor he displayed last Tuesday is sure to ease some of the concerns in the Democratic Party over their likely standard-bearer for 2024.

One aside, the phrase “Finish the Job,” which was used repeatedly by Biden in his speech, was also used by Abe Beame in his reelection campaign for NYC Mayor in 1977. It led to a memorable commercial where Ed Koch sarcastically responds with “hasn’t he done enough already?”

President Biden was not the only one floating a potential 2024 campaign message. The Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee held its first hearing on Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop and big tech’s supposed collusion with Democrats in the 2020 election. Republicans allege that Twitter colluded with the FBI to suppress a story about embarrassing and possibly criminal material found on a laptop reportedly belonging to the President’s son. While former Twitter employees conceded that they probably could have handled the situation better, their former deputy general counsel said, “I’m aware of no unlawful collusion with or direction from any government agency or political campaign on how Twitter should have handled the Hunter Biden laptop situation.” The hearing was just one of many planned House Oversight hearings into the Biden family and their alleged wrongdoing now that the GOP has control of the lower chamber. 

From the strange but true files, researchers have concluded that gorilla-sized penguins used to roam the New Zealand coastlines after finding fossils of a penguin believed to be over 350 pounds. 

And finally, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day (Reminder: it’s tomorrow!), City & State NY brings you City & Date, a list27a4c5e1 581c 4294 bf20 a039ee3e5fa0 of New York political players looking for a partner, including our own  “jet flyin’ limousine ridin'” Alec Lewis, one of the state’s most eligible bachelors who will be a great catch someday for one lucky woman!

-Jack O’Donnell

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Congratulations to our 
Jack O’Donnell, recognized by PoliticsNY and amNY Metro as a 
Power Player in Corporate Social Responsibility.
Read more here.




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New to the NYS Legislature 

Assembly Member Eric “Ari” Brown was first elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election on April 7, 2022 in the race to replace former Assembly Member Missy Miller and was re-elected in November. His district includes the Nassau County towns and villages of Cedarhurst, East Rockaway, Hewlett, Woodmere, Inwood, Island Park, Lawrence, and Oceanside, along with the barrier island from Atlantic Beach to Point Lookout.
Assembly Member Brown says he plans to be a strong voice for the people of New York, specifically for the most vulnerable members of the state. Assembly Member Brown also plans to prioritize crime and public safety during his first full session in Albany. He has said his goals include “combatting rising lawlessness, hate crimes, and acts of anti-Semitism.”
Assembly Member Brown hopes to bring bipartisan approach to policy making, saying he believes extreme politicians have gone too far. Additional priorities include parental rights and tax reform. Assembly Member Brown also wants to be a voice in “getting New York’s economy back on track post-COVID,” which includes strong opposition to congestion pricing, of which he believes is particularly hard on the people of his district who regularly commute into New York City.
Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Assembly Member Brown served for two decades on the Board of Trustees in the Village of Cedarhurst, as well as the position of Cedarhurst Deputy Mayor. He also served on the village’s zoning board and became the Chairman of the Board of Architectural Review in 2019. He is currently the President of R. Brown Realty Corp, a design-build firm.
Ari is the proud father of seven children and two grandchildren and is a 30-year resident of Cedarhurst.




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Gillibrand Touts $1.4M Niagara University Investment

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand could have chosen the well-kept sanctuary of the First Congregational United Church of Christ to announce $1.4 million in federal funding to turn the 168-year-old building into Niagara University’s new Academic Innovation Hub. [Read more.]


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A Trailblazer Who Brought a Black Woman’s Voice to Comics

Barbara Brandon-Croft wrote a pitch that, 34 years later, has lost none of its punch. “Few Black Cartoonists have entered national syndication since the 1970s,” began the boldfaced heading to her letter to newspaper syndicates. “None have been Black Women.” [Read more.]