Good Morning from Kyiv…

All eyes are on the Ukraine this week. We add our support and prayers to the heroes defending their homeland. 

New York’s political class took turns doing the same—landmarks across the State were lit blue and yellow, while Governor Hochul and New York’s Senior Senator and United States Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer voiced support for Ukraine with Schumer saying, “Ukraine will … fight back. We will support them,”—though one—New York City Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan—chose to stand with the aggressors. 

New Yorkers also offered support for sanctions and even introduced bills to encourage New York State to divest from Russia. Hudson Valley State Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick unveiled the “Stop Russian Aggression Act” that would block the award of state contracts to any company conducting business in Russia and direct the Office of the State Comptroller to begin divesting the State’s pension fund from companies that do business in Russia. The biggest question is if Albany and New York City have the will to take on LLCs and real estate interests protecting billions of dollars in investment by Russian oligarchs. Russian oligarchs have long invested in New York City’s luxury real estate market. Several elected officials—including Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine—say the time for the United States to seize those properties and assets is now. 

In other major news, President Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court vacancy left open by the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer earlier this year. Brown Jackson is a historic pick, though she is also the safe choice. Democrats hope this will help reset the political narrative and energize one of the most important Democratic constituencies just in time for midterms. Biden will also use his State of the State tomorrow, to do more resetting.

Ukraine—and to a lesser extent Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination—pushed other issues to the back burner in what was also a recess week in Washington. That said, Congress returns this week with the goal of quickly finalizing a funding deal for the remainder Fiscal Year 2022. The current—and third—stopgap funding bill gives lawmakers roughly two weeks to finalize a deal to fund the government through September 30thKey appropriators confirmed just before the recess that all 12 appropriations subcommittees received “top-line” numbers, a show of progress, though there is still a long way to go. 

More from New York State…

The New York Legislature was also in recess. Presidents’ Day weekend usually features the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus Weekend, but that was postponed until April 8-10 because of COVID concerns. Most legislators were in their districts, while one, Senator Kevin Thomas, found himself uncomfortably close to the Ukraine, and Speaker Carl Heastie—well known as the biggest Prince fan in Albany—was showing off his guitar skills.

When the legislators return this week, development of Legislative One House budgets will be in full swing. Expect more on those this week, with final One House Proposals out likely sometime the week of March 14th.  

It is also a big week for the political calendar. The first day to circulate nominating petitions is this Tuesday, March 1. In other political news, last week, the Working Families Party released key endorsements, including Jumaane Williams for Governorread them all hereClaudia Tenney toured the Southern Tier and picked up some key endorsements for New York’s 23rd Congressional District; and another GOP Candidate—Harry Wilson—joined the race to challenge Governor Kathy Hochul. That will make this week’s New York Republican Party convention interesting, especially as New York’s Conservatives just designated Lee Zeldin as their candidate.  Last week was also the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where Ukraine and the Supreme Court both took a back seat to cultural grievances and Donald Trump, as well as the Democratic Governor’s Conference where Governor Hochul’s star continues to rise.

Governor Hochul also announced yesterday that the school mask mandate will be lifted throughout New York State effective this Wednesday.

Another development, Assembly Energy Chair and President of American Irish Legislators Society of New York State, Assembly Member Michael Cusick, announced he will not be running for re-election this year. Assembly Member Cusick is a friend of OD&A and former colleague. His presence in the Assembly will be missed deeply.

And hats off to Liverpool FC. The Reds took home the first domestic hardware of the year defeating Chelsea in penalties on Sunday afternoon in the Carabao Cup behind the stellar play of goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher (Chelsea was in the news earlier in the weekend after Russian Owner Roman Abramovich handed over control of the club to its charitable foundation trustees).

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