Good Morning from the Nation’s Capital…
The biggest news in Washington this week was the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. After serving on the Supreme Court for almost 30 years, Breyer will leave at the end of the Supreme Court term likely in late June or early July. The news is less important in that it will not change the makeup of the court as President Joe Biden will nominate a liberal, but it is significant nonetheless because it offers Biden—and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer—a win and offers Democrats an opportunity to energize their base (Biden has pledged to nominate the first African American woman) while also reminding Americans about what the party stands for on some big issues—guns, abortion, etc.—a contrast Democrats believe favors them with voters.
Another possible win for Democrats is a major investment in research and development and high-tech manufacturing capabilities, aimed at making the country more competitive vis-a-vis China. The Senate passed the original “China Bill”—first called Endless Frontiers Act and now the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) in June by wide margin—68-32. However, the larger conversation had been stalled in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leadership had yet to propose their own comprehensive bill on the issue. This week, House Democrats introduced their own legislative package called the America COMPETES Act of 2022. The house expects to vote on the bill this week, perhaps as early as today, setting up an old fashioned Conference Committee (remember that from high school civics?). This effort has been a major policy objective of Schumer and this week it emerged that the White House has also prioritized it as a potential major policy win, especially as the Build Back Better Act continues to lie dormant.
Back in New York State…
The biggest story is redistricting. The Independent Redistricting Commission, failed to even agree on a meeting to discuss discrepancies in the two sets of maps proposed—let alone an agreement on a unified set of maps—by the January 25th deadline. The responsibility of drawing and passing maps will fall to the Legislature and Governor Kathy Hochul. This is no surprise (we have been talking about it since the Summer) but only accelerates the timing, which is important as petitions and the election cycle are scheduled to kick off on March 1st. To no one’s surprise, the Senate and Assembly had maps ready. The Senate has been briefed and the Assembly was held in Albany past the session on Thursday for a briefing and look at the maps.
The map would represent a major change for Western New York, with Erie County split into three districts. An expanded Southern Tier 23rd District (currently represented by Rep. Tom Reed, who is not running in 2022) would include Southern Erie County across to Broome County, while Rep. Chris Jacobs’ district would include Northern Erie County stretching all the way to Watertown (interesting note: he does not currently live in the district as drawn), while Brian Higgins’ 26th District would essentially stay the same. Legislators are expected to bring the Congressional Districts Bill up for a vote this Wednesday, and extend session into Thursday to vote on the bills on State Legislative Districts. See more on the maps so far here.
Crime also continues to emerge as a political issue and, perhaps, an Achilles heel for Democrats, further emphasized by the tragic deaths of NYPD Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora. At Rivera’s funeral on Friday, his widow Dominique Luzuriaga said, “this system continues to fail us. We are not safe anymore, not even the members of the service. I know you were tired of these laws, especially the ones from the new [Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg].” Mayor Eric Adams said, “These two fine men watered the tree of safety and allowed us to sit under this shade from the hot sun of violence. You play a vital role in the prosperity of this city.”
In response to the deaths of the Officers, Hochul is walking a fine line. She met with embattled Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg shortly after the funeral for Officer Rivera and the DA issued a statement on the meeting saying, “Our conversation included the importance of accountability, preventing shoplifting by breaking up burglary rings, keeping the trains safe, deterring brazen conduct and reducing gun violence. I‘ll be working in partnership with her and in close coordination with the NYPD, the Mayor and other local partners toward our common goal – protecting the people and businesses of Manhattan and keeping all New Yorkers safe.” Progressives are adamant that no changes should be made to the State’s recent bail or criminal justice laws, but this is a hot button issue and moderate Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, continue to be outraged by lawlessness and violence.
This week, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee will meet on issues in the budget relating to Workforce Development, Environmental Conservation, and Higher Education. Read more here. The Legislature will also consider Hochul’s nominations of former Secretary of State Rosanna Rosado as Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), Jeanette Moy as the Commissioner of the Office of General Services, and Maria Imperial as the Commissioner of the Division of Human Rights.
Client News: First Look Inside Gundlach Building at Albright-Knox
Buffalo News photographer Derek Gee shows us how the massive AK360 Campus Expansion project is progressing as the new Gundlach Building, which will more than double the amount of exhibition space at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, takes shape. [View here.] [Read more on the project here.]
New York State Won’t Let Us Have 25-Cent Martinis
Old-school restaurant and wine bar Anton’s in the West Village made headlines earlier this month after adding a 25-cent martini special to its menu, with surprisingly few terms and conditions. (Full-sized martinis and Manhattans cost just a quarter during weekday lunch in January, with a limit of two per person.) The special, essentially a bid to lure customers into the restaurant during off-peak hours, seemed too good to be true — until it was. [Read more.]