Good morning from Castleton-on-Hudson, New York, home of the Third Department, Appellate Division, New York State Supreme Court where Democrats are celebrating as the Court ordered the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) to draw new Congressional lines.
The split (3-2) decision found that the map created by a Court-Ordered Special Master was only temporary and the authority to draw permanent maps remains with the IRC. Elizabeth Garry, the presiding justice wrote, “In granting this petition, we return the matter to its constitutional design. Accordingly, we direct the I.R.C. to commence its duties forthwith.”
The decision, if upheld upon appeal, could have major implications for control of the House of Representatives. The Congressional Districts drawn by the Special Master were intended to maximize competition and ultimately led to Republicans flipping four seats. The new maps will still have to be approved by the State Legislature where Democrats maintain supermajorities, likely to the detriment of first-term Republican Members of Congress Mike Lawler and Marc Molinaro in the Hudson Valley. Republicans will appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, New Yorkers in the Finger Lakes and Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties in the Hudson Valley are recovering from devastating flooding last week that resulted in State of Emergency declarations from Governor Kathy Hochul. Speaking from Highland Falls in Orange County, Hochul said, “Once again the skies opened up, and wrought so much rain, nine inches of rain in this community, that they’re calling this a 1,000-year event. It’s only the second time ever that NWS issued a flash flood emergency. The last time was Hurricane Ida. My friends, this is the new normal.” State Police and other first responders have been assisting in rescues in areas where roads and bridges have been washed out and to date there has been one casualty as a result of the flooding.
In the face of a particularly bleak financial picture for the upcoming fiscal year painted by the Financial Plan released in June, Budget Director, Bob Megna sought to emphasize the strength of the state’s finances vis-à-vis New York State’s reserves, penning an Op-Ed in the New York Daily News about the importance of “preparing for a rainy day while the sun is shining.” Megna emphasized that New York is in a strong position to adapt to a potential economic downturn with the “current balance in principal reserves just more than $19.5 billion, an amount equal to approximately 16% of projected Fiscal Year 2025 State Operating Funds disbursements.” Megna conceded that the out-year budget gaps projected in the FY 2024 NYS Financial Plan are a financial concern, but added financial uncertainty is not exclusively a New York issue and that New York is in a better fiscal position than some neighboring states. Not everyone agrees. We will be watching this closely.
A non-partisan watchdog group, the New York City Independent Budget Office, recently released a report that estimated an annual cost of $1.6 billion for New York City to comply with the state’s new law limiting class sizes. The law caps class sizes at 20 students for K-3rd grade, 23 students for 4th-8th grade, and 25 students for high school classes. The majority of the estimated $1.6 billion cost would be spent on teacher salaries to accommodate the smaller class sizes.
In Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives voted to advance the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes spending and sets policy for the military. The $886 billion authorization includes a 5.2% pay increase for members of the armed services and funds a variety of programs to spur domestic technological innovation. Most NDAAs advance with bipartisan support, but this year’s version passed by a margin of 219-210 with four Democrats voting for the bill and four Republicans voting against. Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in a concession to GOP hardliners, allowed for controversial amendments related to abortion access, diversity programs, and transgender healthcare at the expense of his more moderate members. The same version of the bill without the GOP amendments passed the House Armed Services committee in June by a margin of 58-1. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services committee, previously supported the NDAA, but called the version that passed the House “an agenda rooted in racism, misogyny, bigotry, ignorance, and hatred.” The House version is dead on arrival in the Senate, leaving it up to the House-Senate conference committee to negotiate a version that can pass both Houses ahead of the September deadline.
The House will consider a number of measures this week, including the House Republicans’ proposed FAA Reauthorization Bill, Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, which is likely to come to a full floor vote this week. Though the FAA Reauthorization faces a bumpy ride to enactment, as the Senate Democrats’ version has significant differences with the House Proposal that will need to be resolved ahead of the September 30th deadline. The House will also consider the Schools Not Shelters Act, sponsored by Hudson Valley Rep. Marc Molinaro, which was introduced in response to the controversy around housing migrants in schools across New York State. The bill would prohibit using the facilities of public primary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education that receive federal financial assistance to provide shelter or housing for any non-U.S. national (alien under federal law) who has not been admitted for lawful entry… obviously the proposal is dead on arrival in the Senate. Nonetheless, it underscores the tensions back in New York. Over in the Senate, they will convene tomorrow to resume consideration of Rachel Bloomenkatz of Ohio, Biden’s nominee for United States Circuit Judge of the Sixth Circuit, one of dozens of Biden’s nominees that have waited over a year for confirmation in the Senate.
The Biden Administration is continuing to deal with a number of personnel headaches and an inability to get key Cabinet Members confirmed in the Senate, this time with Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) coming out against Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Labor, Julie Su. Manchin’s statement of opposition effectively torpedoed Su’s nomination after more than five months of delays.
Similarly, the National Institute of Health has been without a permanent director for a year and a half as a result of a standoff between Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and the Administration that has stalled the confirmation of Monica Bertagnolli. In a move that is garnering bipartisan condemnation, Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) is single-handedly holding up the promotions of over 250 military officers. Tuberville, a former college football coach, has indicated he will continue to hold up the promotions until the Department of Defense reverses a policy that provides paid time off for service members seeking abortions. The recent developments and sheer number of vacancies have raised concerns about the ability of key agencies to function without permanent leadership.
Client News: University at Buffalo Unveils Plans for $102M Engineering Building
The University at Buffalo’s engineering school has added more than 2,000 students over the last decade — outgrowing its current facilities footprint. The enrollment increase has prompted the research university, one of the state’s flagship universities, to make plans for a new $102 million engineering building with a generous financial commitment from New York state. [Read more.]
New To The NYS Legislature
State Senator Monica Martinez returned to the NY Senate this year after defeating businesswoman Wendy Rodriguez in the November election for District 4, representing Suffolk County, including Brentwood where Senator Martinez resides.
She previously served as a NY Senator from 2018-2020, but lost her reelection bid. At the time, she made history as the first woman and woman of color to represent the then-Third Senatorial District and the first Salvadoran woman elected in the state of New York.
Senator Martinez was born in El Salvador and moved to the United States at the age of 3. She received her bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University, and graduate degrees from New York University and Stony Brook University. She worked as a social studies teacher at Brentwood High School for 10 years before becoming the assistant principal of Brentwood’s East Middle School.
From there, Senator Martinez began her career in government as the County Legislator for Suffolk County’s Ninth District in 2014, where she served for five years.
As a returning senator, she continues working on some of the priorities she established during her first stint in the Senate, including bringing more funds to Long Island schools, securing more funding for infrastructure, and investing in parks.
In The News