Good Morning from Washington, D.C….

Democrats in Washington announced an agreement on a budget framework—totaling $3.5 billion and addressing big ticket priorities including climate change and expanding Medicare as well as other progressive priorities. At the same time, New York’s own Senator Chuck Schumer is moving ahead with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but when Senators left town last Thursday, the ability to actually meet that timeline remained very unclear. There are several outstanding issues: starting with funding mechanisms—notably a proposal to increase IRS enforcement —and spending priorities, not to mention there is still no text to review.

The lead Republican negotiator, Senator Rob Portman said of the Wednesday vote: “I don’t know if we’ll make anybody’s arbitrary timeline. I appreciate the fact that the Majority Leader wants us to have a vote on this and to have a vote as soon as possible. I don’t disagree with that. But as soon as possible means when it’s ready.” The pressure is on to see if Senators can get a budget framework and infrastructure deal done before the August recess. It is unlikely and, as we reported last week, August will be a long, hot month in Washington.

Back in New York State…

There were further questions raised about New York’s COVID reporting, more on the NYC Board of Elections, and one look at the problems of reopening as the Senate Ethics Committee was forced to postpone a scheduled hearing as only two of the members showed up in person. The hearing, on New York State’s current system of oversight and enforcement, is significant and signals the growing move in Albany—at least in the Senate—towards more oversight.

Politically, John Samuelson, the president of Transit Workers Union, and a long time vocal backer of Andrew Cuomo declared it was time for a change while Eric Adams says he’s mayor (he isn’t, at least not yet). Elected officials also had to report their fundraising this week—Cuomo reported $18 million cash on hand (still managing to raise over $2.3 million amidst ongoing scandals), Attorney General Letitia James raised over $1 million, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul raised over $500,000, and Republican candidate for Governor Lee Zeldin raised $4 million. Senator Tim Kennedy of Buffalo did the best of any legislator filing so far raising over $600,000 while Senator Todd Kaminsky raised almost $500,000 to bring his war chest for the Nassau District Attorney race to almost $2 million. Search more on the July 15th Periodic filings here. 

The most important political news is something we may not know much about for another month or so: Governor Cuomo was questioned on Saturday by investigators— Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark, the two outside lawyers hired to lead the investigation that is being overseen by State Attorney General Letitia JamesCuomo spent nearly 13 hours in Manhattan Saturday, but aside from that, the meeting was cloaked in secrecy. The Governor’s Office put out no official schedule for Saturday and he arrived back at the Executive Mansion in Albany late in the evening. The Governor’s questioning under oath could signal that James’ four-month-long inquiry into several sexual harassment accusations may be entering its final stages. The investigation has paralyzed Albany with uncertainty about the timeline and possible finding that could change the Albany power structure in an instant. As one high-level Capitol staffer noted of the past few months, “everything is an impossibly mapped-out political game theory.”
Finally, in a sign that New York State government is keeping up with the times (if you are just very, very patient), Governor Cuomo signed legislation allowing for barbershops to operate on Sundays.  

-Jack O’Donnell



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