Good Morning from Washington, D.C….

This past week, the House passed the “Protecting Our Kids” Act following testimony by the families and victims of mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. Zeneta Everhart, mother of Zaire Goodman, a survivor of the Buffalo shooting testified, “If after hearing from me and the other people testifying here today does not move you to act on gun laws, I invite you to my home to help me to clean Zaire’s wounds so that you may see up close the damage that has been caused to my son and my community.” OD&A is proud to call Zeneta our friend. 

The “Protecting Our Kids” legislation is a package of eight different bills that would limit the capacity of certain magazines, ban untraceable “ghost” guns, require locked storage of firearms, crack down on straw sales, and most notably raise the minimum age for buying an assault rifle to 21. The gun lobby vehemently opposes these proposals and GOP leadership urged members to vote down the package. It garnered the support of 5 Republican members, including Member of Congress Chris Jacobs. Four out of the five are not running for reelection. Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis voted in favor of four of the eight bills, citing her support for the NYPD. 

The legislation does not have the support to pass in the Senate. Nonetheless, Senate negotiators have been working on an agreement of their own. The talks have been led by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and Republican John Cornyn who both expressed optimism that a framework can be reached. Murphy offered, “Obviously, I would prefer to go much farther than Sen. Cornyn and Republicans would. But I’m not going to let perfect be the enemy of the good.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said of Cornyn’s efforts “I think he’s working in good faith with Sen. Murphy to try and get an outcome.” We shall see.

Last Thursday, the January 6th Select Committee held its first hearing and released previously unseen video evidence of the crowd as well as testimony from some key players in Trump’s orbit. Former Attorney General Bill Barr testified in a deposition that he told the President in December that his claims of wide scale election fraud were “bullshit”.  Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, testified that she agreed with Barr’s assessment. 

The Committee, vice-chaired by Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, also presented text messages from various Republican lawmakers and media figures trying to convince the President to call off his supporters and get through the waning weeks of his Presidency without further incident, including a lengthy chain between Fox News Primetime Host Sean Hannity and former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. They also revealed that several Republican Members of Congress asked Trump for pardons relating to their actions. More to come on that.
 
The Committee will hold seven more hearings before presenting their findings with three more scheduled for this week. Here is the schedule:

  • Monday 6/13 at 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday 6/15 at 10 a.m.
  • Thursday 6/16 at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, top appropriators are negotiating toward fiscal 2023 funding totals. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Al) blames election-year uncertainty for the delay. Shelby offers odds of “probably 50/50,” of reaching a bipartisan agreement this year on spending limits for the military and non-defense agencies. It’s “a worthy goal” to aim for an overarching deal by the end of September, but it’s not necessarily a realistic expectation, the Alabama Republican notes. “It would probably not happen because this is an election year. There are a lot of variables out there,” Shelby says. “Will the House flip? Probably. Will the Senate flip? Maybe. All these factors enter into it.”

Back in New York State…

A state Appellate Court ruled that the New York State Assembly maps were unconstitutional and must be redrawn, just as the Congressional and state Senate maps were. The major difference: the Court kept the current maps in place for this year’s elections while the primary elections, just over two weeks away, will remain in place. The ruling stated, “The request for a delay of the 2022 assembly primary elections is denied in any event, because the redrawing and implementing of a new assembly map before a 2022 primary election delayed even until September is, at this late date, no longer feasible.” It will now be up to the State Supreme Court and Justice Laurence Love of Manhattan to determine the best method for drawing new Assembly lines for 2024.

The first Democratic gubernatorial debate to include Governor Kathy Hochul took place this past Tuesday and her challengers, Jumaane Williams and Tom Suozzi, took the fight to her: Suozzi lobbed criticisms ranging from ethics concerns to rising crime rates while Williams raised the lack of funding for affordable housing and other progressive priorities. That is not to say the Governor did not come prepared. Hochul was quick to respond and to detail her many accomplishments. Hochul conceded that the arrest and resignation of her Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin was a “disappointment” but that she was still determined to restore trust in state government while forcefully defending her Administration and enthusiastically offering a vision for New York and declaring her values, especially regarding women’s reproductive rights. Hochul also took every opportunity to discuss the gun safety legislation she recently signed into law. Here’s my take in the New York Times.

A few notes on the end of the Legislative Session:
 
  • A lot of attention on a possible cryptocurrency mining ban. The bill was a key priority for environmental justice. Some envision New York as a future hub for this emerging industry while others believe the climate impact does not outweigh the economic reward. The decision is now up to the Governor who has not signaled one way or another; 
  • The “Clean Slate Act,” another priority of progressives, failed to pass the Assembly; 
  • Hochul signed her public safety package which includes a requirement that a person obtain a license prior to purchasing a semiautomatic rifle and raising the age to purchase semiautomatic guns from 18 to 21;
  • A constitutional amendment that would have enshrined reproductive rights—along with other protections—failed but legislation that provides additional protections for those seeking abortion care did pass as well as a prohibition on New York State cooperating with out-of-state legal cases involving abortion;
  • Voting rights legislation passed including a requirement that political subdivisions with a history of voter disenfranchisement obtain clearance prior to making certain changes to their election laws and practices.

In total, 1,006 bills passed both houses (the Senate passed 1,634 bills and the Assembly passed 1,245 bills), the most since 1995. They have been or will be acted upon (approved into law or vetoed) by the Governor prior to December 31. 

Mayor Adams and City lawmakers have reached an agreement on the City’s budget with the final total coming in just over $100 billion. Earlier this week, Adams called on state lawmakers to decide which services should be cut or scaled back, citing the increased cost of reducing city class sizes as the legislature required without providing a corresponding increase in funds. Albany lawmakers argued that the program reducing class sizes is not in competition with other programs and that there is plenty of money allocated to NYC schools to go around. 

Some budget highlights: 
 
  • $226 million for a Subway Safety Plan 
  • $54 million expansion of the Precision Employment Initiative which connects individuals at risk for engaging in gun violence with Green Jobs 
  • $60 million for human and legal services providers 
  • $250 million to expand the New York City Earned Income Tax Credit 
  • $101 million to add 100,000 new spots in the city’s summer activities program

The final budget did include cuts to education funding totaling $215 million across all schools this year. Adams said, “We had a major drop in student population in the [Department of Education], so what we’re doing — we are not cutting, we are adjusting the amount based on the student population.” That enrollment drop, paired with the lack of additional federal COVID relief money has left the city’s schools in a tough fiscal spot. 

Finally, the greatest music video of all time? 

In a newly released excerpt from a book by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary reveals that Donald Trump told her to add Guns N’ Roses “November Rain” to his rally playlist back in 2018. “He told us it was the ‘greatest music video of all time,’” Sanders writes, “and made us watch it to prove his point even though neither of us disagreed.”

  -Jack O’Donnell

 

 

 

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