Enslaved Black people, now free, had much to celebrate. As Felix Haywood, a former slave, recalled: “Everybody went wild. We all felt like heroes… just like that, we were free.” Many slave owners in Confederate states had simply not told their slaves about the Emancipation Proclamation. They got away with it because, before winning the war, Union soldiers were unable to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in Southern states.
The New York State Assembly is in overtime!
After some Democrats left Albany early Saturday morning (as many as 18 by some reports), the Assembly was left at the mercy of the Republican Minority who demanded roll-call votes that slowed the wheels of legislating. The result was an agreement to only move bills with consent and an early adjournment. Much of what remains undone will be taken up tomorrow and Wednesday. To date, the Assembly has filed 7,796 bills with 72 of those being enacted so far. In the Senate, lawmakers have introduced 7,716 bills with 63 being enacted so far (roughly 1% for both Houses). Here’s a link to the Calendar for this week but, as you know, anything can happen.
Perhaps the biggest topic on many legislators’ minds will not be legislated on this week. The Seneca Nation’s Gaming Compact with New York State expires in December, and the Governor and the Seneca Nation must be authorized through Legislation to renew it (it was last negotiated under the Pataki Administration in 2002). An authorizing bill passed the Senate last week, but prior to an Assembly vote, reports became public that the Executive Chamber—Governor Hochul has recused herself—had negotiated a deal allowing the Seneca Nation to open a casino in the Rochester area. The revelation caused a great deal of shock and dismay with the Rochester Delegation—including three Senators who ultimately reversed their yes votes, and one who had already voted no, local elected officials throughout the Finger Lakes, organized labor, statewide good government groups, and prominent editorial boards who say the deal was negotiated hastily and flew in the face of open and transparent government. That last, in part, because at least some members of the Executive Chamber signed Non-Disclosure Agreements, an unprecedented and perhaps unenforceable measure.
With the current compact expiring in December, the Hochul Administration and the Seneca Nation have emphasized the urgency of a new deal, but new information that the current compact can be extended by mutual consent has demolished that narrative. On Friday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie confirmed what many expected: the Assembly won’t be taking any action before they adjourn this Wednesday. “I believe the Seneca Nation deserves a fair deal. However the sentiment of the Assembly’s Monroe County delegation — coupled with the potential loss of union jobs — is concerning, and we cannot move forward with a vote on the compact at this time,” said the Speaker.
Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. was not happy, releasing a scathing 3-page statement laying the blame at the feet of the Executive Chamber for a lack of transparency, denying the presence of an NDA, making unfounded—and inaccurate—accusations, and demanding a vote in the Assembly this week. “The Seneca Nation once again implores the Assembly to do what is right—to ratify a hard-fought agreement that recognizes the right of the Seneca Nation to participate in gaming on its Aboriginal lands—lands seized from the nation and lands it was forced from by New York itself. Failure to do so will cost the Seneca Nation, Western New York, and ultimately New York State.”
Parliamentary intrigue continues in D.C., as well. The infighting between House Republicans has hampered Speaker McCarthy’s ability to even bring bills to the floor for a vote, let alone pass any future spending packages. While the bad blood between the Speaker and his far-right persists, the GOP was able to come together to pass a bill banning bans on gas stoves.
Let’s hope Speaker McCarthy can get his ducks in a row this summer because September 30th is a big date. Consider what happens then:
The last item, is the biggest and most consequential.
After using Democratic votes to get the debt ceiling bill across the finish line, McCarthy is now under pressure from his right wing to introduce spending bills much lower than the spending caps in the debt ceiling bill allows. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), an influential House Freedom Caucus member indicated that talks with McCarthy are “not going well” and suggested he and fellow Freedom Caucus members could continue to block bills from coming to the floor over the disagreement.
A top GOP appropriator, Rep. Steve Womack (R.-Ark.), conceded there will be major disagreements in his conference come September and expressed frustration with the GOP hardliners, saying, “I would like to think we can get 12 [spending] bills through the house. But I’m not making that prediction because we cannot agree” and “I would like for our conference to look a little bit beyond the end of our nose right now.”
There will be much more to follow on this story.
While some people may be behind on their summer workout regiments, First Lady Jill Biden certainly is not. Dr. Biden is a known SoulCycle enthusiast and is regularly seen at classes across the country, including a class last week in San Francisco and a Lizzo v. Harry Styles Pop Stars Battle class in D.C. The First Lady reportedly tries to workout at least three times a week, a step down from her daily five mile runs during her time as Second Lady. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was at the White House last week where he told reporters that his wife and Jill Biden have started taking spin classes together and were able to sneak one in during the First Lady’s trip for the coronation of King Charles.
Speaking of our friends across the pond, Boris Johnson and his allies are dealing with the political fallout from a damning report from the House of Commons that alleges the former Prime Minister lied repeatedly about pandemic-era parties at 10 Downing Street and took steps after the fact to cover it up. In the report, the committee stated, “We came to the view that some of Mr. Johnson’s denials and explanations were so disingenuous that they were by their very nature deliberate attempts to mislead the Committee and the house.” Johnson, despite his resignation, has decried the report’s findings, calling them “protracted political assassination” and “a load of complete tripe” before divulging into personal attacks on the committee members. As one Conservative MP put it, “This brings the curtain down on the Boris show once and for all.”
And finally, some cool news out of Louisiana. Fort Polk has officially been renamed Fort Johnson after Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a Black WWI hero. Nearly a century later, in 2015, Sgt. Johnson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on the front lines in France where he was wounded 21 times during a German offensive, even killing two Germans with his knife to save another solider from being taken prisoner. Sgt. William Henry Johnson, of course, has strong ties to the Albany Area, and was a Harlem Hellfighter. We proudly claim him as a fellow New Yorker.
Client News: UB Celebrates Bloomsday With $10M In State Funding
OD&A was proud to join our client, the University at Buffalo as it celebrated Bloomsday, the day the famed Irish author James Joyce’s classic work “Ulysses” takes place, with the news of $10 million in state funding that will pay for construction of a museum to house the largest James Joyce collection in the world. [Read more.]
New To The NYS Legislature
Assembly Member Scott Bendett was elected to represent Assembly District 107 in the November race to replace Jake Ashby, who vacated the seat to run for State Senate. His district is comprised of parts of Columbia, Rensselaer, and Washington counties, as well as the Town of Bethlehem in Albany County.
Assembly Member Bendett is prepared to bring his broad and successful background and diverse experiences in the private and public sectors to Albany. He is a business owner with more than 25 years of experience as the founder of Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe. His small-business success story started with a few cigars and a small kiosk at the mall before growing into an international online marketplace. In addition, Assembly Member Bendett is the CEO of Bendett Investment Group, a real estate development corporation. He has dedicated countless hours as a counselor and mentor to numerous business ventures and non-profit organizations.
Bendett is also involved in multiple advocacy efforts for Capital Region organizations including the MDA, Center for Disability Services, Best Buddies, and the Arthritis Foundation. He is the President of the Averill Park Education Foundation. Bendett has proudly extended his mentorship to assist Eagle Scouts including his son, Samuel. He has been a member of the town of Sand Lake’s Zoning Board of Appeals and served as a Rensselaer County Legislator from 2017-2022 prior to his election.
Bendett lives in Averill Park with his wife and children.
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