Good Morning from Graceland…

Congress reached a deal on gun safety, albeit a modest one.  More than a week after a bipartisan breakthrough, Senators finally agreed to language that would codify the framework agreement. The 80-page “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act” was released last Tuesday evening after wrangling around the “boyfriend loophole.” The Senate voted 65-33 and the House 234-193 despite opposition from House GOP leadership. Fourteen Republican House Members voted in favor including Rep. Chris Jacobs and Rep. John Katko from New York.  President Biden signed it into law Saturday.  

The new legislation will save lives. At the same time, the United States Supreme Court struck down New York State’s century-old Sullivan Law which limited concealed carry as unconstitutionally restrictive. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, declared that “[the Second Amendment protects] an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” Nothing changes immediately and the case is remanded to the Second Circuit which had previously found the law constitutional but New York’s requirement that applicants provide a good cause reason for a conceal carry permit is dead. In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, “In my view, when courts interpret the Second Amendment, it is constitutionally proper, indeed often necessary, for them to consider the serious dangers and consequences of gun violence that lead states to regulate firearm. The Second Circuit has done so and has held that New York’s law does not violate the Second Amendment. I would affirm that holding.

Here is a little on the history of the Sullivan Law that was at the center of the case. 

In response, Governor Kathy C. Hochul held a meeting with the Mayors of New York’s largest cities to discuss the impact this will have on efforts to combat gun violence and the available legislative options. Those options include a higher bar for permits including safety training as well as broader designations of “sensitive spaces” including schools, subways, and others.

In a similarly sweeping and predictable ruling, the Supreme Court released their decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case, overturning Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood and ending the constitutional protection of legal abortion. The leak of a draft opinion last month prepared most observers for the decision. Nonetheless, it is a seismic shift in reproductive rights. Moreover, a concurring opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, went even further suggesting that previous decisions that protected contraception and same-sex marriage both should be overturned, since those rulings also were based on 14th Amendment’s protections that envisioned when the amendment was ratified in 1868.

Thirteen states have “trigger laws” which, now that Roe is overturned, automatically ban abortion including some that provide no exceptions for rape and incest. Governor Hochul, a vocal advocate for reproductive rights, offered “Today, the Supreme Court took away the right of millions of Americans to make decisions about their own bodies. This decision is a grave injustice…I want everyone to know that abortion remains safe, accessible, and legal in New York.” 

Hochul is calling the legislature back into Special Session on Thursday, June 30 to address both issues. In addition to the possible gun measures mentioned above there is continuing discussion about a state constitutional amendment that would protect reproductive rights, as well as others.

President Biden delivered remarks immediately following the Dobbs decision, saying “I have warned about how this decision risks the broader right to privacy for everyone. That’s because Roe recognized the fundamental right to privacy that has served as a basis for so many more rights that we have come to take for granted.” Nonetheless, the White House called a lid at 1:42 pm and canceled its daily press briefing. An inexplicable reaction to a decision that has Democrats up in arms across the country and to one that Democrats knew was coming. 

The rulings on guns and abortion will have long-term and national repercussions.

In the meantime, there are also a lot of state politics happening ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. The most high-profile contest is the race for Governor but the only question on the Democratic side is how much incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul will win by. 

Find your polling place here. 

The more competitive race is the one for Lieutenant Governor. In New York, at least in party primaries, the Lt. Governor runs separately from the Governor which means Hochul could end up with a running mate she has not endorsed (this happened to former governors George Pataki, Mario Cuomo, and Hugh Carey). Earlier this year, Antonio Delgado gave up a safe seat in Congress to become Hochul’s Lt. Governor. While Delgado has been racking up key endorsements, he got off to a late start and this race could be much closer than Hochul’s. There is also no public polling to offer any pre-election insights. Ana Maria Archila, Jumaane William’s running mate, was officially given the progressive seal of approval after picking up the endorsement of AOC, El Diario, the longest publishing Spanish-language newspaper, and several other elected officials including Jamaal Bowman and Nydia Velazquez of the NYC congressional delegation as well as State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris. The third candidate, Diana Reyna, is the running mate of Tom Suozzi and identifies as a “common-sense Democrat.”

Other races worth watching: 

The Assembly. The majority is not in question. Democrats will continue to have a veto-proof majority when they return in January, but the center-left v. far-left makeup of the majority could shift. Progressives felt slighted when two of their major priorities, the Good Cause Eviction bill and the Clean Slate Act, failed to get across the finish line in Albany.

Here is a refresher on other key races from last week’s Memo: 
 
  • AD 75: Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, who has served his Manhattan district for over half a century and is the longest-serving legislator in the State’s history, announced he would not be seeking reelection last December. The race to replace Gottfried has been fierce, pitting Gottfried’s chosen successor, Tony Simone, who has also been endorsed by his former boss, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, against Layla Law-Gisko—who has drawn attention with a real estate backed IE fighting Gov. Hochul’s redevelopment plan around Penn Station—and Harrison Marks, who worked on Governor Cuomo’s Reimagine NY Commission. 
  • AD 95: The Westchester County Seat being vacated by 30-year incumbent Sandy Galef features a three-way primary: Dana Levenberg, the Ossining town supervisor who has Galef’s endorsement; Vanessa Agudelo, a climate organizer and the youngest council member in Peekskill’s history; and Westchester County legislator Colin Smith. 
  • AD 103: Assembly Insurance Committee Chair Kevin Cahill—who has been in the Assembly since 1992—faces a challenge from Sarahana Srestha, a first-generation immigrant from Nepal who is running to “change the culture in Albany.”  
Erie County Clerk. The race for Erie County Clerk is interesting given that Mickey Kearns, a lifelong Democrat, albeit a conservative Democrat, endorsed by the GOP and Conservative party is running against Melissa Hartman who, until last year, was a life-long Republican endorsed by the Erie County Democrats and running as the “progressive choice.” Only in Erie County. 

Not on the Ballot: 

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R, NY-21) has enjoyed her meteoric rise in the Republican Party since ascending to the number 3 spot in the party after she unseated Rep. Liz Cheney as conference chair. Now, she finds herself in a public feud with the head of the GOP in her home state, Nick Langworthy. Langworthy is running for Chris Jacobs seat after he announced he would not seek reelection and Stefanik was quick to endorse his opponent, Carl Paladino. Some Republicans question how effective Langworthy can be as state party chairman and getting Republicans elected if he is focused on running a campaign of his own. 

Regarding Stefanik, Langworthy offered “She endorsed a candidate that she knew was not in the best interest of the swing seats in the great state of New York. I mean, it’s really unfortunate.” His concerns are not unfounded. Paladino has a long history of making controversial, offensive, and straight-up racist comments that include a quip that Adolf Hitler is “the kind of leader we need”. He also wished the Obamas would die of “mad cow disease” and told First Lady Michelle Obama he hoped she would “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie the gorilla”. When confronted about Paladino’s past, Stefanik deflected blame to the media, saying “He’s been smeared by the media before.” 

In Washington, D.C….

Appropriators in the House released a draft bill that would increase funding for renewable energy and water infrastructure by 6%. The $56.3 billion measure would provide funding for the energy department to speed up their decarbonization practices and kickstart domestic manufacturing of clean energy technology. Earlier this month, President Biden announced he was invoking the Defense Production Act to speed up domestic manufacturing of solar panels and this bill would provide the funding to do so. 

Other provisions of the bill would provide money for water infrastructure improvements to western states that are susceptible to drought, increase funding to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and boost funding for general research in energy and water-related emerging technologies. Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Marcy Kaptur said in a statement, “From unleashing energy innovation and utilizing the Defense Production Act to boost domestic manufacturing, to responsibly managing water resources and tackling the crisis of climate change — this Energy and Water bill delivers for America’s needs in the 21st century.” A full committee markup is scheduled for June 28th.

We at O’Donnell & Associates will be spending next weekend with family and friends celebrating the 4th of July and we hope you are able to do the same. We will be back with bulletins as events warrant. The Monday Morning Memo will resume on July 11th. In the meantime, our team is always available so feel free to reach out with any questions. Cheers and God Bless America! 

  -Jack O’Donnell

 

 

 

 

 

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