Good morning from home…

COVID-19 is changing everything, including Albany. Budget resolutions, the so-called “One House Budgets”, from the Assembly and Senate were expected this week as well as at least $2.5 billion in recommendations from the Medicaid Redesign Team II.

Instead, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins have been negotiating an early budget deal with Governor Andrew Cuomo. In fact, Governor Cuomo said that he and the Legislature will work to finish the state budget this week. Under discussion is both a “bare bones” budget (presumably not much more than a continuing resolution, keeping most funding at current levels with increases for COVID-19 response and prevention measures) and a complete budget that drops some of the proposed public policy proposals (including adult use marijuana, prevailing wage expansion, changes to bail reform, and Medicaid reforms). 

Late Friday night, the House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. More details on that below. It includes upwards of $6.7 billion in Medicaid funding for New York. That might seem to make things simple: that funding fills New York’s budget hole of $6.1 billion (mostly driven by Medicaid costs). However, nothing is simple in Albany. The House bill also prevents New York State from shifting some of the Medicaid costs to municipalities (counties and New York City). Cuomo reacted angrily to the legislation, terming it “insanity” and declared that it hamstrings his ability to pass a balanced budget. United States Senator Chuck Schumer responded by standing at New York City Hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio and demanding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pass the bill into law.

The House bill, hammered out in dozens of conversations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, provides a multi-billion dollar package that expands access to free testing, $1 billion in food aid, and extends sick leave benefits to vulnerable Americans, all adding billions of dollars more to the $8.3 billion emergency spending package enacted last week. We also expect Washington to pivot quickly to working on a stimulus package. Although it is unclear what exactly that package would look like, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would stay in town this week rather than adjourning as planned.

The Albany situation grew even more complicated with the revelations that two members of the Assembly have tested positive for COVID-19 and the subsequent announcement that the New York State Capitol would be closed to visitors. Several legislators have closed their district offices and are advised against fully staffing their Albany offices. As of 7AM this morning, the Assembly and Senate will return to Albany today for Legislative session, but the Assembly is holding a one-day session and, as officials explore the option of “virtual” voting, plans for the rest of the week are still unknown. Of course, this is all changing very quickly.

A quick note from our team:

O’Donnell & Associates is adapting to the new way of doing business over the near term—with phone calls and video-conferencing replacing many of our face-to-face meetings—and we remain well positioned to help you succeed in Albany. We know from our ongoing conversations and interactions that Members of the Legislature and the Executive Branch as well as Cuomo Administration Senior staff remain available and responsive. We are ready to assist you in engaging with your representatives, their staffs, and key agencies, to make sure that they understand what is happening in our communities and with your business, as well as any particular immediate or longer-term needs and impacts.  While recognizing that the coronavirus response continues to consume a great deal of attention in state government, we continue to advance your concerns and priorities in an appropriate fashion and remain committed to helping you achieve your goals.
 
Please call or write with any questions or concerns.

Jack

Our Coronavirus Response is America at Its Best, But It’s Just Beginning

Amid dread and uncertainty, the American people are displaying extraordinary purpose and motivation to meet the coronavirus threat head-on. From darkening Broadway to silencing professional and amateur sports leagues, from closing Disneyland to shuttering cathedrals, we are witnessing the response of an open democratic society, with unfettered news and social media, and civic and political institutions and leadership ready to make hard decisions. [Read more.]


Sanders and Biden Need Each Other. Here’s How They Can Make Peace.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders do not want it on their consciences that they helped reelect President Trump. The future of the country really does depend on how both of them act over the next few weeks. They should realize four things. [Read more.]

Why Can’t Congress Vote From Home?

The main job of Congress is to vote on legislation. That’s a problem if Congress has to go on an extended break over fears about the coronavirus, because Congress has a rule: No voting remotely, no matter what. A bipartisan group of younger lawmakers is trying to change that. [Read more.]

Judge Strikes Down New State Campaign Finance Law

A State Supreme Court judge in Niagara County struck down the state’s new campaign finance law which was based on the recommendations of a controversial state-created commission that took effect in December. The state Legislature could not give the commission the authority to make binding changes to state law, the judge ruled. [Read more.]

How to Wash Your Hands

It’s one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community. And if you’re like us, you’ve probably been doing it wrong. [Read more.]

U.S. Soccer Federation Says Male Players Carry ‘More Responsibility’; Backlash Follows

The U.S. Soccer Federation faced a public backlash, including from top sponsor Coca-Cola Co., after it asserted in a legal filing this week that a “higher level of skill” and “more responsibility” are required of members of the men’s national team than the women’s team. The controversy highlights the hazards U.S. Soccer faces in defending against the pay-discrimination lawsuit brought by the popular World Cup champion women’s squad. [Read more.]

 Bernie Sanders, Despite Losses, Sticks to Vision for Economy

Bernie Sanders concedes he is currently losing the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. But the Vermont senator is staying in the fight to try to win a bigger war: his lifelong crusade to push the party’s economic agenda further to the left. [Read more.]