Good Morning from the Washington, DC
Budget reconciliation déjà vu? Last week, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on C-SPAN that budget reconciliation is the most likely path for any forthcoming infrastructure package, saying that Republicans will only “meet with you to a point.” Cardin’s comments came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that an infrastructure bill will “hopefully” receive Republican buy-in. We will have to wait and see but, as we discussed last week, hopes of winning over the GOP on an infrastructure package in the coming months continue to fade.
However, it is not all partisan gridlock in D.C. Last week, the majority of the House Republican conference voted in a secret ballot, 102-84, to back Democrats’ plan to bring back a revamped version of earmarks, lifting the decade-old ban and allowing GOP lawmakers to participate in the pork. The plan has yet to get the green light from the GOP in the Senate. Nonethless, most insiders expect the Senate’s top appropriators—Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Richard Shelby (R-Al.)—to reach a deal to bring back earmarks in the Upper House. Shelby said last week that he is still talking to Leahy about a bipartisan plan and no final agreement has been reached. He did add that it is a “positive sign” that Democrats are reviving them in the House. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking GOP appropriator on the Transportation spending panel, said full caucus discussions have yet to take place on the issue.
Back in New York…
It was another chaotic week. On Tuesday, leaked audio from a members-only Assembly Democratic Conference showed members wrangling for hours over the impeachment of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Several outspoken Cuomo critics in the Assembly wanted to move forward by bringing articles of impeachment immediately against the Governor. “The idea of a committee feels like we’re just kicking a can to be quite honest,” said Assembly Member Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas (D-East Elmhurst), a progressive freshman member. “I don’t think the judiciary committee goes far enough and I do worry we’re just buying time.” In response to the leaked audio, Speaker Heastie abruptly stopped voting in the chamber on Tuesday due to concerns over the leaks. “Government was shut down,” one lawmaker said. “He came out onto the floor in the middle of voting and said the session is done.”
Meanwhile, the sexual harassment scandal around the Governor continued to intensify. On Thursday, well-known #Metoo investigative reporter, Ronan Farrow, released a piece detailing Lindsay Boylan’s experiences in her first interview since her allegations were published, and on Friday, an eighth woman (and the second current staffer) came out in a New York Times piece highlighting a series of unsettling interactions with the governor, telling the New York Times that Mr. Cuomo would ogle her body, remark on her looks, and make suggestive comments to her and another executive aide. Cuomo has continued to say that he will not resign.
Jack O’Donnell, a Buffalo and New York City-based public affairs consultant, and Managing Partner of O’Donnell & Associates wrote a book on the topic. O’Donnell worked for former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who eventually went to prison on a corruption conviction. “And when he got in trouble they said he’d be the first state official to be impeached since William Sulzer,” O’Donnell said. “So I thought, ‘I really should find out a little about this guy.” Read more in this report from WBFO Albany.
Tweet of the Week
To understand what an impeachment proceeding of Gov. Andrew Cuomo might look like, I talked with Jack O’Donnell @jfodjr, author of “Bitten by the Tiger,” which documents the 1913 impeachment of New York Gov. William Sulzer …
While impeachment and resignation continue to take center stage, it is full speed ahead on the budget and a number of legislative fronts. Starting last Tuesday, the Senate and Assembly General Conference Committee (colloquially dubbed “the mothership”) and the 10 budget subcommittees conferenced the one-house budget proposals working through some of the thornier issues. Read the full membership of those General Conference Committees and view recordings of those meetings here.
One of the issues not at the budget table: cannabis. Lawmakers are very close to a deal on a stand-alone measure legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis. According to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, lawmakers are likely to reach a cannabis consensus and act on a stand-alone bill as soon they address lingering concerns about traffic stops and safety. “We are extremely close. We have reached a little bit of an impasse right now, and it has to do with impaired driving,” Stewart-Cousins said last week. “We’re trying to figure a way forward so there can be some understanding of safety.” And the deal is getting some support from high places. United States Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his support for passage in New York last week, while highlighting his push at the Federal level. Negotiations continued this weekend and we expect final language as soon as today.
— Jack O’Donnell
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NYS Legislature: New Member Spotlight
Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani, Assembly District 36
In the June 2020 Democratic Primary for the 36th Assembly District, Assembly Member Zohran Kwane Mamdani defeated incumbent Aravella Simotas, who was running for her sixth term. In November, he was officially elected to represent the 36th Assembly District, which includes Ditmars Steinway, Astoria, and Astoria Heights.
Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Assembly Member Mamdani worked in low-income neighborhoods across Queens as a foreclosure prevention housing counselor, fighting for homeowners in jeopardy of being evicted from their residence. Through this work, Mamdani became interested in policies surrounding public housing reform, ultimately leading to his decision to run for office.
Assembly Member Mamdani was born and raised in Kampala, Uganda, and at the age of 7, moved with his family to New York City. Graduating from the New York City Public School System, Mamdani went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in African Studies at Bowdoin College. There, Assembly Member Mamdani co-founded the college’s first Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. In 2018, Mamdani helped in organizing this Student chapter across the country, collaborating and advocating on behalf of progressive organizations fighting to expand healthcare coverage.
Assembly Member Mamdani is a resident of the Ditmars Steinway area. In his new role as a state legislator, he intends to continue his work helping to organize and lead efforts in comprehensive public housing and social justice reform with a goal of bringing his district and its communities a voice in the fight for social equity.
This session, Assembly Member Mamdani is strongly advocating for a freeze on rent, community and statewide clean energy incentives, and more affordable healthcare coverage. He will serve as the Co-Chair for the Asian Pacific American Task Force, as well as a member on the Committees on Aging; Cities; Election Law; Energy; and Real Property Tax.