Good Morning from the State Capital 
  
In Albany, the budget “silly season” is in full swing. With just three days until the April 1st start of State Fiscal Year 2022 (and a deadline of last night to introduce budget bills with enough time to age for an on-time vote), negotiators slogged through the issues over the weekend with Capitol wags reporting everything from “expect a deal and bill text by Sunday night” to “expect messages of necessity next week” to “we are going to see extenders.” Alas, there was no bill text and no final deal as of late yesterday night. Both Houses held Conference for several hours on Sunday afternoon, but a three-way deal remained elusive. Both Houses are expected to hold Majority Conference today, and gavel into session tomorrow morning, with the timing of Wednesday’s Committee meetings to be determined. In short, you are going to want to pay close attention to Albany over the next couple of days (and let us know if you have any questions in the meantime.)

Here’s what we do know so far:
RallyIn the absence of a larger budget deal, there was a standalone deal on recreational cannabis (bill text dropped late Saturday night, read it here.) Lawmakers are saying that the bill could come for a vote as early as Tuesday. The three-way deal was a major victory for long time legislative sponsors, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal People-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger, who secured a number of key concessions from the Executive Chamber, including a dedicated Community Reinvestment Fund (funded by 40% of the revenue) and a Drug Treatment and Pubic Education Fund (funded by 20% of the revenue). Overall, the bill—dubbed the New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act—will create an overarching regulatory framework overseen by the Office of Cannabis Management, which will be governed by a five-member board — three members appointed by the governor and one appointment by each legislative house. OCM will be “an independent office operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority,” according to a release from the Governor’s Office.

And while most shifted their focus to substantive negotiations last week, the Governor’s woes continued. The Governor was hit with another scandal last week as reports surfaced Cuomo and the stateGovernor Cuomo is mask Department of Health provided priority coronavirus tests at the beginning of the pandemic to those with ties to the governor, including his family members and a pharmaceutical company president manufacturing COVID-19 tests for the state. After the news about the alleged preferential treatment broke, Assembly Member Charles Lavine, chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the impeachment investigation would include these new reports.  Additionally, the New York state Attorney General’s office has subpoenaed dozens of officials in the Cuomo administration, including his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, requesting that they produce documents as part of an investigation of sexual harassment accusations against the Governor.

In the Nation’s Capital…

In Washington, the fate of the filibuster (and its impact on progressive priorities for the remainder of the 117th Congress) is once again at the center of attention. After spending most of his earlyPresident Biden speaking at podium Presidency placing priority on getting Republican support for his agenda (and keeping the filibuster intact while doing so), for the first time last week, President Joe Biden signaled he is open to making “fundamental” changes to the filibuster, saying it was “being abused in a gigantic way.” Though he declined to offer specifics, the President’s openness delighted progressives, whose aggressive agenda is imperiled by the filibuster. In the Senate, tensions over the filibuster were already running high where a growing number of senators are coming out in support of changing the rules and Republicans are pledging to retaliate with a “nuclear winter.” The fight also brings intraparty strife to the forefront for Democrats: centrists like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) fighting to keep it intact, while progressives are leaning on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to get rid of it. 

However, some Progressives—including Senate Budget Committee Senator Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—already have plans to circumvent the filibuster. Last week, Sanders announced that major 

Senator Bernie Sanderschanges to Medicare and prescription drug policy would be rolled into a massive infrastructure bill—not subject to the filibuster—that Democrats are crafting, one that is likely to include tax policy as well. Sanders said that Congress’ recent $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief measure was “an enormous step forward” on the immediate challenges facing the country, but that “now we have to look at the structural long-term problems facing our people. We’re talking about physical infrastructure, affordable housingWe’re talking about transforming our energy system to deal with climate change. We’re talking about human infrastructure. In the rescue plan, we were able to take a major step forward in lowering child poverty — very important. Now I want to deal with issues facing seniors as well.” These changes are just the tip of the iceberg as far as what Progressive Democrats are pushing in the upcoming infrastructure package. Whether or not those riders will make it too unwieldy even for 50 votes in budget reconciliation remains to be seen. Stay tuned this week!

-Jack O’Donnell

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NYS Legislature: New Member Spotlight

Assembly Member Chantel Jackson (Assembly District 79—Bronx)
Assembly Member Jackson was elected to serve 79th Assembly District as a first-time candidate in November 2020, representing parts of Concourse Village, Morrisania, Melrose, Belmont, Claremont and East Tremont.
 
The seat was formerly held by Michael Blake, who vacated the seat to run in the 15th Congressional District primary. Her race in the Democratic Primary against Cynthia Cox was a microcosm of the 15th Congressional District race with Michael Blake endorsing her, and Blake’s opponent in the race for the 15th Congressional District, Rep. Ritchie Torres, endorsing Cox.
 
A newcomer to politics and government, she is a licensed social worker, college professor and author. Prior to her time in the Assembly, Assembly Member Jackson spent nine years helping low-income first-generation students get into college and secure financial aid while teaching at various colleges and universities. For the last four years before winning her election, Assembly Member Jackson was a NYC public high school social worker and United Federation of Teachers member, assisting students with their mental and physical wellness.
 
This session, Assembly Member Jackson will serve as Chair of the Subcommittee on Microbusiness, and a member of the Committees on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; Cities; Education; Mental Health; Small Business; and Women’s Issues.