Good Morning from the Nation’s Capital  

It is crunch time on infrastructure. The Biden Administration has set a loose deadline of Memorial Day weekend for a deal with the GOP. If the principals cannot make the necessary strides before then, Democrats will use budget reconciliation to pass the Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan. During a briefing with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg attended by the OD&A team last week, Buttigieg said, “There are some timelines and clocks that are moving in some ways with or without us, if you think about things that just need to happen,” noting the upcoming reauthorization of the highway bill. “I think May in particular is a month where you’re going to see a lot of action.” However, the Administration has not abandoned the push for a deal with Republicans. Buttigieg still believes there is room for bipartisanship: “I think you see in so-called red and blue states alike, a lot of eagerness to make something happen here, if there’s any area of domestic policy left, where we can do something on a bipartisan basis, I’ve got to believe it’s on things like transportation infrastructure.”

Thursday, Biden and Buttigieg will meet with six members of the Senate GOP— Senators Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.)—in hopes of getting closer to a bipartisan agreement. A day prior, Biden will meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The hang up: how to pay for it all. Democrats and Republicans remain at loggerheads over how to pay for the repair of 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges, expand broadband access to rural and underserved communities, replace all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines to ensure clean water, invest in research and development and manufacturing, and expand access to home and community-based care. The President is seeking to pay for the plan by hiking the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent. Meanwhile, Republicans are adamant that no taxes be raised to pay for the plan, but have expressed openness to working with Biden on a compromise. On the corporate tax hike, Buttigieg said last week “I think this is a good policy… you don’t change tax rates for its own sake, you do it in order to fund important priorities. What we’re proposing here is not about punishing anybody. These rates aren’t even high by historic standards. We’re not calling for high taxes. We’re just calling for normal tax rates by American historical standards on corporations.” 

In the State Capital…

Back in New York State, it was a busy week in Albany. The Legislature approved long-stalled legislation aimed at creating “safe staffing” standards for hospitals and nursing homes, as well as an extension of the COVID-19 eviction moratorium through August 31st.  And on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the New York Health and Essential Rights Act, or HERO Act, which was designed with essential workers in mind who have been at the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Department of Labor will be required to craft new rules for businesses regarding masks, personal protective equipment, air flow and social distancing that are designed to slow the spread of infectious diseases, from COVID-19 to the seasonal flu. The business community has strongly opposed the bill, expressing concerns the bill could open employers up to cascading litigation. The Governor and the Legislature have agreed to a Chapter Amendment that must now go back to the Legislature for passage before the law is in effect. 

New York also took large steps in reopening. Last week, Governor Cuomo—along with Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut and Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey—announced a handful of reopening measures that will go into effect throughout the next few weeks in May: business capacity limits will be replaced with “space available to maintain six feet of social distancing” starting May 19; outdoor social gathering limits will increase to 500 starting today; indoor social gathering limits will increase to 250 on May 19; outdoor residential gathering limits are removed and indoor residential gathering limits increase to 50 on May 19 in New York; large-scale indoor venue capacity increases to 30% and large-scale outdoor venue capacity increases to 33% on May 19. 

There was more turnover in the Executive Chamber last week amidst continued departures. Cuomo’s communications director, Peter Ajemian, resigned from his position and his last day was on Friday. Rich Azzopardi, the Governor’s longtime chief advisor, will be replacing him and taking on a double role as communications director and chief advisor.
All of the appointments announced Friday are below:
  • Dana Carotenuto, Chief of Staff
  • Sean Ewart, Senior Policy Advisor for Energy
  • Khemenec Pantin, LMSW, Senior Policy Advisor for Human Services and Mental Hygiene
  • Rich Azzopardi, Director of Communications and Senior Advisor to the Governor
  • Colin Brennan, Senior Deputy Communications Director
  • Jennifer Givner, Acting Press Secretary
  • Jordan Bennett, Deputy Communications Director for Downstate
  • Haley Viccaro, Deputy Communications Director for Energy and the Environment
  • Victoria Lane, Chief Special Counsel for Ethics, Risk and Compliance
  • Nadine Fontaine, General Counsel for DASNY
  • Frank Hoare, General Counsel for the New York State Thruway Authority

This week, the Legislature returns to Albany with packed Committee agendas (read the Assembly agendas here and the Senate’s here) and floor calendars (read the Assembly and Senate Calendars here). The Legislature will also hold a public hearing on the implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (perhaps foreshadowing a push for more progressive measures like a carbon tax before the end of session).  

-Jack O’Donnell

    For a complete guide on what to expect before the Legislature adjourns in June, check out O’Donnell and Associates End of Session “Policy Season” Preview. 

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At Schumer’s Urging, Former American Axle Eyed for Electric Vehicle Jobs

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has been pushing for the deal between Viridi Parente Inc., which employs 45 at its lithium battery facility in Buffalo, and Doosan Bobcat, which makes vehicles used in construction, agriculture, landscaping and other industries. [Read more.]

Viridi Parente plans to hire 30 to 40 people this year and “a significantly higher number” next year, said Jon Williams, the company’s chairman and CEO. Williams said the hiring fair at the Northland Workforce Training Center in Buffalo was a great opportunity to meet face to face with Northland graduates and students. He noted that a number of the prospects live close enough to Viridi Parente that they would be able to walk to work if they are hired. [Read more.]

Gillibrand Pushes for Passage of Bills to Lower drug prices

There’s a new package of bills in Washington aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand stopped at Trillium Health in Rochester to call for the three bills to be passed. [Read more.]

 

State Has ‘Started the Planning Process’ to Reopen Capitol

The top official at the state agency charged with overseeing and maintaining the New York State Capitol said in letter to state lawmakers last week that a planning process is underway for the building’s potential reopening. [Read more.]

NYS Legislature: new member spotlight

Assembly Member Anna Kelles (Assembly District 125, Ithaca, Tompkins County, Southwestern Cortland County)  
In November 2020, Assembly Member Anna Kelles was elected to her first term representing the Assembly’s 125th District, which includes Tompkins County and southwest Cortland County, following the retirement of Barbara Lifton, who had represented the district since 2003.
Before becoming a state Assembly Member, Anna served in the Tompkins County Legislature from 2015 to 2020. During her time in the County Legislature, she served as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, the Planning, Development and Environmental Quality Committee, and, for the last several years, as the chair of the Housing and Economic Development Committee.
In her tenure on the County Legislature, Anna crafted legislation and effectively championed many public health issues, including access to affordable housing in walkable communities, immigrants’ rights, expanded use of alternatives to incarceration, restricting youth access to tobacco, funding to end homelessness, expanding rural broadband access and supporting childcare initiatives. She also authored environmental legislation, such as an initiative to block state permitting of a proposed trash incinerator on the shore of Cayuga Lake. She served on the Community Housing Development Fund board, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, the Strategic Tourism Planning Board, and Ithaca Area Economic Development and Southern Tier 8, a regional economic development council.
Anna earned a dual bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies at Binghamton University in 1997. Subsequently, she spent four years in Ecuador working with marginalized populations to promote sound nutritional and environmental practices. In Ecuador, she worked as a high school biology teacher and as an ecological guide in the Amazon basin. In 2008, Anna earned a Ph.D. in Nutritional Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, exploring the relationship between urbanization and multi-generational health-related behavior patterns in Cebu, Philippines.
Anna was born and raised in Tompkins County. Even after traveling the world, she felt called back to the beautiful lakes, waterfalls and trails and their peerless natural beauty that served as her sanctuary in her youth. She lives with her partner and their two beloved goofy puppies.
This session, she will serve as Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Agricultural Production & Technology, and a member of the Committees on Agriculture; Correction; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce, and Industry; Environmental Conservation; Local Governments, as well as the Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Task Force on Women’s Issues.