Good Morning from the State Capital…
There are just four weeks left (twelve session days) in the 2021 New York State Legislative Session. While some had anticipated a quiet jog to the final scheduled session day—June 10th—the next few weeks are shaping up to be anything but placid. The Legislature has plans to tackle several major issues before they adjourn—including construction wage theft, data privacy, health disparities, and reopening—but the clock is ticking.
- Building on the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act—The Assembly held a hearing Monday on the implementation of 2019’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and progress towards the legislation’s goals of greenhouse gas emissions reductions and building renewable energy infrastructure. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos told lawmakers at the hearing that the State is on track for meeting those goals: “As co-chair of the Climate Action Council I can announce we’re on track to achieve the critical milestones established in the CLCPA.” However, a number of lawmakers and progressive groups across the State believe the State is not doing enough to meet the ambitious goals in the CLCPA and that action is needed now. Several lawmakers are pushing legislation—including a carbon tax, and the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA)—to create dedicated funding streams to speed up the CLCPA’s implementation. Senate CCIA Sponsor Senator Kevin Parker said last week, “Not only does CCIA provide an economic disincentive to produce carbon in New York, but it lays out how New York would be able to build a clean energy economy. There’s a real serious economic opportunity here.“
…And that’s just last week’s legislative activity. Hear more from O’Donnell & Associates Managing Partner Jack O’Donnell in his conversation with Capital Tonight’s Susan Arbetter on what to expect from the Legislature over the next few weeks here.
In Attorney General Letitia James’ ongoing investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the four women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment have received subpoenas to testify under oath, the latest indication that James’ investigation into Cuomo’s behavior has entered a critical phase. The issuing of the subpoenas, which was expected at some point in the inquiry, underscores the investigation’s progress beyond an initial fact-finding phase, during which lawyers interviewed multiple women at length, but not under oath. James has not set a deadline for releasing the findings of her office’s inquiry, which began in early March, but it will almost certainly be completed by summer’s end, according to people with direct knowledge of the investigation.
In the Nation’s Capital…
President Joe Biden met with Congressional Leaders including a group of Senate Republicans, led by United States Senator Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia, on his American Jobs Plan and a potential deal on infrastructure in advance of a self-imposed Memorial Day deadline to pass it in parallel with the five year surface transportation reauthorization. Many are expressing optimism and willingness to come to the middle. Biden said after his meeting with Congressional Leaders: “I’m encouraged that there’s room to have a compromise on a bipartisan bill that’s solid and significant and a means by which to pay for it without dropping all of the burden on middle class and working class people.” Biden also continued to reiterate his goal of getting a bipartisan deal done. Moore Capito (who is leading the GOP’s negotiations on infrastructure), described it as “very productive” and a “more courteous give-and take.” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed Moore Capito, saying, “I think they want a deal this time and I think they want a deal with us, because I don’t think they think they can pass this second effort through a reconciliation package.”
- Distance remains even on issues that the GOP and Democrats agree are “infrastructure.” Take broadband for example. Republicans and Democrats have agreed publicly on the need to invest in broadband. However, the respective proposals are $35 billion apart and look very different on paper. The American Jobs Plan contains a $100 billion “internet for all” plan while Republican Senator Roger Wicker’s most recent counterproposal is $65 billion. This is just one such issue where publicly we see an “agreement” but privately there are large gaps between the two sides.
- How will the plan be funded? Even after encouraging negotiations last week, the White House and the GOP are no closer on a deal on pay fors than they were a month ago. Republicans remain dug in on user fees—though some moderate Democrats are open to user fees the White House says they would violate Biden’s Tax pledge. The Biden Administration remains dug in on an increase of the corporate tax rate from 21-28%, a non-starter for most Republicans. It is hard to see where decision makers land on a deal, but we will know more on this when we see the Republicans’ most recent counteroffer over the next few days.
- Republicans can call Democrats bluff on budget reconciliation in a number of areas. Perhaps this is more of an argument for a deal (McConnell did say that Democrats need Republicans for this very reason), but at the moment a number of the key Biden Administration priorities—especially on labor—like the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and sweeping federal protections around paid family leave—would be very likely stripped from the bill if Democrats moved to pass it through reconciliation.
Republicans will give Biden a revised counteroffer early this week. Republican lead negotiator Senator Shelley Moore Capito says it is possible the Republicans will go higher on the total numbers in this proposal, but the next GOP proposal is likely to remain focused on “core” infrastructure including roads, bridges, water and broadband.
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.
FOR DAILY UPDATES, FOLLOW US:
Elise Stefanik wins leadership slot
Attorney General James Wins Dismissal of NRA’s Bankruptcy, Fight for Dissolution to Continue in New York
“Weeks of testimony have demonstrated that the NRA and Wayne LaPierre simply filed chapter 11 bankruptcy to avoid accountability,” said Attorney General James. “This trial underscored that the NRA’s fraud and abuse continued long after we filed our lawsuit.” [Read more.]
Do the Irish Really Swear More Than Other Nations? Who Gives a F***?
Is this true? Irish people certainly like to think so. Indeed many of us regard our supposed potty mouths as a sort of national bragging right. [Read more.]
NYS Legislature: new member spotlight
Assembly Member Jen Lunsford (D-135th District)
In November 2020, Assembly Member Jen Lunsford defeated Republican Mark Johns to represent the 135th Assembly District, which includes the towns of Webster, Penfield, East Rochester and Perinton on the east side of Monroe County. Johns had represented the 135th Assembly District since 2011. Lunsford’s election added another member to the Rochester Delegation’s growing presence in the Majority Conference in Albany.
Prior to her election to the Assembly, Assembly Member Lunsford spent eleven years in private practice working as a litigator, focusing primarily on plaintiff’s side personal injury, workers’ compensation and Social Security disability.
Assembly Member Lunsford has long been active as a community volunteer and activist fighting for reproductive justice, criminal justice, and universal health care with organizations like Lawyers for Good Government and If/When/How. Jen ran for office because she felt a call to service and the need to shape the world into a place of hope and opportunity for her son, and for all the families of the 135th District.
Assembly Member Lunsford lives in the Rochester Suburb of Perinton with her husband, Scott, and their four-year-old son. She graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School and then went on to Hartwick College in Oneonta, where she dual majored in political science and philosophy. After working as a paralegal for a major international law firm, Jen attended Boston University School of Law where she concentrated in health care law, served as a Note Editor on the American Journal of Law and Medicine and won the Dean’s Award for Constitutional Law. Following law school, Jen moved to Rochester, where her husband grew up, to begin her legal career.
This session, she will serve as Chair of the Subcommittee on Digital Libraries, as well as a member of the Committees on Children and Families; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce, and Industry; Environmental Conservation; Libraries and Education Technology; and Local Governments; as well as a member of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, and the Task Force on Women’s Issues.