Good Morning from Hearing Room B… 
The New York State Budget process began in earnest last week with Joint Legislative Budget Hearings on Health, Environmental Conservation, Transportation, and Human Services. You can watch the hearings and access agendas and transcripts here. The hearings included discussion on several major pieces of the Executive Budget that we expect to dominate negotiations: 
  • Medicaid Redesign Team & the $4 Billion Medicaid Deficit—Legislative Health Committee Chairs Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, as well as rank-and-file members, accused State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and Medicaid Director Donna Frescatore of “cooking the books.” Legislators dug in against any to shifting of costs to municipal taxpayers (Counties and New York City) and demanded more detail regarding the Medicaid Redesign Team. Zucker and Frescatore offered little in the way of answers, not even revealing soa984bd51 49fb 49b1 9e4c e7088a31db83 much as the makeup of the Medicaid Redesign Team (keep in mind in 2011 the MRT had draft recommendations and full membership for the Legislature to review in the beginning of January). The Medicaid Redesign Team’s recommendations are due April 1, which will give legislators very little visibility into the process. As Senator Rivera put it,“What you’re asking us to do as a Legislature is to trust you. Folks, this don’t build trust. … We don’t trust you.” 

The Legislature will continue with hearings on the budget this week and next in Hearing Room B of the Legislative Office Building. There are nine more hearings; Mental Hygiene, Higher Education, Workforce, Housing, Local Government, Elementary Education, Public Protection, Economic Development, and Taxes. See more information and sign up to testify here. 

ae106701 0c33 4dc1 a088 c98e2a59e7aeThe first steps of the State’s new (and untested) method of redistricting took place last week with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Minority Leader John Flanagan making their picks to the Independent Redistricting Commission. Created through a Constitutional Amendment passed by the State Legislature and approved by New York voters six years ago, the Commission will be comprised of ten members: eight members appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate, Speaker of the Assembly, Minority Leader of the Senate, and Minority Leader of the Assembly. Those members then appoint two additional members. Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan selected  George H. Winner, Jr., who collectively served in the state Assembly and Senate for 32 years, and Ed Lurie, the former executive director of the New York Republican State Committee and the New York Senate Republican Committee. Stewart-Cousins selected John Flateau, a professor and chair of the Department of Business Administration at CUNY’s Medgar Evers College, and David Imamura, an attorney with Debevoise & Plimpton. 

82837c23 a4be 45c8 a594 e38a844d8f84The United States Senate brought President Donald J. Trump to the brink of acquittal on Friday in the Impeachment Trial that has taken up most of the bandwidth in Washington. Republicans voted to block consideration of new witnesses and documents in the impeachment trial and shut down a final push by Democrats to bolster their case for the President’s removal. In a nearly party-line vote after a bitter debate, Democrats failed to win support from the four Republicans they needed. With Trump’s acquittal virtually certain, the President’s allies rallied to his defense, though some conceded he was guilty of the central allegations against him. The Democrats’ push for more witnesses and documents failed 49 to 51, with only two Republicans, Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, joining Democrats in favor. A vote on the verdict is planned for this Wednesday. As they approached the final stage of the third Presidential Impeachment Proceeding in United States history, Democrats condemned the witness vote and said it would render Mr. Trump’s trial illegitimate and his acquittal meaningless.

— Jack O’Donnell

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A Visual Guide to the Iowa Caucuses

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Trump Begins Reelection Year More Competitive Against Democrats Than He Was Three Months Ago, Post-ABC Poll Finds

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The First Female Journalist to Cover a US Presidential Election Was Irish American

Doris Fleeson, known as “the tiger in white gloves,” was regarded by politicians and fellow journalists as one of the finest reporters of the age. For more than 30 years and through five presidencies she probed the workings of political power and shared her findings in clear, concise language with readers across the United States. [Read more.]

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NASA Has Been Touting Trump’s Moon Plan For Nearly a Year — Now It Faces Its First Real Test in Congress

For almost a year, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has been scrambling to meet a White House mandate to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. But now he is facing the toughest challenge yet. On Wednesday, the House space subcommittee is scheduled to begin consideration of a bill that flatly rejects the 2024 timeline and would, if enacted, order the agency to place priority on traveling to Mars over the moon. [Read more.]

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Campaign Surrogates for Presidential Candidates Stuck in D.C.: A Dog, a Curling Champion, a California Band

The unprecedented collision between an impeachment trial and the first voting in the presidential contest forced a constant stream of campaign plans to be made and broken and for candidates to hope that their surrogates will somehow be able to build and maintain momentum that is usually driven by the candidate alone. [Read more.]

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Top Bronx Pols Quell Uprising in Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club

The Bronx’s top elected Democrats squared off in a power struggle over who gets to run the borough’s largest political club. The slate backed by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and other establishment pols easily defeated the insurgent faction supported by state Sens. Alessandra Biaggi and Gustavo Rivera to run the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club during a raucous meeting Wednesday night. [Read more.]

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$375,000 Salaries, Furnished Housing and a Lot of Sushi: Inside Bloomberg’s Spending Spree

A record-shattering tab for TV ads, $12 million for a self-created tech firm to rival Donald Trump’s digital operation and nearly $250,000 on swank office furniture for his sprawling Manhattan headquarters — that was just a fraction of Mike Bloomberg’s budget for the first five weeks of his young, self-funded presidential campaign. [Read more.]

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Dorothy Day Was a Radical — Now Many Want the Vatican to Make Her a Saint

When Catholic activist Dorothy Day died in 1980, she was seen by many Americans as a fringe curiosity — if a fascinating one. Yet many on the religious left considered Day a hero and today, as socialism, activism and anti-institutionalism surge into the American mainstream, a new campaign has begun to honor Day as a saint — literally. [Read more.]