Monday, June 15, 2015

The Week That Was The Prison Break

    The last two weeks of session are usually marked by a steady stream of leaders meeting with the Speaker and Majority leader marching up and down from the third floor to the second floor meeting with the Governor.  This week because of the prison break in upstate New York, the Governor was in Albany only sporadically and so the negotiations on the big issues at the end of sessions languished and members went home yesterday with little settled.

   The League has been busy, however, tracking issues of importance to our members.  Our intensive lobbying efforts have been to stop the education tax credit legislation and so spent time doing press work and face to face lobbying.  We also spent time watching the "off the floor" committee meetings where often bad legislation pops up at this time in session.

   Next week is slated to be the last week of session and the rent laws expire night. It should be an interesting end to a VERY interesting session, stay tuned!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The end (of session) is near!

With the end of session quickly approaching, it should come as no surprise that we – along with all the other advocates that can be seen running around the halls of the Capitol – have been really busy.

A few weeks ago Governor Cuomo proposed a new program bill, the “Parental Choice in Education Act,” which includes a version of the Education Investment Tax Credit that we have been working all session to vigorously oppose. Much of our advocacy work week this week focused on keeping this bill from coming to the Assembly for a vote and our efforts to this end will likely carry us to the end of session. 

The League extended its support for A.3874b (Brennan) this week, which would allow any voter to request an absentee ballot and vote by mail without declaring any reason for doing so. We watched the bill move through the Election Law Committee Wednesday morning and will keep an eye out for its appearance on the Judiciary committee, where it was referred to. To read our memo of support for this bill, click here.

Yesterday at the Capitol was pet advocacy day, where Legislators (some of who may not have many friends this session) were able to find (wo)man’s best friend at work. There were dogs and birds all over the Legislative Office Buildings! You never know what’s going to appear at the Capitol or what will happen at the end of this session, so we hope you will continue to check back here updates these next two weeks. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Another Theater Filled Week

You’ll be unsurprised to hear that there was a lot of drama here at the Capitol this week.

On Monday, we observed another theatrical performance from the Senate gallery. The transition of the leadership position from Senator Skelos to Senator Flanagan was one that, though strangely celebratory in nature, was nonetheless characteristic of Albany. From the perspective of an observer, one might have thought Skelos was abandoning his position because of retirement, as opposed to corruption charges! The League later attended Senator Flanagan’s press conference.  

On Tuesday, we watched legislation that would close the LLC loophole move swiftly to its grave during a Senate Corporations Committee meeting. Thanks to proxy voting, spectators and the media outnumbered the Senators in the room, with only 3 Senators physically present for this meeting. It’s now up to Senator Flanagan to revive this critical piece of legislation and we, of course, will press him to bring the bill to the floor this session.

And, as expected, the Education Investment Tax Credit made its unfortunate return this week when the Governor announced a new program bill called the Parental Choice in Education Act. The bill still diverts public dollars to private and parochial schools and the League will continue its advocacy work opposing this legislation, as it is bad public policy and we strongly believe public dollars should go to public education. LWVNYS, in coalition with many other groups, will be holding a press conference next week to reiterate our concerns with this legislation. 

Finally, next week the League will be holding its annual Students Inside Albany program! For the beginning of next week, we will be joined by 62 high-school students from across the State and will provide programming that will teach them about New York State government, how they can become involved and give them a chance to explore the Capitol and shadow their legislators. We look forward to sharing highlights from this great program soon. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Here We Go Again!

Well, this session has certainly been keeping us on our toes!

The Capitol was rocked yet again this week by the arrest of the Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on federal corruption charges. After a 3 hour Republican conference on Monday night, there was a “consensus” to keep Senator Skelos as Majority Leader.  However, by Wednesday, there were four Republican Senators calling for Mr. Skelos to step down. With the Senate out for the next few days, it remains to be seen if Mr. Skelos can continue under this cloud to maintain his leadership position.

On Wednesday, the League sat in the Senate gallery to observe Senate Democrats’ attempt to suspend the chamber’s rules in an effort to hold a vote on a resolution that would remove Senator Skelos from his leadership position. The exchange was a bit dramatic, but ultimately the Senate Democrats were unsuccessful in securing a vote on the resolution, leading them to walk out of the chamber. Earlier Wednesday morning, Barbara Bartoletti was featured, along with Blair Horner from NYPIRG, on Capitol Pressroom for a timely discussion on ethics and campaign finance reform. You can listen to their radio interview here.

We were delighted to see the Assembly pass 3 additional WEA bills this week, 2 of which (Sexual Harassment and Pregnancy Accommodation) also passed the Senate earlier this session. This means a total of 5 WEA bills are headed to the Governor’s office for signing! We will, of course, continue our advocacy work around women’s issues during the remaining weeks of session. To read our memos on the bills that passed the Assembly this week, click here (re: familial status), here (re: pregnancy accommodation) and here (re: sexual harassment).

With so much still up in the air, next week will likely be another interesting one, so be sure to check back in!