Thursday, April 2, 2015

We Now Have A Budget!

The 2015-16 budget was laboriously completed after much waiting for details to emerge on budget bills late into Tuesday. The debate on the Education, Labor, Family Assistance (ELFA) bill went on for a full six hours, with most Democrats and Republicans debating in opposition to many of the Governor’s education reforms. The Senate finally finished its debate shortly after 11pm, but the Assembly Republicans went into conference at 11:30pm, essentially preventing the Governor from having his on-time budget. They emerged from the conference at 1:00 am and debated the “clean-up” bill and recessed at 3:00am. The Governor refused to acknowledge that the budget was essentially 3 hours into the new fiscal year and claimed an on-time budget. 

As you may recall from last week, much was still in the air during the negotiation period leading up to April 1st and we were admittedly anxious about the outcome of the Education Investment Tax Credit in the days leading up to the budget. On Monday afternoon we circled the halls of the Capitol trying to glean whatever information we could about where the issue stood during the negotiations. We later scrambled to send out Action Alerts to our members, reasserting our vehement opposition to this piece of legislation. We are now relieved to report that we were victorious in our efforts and that the ETC bill was not included in the State Budget! We, of course, could not have done this without the help of our members and the state League thanks all of you for your unrelenting advocacy efforts to oppose the ETC bill. With the budget done, focus will center on the Cusick ETC bill. This means our advocacy work around this legislation will continue when the Legislature returns from its April break.

And then, there’s Ethics…

The “so-called” ethics reform measures passed were inserted at the last moment into the Education bill.We believe further reforms are needed in order to truly reverse the climate of corruption in Albany. While the League commends the measure surrounding the forfeiture of pension benefits for all public officials convicted of a felony related to public office. We advocated for stronger restrictions on personal use of campaign funds; more comprehensive reform of outside income disclosure; significant campaign finance reform measures like the closure of the LLC loophole; and additional reform of the per diem system. To read our statement on these reforms, click here.

The outcome of this year’s state budget means we still have A LOT of work ahead of us. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Budget Deadline is Quickly Approaching

It was another eventful week at the State Capitol, as the deadline for an on-time State budget looms near. After two press conferences and much member-to-member lobbying and conference briefings, the League had learned earlier this week that the Education Investment Tax Credit (ETC) was taken out of the budget negotiations. Our rejoicing was short-lived, though, as information circulated Thursday afternoon indicating that the ETC was still being considered in the negotiations. It’s not over until it’s over and we will remain vigilant in the few remaining pre-budget days ahead. On Wednesday morning, Marian Bott, our Education Finance Issue Specialist spoke about the ETC on Capitol Pressroom. To hear her radio interview, click here.
The League stood proudly this week at a press conference with Legislators and other advocates in support of A.6112, which would guarantee a women’s right to make personal, private decisions about her reproductive health care. To read the press release for this event, click here. Throughout the day, Legislators and advocates alike were seen walking the halls of the Capitol, sporting pink scarves and ties to showcase their support for women’s reproductive health care. We later sat in the gallery overlooking the Assembly chamber to watch Assembly Members debate this controversial (yes, it is STILL controversial!) piece of legislation. We applaud the Assembly for passing this and hope that the Senate will join the Assembly in passing this critical piece of legislation. To read our Memo in Support, click here.

We are hearing that the budget will still be passed on-time next week, so be sure to check back in then!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A typical mid-March week

It was a typical mid-March week at the Capitol – we spent session days running around the Capitol, attending committee meetings, press conferences, working with our coalition partners and meeting with Legislators as much as possible.

As you know, the League is a proud member of the Women’s Equality Coalition and, as such, has engaged in advocacy work on a range of women’s issues, including human trafficking and paid family leave.  We were very pleased that the Assembly passed anti-human trafficking and paid family leave legislation earlier this week. To read our memos on these issues, click here (human trafficking) and here (paid family leave).

On Wednesday, a press conference (which we were, ironically, not allowed attend!) was held to announce the two-way ethics agreement reached between the Governor and the Assembly (not Senate). And while the reforms outlined are surely a step in the right direction, the League and other good-government organizations were disappointed to learn that certain significant reform measures did not make into the agreement – for example, closure of the LLC loophole. You can be sure we will all continue to advocate for items that are not included in the measures advanced by the Governor and Speaker. To read our joint statement on this issue, click here .

Also on Wednesday, our Education Finance Issue Specialist, Marian Bott, joined Legislators and advocates at a press conference to support the Assembly and Governor’s Version of the Property Tax Relief Circuit Breaker, which would provide targeted property tax relief to those that need it the most. Check out the press release from this event here. It has been a busy week for Marian, who, as many of you know, has also been working tirelessly to oppose the Education Investment Tax Credit – check out her blog post this week here.

With the deadline for the budget getting closer with each week, we are sure to have our work cut out for us these next two weeks.  Stay tuned, as more updates are forthcoming!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Let the budget process begin!

It was another busy week up at the Capitol. On Monday, we stood with other civic groups, public education advocates and Legislators to reiterate our strong opposition to the Education Investment Tax Credit. A copy of our press release can be found here. Throughout the week, crowds of citizens and advocates descended upon the Capitol to advocate for their particular issues, making it difficult to maneuver through the hallways, get in and out of elevators and pass through exceedingly long security lines.

The Legislature’s election and re-election of Board of Regents members occupied a long joint session on Tuesday afternoon and Thursday ushered in debates of the one house budget resolutions. With that, the state budget process has begun! It appears that both houses have agreed to disentangle some of the Governor’s linkages in the budget, such as the linkage of the Education Investment Tax Credit to the Dream Act and Tuition Assistance Program. The process will include joint open budget conference committees, starting with the general conference committee comprised of leadership, known to lobbyists and advocates as the “mothership.”  Joint conference committees will begin next week, ensuring another busy week for us up at the Capitol!