How Will the Newly Elected Progressives Impact Policy-Making in the NYS Legislature (and the Congress)?

In midterm elections, the elections between presidential elections, the “outs” usually pick up seats; after the overwhelming election of Obama in 2008 the Republicans picked up large numbers of seats in the 2010 midterms and again in the 2014 midterms.

Is the “blue wave,” the democratic landslide, simply the usual victory of the “outs” over the “ins” or is the political landscape truly moving to the progressive side of the political spectrum?

If the landscape is more than a blip will the dems look for a more “progressive” candidate in the 2020 presidential?  And, what will be the impact of the newly elected Congress members and state representatives?

In the House the just-elected progressives forced Speaker Pelosi to agree to term limits for House leadership, albeit reluctantly.

My comment, published in the NY Times generated a lot of feedback,

NYCDec. 12

Times Pick

Transitioning to a younger leadership in essential.. if you want 20 and 30 years olds ringing doorbells you can’t stick with their grandparents age cohort as party leaders…

95 Recommend

In New York State only 33% of eligibles voted in the 2014 midterms, in 2018 almost 50% of eligibles voted, an all-time high: anti Trump anger?  the emergence of younger, progressive voters? social media?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 27 year old who defeated ten-term incumbent Joe Crowley has not even been sworn in, yet she has more mentions in the conservative media than any other elected and the City and State online political website lists her 6th on a list of the 100 most powerful women in the state.

The new progressives in the state Senate received a number of high profile chairmanships,

Among the newly electeds “Sen. Zellnor Myrie, … will lead debate on voting reforms as chairman of the Elections Committee …. as chair of the Ethics and Internal Governance Committee, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi will lead debate on ethics reforms, including the controversial proposal to limit outside income as a condition of further pay raises for legislators. … state Sen. Julia Salazar,  will chair the newly created Women’s Health Subcommittee … John Liu will chair the New York City Education Committee, Jessica Ramos the Labor Committee … “

The meetings that determine directions of the bodies are the conferences, frequently held party caucuses. The meetings are members and top staff only, and give the members a chance to voice opinions and leadership an opportunity to take the temperature of the members.  Speaker Heastie has developed a reputation of listening to members, his predecessor, Sheldon Silver, ruled with a club; Shelly was in charge, period.

The Senate was another story. The republicans and the independent democratic conference (IDC) jointly ran the Senate, the democrats had no role. Democrats in the Assembly who wanted to pass a bill in the Senate had to go through Jeff Klein the IDC leader and Diane Savino, his co-leader. Klein, despite spending over $2 million, an incredible sum, lost his primary to Alexandra Biaggi.  Democrats in the Senate have been lusting to be back in charge for a decade.

The last two democratic leaders in the Senate, a decade ago, Malcolm Smith and John Sampson, went to jail.

With a new crop in the Senate, along with the senior members who were on the sidelines for a decade,  the question is whether the 39 democrats will work and play well with others, or will identity politics interfere?

(Identity politics: political activity or movements based on or catering to the cultural, ethnic, gender, racial, religious, or social interests that characterize a group identity).

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, served as minority leader since 2012 and a member since 2006, as majority leader she now will have to herd her group of 39 (out of 63 senators).

The issues that may emerge in the Senate:

  • Ethics reforms. The progressives challenged other democrats in the primary, and then ran in the November general election.  Elections cost money and “ethics reform” will cut down on fund-raising opportunities, a potential conflict between progressives and senior electeds.
  • John Liu, a supporter of the Specialized High School Admittance Test (SHSAT) chairs the NYC Education Committee, and is a strong supporter of the test while minority members within the democratic ranks oppose the test
  • Robert Jackson was one of the litigants in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit and will advocate for the full payment of the billions owed to New York City creating internal tensions between NYC and out of the city democrats
  • Will the progressives form a caucus?  In the past the unwritten rule was you wait your turn until you build seniority; I suspect the progressives will be far more proactive in advocating for their positions
  • Are the progressives anti-charter school? Robert Jackson has been a forceful critic, the others, we don’t know, in the past progressives were also choice advocates.

Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins will have to balance the wants and needs of her 39 members; unquestionably some of the progressives have eyes on higher office beyond the Senate while others, out of the majority for a decade have their own agendas.

The governor presents his state of the state the first Wednesday in January and the 2019-20 legislative session will be off and running.

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