The “Big Ugly” Looms: Albany Edges Toward Resolving the Most Contentious Issues, and, Yes, It’s “Political”

UPDATE: (4/28.22) NYS highest court, the Court of Appeals ruled the new district lines, which favored the Democrats, are unconstitutional, a “master,” determined by the court will draw new lines, the statewide offices, including the governor, are not impacted and the primaries will still be held on June 28, at this point along with the Assembly primary, the Congressional and State Senate lines will be redrawn and the primary will be delayed until August. That’s right, two primaries, confusion reigns.

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You never let a serious crisis go to waste. (And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.) Winston Churchill, Rahm Emanuel and others

On Monday (April 25th) the 150 members of the Assembly and 63 members of the Senate will return to Albany for the sprint to the June 2nd adjournment date. The primaries for all state offices take place on June 28th and the incumbents want to get out on the campaign trail. Governor Hochul, before Cuomo’s August resignation she was a virtually unknown Lt Governor, is running for the Democratic designation against Tom Suozzi, a congressman from Nassau County running from the right, sounding like a Republican and Jumaane Williams, the NYC Public Advocate running against Hochul from the left  As of mid March Hochul was polling far ahead of her rivals,

Gov. Kathy Hochul leads her party rivals by at least 40 points among registered voters, according to a new Siena College poll out Monday. NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi trail her with 12% and 11% of the vote, respectively. An estimated 24% of voters remain undecided.

Only days after the deadline for withdrawing your name from the ballot Brian Benjamin, the Lt Governor selected by Hochul in the fall was arrested and resigned.

Lt. Gov. Brian A. Benjamin of New York resigned … hours after federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment implicating him in a brazen scheme to enrich his political campaigns with illegal donations.

Would Benjamin’s arrest and resignation impact Hochul? She has to choose another Lt Governor to complete Benjamin’s term.

The annual fight over the budget this year was especially contentious; the Assembly and the Senate, in the first post Cuomo budget, wanted a larger role and Hochul, fearing a backlash over exploding crime stats wanted to roll back parts of the 2019 bail reform law. When the blood was mopped off the floors of the legislative chambers Hochul successfully pared away part of the bail reform law (Read detailed explanation here) and the legislature barred any non-budgetary items from the budget, including the extension of mayoral control in NYC, scheduled to sunset on June 30th. Mayor Adams clout with the legislature and the governor was nil.

The days of Shelly Silver bobbing and weaving between governors, regardless of party and a Republican Senate was in the past. (Read Shelly Silver as Cardinal Richelieu below)

As the legislators return on Monday the legislator egos are still sore – Hochul twisted arms and soothed a potential major issue: bail reform; however, her tarnished former Lt Governor is still on the ballot, and a legislative fix to remove his name requires the same legislators who arms were twisted, so far, they’re not anxious to “fix” the Benjamin ballot conundrum.

These are nervous times for Democrats: is there a Red Wave, a Republican wave hiding in the weeds?  Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor was once again running for governor against a Trump Republican, Glenn Youngkin, running on anti-Critical Race Theory, and other far right issues, and, surprisingly, very surprisingly, Youngkin won.  Was it an anomaly? Or, is the ripple a wave? (Read analysis here New Republic title: “If Terry McAuliffe Loses, ‘Hit the F—ing Panic Button’”

Hochul needs friends, friends who vote.

New York State United Teachers, the teacher union in New York State has 600,000 members and the New York City local, the United Federation of Teachers has 200,000 members. A very high percentage of teachers are registered voters and actually vote in elections. Over the years fewer and fewer teachers have voted in the gubernatorial election: Andrew Cuomo, to be polite, was not a favorite of teachers.

Hochul needs teacher votes and the teacher unions to work for her across the state.

How can she mobilize teachers?

Budget is not an issue, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit has been resolved in New York City and the Biden Rescue Plan and other federal funds will be around for the next two years.

Near, or, at the top of the teacher agenda are charter schools and in NYC mayoral control.

There are number of bills in the Assembly Education committee that would increase transparency in charter schools and other restrictions,

  • A05116Relates to applications for charter schools
  • A05117Relates to revisions to charter schools
  • A05118Relates to charter schools in cities with a population of one million or more
  • A05119Relates to the takeover and restructuring of failing schools
  • A05135Relates to charter schools
  • A05191Repeal paragraph (e) of subdivision 3 of section 2853 and subdivision 6-g of section 3602 of the education law, relating to an aid rollback for charter schools; repealer
  • A08801Provides the Board of Regents with final approval authority over all proposed and renewed charter schools

The legislature and the governor have to address mayoral control; there are currently no bills, of which I am aware, there are wide range of possible legislative mayoral control outcomes,

  • The current law can be extended for a year or two …. satisfying no one simply pushing the issue down the road
  • The current law can be extended for a year and a Blue Ribbon Commission (three members each from the Assembly, the Senate, the Governor and NY Mayor, hold public hearings, a preliminary report, a comment period, a final report to the legislature before the convening of the next session)
  • The make-up of the Panel for Education Priorities (PEP) can be amended, six members appointed by the mayor, one for each borough president, one selected by the CECs and one selected by the City Council, the 13 members would include six mayoral appointees, all for fixed terms. The mayor would not have a majority of panel members.
  • The legislature can substantially increase the authority of the CECs, in principal and superintendent selection, creating district-based curriculum initiatives, decide on Gifted & Talented programs and other specialized programs, and, require attendance at training programs for all CEC members
  • Take no action and allow the governance to revert the a seven member central board, one selected by each borough president and two by the mayor and a year later an election process for local boards.

The last days of a legislative session are called “the Big Ugly,”

Big Ugly: It’s a big deal — quite literally. The Capitol can be a deadline-driven place, be it the budget, or the end of the legislative session in June. Laws sometimes are set to expire and need to be renewed or re-negotiated. What happens is often a lot of contentious issues are tied together in one gigantic package crammed into a single bill. This big bill is often fresh off the printer when lawmakers vote on it, sometimes very late at night or early in the morning. It’s an ugly bit of sausage making.

Before you throw up your hands and revile today’s politics remember John Adams, our second president, and the midnight judges, signing appointments of Federalist judges the night before Jefferson was to be sworn in.

Politics is a full contact sport.

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