ALBANY, N.Y. — In New York state government news, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio heads to the state Capitol, the race for governor gets off to a testy start and lawmakers mount another effort to rein in money in politics.
A look at stories making news:
DE BLASIO TO ALBANY
De Blasio will make his annual trip to Albany on Monday to testify at a legislative hearing on municipal government. Expect fireworks as legislative critics use the opportunity to criticize the Democrat, one of the Republicans’ favorite political targets.
Last year, the mayor faced withering criticism for the city’s plan — later blocked by lawmakers — to impose a fee on plastic shopping bags. The year before he was forced to come to Albany twice to defend the state law giving him control over his city’s schools.
This year’s questions are likely to focus on the city’s contribution to its beleaguered subway system, which needs billions of dollars’ worth of repairs and upgrades. Lawmakers, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio have all sought to avoid blame for the problem, which is decades in the making.
It’s deja vu for Senate Democrats, who will again call for an overhaul of the state’s notoriously lax campaign finance rules. The proposals are likely doomed — again — in the GOP-led Senate.
The proposals include would lower overall campaign donation limits, cap soft-money contributions at $25,000, create a public financing system for state campaigns and create new criminal penalties for public officials who steer government contracts to themselves, relatives or business partners. The Democrats say they’ll also push legislation to close the loophole that allows wealthy interests to anonymously dump almost unlimited amounts of cash into campaigns by creating limited liability companies.
None of these are new ideas, and most have wide support among good-government groups that blame the state’s porous campaign finance rules for much of its reputation for corruption. But they’re still not likely to pass in the Senate, where Republicans lead thanks to the eight-member Democratic faction known as the Independent Democrats, who broke with their own party to empower the GOP.
“I feel like I’m stuck in Groundhog Day,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers. “We do this every year.”
Democrats are hopeful the bills’ prospects may change if they resolve their internal conflicts and retake control of the Senate after two special Senate elections this spring in Democratic-leaning districts in the Bronx and Westchester County. Party leaders have floated a plan to reunite the two sides by making Stewart-Cousins and IDC leader Sen. Jeff Klein co-leaders of a new Democratic majority.
The 2018 campaign is underway and it’s already getting nasty, with Cuomo’s spokesman insulting a GOP challenger’s hair.
Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco formally launched his campaign Tuesday, joining Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra on the list of GOP candidates hoping to blunt Democrat Andrew Cuomo’s bid for a third term.
During his announcement, DeFrancisco sounded the traditional upstate Republican criticism of Cuomo’s record on upstate economic development, government spending and, most notably, taxes. In 2011, DeFrancisco praised Cuomo as a “friend to the taxpayer” but the veteran lawmaker says now that his assessment has shifted as Cuomo tilted toward the left while his economic promises have failed to materialize. Cuomo is now “no friend of the taxpayer,” he said Tuesday.
Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s taxpayer-paid spokesman, immediately fired back in unusually personal terms.
“That statement is about as real as his hairline,” Azzopardi tweeted in response to DeFrancisco’s remark..