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NY Budget Hearings, Cuomo Woes, Presidential Race

Good morning from Albany, New York. The Department of Justice announced on Friday it has reached a settlement with the State of New York, concluding that former Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 13 women and created a “sexually hostile work environment.” The finding of the investigation corroborated a separate report from State Attorney General Tish James in 2021, but turned up four more victims (all of the DOJ victims worked for New York State and only 9 of the women identified by the AG report did) after federal investigators conducted additional interviews. 

As part of the settlement, current Governor Kathy Hochul has agreed to scale up the Executive Chamber Human Resources Department, implement new policies for reporting, and increase training. In a statement, Hochul said, “The moment I took office, I knew I needed to root out the culture of harassment that had previously plagued the Executive Chamber and implement strong policies to promote a safe workplace for all employees, and took immediate action to do so.” 

“The moment I took office, I knew I needed to root out the culture of harassment that had previously plagued the Executive Chamber and implement strong policies to promote a safe workplace for all employees, and took immediate action to do so.” 

Governor Kathy Hochul

Joint legislative budget hearings kicked off last week as the Legislature prepares to respond to the Executive Budget proposal. Lawmakers held hearings on health, transportation, and public protection with economic development, labor, and human services slated for next week. 

Which issues will dominate the 2024 Legislative Sessions from D.C. to Albany?

Jack lays it out in our annual Legislative Preview.

Read it here.

The disconnect between the Legislature and Executive Chamber on Medicaid spending was evident at the health hearing, with Department of Health Commissioner James McDonald echoing Hochul’s call for a one billion dollar reduction in Medicaid spending.

Senate Health Committee Chair Gustavo Rivera has argued that increasing revenue and restructuring managed long term, rather than enacting cuts, is the more responsible way forward saying, “We should be talking about how to stabilize that system, not how to cut it further. We're leaving that on the table, whether it's raising money on that, raising taxes on the wealthy, which has potentially billions of dollars.” Leaders in the Legislature are also pushing for changes to the midwifery licensing system to address maternal healthcare and infant mortality.  A bill cosponsored by Assembly Health Chair Amy Paulin would expand access to maternal healthcare by permitting Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) to practice in New York State. An Executive Order by former Governor Cuomo allowed CPM’s to temporarily practice in New York during the pandemic, but that provision has since expired. 

At the transportation hearing, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) CEO Janno Lieber used the platform to air his grievances with New Jersey and their lack of cooperation on public transit initiatives. Lieber has said New Jersey’s pending lawsuit on congestion pricing has led to legal uncertainty and their unwillingness to cooperate will only increase the region’s transportation problems. At the hearing, Lieber said, “For reasons none of us understand they’ve got a $2 billion turnpike widening project that will just pump more cars in the Holland Tunnel which has no more capacity. So they’re creating a big old parking lot on their side of the river. This is a mystery. The substance of the lawsuit is kind of frivolous.”  Many suburban lawmakers share the Garden State’s disdain for the congestion pricing policy, including Senator Bill Weber who feels the inconsistency in service to outer boroughs makes the policy unfair, adding  “Rockland County residents have always felt like the redheaded stepchild of the MTA.” 

The public protection hearing largely centered on gun reduction initiates and the effectiveness of the State’s tweaks to bail reform. Assistant Deputy State Police Superintendent Christopher West testified that 1,316 illegal firearms were seized in 2023, which represents a 159% increase compared to 2018. On bail reform, lawmakers noted that the policy has not led to an increase in crime as some predicted.

Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Rossana Rosado agreed offering, “there isn't a big difference in terms of people returning to court or being rearrested. We have been able to do both things, to implement bail reform and to see historic declines in crime.”

Our Jack O’Donnell joined WBEN’s Joe Beamer on Hardline to talk:

🎙️OTB troubles

🎙️State education funding

🎙️NY Congressional races


In campaign news, Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, who has served the Rockland County based 96th Assembly District for nine terms, announced he will not be seeking reelection, and longtime fixture in Harlem politics, Inez Dickens is set to retire, setting off a surge in candidates looking to replace her.

On the presidential campaign trail, President Joe Biden saw some welcome enthusiasm for his campaign in New Hampshire. Biden did not appear on the ballot as the state was stripped of its delegates by the Democratic National Committee for not abiding by the new primary calendar, but that did not stop Biden’s supporters from turning out for a write-in campaign to avoid giving fellow candidates Dean Phillips or Marianne Williamson a win, even a meaningless win. Biden received 79,455 write-in votes, beating Dean Phillips,  who was on the ballot, by over 40 points. Equally promising for Biden was Donald Trump’s continued struggle to win over moderate and independent voters. Nikki Haley beat Trump among independent voters by 24 points, and by 51 points among self-identified moderates. If that trend continues into the general election, it could spell trouble for Trump’s campaign. 

In the primary however, Trump has had no problem consolidating his support among the GOP base and using his political power to dispel the opposition. His campaign has adopted a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any criticism or perceived disloyalty, something Trump vocalized in a speech when he said, “I don’t get too angry. I get even.” Among his own ranks, losing is equally unacceptable. After winning 98 of 99 counties in Iowa, Trump fired his political director in Johnson County where he lost by a single vote. 

“I don’t get too angry. I get even.”

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump

His grip on the party led to other Republican candidates attacking each other rather than him, namely Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley. A super PAC affiliated with the Haley campaign spent over $15 million in December alone on ads attacking DeSantis, despite Trump being the clear front runner. Chris LaCivita, a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, put it succinctly— “Nikki Haley spent millions of dollars on TV attacking Ron DeSantis so we didn’t have to.” An eerily similar result from 2016 when establishment Republicans cancelled each other out and paved the way for Trump victories.

Haley was successful in turning the primary into a two-person race, but has done little to close the gap with Trump. After losing New Hampshire by double digits, Haley and her campaign did their best to frame the results as a win, much to the chagrin of Trump. In her speech, Haley said, “Today, we got close to half of the vote, I’m a fighter and I’m scrappy and now we’re the last ones standing next to Donald Trump.” The speech was met with a reply from Trump via his social media site, where he said "Could somebody please explain to Nikki Haley that she lost — and lost really badly. She also lost Iowa, BIG, last week. They were, as certain Non-Fake Media says, ‘CRUSHING DEFEATS’.”

He also insisted that anyone who donates to the Haley campaign will be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp.” Haley’s home state of South Carolina will host the next primary election on February 24th and a loss there would likely be fatal to her long shot campaign. 

Farewell to Charles Osgood.  We will see you on the radio.


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Client News

Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Governor Hochul Names UB Home for Empire AI Consortium

Governor Hochul made it official last week: OD&A client, University at Buffalo will be the site of her proposed statewide AI consortium, Empire AI, which will include construction of a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence computing center. [Read more.]

Public Safety Partnerships

OD&A was proud to partner with our client, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV) and Buffalo Councilmember Zeneta Everhart for a panel discussion last week on addressing gun violence and its impact in WNY. The conversation included national, state and local crime prevention experts as well as concerned members of the community. We thank everyone who participated and the local media for amplifying this important issue.

Thank you Congressman Morelle for your support of our client, Trillium Health!

Do you think Nikki Haley should continue her campaign for the GOP presidential nomination?

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Do you think the NYS Budget will be approved on-time (April 1) this year?

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Employee Spotlight

Background: Jim came to OD&A in 2019 after working with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer both in Western New York and the Southern Tier, ultimately serving as Deputy Regional Director for the Southern Tier. While working in the Senate, Jim worked on a wide range of issues from fighting regulations that would hurt NY businesses to ensuring municipalities throughout Upstate New York received adequate federal funding to meet their needs.

Specialty: Jim is a policy expert, adept in the development of comprehensive strategies for a broad range of clients, including financial services, healthcare, gaming, energy, and emerging technologies. He has worked on a vast array of legislation and regulation, ranging from bills impacting safety net healthcare providers throughout the State to measures that help drive the growth of fintech, blockchain, and cryptocurrency industries in New York. Jim is also proficient in developing national and state policies around data privacy and has a key role in The Data Privacy Alliance.

Successes: Jim is a results-driven government relations professional who has helped clients across the State secure millions in integral investment through the State budget process and federal appropriations.

Kudos: Named top Socially Responsible Citizen and Albany’s 40 Under 40 by City and State NY.

Extras: Jim is a graduate of Canisius High School in Buffalo and the University of Vermont where he studied Political Science and Business Administration. He currently resides in the Capital region with his wife, Annie and their two sons.

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This Day in History

Benz Patent Motor Car

January 29, 1886: German engineer Carl Benz patents the first modern automobile.


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Company Offering $10K to Stay Off Your Phone for a Month

One New York-based company has started what they’re calling a digital detox program, and they’re turning it into a contest. [Read more.]