Back to Basics

State of the State Preview, Political Animosity, DC Theatrics

Good morning from Albany, New York where Governor Kathy Hochul will be delivering her State of the State address tomorrow at 1 p.m. Hochul has been previewing proposals in the lead up to the speech.

The first proposal, dealing with consumer protections and affordability, would increase paid medical and disability leave, eliminate copays for insulin, and expand consumer protections related to medical debt. Number 2 hopes to improve reading proficiency through a $10 million investment in teacher training and the expansion of SUNY and CUNY micro-credential programs for teachers. Other proposals included a slew of provisions aimed at addressing the maternal and infant mortality crisis, as well as the “NY SWIMS” program to increase swimming proficiency, as drowning is a serious threat to children.

Notably, State Attorney General Letitia James was on hand for the announcement of the consumer protection and affordability proposal, a sign the one-time political rivals have overcome their differences and are finding ways to work together. 

AG James has been busy! Especially with her civil lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization. Trump and his businesses have already been found guilty of engaging in a pattern of civil financial fraud; the current trial phase is to determine damages. Last week, the Attorney General submitted a filing seeking to ban Trump from doing business in New York, as well as a $370 million fine. Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for Thursday. 

Also facing Tish James’s wrath, the NRA.  Just days before the start of the fraud case brought by the Attorney General, Wayne LaPierre, the longtime leader of the National Rifle Association, announced his resignation. AG James filed suit against LaPierre and three other NRA executives in 2020, alleging they used the NRA as a “personal piggy bank” to finance a lavish lifestyle including trips to the Bahamas, private jets, and other personal expenses. In a statement, James said, “Joshua Powell’s admission of wrongdoing and Wayne LaPierre’s resignation confirm what we have alleged for years: the NRA and its senior leaders are financially corrupt. More than three years ago, my office sued the NRA and its senior management for decades of financial abuse and mismanagement. These are important victories in our case, and we look forward to ensuring the NRA and the defendants face justice for their actions.” 

Last week also saw the Legislature back in session, officially gaveling in for the first time on Wednesday. While Governor Hochul will make the case for her priorities in the State of the State on Tuesday, it is clear that the Legislature has priorities of their own, including on several unresolved fights lingering from last session. Hochul ended the year by vetoing a slew of high-profile bills supported by both the Assembly and Senate, including the Grieving Families Act, a ban on non-compete agreements, and changes to the public campaign finance system.

Anthony Hogrebe, Hochul’s Communications Director, offered a separate statement defending the vetoes:

“Governor Hochul has been clear: she will always do what’s right for New Yorkers, even if it’s unpopular in the halls of Albany. This year the State Legislature passed 896 bills – more than 500 of which passed in the final days of the session – most without a single hearing or opportunity for public comment. These included a number of extreme legislative proposals that would have put public safety or the state's economic recovery at risk.”

He continued: “Governor Hochul successfully secured common sense changes to dozens of bills and didn’t hesitate to use her veto pen when necessary to prevent harm to New Yorkers. She will continue standing up for the people of this state, no matter what it takes.” 

Hochul herself offered: “When the Legislature, you know, passes 500 bills in just over a week at the end of [a] session that makes it very difficult for us to be engaged in the process throughout the many months that they’re in Albany, to come up with solutions that actually will work together that I’m more likely to support.”

Those comments, and the timing of her vetoes, raised further ire of the Legislature with many in the Legislature saying it sets 2024 off to a contentious start, somewhat akin to the trouble last year after the Legislature rejected Hochul’s nominee to the Court of Appeals. 

“Governor Hochul has been clear: she will always do what’s right for New Yorkers, even if it’s unpopular in the halls of Albany. This year the State Legislature passed 896 bills – more than 500 of which passed in the final days of the session – most without a single hearing or opportunity for public comment. These included a number of extreme legislative proposals that would have put public safety or the state's economic recovery at risk.”

Anthony Hogrebe, Governor Hochul’s Communications Director

Nonetheless, those issues will be very much alive again this session, setting the stage for an interesting few months in Albany!

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.

As of today, there is one less Legislator: Assembly Member and Chair of the Assembly Labor Committee, Latoya Joyner, announced she is resigning to pursue a new career opportunity. In a statement, Joyner offered, “After careful consideration and with much difficulty, I have decided to bring this chapter of my life to a close. While I am leaving public service, I am pursuing an exciting new opportunity that will allow me to continue serving our community and state in fresh ways.” Significantly, her departure leaves Democrats with 101 members.  In order to pass the upcoming redistricted maps without Republican support, Democrats will need 100 votes.

As for the new Chair of the Labor Committee, the entire OD&A team warmly endorses Assembly Member Harry Bronson of Rochester.  In addition to being a great friend to labor, Bronson is one of the hardest and most dedicated members of the Legislature.  Expect an announcement today or tomorrow.

In addition to some Legislators in Albany being unhappy with Hochul, many Republican local elected officials are not happy with Governor Hochul either, including Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman who told the Governor to “Stay out of Long Island” at a breakfast last week.

Hochul shot back saying, “You don’t want me to take all the money with me, though, right.” Blakeman has decried what he sees as overreach from Albany on issues like bail reform, election administration, and unfunded mandates. Trying to end on a lighter note Hochul said, “Long Island is here and I’m with Long Island because New York cares about Long Island immensely. I love Long Island. How can you not love Long Island? So nothing will keep me away from Long Island.” The Governor has the upper hand here, but expect most Democrats to continue to have electoral challenges in Long Island.

That animosity—and the personal attacks—have broken out in New York City as well. Mayor Eric Adams and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are at odds over a policing bill that would increase law enforcement reporting requirements and the disagreement has resulted in a nasty public exchange.

Adams declared, “I find it astonishing that we have a public advocate who pushed for this police bill. He lives in a fort,” referring to William’s residence on a Brooklyn military base. Williams responded saying, “I live in Brooklyn with my wife and kids, and my understanding is the mayor lives in New Jersey with his girlfriend” before going on to accuse the Mayor of acting like a “5-year-old throwing a tantrum.” Despite working together in the past on issues such as the migrant crisis, Williams has become a leading critic of Adams and his administration offering, "Eric Adams is not the Messiah for New York City. He just is not.” Is Williams trying to soften up Adams for a progressive challenger in 2025?

Speaker Adams

In the City Council, Adrienne Adams was reelected as Speaker, but in a surprising move, replaced the current majority leader, Keith Powers, with Council Member Amanda Farías. The shakeup was met with surprise in the Council Chambers, as Powers and Adams have been longtime allies.

Given that Powers is term-limited out of office in two years, a Council spokesperson said the move was “a step towards preparing the institution for its next generation of leadership and expanding representation.” 

What does the future hold for NY in this hot 2024 political election year?

From NY redistricting to Congressional races, our Jack O'Donnell reveals his political predictions for 2024 to City & State NY.

If those fights are a preview of what to expect in 2024, buckle up. Here is what we have to look forward to, all before St. Patrick’s Day: 

  • Jan. 15 — Iowa GOP caucuses

  • Jan. 19 — Government funding deadline (part 1)

  • Jan. 23 — New Hampshire primary

  • Jan. 31 — The next Federal Reserve Meeting

  • Feb. 2 — Government funding deadline (part 2)

  • Feb. 3 — South Carolina Democratic primary

  • Feb. 6 — Nevada primary

  • Feb. 8 — Nevada caucuses

  • Feb. 24 — South Carolina GOP primary

  • March 4 — Trump trial date, District of Columbia

  • March 5 — Super Tuesday 

In Washington, D.C., House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) formally invited President Biden to delivered his State of the Union address on March 7th. In a succinct letter, Johnson wrote: “In this moment of great challenge for our country, it is my solemn duty to extend this invitation for you to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, March 7, 2024, so that you may fulfill your obligation under the U.S. Constitution to report on the state of our union.”

The address is typically delivered in January or February, but was scheduled in March to avoid the two looming funding deadlines in Congress. 

Lawmakers have until January 19th to come to an agreement on the first of two government spending bills. In addition, Democrats and Republicans are trying to reach a deal on a border security bill in exchange for support on foreign aid for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Add in the first presidential primary contests of the year and we are set up for a hectic and contentious January. 

In a small sign of progress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Mike Johnson are reportedly close to an agreement on a topline spending number, which is needed before true negotiations can begin.

Schumer is seeking a topline number of $772 billion for non-defense discretionary funding, a number in line with agreement reached by President Biden and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy last year. In exchange, Schumer is prepared to expedite cuts to the IRS and claw back unspent COVID funds in the hopes that the concessions will allow Johnson to sell the deal to his hardline conservative members. 

At the same time, negotiators are working through the details of the $105 billion foreign aid and security package requested by the Biden Administration. The White House included $14 billion in the request to address the Southern Border, but Republicans are demanding more dire measures as well as increased oversight on foreign aid, particularly to Ukraine. The lead Republican negotiator, Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) offered, “We are definitely making progress. It’s exceptionally technical, so walking through every set of decisions just takes a long time to be able to get through.” Some far-right Republicans are threatening to vote to shutdown the government if President Biden does not take drastic action at the Border. Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said, "We need to withhold funding and force Biden to the table. There’s no other choice. It’s now or never.” Some Republicans have no interest in cutting a border deal and would instead prefer to see the issue continue to hamper President Biden in an election year. When asked his thoughts on a border deal, Rep. Troy Nehls (R- Texas) said, "I’m not willing to do too damn much right now to help a Democrat and to help Joe Biden’s approval rating.” 

Some far-right Republicans are threatening to vote to shutdown the government if President Biden does not take drastic action at the Border.

That is a lot to get done for a body traditionally plagued by inaction. While funding for some government agencies will expire on January 19th, funding will officially lapse and the government will enter a shutdown on February 2nd. 

Photo via David Aaron

Finally, a slightly less consequential, but equally important fight.

Paleontologists are split over the identity of this dinosaur skeleton.  Is it a juvenile T. rex or a different breed of Dino, a Nanotyrannus? 

What’s behind the toll increase on the New York State Thruway?

Our Jack O'Donnell explains the reasons for the hike to Reporter Brayton Wilson of WBEN.

Listen in.

Listen to our podcast on your favorite platform!

Which issue should be top priority for the Federal Government in 2024?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Results of the Last Poll

Which issue should be top priority for State lawmakers in the new Legislative Session?

This Day in History

Members of an anti-flirt club/Library of Congress


Worth a Read

Gov. Hochul Hurts Arm Lifting Weights

Gov. Hochul may be the most powerful person in New York State, but she still has her limits in the weight room. [Read more.]