Eleventh Hour

NY Legislative Last-Gasp, Cannabis Crisis, Trump Troubleshoots

NYS Senate

Good morning from Albany, New York where the inevitable end of the 2024 Legislative Session is fast approaching; the fact that members have June primary elections helps ensure that Session gets done (close to) on time! That said, we expect the Assembly to at least go one additional day this week and would not be shocked if things bleed into the weekend. The mood here has been somber and strangely quiet. The halls and lobbies of the legislature as well as local restaurants and watering holes are slightly more crowded than the last couple of years, but the mood remains subdued.

One thing that was not subdued was the Assembly debate about amending New York’s Criminal Procedure Law in the wake of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein’s overturned conviction by the Court of Appeals. The Court found that prosecutors used evidence of previous sexual assaults by Weinstein that had not yet been proven, a violation of the legal standard know as the “Molineux rule.” Weinstein could, and likely will, face a retrial on the charges, prompting lawmakers to explore a legislative fix, amending what is considered permissible evidence. However, Assembly Sponsor Amy Paulin is not optimistic that the measure will get across the finish line saying, “Unfortunately, I don’t have the votes this Session… they wanted time to look at those changes and vet them and sometimes, you need to give people what they’re asking for.” Some lawmakers are concerned about the use of unproven accusations in other, less high profile cases, especially as the Legislature has a strong record in the past few years of dismantling the prison industrial complex.  In the closed-door conference, Paulin and Assembly Member Latrice Walker, got into a “prolonged, heated exchange.”

Governor Hochul encouraged the Legislature to “act on something,” but stopped short of endorsing the bill or throwing her political capital behind the plan. 

Instead, Hochul is using the end of Session to pursue the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation for Kids Act (SAFE Act) and the Child Data Protection Act. The SAFE Act would “prohibit social media platforms from providing an addictive feed to children younger than age 18 without parental consent and prohibits social media platforms from withholding non-addictive feed products or services where that consent is not obtained” while the Child Data Protection Act would place guardrails around youth internet data collection.

At a meeting with the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS), Hochul said, “We are working closely with mental health advocates and service providers to ensure young New Yorkers have access to the support they need. But even as we continue making progress, I know we still have more work to do. Meeting with advocates and families across the state has only reinforced my commitment to advance legislation to combat addictive social media feeds and protect kids online.” Most opposition has come from the usual suspects of tech giants, however, the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project—a watchdog group that is critical of big tech’s data collection efforts, has raised concerns that the bill could inadvertently lead to even more privacy and data collection concerns

Hochul has also introduced a program bill to ban cell phones in school. The proposal would ban smart phones in schools, but does permit students to carry low-tech “flip phones,” so they can still reach their parents during an emergency. Our Monday Morning Memo readers weighed in on a potential cell phone ban in last week’s poll. Scroll down to see what they had to say.

Social media crackdown in NY?

What will actually get done in these waning days of the Legislative Session?

Our Jack O'Donnell weighs in with WBEN’s ‘A New Morning’ team.

Listen here.

As we mentioned in a previous memo, it appears the clock has run out on major provisions such as the NY HEAT, a package of climate-related bills aimed at reducing reliance on fossil fuels, as well as the proposals to enact Extender Producer Responsibility (EPR), another climate measure to overhaul recycling and reuse standards in the state. Both proposals failed to make it into the state budget and with the abbreviated post-budget session, lawmakers, particularly in the Assembly, decided against rushing such consequential changes into law. We’ll just keep an eye on this Sunday night or couch it with “as of now” and anything can happen.

Newly-minted Senate Transportation Chair Jeremy Cooney recently sat down with New York NOW to share more on his vision for the future of Transportation in the State

Against the backdrop of growing backlash over the State’s disastrous rollout of a legal cannabis market, Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) Executive Director Chris Alexander formally submitted his resignation to Governor Hochul last Friday. Alexander, who was slated to leave at the end of term in September anyway said, “While I planned to serve out the remainder of my term, I no longer have confidence in my ability to do my job and lead this team effectively under current circumstances. It would be disingenuous for me to not acknowledge how difficult the last several months have been.” It remains to be seen whether a leadership shakeup will fix the issues that have plagued OCM in inefficiencies and lawsuits, allowing the underground market to blossom in the meantime. 

Looking past end-of-session issues, the Division of Budget officially unveiled the details of the FY 2025 budget that lawmakers agreed to a little over a month ago. Originally thought to be $237 billion, the final budget came in at $239 billion, though minor fiscal discrepancies throughout the years has been common. The report shows that $1.5 billion will be used to shore up the State’s reserve fund, now totaling $21.1 billion. In less promising news, the report also projects a potential general fund deficit of $7.25 billion within the next three years, due largely to increasing healthcare and education costs and declining state tax receipts—DOB projects annual State budget growth of 5% while only seeing a 3.5% increase in tax revenue. 

In Washington, D.C., much of the focus of lawmakers and the national media has turned to the November elections. 

The Democratic National Committee announced last week that they will utilize a “virtual roll call” vote before the August Democratic National Convention to formally nominate President Joe Biden. While some at the DNC may have preferred the pageantry of an in-person roll call on the convention floor, the decision was largely out of their hands. The deadline to appear on Ohio’s presidential ballot is August 7th—two weeks before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, was not particularly inclined to work with Democrats on a fix, so the DNC decided on the virtual roll call to ensure Biden will be on the ballot in all 50 states. In a statement, DNC Chair Jamie Harrison said, “Through a virtual roll call, we will ensure that Republicans can’t chip away at our democracy through incompetence or partisan tricks and that Ohioans can exercise their right to vote for the presidential candidate of their choice." Nonetheless, Biden will likely lose Ohio. 

The Libertarian Party, the largest third party in the U.S., held their party convention last weekend. While the movement is generally an afterthought in most national elections, this year’s convention showed that it is Donald Trump—not Joe Biden—who has more to lose by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Independent presidential campaign. Kennedy’s original entrance into the race as a Democrat, paired with his storied last name, led many Biden supporters to fear that he would pull votes from their candidate. Nonetheless, Kennedy’s staunch anti-vaccine message and general distrust of government resonated more soundly with Libertarians, a group much more historically aligned with Republicans than Democrats. Read more here.

To make things worse for the Trump campaign, many of these voters still blame him for the COVID lockdowns and for elevating Dr. Fauci when he was in office. One party member went as far as to heckle Trump during his speech to the convention saying, “you crushed our rights.” The eventual Libertarian nominee, Chase Oliver, went even further saying, “When he killed millions of small businesses in this country [with COVID lockdowns], was he being a free market capitalist, or was he being an authoritarian tyrant?” The episode underscores a central dilemma for the Trump campaign—whether to tout his administration’s ability to expedite a life-saving COVID-19 vaccine in the hope of winning over more moderate voters or to try and distance himself from that effort in the hope of holding on to support from the far-right and vaccine-skeptical third parties. 

Trump also had a bad day in Manhattan last week though it remains to be seen how much of an impact that will have on the presidential campaign. 

Trump is found guilty on all counts. What is the political fallout?

How will it affect the presidential race and races down the ballot on Election Day?

Our Jack O’Donnell made the media rounds after the verdict was read.

Listen to his analysis on:

While Trump is facing some challenges, he continues to lead in most polling. That said, the bad polling numbers for President Biden have not, surprisingly, hurt Democratic Senate candidates down-ballot in key swing states. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) is leading by nine points, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania is leading by three points, and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) holds a two-point lead over her Republican opponent. Reuben Gallego, the Democrat running to replace current Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, leads Republican Kari Lake by a whopping thirteen points according to a recent CBS/YouGov poll. Biden on the other hand is losing in Arizona by five points, Nevada by twelve points, and Pennsylvania by three points, while he holds a narrow two-point lead in Wisconsin. 

A spike in split-ticket voting would be a sea change in modern elections where politics have become more national and voters have become more partisan. If the trend were to hold through November, it could signal that voters have become fed up with the government gridlock and dysfunction that extreme polarization has produced. With that being said, it is a long way off. Only five current Senators have won their election while their party’s presidential nominee lost the state: Mitch McConnell (Clinton in ’96), Chuck Grassley (Clinton ’92), Joe Manchin (Romney ’12), Jon Tester (Romney '12) and Susan Collins (Biden '20, Obama '08, Clinton ’96).

In a Republican primary runoff in Texas last week, the “establishment” wing of the party won another victory over the rebellious right wing. Incumbent Rep. Tony Gonzalez beat his opponent Brandon Herrera, who was endorsed by the Conservative House Freedom Caucus, by a mere 407 votes to retain his seat. Aside from Gonzalez, the biggest winner of the night was Speaker Mike Johnson. If Herrera had won, he would have almost certainly joined the ranks of the far-right Freedom Caucus who have caused Johnson, and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy before him, no shortage of problems. The victory also likely helps Republican Senator John Cornyn fend off a primary challenge in 2026 from a more MAGA-adjacent candidate. On the other hand, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) and Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) both suffered embarrassing defeats after spending a considerable amount of political capital trying to elect Herrera. 

In news sure to please Panda-enthusiasts Marina and Elise O’Donnell, the National Zoo in Washington D.C. will be welcoming back two giant pandas later this year!

Giant panda, Xiao Qi Ji/Matt McClain—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Finally, one popular band has delayed their planned retirement, giving fans across the country one-last chance to see the famed group.[Read more.]

(Courtesy of CEC Entertainment)

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Results of the Last Poll

As part of Governor Hochul's crackdown on addictive social media feeds to minors, she is also considering a ban on kids using cell phones at school. Do you support or oppose this idea?

This Day in History

Photo Credit: NASA

June 3, 1965: Major Edward H. White II opens the hatch of the Gemini 4 and steps out of the capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to walk in space.


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