The Madness

NY Legislative Session Scramble, Hochul's Global Stage, Presidential Debates

New York State Senate

Good morning from Albany, NY. With a mere eleven days remaining in the 2024 Legislative Session, the madness is really taking hold… and The Fear. We expect most committees to meet this week and a lot of furious lobbying about what bills may still be alive at the end. Please reach out with any questions or for updates.

Outside of the legislative wildness, there is one major change in Albany. With Tim Kennedy’s removal to Washington, Senator Jeremy Cooney has been named Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. Cooney, who represents the Rochester-based 56th Senate District, has been a member of the Committee since 2021 and is a strong proponent of transportation policies that promote equity and economic opportunity. Kennedy raised the profile of the Committee over the past few years and found a way to deliver commiserate results. Cooney is perfectly positioned to continue that growth—in expectations and outcomes going forward. You can read more about Sen. Cooney’s plans and vision for the future of transportation in an interview with City & State NY here.  

Speaking of Kennedy, he has made quite a splash in his first few days in Washington. 

Kennedy, along with fellow NY Rep. Grace Meng, introduced the Aaron Salter Jr. Responsible Body Armor Possession Act, a bill named after one of the victims of the 5/14 shooting in Buffalo that would prohibit the sale or possession of enhanced body armor. From the House floor, Kennedy offered, “He died a hero, delaying the shooter and giving more people precious seconds to escape. Lt. Salter didn't hesitate. He opened fire, hitting the target. But because of the shooter's body armor, he was unharmed and fired back, killing Lt. Salter.”

Meanwhile, Governor Kathy Hochul has been on the road, traveling to Europe for a pair of international climate summits. Her first stop was the Vatican where she participated in Pope Francis’s ‘From Climate Crisis to Climate Resilience’ summit at the Pontifical Academy of Science. There, Hochul and a number of international dignitaries signed the Planetary Protocol for Climate Change Resilience which “reiterates the need for unified global action to address the climate crisis and protect the most vulnerable.” Hochul then traveled to Ireland, serving as the keynote speaker on “The Future of Cities” at the inaugural Global Economic Summit in Killarney and meeting with government leaders in Dublin

This week, two of Hochul’s nominees—Robert Rodriguez to lead the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) and Walter Mosey to lead the Department of State—will formally begin the Senate confirmation process. Rodriguez, formerly New York’s Secretary of State, was nominated by Hochul in April and has been serving in an interim role since earlier this month. 

New York State Senate

Lawmakers will spend the next two weeks considering the thousands of bills that have been introduced since the start of the Legislative Session in January. One major provision that the Assembly punted on in budget negotiations, but advocates hope is addressed during regular Session is the NY Heat Act. The package of climate-related measures is a top priority for environmental advocates who believe the policies will give the State the regulatory power it needs to meet ambitious climate and emissions reduction goals.

On the other hand, opponents have voiced concerns about decommissioning large parts of the State’s natural gas infrastructure, particularly in Upstate New York. Governor Hochul and the Senate both included versions of the proposal in their respective budget proposals, but have yet to gain the necessary support in the Assembly. 

Legislators are also considering a bill that aims to reduce the amount of packaging and improve recycling efficiency. The measure would require the creation of a packaging reduction and recycling organization, with producers of said packaging paying a fee into the organization to enable them to meet the reduction and reuse requirements. For non-plastic packaging, recycling rates must meet 35% by 2028, 50% by 2035, and 75% by 2050. For plastic packaging, recycling rates must meet 25% by 2028, 50% by 2035 and 75% by 2050. 

Advocates were in Albany last week making a final push for legislation that would decriminalize sex work. The bill, first introduced five years ago, would formalize what many prosecutors have already started implementing—both the Brooklyn and Manhattan District Attorneys dismissed hundreds of sex work warrants and have publicly come out in support of the bill. 

There are multiple other environmental and criminal justice bills—including Elder Parole and the Fair and Timely Parole Act, as well as a bill to “fix” Molineux witness rules—up for consideration, as well as any number of local and regional priorities.  Stay tuned!

In Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives passed legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years, with President Joe Biden signing it into law on Thursday. In a statement, the White House said, “The bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization is a big win for travelers, the aviation workforce, and our economy. It will expand critical protections for air travelers, strengthen safety standards, and support pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers.” The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, but did encounter some hiccups, including in the Senate where a group of D.C.-area Democratic Senators threatened to vote against the bill over a provision that would have increased long distance flights at Reagan International Airport, citing safety and staffing concerns. Of the $105 billion in funding contained in the legislation, much of it is earmarked to specifically address safety and hire more air traffic controllers and airport support staff. 

West Virginia and Maryland held their primary elections last week. In West Virginia, Biden won just over 70% of the vote while Trump fared much better, winning 88% of the primary vote in the deep red state. In the race for the State’s open Senate seat following Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) announcement that he will not be seeking reelection, former Governor Jim Justice soundly defeated two other candidates to lock up the GOP nomination. On the Democratic side, Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliot defeated former Marine Zach Shrewsbury and will run against Justice in November in a race that is basically out of reach for the Democrats. 

The script was flipped in Maryland where President Biden won 87% of the primary vote and Trump lost over 20% of the GOP primary vote to Nikki Haley who dropped out in early March. Maryland also has an open Senate seat as a result of its longtime incumbent Democratic Senator, Ben Cardin, stepping down.  Larry Hogan, the former Governor and outspoken critic of Trump, will run against Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Her primary opponent, current House Rep. David Trone (D-MD), spent nearly $10 million of his own money in the hopes of ascending to the upper chamber, but ended up losing by over 10 points. The race is a top priority for national Democrats given the precarious nature of the election map, needing to defend seats in solid red states like West Virginia and Montana just to retain their majority. 

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign is also looking at ways to expand the electoral map in November—this time in Minnesota. In 2016, Trump nearly became the first GOP candidate to win the State since Richard Nixon, losing to Hillary Clinton by a mere 2 points. Trump headlined the GOP’s Lincoln Reagan Dinner in St. Paul over the weekend where he replayed his election denial hits, telling the crowd, “I thought we won it in 2016. I know we won it in 2020. We gotta be careful, we gotta watch those votes, you know? We don't need the votes, we gotta watch those votes, that's the big danger.” Even if Trump does not win Minnesota, his efforts in the State will force Democrats to spend money to counter his campaign. 

President Biden and Trump have officially agreed to two debates before the November election. The first debate will be on June 27th hosted by CNN at their studio in Atlanta, and the second will be hosted by ABC on September 10th. Neither debate was organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan organization that has hosted presidential debates for almost 40 years, after both the Biden and Trump Campaigns voiced criticisms of the group in 2020. Another change, at least for the first debate, is there will be no live crowd in the hopes of cutting back on the heckling and interrupting that has come to serve as a hallmark of recent debates.  Get your popcorn ready.

The Daily Show took on New York City Mayor Eric Adams last week. You can watch it here:

IKEA may have found a way to offset the slow death of physical retail space

Happy Birthday, Elsie!

Princess Elsie Holding Court

A special mention for Elsie Grace O’Donnell who turned SEVEN this weekend.

Elsie brings joy, laughter, and love everywhere she goes while her “leadership skills” ensure that most everyone around her get plenty of direction on how to act and play and behave. She is brilliant and I am so very blessed. 

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Jack Climbs Rankings in City & State NY’s Albany ‘Power 100’

O’Donnell and Associates Managing Partner Jack O’Donnell, named a mover and shaker in Albany for the third year in a row, continues to climb the rankings in the 2024 Albany Power 100 list by City & State New York. The list identifies the key power players in the State Capitol driving the policy agenda in New York.

“A veteran of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office, Jack O’Donnell enjoys influence not just in his hometown of Buffalo, but all across the State,” writes City & State NY. “The lobbyist has established himself and his firm as a go-to spot for anyone looking to do business in New York.”

“It’s an honor to be recognized among the State’s powerbrokers,” says O’Donnell. “We are zealous advocates for our clients, committed to delivering results that move our State forward during these challenging times.”

OD&A clients mentioned include Siemens Industry, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Community Housing Improvement Program, Horizon Health Services, Niagara University, the University at Buffalo, and the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund.

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