On the Line
Redistricting in Court, NY's Battleground, Clean Slate
Good morning from Buffalo, New York, the center of the political universe last week as the New York State Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a redistricting case that could very well determine who controls Congress in 2024. The seven-judge panel will now decide whether to keep the current Congressional lines drawn by a court-appointed Special Master in 2022 or kick it back to the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) to draw new lines. After the original IRC map was found unconstitutional, the Special Master drew boundaries that encouraged competition, a major factor in Republicans adding four House seats in New York in 2022.
BUFFALO — When the NY State Court of Appeals met in Buffalo in 2005 for the first time since 1849, then-Chief Judge Judith Kaye pledged “it would not be another 156 years before we return.”
The wait wound up being 18 years.
Until today, via @mahoneyw
— Joseph Spector (@JoeSpectorNY)
Nov 15, 2023
Democrats argue the 2022 map was merely a temporary fix and now the process should be returned to the IRC. Aria Branch, an attorney for the petitioners, said in Court, “If you read the Constitution altogether as we must, it's clear that the IRC and the Legislature can draw maps at the beginning of the decade but they can also draw maps to remedy violations of law.” Should the Court of Appeals agree, the new lines would certainly be more favorable to Democrats, especially in the key battlegrounds of Long Island and the Hudson Valley. Given the small and fractured GOP majority in the House, any NY seat that Democrats can flip back will go a long way in improving their chances to retake control of the lower chamber.
“If you read the Constitution altogether as we must, it's clear that the IRC and the Legislature can draw maps at the beginning of the decade but they can also draw maps to remedy violations of law.”
New York will certainly be a battleground, the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political analyst, has updated their ratings:
NY-01: Likely Republican
NY-03: Lean Democrat
NY-04: Toss Up
NY-17: Toss Up
NY-18: Lean Democrat
NY-22: Toss Up
One seat that is in the middle of it, NY-03, will not have an incumbent as serial fabulist Rep. George Santos (R-NY) announced he will not be seeking reelection. That announcement comes on the heels of a damning bipartisan House Ethics report which found “substantial evidence” that Santos violated federal law.
The report concludes that Santos “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit through a constant series of lies to his constituents, donors, and staff about his background and experience.” One episode of note was a $50,000 transfer of campaign funds to Rep. Santos’ personal account which were then used to pay off personal credit card bills, make a $4,127.80 purchase at Hermes, and for a number of smaller purchases on OnlyFans and at Sephora.
Santos escaped an expulsion vote earlier this month as members on both sides of the aisle had concerns over the precedent of removing a colleague without a decision from a court or a finding by the Ethics Committee.
Walls close in on Rep. George Santos amid mounting political and legal drama.
The congressman is staring down a third potential vote on his ouster, which appears more likely to succeed as a growing number of lawmakers inch closer to his expulsion.
— The Hill (@thehill)
Nov 18, 2023
Now that the Committee has released their findings, Republicans are likely to move forward with another vote to expel Santos after the Thanksgiving recess. A number of Democrats and Republicans who voted against expelling Santos have now said they will vote in favor of expulsion as a result of the ethics report, including Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.) who said, “Rep. Santos has received his due process. This report is fully damning. I will vote to expel him.”
If Santos is expelled or was to resign, New York would be looking at two special elections. In Buffalo, longtime Congressman Brian Higgins has announced he will be stepping down from Congress in February.
After 19 years serving the WNY community in the US House of Representatives, I have made the decision to step down from Congress in February of 2024. It has been the honor of a lifetime to represent my hometown & I look forward to spending more time in the community I love.
— Brian Higgins (@RepBrianHiggins)
Nov 12, 2023
He has not announced his next steps, but credible reports indicate he will lead Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo after 19 years in the House. Once Higgins formally steps down, the Governor has 10 days to call a special election, and it must be held within 70-80 days of that announcement.
Back in New York, advocates of criminal justice reform won a major victory last week as Governor Hochul signed the Clean Slate Act into law. The bill will automatically seal criminal records three years after sentencing for a misdemeanor and eight years after a person is released from prison for a felony offense.
We’re not going to judge people by their worst moments in life after they've paid their debt and stayed on the right track. The Clean Slate Act provides a pathway for change, growth, and renewal.
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul)
Nov 16, 2023
The bill does carve out exceptions for sex crimes and Class A felonies. Governor Hochul offered, “The best crime-fighting tool is a good-paying job. That’s why I support giving New Yorkers a clean slate after they’ve paid their debt to society and gone years without an additional offense.” The measure will automatically seal the criminal records of roughly 2.1 million New Yorkers and Hochul indicated she sees the bill as an economic opportunity saying, “as our state faces a worker shortage, with more than 450,000 job openings right now, this new law will help businesses find more workers who will help them grow, expand and thrive.”
“The best crime-fighting tool is a good-paying job. That’s why I support giving New Yorkers a clean slate after they’ve paid their debt to society and gone years without an additional offense.”
Looking to 2024, the State’s top fiscal leaders met last week for the annual “Quick Start” budget kickoff. The meeting, which includes State Budget Director Blake Washington, Senate Finance, Assembly Ways & Means, and the Comptroller’s office, unofficially begins the budget season by giving key decision makers an opportunity to align ahead of the Executive Budget release. With a looming $4.3 billion budget deficit, lawmakers will be tasked with reining in spending while also maintaining support for essential services.
Budget Director Blake Washington offered, “In the last couple of years, we made some historic investments in school aid, health care infrastructure, mental health... we want to make sure we preserve that spending and preserve those services, but also at the same time, acknowledge our receipts are not matching our spending.” Washington also reiterated that the State will not be raising taxes on the wealthy saying, “We're at our taxing limit for our personal income tax on high-income earners.” The State maintains $19.5 billion in a “rainy day fund” but both Washington and Hochul have made clear they do not intend to dip into reserves to make up the shortfall. Budget deficits are expected to persist, with the Department of Budget estimating a $9.5 billion gap next year and $7.7 billion deficit in Fiscal Year 2027.
Can you imagine a presidential candidate that people thought was “too old?”
Sucro’s Lackawanna facility
Sucro Projecting to Double Sales from its Lackawanna Sugar Refinery
OD&A client Sucro, an integrated sugar company focused primarily on serving the North American market, announced that it has confirmed numerous sales bookings for 2024 that will be supplied from its new sugar refinery in Lackawanna, New York. [Read more.]
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