Monday, July 25, 2016

In Extended Session NY Lawmakers Vote Through Bills with Little Public Review

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Legislative leaders finished protracted and messy end-of-session negotiations, one day after the scheduled end of the Legislative session, not with the traditional celebratory press conference, but with a series of press releases, sent to reporters as bills were still being negotiated, printed, and voted upon.

A press release announcing an agreement on a five-point “ethics reform plan” was sent out at about 7 p.m., though the actual bill language wasn’t available until about 1:45 a.m., with Legislators voting on the varied measures immediately thereafter.

At a few minutes after 8 p.m., the framework of a deal on a wider variety of issues was announced, dealing with issues like Mayoral control of New York City schools; funding for housing homeless people; lead testing in schools; funding for CUNY and SUNY schools; and much more.

Legislators from both houses, many somewhat delirious after consecutive late nights of session followed by early mornings, some of whom had even taken to sleeping at their desks, learned of outlines of deals second- or third-hand. Negotiations were largely held by Cuomo, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Independent Democratic Conference head Jeff Klein, with the three Legislative leaders reporting back to their Conferences.

A long evening at the Capitol building did not end until after 3 a.m., with a strong sense of disorganization and confusion throughout. Even without knowing much about what they were voting on, State Senators voted through the ethics package 60-2 and the "big ugly" mash-up of other bills 61-1.

For the public, many Legislators and watchdog groups, this year was defined by the corruption convictions of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, as well as the broad Federal investigation into Cuomo’s Economic Development programs across the State. However, Legislators resisted any major reforms that would directly address the issues involved in those cases.

Instead, the deal agreed to by Cuomo and Legislative leaders addressed the use of Independent Expenditure Committees; tightened rules on what would be improper coordination between Candidate Campaigns and Committees; did away with a rule from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics that forced lobbyists to disclose their interactions with newspaper Editorial Boards; and will begin the process of amending the State Constitution to strip lawmakers convicted of corruption of their pensions, this measure is an amendment to the State Constitution and will therefore have to be passed by a second consecutive State Legislature, following this fall’s elections, placed on the ballot, and approved by voters, likely in November, 2017.

Also included is a measure to increase disclosure by 501(c)(4) organizations that take money from 501(c)(3) organizations, a move seen by many as an attack on Good Government groups that use the latter for funding their advocacy work. Cuomo administration officials have repeatedly referred to Good Government groups as “shadow lobbyists” while the Governor has regularly worked with them on Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform measures.

The five-point plan falls significantly short of what Cuomo outlined in his January State of the State speech and of what Good Government groups and reform-minded Legislators have been calling for. In a twist of irony, the Ethics related bills were given almost virtually no public review before being moved through.

“For the first time, independent expenditure groups and PACs will be required to adhere to unprecedented disclosure requirements, and New York will have the nation’s strongest rules defining and governing coordination and independence,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Missing from the Ethics deal are many of Cuomo’s major proposals he made in January: proposals that include limiting Outside Income for Legislators; closing a loophole that allows corporations to subvert Campaign Contribution Limits by creating multiple LLCs; and measures to prevent Campaign Accounts controlled by Political Parties from taking in unlimited donations.

Meanwhile, New York City issues remained major sticking points as leaders hashed out their final deal. It appeared that a breakthrough was reached after Mayor Bill de Blasio told Heastie, de Blasio’s main Albany ally, that he could live with another one-year renewal of Mayoral control that mandates the City spell out exactly how much money it is spending on each school.

That renewal is a blow to de Blasio even though the administration calls it as a victory, de Blasio was looking for Mayoral control to be made permanent, or at least extended for three years. “This extension is a recognition of the unprecedented progress and achievements mayoral control has delivered for our school system,” Austin Finan, a spokesperson for de Blasio, told The Wall Street Journal.

The deal clearly weakens the City’s Independent control of schools and sets de Blasio up for another renewal fight next year when he will be up for reelection. It also empowers Charter schools, which de Blasio has often been at odds with to the chagrin of Cuomo and Flanagan, to seek authorizations from SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which is seen as very pro-charter.

One positive for de Blasio was that the Senate approved some of his CUNY nominees and approved two of his MTA nominees, Veronica Vanterpool and David R. Jones, who had been waiting for over a year for confirmation. City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, the third of three de Blasio nominees to the MTA awaiting confirmation yet.

Another major City issue came to something of a resolution on Friday night as Cuomo and Legislative leaders announced they would make available $570 million in capital funding for supportive housing for homeless people. On Thursday a figure of $150 million was floated out of the $2 billion in funds set aside for supportive and affordable housing construction and maintenance in the budget, but not yet allocated. “The Governor's pathetic offer to provide a tiny fraction of what he promised underscores the shallowness of his commitment to housing our homeless neighbors,” said Shelly Nortz, Executive Director for policy at the Coalition for the Homeless, in reaction to the offer. Groups were not much happier with the $570 figure released on Friday, they want to see the full $1.9 billion allocated by Cuomo, Heastie, and Flanagan.

Deals announced leading up to and on Friday also included moves to improve safety at railroad crossings; fight heroin and opioid addiction; provide $50 million in additional capital funds to CUNY and SUNY; accelerate construction at the Javits Convention Center, and more. Legislation legalizing and regulating daily Fantasy Sports was passed through the Assembly Friday afternoon and made its way, somewhat surprisingly, to the Senate floor after 2 a.m., where it was passed. It will now go to the Governor's desk.

This end-of-session “big ugly” package of Legislation appears to have occurred in similar fashion to this year’s budget, with an agreement reached because the parties walked away from the negotiating table. In both cases, as is the tradition, bills were passed with such little review by Legislators, Advocates, and journalists alike that days of unpacking are ahead.

Not dealt with before the end of session was renewal of the 421-a real estate property tax break meant to spur affordable housing development in New York City and expansion of car-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to Albany and other parts of the state.

Legislators will now return to their Districts to run for reelection facing polls that show voters around the State want sweeping Government Ethics reform. Cuomo will likely look to bounce back from what has been an up-and-down year that saw him celebrate the political high of winning passage of a $15 minimum wage plan and Paid Family Leave that earned him National attention and accolades from the left yet have members of his inner circle and his Administration subpoenaed in a corruption probe. Much of the focus of the months ahead will be on that Federal investigation and how the fall elections affect which Party controls the State Senate.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Another Trump on the NY Reform Party Ballot

As her father runs for President, Ivanka Trump has won a New York Reform Party Primary Write-In and can run for Congressional NY 12th District against Incumbent Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney in November. My District.

You didn’t know that Ms. Trump was on the Reform Party Congressional ballot in the 12th district, covering Manhattan’s East Side and parts of Brooklyn and Queens?

Surely, she had no idea either. But there she was, thanks to the lunacy of New York’s Fusion voting, as exploited by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and a political activist named Frank Morano.

If the line from Astorino to Morano to Ms. Trump is baffling, so is State Election law.

Let’s start with Republican Astorino, who founded the Stop Common Core Party when he unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Cuomo’s reelection in 2014. He did so because Fusion voting tallies all the votes received by a candidate on every ballot line, thus giving the candidate an incentive to run on as many lines as possible.

Astorino got more than 50,000 votes on the line, qualifying the Stop Common Core Party as a so-called permanent Party that can place candidates on ballots in future contests.

Having a grand total of 377 statewide registered voters, and just 75 in the New York City five boroughs, the organization changed its name to the Reform Party, and Morano forced the City Board of Elections to conduct a half-dozen Congressional Primaries on June 28, four of them in Districts with no other contests. It meant that there were fully staffed poll sites around the city that were open for 15 hours where not a single voter showed up.

Even more absurd, Morano fielded no candidates. He merely gave Reform voters the chance to write in their choices.

They produced one-one tie votes in Rep. Grace Meng’s Queens District, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ Brooklyn/Queens District and Rep. Charlie Rangel’s uptown and Bronx district. The ties negated the tally, so actor Tony Danza, who scored a vote, is out of luck.

One voter cast a ballot in Rep. Yvette Clarke’s Brooklyn District for a candidate who declined to accept the nomination. None of the four Reform voters in Rep. Eliot Engel’s Bronx/Westchester District turned out.

The Trump daughter scored two votes in Maloney’s District, enabling her to top three competitors, who each pulled down one. The nomination is hers for the taking.

Morano believes that he has proven something or other about New York’s Election system.

But Fusion can work. As a former Elected Official of the New York/New York City Independence Party, the ballot line helped get former Mayor Bloomberg elected for three terms.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Louisiana 2016 Primary/General Candidates

Since 1977 Louisiana elections use a Jungle Primary system, which in Louisiana has become known as "Open" Primary", where all the candidates for an office run together in one election in November.

If someone gets a majority, that individual wins outright; otherwise, the Top Two candidates, irrespective of partisan affiliation, meet in a runoff election in December.

The Jungle Primary is used for State, Parish, Municipal, and Congressional races, but is not used for Presidential elections.

Beryl Billiot - No Party
Charles Boustany - Republican
Foster Campbell - Democrat
"Joseph" Cao - Republican
Thomas P. Clements - Libertarian
Donald "Crawdaddy" Crawford Republican
David Duke - Republican
Derrick Edwards - Democrat
Caroline Fayard - Democrat
John Fleming - Republican
Le Roy Gillam - Libertarian
Troy Hebert - No Party
John Kennedy - Republican
Gary Landrieu - Democrat
William Robert "Bob" Lang Jr. - Other Party
"Rob" Maness - Republican
Kaitlin Marone - No Party
Charles Marsala - Republican
MV "Vinny" Mendoza - Democrat
Abhay Patel - Republican
Joshua Pellerin - Democrat
Gregory Taylor Jr. - Other Party
Arden Wells - No Party
Peter Williams - Democrat

U. S. Representative 1st Congressional District
Eliot Barron - Green
Lee Ann Dugas - Democrat
Danil Ezekiel Faust - Democrat
Howard Kearney - Libertarian
Steve Scalise - Republican (Incumbent)
Joseph "Joe" Swider - Democrat
Chuemai Yang - No Party

U. S. Representative 2nd Congressional District
Kenneth Cutno - Democrat
Samuel Davenport - Libertarian
Melvin L. "Kip" Holden - Democrat
Cedric Richmond - Democrat

U. S. Representative 3rd Congressional District
Scott A. Angelle - Republican
Bryan Barrilleaux - Republican
"Greg" Ellison - Republican
Brett Geymann - Republican
Jacob "Dorian Phibian" Hebert - Democrat
Clay Higgins - Republican
Guy McLendon - Libertarian
Larry Rader - Democrat
"Gus" Rantz - Republican
Grover Joseph Rees - Republican
Kenny P. Scelfo Sr. - No Party
Herman L. Vidrine Republican

U. S. Representative 4th Congressional District
Ralph "Trey" Baucum - Republican
Elbert Guillory - Republican
Mark David Halverson - No Party
Oliver Jenkins - Republican
"Rick" John - Republican
"Mike" Johnson - Republican
Marshall Jones - Democrat
Kenneth J. Krefft - No Party

U. S. Representative 5th Congressional District
Ralph Abraham Jr. - Republican (Incumbent)
Billy Burkette - Republican

U. S. Representative 6th Congressional District
Robert Lamar "Bob" Bell - Republican
Richard M. Fontanesi - Libertarian
Devin Lance Graham - Other Party
Garret Graves - Republican (Incumbent)
Richard Lieberman - Democrat
Jermaine Sampson - Democrat

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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CA Needs Statewide Rules for Provisional Ballots

Once reserved for emergency situations, Provisional ballots were freely handed out across California on June 7 as a Times analysis finds they were used by more than one of every five Primary voters who showed up at a polling place.

But the wide use of Provisional ballots has not been matched by any broad statewide oversight, with rules changing from one County to the next dictating when they are used and how Elections officials decide whether to count them as valid votes.

“You think it would be clean and simple,” said Donna Tarr, a resident of Rolling Hills Estates who volunteered to observe Provisional ballot counting in Los Angeles County last month.

A Provisional ballot has historically been seen as an Election fail-safe, reserved for the small number of people whose eligibility to vote can’t be immediately confirmed by a poll worker. The ballots are then placed in specially marked envelopes and set aside to be examined after all other votes are counted.

Tarr, 64, was one of several supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who descended on County Elections offices after the June election to observe how Provisional ballots were processed and how many were actually counted. When she and others complained that some Provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated “no party preference” voters were not being correctly counted in the Democratic Presidential race, Los Angeles County Elections officials quickly stepped in to fix the problem.

Tarr wanted to know whether it was an issue that stretched to other communities. In late June, she sent an email to State Elections officials demanding they intervene to ensure similar problems weren’t happening in all of California’s 58 counties.

State Election law is largely limited to the legal right of a voter to ask for a Provisional ballot, while leaving a significant amount of discretion to Local officials in regard to how often the ballots are used.

“We’re all left to interpret these things county by county,” said Joe Canciamilla, Contra Costa County’s Registrar of voters.

Partial data compiled by the State Association of Elections Officers and supplemented by requests from the Times made to two dozen Counties found more than 735,000 Provisional ballots were cast at polling places on Election day in California.

Some 55% of those ballots were from three counties combined — Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange.

“It’s clear that there’s been an explosion of voting provisionally,” Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) said. Low is the author of a bill pending in the Legislature that would require the Secretary of State to create new guidelines for all Counties to follow in handling Provisional and Vote-by-Mail ballots.

Individual voters who cast a Provisional ballot can currently check whether it was counted and receive an explanation if it was rejected. But most Counties don’t publicly post information about the total number of Provisional ballots that were received or counted.

Five counties, Fresno, Imperial, Modoc, Mono and Nevada, did not respond to several Times requests for data on Provisional ballots.

“Californians expect consistency and transparency in the process,” Low said.

The data makes clear that even with varying rules and procedures, few Provisional ballots are disqualified.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said Rebecca Spencer, Registrar of Voters in Riverside County. Spencer and her team certified more than 85% of the County’s 31,435 provisional ballots, close to the statewide average for the June election, according to a Times analysis of Election data.

But few believe the existing systems are adequate to handle a steady rise in Provisional voting, which some Elections officials expect as Californians increasingly request ballots in the mail. If those voters decide at the last minute to show up at a Precinct but don’t bring along the original mailed ballot and its official envelope, they usually end up casting a Provisional ballot.

“The more paper you have floating around, the more opportunities you have for confusion,” Canciamilla said.

Low’s bill for new Statewide standards is supported by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who said in a statement that it “will improve voter confidence in the elections process.”

Low said that as voting behaviors change in California, the system must change, too.

“The standards are woefully out of place,” he said. “This is about the integrity of the electoral process.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Democratic Party Chair to Lose Convention Role in Wake of E-Mail Leak and Resigns

Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will no longer preside over the Party's Convention this week after a leak of Democratic Party emails appeared to show efforts to actively discredit Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign.

Lingering bitterness from the heated Primary campaign between Clinton and Sanders erupted after more than 19,000 leaked DNC emails seemed to confirm Sanders' frequent charge that the DNC played favorites in the race.

The cache of emails leaked on Friday by the WikiLeaks website revealed DNC officials explored ways to undermine Sanders' insurgent Presidential campaign, including raising questions about whether Sanders, who is Jewish, was really an atheist.

The Party's Rules Committee rescinded Wasserman Schultz's role as the Chair of the Convention, which begins Monday, and will replace her with Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Congresswoman.

Schultz will now step down as Democratic Party Chair after the Convention ends.

In a statement, Wasserman Schultz says she still plans to fulfill her duties formally opening and closing the Convention in Philadelphia. She also says she will speak at the four-day gathering. Then at the end of the Convention, she will step down.

Donna Brazile stepping in as interim Chair for the Democratic National Committee, CNN and Brazile have mutually agreed to temporarily suspend her contract as a contributor for the network effective immediately. As a valued voice and commentator, CNN will revisit the contract once Brazile concludes her role," a CNN spokeswoman said in an email on Sunday.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Party Bosses Have Ruined Electoral College’s Original Intent

I came across an article on the Opinion page of the Independent Voter Project (IVN) site by David Yee.

He writes:

Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, believed in the Electoral College system. He wrote in Federalist #68 that it was an important feature, allowing us to have confidence in the “choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided.” It was intended to be both a safety valve and a feature that would ensure that not only “local darlings” would be voted for the Presidency.

When the Electoral College was instituted in the Constitutional Convention, the fear was to prevent anything that would endanger the Federal republic, whether that meant a further swing toward direct democracy or a movement toward despotism.

So important was this trust that in the final draft of the Constitution, no Federally Elected Official or person holding “an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States” could serve in the capacity of a member of the Electoral College.

Today, instead of people who hold no “Office of Trust or Profit under the United States,” the Electoral College is now made up of Party bosses and leaders who have sworn their allegiance to one of two private political organizations. These Party insiders are supposed to be our Electors of great trust.

Even the Federal Election Commission concedes in a public interest paper that the Electoral College “contributes to the political stability of the nation by encouraging a two-party system.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire piece.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Food for Tomorrow Conference

The New York Times "Food for Tomorrow" Conference will take place at:

Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture
Pocantico Hills, New York

630 Bedford Rd, Tarrytown, NY 10591

Date: September 27-28, 2016

CLICK HERE for information about the Stone Barns Center.

The New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference will bring together top chefs, policy makers, innovators and leaders from diverse fields to uncover and assess the most important issues and trends affecting the nourishment of our Nation and the World.

Hosted by New York Times Food Editor Sam Sifton and Senior Editor Charles Duhigg.

Food for Tomorrow is a Conference designed for decision makers: those who are defining the direction of farming and fisheries, building the supermarkets and restaurants of the future, exploring the latest trends and developments in nutrition, and creating emerging technologies that could change the way we eat.


- The Next Kale and Quinoa
- Thinking Big and Scaling Sustainability
- The Home Cooking Revolution
- Employment Engine
- Whither Water?
- Innovation in Nutrition Labeling
- Seeding the Future
- The Distribution Disruptors
- Leading Employees to Health
- Meal Kits and Beyond
- A Vision of the Farm Bill
- Case Study: The Soda Tax
- Security Along the Supply Chain
- Secrets that could Save Waste

Combining the insights of thought leaders, the tastes of Dan Barber’s award-winning Blue Hill restaurant, and the expertise of Stone Barns Center’s farmers and educators, Food for Tomorrow offers participants onstage discussions infused with analysis and the chance to connect with like-minded peers in a spectacular setting and a remarkable farm-to-table live experience.

CLICK HERE for more information about the Conference and how to attend.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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