Sunday, March 29, 2020

NY Lawmakers to Work and Vote Remotely

New York Lawmakers are set to apply Social Distancing to the Legislative Process. Democrats, who Control Both the State Senate and Assembly, are taking steps to Allow Remote Voting on Budget Bills amid the Ongoing Coronavirus Crisis.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-35th District, Yonkers) said Saturday that Some of her Members will meet in the Capital before the weekend is out to “begin the process of passing budget bills this week as bills are ready.”

But the State Capitol Building, typically Overrun with Staffers and Sleep-Deprived Lawmakers in the days leading up to the April 1st Budget Deadline, will remain relatively quiet as Both Chambers eye Work-from-Home Options for Legislators.

“Throughout the week, our process will establish appropriate protocols involving social distancing, and tomorrow we will pass a resolution authorizing limited remote voting as necessary,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Many Assembly Members are wary of gathering at the Capitol as Four of their Colleagues have already Tested Positive for the potentially Deadly Respiratory Illness. Democrats, led by Speaker Carl Heastie (D-83rd District, Bronx), were slated to discuss the State Spending Plan Saturday Night via Video-Conference, Members said.

The idea of a Remote Budget Vote is Not all that far-fetched after Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-141st District, Buffalo) introduced a Resolution last week that provided some Guidance for the Process.

Members, currently required to be in the Building to Vote, would be allowed to Remotely Submit Attendance, Debate Questions, and Vote via “Teleconference or Video-Conference.”

Gov. Cuomo (D), who has Vowed to include Policy Priorities such as Changes to Bail Reforms and Legal Weed in the Budget, has shown Little Sympathy for Legislators reluctant to Return to the Capitol amid the Public Health Crisis.

Last week, asked about the Budget being Passed on Time, the Governor said he saw No Reason why it should be Delayed. “Do your job,” was the Message he had for Lawmakers. “This is why you’re in government, this is why you’re here, if you don’t want to be here, you shouldn’t have run for elected office,” Cuomo said.

The Governor, citing a Potential $15 Billion Economic Hit due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, has Floated the Idea of a Flexible Fiscal Plan that would Allow his Administration to Adjust Spending throughout the year based on the Amount of Revenue the State brings in.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

HI Dems Push End of Vote-by-Mail in Party-Run Primary to May 22nd

A Week after it had Eliminated In-Person Voting at its Party-Run Primary, the Hawaii Democratic Party announced Changes to its Delegate Selection Process in the face of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

On Friday, March 27th, Hawaii Democrats laid out a Revamped Schedule for Mailing Out Ballots to Voters and for those Voters to Return the Ballots.

As the Party revealed a week ago, the Deadline to Register to Vote and Enroll as a Democrat in the Aloha State was Moved to the Original Date of In-Person Voting, April 4th.

Not Included in that Release was a Plan for when and if the Deadline to Submit Ballots would be Extended as has been the Case in Former April 4th Party-Run Primary States, Alaska and Wyoming.

But by Moving the Deadline to Enroll to April 4th, Hawaii Democrats intimated as much. And indeed that is the case.

Hawaii Democrats will Process the New Enrollments and Mail Out Ballots with the anticipated Arrival in Voters' hands on or around May 2nd.

Those and other Previously Mailed Out Ballots will now be Due to the Party by Friday, May 22nd. This is the Return Deadline Not the Postmark Deadline. Results will then be Tabulated and Released by May 23rd.

The Extension of Hawaii Democrats' Deadline to Submit their Vote-by-Mail Ballots now shifts them out of April and Adds to what has become a Predominantly All-Mail May Slate of Contests in the Democratic Nomination Process.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

MD BOE Recommends Vote-By-Mail June 2nd Presidential Primary

As part of Governor Larry Hogan's (R-MD) Order to shift the Maryland Presidential Primary back Five weeks to June 2nd, the State Board of Elections was to meet and confer on how best to Implement that change given the fallout from the Coronavirus Threat.

In a Remote Meeting on Wednesday, March 25th, the Maryland State Board of Elections decided in principle to have the now June 2nd Presidential Primary be conducted Completely by Mail based on the Public Health Concerns around the Virus. The Board could Not Guarantee that it could Protect Poll Workers who are increasingly less inclined to work the Polls for Early and Election day In-Person Voting in even a Delayed Election.

Some Members of the Board wanted to Retain the In-Person Voting Options just in case they could be carried out, but reserve the Right to Cancel those Options later if the Threat Window remained Open in the lead up to June 2nd.

State Elections Staff Members urged the Board to make a Final Decision. If Ballots are to be Mailed to All Voters, they should go out by the Last Week of April, said Nikki Charlson, Deputy Administrator for the Board of Elections.

Instructions would have to be Included with those Ballots on how to Return them, she said, and those should be in their Final Form when the Ballots go out. “I appreciate that things are changing, but at some point we have to make a decision,” Charlson said.

It was Board Staff that Won out. The Staff will Draft the Proposal on a Vote-by-Mail Election for the Board before April 2nd. The Board will then make a Final Decision charting out the Course ahead, likely Adopting the Plan, and Send it to the Governor for his Consideration by the April 3rd, the Deadline laid out in his Original Executive Order calling for the Primary Date Change.

Maryland would join Rhode Island on June 2nd as a State with an All-Mail Presidential Primary. Ballots will be Mailed to Voters rather than Applications for Absentee Ballots as in May States like: Georgia, Nebraska, and West Virginia.

Those Efforts can be contrasted with those in Indiana, June 2nd Primary, where No Mailings are going out, but the Excuse Requirement in Requesting Absentee Ballots has been Waived.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Saturday, March 28, 2020

NY Presidential Primary Moved to June

Today, New York Governor Cuomo (D) announced that the State Presidential Primary has been moved from April 28th to June 23rd, 2020.

The June 23rd date will include: State Congressional Races, State Legislative (House & Senate), and Special Elections.

There also had been Two Special Elections scheduled for April 28th in the Rochester area and Western New York, One for the 27th Congressional District and another for the 136th Assembly District.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) currently has Rules in place that Penalize Any State that holds its Primary after June 9th, New York would Lose 50% of its Delegates, although it is unclear if it will keep those Rules amid the Pandemic.

June 23rd, 2020 Primary Deadlines

MAIL REGISTRATION (N.Y. Election Law Section 5-210(3)) - Application must be postmarked no later than May 29, 2020 and received by a board of elections no later than June 3, 2020 to be eligible to vote in the Primary.

IN PERSON REGISTRATION (N.Y. Election Law Sections 5-210, 5-211, 5-212) - You may register at your local board of elections or any state agency participating in the National Voter Registration Act, on any business day throughout the year but, to be eligible to vote in the State and Local Primary, your application must be received no later than May 29, 2020.

CHANGE OF ADDRESS (N.Y. Election Law Section 5-208(3)) - Notices of change of address from registered voters received by June 3, 2020 by a county board of elections must be processed and entered in the records in time for the Primary.

CHANGE OF ENROLLMENT (N.Y. Election Law Section 5-304(3)) - An application to change one’s party enrollment for any primary election in 2020 must be received by the board of elections no later than February 14, 2020.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Trump Pushes Back Against Congressional Oversight for Bailout Fund

President Trump wrote in a Signing Statement accompanying the $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill that he Believes the Inspector General overseeing a $500 Billion Relief Fund for Businesses will Not have as much Regulatory Power as Democrats had sought.

The Bill's $500 Billion Relief Fund is for Businesses such as the Struggling Airlines, who can tap it for Support. The Fund is Overseen by Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin. In Original Drafts of the Republican Senate Bill, Mnuchin had Wide Discretion in Overseeing that Money. After Criticisms from Democrats, Republicans Agreed to Add-On a Congressional Oversight Committee and Inspector General (IG) as added Control Measures.

The Language gives the IG Power to Report Back to Congress Information including the Nature of the Loan and its Recipients. It has the Power to make Informational Requests from Other Agencies “to extent practicable and not in contravention of any existing law.” It is Required to let Congress know if those Requests are Blocked.

Trump, though, said Friday he Believes the IG needs his Permission in Order to make such Reports to Congress. “I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the [the Inspector General] to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision,” he wrote in a Signing Statement. A Signing Statement indicate how the President intends to Interpret a Law.

Oversight of that $500 Billion Fund was One of the Last Major Sticking Points in Senate Negotiations. Senate Democrats cheered the Ultimately Agreed-Upon Language as a Victory. They were Wary of Repeating the Mistakes of the Bank Bailout after the Financial Crisis, in which Democrats were Criticized for Allowing Bank Executives to Reward Themselves with Bonuses after Receiving Federal Money.

The President’s Statement was Expected, but Congress will Exercise its Oversight and will have a Panel Appointed by the House to, in Real-Time, make sure they Know where those Funds are being Expended.

A Senate Democratic Aide said, “We fully anticipated Trump shenanigans, so that’s why there are multiple layers of strict oversight in this bill, including a council of existing inspectors general and GAO review, in addition to the Special IG, reporting requirements and a Congressional Oversight Commission.”

Trump’s Friday Declaration is One of Many statements from the Administration in recent days that Highlight the lingering Questions about the $500 Billion Fund. Emergency Loans could Equate to more than $4 Trillion in Lending Power through the Leverage of the Federal Reserve, Administration Officials have said.

After the Senate Added Language to the Stimulus Bill that effectively Excluded the Ailing Cruise Lines from Aid, Trump told Reporters earlier this week he may seek ways to get them Money. “We’re going to work very hard on the cruise line business and we’re going to figure something out,” the President said. Trump has previously indicated his Support of the Industry and Carnival Chairman Micky Arison.

It remains Unclear the Exact Structure of the Financing Options. Of the $500 Billion the Fund offers, it gives $50 Billion in Aid to Passenger Carriers, Half in Direct Payments, Half in Loans and Guarantees. It gives $8 Billion to Cargo Carriers, Half in Direct Payments and Loans. It also gives $1 Billion to $3 Billion for the Health Costs of Airline Contract Caterers.

Because Airlines are the Only Businesses to get Direct Payments, as a Result of their dire Financial situation, those Payments come with Conditions including Warrant Provisions.

Trump indicated on Friday the Government may take Advantage of those Warrants or other means of obtaining Equity Stakes. “Will we end up owning large chunks, depending on what these geniuses decide along with executives of different companies — its possible. And they’ll make a better deal on the loan,” Trump said.

What that means for Boeing, the Only Domestic Airline Manufacturer, is Unclear. The Bill allocates $17 Billion in Loans and Guarantees for Companies important to National Security, a Provision that Sources say Boeing is Eligible at least in part for. Boeing has said it will Not Accept any Money that Requires giving up an Equity Stake, but the Administration keeps implying that may be its Only Option. “Right now Boeing’s saying they don’t need it,” Mnuchin told Fox News on Friday.

But Trump has Repeatedly Offered his intent to Support the Company. “Boeing will probably need a hand, and we’re going to bring Boeing back to health,” Trump said at a Friday Briefing of the Coronavirus Task Force. Meanwhile, Trump told Reporters Friday the Administration has been talking to “the most brilliant financial minds in the world” about Helping with the Bailouts, including Blackrock’s Larry Fink. The New York Federal Reserve recently Disclosed it has Retained BlackRock as an Advisor and Asset Manager in Three Financing Programs.

United Airlines Warned on Friday that despite Government Aid, it expects Layoffs or Furloughs down the line, as Demand for Travel stays Weakened. As a Condition of Financial Relief, United and All Airlines, accepting Aid Agreed to Withhold from Furloughing or Cutting the Pay of their Workers through Sept. 30th. United Executives Committed to that on Friday.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Recalled Peace Corps Volunteers In Terrifying New Reality

For the First time in the more than 60 years of the Peace Corps History, the 7,300 Volunteers were sent back to the U,S. and temporarily Suspended Operations Worldwide, instructing the Recalled Volunteers to Quarantine for 14 days and abruptly Ending their Service and the Volunteers Losing their Stipends, Housing, and Health Benefits amid the Pandemic and Economic Crisis.

Volunteers say they have received a Deluge of Emails and Documents on how to Access Benefits but are Struggling to piece together what happened and what they’re supposed to do now. Their Circumstances leave them Among the most Vulnerable Americans right now, and with Few Prospects for Other Jobs at a time when Unemployment is soaring at Home.

Typically, when Volunteers complete their Service, they Attend a Conference preparing them for Reentry into American Society and the Workforce. They’re also given $375 for each Month they Served, adding up to a little more than $10,000 for Volunteers who Complete their Service. Evacuees who Served up to a year are being given about Half that Allowance, while those who Served more than a year will Receive the Full Amount.

The Conditions of Evacuation varied Depending on where the Volunteers were Posted. Staff at Headquarters seemed Overwhelmed by the Unprecedented Situation and Struggled to Disseminate Accurate Information to the Evacuated Volunteers. Volunteers in Countries that were Evacuated Earlier, such as: China, Ecuador, Mongolia, and Morocco, found it More Difficult to Access Resources and Quarantine Instructions than Volunteers who got the Recall Notice Later in the Process.

In Morocco, which had 345 Cases of the Coronavirus and 23 Deaths as of Friday, Volunteers were already starting to face Skepticism and Harassment due to their Status as Foreigners, so the Local Peace Corps Staff made the Decision to Evacuate before the Rest of the Corps Worldwide.

Evacuation there began the week of March 16th. Volunteers who had begun Service in September 2018 were told they would be Ending their Service Early. The Volunteers who started Last Fall were told they would be Placed on “administrative hold” for a Month while the Peace Corps determined whether they could Return. The In-Country Staff gathered Volunteers at a Hotel in the Capital, held a Makeshift Ceremony for the Departing Volunteers and Chartered a Plane Out on March 18th. When they Arrived Back in the U.S. on March 19th, the Newer Ones believed there was a Chance they would Return to Morocco eventually. On March 22nd, however, Volunteers say they Received an Email informing them they would be COSed, a Peace Corps Acronym meaning “Close of Service.”

In Namibia, the Government Shut Schools and All other Public Activities Down on March 15th after learning of Two Travel-Related Cases. That approach appears to be Successful so far. The Country has had a Total of Eight Cases, according to Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Many Volunteers felt like they had Betrayed their Host Community, especially if they had told Locals they would Return, only to find out later that they most likely Will Not.

Now back Stateside, Volunteers are Struggling to Plan their Futures. Volunteers are Not Eligible for Unemployment, according to the Peace Corps website, because they are Not Technically “Employees.”

The Coronavirus Relief Package Signed into Law Friday includes $88 Million for the Peace Corps, to “support the evacuation of more than 6,000 Volunteers and more than 170 U.S. direct hires from overseas posts.” But it’s Not Clear if there will be Help beyond that for Volunteers.

The Organization did Extend Volunteers’ Post-Service Health Insurance, from One Month of Coverage to Two. But for Volunteers returning to a Country Ravaged by a New and Terrifying Virus, the Question of where they can get the Post-Service Exams that are typically Required when coming back into the U.S. Looms, not to mention what happens after Two Months, and Evacuated Volunteers are also Finding it Difficult to Prioritize their own Mental Health.

Many Volunteers expressed Gratitude to the Peace Corps Staff in their Host Countries as well as the Network of Past Volunteers who Welcomed them Back to the U.S.

In Namibia, the Staff took Advantage of the Opportunity to Hold a “close-of-service” Conference for Volunteers which Prepares Volunteers for their Return to the U.S., and Advises them of Benefits, Employment, and Educational Opportunities available to them Stateside. Volunteers in Countries more Affected by the Pandemic such as: China, Mongolia, and Morocco, Weren’t able to have these Sessions.

The Community of Former Volunteers has set up a Facebook Group to Support the Newly Evacuated Group.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Trump Orders Former Troops and National Guard Units Back to Active Duty

President Trump issued an Order Friday Night that Permits the Pentagon to bring Former Troops and the National Guard and Reserve back to Active Duty to augment Forces already Involved in the Military’s response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Senior U.S. Officials said.

The Decision will allow the U.S. to Mobilize Medical, Disaster, and Emergency Response Personnel to help wage the Battle against the Virus by Activating Thousands of Experienced Service Members including Retirees.

The President did Not clarify whether anyone will be Involuntarily recalled to Duty, but some Retirees have Offered to Support the Nation in this Extraordinary time of need.

Trump’s Executive Order allows Defense Secretary, Mark T. Esper, to Order Units and Individual Members to Duty, including certain Individual Ready Reserve Members. The Individual Ready Reserve comprises Former Active-Duty and Reserve Service Members, who are commonly considered Out of the Military and rarely Recalled.

The Decisions about which People may be Activated are still being Reviewed.

Generally, these Members will be Persons in Headquarters Units and Persons with High Demand Medical Capabilities whose Call-Up would Not Adversely affect their Civilian Communities. Before relying on any National Guard Reserve Forces, Esper and the Department of Health and Human Services will Consult with State Officials. Governors have Control of their own National Guard Forces in most cases.

Earlier this week, the Army sent a Message to some Veterans who served in Medical Fields to ask whether they would be interested in Serving in the Coronavirus Response. Service Officials were interested in People who previously served in Eight Jobs:

- Anesthesiologist
- Critical Care Officer
- Critical Care Nurse
- Emergency-Room Nurse
- Medic
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Practitioner
- Respiratory Specialist

The Executive Order Released by the White House states that Anyone Recalled can Remain on Active Duty for up to 24 Months Straight.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker