Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Antonio Delgado joined 216 other House Democrats this month in co-sponsoring a 571-page leadoff bill for their newly empowered caucus that combines pent-up priorities such as forcing public disclosure of “dark money” campaign donors, ending gerrymandering and requiring states to allow early voting.
The bill, dubbed the “For the People Act” and backed at the outset by nearly the entire caucus, was the first bill for the new Democratic majority and was presented as a sweeping series of reforms involving voting rights, congressional ethics, campaign finances and other areas.
“People trust Washington about as much as they trust gas station sushi,” Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat starting his fourth term in Washington, said in a statement about the bill. “It wasn’t always that way and it doesn’t have to be anymore. People want big money out of politics, they want their elected officials to act honorably, and they want a strong democracy that protects everyone’s right to vote. This is the first bill I’m on this Congress because cleaning up Washington should be a priority for everyone who works down here.”
Delgado, a Rhinebeck Democrat who unseated Republican Rep. John Faso in November, said in his own statement: “Corporate power is commanding way too much attention in Washington; it is time that our government be responsive to the will of the people rather than the interests of a wealthy few and big corporations. This historic bill will help strengthen everyday Americans’ power in our democracy and raise the bar for ethics in Washington.”
Four new lawmakers from mid-Hudson start work in Albany
Four new state senators and Assembly members representing parts of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties took their seats in Albany on Wednesday at the start of a legislative session with a large turnover in the region’s delegation.
Democratic Sens. James Skoufis and Jen Metzger filled the seats long held by Republicans Bill Larkin and John Bonacic, both of whom retired in December. Skoufis, who represents the 39th Senate District, and Metzger, who represents the 42nd District, were elected in a Democratic wave in November that flipped eight seats and gave their party a strong majority in a chamber Republicans have ruled for most of the last half-century.
In the Assembly, Colin Schmitt, a New Windsor Republican, moved into the 99th Assembly District seat that Skoufis vacated after three terms to run for Senate; and Jonathan Jacobson, a former Orange County Democratic chairman who had been serving as a Newburgh city councilman, claimed the 104th District seat of the late Frank Skartados, who died last year.
Brescia remains chairman of Orange County Legislature
Orange County lawmakers re-elected Steve Brescia as their chairman this month, giving the longtime Montgomery mayor and Orange’s longest-serving county legislator his sixth year at the helm of a Republican-dominated Legislature.
Brescia succeeded fellow Republican Michael Pillmeier as chairman in 2014 after Pillmeier retired and now commands a 21-seat chamber on which Republicans widened their majority to 15 last year (there are five Democrats and one Independence Party member). He has been a legislator for 25 years and mayor of the Village of Montgomery for 29 years.
Lawmakers also re-elected Katie Bonelli of Blooming Grove as the Republican caucus leader and Mike Paduch of Scotchtown as the Democratic leader.
Brescia removes Anagnostakis as committee chairman
Orange County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis, a Town of Newburgh Republican who has clashed with his party at times and recently announced his departure from the caucus, has been removed as chairman of a committee he led for five years in what he denounced on Friday as an act of “political retribution.”
A list of committee assignments for 2019 released this week showed that Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia had replaced Anagnostakis as chairman of the Health and Mental Health Committee with Jim O’Donnell, a Goshen Republican who didn’t have a committee chairmanship before then. Committee chairmen get a $3,300 stipend on top of the legislators’ $30,000 base salary.
Anagnostakis became chairman in 2014 after fighting to stave off privatization of the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation, the 360-bed facility that the Health and Mental Health Committee oversees. That conflict, which put Anagnostakis at odds with Republican leaders, continued until court rulings in 2014 and 2015 ended the push. He invoked the Valley View battle in a statement about his removal.
“It is sad that political retribution superseded good government,” he said. “They can remove me as Chairman, but they can not change the fact that I fought their shenanigans on Valley View for years — ultimately saving our nursing home, resulting in continued great care for our seniors and over $50 million in cash surplus for taxpayers!”
Brescia denied in an inteview that the move was retribution, but said that he and his fellow Republicans had grown tired of Anagnostakis criticizing them or “trying to show us up as ignorant,” and saw no reason to continue rewarding him with a chairmanship.
“I’m not trying to punish him, but we’re not going to reward him either,” Brescia said.
Brescia also disputed the notion that Anagnostakis “single-handedly” saved Valley View, saying its administrator and other lawmakers deserved credit as well, and noted that the Valley View controversy and any lingering desire to sell the home subsided long ago.
The Legislature has 15 Republicans, five Democrats and one Independence Party member. Anagnostakis left the GOP caucus in November, announcing that he would remain an enrolled Republican but would huddle before Legislature sessions with Michael Amo, the sole Independence Party member.
Hein faced no deadline from proposed term limits
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein’s recent appointment to run a state agency came just a couple of weeks after he lost a battle with the county Legislature over a proposal to set 12-year tenure limits for Ulster’s elected officials — and just as Hein was starting his 11th year as county executive.
But the countywide referendum scheduled for this November on whether to set that 12-year limit wouldn’t have meant Hein could only serve another year if voters approved the limit. Under the law that the Legislature passed twice, overriding Hein’s veto for its second vote in December, the restriction would have begun with the start of office holders’ first terms after voters approved the limit. So the 12-year clock would have started for Hein at the outset of his next term in 2020 — if the proposal passed and Hein was re-elected in county elections this November.
Hein, a Democrat who has been Ulster County executive for 10 years, was chosen by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be the next commissioner of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the agency that oversees aid programs for low-income and disabled New Yorkers. He plans to remain county executive until the state Senate confirms his appointment as commissioner. A special election will be held to fill the county executive’s seat until the end of the year, and another election for a four-year term will take place in November.
Compiled by Chris McKenna