What the 6 IDC replacements have accomplished

State Senator Zellnor Myrie
State Senator Zellnor Myrie
NY Senate Media Services
State Senator Zellnor Myrie

What the 6 IDC replacements have accomplished

The freshman Democrats who toppled turncoats keep making headlines.
July 13, 2020

It’s been over two years since a slate of insurgent candidates took on the eight former members of the Independent Democratic Conference – breakaway Democrats who shared power with Republicans and kept them in the majority for years. Six of the challengers won. Despite being freshmen, many of the winners got choice committee chairmanships and achieved landmark victories that will likely define their careers. Here’s what the anti-IDC challengers have been up to their first term in Albany. 

Alessandra Biaggi

A sexual harassment reckoning happened in the state Legislature in 2019, and the Bronx’s Biaggi spearheaded that in the state Senate. Just two months after taking office, she presided over the first public hearing on workplace sexual harassment in Albany in over 25 years. Biaggi also sponsored many of the bills in the legislative package to update the state’s sexual harassment laws, including one that changed the definition of harassment to make it easier to seek justice.

Robert Jackson

Long before Jackson entered the state Senate, the Harlemite was an advocate for public schools. In the 1990s, he co-founded the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and sued the state over inequitable funding for city schools based on a bad formula. The court ruled the state owed New York City billions in funding, and it eventually led to the current Foundation Aid formula, the main source of public school aid. However, Jackson asserts that the state still has not fully funded city schools, and has made fighting for that money one of his key goals in the Legislature as a member of the Education and New York City Education committees, and as chair of the Cities Committee.

John Liu

Like Jackson, Liu, who hails from Queens, is an advocate for New York City schools. He chairs the New York City Education Committee. He has been a vocal proponent of keeping the Specialized High School Admissions Test intact, as some – namely New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – pushed for the test’s elimination in favor of more holistic acceptance criteria for the city’s elite public high schools. Liu is a key voice in the ongoing discussions on how the admissions process for the schools, which have disproportionately low numbers of Black and Latino students, may be reformed to increase diversity in those schools. Liu also made waves when he bucked the traditional legislative dress code by not wearing a tie in chambers.

Rachel May

The only victor over an ex-IDC member not from New York City, May represents the Syracuse area and she has perhaps flown a little more under the radar than her downstate counterparts. With a background in environmental sustainability work with Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, May considered her work on the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act one of her biggest accomplishments in 2019. The legislation set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Zellnor Myrie

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins put Myrie, who is from Brooklyn, in charge of the chamber’s Elections Committee, where, in January 2019, he helped usher in a wave of election reforms to update the state’s antiquated election laws. He also sponsored one of the key pieces of legislation in the package that enabled early voting. In 2020, Myrie again made headlines for being pepper sprayed by New York Police Department officers while attending one of the anti-police brutality protests that rocked the city in June. He became a vocal leader for criminal justice reform in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police and the ensuing movement.

Jessica Ramos

Ramos, with her background in labor unions and an immigrant-heavy district in Queens, got the chairmanship of the Labor Committee, where she sponsored and successfully passed the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act in 2019. It gave farm workers certain labor rights long afforded to other workers, like the guarantee of at least one day off for every 60 hours worked and collective bargaining power. The same year, she sponsored legislation to legalize e-bikes and e-scooters, although the governor ultimately vetoed the bill. They did get legalized in 2020, though, when Cuomo included his own version of the legislation in the state budget.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.